Black Flag over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War highlights the central role that race played in the Civil War by examining some of the ugliest incidents that played out on its battlefields. Challenging the American public’s perception of the Civil War as a chivalrous family quarrel, twelve rising and prominent historians show the conflict to be a wrenching social revolution whose bloody excesses were exacerbated by racial hatred.
Edited by Gregory J. W. Urwin, this compelling volume focuses on the tendency of Confederate troops to murder black Union soldiers and runaway slaves and divulges the details of black retaliation and the resulting cycle of fear and violence that poisoned race relations during Reconstruction. In a powerful introduction to the collection, Urwin reminds readers that the Civil War was both a social and a racial revolution. As the heirs and defenders of a slave society’s ideology, Confederates considered African Americans to be savages who were incapable of waging war in a civilized fashion. Ironically, this conviction caused white Southerners to behave savagely themselves. Under the threat of Union retaliation, the Confederate government backed away from failing to treat the white officers and black enlisted men of the United States Colored Troops as legitimate combatants. Nevertheless, many rebel commands adopted a no-prisoners policy in the field. When the Union’s black defenders responded in kind, the Civil War descended to a level of inhumanity that most Americans prefer to forget.
In addition to covering the war’s most notorious massacres at Olustee, Fort Pillow, Poison Spring, and the Crater, Black Flag over Dixie examines the responses of Union soldiers and politicians to these disturbing and unpleasant events, as well as the military, legal, and moral considerations that sometimes deterred Confederates from killing all black Federals who fell into their hands. Twenty photographs and a map of massacre and reprisal sites accompany the volume.
The contributors are Gregory J. W. Urwin, Anne J. Bailey, Howard C. Westwood, James G. Hollandsworth Jr., David J. Coles, Albert Castel, Derek W. Frisby, Weymouth T. Jordan Jr., Gerald W. Thomas, Bryce A. Suderow, Chad L. Williams, and Mark Grimsley.