Confederate Slave Impressment in the Upper South

By Jaime Amanda Martinez

246 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 figs., 4 maps, 15 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2648-2
    Published: August 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4234-3
    Published: December 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1075-7
    Published: December 2013

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

Honorable Mention, 2014 Wiley-Silver Prize, Center for Civil War Research

Under policies instituted by the Confederacy, white Virginians and North Carolinians surrendered control over portions of their slave populations to state authorities, military officials, and the national government to defend their new nation. State and local officials cooperated with the Confederate War Department and Engineer Bureau, as well as individual generals, to ensure a supply of slave labor on fortifications. Using the implementation of this policy in the Upper South as a window into the workings of the Confederacy, Jaime Amanda Martinez provides a social and political history of slave impressment. She challenges the assumption that the conduct of the program, and the resistance it engendered, was an indication of weakness and highlights instead how the strong governments of the states contributed to the war effort.

According to Martinez, slave impressment, which mirrored Confederate governance as a whole, became increasingly centralized, demonstrating the efficacy of federalism within the CSA. She argues that the ability of local, state, and national governments to cooperate and enforce unpopular impressment laws indicates the overall strength of the Confederate government as it struggled to enforce its independence.

About the Author

Jaime Amanda Martinez is associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
For more information about Jaime Amanda Martinez, visit the Author Page.


"Martinez has produced a work with which all those who question Confederate nationalism and the efficiency of the Confederate government must reckon."--Virginia Magazine

“Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.”--Choice

“Anyone whose fields include slavery or the Civil War should read this book. . . . Martinez’s book also stands to serve as a valuable and necessary corrective to enduring popular myths concerning some of the most significant events and developments in southern history.”--American Historical Review

“Not only important for scholars interested in understanding how impressment should be situated in a larger governmental balancing act between the home front and the front lines but also in comprehending how integral slave labor was to the economic vitality of the Confederacy.”--Journal of American History

“A valuable addition to Confederate scholarship and part of a growing trend that focuses less on the top-down nature of the centralized Confederate state and investigates a more realistic understanding of the cooperation necessary between Richmond, the states, and the citizens.”--Journal of Southern History

“An essential study in the relationship between Confederate society, the Confederate military, and the Confederate state.”--Civil War Book Review

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @jam6ah.

Read: In a guest blog post, Martinez Martinez looks closely at one community’s efforts to commemorate the contributions of African Americans during the Civil War. Read "Why Exactly are We Commemorating 'Confederate Pensioners of Color.'"

Read: In another post, Martinez considers the 2013 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia by looking back to another time when a state gubernatorial contest—North Carolina, 1864—proved to be the bellwether for a subsequent national election. Read "Zeb Vance, Ken Cuccinelli, and Chris Christie: Governors as Bellwethers."