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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 178,895 enlisted men. Their experiences while wearing Union blue have been well chronicled in various secondary sources, but only a few of their contemporaneous letters and journals have survived. When these original sources are located and published, they typically consist either of one or two pieces or of compilations of letters by several individual soldiers as, for example, in Ira Berlin et al., Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867. Series II: The Black Military Experience (1982). Now with the publication of the letters of CpI. James Henry Gooding, Civil War researchers have available a cohesive body of original sources written by a single black soldier. An astute observer of the events that unfolded around him, Gooding wrote these letters while serving with the most renowned black unit in the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment. 254CIVIL WAR HISTORY Before enlisting on February 14, 1863, Gooding was a sailor. His voyages on whaling ships had taken him to the Arctic and other remote parts of the globe. Not much is known about his early life, especially how he had acquired his education. Regardless of the extent of his formal training, the twenty-six-year-old soldier managed to pen forty-eight letters between March 3, 1863, and February 8, 1864. These were published in the New Bedford, Massachusetts, Mercury under his initials, J. H. G. When the War Department ordered its front-line soldiers to desist from corresponding with newspapers, Gooding continued sending his letters under the pseudonym "Monitor." His correspondence came to an abrupt end following his capture at Olustee, Florida, on February 20, 1864. His comrades believed he had perished in the battle, but he survived only to be sent to Andersonville. Although just one of the relatively few black soldiers confined there, he experienced many of the same hardships as his fellow prisoners. Within a few months after his capture, on July 19, he became one of the 13,000 Union soldiers to die in the Confederate prison. The subjects covered in the letters have much in common with those written by other Union soldiers. Complaints of camp life, picket duty, weather, and boredom appear frequently. Also, they reveal the intense pride that he had toward his regiment and particularly his company. Beyond these similarities, his letters offer more than just routine observations . Unlike white soldiers, he encountered discrimination in the forms of unequal pay and lack of opportunity for promotion to officer rank. However, his greatest disappointments surface in comments toward Massachusetts black...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 253-255
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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