New York: Basic Books, 2016. First Printing [Stated]. Hardcover. , 429,  pages. Frontis illustration. Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Index. Douglas R. Egerton is Professor of History at LeMoyne College. His books include Thunder At the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America, The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era (2014), Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War (2010) and Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America (2009). An intimate, authoritative history of the first black soldiers to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War. Soon after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, abolitionists began to call for the creation of black regiments. At first, the South and most of the North responded with outrage-southerners promised to execute any black soldiers captured in battle. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, long the center of abolitionist fervor, launched one of the greatest experiments in American history. In Thunder at the Gates, Douglas Egerton chronicles the formation and battlefield triumphs of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry and the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry-regiments led by whites but composed of black men born free or into slavery. He argues that the most important battles of all were won on the field of public opinion, for in fighting with distinction the regiments realized the idea of full and equal citizenship for blacks. A stirring evocation of this transformative episode, Thunder at the Gates offers a riveting new perspective on the Civil War and its legacy. Derived from a Kirkus review: The story of the black men, slaves and free, of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry, some of the greatest fighters of the Civil War. Egerton understands that these men fought more for nationality and citizenship than to preserve the union. Their success in 1863 at Battery Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina, showed the world their mettle. Overcoming the racism just as inherent in the North as the South was an even bigger battle. After the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, Massachusetts Gov. John Andrew was permitted to form the first black regiment. Congress would not, however, allow black officers, doctors, or ministers. Consequently, Robert Gould Shaw and Ned and Pen Hallowell, Philadelphia Quakers, became the leaders of the 54th and the 55th regiments, and Charles Adams Jr. led the 5th Cavalry. Adams’ regiment formed late in the war, and his leadership did not allow room for respect for his black men. Also included in the forces were two sons of Frederick Douglass: Lewis, whose wounds at Wagner ended his fighting days, and Charles, whose literacy led him to become the camp clerk. The Confederacy ruled that any blacks caught would be turned over to the state—no doubt to be reduced to slaves, no matter their background. The policy toward white leaders was that they were to be executed. The men saw how the Rebels treated blacks who tried to surrender; they were shot. After a battle, Rebel soldiers systematically walked among the wounded, executing any black soldiers. In this welcome addition to Civil War literature, Egerton gives readers a greater appreciation for their courage. A thoroughly researched, comprehensive look at the Civil War regiments who took the first step in the struggle to make their countrymen see them as intelligent, capable men. Condition: Very good / Very good.
Keywords: 54th Massachusetts Infantry, 55th Massachusetts Infantry, Robert Gould Shaw, 5th Cavalry, Battery Wagner, Abolitionists, Charles France Adams, Jr., African-Americans, Ned Hallowell, Pen Hallowell, Olustee, Slavery, Stephen Swails, James Trotter, Pete