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252civil war history Sgt. William Walker, death by firing squad. However, Walker's martyrdom , the heroic exploits of the irrepressible William Smalls, who captured a Confederate steamer, and the muted demonstrations of Rhode Island's Company A pricked the moral consciousness of Union officials and politicians and led to partial reform of the unequal pay issue. Still, racial alienation prevented rapid or comprehensive solutions to discriminatory practices, and black soldiers continued to believe that Confederates were not their only foes. Black soldiers who were prisoners of war at Charleston lived with more serious threats of reenslavement or execution while Confederate authorities debated their fate. Black civilians who followed Sherman's army and received wartime land titles appeared to have been far more fortunate. However, because of Andrew Johnson these freedmen ultimately lost their land after the war. Westwood has a few disconcerting "probablys" and "likelys," but overall these impressively researched and crisply written articles offer some revisionist interpretation of Civil War black troops and military emancipation and fulfill the promises that John Y. Simon makes in the introduction. Marvin R. Cain University of Missouri-Rolla The Battle of Belmont: Grant Strikes South. By Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. Pp. xvii, 310. $24.95.) In The Battle of Belmont: Grant Strikes South, Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr., provides a thoughtful, detailed, and enlightening account of one of the earliest battles for control of the Mississippi River valley. As the book's subtitle suggests, the conflict that occurred on November 7, 1861, in southeastern Missouri is primarily remembered as the occasion of Ulysses S. Grant's first true test of combat. Hughes, however, focuses strongly on the subordinate commanders and the common soldiers, North and South. The opening portions of the book are somewhat choppy, but Hughes does a good job of placing the preliminary troop movements within the strategic context of the war in Missouri and Kentucky. His account of the battle itself is much smoother, although it analyzes LeĆ³nidas Polk and Gideon Pillow more thoroughly than Grant. This reflects the author's admitted interests, and perhaps as well the obtrusive and deceptive nature of Grant's report of the battle. Belmont was a steamboat landing across the river from Columbus, Kentucky, a city Polk considered so important to Confederate defense of the West that he violated the neutrality of the Bluegrass State to establish fortifications upon its high bluffs. Although Belmont boasted a slightly fortified camp, it was undermanned and quite vulnerable when book reviews253 Union forces landed just upriver. Pillow conducted its defense from a forward position, placed his men badly, and was overrun. But victory exhausted Grant's inexperienced troops, and when Polk crossed the river with reinforcements he routed Grant's men as they fought their way back to their boats. Hughes traces the course of the battle with clarity, assisted by numerous excellent maps and photographs of the major figures. Ample quotations, drawn from an impressive number of primary-source materials , ensure an eyewitness feel to the narrative, although the author's occasional decision not to identify a speaker within the text can be irritating. Because Belmont occurred early in the war amid wooded terrain, the top commanders exerted far less than perfect control. Hughes consequently stresses the contributions of junior officers and the excellence of Union artillery in determining the outcome. He faults Grant for underestimating Polk's ability to send reinforcements to Pillow and criticizes Grant's naval partner, Comdr. Henry Walke, for failing to intercept the Confederate reinforcements with his gunboats. Once Polk was ashore, however, he missed an opportunity to cut Grant off from his transports and inflict a crushing defeat. The Battle of Belmont will prove popular with general readers. Grounded upon an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, it deserves the attention of scholars as well. William Garrett Piston Southwest Missouri State University On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier's Civil War Letters from the Front. By Corporal James Henry Gooding. Edited by Virginia M. Adams. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991. Pp. xxxvii, 139. $21.95.) Among the 186,017 African-Americans who served in the Union army were...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 252-253
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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