When George Kimball (1840–1916) joined the Twelfth Massachusetts in 1861, he’d been in the newspaper trade for five years. When he mustered out three years later, having been wounded at Fredericksburg and again at Gettysburg (mortally, it was mistakenly assumed at the time), he returned to newspaper life. There he remained, working for the Boston Journal for the next four decades. A natural storyteller, Kimball wrote often about his military service, always with a newspaperman’s eye for detail and respect for the facts, relating only what he’d witnessed firsthand and recalled with remarkable clarity. Collected in A Corporal’s Story, Kimball’s writings form a unique narrative of one man’s experience in the Civil War, viewed through a perspective enhanced by time and reflection.
With the Twelfth Massachusetts, Kimball saw action at many of the most critical and ferocious battles in the eastern theater of the war, such as Second Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg—engagements he vividly renders from the infantry soldier’s point of view. Aware that his readers might not be familiar with what he and comrades had gone through, he also describes many aspects of army life, from the most mundane to the most dramatic. In his accounts of the desperate action and immediate horrors of war, Kimball clearly conveys to readers the cost of preserving the Union. Never vindictive toward Confederates, he embodies instead the late nineteenth-century’s spirit of reconciliation.
Editors Alan D. Gaff and Donald H. Gaff have added an introduction and explanatory notes, as well as maps and illustrations, to provide further context and clarity, making George Kimball’s memoir one of the most complete and interesting accounts of what it was to fight in the Civil War—and what that experience looked like through the lens of time.
Contains more than 20 maps, diagrams and illustrations If neither General Meade nor General Lee planned to fight at Gettysburg, how did it happen that the first three days of July 1863 were to become arguably the most important span in the Civil War? That question cannot be fully answered without viewing McPherson's Ridge or Oak Hill, nor can one really understand the urgency of Chamberlain's bayonet charge nor the audacity of Pickett's division at the Angle without visiting those places. Accordingly, the purpose of a Gettysburg staff ride is to visit these and other locations on the battlefield and analyze the battle through the eyes of the men who were there, both leaders and rank and file soldiers. Hopefully, by understanding the actions, inactions and reactions of commanders and their troops in real situations we may gain insights into the human condition under stress and decision making during combat.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African American men were seldom permitted to join the United States armed forces. There had been times in early U.S. history when black and white men fought alongside one another; it was not uncommon for integrated units to take to battle in the Revolutionary War. But by the War of 1812, the United States had come to maintain what one writer called “a whitewashed army.” Yet despite that opposition, during the early 1800s, militia units made up of free black soldiers came together to aid the official military troops in combat. Many black Americans continued to serve in times of military need. Nearly 180,000 African Americans served in units of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War, and others, from states such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Missouri, and Kansas, participated in state militias organized to protect local populations from threats of Confederate invasion. As such, the Civil War was a turning point in the acceptance of black soldiers for national defense. By 1900, twenty-two states and the District of Columbia had accepted black men into some form of military service, usually as state militiamen—brothers to the “buffalo soldiers” of the regular army regiments, but American military men regardless. Little has been published about them, but Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers: Perspectives on the African American Militia and Volunteers, 1865–1919, offers insights into the varied experiences of black militia units in the post–Civil War period. The book includes eleven articles that focus either on “Black Participation in the Militia” or “Black Volunteer Units in the War with Spain.” The articles, collected and introduced by author and scholar Bruce A. Glasrud, provide an overview of the history of early black citizen-soldiers and offer criticism from prominent academics interested in that experience. Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers discusses a previously little-known aspect of the black military experience in U.S. history, while deliberating on the discrimination these men faced both within and outside the military. Chosen on the bases of scholarship, balance, and readability, these articles provide a rare composite picture of the black military man’s life during this period. Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers offers both a valuable introductory text for students of military studies and a solid source of material for African American historians.
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