Abolitionist of the Most Dangerous Kind
James Montgomery and His War on Slavery
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
406 Pages | 6 x 9 | 21 b&w illus., 11 maps
This book follows a harrowing path through the turbulent world of the 1850s and 1860s as Montgomery, with the fervor of an Old Testament prophet, inflicts destructive retribution on Southern slaveholders wherever he finds them, crossing paths with notable abolitionists John Brown and Harriet Tubman along the way. During the tumultuous years of “Bleeding Kansas,” he became a guerilla chieftain of the antislavery vigilantes known as Jayhawkers. When the war broke out in 1861, Montgomery led a regiment of white troops who helped hundreds of enslaved people in Missouri reach freedom in Kansas. Drawing on regimental records in the National Archives, the authors provide new insights into the experiences of African American men who served in Montgomery’s next regiment, the Thirty-Fourth United States Colored Troops (formerly Second South Carolina Infantry).
Montgomery helped enslaved men and women escape via one of the least-explored underground railways in the nation, from Arkansas and Missouri through Kansas and Nebraska. With support of abolitionists in Massachusetts, he spearheaded resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act in Kansas. And, when war came, he led Black soldiers in striking at the very heart of the Confederacy. His full story thus illuminates the actions of both militant abolitionists and the enslaved people fighting to destroy the peculiar institution.
“In this carefully researched and crafted biography of James Montgomery, the authors tell the story of an often-overlooked Kansas Jayhawker: a curious blend of God-fearing pioneer farmer and preacher who became an anti-slavery zealot on the Kansas-Missouri border and a celebrated commander of Black troops during the Civil War. Montgomery’s life was momentous and worthy of the attention it is now receiving.”—Virgil W. Dean, editor of Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (1990–2011)
"Abolitionist of the Most Dangerous Kind illuminates the life of this controversial character, charting James Montgomery’s evolution into a full-fledged abolitionist on the prairies of Kansas and leader of an all-Black regiment during the Civil War. Thanks to the authors’ diligent research, Montgomery’s story is now situated within the broader context of resistance to slavery.”—Kristen Epps, author of Slavery on the Periphery: The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras
"This well-researched book vividly re-creates the tumultuous life and times of James Montgomery, a genuine firebrand who helped precipitate and radicalize the American Civil War. We see the guerrilla chieftain in prewar clashes against pro-slavery terrorists along the Kansas-Missouri border transform into the Union colonel who recruited Black soldiers and then led them in combat and raids that laid waste to stately Southern plantations and brought freedom to the enslaved. Abolitionist of the Most Dangerous Kind peels away layers of myth and introduces us to a driven and courageous man.”—Gregory J. W. Urwin, author of Victory in Defeat: The Wake Island Defenders in Captivity, 1941–1945