Format Hardcover
Publication Date 04/04/23
ISBN 9781639363391
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 416

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The Cannons Roar

Fort Sumter and the Start of the Civil War—An Oral History

Bruce Chadwick

The first-ever oral history of the attack that started the Civil War that combines illuminating historical narrative with intense first-hand accounts.

On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops began firing on Fort Sumter, beginning the bloodiest conflict in American history. Since that time numerous historians have described the attack in many well-regarded books, yet the event still remains overlooked at times in the minds of the public.

The Cannons Roar seeks to remedy that. Rather than providing a third-person, after-the-fact description, acclaimed author Bruce Chadwick will tell the story of the attack from the people who were in the thick of it. In so doing, readers can hear from people themselves, telling a compelling story in a new way that both draws readers in and lets them walk away with a better understanding and appreciation of one of the most dramatic and important events in our nation’s history. The Cannons Roar will not only provide portraits of the major players that are more descriptive than those offered by historians over the years, it will give voice to dozens of regular people from across the country and socioeconomic spectrum, to provide readers with a true and complete understanding of the mood of the country and in Charleston.

Using letters, newspaper articles, diaries, journals, and other written sources, Chadwick describes in vivid detail the events preceding the attack, the attack itself, and its aftermath. While we hear from historic pillars like Abraham Lincoln to PGT Beauregard to Jefferson Davis, Chadwick also features Charleston merchants and Northern farmers, high society doyennes and “the dregs,” South Carolina’s new governor Francis Pickens, who was the blustery former Minister to Russia. Collectively, readers will obtain a fuller understanding of the politics and thinking of political and military leaders that influenced their decisions or lack thereof. The book will also capture both the South and North’s expectations regarding England entering the war (as well as letters from England’s leaders showing their reluctance to do so), as well as an expectation on both sides of a quick resolution.

Skillfully combining traditional history with the in-the-moment ethos of an oral history, The Cannons Roar to bring this historic moment in American history to new and vivid life.

Bruce Chadwick is a former journalist and author of eight works of history, including The First American Army, George Washington's War, The General and Mrs. Washington, Brother Against Brother, Two American Presidents, Traveling the Underground Railroad and The Reel Civil War. He lectures in American history at Rutgers University and also teaches writing at New Jersey City University.

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Endorsements & Reviews

Praise for The Cannons Roar
“Mr. Chadwick has achieved the effect of a living—and momentous—dialogye with history by carefully selecting quotes from dozens of participants in that fraught time and skillfully binding them together. His swift, absorbing, wholly coherent narrative gives a sense of immediacy to the travails of those who thirsted for a fight, and those who groped after peace, as the nation moved toward a terrible test of arms.” The Wall Street Journal
“The genius of Bruce Chadwick’s oral history of the road to Ft. Sumter is that it reveals the emotions, the uncertainties, the fears, the rumors, the excitement, the hopes, the pride, the courage, and the animosities of the men and women involved in the Civil War.” New York Journal of Books
“Readers interested in Civil War and American history should find something new in this title to enjoy.” Library Journal
Praise for Bruce Chadwick
"Highly recommended?a gripping narrative of the critical year of 1858 and the nation's slide toward disunion and war...Readers seeking to understand how individuals are agents of historical change will find Chadwick's account of the failed leadership of President James Buchanan especially compelling."
G. Kurt Piehler, author of Remembering War the American Way
"Chadwick's excellent history shows how the issue of slavery came crashing into the professional, public, and private lives of many Americans...Chadwick offers a fascinating premise: that James Buchanan, far from being a passive spectator, played a major role in the drama of his time. 1858 is a welcome addition to scholarship of the most volatile period of American history." Frank Cucurullo, Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
"Washington has not been praised as a military genius; troops under his direct command won only two major battles against the British, and his greatest tactical skill seems to have been in organizing retreats. Yet he is given--and deserves--the lion's share of credit for winning the military struggle. Chadwick effectively utilizing primary sources [and] provides highly readable accounts of key battles. He is at his best, however, in tracking Washington's development as a military and political leader. This is a fine addition to our understanding of the 'indispensable man.'" Jay Freeman Booklist
"Chadwick puts a more human face on Washington by creating a very detailed portrait of how he and the outgoing Martha lived." USA Today