Book Review: Colonels in Blue: A Civil War Biographical Dictionary – U.S. Colored Troops, Armed Forces, Staff Officers and Special Units by Roger D. Hunt

With some notable exceptions, Civil War colonels are frequently overlooked in our historiography in favor of those officers of higher rank. Even so, attrition often resulted in colonels commanding numbers of men far beyond their military experience or pay grade, placing them in brigade or even division command at critical points on the battlefield. More recently our friend Frank Jastrzmebski over at Shrouded Veterans has been doing admirable work in identify the unmarked final resting places of Civil War colonels across the country and around the world.

Like Frank’s work, it cannot be overstated the benefit our Civil War community has enjoyed from the decades of research Roger D. Hunt has made available through his magisterial series Colonels in Blue. While his earlier volumes were grouped by state or region, Hunt’s eighth and final volume serves as something of a catch-all. In this volume, Hunt identifies the colonels of the U.S.C.T., U.S. Armed Forces (i.e., Regulars), U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Sharpshooters, U.S. Veteran Volunteers, U.S. Volunteers, Veteran Reserve Corps, Aides-de-Camp, Quartermasters, Commissaries of Subsistence, and miscellaneous organizations.

Each chapter includes a chronological index of regiments and organizations as well as their colonels, followed by alphabetical biographies of each officer. These biographies include vital information (birth, death, burial), pre/postwar civilian education and occupation, and copious information relating to military assignments, including promotions, discipline, battle experience, and hospital stays. Beyond the research, Hunt is also known for ferreting out copious photos of these officers from both public and private collections, including prewar, wartime, and postwar images. As a fan of several obscure USCT regiments I was thrilled to find images and information relating to some names I’ve seen pop up over the years in books and pension files.

This rich research and exhaustive photo documentation ensures that Hunt’s work will remain a relevant and necessary research collection for many years to come. For those who might like to fill out their collection, McFarland has published a total of five books in the Colonels in Blue series. Volumes printed by other publishers are out of print but readily available on the secondary market.

Kudos to Roger Hunt on his tremendous body of work!

Reviewed by Jon-Erik Gilot

Colonels in Blue: U.S. Colored Troops, U.S. Armed Forces, Staff Officers, and Special Units – A Civil War Biographical Dictionary
By: Roger D. Hunt
McFarland, 2022. Softcover. $39.95

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