Question of the Week: 2/6-2/12/23

Do you have a favorite primary or secondary source about African American soldiers during the Civil War?

8 Responses to Question of the Week: 2/6-2/12/23

  1. As I’ve stated before, until viewing the movie, Glory, in 1989 my awareness of U.S. Colored Troop participation in the Civil War was in close proximity to non-existent. The film has held up well, and after 34 years still sends chills up my spine during select scenes. It remains a great introduction for Students of the Civil War looking to increase their knowledge of Black soldier involvement.

  2. I was introduced to the enlistment and pay records of the 122nd regiment contained in our local Historical Society in Connecticut.

  3. Two excellent books cover the unique experience and great contributions of African American sailors in the U.S. Navy. Life and war afloat are surprisingly different. See Seven J. Ramold, “Slaves, Sailors, Citizens: African Americans in the Union Navy (Northern Illinois University Press, 2002), or Barbara Brooks Tomblin, “Bluejackets & Contrabands” (University Press of Kentucky, 2009). Freedmen and contrabands were fully integrated as seamen and fighters into warship and support ship crews much earlier, more quietly, on a more equal basis, and in proportionally larger numbers than into the army (even some in the Confederate navy). This is a little known but fascinating aspect of the conflict.

  4. The first book that I read on the subject was the minor classic: Army Life in a Black Regiment, by Thomas W. Higginson, the colonel of the “First South” The First South Carolina Volunteers, later redesignated the 33rd USCT

  5. In the Compiled Military Service Records of Sgt. Miles James, 36th USCI, is a letter from Brig. Gen. Alonzo Draper to the chief surgeon at the hospital at Fort Monroe. In the letter Draper states that James contacted Draper and requested to remain in the service despite losing his left arm to amputation at New Market Heights. In it Draper stated that James “is one of the bravest men I ever saw; and is in every respect a model soldier. He is worth more with his single arm, than half a dozen ordinary men.” James returned to his unit and served until the fall of 1865. He died August 28, 1871 from complications due to his war wound.

  6. Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw … not a great primary source for UCST soldiers, but a good one … also fleshes out the Matthew Broderick character we know from Glory.

  7. Am I allowed to mention my own recent book, “The Greatest Escape, a True Civil war Adventure”?
    I guess I already did!
    It contains numerous first-person, eyewitness accounts of enslaved people who were encountered by the escapees. In their own words, eyewitnesses describe the amazing risks these slaves took to hide, feed, and guide the these desperate, starving, freezing POW’s. I don’t believe anyone has seen these accounts since they were first written down over 100 years ago, and they are truly unique and powerful.

    The book also tells the story of the many Black Americans who also served in Elizabeth Van Lew’s extremely effective Richmond spy ring. Another group of totally forgotten heroes!

    (check out the fine review of my book on the “Emerging Civil War” web site)

    And today is the 159th Anniversary of the escape—February 9, 1864!

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