Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword

Article excerpt

The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword. By James S. Price. (Charleston, S.C., and London: The History Press, 2011. Pp. 125. Paper, $19.99, ISBN 978-1-60949-038-6.) The focus of James S. Price's study is a sometimes overlooked episode of the Civil War's Richmond-Petersburg campaign: the courageous but near-suicidal charge of black Union soldiers against entrenched Confederates at New Market Heights, Virginia, on September 29, 1864. The black units involved suffered heavy casualties, but Union forces ultimately won the position, and fourteen black soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor--a number that "equaled the total number of Medals of Honor issued to black soldiers in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II combined" (p. 87).

This slim volume offers considerable insight regarding the black military experience. Some of Price's bolder claims, such as his suggestion that this was "arguably one of the most important days in American history," may not convince all readers (p. 9). Instead, perhaps the book's greatest strength is its exploration of the ambiguity and pliability of the battle's legacy. …

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