Academic journal article Military Review

The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: The Story of the Twenty-Ninth U.S. Colored Infantry

Academic journal article Military Review

The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: The Story of the Twenty-Ninth U.S. Colored Infantry

Article excerpt

THE BLACK CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS OF ILLINOIS: The Story of the Twenty-Ninth U.S. Colored Infantry by Edward A. Miller Jr. 267 pages. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC. 1998. $29.95.

American poet Walt Whitman once stated that the interior history of the Civil War soldier would never be told. Though Whitman's assessment is generally true, in The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois, Edward A. Miller offers an interpretive rapprochement through a new history of the Black 29th US Colored Infantry, a unit formed in Illinois. Yet, this book is not simply a regimental history; it is a deeper study of the lives of Black recruits in the Civil War era and a journey into the hinterlands ofAmerican racial pathos.

Throughout this study, Miller explores the biographies of individual soldiers, revealing their often convoluted histories. Miller uncovered interesting and valuable demographic and socioeconomic data during his research, which not only expands our knowledge of the Black soldier but also the culture of the 29th's white officers, whom their fellow Union soldiers often unduly prejudged as incompetent.

The 29th's only substantial combat experience came at the ill-fated Battle of the Crater, Petersburg, Virginia, where the employment of Black regiments was unfairly blamed for battlefield failures. …

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