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Kidnapped at Sea

The Civil War Voyage of David Henry White

Andrew Sillen

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The true story of David Henry White, a free Black teenage sailor enslaved on the high seas during the Civil War, whose life was falsely and intentionally appropriated to advance the Lost Cause trope of a contented slave, happy and safe in servility.

David Henry White, a free Black teenage sailor from Lewes, Delaware, was kidnapped by Captain Raphael Semmes of the Confederate raider Alabama on October 9, 1862, from the Philadelphia-based packet ship Tonawanda. White remained captive on the Alabama for over 600 days, until he drowned during the Battle of Cherbourg on June 19, 1864.

In a best...

The true story of David Henry White, a free Black teenage sailor enslaved on the high seas during the Civil War, whose life was falsely and intentionally appropriated to advance the Lost Cause trope of a contented slave, happy and safe in servility.

David Henry White, a free Black teenage sailor from Lewes, Delaware, was kidnapped by Captain Raphael Semmes of the Confederate raider Alabama on October 9, 1862, from the Philadelphia-based packet ship Tonawanda. White remained captive on the Alabama for over 600 days, until he drowned during the Battle of Cherbourg on June 19, 1864.

In a best-selling postwar memoir, Semmes falsely described White as a contented slave who remained loyal to the Confederacy. In Kidnapped at Sea, archaeologist Andrew Sillen uses a forensic approach to describe White's enslavement and demise and illustrates how White's actual life belies the Lost Cause narrative his captors sought to construct.

Kidnapped at Sea is the first book to focus on White's actual life, rather than relying on Semmes and other secondary sources. Until now, Semmes's appropriation of White's life has escaped scrutiny, thereby demonstrating the challenges faced by disempowered, illiterate people—and how well-crafted, racist fabrications have become part of Civil War memory.

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Reviews

In this fast-paced narrative, Andrew Sillen uncovers the astounding story of David Henry White, a free Black teenager kidnapped from a US ship and forced to accompany the Confederate raider Alabama. Through a haunting account, Sillen restores White's humanity and, in doing so, provides a timely examination of the necessity for addressing historical crimes.

This book represents the best in weaving a compelling narrative across generations, geographies, and genres by an archeologist who has effectively used the perspective of his discipline to connect a young Black man's short life to the horrors of piracy, slavery, and colonial conquest.

This well-researched and captivating account of the Civil War Battle of Cherbourg commands the attention of naval and Civil War scholars alike. The embedded story of the teenage sailor David Henry White is effectively used by the author for a revealing analysis of the personal, professional, and moral strengths and flaws of all involved.

In this gripping story, Andrew Sillen rescues from Lost Cause mythology the story of David Henry White, a free Black man kidnapped and enslaved on board the CSS Alabama for 600 days before his untimely death. In the process, Sillen offers an important reminder that the struggle for a "new birth of freedom" was fought as much on the high seas as it was on the battlefield.

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
352
ISBN
9781421449517
Illustration Description
1 b&w photo, 34 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Author's Note
Preface
Part I: Context
1. David Henry White and the False Cause
2. Time and Place
3. Childhood in Lewes
4. Passenger Cook
5. Manifest Destiny
6. Gulf of Mexico
7. Secession
8. The Alabama
9

Author's Note
Preface
Part I: Context
1. David Henry White and the False Cause
2. Time and Place
3. Childhood in Lewes
4. Passenger Cook
5. Manifest Destiny
6. Gulf of Mexico
7. Secession
8. The Alabama
9. Prelude
Part II: Voyage
10. Capture
11. Storms
12. Report
13. Mutiny
14. South to Galveston
15. Port Royal, Olive Jane and the John A. Parks
16. Brazil and the South Atlantic
17. Cape of Good Hope
18. Simon's Town
19. The Indian Ocean
20. The Looming Battle
21. The Battle of Cherbourg
22. Demise
Part III: Aftermath
23. Accounts
24. An Ocean of Lies
25. Aide toi et dieu t'aidera
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibiliography

Author Bio
Andrew Sillen
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Andrew Sillen

Andrew Sillen is a visiting research scholar in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He was formerly a professor of paleoanthropology and the founding director of development at the University of Cape Town and the vice president of institutional advancement at Brooklyn College.