Although countless books have been written about the Civil War, the role of black troops has been consistently underrepresented until recently. Nearly 180,000 of them fought--mostly for the North, but a handful even took up arms for the slaveholding South. Many wanted to serve at the start of the conflict, but a variety of factors kept them on the sidelines. Until Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, many Union leaders--including the president--held that the war was not about slavery. Racist views caused some to question further the value of black soldiers; there was also genuine concern about how Confederates would treat captured blacks.
But, as Noah Andre Trudeau reveals, black soldiers demonstrated bravery and professionalism from the moment they suited up. He recounts well-known events, such as the 54th Massachusetts' attack on Fort Wagner, as well as less familiar ones, such as blacks' involvement in the war's last directed combat one month after Lee's surrender. There were atrocities, too: in 1864, Confederates slaughtered black prisoners of war at Fort Pillow (Southern historians once disputed this brutal act of cold-blooded murder, but most scholars accept it as true today). Although Trudeau sometimes sacrifices his narrative drive to excessive detail, Like Men of War remains a compelling book full of strong battle scenes. --John J. Miller
From Library Journal
At last, the service of black soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War is receiving the recognition it deserves. Building on Dudley T. Cornish's pioneering work in The Sable Arm (1956; Univ. Pr. of Kansas, 1987. reprint) and the detailed discussion of officer-soldier relations in Joseph T. Glatthaar's Forged in Battle (LJ 10/1/89), Trudeau, the author of a trilogy covering military operations during the last year of the war (e.g., Out of the Storm, LJ 3/1/94), presents the fullest study of the battlefield experiences of black Union regiments. Some 60 maps help the reader make sense of famous engagements (Fort Wagner and the Crater) and notorious incidents (Fort Pillow) in which black soldiers fought, as well as scores of lesser-known clashes. Rich archival research is integrated into a lively narrative that places the raising and deployment of black regiments in broader contexts. This book will become a basic source of information on the subject. Recommended for public and academic collections.?Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
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