New Review of African American Faces in “The Journal of America’s Past”

african-american-faces-of-the-civil-war-200DPIThanks to to Roger D. Cunningham for his insights and observations on pages 97-98 of the spring/summer 2013 issue of The Journal of America’s Past (formerly Periodical). The full review:

This attractive volume is the third in a series of books on Civil War portraits, by Ronald S. Coddington, assistant managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. His first book, Faces of the Civil War, depicted Union soldiers, and the second, Faces of the Confederacy, showed Confederate soldiers.

Each of the author’s previous volumes included 77 images, accompanied by brief biographical sketches pieced together from various sources, including newspapers, regimental histories, and the military service records and disability pension records that are available at the National Archives. This book follows the same format, and its images include cartes de visite, ambrotypes, and tintypes, which come from public archives as well as several private collections. The images include infantrymen, cavalrymen, artillerymen, sailors, and a few noncombatants. The last category includes Robert Holloway, who was Maj. Gen. Ambrose P. Burnside’s servant, and a slave, Silas Chandler, who went to war with his Confederate master, Sgt. Andrew M. Chandler, of the 44th Mississippi Infantry. The tintype of the Chandlers also appeared on an episode of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.

The rest of the images show the men, both freeborn and enslaved, who enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), as well as a few sailors from the Union navy. Among the USCT images, there are a handful of officers, including Maj. Martin R. Delany, who served in both the 104th and the 52d U.S. Colored Infantry regiments. Capt. Louis A. Snaer, of the 73d U.S. Colored Infantry, was awarded the brevet rank of major for his gallant conduct during the assault on Fort Blakely, Alabama, in April 1865. Another soldier who wanted to be an officer but was denied that goal was Sgt. Maj. Christian A. Fleetwood, of the 4th U.S. Colored Infantry. Fleetwood was awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroism he displayed during the Battle of New Market Heights, which was fought near Richmond, Virginia, in September 1864. After the war, however, Fleetwood was able to secure a commission as a major, commanding one of the black battalions in the District of Columbia National Guard.

A few of the men who are depicted left the USCT after the war and enlisted in one of the six black regiments—four infantry and two cavalry—that were added to the Regular Army in 1866. These black regulars have come to be known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” After serving in the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry, Solomon Starks enlisted in the 9th U.S. Cavalry in 1866 and rode with that regiment to west Texas, where he died from dysentery at Fort Davis, a year later. Kendrick Allen also served with the 108th and after mustering out of the Union army and working as a stonemason for five years, he spent ten years in the 24th U.S. Infantry, before enlisting in the 9th Cavalry in 1881. Allen finally retired from the Army as a sergeant in 1897.

All those who are fascinated by Civil war photography or black history in general will find this volume to be a most enjoyable read. The book helps us to remember that during the Civil War a significant number of black men were willing to fight for their freedom or to help secure freedom for their fellow African Americans.

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