In this unprecedented work of history, one of America's leading Civil War historians draws from nineteenth-century newspapers, letter, & soldiers' diaries to recreate the experiences of African-American troops in the Civil War. The authors richly textured narrative immerses us, battle by battle, in stories of the more than 175,000 black soldiers whose contributions have long been ignored or forgotten. More than a military history, Like Men of War is the stirring saga of people whose answer to slavery was a fierce determination to claim their full rights as citizens by force of arms.
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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
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