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The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861



The Road to Disunion, Volume II:  Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861



The acclaimed conclusion of a magisterial two-volume history of the events that brought the South headlong to secession and Civil War.

American History
624 pp., 54 b/w halftones
$24.95, paperback
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-19-537018-8
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-19-505815-4


Here is history in the grand manner, a powerful narrative peopled with dozens of memorable portraits, telling this important story with skill and relish. Freehling highlights all the key moments on the road to war, including the violence in Bleeding Kansas, Preston Brooks’s beating of Charles Sumner in the Senate chambers, the Dred Scott Decision, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, and much more. As Freehling shows, the election of Abraham Lincoln sparked a political crisis, but at first most Southerners took a cautious approach, willing to wait and see what Lincoln would do—especially, whether he would take any antagonistic measures against the South. But at this moment, the extreme fringe in the South took charge, first in South Carolina and Mississippi, but then throughout the lower South, sounding the drum roll for secession. Indeed, The Road to Disunion is the first book to fully document how this decided minority of Southern hotspurs took hold of the secessionist issue and, aided by a series of fortuitous events, drove the South out of the Union.

Freehling provides compelling profiles of the leaders of this movement—many of them members of the South Carolina elite. Throughout the narrative, he evokes a world of fascinating characters and places as he captures the drama of one of America’s most important—and least understood—stories. The long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Secessionists at Bay, which was hailed as “the most important history of the Old South ever published,” this volume concludes a major contribution to our understanding of the Civil War. A compelling, vivid portrait of the final years of the antebellum South, The Road to Disunion will stand as an important history of its subject.

William W. Freehling is one of the most distinguished American historians of the Civil War era. He is Singletary Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at the University of Kentucky and Senior Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He is the author of Prelude to Civil War, which won a Bancroft Prize, The Road to Disunion, Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, and The South vs.The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War.