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Cover image for African American faces of the Civil War : an album
African American faces of the Civil War : an album
Physical Description:
xliii, 338 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Uses archival photographs to introduce African American men who fought in the Civil War, whose roles ranged from servants and laborers to junior officers, and includes details on each man's life through military records and personal files.


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Book 973.7415 COD 1 1

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A renowned collector of Civil War photographs and a prodigious researcher, Ronald S. Coddington combines compelling archival images with biographical stories that reveal the human side of the war. This third volume in his series on Civil War soldiers contains previously unpublished photographs of African American Civil War participants--many of whom fought to secure their freedom.

During the Civil War, 200,000 African American men enlisted in the Union army or navy. Some of them were free men and some escaped from slavery; others were released by sympathetic owners to serve the war effort. African American Faces of the Civil War tells the story of the Civil War through the images of men of color who served in roles that ranged from servants and laborers to enlisted men and junior officers.

Coddington discovers these portraits-- cartes de visite , ambrotypes, and tintypes--in museums, archives, and private collections. He has pieced together each individual's life and fate based upon personal documents, military records, and pension files. These stories tell of ordinary men who became fighters, of the prejudice they faced, and of the challenges they endured. African American Faces of the Civil War makes an important contribution to a comparatively understudied aspect of the war and provides a fascinating look into lives that helped shape America.

Author Notes

Ronald S. Coddington is assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education . His work has appeared in USA Today , The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , and the San Jose Mercury News . He is a contributing writer to the New York Times Disunion series and writes a monthly column for The Civil War News . He is the author of Faces of the Confederacy and Faces of the Civil War , both published by Johns Hopkins.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Coddington, assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education, follows the pattern of his two remarkable albums (Faces of the Confederacy and Faces of the Civil War) with 77 succinct sketches of African Americans, illustrated with images drawn from cartes de visite, ambrotypes, and tintypes. Of the roughly 200,000 men who enlisted in the army and navy and the thousands who were servants "to officers in the Union and Confederate armies," only a few have entered the pages of more familiar history (e.g., Martin Delany, Robert Small). Coddington helps rectify that lapse, uncovering the past and honoring the service of his 77 subjects. The "types of participants" encompass Frederick Douglass's son, Lewis, and Andrew Chandler's slave, Silas, the men of the famed 54th Massachusetts Regiment and of the obscure 108th U.S. Colored Infantry (Kentucky), illiterate escaped slaves and educated free-born African Americans, drummers and undercooks, servants and seamen, even paid substitutes for draftees. Coddington's use of African American-owned newspapers and pension records is groundbreaking. It does nothing to diminish the depth and precision of Coddington's research to say that each compelling vignette prompts the reader to hurriedly flip to the next one. Photos. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

In the course of collecting photographs for Faces of the Civil War (2004) and Faces of the Confederacy (2008), Coddington constantly ran across images of black soldiers who fought for their freedom in the Civil War. In this book, he presents 77 images and the stories behind them. The subjects are mostly Union soldiers, with their poses ranging from formal to casual as they faced their chance to prove themselves at a time when confusion reigned regarding their status as citizens. With each portrait, Coddington offers a brief profile, including regimental history and campaigns and battles as well as family history and lives after the war. Among the subjects are Martin Delaney, an ardent black nationalist who wrote a novel that countered the docile images of slaves in Uncle Tom's Cabin; Robert Smalls, who commandeered an armed Confederate vessel and surrendered it to the Union in Charleston, South Carolina; and Allen Walkup, later Allen King, who served as a stand-in for Mark Twain's cousin. An engaging look at a neglected part of the history of the American Civil War.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist

Choice Review

Coddington (assistant managing editor, The Chronicle of Higher Education) adds to the public's fascination with the US Civil War with this well-researched book. The title is somewhat misleading, because the book is more than an album of pictures. It is also a biographical account of the many forgotten African Americans who served in the war. Thanks to Coddington, the photographs and stories of these African American soldiers are brought to life in a fascinating account of courage, bravery, and preservation. The notes and references show that the author searched through many African American newspapers, state records, military archives and pension records, census records, and other government resources to unveil their stories. The book represents a diverse group of African Americans, some free and others fighting for their freedom, the literate and illiterate, enlisted men and officers. Coddington highlights the bravery of African American soldiers at a time when many considered them to be cowards, and shows the Civil War from the perspective of African Americans fighting for freedom, dignity, respect, and equality. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. J. Foreman Tarrant County College

Library Journal Review

About 200,000 African Americans, whether free or escaped slaves, enlisted in the Union army or navy. A dedicated collector of Civil War photographs, Coddington presents cartes de visite, ambrotypes, and tintypes that bring us startlingly face to face with many of these individuals, each with a biographical profile by Coddington. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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