Male slaves had often been stereotyped as cowards who could not be relied upon in combat. This ideology, combined with fear, explains why the Confederate government did not seriously consider the arming of slaves until the last months of the U.S. Civil War. Yet in his prize-winning book Many Thousands Gone, Ira Berlin describes how slaves were drafted in time of war by English officials in colonial South Carolina, like their Spanish counterparts in Florida. This book explores why some slaves would choose to fight for their masters and why arming them did not undermine slavery itself. It considers examples of the use of slave soldiers in history that extend over thousands of years and encompass the ancient Mediterranean and early Islamic states as well as Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the U.S. Civil War, and even the anticolonial insurgency in late nineteenth-century Cuba.
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