Army Life in a Black Regiment (Civil War)
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
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"Army Life in a Black Regiment has some claim to be the best written narrative to come from the Union [side] during the Civil War. Higginson's picture of the battle which was the origin of "praise the Lord and pass the ammunition" and his reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to the black regiment are unsurpassed for eloquence." — historian Henry Steele Commager
Originally a series of essays, this important volume was written by a Union colonel from New England, in charge of African-American troops training on the Sea Islands off the coast of the Carolinas. A lively and detailed wartime diary, the book offers a refreshing portrait of life in the Union Army from an officer's point of view, recording opinions of other commanders and capturing the raw humor that develops among the men in combat. Higginson's descriptions of the soldiers, routines of camp life, and southern landscapes are unforgettable, as is the account of his near escape from a cannon ball.
An unusual historical document intended to introduce new generations of readers to an American past that should not be forgotten, Army Life in a Black Regiment will be invaluable to students of Black History and the American Civil War.
ingenuity of this proposition was irresistible, and the eager patient was allowed to pass muster. It was after midnight when we set off upon our excursion. I had about a hundred men, marching by the flank, with a small advanced guard, and also a few flankers, where the ground permitted. I put my Florida company at the head of the column, and had by my side Captain Metcalf, an excellent officer, and Sergeant McIntyre, his first sergeant. We plunged presently into pine woods, whose resinous smell
own regiment, in return, Fort Montgomery. The former was necessarily a hasty work, and is now, I believe, in ruins; the latter was far more elaborately constructed, on lines well traced by the Fourth New Hampshire during the previous occupation. It did great credit to Captain Trowbridge, of my regiment (formerly of the New York Volunteer Engineers), who had charge of its construction. How like a dream seems now that period of daily skirmishes and nightly watchfulness! The fatigue was so constant
halts, fights, somebody is killed, a long day’s life has been lived, and after all it is not seven o’clock, and breakfast is not ready. So when we had lived in summer so long as hardly to remember winter, it suddenly occurred to us that it was not yet June. One escapes at the South that mixture of hunger and avarice which is felt in the Northern summer, counting each hour’s joy with the sad consciousness that an hour is gone. The compensating loss is in missing those soft, sweet, liquid
hostile lines. Every grove in that blue distance appears enchanted ground, and yonder loitering gray-back leading his horse to water in the farthest distance makes one thrill with a desire to hail him, to shoot at him, to capture him, to do anything to bridge this inexorable dumb space that lies between. A boyish feeling, no doubt, and one that time diminishes, without effacing; yet it is a feeling which lies at the bottom of many rash actions in war, and of some brilliant ones. For one, I could
hardening and brutalizing of their moral natures. Any insult or violence in this direction was a thing unknown. I never heard of an instance. It was not uncommon for men to have two or three wives in different plantations, the second, or remoter, partner being called a "'broad wife"—i.e., wife abroad. But the whole tendency was toward marriage, and this state of things was only regarded as a bequest from "mas'r time." I knew a great deal about their marriages, for they often consulted me, and