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The titular firebrand in this revealing history is not an individual but a curious and ambitious project: the establishment, in March 1863, of a permanent Union outpost in Florida to serve as a haven for fugitive slaves and to "help ignite the destruction of Southern slavery from within." In readable prose and relying exclusively on primary sources, historian Ash (When the Yankees Came) tells the little-known but crucial story of how 900 newly freed slaves, under the leadership of white abolitionist officers, captured Jacksonville. They fought alongside white Union troops and liberated slaves until their mission was abruptly aborted by their commanding officer, Gen. David Hunter, one of the dimmest stars in the Union Army firmament. Ash makes a strong case that the successes of the two black regiments changed the course of war by convincing President Lincoln to authorize the full-scale enlistment of African-Americans. By the end of the war, some 200,000 black troops had served in the Union Army. Without them, Ash contends, "the Union might very well have failed to conquer the Confederacy." (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.