The Barnes & Noble Review When the Civil War began, it was a war between the white army of the North and the white army of the South. While the fate of the entire black population of America was at stake, they were not allowed to enter the fray. But a year into the war, when northern generals began thinking that any soldier was a good soldier, all-black units were established.
Starting with a little history about the participation of black men in the army before the Civil War, Noah Trudeau picks up the story in 1862, when the units of freeborn black men and freed and former slaves were being formed, and gives a detailed military history of their participation in the battles of the war. Often considered second-rate soldiers by their commanding generals, the units were often relegated to minor battles in unstrategic locations. But their efforts were critical to the North's success.
Out of the Storm captures the chaos and destruction at the end of the war, is a skillful Civil War historian. He knows his material and is comfortable with the complex details of the events he describes. Like Men of War, using the personal letters and diaries of soldiers as well as the military records and newspaper accounts of their exploits, brings the men of the U.S. Colored Troops to life: Free and slave-born, literate and illiterate, brave and ill-prepared, the men Trudeau describes are a varied population of American soldiers. This is perhaps the greatest strength of Like Men of War and its greatest contribution to the historical record.
This is history not told before insuchdepth. Immediately after the war and well into this century, the contributions of black soldiers were forgotten or intentionally ignored. Only in recent decades has serious scholarship looked at the black regiments and their roles in the war.
Like Men of War pulls human stories from that academic research and makes the victories and defeats of African-American soldiers part of the widely known Civil War history.
The Sable Arm (1956), Dudley Cornish presented a pathbreaking social and political survey of the creation of black Civil War regiments, and in Forged in Battle (1990), Joseph Glatthaar focused on the complex relationship between these troops and their white officers. The story of black troops in combat during the Civil War is told comprehensively for the first time, however, in this remarkable history by Trudeau ( Bloody Roads South), who takes readers into battle with the U.S. Colored Troops. Over a hundred regiments of these troops took part in at least 449 engagements. Ever since, their performance has been shrouded in myths, both negative and positive. Trudeau and his research assistants combed archives and libraries to find the stories of the men, educated or illiterate, born free or whip-scarred, who confronted the racism of their white fellow soldiers in order to face an enemy that regularly denied quarter to black men with rifles. Trudeau eschews the triumphalism often marring current treatments of blacks in the Civil War. Not every African American soldier was a principled volunteer, he explains. Some were cajoled and cozened into uniform from "contraband camps" of fugitive slaves. Some donned blue at gunpoint. The USCT saw a disproportionate amount of service as labor and garrison troops, and when committed in the front lines their successes seldom matched their valor. But in an era when standards of manhood were as high as in any other, few whites who saw black troops in action ever again questioned their courage. The legacy was long obscured, but it never disappeared, and its compelling recovery makes this book a major addition to Civil War literature.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
At last, the service of black soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War is receiving the recognition it deserves. Building on Dudley T. Cornish's pioneering work in
The Sable Arm and the detailed discussion of officer-soldier relations in Joseph T. Glatthaar's Forged in Battle, Trudeau, the author of a trilogy covering military operations during the last year of the war (e.g., Out of the Storm), presents the fullest study of the battlefield experiences of black Union regiments. Some 60 maps help the reader make sense of famous engagements (Fort Wagner and the Crater) and notorious incidents (Fort Pillow) in which black soldiers fought, as well as scores of lesser-known clashes. Rich archival research is integrated into a lively narrative that places the raising and deployment of black regiments in broader contexts. This book will become a basic source of information on the subject. --Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State University, Tempe