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Soldiering for Freedom

How the Union Army Recruited, Trained, and Deployed the U.S. Colored Troops

Bob Luke and John David Smith

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The story of an enormous step forward in both the struggle for black freedom and the defeat of the Confederacy: turning former enslaved men into Union soldiers.

After President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, Confederate slaves who could reach Union lines often made that perilous journey. A great many of the young and middle-aged among them, along with other black men in the free and border slave states, joined the Union army. These U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), as the War Department designated most black units, materially helped to win the Civil War...

The story of an enormous step forward in both the struggle for black freedom and the defeat of the Confederacy: turning former enslaved men into Union soldiers.

After President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, Confederate slaves who could reach Union lines often made that perilous journey. A great many of the young and middle-aged among them, along with other black men in the free and border slave states, joined the Union army. These U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), as the War Department designated most black units, materially helped to win the Civil War—performing a variety of duties, fighting in some significant engagements, and proving to the Confederates that Northern manpower had practically no limits.

Soldiering for Freedom explains how Lincoln’s administration came to recognize the advantages of arming free blacks and former slaves and how doing so changed the purpose of the war. Bob Luke and John David Smith narrate and analyze how former slaves and free blacks found their way to recruiting centers and made the decision to muster in. As Union military forces recruited, trained, and equipped ex-slave and free black soldiers in the last two years of the Civil War, white civilian and military authorities often regarded the African American soldiers with contempt. They relegated the men of the USCT to second-class treatment compared to white volunteers. The authors show how the white commanders deployed the black troops, and how the courage of the African American soldiers gave hope for their full citizenship after the war.

Including twelve evocative historical engravings and photographs, this engaging and meticulously researched book provides a fresh perspective on a fascinating topic. Appropriate for history students, scholars of African American history, or military history buffs, this compelling and informative account will provide answers to many intriguing questions about the U.S. Colored Troops, Union military strategy, and race relations during and after the tumultuous Civil War.

Reviews

Reviews

This book is a perfect introduction to its subject for undergraduate students. Interwoven as it is with larger questions of race and masculinity, military organization and professionalism, and nationalism and citizenship students will be introduced to the complexities that surrounded emancipation and the meanings of freedom and the war.

This brief and useful study synthesizes a welter of important scholarship on race, soldiering, emancipation, and the quest for citizenship by African Americans... Besides analyzing experiences of African American, Luke and Smith expertly explain civil war Army life and the soldier's craft.

In Soldiering for Freedom... independent scholar Bob Luke and historian John D. Smith attempt not to break new ground, but to familiarize a wide readership with the findings of current scholarship on black soldiers in the Union Army. For the most part, their succinct book admirably achieves this aim.

Detailed introduction to this important topic.

... There is much to admire in Soldiering for Freedom. Luke and Smith have produced an account of wide potential interest for a diverse readership. They combine sound research with a lucid writing style, free of jargon, and uncluttered by digressions into the debates and trends in Civil War literature.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
144
ISBN
9781421413600
Illustration Description
12 halftones
Table of Contents

Preface
Prologue
1. How Racism Impeded the Recruitment of Black Soldiers
2. How Slaves and Freedmen Earned Their Brass Buttons
3. How White Officers Learned to Command Black Troops
4. How Blacks Became

Preface
Prologue
1. How Racism Impeded the Recruitment of Black Soldiers
2. How Slaves and Freedmen Earned Their Brass Buttons
3. How White Officers Learned to Command Black Troops
4. How Blacks Became Soldiers
5. How Black Troops Gained the Glory and Paid the Price
Epilogue
Notes
Selected Further Reading
Index

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Bob Luke

Bob Luke is the author of The Baltimore Elite Giants: Sport and Society in the Age of Negro League Baseball, also published by Johns Hopkins.
Featured Contributor

John David Smith

John David Smith is the Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and author of Black Judas: William Hannibal Thomas and "The American Negro."