Shipwrecked: A True Civil War Story of Mutinies, Jailbreaks, Blockade-Running, and the Slave Trade

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Product Details
$29.95  $27.85
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.1 X 0.9 inches | 1.3 pounds

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About the Author
Historian Jonathan W. White is 2023 joint winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize and the author of many books including, most recently, A House Built by Slaves: African American Visitors to the Lincoln White House (R&L, 2022). His numerous articles, essays, and reviews on Lincoln and the Civil War Era have appeared in Smithsonian, Time, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. He teaches American studies at Christopher Newport University and resides in Newport News, VA.
Jonathan White's account of Appleton Oaksmith is a page-turner. Told with the verbal panache of a skilled novelist, it is in fact a serious examination of some of the central issues of nineteenth-century US history. White is a very good writer, but he's also a very good historian. Go out and get yourself a copy of Shipwrecked, and then enjoy.--James Oakes, Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York
Oaksmith needed a biography and it's first rate. Rarely does a book cover so many themes central to 1800s U.S. history with such style.--John Harris, author, The Last Slave Ships: New York and the End of the Middle Passage
Acclaimed scholar Jonathan W. White has a way of throwing light on dark corners of American history. In his fascinating new book, Shipwrecked, White tells the wild story of an adventurer and sea captain who falls under the scrutiny of President Lincoln's administration. This compelling tale takes us into a topsy-turvy realm of civil liberties in a nation torn by war and rapidly shifting politics.--Edward Achorn, author of The Lincoln Miracle: Inside the Republican Convention that Changed History
White (A House Built by Slaves), a professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University, provides a finely grained biography of sea captain Appleton Oaksmith (1828-1887). A "seafarer, poet, jailbird, convict, escapee, exile, and expat," Oaksmithʼs life "touched some of the most important moments in nineteenth-century American history," writes White, such as first-wave feminism, the Atlantic slave trade, and Southern schemes to seize Cuba and Nicaragua. His parents, Seba Smith and Elizabeth Oakes Smith, were notable literary figures in New York City, and Elizabeth, who is as much the subject of the book as her son, was "a leader in the women's rights movement." A life at sea brought Oaksmith little financial success; accused of fitting out his ship as a slaver, in 1861 he was imprisoned in Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor. Oaksmith--who maintained his innocence--escaped and sailed to Cuba. He eventually returned to the U.S. and was elected to the North Carolina general assembly. Evocative and well researched, Whiteʼs narrative draws ample evidence from archival sources, including the journals Oaksmith kept at sea. It's an immersive account of a man who was not always likable but whose turbulent life sheds light on the nooks and crannies of the Civil War era.-- "Publishers Weekly"
Jonathan W. White, a prizewinning Civil War historian, finds in Oaksmith's spectacularly misguided life both a gripping yarn set far from the battlefields and a way to dramatize Lincoln's determination to eliminate the African slave trade.... The astonishing stories in Shipwrecked ... [offer] a fresh perspective on the mess of pitched emotions and politics in a nation at war over slavery.-- "The New York Times"
Historian White's biography of nineteenth-century mariner Appleton Oaksmith vividly chronicles a life of adventure. Oaksmith sailed to China at 16, witnessed the California Gold Rush, foiled a mutiny on his ship, escaped attack "by three thousand African warriors," and was active in uprisings in Nicaragua and Cuba. During the Civil War, Oaksmith was convicted and imprisoned for modifying a whaling vessel for the transatlantic slave trade. He escaped and captained a Confederate blockade runner and fled to Cuba and then England. Returning to the U.S., he was pardoned by President Grant. As context for Oaksmith's life, White immerses readers in his world, elucidating how New York and New England were "hubs for slave trading"; efforts to end the slave trade by Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward, and other officials; and post-Civil War politics and society. Oaksmith's parents, Seba and Elizabeth, were abolitionists and progressives, with Elizabeth energetically advocating for women's rights. Despite extensive research, White could not determine why Oaksmith rejected his family's values to participate in the slave trade. A distinctive, exciting, and provocative perspective on the Civil War era.-- "Booklist"