Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Forthcoming---America's Longest Siege: Charleston, South Carolina's Slavery, Siege and Surrender

America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery And The Slow March To The Civil War, Joseph Kelly,  Overlook Press, 384 pp., $28.95.   June 27, 2013.

From The Publisher: In 1863, Union forces surrounded the city of Charleston. Their vice-like grip on the harbor would hold the city hostage for nearly two years, becoming the longest siege in the history of modern warfare. But for almost two centuries prior, a singular ideology forged among the headstrong citizens of Charleston had laid a different sort of siege to the entire American South--the promulgation of brutal, deplorable, and immensely profitable institution of slavery.

In America's Longest Siege, Joseph Kelly examines the nation's long struggle with its "peculiar institution" through the hotly contested debates in the city at the center of the slave trade. From the earliest slave rebellions to the Nullification crisis to the final, tragic act of secession that doomed both the city and the South as a whole, Kelly captures the toxic mix of nationalism, paternalism, and unprecedented wealth that made Charleston the focus of the nationwide debate over slavery. Kelly also explores the dissenters who tried--and ultimately failed--to stop the oncoming Civil War.
Exhaustingly researched and also compulsively readable, America's Longest Siege offers an insightful new take on the war and the culture that made it inevitable.

From the Invitation To Book's Launch Party at the Old Slave Mart, Charleston, SC on June 26: America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March toward Civil War, begins and ends with the Union's siege of Charleston, the longest in modern warfare until Hitler's attack on Leningrad. But it also tells the story of the evolving ideology of slavery from the colony's founding through the Civil War, focusing on key moments of change: the Stono and Vesey rebellions, the American Revolution, the Constitutional Convention, and the Nullification Crisis. Taking seriously the founding fathers' expectation that slavery would die a gradual and natural death in the new republic, the book reveals how the hard and determined work of a relatively few South Carolinians sustained slavery against the odds, through chicanery, torture, the politics of intimidation and fear. 

This talk will narrate one chapter in the moral history of the nation: how John Rutledge and the Pinckneys, contrary to the conscience and wishes of most delegates, connived to protect slavery in U. S. Constitution. Joe Kelly has been a professor of literature at the College of Charleston since 1992. His interests range from modern Irish literature and nationalism to the history of American Southern ideology. His archival research has been supported by NEH and Mellon fellowships. His first book, Our Joyce: From Outcast to Icon, uncovers the manipulations of this monumental figure of modern literature by liberals and conservatives in the American culture wars. His popular introductions to literature, W. W. Norton & Company's Seagull Readers series, are entering their 3rd editions. America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March toward Civil War, is his first foray into narrative history. He earned his Ph. D. in literature with a minor in history from the University of Texas at Austin.

CWL: Steven Channing's 1974 Crisis of Fear: The Secession Crisis In South Carolina was a hallmark study while I was in graduate school; Channing's work has been in print continously for nearly 40 years and has stood the test of time and scholarship.  Stephen Wise's 1994 Gate of Hell: The Siege of Charleston, 1863 offers a fine, detailed account of the seige and the struggles of the troops and their commanders on both sides.

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