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A stirring account of wartime experiences from the leader of the first regiment of emancipated slaves Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Unitarian minister, was a fervent member of new England's abolitionist movement, an active participant in the Underground Railroad, and part of a group that supplied material aid to John Brown before his ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry. When th A stirring account of wartime experiences from the leader of the first regiment of emancipated slaves Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Unitarian minister, was a fervent member of new England's abolitionist movement, an active participant in the Underground Railroad, and part of a group that supplied material aid to John Brown before his ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry. When the Civil War broke out, Higginson was commissioned as a colonel of the black troops training in the Sea Islands off the coast of the Carolinas. Shaped by American Romanticism and imbued with Higginson's interest in both man and nature, Army Life in a Black Regiment ranges from detailed reports on daily life to a vivid description of the author's near escape from cannon fire, to sketches that conjure up the beauty and mystery of the Sea Islands. This edition also features a selection of Higginson's essays, including "Nat Turner's Insurrection" and "Emily Dickinson's Letters." For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


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A stirring account of wartime experiences from the leader of the first regiment of emancipated slaves Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Unitarian minister, was a fervent member of new England's abolitionist movement, an active participant in the Underground Railroad, and part of a group that supplied material aid to John Brown before his ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry. When th A stirring account of wartime experiences from the leader of the first regiment of emancipated slaves Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Unitarian minister, was a fervent member of new England's abolitionist movement, an active participant in the Underground Railroad, and part of a group that supplied material aid to John Brown before his ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry. When the Civil War broke out, Higginson was commissioned as a colonel of the black troops training in the Sea Islands off the coast of the Carolinas. Shaped by American Romanticism and imbued with Higginson's interest in both man and nature, Army Life in a Black Regiment ranges from detailed reports on daily life to a vivid description of the author's near escape from cannon fire, to sketches that conjure up the beauty and mystery of the Sea Islands. This edition also features a selection of Higginson's essays, including "Nat Turner's Insurrection" and "Emily Dickinson's Letters." For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

30 review for Army Life in a Black Regiment: and Other Writings

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    It was hardly an accident that Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Shaw, who where to become the two most famous commanders of black troops in the Civil War, both came from Unitarian Boston. “The Athens of America,” “Hub of the Universe,” “The Brahmin’s Rome,” as Boston’s best described their citadel, with less smugness than irony, was supported by traditions which Harvard College has defined for two hundred years, partly as transcendental ethics, and even more significantly as active political moral It was hardly an accident that Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Shaw, who where to become the two most famous commanders of black troops in the Civil War, both came from Unitarian Boston. “The Athens of America,” “Hub of the Universe,” “The Brahmin’s Rome,” as Boston’s best described their citadel, with less smugness than irony, was supported by traditions which Harvard College has defined for two hundred years, partly as transcendental ethics, and even more significantly as active political morality. (Lincoln Kirstein) Higginson’s antebellum politics were rock-ribbed extremist. Slavery was wicked, and its overthrow by violence necessary, justified, delightful to God. Like William Lloyd Garrison, whose favorite Fourth of July activity was the public burning of a copy of the Constitution—that slavery-tolerating “covenant with death”—Higginson wanted the North to secede from the Union. In the 1850s, when the White House was occupied by administrations servile to slaveholding interests, it was abolitionists like Higginson who championed States’ Rights against the Federal government; that he became, with the election and radicalization of Lincoln, an instrument of mainstream Federal policy illustrates, as few careers can, the dizzying revolutions of the era. Higginson was like Emerson—a literary minister who upon emergence from Harvard customarily assumed a venerable Puritan pulpit. Higginson seems the perfection of the learned New England divine, what with his Miltonic command of the ancient tongues, and he lasted longer in the ministry than Emerson; but antislavery sermons ended that career. In any case, he was already convinced by Emerson and Margaret Fuller that the established clergyman’s dependence upon the approval of congregants kept him from becoming a truly adventurous thinker or effective historical actor. As a layman Higginson pursued belles letters and partisan conspiracy. In 1854 a fugitive slave named Anthony Burns was apprehended in Boston and jailed there while the President Pierce, a zealous enforcer of the Fugitive Slave Act, made plans to return him to captivity. Higginson and others stormed the Federal Courthouse with pistols in a failed attempt to free Burns, who, when marched down to the US Navy vessel dispatched to get him, passed through a Boston flying American flags upside down in protest. Higginson ran guns to Kansas Territory when tensions between Free Soilers and proslavery bushwhackers exploded in a series of massacres, of which the sack of Lawrence and John Brown’s broadsword hacking of a proslavery family are the best known. Higginson was also one of the Secret Six, the radicals who funded John Brown’s raid. In 1859 Brown seized the Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, with the aim of distributing arms to the hordes of rebellious slaves he fanatically believed would flock to his flambeau. After Brown’s capture and hanging the identities of his backers came to light. Theodore Parker, the Transcendentalist legal theorist whose phrases show up in the Gettysburg Address, was dying of tuberculosis in European exile; four others fled to Canada; but Higginson stayed in Massachusetts, conspicuous, mouthy, defying anyone to arrest him. The outbreak of war found Higginson reluctant to serve a government he’d always condemned, but he soon accepted a commission. In 1862, the year Emily Dickinson mailed him six poems (“Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?”) and so initiated a decades-long correspondence, Higginson resigned his captaincy in the Massachusetts volunteers to become “de Cunnel” of the First Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers of African Descent—as they were floridly styled in Federal ledgers. Early in the war the Navy bombarded, and the Marines stormed, the Sea Islands off South Carolina (the Marines made Parris Island a recruit induction depot). The islands provided coaling stations for the squadrons blockading Southern ports and springboards for obsessively vengeful attempts to retake Charleston, “the cradle of secession"; and they hosted laboratories of Reconstruction. On the islands was the largest number of slaves under Union control. Early moves by Abolitionist officers to arm the blacks and codify their freedom had been countermanded by the still-cautious Lincoln. In legal limbo, the ex-slaves were given parcels of the old plantations and paid for the cotton they raised. Their literacy was taken up by educated New England women—Dickinson’s cohort, if she hadn’t needed to tend Genius—who flocked to the islands as schoolteachers. In this rush of philanthropy was Higginson, though he was no mere philanthropist. Lincoln had at last authorized the arming of blacks. Higginson was coming to teach the freedmen to fight. I naturally viewed the new recruits rather as subjects for discipline than for philanthropy. I had been expecting a war for six years, ever since the Kansas troubles, and my mind had dwelt on military matters more or less during all that time. The best Massachusetts regiments already exhibited a high standard of drill and discipline, and unless these men could be brought tolerably near that standard, the fact of their extreme blackness would afford me, even as a philanthropist, no satisfaction. That’s a Unitarian with a vengeance! A man of letters brooding war since 1856! Fittingly, Higginson’s men would make a regimental fight-song of Emerson’s “Boston Hymn.” The regiment’s mission consisted of picket duty on the limits of the Sea Islands, and raids upriver to engage the Rebels. It was an oozy alligator war of ambushes, amphibious forays, plantation houses burning on the banks of brown rivers. In their first action, Higginson and his men made a muffled moonlit march to surprise a swamp stronghold of the local rebels; during a sharp firefight in the dark they killed the leader of the band. The isolated, experimental nature of Higginson’s command suggests Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now. There were opportunities to get real wild and Kurtz-like. A second regiment of ex-slaves was organized and led by a Colonel James Montgomery, a former gun runner and raider known to Higginson from the Kansas troubles. In the film Glory Montgomery figures as a louche, bourbon-scented scoundrel. In reality he was a wildly bearded true believer, an ex-preacher who once told Robert Gould Shaw, to that princely officer’s horror, that the Rebels would be “swept away by the hand of God like the Jews of old.” Montgomery abhorred whiskey and tobacco, but burned and stole with gusto. Going upriver on Navy gunboats, he shelled any building he thought he could hit; and returned freighted with various livestock, all the plantation finery he couldn’t torch and, it should not be forgotten, families of slaves who managed to dash down to the boats (“Dey was hoein’ in de rice field, when de gunboats come,” said an escapee). Higginson eschewed plunder, and strove to maintain the delicate distinction between “public forage and private pillage”; but even he was briefly tempted—as he watched the fervid campfire prayer meetings of his troops—as he heard their talk of marching in “de Gospel Army” formed as an instrument of “Judgment”—to encourage the aura of holy war. “They could easily be made fanatics, if I chose; but I do not choose.” Richard Slotkin surveyed many of the regimental histories and personal memoirs written by white officers of black units, in the armies of the Potomac and the James, and he found that only rarely are the men named or individually described—they remain a mass of others. Higginson is the grand exception to this tendency. Army Life in a Black Regiment (1869) is a portfolio of closely drawn faces. One might attribute this to Abolitionism—but many in the movement were reluctant to see blacks as anything but abject abstractions (Garrison complained that Frederick Douglass’s eloquence and poise did not make for the believably brutalized Fugitive Slave he wished to exhibit). I think Higginson’s writerly orientation is more important. He had an eye for characters and the literary chops to delineate them memorably. There’s Corporal Robert Sutton, whom Higginson calls “the wisest man in the ranks,” possessed of “a meditative and systematic intellect.” Once a Florida slave, Sutton stole away from the plantation in a dugout canoe down the St. Mary’s river. Having located the Federal lines, he then went back to get his wife and child. "I wouldn't have leff my child, Cunnel.” On a raid up the St. Mary’s in January 1863, Higginson and Sutton paid call on Sutton’s former owner: When the morning was a little advanced, I called on Mrs. A., who received me in quite a stately way at her own door with "To what am I indebted for the honor of this visit, Sir?" I wished to present my credentials; so, calling up my companion, I said that I believed she had been previously acquainted with Corporal Robert Sutton? I never saw a finer bit of unutterable indignation than came over the face of my hostess, as she slowly recognized him. She drew herself up, and dropped out the monosyllables of her answer as if they were so many drops of nitric acid. "Ah," quoth my lady, "we called him Bob!" It was a group for a painter. The whole drama of the war seemed to reverse itself in an instant, and my tall, well-dressed, imposing, philosophic Corporal dropped down the immeasurable depth into a mere plantation "Bob" again. So at least in my imagination; not to that person himself. Too essentially dignified in his nature to be moved by words where substantial realities were in question, he simply turned from the lady, touched his hat to me, and asked if I would wish to see the slave-jail, as he had the keys in his possession. If he fancied that I was in danger of being overcome by blandishments, and needed to be recalled to realities, it was a master-stroke. Inspecting the tools of torture—including a child-size stocks—Higginson, who had before felt “seasoned to any of the horrors of slavery,” found himself choked, enraged, ready to burn the big house, the town. But he held back. A much better man than I. Higginson is also sensitive to the poetics of slave spirituals. The opportunity to document primal, unwritten song—in this case, the spiritual sublimate of the anonymous enslaved generations, the “many thousand gone”—was a deep thrill to a writer weaned, like so many Americans of his day, on the works Sir Walter Scott. Preceding the tales of high-blooded Celtic heroism Mark Twain blamed for the South’s cavalier plunge into unwinnable war (Jeff Davis made a postwar pilgrimage to Culloden), Scott had compiled a classic of Romantic folklore, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802), the fruit of years haunting ruined strongholds and ballad-collecting among the crones. Higginson seized his moment and became not just a recorder of overheard chants, but a sensitive critic of their technique. He first noticed the songs soon after assuming command. Deep in the night, his desk and its lamp set up on the porch of a dilapidated plantation house, he hears the quaint, monotonous, endless, Negro-Methodist chants, with obscure syllables recurring constantly, and slight variations interwoven, all accompanied with a regular drumming of the feet and clapping of the hands, like castanets. On later nights he wanders to the verges of these fire-lit “shouts,” “half bacchanalian, half devout” (if only Nietzsche, then germinating The Birth of Tragedy half a world away, had been present), delirious festivals in which circles of dancers quiver, tremble, whirl and caper while “spectators applaud special strokes of skill” and “the ceaseless drumming and clapping, in perfect cadence, goes steadily on.” In time Higginson becomes familiar with the repertoire of choruses—variously Mosaic, crucifixional, or Apocalyptic in their imagery—to which individuals wishing to “a-raise a sing” affix their impromptu verses. The Spirituals meld the commonplace and the peculiar, the ideal and the earthy, tradition and individual talent in a powerful instance of poesis: the lone singer recalling a cruel overseer or razzing white bounty-takers hitches his or her words to tropes and tones all will know, and all can sing. (As a genre, “spirituals” embraced worldly and mimetic songs, just as the devotional “shouts” electrified even the scamps and ne’er-do-wells.) The “detached and impersonal refrains” remind Higginson of “the Scotch and Scandinavian ballads.” That the slaves had managed to quarry a rich culture from the one book permitted them meant the race was not a demoralized mass outside history, as Higginson had feared, but an organically poetic Volk understandable to any American transcendentalist fed German Romanticism by Carlyle and Emerson (tellingly, Richter’s Titan is the sole book Higginson mentions reading during his two years in the field). The musical folk nationalism of the German Romantics stayed in the Bostonian bloodstream and would inform the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, a product of Harvard and Heidelberg. Du Bois, though born to a Massachusetts family free since the 1770s, heard a family call in the old slave songs. In The Souls of Black Folk (1903) he writes: Ever since I was a child these songs have stirred me strangely. They came out of the South unknown to me, one by one, and yet at once I knew them as of me and of mine. I can relate. My dad is from Arkansas, though nothing about that milieu—not even my grandmother’s cooking—has ever struck me as typically, picturesquely “southern.” My dad’s siblings and the vast cousinage cluster in the Midwest, in southern California, or in large southern cities. My grandparents’ hamlet, while rural, is being drawn ever closer to an exploding exurb to the east, with all the neutral landscaping, McMansions and big-box stores such development implies; and critically, it was and remains mostly all-black, one of those autonomous pockets productive of odd, confident characters (Zora Neale Hurston being one), and which don’t fit easily into our newsreel notions of the Civil Rights Movement. The Sturm und Drang of integration played out in Little Rock. The notion of my dad's childhood world as neutral and contemporary would have persisted had it not been for my grandfather’s funeral in July. Everything about those few days breathed a deep history. The funeral home was not located in the bland exurban sprawl to the east, but in a dying, dilapidated little town to the west. The night air trilled with bugs; the Main Street structures and commercial signage looked untouched since the 1960s. This was where they did their bi-weekly shopping, and the now grass-sprouting streets are bound up with my dad’s memories of segregation—the place where they drank from “Colored” water fountains and stepped into the gutter to let whites pass. The funeral home itself was a cramped storefront. The room where we viewed the body was narrow, low-ceilinged, and dim except around a solitary floor lamp. We were packed closely around the open coffin—the very image of an olden-time domestic intimacy with death. I thought of a slave or share-cropper cabin. On some cue missed by me, everyone over forty broke into a perfectly harmonized “I’ll Fly Away”: When the shadows of this life have gone I'll fly away Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly I'll fly away. Oh, how glad and happy when we meet I’ll fly away No more cold iron shackles on my feet I’ll fly away. “I’ll Fly Away” was written by a white guy in the 1920s. I didn’t know that at the time, but even if I had, the sound of black mourners wailing the song’s ecstatically fatalistic lyrics would still have pierced me through with thoughts of the “many thousand gone.” I’ve resisted such atavistic thoughts as long as I can remember. As a kid I smirked at the Pharaonic bookends and other Nubian bric-a-brac in my aunt’s apartment. The first-person coming-of-age novel that occupied my mid twenties focused on the interplay of three generations, and bore an epigraph from Stein’s The Making of Americans: It has always seemed to me a rare privilege, this, of being an American, a real American, one whose tradition it has taken scarcely sixty years to create. We need only realize our parents, remember our grandparents and know ourselves and our history is complete. I think about this passage a lot, but now not without Du Bois (like Stein, a Harvard protégé of William James, whose two youngest brothers officered black troops, and whose oration at the 1897 dedication of the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common casts Shaw and his men as teachers of civic courage, not bypassed relics of it, as in Robert Lowell’s splenetic arraignment of 1950s Boston, “For the Union Dead”). Stein’s compact tradition is pressed by a vastness of unknowables. Who were they? Army Life in a Black Regiment gets the fifth star because Higginson, with his brilliant style and “lonely civic courage,” was right there, at the making of Americans. I’m not saying blacks weren’t Americans before 1863, or stupidly suggesting that slavery-times are an undocumented obscurity; but the Civil War is when blacks assume an active political existence in America. On January 1, 1863, the day Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect, the military, civic and philanthropic authorities of the Sea Islands gathered for a reading of the Proclamation, prayers and a presentation of regimental colors—a program entirely upstaged when “there suddenly arose, close beside the platform, a strong male voice (but rather cracked and elderly), into which two women's voices instantly blended, singing, — "My Country, 'tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing!" Some whites join in but Higginson motions them silent. More blacks start to sing. “Just think of it,” Higginson marvels, “the first day they ever had a country, the first flag they had ever seen which promised anything to their people”—Birth of a Nation, indeed! ~ The Penguin Classics edition is not the one I read. Mine is out of the Barnes and Noble Library of Essential Reading. I love the series; it keeps widely available Civil War memoirs that may have been of general interest in the 1890s, but no longer. That said, this edition has no notes, a watery, perfunctory introduction, and, for cover art, a Mort Kunstler “painting” of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts. (This book is not about the 54th, but Denzel and Matthew Broderick made the regiment cinematically familiar.) Like most of Kunstler’s work it’s waxen and lifeless, and additionally impertinent given the sublimity of what Augustine St. Gaudens made of Shaw and his men. They should have used Don Troiani's illustration of the South Carolina volunteers:

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marti

    Although certainly well meaning, the author -- a white Harvard educated abolitionist -- comes off as paternalistic. There is not much you can really criticize because that's just how it was back then and he was certainly light-years ahead of his contemporaries; nevertheless, the number of times Higginson refers to his recruits as "child-like" seems not only repetitive, but condescending to today's reader. However, there are a lot of fairly interesting observations. For instance, his background in Although certainly well meaning, the author -- a white Harvard educated abolitionist -- comes off as paternalistic. There is not much you can really criticize because that's just how it was back then and he was certainly light-years ahead of his contemporaries; nevertheless, the number of times Higginson refers to his recruits as "child-like" seems not only repetitive, but condescending to today's reader. However, there are a lot of fairly interesting observations. For instance, his background in linguisitics allowed him to to distinguish between say, South Carolina and Florida dialects based on the unique verb sequences found in those regions. He also devotes an entire chapter to writing down the various "spirituals" sung by the troops. It's too bad there is not an audio companion to actually hear the tunes. Overall I enjoyed it, but the regiment did not see a lot of action (and of course there is a lot of detail about army regulations and troop maneuvers which is lost on me much of the time). When I first picked this up, I had assumed it was written by one of the black soldiers in the regiment. It might have been a lot more interesting if it had been.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daphne Vogel

    Higginson had great respect and admiration for his troops, all the more so because of the racial bias they had to face. He was a stout supporter of John Brown and consistently refers to himself as an abolitionist. However, he can't help but be a product of the times he lived in and tosses around a lot of "noble savage" stuff, providing what he felt were the highest compliments...which end up falling on our ears as the worst sort of insult and condescension. But the book is interesting and gives Higginson had great respect and admiration for his troops, all the more so because of the racial bias they had to face. He was a stout supporter of John Brown and consistently refers to himself as an abolitionist. However, he can't help but be a product of the times he lived in and tosses around a lot of "noble savage" stuff, providing what he felt were the highest compliments...which end up falling on our ears as the worst sort of insult and condescension. But the book is interesting and gives a slice of life look at the first black regiment of freed slaves in the Union army and the high standard to which they were held, the heavy scrutiny they underwent. There was a very large pro-slavery faction in the North, and there were those who felt freed slaves would make useless soldiers. This regiment had to prove them all wrong. And they met the challenge. Taken as it is, this is an important document detailing the years that saw slavery end, but didn't necessarily see freedom begin. It's absolutely scandalous to me that the black regiments weren't paid even a fraction of what the white troops received, not until much later in the war. At the time it was probably seen as princely that they got anything. It's a hard read for a number of reasons.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    A Union colonel writes a series of essays regarding his service in a black regiment during the American Civil War. It is written from a white officer's point of view. Educational for the Civil War buff. A Union colonel writes a series of essays regarding his service in a black regiment during the American Civil War. It is written from a white officer's point of view. Educational for the Civil War buff.

  5. 5 out of 5

    M Carmichael

    I wanted to read this contemporary account, written first hand by Col. Higginson, to get "eye witness" narratives of the Civil War. This book describes the 1st South Carolina Volunteers (the first federally authorized black regiment) ...their time training in the Sea Islands off the coast of the Carolinas, skirmishes around Charleston, and the coasts of Georgia and Florida. Note: not to be confused with the more famous 54th Massachusetts, as depicted in the movie "Glory". **side note the two reg I wanted to read this contemporary account, written first hand by Col. Higginson, to get "eye witness" narratives of the Civil War. This book describes the 1st South Carolina Volunteers (the first federally authorized black regiment) ...their time training in the Sea Islands off the coast of the Carolinas, skirmishes around Charleston, and the coasts of Georgia and Florida. Note: not to be confused with the more famous 54th Massachusetts, as depicted in the movie "Glory". **side note the two regiments never crossed paths, sadly Col. Shaw (matthew broderick character) and his men were killed a few months earlier before the 1st S.C. arrive at Ft. Wagner. Anyways, a very progressive look and evidence that men of color were equal, if not superior, to the task of soldiering. I especially enjoyed the chapter on the spirituals they sung while marching, with lyrics. A fascinating chapter of the Civil War.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Higginson was one of the Secret Six that gave funds and arms to John Brown in advance of his attempted slave insurrection at Harper's Ferry in 1859. During the Civil War he served as Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, one of the first black units in the Union Army. The descriptions of events in the book are somewhat mundane, but the descriptions of the soldiers are very colorful and interesting. Unfortunately in the attempt to humanize the former slaves in the eyes of his Northern aud Higginson was one of the Secret Six that gave funds and arms to John Brown in advance of his attempted slave insurrection at Harper's Ferry in 1859. During the Civil War he served as Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, one of the first black units in the Union Army. The descriptions of events in the book are somewhat mundane, but the descriptions of the soldiers are very colorful and interesting. Unfortunately in the attempt to humanize the former slaves in the eyes of his Northern audience, Higginson resorts to racial stereotypes that are not acceptable today. But it's clear his intentions are good, and it's interesting to imagine how different our society is today compared to 1862-3. The last line of the book speaks volumes: "Till the blacks were armed, there was no guaranty of their freedom. It was their demeanor under arms that shamed the nation into recognizing them as men."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kim Dennis

    I thought this was really interesting. There were a lot of things in this book that I can use in my class. For some reason, I had thought that Higginson was with the 54th Massachusetts. It took me awhile to readjust my thinking. However, I enjoyed reading about what the black regiments were like from someone who was there. I also enjoyed some of the other writings included. He had the date wrong for the beginning of the Nat Turner rebellion, which was odd, but I got over that. I'm also not sure I thought this was really interesting. There were a lot of things in this book that I can use in my class. For some reason, I had thought that Higginson was with the 54th Massachusetts. It took me awhile to readjust my thinking. However, I enjoyed reading about what the black regiments were like from someone who was there. I also enjoyed some of the other writings included. He had the date wrong for the beginning of the Nat Turner rebellion, which was odd, but I got over that. I'm also not sure why they included the Letter to the Young Contributor in his other writings. There wasn't really anything historical about that, and that's what I was reading the book for. Otherwise, I liked it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul L'Herrou

    Higginson was a Unitarian minister, an ardent abolitionist, writer for the Atlantic Monthly, and responsible for publicising the poetry of Emily Dickinson. The Penguin Classics version which I read includes "Army Life in a Black Regiment" as well as other writings following the Civil War and letters he had received from Emily Dickinson. I have previously read some of his articles in the on-line archive of the Atlantic Monthly, which preserved Negro spirituals which he "collected" while serving a Higginson was a Unitarian minister, an ardent abolitionist, writer for the Atlantic Monthly, and responsible for publicising the poetry of Emily Dickinson. The Penguin Classics version which I read includes "Army Life in a Black Regiment" as well as other writings following the Civil War and letters he had received from Emily Dickinson. I have previously read some of his articles in the on-line archive of the Atlantic Monthly, which preserved Negro spirituals which he "collected" while serving as Colonel in charge of the First South Carolina Volunteers, an early (the first) regiment made up of freed Southern enslaved men. The writing is clear and lively and gives an excellent perspective of the conditions and attitudes during the Civil War.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thom Swennes

    Army Life in a Black Regiment by Thomas Higginson is a story, aided by diary notations, of daily life in the first Negro regiments in the Union Army. The First South Carolina Regiment was formed in 1862 on the orders of Treasury Secretary Edwin M. Stanton. This regiment and I dare say all of these Negro army units were officered by whites. Throughout the war these fighting units proved as capable and valiant as any other. With this in mind one would wonder why blacks weren’t used, in the capacit Army Life in a Black Regiment by Thomas Higginson is a story, aided by diary notations, of daily life in the first Negro regiments in the Union Army. The First South Carolina Regiment was formed in 1862 on the orders of Treasury Secretary Edwin M. Stanton. This regiment and I dare say all of these Negro army units were officered by whites. Throughout the war these fighting units proved as capable and valiant as any other. With this in mind one would wonder why blacks weren’t used, in the capacity as fighting soldier until the Vietnam War, more than a century later. This regiment was formed out of freed slaves and served in the South Carolina, Georgia and northern and spent the entire war in this general area. Initially, the officers were hesitant in integrating these Negro troops with whites, as they weren’t sure of the reactions of each. Colonel Thomas Higginson was the original commanding officer and remained so until the second half of 1864. He made an anthropologic study of his men and gives a comprehensive account of camp life with his boys. Their customs (especially in music) fascinated him and he devoted a chapter on this subject. These soldiers were mostly used for guarding positions already in Union hands. They did, however, participate in a few minor skirmishes. According to army records four officers died on duty; three under fire and one of sickness. The most shocking revelation of the story is the refusal of the country to honor the contract with these soldiers. They were original promised the same pay and all other soldiers but that was soon revised. Private soldiers in the Union Army received $17 per month and that is what was promised to these soldiers. Soon they were offered $10 and later that was reduced to $7. None of the soldiers accepted the reduced wages and it wasn’t until the end of the war that they were given what was promised. I really liked this book and recommend it to all lovers of history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    George Bradford

    Wow! What a Book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. The language is often archaic. It's written in the vernacular of the 1860s. So it takes a few pages to "get into" the prose. But once the reader is acclimated, this is a very good read. The author has a keen eye for detail and an unrestrained commitment to the truth. So much so, that I frequently wondered if he actually intended to publish his observations. Thank goodness his writings were published. This is an educational and entertaining diar Wow! What a Book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. The language is often archaic. It's written in the vernacular of the 1860s. So it takes a few pages to "get into" the prose. But once the reader is acclimated, this is a very good read. The author has a keen eye for detail and an unrestrained commitment to the truth. So much so, that I frequently wondered if he actually intended to publish his observations. Thank goodness his writings were published. This is an educational and entertaining diary of the author's command of a Black Regiment in the United States Army during the Civil War in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The author also recounts his personal adventures of risk, brinkmanship and daring in a war zone. His personal courage is consistent with the fortitude he displays in the command of his men. Higginson was a Leader of the highest order. And a genuine American hero. Students of the military, civil war or American history will enjoy this book. I certainly did.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Edith

    Interesting view of new black regiment from the top. Higginson was a devoted abolitionist, a Boston Brahmin minister who had conspired with John Brown. Almost certainly related to the colonel of the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Robert Gould Shaw, another scion of a Boston abolitionist families, and cousin of the founder of the Boston Symphony, Henry Lee Higginson, another Civil War soldier. Higginson's views of his men would not be considered at all appropriate today, but as evidence of h Interesting view of new black regiment from the top. Higginson was a devoted abolitionist, a Boston Brahmin minister who had conspired with John Brown. Almost certainly related to the colonel of the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Robert Gould Shaw, another scion of a Boston abolitionist families, and cousin of the founder of the Boston Symphony, Henry Lee Higginson, another Civil War soldier. Higginson's views of his men would not be considered at all appropriate today, but as evidence of how a well-educated, well-connected, and theoretically sympathetic Northern white man considered the black man, it is extremely interesting--especially as Higginson was a reasonably good writer. (He went on to [over-] edit Emily Dickinson's poetry.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    Higginson’s account of his experience commanding the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, an African American regiment is somewhat nostalgically romanticized, indicating a distance between himself as the writer and his harder experiences of war. Higginson frequently taps into the natural beauty to be found in his surroundings. He is noteworthy for his respect and admiration for the African American soldiers, but his depictions are nonetheless romantically condescending at times, such as his use of dia Higginson’s account of his experience commanding the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, an African American regiment is somewhat nostalgically romanticized, indicating a distance between himself as the writer and his harder experiences of war. Higginson frequently taps into the natural beauty to be found in his surroundings. He is noteworthy for his respect and admiration for the African American soldiers, but his depictions are nonetheless romantically condescending at times, such as his use of dialect.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    A regiment based in South Carolina and saw none of the major battles of the war. Higginson was a pastor before he was a soldier and his take seems rather patronising from a modern point of view but at the time maybe was the concerned and caring attitude of a pastor for his flock. He certainly dispels the myth of the lack of most soldierly qualities of the coloured man. An interesting read regarding a less-well covered aspect of the civil war.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Great memoir of a white Colonel in the Union Army who commanded the first regiment of black troops mustered into the army (1st South Carolina Volunteers). He writes about everyday army camp life, small skirmishes and battles and the overall effort to prepare black troops for combat and to let Americans know the troops could fight as well as anyone. A slim, but informative book. If you liked the movie "Glory" you will like this book. Great memoir of a white Colonel in the Union Army who commanded the first regiment of black troops mustered into the army (1st South Carolina Volunteers). He writes about everyday army camp life, small skirmishes and battles and the overall effort to prepare black troops for combat and to let Americans know the troops could fight as well as anyone. A slim, but informative book. If you liked the movie "Glory" you will like this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jack Townsend

    This was a great read -- a side of history that was ignored by my teachers in my youth in South Carolina in the mid-1900s. Yet, the locus of the events in the book was principally in South Carolina. And the story is powerful. The writing style is excellent. I highly recommend this book. It is is great complement to the powerful movie "Glory." This was a great read -- a side of history that was ignored by my teachers in my youth in South Carolina in the mid-1900s. Yet, the locus of the events in the book was principally in South Carolina. And the story is powerful. The writing style is excellent. I highly recommend this book. It is is great complement to the powerful movie "Glory."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Burrows

    Very educational - If you Loved the movie "Old Glory" you will love this book and this part of American History. Written in a Diary format you really get the feelings of the members of this regiment. Very educational - If you Loved the movie "Old Glory" you will love this book and this part of American History. Written in a Diary format you really get the feelings of the members of this regiment.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pearl Yusuf

    Very interesting perspectives given and fastening to read it as it was published in (I think) 1870´s. It is very diary-like, though and I felt ran a bit long. Still, for it´s time it was a fascinating view

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    The author was the commander of the first black regiment, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, formed during the Civil War. The regiment served in the Department of the South, mostly around Beaufort, SC. Mostly a story of camp and picket duty, very limited combat in upriver raids.

  19. 4 out of 5

    William P.

    It is an important book. The only one that I have found that describes the daily life and trials of African Americans. Must have for Civil War Library.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Martha

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liz Henry

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  24. 4 out of 5

    J M

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bill Lively

  26. 4 out of 5

    Logan Tapscott

  27. 5 out of 5

    Book

  28. 5 out of 5

    Billy Taylor

  29. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chad Germany

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