Craig James of the Daguerreian Society reviewed African American Faces of the Civil War, and it appears in the organization’s April-June 2013 newsletter. James notes of the photographs and profiles, “Each face and each description takes you further behind the front lines of the Civil War and deeper into the struggle for freedom.”
The complete review:
African Americans have always been at the center of Civil War controversy. Was Lincoln working to preserve the Union or was he interested in freeing the slaves? Depending on whom you ask, the answers may vary. Although African Americans are often excluded as significant contributors in the Civil War, they were there. With period photographs, Ronald S. Coddington allows the reader to look into the faces of men who were willing to sacrifice everything in order to have a better future. The personal glimpse into their lives gives an extraordinary dimension at texture to their presence as soldiers. This presence ranged from non-enlisted bodyguards like Robert Holloway, valet to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, to the first African American field officer, Major Martin Robison Delany. Each face and each description takes you further behind the front lines of the Civil War and deeper into the struggle for freedom.
The book is filled with real people and satisfies the question of how African Americans impacted the Civil War. The stories validate the contributions made by many African Americans through bravery, sacrifice, commitment, and achievement. Writing clearly, in an unbiased manner, Coddington exposes the good and the bad. The book illustrates the good, as it describes observations by an Eighth U.S. Colored Infantry white surgeon, who described the valiant stance of black troops during the Battle of Olustee in Florida in February 1864. The book also illustrates the bad, as soldiers like Privates James L. Baldwin and Charles Mudd are demoted just before the end of their tours of duty, for unknown reasons. The book is a must-read for all Civil War buffs and contains important historical data to complete a full circumference of Civil War history.
Recent issues of the Daguerreian Society newsletter are available for download.