The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation

African Americans and the Fight for Freedom

By Glenn David Brasher

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 22 halftones, 2 maps

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1750-3
    Published: August 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8252-8
    Published: April 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8589-0
    Published: April 2012

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

2013 Wiley-Silver Prize, Center for Civil War Research

In the Peninsula Campaign of spring 1862, Union general George B. McClellan failed in his plan to capture the Confederate capital and bring a quick end to the conflict. But the campaign saw something new in the war--the participation of African Americans in ways that were critical to the Union offensive. Ultimately, that participation influenced Lincoln's decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation at the end of that year. Glenn David Brasher's unique narrative history delves into African American involvement in this pivotal military event, demonstrating that blacks contributed essential manpower and provided intelligence that shaped the campaign's military tactics and strategy and that their activities helped to convince many Northerners that emancipation was a military necessity.

Drawing on the voices of Northern soldiers, civilians, politicians, and abolitionists as well as Southern soldiers, slaveholders, and the enslaved, Brasher focuses on the slaves themselves, whose actions showed that they understood from the outset that the war was about their freedom. As Brasher convincingly shows, the Peninsula Campaign was more important in affecting the decision for emancipation than the Battle of Antietam.

About the Author

Glenn David Brasher is instructor of history at the University of Alabama.
For more information about Glenn David Brasher, visit the Author Page.


“Recommended. All levels/libraries.”--Choice

“This book effectively opens new doors of scholarly exploration.”--Virginia Magazine

"[Brasher] successfully challenges both myths [about slave participation in the Civil War], and in the process, places Virginia's slave population at the center of one of the most important military campaigns of 1862. . . . [This book] reminds us just how much the Union and Confederacy shared in their valuation of blacks during the war."--The Atlantic

"In a highly stimulating way this seminal work ties social, military, and political developments together into a powerful thesis about the making of the Federal decision for emancipation."--Journal of American History

“[An] assiduously researched and highly illuminating work.”--Journal of Southern History

"A fascinating, impressively researched, and lucidly written addition to the literature on emancipation."--American Historical Review

Multimedia & Links

Read: Brasher talks to blogger Brian Kelly at After Slavery. Read the interview. (12/9/2013)

Read: In a guest blog post, Brasher brings a historian’s perspective to his review of the film ###12 Years a Slave#, which is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup. Read "A Historian’s Take on '12 Years a Slave'"