Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina's Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era

Overview

More than 5,000 North Carolina slaves escaped from their white owners to serve in the Union army during the Civil War. In Freedom for Themselves Richard Reid explores the stories of black soldiers from four regiments raised in North Carolina. Constructing a multidimensional portrait of the soldiers and their families, he provides a new understanding of the spectrum of black experience during and after the war.

Reid examines the processes by which black men enlisted and were ...

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Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina's Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era

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Overview

More than 5,000 North Carolina slaves escaped from their white owners to serve in the Union army during the Civil War. In Freedom for Themselves Richard Reid explores the stories of black soldiers from four regiments raised in North Carolina. Constructing a multidimensional portrait of the soldiers and their families, he provides a new understanding of the spectrum of black experience during and after the war.

Reid examines the processes by which black men enlisted and were trained, the history of each regiment, the lives of the soldiers' families during the war, and the postwar experiences of the veterans and their families living in an ex-Confederate state. By considering four regiments from a single state, Reid presents a cross section of a wide range of experiences and assesses what experiences proved largely universal among black troops. The full freedom they fought for and dreamed of having when the war ended did not materialize in their lifetimes, but Reid shows that many of them found in the army a kind of equality that was denied them in civilian life. The postwar benefits afforded to white veterans seldom crossed the color line. The accolades African American soldiers received, Reid demonstrates, came not from a new southern society, but from within their own communities, where black soldiers were seen and recognized as heroes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Provides a new understanding of the spectrum of the black experience during the Civil War.--Courier

A valuable contribution to the growing body of literature on the African American experience during the Civil War era. . . . Yield[s] fresh insights into some neglected areas of the black soldiers' experience.--American Historical Review

The best study of an African American unit during the Civil War. . . . Provides a new and much fuller understanding of how African American soldiers experienced the Civil War.--Civil War History

Informative, well-written, and has enriched the historical literature on African American men in the ranks of the Union army.--Journal of Military History

Well researched, written, and annotated. . . . A most welcome addition to the growing body of literature about the military service of African Americans during the Civil War.--The Journal of America's Military Past

The first state study of African American soldiers in the Union army. . . . A very readable narrative. . . . Succeeds admirably.--H-Net Reviews

A richly detailed account. . . . Skillfully combines military and social history.--The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

An admirable addition to our knowledge of a cross-section of black regiments.--America's Civil War

Informative . . . effectively synthesizes military and social history, extends our understanding of the challenges confronting African-American Civil War soldiers and veterans, and suggests future areas of investigation.--Georgia Historical Quarterly

The most thoughtful and thorough regimental history of the U.S. colored Troops yet to appear. . . . Points the way toward state and regional studies as a fruitful approach to the history of black military participation in the Civil War.--North Carolina Historical Review

"Will become essential reading for its scholarly audience--and it will probably fare well among popular readers.--West Virginia History

A welcome contrast to the usual regimental-level studies of Blacks in union uniforms.--Multicultural Review

This work should be in the library of any scholar of the Civil War or anyone who would like to know more about what black soldiers in North Carolina had to endure in order to assert themselves as equal men and citizens in the nation.--Military History of the West

An excellent social history of North Carolina's African American regiments in the civil war. . . . Superb scholarship and a model for future state-level social histories of Civil War military service.--Journal of American History

The importance of Reid's work is not that it reiterates the similar experiences of black soldiers, but displays their differences. . . . Gives historians an excellent comprehensive view with fresh insights of African Americans who served in the Union army.--Louisiana History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469615066
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2008
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 1,490,047
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard M. Reid is associate professor of history at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He is author of The Upper Ottawa Valley to 1855.
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Table of Contents

Preface     xi
Introduction     1
Raising and Training the Black Regiments     19
A Fine, Fighting Regiment     67
Issues of "Civilized" Warfare     111
A Unit of Last Resort     153
Black Workers in Blue Uniforms     187
Families of the Soldiers during the War     215
Service in the Postwar South     255
Black Veterans in a Gray State     297
Conclusion     323
Notes     329
Bibliography     389
Index     407
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