Kevin Levin takes notice of _Slavery and Lincoln’s War and Aftermath_

Many of this blog’s readers are already familiar with Kevin Levin’s blog, Civil War Memory.  It is IMHO, one of the finest Civil War blogs around, arguably the best Civil War blog around.

This evening, Kevin Levin has made a new post on Gordon Spencer Gantt’s Slavery and Lincoln’s War and Aftermath (Outskirts Publishing).  From Kevin’s description this book appears to be a neo-Confederate’s attempt to prove that the Civil War was really not about slavery.  I’ll leave my soundbite at that and for a fuller description send you to Kevin’s post, “An Analysis of Lincoln and Slavery by Joe Sixpack.”

I will say, however, that an important purpose of Civil War Emancipation is to combat the sort of nonsense which Gantt’s book apparently embodies.  I intend to obtain a copy of this book, even if I have to contribute to the author’s royalty stream, give it a fair and critical reading, and report back.  So on this issue please stay tuned.

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at
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11 Responses to Kevin Levin takes notice of _Slavery and Lincoln’s War and Aftermath_

  1. Good, this means I won’t have to contribute to his royalties. ;^) I will definitely look forward to your report!

    • Hi Marc. I bought the Kindle Edition for $4.95 on Amazon and here are some quick observations. This is a self-published effort. Gantt’s publisher is basically a high-tech vanity press. I’d say the cover is the most professional looking thing the book has and that isn’t saying much. I scanned the text and it appears to be stream-of-consciousness neo-Confederate musings. He does, however, take his study of slavery back to ancient times! Indeed, a substantial part of the book covers history before the Civil War. More down the road.

  2. stephen matlock says:

    I wanted to post something childishly rude, but I will simply say that it is sad that an educated man like Mr. Gantt is more concerned about feeling good than about exploring what really happened.

    I would not put it past hope that he might discover his errors.

  3. Don Stewart says:

    Looking forward to reading your review of this book. I’ve read the sections of it available on Amazon. It just goes to show that publishers will print just about anything and call it “history” and it’s a shame that some folks might think this is a good history book. It has the feel of propaganda more than anything.

    The fact that the author tries to play the role of just an “average guy” and then act as if he is debunking so many myths is appalling, but maybe not surprising. From what I can see of this book on Amazon, he is not debunking anything, but I suppose he is only joining that small band of neo-confederate mythmakers of today.

    While Gantt and others might like to dream of an alternative history with Lincoln just letting the southern states secede peacefully and that all would have been just rosy from then on, I find this kind of fantasy dreaming a little naive, to say the least. Imagine if shots were never fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861. How would events have played out from there? Would Virginia stay in the Union? Would war break out eventually in some other way? It seems to me that war was coming one way or the other, and that we’re dreaming a bit to imagine some sort of peaceful outcome resulting from secession.

    His focus on slavery in other distant times and places does very little to provide context for specific events in the US in the late 1850s and into the 1860s. Yes, slavery was a fact of life around the world for much of human history, but African slavery was distinct in world history in its size and scale and the fact that it was a racialized phenomenon. Instead of spilling ink on ancient Greece or Egypt, why not focus on the US during the 19th century? I will guess he does not address in any evenhanded way the question of why slavery was under attack in the first place or how the Republican Party itself came into existence when it did. His book might have some redeeming value if he tried to address the issue of western territories and how this was a fundamental problem for the US, especially after the Mexican War. While I can’t see the entire book on Amazon, I think I’ve seen enough to figure that he barely touches on the major political issues of the 19th century that led to war, since he feels the need to enlighten us on “history” in ancient times.

    • Hi Don. Thanks for the extended commentary. I’m having second thoughts about reviewing this work because I’d rather not give it additional exposure even of the negative variety. Gantt’s book is published through a high-tech vanity press, and I strongly suspect that he planted all the comments about his book that are on Amazon. Take a look at them and you’ll see what I mean.

  4. Don Stewart says:

    I think I can understand your change of heart, and I think you may be correct that the positive comments on Amazon are planted. For what it’s worth, I posted a slightly revised version of my comments on your page to the Amazon page. I’m sure I’ll get ripped by Gantt’s numerous supporters. It seems wrong to let that Amazon page contain only positive (and possibly planted) reviews. I guess having an Amazon page with a lot of reviews (good or bad) only helps promote it, but I still felt the need to respond in some way.

    • Hi Don. I’d bet my next paycheck that most or all of the comments are planted. They all read similar, but more importantly if you check the review record for these “people” they all have only reviewed works by Gantt. I think someone should bring this to Amazon’s attention.

      • stephen matlock says:

        I believe you can report bad reviews – there’s a Report Abuse button which you can use. Amazon IMO doesn’t like it when fake reviews are posted. Can’t do much to stop it when it happens, but if it’s brought to their attention, maybe they can remove them.

        The better alternative is to post more attractive reviews – not attractive in the sense of praising the book, but meaty. And, of course, it should be a book review about the book.

  5. Cherie Cayemberg says:

    I so look forward to reading it! It sounds like it would be very frustrating to try to read something that sounds so absolutely silly. Maybe your local library can get it on loan so he doesn’t benefit financially!

    • Hi Cherie. Too late. Bought the Kindle edition last night on Amazon for $4.95–so Mr. Gantt won’t benefit too much.

      • stephen matlock says:

        Just a note that for authors Kindle offers a larger slice of the royalty pie than do publishers. With this vanity press, I suspect the author might not get as sweet of a deal. But if an author publishes direct to Kindle & bypasses a publisher, there can be great financial benefits.

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