Cover image for The town that started the Civil War
The town that started the Civil War
Brandt, Nat.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
xix, 315 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F499.O2 B86 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room Non-Circ
F499.O2 B86 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F499.O2 B86 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F499.O2 B86 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

This unexpectedly readable volume is the story of the rescue of a fugitive slave in 1858 by virtually the entire town of Oberlin, Ohio. The ensuing trial of 37 of the rescuers became a national cause celebre that helped crystallize positions on both sides of the slavery issue. Exceedingly well written and researched, this is a major work about an episode hitherto treated as minor, and belongs in Civil War, black history, and regional collections alike. Notes, bibliography; to be indexed. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a work of first-rate scholarship as well as popular history at its most enjoyable, Brandt, former editor of Publishers Weekly , introduces readers to a little-known event that occurred in the college town of Oberlin, Ohio, a stop on the Underground Railroad. Slave-hunters incurred the resentment of the townspeople, a wrath that came to a boil one day in August 1858 when runaway slave John Price was abducted by these bounty hunters. Outraged, Oberlin College professors and students, in company with white and free-black townspeople, rescued Price and hid him in a faculty house, an initially abortive deliverance that would later, after many machinations, prove successful--although 37 of the liberators would be indicted for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. The ``Oberlin Rescue,'' Brant shows, thrust the issue of states' rights vs. civil rights into the forefront of national politics in the widening debate that heralded the Civil War. BOMC and History Book Club selections. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The place was Oberlin, an Ohio college town and Underground Railroad station. The year was 1858. Claiming a law higher than the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, scores of blacks and whites foiled the return of escaped Kentucky slave John Price. Focusing on the prosecution of 36 rescuers who paid the price of fines and prison, Brandt re-creates the scene and the action. With a journalist's feel for detail and compelling human interest, he builds on Jacob Shipherd's original History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue (1859) and William Cochran's Western Reserve and the Fugitive Slave Law: A Prelude to the Civil War (1920; Da Capo, 1972. reprint). Brandt brings to life moral conflict, politics, personalities, stategies, and theology that divided the Union and induced the nation's bloodiest war. Recommended for antebellum, Civil War, and general American history collections. Brandt is the author of the well-received history The Man Who Tried To Burn New York (LJ 8/86). History Book Club and BOMC selections.-- Thomas J. Davis, Univ. at Buffalo, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Brandt, award-winning author of The Man Who Tried to Burn New York (CH, Jan'87), presents here the story of 37 men indicted for aiding or participating in the rescue of an escaped slave "kidnapped" in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1859. The title is misleading; the book is a history of the trials of these rescuers who were black and white residents of Oberlin and Wellington. Brandt gives only a summary history of Oberlin; a stronger sense of that community stems from the actions of those charged and the majority of residents in the region who supported them. This is a rare, in-depth analysis of local events that were among the causes of the Civil War. It is also a history of a conflict between state and federal laws and of political parties and the US legal past. Due process was abused by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judiciary. Only two of the defendants were actually tried but all were imprisoned after they refused to post bail. They received strong support from county and state officials, from the jailer to the governor, Salmon P. Chase. Although Brandt relies heavily on primary sources, his writing assists readers to navigate the complex legal hearings. He concludes with follow-ups of the lives of all involved. Highly recommended for undergraduate students. -N. J. Hervey, Luther College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Cast of Charactersp. xvii
One The Slave and the Studentp. 3
Two The Lawp. 13
Three ""Nigger"" Townp. 25
Four The Man-Stealersp. 50
Five Ambushp. 61
Six To the Rescuep. 68
Seven The Rescuep. 87
Eight ""From Snowy White to Sooty""p. 112
Nine Legal Maneuvers, Politics as Usualp. 131
Ten The Case Against the White Clerkp. 143
Eleven The Case Against the Black Schoolteacherp. 166
Twelve ""A Common Humanity""p. 183
Thirteen ""Wightman's Castle""p. 191
Fourteen The Rally and the Rulingp. 203
Fifteen ""I Was in Prison, and Ye Came Unto Me""p. 216
Sixteen Aftermathp. 238
Epiloguep. 261
Notes Bibliography Indexp. 265
Notesp. 267
Bibliographyp. 297
Indexp. 307