- Hardcover: 267 pages
- Publisher: University of South Carolina Press; First Edition edition (February 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1570031991
- ISBN-13: 978-1570031991
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,719,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: The Story of the Twenty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry Hardcover – February 1, 1998
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The 29th's only substantial combat experience came at the ill-fated Battle of the Crater, where the employment of black regiments was unfairly blamed for battlefield failures. As such, many in the North wanted to place the responsibility for the disaster upon supposedly inferior black troops. However, Miller's historiography yields a saner assessment through a very detailed account of the battle. When the war ended, instead of disbanding, the 29th was brought up to full strength and marched to Texas to meet a perceived threat from French encroachment into Mexico. There life was "difficult, food shortages common, and medical care inadequate." (164), and many died of privation.
Broadening the reader's perspectives, Miller highlights the sixty percent of the 29th's officers and men who filed for pensions from their service. Many claims for compensation based upon service-related disabilities were exaggerated or downright fraudulent. No doubt many of these were motivated by extreme poverty, for a high percentage of the black veterans could find work only as day laborers.
Regardless, though they completed their military service with "devotion and competence" (206), Miller believes that most black veterans gained little benefit from their wartime service. However, when allowed to participate in combat, they performed with proficiency on a par with their white comrades. But national incredulity would persist with attitudes exemplified by "a mix of pity, paternalism, condescension, and racial superiority." (103) All told, Miller's is a welcomed addition to the growing scholarly literature on the individual experiences of the common soldier.