A Great Sacrifice is an in-depth analysis of the effects of the Civil War on northern black families carried out using letters from northern black women—mothers, wives, sisters, and female family friends—addressed to a number of Union military officials.
Collectively, the letters give a voice to the black family members left on the northern homefront. Through their explanations and requests, readers obtain a greater apprehension of the struggles African American families faced during the war, and their conditions as the war progressed. The original letters that were received by government agencies, as well as many of the copies of the letters sent in response, are held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
This study is unique because it examines the effects of the war specifically on northern black families. Most other studies on African Americans during the Civil War focused almost exclusively on the soldiers.
List of Figures xi
List of Abbreviations xiii
Introduction | 1
1 Life in the North: Before the War | 11
2 A Grand Opportunity: 1861 and 1862 | 19
3 The Forming of Black Regiments and Success in Battle | 28
4 The Unequal Pay Issue | 44
5 Violence on Two Fronts | 81
6 Information Requests | 98
7 Discharge Requests | 120
8 The Conclusion of the War | 130
9 After the War: A Different Kind of Battle | 135
10 Even Farther Away from Home: Occupation Duty Continues | 156
11 Home Again | 178
Appendix: Northern Black Regiments 185
Cited Literature 237
A Great Sacrifice offers readers new insight into the lives of African American men and women from the North in the era of the Civil War. It will make an important contribution to the literature on the Civil War in general, as well as to the literature on African Americans in the Civil War era and on the northern home front.
Liz Regosin, Charles A. Dana Professor of History, St. Lawrence University