The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg's Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War's Defining Battle

The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg's Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War's Defining Battle

by Margaret S. Creighton
     
 

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In the summer of 1863, as Union and Confederate armies converged on southern Pennsylvania, the town of Gettysburg found itself thrust onto the center stage of war. The three days of fighting that ensued decisively turned the tide of the Civil War. In The Colors of Courage, Margaret Creighton narrates the tale of this crucial battle from the viewpoint of

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Overview

In the summer of 1863, as Union and Confederate armies converged on southern Pennsylvania, the town of Gettysburg found itself thrust onto the center stage of war. The three days of fighting that ensued decisively turned the tide of the Civil War. In The Colors of Courage, Margaret Creighton narrates the tale of this crucial battle from the viewpoint of three unsung groups—women, immigrants, and African Americans—and reveals how wide the conflict's dimensions were. A historian with a superb flair for storytelling, Creighton draws on memoirs, letters, diaries, and newspapers to bring to life the individuals at the heart of her narrative. The Colors of Courage is a stunningly fluid work of original history-one that redefines the Civil War's most remarkable battle.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Raymond Puffer
After some 143 years and hundreds of books on the battle, it would seem nearly impossible to find something new to say about the battle that turned the tide of the Civil War. However, author Margaret Creighton reminds us that a perceptive and determined historian can always break new historical ground. While there are plenty of musket-and-cannon accounts of battlefield drama, most serious histories have concentrated on the strategic and historical circumstances of the battle. But, while the generals, warriors and statesmen are all vital to understanding the Civil War, so too are the private soldiers, the women, and the black farmers and freedmen. Professor Creighton exemplifies the newer breed of professional historians who study history "from the bottom up" and in so doing gain a deeper understanding of what really went on in times past. She accomplishes this by retelling the Gettysburg drama from three very different, untraditional viewpoints: the housewives and mothers of the beleaguered town; its black residents who were well established there; and several bewildered Federal German-American regiments who found themselves in the quiet community, fighting for their lives. As masses of fighting soldiers suddenly filled the streets, the women turned their homes into impromptu hospitals, mess halls, and fortresses. The peaceful black citizens dreaded capture by Confederate soldiers and being sent South into slavery. The regiments of "Pennsylvania Dutch" soldiers not only had to fight a desperate melee with a more powerful foe, but also had to suffer an unfair reputation of unsteady leadership and general faintness of heart. As might be expected, a book of this nature is studded withnumerous stories and anecdotes penned to friends and family and carefully handed down through the years. Professor Creighton uses these tales as well as numerous newspaper accounts to spice her narrative, all the while deftly presenting unforgettable insights into "the rest of the story." Some knowledge of Gettysburg will certainly be helpful, but teenagers and adults without a great Civil War background can certainly appreciate this book as it stands.
Library Journal
Creighton (history, Bates Coll.; Rites and Passages) mines the rutted field of Gettysburg writings and memory to find an untold people's history of Gettysburg: German American Union soldiers seeking battlefield redemption, having allegedly been routed at Chancellorsville; townswomen facing down Confederate soldiers to protect their homes; and African Americans fighting would-be Southern kidnappers. In so doing, she reminds us that at Gettysburg there were many battles-in blood, mind, and memory-and that courage meant more than battlefield bravery alone. Creighton's book brims with insights on the significance of the "other Gettysburg Address," namely, immigrant aspirations, nativist and anti-Catholic suspicions of immigrant soldiers, women's activism, Southern honor, and the postwar shunting of blacks to the margins of historical memory. No one who reads this book will ever forget that so many brave men and women of different backgrounds fought at Gettysburg to give birth to a new freedom for America. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Battle of Gettysburg, historian Edward Lilenthal once wrote, is "the symbolic center of American history." If so, rejoins Creighton (History/Bates College), then the center needs to be expanded to embrace other actors apart from the warriors of July 1863. Before Abraham Lincoln took the stage to deliver the Gettysburg Address in the fall of that year, a politician named Edward Everett orated for a full two hours about the gallantry of the Union soldiers who had died. But he also took pains to speak of civilians, particularly the women and free people of color of the town who had cared for the wounded, fed the soldiers, and buried the dead during the fight. Creighton expands on Everett's words, reconstructing the lives of many such figures. One is Abraham Brian, an African American whose 12-acre farm below Cemetery Ridge saw fierce fighting throughout the three-day battle; he escaped, but Confederates took dozens of Gettysburg's blacks into captivity and marched them south into slavery. (Creighton adds that one nameless African-American, a member of a Pennsylvania militia unit, was the third Union soldier to die in the battle.) Then there's Harriet Bayly, a Gettysburg woman who fed Confederates until the food gave out; when Bayly and her family slaughtered every chicken in their yard, Creighton writes, "they did so not only because they felt they had to, but because they hoped to encourage desertion from the Confederate ranks and to silence as many guns as possible." Still another of the forgotten or obscure figures Creighton resurrects is Carl Schurz, a German immigrant who rose to the rank of general; though many such Germans, like Schurz, fought bravely at Gettysburg and otherbattles, they collectively were thought of as cowards, and only in the early 20th century did "immigrant and native-born soldiers [begin] to stand side by side in monuments at the military park." Creighton draws on an impressive range of contemporary documents to tell their many stories: altogether, a lively work of Civil War scholarship. Author tour. Agent: Kathy Anderson/Anderson Grinberg

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465014576
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
07/03/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
360
Sales rank:
671,870
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x -11.00(d)

Meet the Author

Margaret S. Creighton is Professor of History at Bates College. The author of Rites and Passages: The Experience of American Whaling, and co-editor of Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World, 1700-1920. She lives in Yarmouth, Maine.

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