Firebrand of Liberty: The Story of Two Black Regiments That Changed the Course of the Civil War
Stephen V. Ash
A nearly forgotten Civil War episode is restored to history in this masterful account.
In March 1863, nine hundred black Union soldiers, led by white officers, invaded Florida and seized the town of Jacksonville. They were among the first African American troops in the Northern army, and their expedition into enemy territory was like no other in the Civil War. It was intended as an assault on slavery by which thousands would be freed. At the center of the story is prominent abolitionist Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who led one of the regiments. After waging battle for three weeks, Higginson and his men were mysteriously ordered to withdraw, their mission a seeming failure. Yet their successes in resisting the Confederates and collaborating with white Union forces persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to begin full-scale recruitment of black troops, a momentous decision that helped turned the tide of the war. Using long-neglected primary sources, historian Stephen V. Ash’s stirring narrative re-creates this event with insight, vivid characterizations, and a keen sense of drama.
February–8 March 1863, passim, RBNP. 45. Norwich log, 9 March 1863, RBNP; Higginson, Army Life, 110; “Letters of Dr. Rogers,” 371; Farmington Chronicle, 9 April 1863. 46. “Letters of Dr. Rogers,” 371. 47. Higginson, Army Life, 110, 112; Farmington Chronicle, 9 April 1863. 48. Higginson, Army Life, 109, 110; General Order No. 30, 9 March 1863, Order Book, and Register of Deaths of Company I, both in 33rd USCT Infantry, Regimental Records, RAGO; “Letters of Dr. Rogers,” 371. 49. Higginson,.
Army Life, 131–32; chief of staff to officer commanding at Jacksonville, 26 March 1863, RUSACC, Pt. 1, E-4088, vol. 3; War of the Rebellion, Series One, 53: 86. 23. Higginson, Army Life, 131–32; Higginson, Carlyle’s Laugh, 176–77; Warner, Generals in Blue, 432–33. 24. Miller’s Almanac 1863; Benjamin R. McPherson to Theodore McPherson, 28, 29 March 1863, McPherson Family Papers; New York Daily Tribune, 8 April 1863. 25. Bingham, Young Quartermaster, 168; Miller’s Almanac 1863. 26. Norwich log,.
Civil war. The first of these was resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Following its passage, slavery opponents in many Northern cities formed vigilance committees to prevent masters from retrieving their runaways. When the legal maneuvers of these resisters failed, some took the law into their own hands. Among them was Higginson, who in 1854 led a mob in an attack on the well-guarded Boston courthouse, where a fugitive named Anthony Burns was being held to await his return to the South.
Uphold the Constitution. Secession was illegal, they said, a rejection of democracy and the rule of law, a coup carried out by the Slave Power for its own nefarious purposes. But from the war’s very beginning, abolitionists called on their government to make it a war against slavery, arguing that slavery was not only inherently evil but also the root cause of the Southern states’ secession. The nation could never be truly united, they said, as long as the institution endured. Higginson himself.
Husband and wife, and he openly acknowledged Albert and the other sons and daughters she bore him. All who knew him well were aware of his peculiar domestic situation; but no one expressed outrage, and he rose to prominence in local affairs. The federal census taker who came around in the summer of 1860 obligingly listed Mary and the children as white to avoid trouble. When John refugeed from Jacksonville, he brought Albert north. In December 1862 he delivered the young man to Camp Saxton, where.