Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Booknotes: Captaining the Corps d'Afrique

New Arrival:
Captaining the Corps d'Afrique: The Civil War Diaries and Letters of John Newton Chamberlin edited by John Bisbee (McFarland, 2016).

After shipping to Florida with the 75th New York, Chamberlin spent nine months in the Pensacola area before his unit transferred to New Orleans and more active service along the lower Mississippi. The 75th fought in the Bayou Teche and Port Hudson operations in 1863, and later in that year Chamberlin was invited to join a newly formed black unit. He accepted the challenge, and in September 1863 he was commissioned captain of Company E, 3rd Regiment Engineers Corps d'Afrique. He led his engineer company during the 1864 Red River Campaign and in the fall the regiment was transferred to Florida as part of the massive build up of Union forces aimed at finally capturing Mobile. From the publisher's description, Chamberlin "recorded his unique perspective as a commander of black soldiers and engineers. More than everyday accounts of camp life and battles, Chamberlin's letters and diaries — here presented in historical context — give an insider's view of the Union army's relationship with black troops and of the political and social implications of wartime events." In addition to his contextual narrative, editor John Bisbee also contributes chapter notes and reproduces a series of documents in the appendices.

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