Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865

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9780316853255: Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865

Noah Andre Trudeau's past three books garnered him recognition as one of America's most respected Civil War historians. Now, in Like Men of War, he focuses on African-American soldiers in the Union army. In all, more than 175,000 black soldiers taught in more than 400 battles. But once the war was won, their efforts were largely ignored or forgotten.

Drawing from the diaries and letters of these veterans, Trudeau vividly re-creates their experiences. At the outset, the white military believed that blacks were simply incapable of combat duty. But, as in the courageous assault on Fort Wagner (depicted in the film Glory), African Americans more than proved their mettle.

Thoroughly researched and copiously illustrated, Like Men of War illuminates the struggles of these courageous men and brings a fresh perspective to our understanding of the Civil War.

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Review:

Like Men of War corrects a sad case of historical amnesia that began in the 1880s and continues, with only a few exceptions, into the present. Using letters, diaries, service records, and other contemporary material, Noah Andre Trudeau tells the story of the brave black men who fought and died for their freedom in the U.S. Civil War. The tale begins in 1862, when many in the Union opposed recruiting blacks as soldiers. The story ends after Reconstruction, with their hopes for equality dashed, as Federal troops ceded control of the South to Southerners. In addition to photographs, Like Men of War includes about 60 maps and accounts of many of the 449 engagements in which blacks fought.

From Kirkus Reviews:

By National Public Radio producer Trudeau (Out of the Storm, 1994, etc.), another solid contribution to Civil War literature, this time about the experience of the so-called Colored Troops, who fought on the Union side. In recent years, films and books, particularly Joseph T. Glatthaar's Forged in Battle, have focused scholarly attention on the once-neglected exploits of the more than 175,000 black troops who fought in the Civil War. In an account more thorough and expansive than Glatthaar's, Trudeau shows little-known varieties of black military experience: Amazingly, free blacks in the South offered their military services to the Confederacy at the war's outset, before the North made abolition one of its wartime goals, and blacks in the multiracial areas of Louisiana and the Trans- Mississippi had well-developed military traditions dating back to the War of 1812. The Confederacy never made use of blacks as soldiers, however. Well before the final Emancipation Proclamation, units of back US troops were being sent into combat. Trudeau describes how, unreasonably, Northern editors and military men repeatedly asked whether the former slaves could fight as well as white men, even after units of the ``US Colored Troops'' had proved that they could. Trudeau compellingly captures many of their actions in detail, including moments of glory, like the capture of Fort Fisher by black troops on Jan. 15, 1865; moments of tragedy and bravery, like the failed July 18, 1863, assault on Fort Wagner; and moments of savagery, like the massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow by Confederates under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest on April 12, 1864. Trudeau also traces the curious historical fate of the African-American soldiers after their mustering out: In the revisionist historiography and racist culture of early 20th centry America, they were forgotten, and even in African-American culture and literature, their achievements were neglected. Another fine work by Trudeau, and a good companion to Glatthaar's study. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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