Shipwrecked: A True Civil War Story of Mutinies, Jailbreaks, Blockade-Running, and the Slave Trade
By Jonathan W. White
JMC fellow Jonathan W. White has released a new book exploring the slave trade and its abolishment during the Civil War era:
Historian Jonathan W. White tells the riveting story of Appleton Oaksmith, a swashbuckling sea captain whose life intersected with some of the most important moments, movements, and individuals of the mid-19th century, from the California Gold Rush, filibustering schemes in Nicaragua, Cuban liberation, and the Civil War and Reconstruction. Most importantly, the book depicts the extraordinary lengths the Lincoln Administration went to destroy the illegal trans-Atlantic slave trade. Using Oaksmith’s case as a lens, White takes readers into the murky underworld of New York City, where federal marshals plied the docks in lower Manhattan in search of evidence of slave trading. Once they suspected Oaksmith, federal authorities had him arrested and convicted, but in 1862 he escaped from jail and became a Confederate blockade-runner in Havana. The Lincoln Administration tried to have him kidnapped in violation of international law, but the attempt was foiled. Always claiming innocence, Oaksmith spent the next decade in exile until he received a presidential pardon from U.S. Grant, at which point he moved to North Carolina and became an anti-Klan politician. Through a remarkable, fast-paced story, this book will give readers a new perspective on slavery and shifting political alliances during the turbulent Civil War Era.
Jonathan W. White is a Professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University. He is the author or editor of 13 books and more than one hundred articles, essays and reviews about the Civil War, African American history, Abraham Lincoln, and the U.S. Constitution. Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln was named a best book of 2014 by Civil War Monitor, was a finalist for both the Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize and the Jefferson Davis Prize, and won the Abraham Lincoln Institute’s 2015 book prize. Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War was named a best book of 2017 by Civil War Monitor. Additionally, Professor White serves on several historical organization boards and was chosen as the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Faculty Award of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the highest award given to faculty in the Commonwealth. Aside from Shipwrecked, his most recent books are My Work Among the Freedmen: The Civil War and Reconstruction Letters of Harriet M. Buss (2021), which he co-edited with his student, Lydia Davis; To Address You As My Friend: African Americans’ Letters to Abraham Lincoln (2021); and A House Built By Slaves: African American Visitors to the Lincoln White House (2022), for which he was awarded a Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize in 2023.
Professor White is a JMC fellow.
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