From Publishers Weekly
Leonard (Lincoln's Avengers) examines the struggle of African Americans to become soldiers and citizens during the Civil War (when nearly 200,000 black men served in special "colored" units) and the postwar westward expansion. Though reconstruction held great promise for African Americans, the reality of race relations pervaded all aspects of life; whites in the defeated South chafed under black occupation, thought of armed black men as an "outrage," and provoked fights. Some in the Army argued for integration, but the majority of white officers preferred that blacks were either kept to their own units, or kept out altogether. Despite these tensions, after the Civil War black soldiers were deployed to the west, where they played a key role in forcing the remaining Indian tribes onto reservations; some of the soldiers "probably recognized the irony," Leonard argues, going on to captures the indignities suffered by black veterans of early wars, as well the first young men to enter West Point. Though Leonard is often detached and terse, the richness of her stories shines through, and first-person accounts of hardships suffered on the plains are especially gripping. (Aug.)
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“Ms. Leonard did a masterful job of extracting from the best primary and secondary sources available on frontier military history. The work is an excellent starting place for those not familiar with the service of blacks in the frontier army.” — Mary L. Williams, Historian, National Park Service
“Historians have written important books on the role of blacks at West Point and in the late 19th century military, but no one has written as succinct and insightful an overview as Elizabeth Leonard. Her thorough research, excellent organization, and lucid prose make this publication worthy of a wide audience.” — John F. Marszalek, author of Assault at West Point
“Once again Elizabeth Leonard demonstrates the versatility and range of her skills as a historian and writer. This penetrating account of the black regular regiments in the U.S. Army after the Civil War joins her earlier studies of women during the Civil War and the prosecutors of Lincoln's assassins on a select shelf of important books. Of special note is her discussion of the ironies involved in the key role played by black soldiers in the wars that extinguished the title of other nonwhite Americans to millions of acres that their ancestors had possessed for thousands of years.” — James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry for Freedom
“Until the film in 1989, few Americans knew that black soldiers fought for the Union during the Civil War. Elizabeth D. Leonard's welcome new book examines African Americans in military service during the postwar decades, assessing their role in the Indian wars and westward expansion, as well as their often frustrating search for equality within the army and as citizens. Richly detailed and beautifully written, illuminates an important but neglected aspect of late-19th-century United States history.” — Gary W. Gallagher, author of Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War