The South's Forgotten Fire-Eater

David Hubbard and North Alabama's Long Road to Disunion

Title Details

Pages: 288

Illustrations: 20 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 12/05/2020

ISBN: 9-781-5883-8411-9

List Price: $27.95


NewSouth Books

The South's Forgotten Fire-Eater

David Hubbard and North Alabama's Long Road to Disunion

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  • Description
  • Reviews
The story of the American Civil War is typically told with particular interest in the national players behind the war: Davis, Lincoln, Lee, Grant, and their peers. However, the truth is that countless Americans on both sides of the war worked in their own communities to sway public perception of abolition, secession, and government intervention. In north Alabama, David Hubbard was an ardent and influential voice for leaving the Union, spreading his increasingly radical view of states' rights and the need to rebel against what he viewed an overreaching federal government. You have likely never heard of Hubbard, the grandson of a Revolutionary War soldier who fought under Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. He was much more than that stereotype of antebellum Alabama politicians, being an early speculator in lands coerced from Native Americans; a lawyer and cotton planter; a populist; an influential member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama; and a key promoter of the very first railroad built west of the Allegheny mountains. Alabama's Forgotten Fire Eater is the story of Hubbard's radicalization, describing his rise to becoming the most influential and prominent secessionist in north Alabama. Despite growing historical interest in the "fire eaters" who whipped the South into a frenzy, there has been little mention until now of Hubbard's integral involvement in Alabama's relationship with the Confederacy. Now historian Chris McIlwain offers Hubbard's story as a cautionary tale of radical politics and its consequences.
Chris McIlwain once again sets his critical eye on another Alabamian who led the state to make a series of disastrous decisions during the mid-nineteenth century. David Hubbard started his political career as a firm supporter of Andrew Jackson, but with each new national conflict—over Indian removal, annexation of Texas, war with Mexico, the Wilmot Proviso, and others—he emerged as a more radical and uncompromising defender of a separate Southern nation. Much of his success lay in gaining the votes of the non-slaveholders by over appeals to their fears of slave rebellions and to their resentment of the wealthy. At the time, Hubbard was among those north Alabamians pushing for critical economic changes, including industrialization, which McIlwain details in a particularly significant contribution. In short, Alabama’s Forgotten Fire-Eater is a fresh look at one road to secession—twists, turns, dust, rocks, and all.

—G. Ward Hubbs, author of Searching for Freedom after the Civil War: Klansman, Carpetbagger, Scalawag, and Freedman

About the Author/Editor

CHRIS MCILWAIN is a lawyer-historian from Tuscaloosa. Born in Chattanooga in 1955 and raised in Huntsville by his rocket scientist father, McIlwain graduated in 1977 from the University of Alabama with a double major in political science and sociology. He then attended the university's law school, from which he received his Juris Doctorate in 1980. He practices law in Tuscaloosa as president of his own firm. McIlwain is the author of three books: Civil War Alabama; 1865 Alabama: From Civil War to Uncivil Peace; and The Million Dollar Man Who Helped Kill a President. McIlwain is also a frequent contributor to the Alabama Review and a lecturer on Alabama history at schools, civic groups, and the Alabama Department of Archives and History.