How did the Civil War and the emancipation of the South's four million slaves reconfigure the natural landscape and the farming economy dependent upon it? An innovative reconsideration of the Civil War's role in southern history, Unredeemed Land uncovers the environmental constraints that shaped the rural South's transition to capitalism during the late nineteenth century. Dixie's "King Cotton" required extensive land use techniques, fresh soil, and
slave-based agriculture in order to remain profitable. But wartime destruction and the rise of the contract labor system closed off those possibilities and necessitated increasingly intensive cultivation in ways that worked against the environment. The resulting disconnect between farmers' use of the land and what
the natural environment could support went hand-in-hand with the economic dislocation of freedpeople, poor farmers, and sharecroppers.
Erin Stewart Mauldin demonstrates how the Civil War and emancipation accelerated ongoing ecological change in ways that hastened the postbellum collapse of the region's subsistence economy, encouraged the expansion of cotton production, and ultimately kept cotton farmers trapped in a cycle of debt and tenancy.
The first environmental history to bridge the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods, this work will appeal to anyone who is interested in the landscape of the South or the legacies of the Civil War.