Freehling, William W. 1935- (William Wilhartz Freehling)
Freehling, William W. 1935- (William Wilhartz Freehling)
Born December 26, 1935, in Chicago, IL; son of Norman and Edna Freehling; married Natalie Paperno, January 27, 1961 (divorced, April, 1970); married Alison Goodyear, June 19, 1971; children: (first marriage) Alan, Deborah; (second marriage) Alison, William. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1958; University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1959, Ph.D., 1964.
Home—Versailles, KY. Office—Department of History, University of Kentucky, 1715 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY 40506-0027. E-mail—[email protected]
Historian, educator, and Civil War scholar. University of California, Berkeley, teaching fellow, 1961-63; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, instructor, 1963-64; University of Michigan, assistant professor, 1964-67, associate professor, 1967-70, professor of history, 1970-72; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, professor of history, 1972-91; State University of New York, Buffalo, Thomas B. Lockwood professor of history, 1991-94; University of Kentucky, Lexington, professor of history, Otis A. Singletary chair in humanities, 1994—.
American Antiquarian Society, Society of American Historians, American Historical Association, Southern History Association, Organization of American Historians, Phi Beta Kappa.
Allan Nevins History Prize, 1965; Bancroft History Prize, 1967; National Humanities Foundation fellow, 1968; Guggenheim fellow, 1970; American Antiquarian Society/National Humanities Foundation fellow, 1990; Owsley History Prize, 1991, for The Road to Disunion, Volume 1: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854.
(Editor) The Nullification Era: A Documentary Record, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1967.
(Editor) Willie Lee Rose, Slavery and Freedom, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
The Road to Disunion, Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1990, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007.
(Editor, with Craig M. Simpson) Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.
(With others) A Place Not Forgotten: Landscapes of the South from the Morris Museum of Art, University of Kentucky Art Museum (Lexington, KY), 1999.
The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Historian William W. Freehling has published a number of books that focus on the Civil War period, including The Road to Disunion, Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854. The volume is a history of the period leading up to the Civil War, beginning with the first Missouri Compromise in 1820, then the gag rule controversy of 1835-36, the annexation of Texas in 1845, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Freehling emphasizes that positions on slavery in the antebellum South varied by location, with those of Southerners closer to the non-slaveholding states being more moderate than those of Southerners further south.
Bertram Wyatt-Brown wrote in the New York Review of Books that Freehling "has freshly and usefully clarified the division in the South between the proslavery ideology of the Lower South—based on the profitable exploitation of blacks in growing cotton, sugar, and rice—and the ambivalent views of the Upper South states, where the slave economy was not expanding and the economy based on free labor was growing. Indeed, the division he explores helps to explain the differing dates of secession of the slave states after Lincoln's election." In fact, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas left the Union during the winter of 1860-1861, before Lincoln was inaugurated. Following the assault on Fort Sumter on April 14, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina reluctantly followed.
The slave states that stayed in the Union were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. These four plus West Virginia kept from the Confederacy more than half of the slave states' factory capacity, thirty-seven percent of the corn, twenty percent of the livestock, and nearly thirty percent of the people. They were home to 250,000 troops that joined Lincoln's army, and to that was added another 100,000 (mostly from Tennessee) from the Upper South slave states. The South was at a disadvantage by reason of these numbers.
Wyatt-Brown wrote that Freehling "is most concerned with ambivalence toward slavery in the Upper South for two reasons. First, he sees the difficulties over emancipation in Virginia and Maryland as a portent of things to come: the loosening of the Upper South's ties to the Lower South as new, free-labor interests and industries developed, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay region. Second, for most of the antebellum decades, the delusion of emancipation in a far distant future made more difficult the secessionists' hope of uniting the South in bellicose defense of slavery."
The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War is a collection of eleven of Freehling's articles and essays. American Historical Review critic Robert McColley wrote that the book is "a satisfying distillation of the chief subjects that have engaged a major historian over most of a long and fruitful career." New York Times Book Review contributor Tom Chaffin described as "standouts" Freehling's two essays about the Founding Fathers' attitude toward slavery and nineteenth-century expansionism.
Michael O'Brien, reviewing the volume in the Times Literary Supplement, stated that Freehling "is concerned that American history has become balkanized and myopic…. What we need, he counsels, is to tell history as an accessible story, whose centre might be political history, because ‘all regions, classes, sexes, and ethnics eventually seek political power, whether to control the American mainstream or to separate from it.’ Hence we should acknowledge ‘two integrating imperatives,’ that ‘the history of one American group must be related to other groups, and that a fragment of American history must be related to the larger whole, chronologically and topically.’"
Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor called The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War "a masterful account of the South's internal ‘house divided.’" "Concerning fugitive slaves," noted Christine Dee on the Humanities adn Social Sciences Online Web site, "Freehling suggests their nonviolent resistance undermined slavery before the war, especially in the Border States. During the war, they were agents in their own emancipation, the author maintains, successfully negotiating Northern whites' desire to destroy the cornerstone of the Confederacy and whites' fear of black violence. Blacks, by assuming the roles of the ‘nonviolent runaway and cooperative soldiers,’ played a significant part in anti-Confederate efforts."
Reviewing the work in Civil War History, Joan Waugh remarked that "Freehling's analysis of Lincoln's leadership is enlightening. Lincoln managed to hold onto the loyal slaveholding states by stressing the importance of preserving white liberties and treading lightly on the slavery issue. He recognized the vital importance of uniting all whites behind the war effort, even if it meant delaying emancipation indefinitely. As the war ground on, however, Lincoln pressed for emancipation and black soldierhood as a powerful addition to the northern military capacity. Freehling has no illusions about Lincoln's lackluster commitment to racial equality." Freehling feels that the Union couldn't have won the war without the help of both Southern whites and blacks.
In The South vs. The South, Freehling discusses events of the war that include the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment's assault on Fort Wagner, Grant's siege of Vicksburg, and the Massacre at Fort Pillow. Dee noted that "by measuring the role anti-Confederates played in the war, Freehling reminds us of the importance of the western theater in both emancipation and the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy." The book originated with a series of lectures given at the University of Texas. The text is enhanced by maps of important battles and places.
In 2007 Freehling published The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861, a "splendid, painstaking account of the setting of the stage for what Lincoln called the ‘fiery trial’ of the Civil War," observed Washington Post Book Review critic Jon Meacham. In this long-awaited follow-up to Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, Freehling challenges the idea of a monolithic "Old South," noting the diversity of opinion about secession in the region. "Even South Carolina … was divided," remarked Eric Foner in the New York Times Book Review. "In his account of the aftermath of Lincoln's election, Freehling overturns the conventional picture of a state rushing headlong into disunion. South Carolina secessionists emerge instead as a beleaguered minority, fearful that their state would stand alone (as it had during the nullification crisis)."
Freehling also examines the role of pro-secessionist crusaders such as Preston Smith Brooks and William Lowndes Yancey, as well as the significance of the Supreme Court's 1856 Dred Scott decision and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. According to Meacham, "Freehling deserves credit for pointing out the seemingly small but ultimately crucial role of human forces … over and against larger, more impersonal ones, such as geography and the economy, which were essential, too." "Freehling's taste for irony, unintended consequences, and bizarre personalities will not endear him to every lover of history (much less every Southerner)," wrote Boston Globe reviewer David Waldstreicher. "But there's a strong case to be made for the particular pathos of Southern history, and nobody has made that case with less sentimentality, or more real sensitivity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1995, Robert McColley, review of The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War, pp. 1299-1300.
Booklist, March 1, 2001, Gilbert Taylor, review of The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War, p. 1222.
Boston Globe, June 3, 2007, David Waldstreicher, "Exploiting Southern Sensitivities," review of The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861.
Civil War History, June, 2002, Joan Waugh, review of The South vs. The South, p. 167.
Journal of Southern History, November, 1994, Donald A. DeBats, review of Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860, pp. 811-812; May, 2003, William Blair, review of The South vs. The South, p. 432.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1990, review of The Road to Disunion, Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, pp. 979-980.
Library Journal, March 15, 2001, Kathleen M. Conley, review of The South vs. The South, p. 94.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 23, 1990, Leonard Bushkoff, review of The Road to Disunion, Volume I, pp. 1, 13.
Newsweek, January 4, 1982, Jim Miller, review of Slavery and Freedom, p. 59.
New York Review of Books, October 10, 1991, Bertram Wyatt-Brown, review of The Road to Disunion, Volume I, pp. 35-39.
New York Times Book Review, January 24, 1982, Robert F. Durden, review of Slavery and Freedom, pp. 8-9; September 30, 1990, Robert V. Remini, review of The Road to Disunion, Volume I, pp. 22-24; June 12, 1994, Tom Chaffin, review of The Reintegrationof American History, pp. 22-23; April 8, 2007, Eric Foner, "The Three Souths," review of The Road to Disunion, Volume II.
Publishers Weekly, February 12, 2001, review of The South vs. The South, p. 197; February 19, 2007, Tina A. Oswald, review of The Road to Disunion, Volume II, p. 159.
Times Literary Supplement, August 19, 1994, Michael O'Brien, review of The Reintegration of American History, pp. 8-9.
Washington Post Book World, July 1, 2007, Jon Meacham, "Before the Cannon Fired," review of The Road to Disunion, Volume II, p. 2.
Civil War News,http://www.civilwarnews.com/ (January 22, 2003), Richard McMurry, review of The South vs. The South.
Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.hnet.org/ (September 28, 2007), Christine Dee, review of The South vs. The South.