Saturday, July 15, 2017

Booknotes: Fighting in the Shadows

New Arrival:
Fighting in the Shadows: Untold Stories of Deaf People in the Civil War by Harry G. Lang (Gallaudet Univ Pr, 2017).

If you've been craving something way out of the ordinary topical range of current Civil War studies, this book might be the ticket for you. A "groundbreaking study of deaf people’s experiences in the Civil War," Harry Lang's Fighting in the Shadows "reveals the stories of both ordinary and extraordinary deaf soldiers and civilians who lived through this transformative period in American history." 

Apparently, firsthand accounts of the lives of Civil War era deaf persons are very rare. Nevertheless, the author took up the challenge, scouring other sources of all kinds in his quest to find records of the Civil War contributions of deaf persons. Research into period newspapers, family histories, census data, and more all bore fruit. The lives of hundreds of individuals are explored in the book, and Lang was also able to find and display 160 photographs to accompany the narrative. Together, they "reveal a powerful new perspective on the Civil War."

In the book, Lang "documents the participation of deaf soldiers in the war, whose personal tests of fortitude and perseverance have not been previously explored. There were also many deaf people in noncombat roles whose stories have not yet been told—clerks and cooks, nurses and spies, tradespeople supporting the armies, farmers supplying food to soldiers, and landowners who assisted (or resisted) troops during battles. Deaf writers, diarists, and artists documented the war. Even deaf children contributed actively to the war efforts."

"This visually rich volume illuminates the sacrifices and accomplishments of these individuals and provides insights into deaf history and deaf culture as well as into mainstream interpretations of the Civil War."

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