Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Just Finished Reading - Strike the Blow for Freedom: The 6th United States Colored Infantry in the Civil War

Here's my brief Facebook review of Strike the Blow for Freedom: The 6th United States Colored Infantry in the Civil War by James M. Paradis, White Mane Books, 1998:

This book, although only 100 pages of text, provides the reader with a solid understanding of the experiences of the 6th United States Colored Infantry from its recruitment to its muster out in September 1865, a span of just over two years. 

Drawn primarily from men in and around Philadelphia, and trained at Camp William Penn, the 6th was the second black regiment from the area, the first being the 3rd USCI. Sent almost immediately to Virginia after the regiment was full and trained, and attached to the XVIII Corps under General Benjamin Butler, the 6th spent much of the fall and winter of 1863 serving on the Peninsula. The 6th participated in Butler's failed attempt to take Petersburg on June 9, and then saw significant combat in fighting at Baylor's Farm and along the Dimmock Line on June 15 as part of Gen. Hinck's Division. 

Detailed to help dig the Dutch Gap Canal, the 6th suffered severely under a brutal summer sun and Confederate artillery fire as they helped excavate tons of dirt. The 6th's most desperate fighting occurred at New Market Heights on September 29, 1864. Company D went into the fight with 30 men and came out with only 3. Three of the 6th's men (two black NCOs and one white Lt.), earned the Medal of Honor that bloody day for their heroism in protecting their flags and rallying the men. The 6th also fought at Fort Fisher, North Carolina. The regiment was spared the duty along the Texas/Mexico border that many other USCTs experienced, but rather spent the remainder of their service in North Carolina before mustering out. 

I found this particular study a better read than those published on the 4th and 5th USCIs. Particularly helpful were the appendices. Appendix A looks at Company D's Capt. John McMurray's description of an anxiety attack which occurred to him after the New Market Heights fight. Appendix B provides a wealth of statistical information in table and graph form on the men that comprised the 6th. Everything from the ages and heights of the men, to their pre-war occupations (barbers were the 3rd most common) and birthplaces are graphed for each company. Appendix D gives a muster roll for each company providing service record information for all of the 6th's soldiers. It goes without saying that all of this appendix information is extremely valuable for the researcher and took a significant amount of time and effort to compile it. 

This work is one that students of USCTs don't want to overlook, and one that I wish everyone in the United States would read to better appreciate the sacrifices of these men who fought for freedom, justice, citizenship, and equality. I highly recommend it.

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