Bruce Laurie uncovers the people and events that created this seminal image, telling the tale of three men, two Yankee soldiers from western Massachusetts who were serving the Union Army in Louisiana and a man named Peter whose scarred back horrified all who saw it. The two soldiers were so shocked by what had been done to Peter, they sought to capture the image and document slavery's cruelty, the likes of which was all too common among those fleeing bondage in Louisiana. Meticulously researched and briskly told, this short volume unearths the story behind an iconic image.
"As painful and uncomfortable as Peter's image was to view, it allowed a mass audience to experience . . . the evils of slavery in a way that even the most potent words of abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison or Harriet Beecher Stowe ever could."—Christopher Klein, Boston Globe
"'Chaotic Freedom' in Civil War Louisiana makes an important contribution to the history of Civil War photography by providing new insight into the production of the image commonly known as The Scourged Back . . . [C]ompelling."—Civil War History