Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War

Overview

"With the air of intimacy that only comes from intensive research, Uncommon Valor vividly shows us the contributions made by escaped slaves, ex-slaves, and freemen to the Union cause."
—Gene Smith, author of Lee and Grant

Christian Fleetwood had mixed feelings about America, and America had mixed feelings about him. As a free twenty-three-year-old black man living in Baltimore, with the Civil War raging, he understood well all that was worrisome and all that was inspiring in his war-torn country. A few days after...

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Overview

"With the air of intimacy that only comes from intensive research, Uncommon Valor vividly shows us the contributions made by escaped slaves, ex-slaves, and freemen to the Union cause."
—Gene Smith, author of Lee and Grant

Christian Fleetwood had mixed feelings about America, and America had mixed feelings about him. As a free twenty-three-year-old black man living in Baltimore, with the Civil War raging, he understood well all that was worrisome and all that was inspiring in his war-torn country. A few days after Gettysburg, as his hometown was flooded with horribly wounded soldiers, Fleetwood made a momentous and patriotic decision. He enlisted.

Uncommon Valor tells the powerful story of how Sergeant Fleetwood and his fellow "colored" troops overcame oppression, suspicion, derision, and a ceaseless torrent of Confederate gunfire to overrun a heavily fortified rebel position against impossible odds. For outstanding bravery and devotion beyond the call of duty, Fleetwood and thirteen of his comrades were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Based on personal diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts, this riveting tale takes you deep into the heat of battle and beyond, as these heroic soldiers are forced to fight two wars at once—one against the enemy, the other against their own white commanders and fellow troops.

The Civil War produced hundreds of heroes and thousands of thrilling accounts of their brave and glorious deeds. None is more moving, compelling, or inspiring than Uncommon Valor.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The terrible, but ultimately victorious, 1864 assault on New Market Heights, a vital outpost in the defense of Richmond, VA, forms the centerpiece of Claxton and Puls's Civil War history, which highlights the bravery and sacrifice of African-American troops. The battle hastened the end of the war and retired most of the prejudices that initially kept black troops out of combat. It also earned the book's chief protagonist, Christian Fleetwood, a Baltimore resident who enlisted while slavery was still legal in Maryland, a medal of honor for his bravery. Claxton and Puls's account suffers from its paucity of primary black voices, and it's too short to be definitive. The authors' decision to focus on only a few months of the war hampers narrative tension, though it does illustrate the fact that soldiering is nine parts tedium for every part horror. And the authors, both investigative reporters with the Detroit News, do capture the important themes: how blacks were long denied the fight against the South, how their courage was ever in question and how, after serving their country honorably, full citizenship in the postwar nation was not their reward. (Jan.) (Publishers Weekly, November 14, 2005)
Publishers Weekly
The terrible, but ultimately victorious, 1864 assault on New Market Heights, a vital outpost in the defense of Richmond, Va., forms the centerpiece of Claxton and Puls's Civil War history, which highlights the bravery and sacrifice of African-American troops. The battle hastened the end of the war and retired most of the prejudices that initially kept black troops out of combat. It also earned the book's chief protagonist, Christian Fleetwood, a Baltimore resident who enlisted while slavery was still legal in Maryland, a medal of honor for his bravery. Claxton and Puls's account suffers from its paucity of primary black voices, and it's too short to be definitive. The authors' decision to focus on only a few months of the war hampers narrative tension, though it does illustrate the fact that soldiering is nine parts tedium for every part horror. And the authors, both investigative reporters with the Detroit News, do capture the important themes: how blacks were long denied the fight against the South, how their courage was ever in question and how, after serving their country honorably, full citizenship in the postwar nation was not their reward. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Seeing their race's future hanging in the balance, nearly 200,000 black men like Christian A. Fleetwood of Baltimore shouldered arms on the Union side during the Civil War. Detroit News investigative reporters Claxton (a Pulitzer Prize winner) and Puls relate Fleetwood's service in the U.S. Colored Volunteer Infantry from Gettysburg's aftermath in July 1863 through his unit's desperate fight in September 1864 at New Market Heights, VA. The 24-year-old Fleetwood and 13 comrades there earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Working from firsthand accounts such as diaries and letters, the authors re-create the suffering and sacrifice of black men battling not only rebel enemies but abusive racism from officers and soldiers on their own side. More the story of a unit than of a man, the narrative encompasses a full range of black Civil War service. This is a riveting read for general audiences that contributes a personal face to scholarly treatments available from Ira Berlin, John David Smith, and Noah Andr Trudeau, to name a few. Recommended for black, Civil War, and military collections.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471468233
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/16/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 0.69 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

MELVIN CLAXTON is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter with the Nashville Tennessean.

MARK PULS is a former award-winning investigative reporter with the Detroit News.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: A Debate over Civil Rights.

One: The Bell Tolls: A Call for Black Troops.

Two: Christian Fleetwood Enlists.

Three: The First Mission.

Four: Ready and Willing: The Cincinnati Brigade.

Five: Hunting Guerrillas and Bushwhackers in North Carolina.

Six: Early Skirmishes: Raids on Richmond.

Seven: Avenging an Ambush.

Eight: To the Front: Storming Petersburg.

Nine: The Fog of War: The Petersburg Mine Explosion.

Ten: The Price of Honor: Heroics at New Market Heights.

Epilogue: The War Ends.

Bibliography.

Index.

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