[The 36th Infantry United States Colored Troops in the Civil War: A History and Roster by James K. Bryant II (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2012). Softcover, maps, photos, roster, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:130/248. ISBN:978-0-7864-6878-2 $45]
Bryant's career long study of the 36th is positively Mark Dunkleman-like in its devotion to a single unit. The regiment was the subject of the author's earlier thesis and dissertation works, and it really shows in the depth of research and details from the lives of both officers and men. According to Bryant, this publication of a roster of a unit composed of ex-slaves from Virginia and North Carolina is a unique event in the literature. The roster itself it also far more substantial than a simple list. Data provided, sometimes incomplete, includes name, rank, age, birthplace/residence, occupation (most slaves listed as "farmer"), enlistment date, wounds/death information, discharge date, and other remarks. The only things that really could stand for improvement are the editing and the maps.
While enough information is provided about the lives of individual fugitive slaves to compose a representative picture of a typical recruit, the portraits of the officers amount to mini-biographies. The quality of officer leadership was mixed, and the man most associated with the unit, Colonel Alonzo Draper, may have been a bit unbalanced. In addition to internal dissension and problems with enemy civilians, relations with white regiments could be testy as well, with Draper allegedly ordering his men to fire on the 98th New York during a dispute over a white female civilian arrested during a raid.
The 36th Infantry USCT in the Civil War is a fine regimental roster-history, one of the better ones from this publisher. Its well rounded examination of the military, political, and cultural dimensions associated with the recruitment and deployment of southern raised black combat units comprises a useful model for others to emulate.