Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves” as Want to Read:
The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  205 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
The first narrative history of the Civil War told by the very people it freed

Groundbreaking, compelling, and poignant, The Slaves’ War delivers an unprecedented vision of the nation’s bloodiest conflict. An acclaimed historian of nineteenth-century and African-American history, Andrew Ward gives us the first narrative of the Civil War told from the perspective of those who
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published June 10th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published June 2nd 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Killer Angels by Michael ShaaraGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPhersonThe Civil War by Shelby FooteCold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Best Civil War Books
122nd out of 575 books — 656 voters
Gulp by Mary RoachI Am Malala by Malala YousafzaiThe Psychopath Test by Jon RonsonZealot by Reza AslanSalt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss
The Colbert Report and The Daily Show
47th out of 130 books — 143 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,017)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 02, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
I read Battle Cry of Freedom several months ago and felt immersed in the politics and battles of the Civil War. It was excellent and comprehensive to say the least. The Slaves' War, though, fills in a gap that was missing-- the point of view of the slaves. This book is told through slave narratives, so the result is a first person account of how the war affected black people as well as their masters who stayed home from the war. I found it fascinating to read the mixed feelings slaves had toward ...more
The Slaves' War does two very important things; firstly, it takes the Civil War and shatters any romanticism surrounding it. It wasn't romantic, it was an apocalypse. Secondly, it takes the institution of slavery and personalizes it. In this book slavery is not background to the Civil War. Instead, former slaves who lived through the Civil War are put front and center, and they tell us about the war through their eyes. The result is a first person account of the war, slavery, and Reconstruction ...more
James (JD) Dittes
A comprehensive look at the war from slaves' perspectives. As an American literature teacher, I'm so grateful to have this resource for my lessons on slavery and the Civil War. The book is about 60% quotes, and Ward's prose is spare, meant only to connect the dots and introduce the ideas.

The book focuses unblinkingly on some of the problems faced by slaves during that time. Those who escaped often ended up in disease-ridden "Contraband Camps." Others were "refugeed" away from the front lines to
Robert Owen
In “The Slaves’ War” Andrew Ward uses various former slave narratives to add vibrancy to a tale recounting the major arcs of the Civil War. As the attempt is noble and the history, important, I wish that I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I actually did.

Structurally, Ward lays out principal events of the war as the framework to which dozens of former slaves are summoned and given brief moments to share their testimony. From this effort, Ward teases an interesting, multi-faceted pict
Aug 19, 2008 Allen rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I saw Ward on the Daily Show, and thought the premise of the book was interesting, so I got it via interlibrary loan. It's sort of oddly constructed; he tells the story of the war in chronological order, by stitching together quotes from former slaves. Reading the first chapter, I was suddenly reminded of the street scene in the movie "Fallen" where the demon transfers from one person to the next in a long series. That's how the narrative feels, jumping from one former slave's recollections to t ...more
Sandy Vaughan
Jan 20, 2013 Sandy Vaughan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves UNABRIDGED By Andrew Ward
Narrated by Richard Allen
This is the first narrative of the Civil War told by the very people that it freed. Groundbreaking, compelling, and poignant, The Slaves' War delivers an unprecedented vision of the nation's bloodiest conflict.

An acclaimed historian of 19th-century and African American history, Andrew Ward gives us the first narrative of the Civil War told from the perspective of those whose destiny it
Jan 03, 2015 Chaz rated it really liked it
Bottom-up history...just the way I like it...reads like a piece of music and not structured thematically. GIves one a panaroma from the people that counted the most, the enslaved. Terrible, as in inciting "terror" in some parts. Good read, perhaps necessary given today's racial tensions in the country.
Jul 22, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
Amazing. I recommend.

It's fascinating to see the war from the point of view of the slave. This is just a collection of letters by slaves -- or dictacted from their words -- but I wrong the book by saying "just" a collection. It's a wonderful collection. Edited snappily. Quick read.

Having slaves remember the war, and talk about how they didn't dare go out into the woods at night after a big battle because the vultures just couldn't hold everything they had eaten the day before.... Lord..... Some
Sep 10, 2008 Demetria rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Reading the actual words of slaves about their thoughts during the Civil War is fascinating. There are a lot of enlightening, sad and sometimes even funny tidbits that make the book worth reading. Honestly, it was a little difficult to read though because the flow of the book is very jerky and erratic due to the fact that the majority of the book is derived from piecemeal interviews. It is worth the read though.
Apr 14, 2009 Peter rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Fascinating, well-researched collection of firsthand accounts. All primary sources woven together by an excellent writer. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Mar 01, 2012 Joyce rated it it was amazing
Excellent. New insights re slavery & emancipation from the slaves' viewpoint. Also knew the author in HS.
Just A. Bean
Fascinating companion to other civil war reading, but I wouldn't listen to it on its own as it really only sketches in the greater context. That is to leave room to highlight the slave voices, and it's as it should be, but I think one would feel a bit lost just reading this.

The voices themselves are great. At times I thought it would have been more coherent to follow four or five people through the whole war, instead of getting different voices for each topic or period, though we do run into som
A little dry at times, but overall, a fascinating look at the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction in the words of former slaves.

Some interesting tidbits:

There is a picture of Custer with his old friend, now his prisoner, Lt. James Barroll Washington, CSA, George Washington's
great-great-grandnephew. I wonder what Washington would have said were he still alive.

Lincoln set the slaves free and then got assassinated for doing it just as President William McKinley would be assassinated afte
Dec 07, 2009 Rachel rated it liked it
Full of fascinating personalities, this book. The range of experience of the former slaves and freedmen and -women whose quoted words form most of the book's text are so diverse, each having experienced the war in a different place and from a slightly different perspective, each having different responses to the events they saw or heard about, and each with different hopes for the outcome. The book's final chapter is heartbreaking - many former slaves having found life after the war almost as co ...more
Aug 30, 2008 Annette added it
Shelves: own
This was not what I expected from the cover flap nor from an interview with the author. During the interview words such as "homefront" and "civilian" were used. However, the book spent more time discussing the troop movements with slave narrative entries included to describe the troop movements. Very little was included about the homefront or those left in slavery. The book was ok, some of the writing a little less than I'd have expected from a multi-published author. I would recommend the book ...more
Feb 07, 2014 Robin rated it really liked it
Nice well paced read. A fitting book to add to my research of the time. well organized. A well rounded IMO view of those who lived in that time as slaves and how they saw the war.
Blissful Acts
Dec 22, 2015 Blissful Acts rated it it was amazing
Everybody should read this book. It is excellent. I discovered many facts about the Civil War that did not get covered in my history classes. A must read. (I had to say it twice).
Nov 19, 2015 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Through a compilation of interviews conducted after the Civil War, former slaves tell of their experiences during and just after the war. Compelling stuff.
Eric Kabakoff
Mar 02, 2014 Eric Kabakoff rated it really liked it
A bit of a slog in some areas but overall this is a fascinating look at slavery and the Civil War.
Oct 13, 2008 AndreaZ rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, the-south
Take the narratives of hundreds---perhaps thousands---of slaves during the civil war on various topics such as their owners' antebellum behavior, transporting written communications, Sherman's march to the sea, and the destruction of Atlanta and weave them together in the span of about three hundred pages. What do you get? Some interesting and tasty morsels, but not a very satisfying meal. There are too many people, no one to latch on to and start to care about, and the subject changed so often ...more
Apr 23, 2014 Rebecca marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, Marjorie! I look forward to reading this book :-)
Oct 28, 2009 Jacky rated it liked it
As a whole the book was very enlightening on role everyone played during the Civil War. I found it somewhat disconcerting because it seemed to jump around. And lets face it. I don't know that much about the Civil War, so it was difficult to follow the threads. I think it might have helped if I read the notes at the end of the book first. They are a must read to fully understand the perspective of the book and the author
Craig Delarge
Feb 14, 2011 Craig Delarge rated it liked it
Fascinating approach to history in as much as its reconstructed via the diary entry of its participants, in this case slaves. Most interesting insight for me in this book was the degree to which some segment of slaves did not want to be free. They enjoyed the security of slavery and were afraid of the risk of freedom. Very telling point about human nature, and not a dilemma for slaves only, eh?
Jun 26, 2008 Marjanne rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Civil War buffs
I actually did not finish this book. I picked it up because it sounded interesting. Academically this was interesting, however I felt like it just wasn't doing it for me. It was well written and researched, but I was just bored with it. I think this is particularly because of the way it was written. It is also probably because I am just not that interested in the minutia of American History.
Sheila Kanja
Oct 24, 2015 Sheila Kanja rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Awesome book! I would definitely recommend this. Reading the slaves side of the civil war what I needed to close the American Civil War era.
Mar 13, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
Finally finished. Well written and extremely thorough, at times I found the author's exhaustive approach to be exhausting. But what a wealth of information, and an important perspective to tell the story of the Civil War era entirely in the voices of slaves. I'd really go more 3.5 stars for the places it dragged, but I'll round up for the importance of the book.
Dec 18, 2008 Sharon marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves" by Andrew Ward (Houghton Mifflin). Seattle resident Ward "has accomplished something against gigantic odds: a Civil War history that seems fresh, and oddly uplifting amidst the carnage," said Steve Weinberg, about this work of history told from the perspective of Civil-War era slaves.
Sep 02, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
Shelves: slaves-civil-war
This was a fantastic idea for a book, it is clearly obvious that it was well-researched, and a lot of work went into melting personal passages with a chronological historical aspect.

I just think it was too sanitized; knowing the horrors that occurred, it's plain that too much was omitted from these personal accounts.
Brandon Broussard
Feb 07, 2012 Brandon Broussard rated it really liked it
Refreshing and insightful. There was a lot of things revealed about prominent historical figures that were rarely talked about and some i never heard. it was a hard read because of the lack of education for blacks back then, but it was well worth the read nonetheless.
Duane Houghton
Nov 16, 2012 Duane Houghton rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this one. Due to my extensive traveling i listened to it on audiobook. Wish i would have read it instead because it was narrated in the accents of the slaves of the days which made it a bit tough to get through.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Freedom
  • The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts
  • Voices from Slavery: 100 Authentic Slave Narratives
  • Mary Chesnut's Civil War
  • Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember: An Oral History
  • Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery
  • All for the Union: The Civil War Diary & Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes
  • The Twentieth Maine
  • A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation
  • The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox
  • Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery
  • Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America
  • Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen
  • Three Months in the Southern States: April-June 1863
  • Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War
  • American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles
  • The Elimination: A survivor confronts the chief of the Khmer Rouge Death Camps
  • Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839

Share This Book