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Raising the White Flag

How Surrender Defined the American Civil War

By David Silkenat

368 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4972-6
    Published: April 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4973-3
    Published: February 2019

Civil War America

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The American Civil War began with a laying down of arms by Union troops at Fort Sumter, and it ended with a series of surrenders, most famously at Appomattox Courthouse. But in the intervening four years, both Union and Confederate forces surrendered en masse on scores of other occasions. Indeed, roughly one out of every four soldiers surrendered at some point during the conflict. In no other American war did surrender happen so frequently.

David Silkenat here provides the first comprehensive study of Civil War surrender, focusing on the conflicting social, political, and cultural meanings of the action. Looking at the conflict from the perspective of men who surrendered, Silkenat creates new avenues to understand prisoners of war, fighting by Confederate guerillas, the role of southern Unionists, and the experiences of African American soldiers. The experience of surrender also sheds valuable light on the culture of honor, the experience of combat, and the laws of war.

About the Author

David Silkenat is senior lecturer of American history at the University of Edinburgh.
For more information about David Silkenat, visit the Author Page.


“Some 25 percent of Civil War soldiers surrendered at one time or another in the course of the war. Silkenat offers the first systematic study of this common Civil War experience.”--Choice Reviews

Raising the White Flag provides a fresh perspective on the Civil War that should keep readers turning its pages.”--The Journal of America’s Military Past

"Raising the White Flag provides an unsettling cultural and social history examining how notions of honor, the laws of war, the exigencies of the battlefield, and the politics of prisoner exchange shaped the famous, infamous, and obscure surrenders of the American Civil War."--Joan Waugh, author of U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth

"Silkenat offers a far more informed and insightful understanding of how Americans defined surrender during the Civil War and how those definitions shaped the surrender of armies as well as individuals. His study stands alone as the best examination of how surrenders happened, what they implied, and what they meant."--Brooks D. Simpson, author of The Civil War in the East: Struggle, Stalemate, and Victory

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