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Book Nook: The Rivers Ran Backward - the Civil War and the Remaking of the Middle American Border


When we look back at the Civil War period of American History we often have a tendency to examine things that we consider to have been clear cut. For example; Ohio was a free state or Kentucky was a slave state. In his book "The Rivers Ran Backward - the Civil War and the Remaking of the Middle American Border" Christopher Phillips makes the case that things were not really like that in the border states between the Union and the Confederacy. Rather than divisions that could be described as black or white, slave or free, there were infinite shades of gray (and blue).

A slave who escaped and crossed the Ohio River into Ohio or Indiana wasn't going to feel that jubilant, yet. Perhaps if that slave made it to Canada there would finally be some sense of relief. According to Phillips there were actually numerous people still being held in bondage in supposedly free states and slave hunters operated freely there, recapturing escaped slaves and returning that "lost property" back to the South.

That's just one example of the complexity of the issues that one can examine in the border states during this period. In this interview Professor Phillips explains his thesis and goes into quite a lot of detail about the various aspects of the historical records he studied to write this book.

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