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4.0 out of 5 starsWell researched book about a little known battle and the larger ramifications.
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2013
By way of full disclosure, I have known the author for 20 plus years, but have not seen her or corresponded other than an occasional "Hi there," in a decade. This book is well researched using primary and secondary sources. When facts are unknown or contradictory the author makes it clear, and then explains her theory and why she has that theory. The final chapter of the book brings readers up to date on today's National Park and Louisiana perspectives on the civil war and acts as a post script to the factual historical story she presents. I found the book very readable and the narratives compelling. I recommend this book to those who like to see specific "small" events placed in their historical context.
Milliken's Bend is similar to the movie "Glory" except it happens in the Western Theater during the siege of Vicksburg. Book is very balanced. I have a special interest in this book because my great great grandfather, Milton Walker Sims, is featured in the book, but anybody interested in the Civil War, American history, black history, etc...will like this book.
2.0 out of 5 starsMilliken's Bend, History or Politics?
Reviewed in the United States on July 21, 2013
The Vicksburg Campaign is arguably the most important action of the war. Did Milliken's Bend contribute to it? Of course. Did tens of thousands of African Americans contribute to the saving of the Union and the end of slavery? Of course. Is Milliken's Bend the most important action of the Campaign? Of course not, but the author tries to argue otherwise. Ms. Barnickel, we all can go through historic record, but to write revisionist history and put down the works of others in your clouded conclusions made the book a waste of time to read. I originally got into the book to read what Civil War contemporaries thought, not your conclusions. It's a shame the last chapter got past a sleeping editor.
4.0 out of 5 starsQuite good, though she overemphasizes the battles importance a bit
Reviewed in the United States on February 4, 2014
I've read a lot of books on the Civil War, over the years. I was only vaguely familiar with this battle. It was part of Grant's Vicksburg Campaign, but the fight at Milliken's Bend was essentially a futile effort by Confederate forces to attempt to somehow distract the Yankees during the Siege of Vicksburg, and they seem to have known before the actual fighting started that the effort would fail. The only significant thing about the battle, really, is that almost all of the participants on the Union side were former slaves, some of them having been recruited into the Union Army only weeks or even days beforehand. Some hadn't been trained in how to shoot their guns yet, and of course the Army gave them castoffs (Austrian Rifles, which everyone who used them thought junk). The fighting was, for a while anyway, pretty bitter, and though the Confederates "won" the victory of course was essentially meaningless, and they retreated after a bit anyway, to avoid the guns of a Yankee gunboat that began bombarding them.
This is an interesting account of a very obscure battle. The author works very hard to place the events in context, discussing the prewar history of slave rebellion and Southern attitudes towards Blacks, and after recounting the battle itself she spends a lot of time discussing the impact of the battle on the larger issues in the war, and even afterwards. She even spends some time discussing the treatment of the battle at the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park, given that there can't be any monument or whatever at the actual site of the battle. It washed away some years ago, when the Mississippi changed course.
By June 1863, the United States government had reluctantly accepted the idea of "African Descent" regiments, even though the government, the army and the public had little confidence in their fighting ability. Battery Wagner, Port Hudson and Milliken's Bend answered questions about these unit's willingness and ability to fight. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was comprised of Northern Afro-Americans, the majority of whom had been born free, many of its' members came from middle or upper-middle class families. The "colored troops" at Port Hudson contained a number of elite New Orleans Afro-American families, individuals of mixed race and Freeman fighting as part of a larger "white" army. At Milliken's Bend, regiments of former slaves with little training fought almost alone. The movie Glory introduced the 54th Massachusetts Infantry to the public. Port Hudson, an integral part of the campaign to secure the Mississippi River is well covered. The Mississippi River washed away the Milliken's Bend battlefield as historians overlooked it. Milliken's Bend is a hard fought battle for no good reasons without any affect on the Vicksburg Campaign. Fought almost entirely by Afro-Americans, it had no strong voice in post-war writings. As such, this battle largely disappeared from the war's history. Interest in the USCT pulled the battle back on stage and Linda Barnickle is turning a spotlight on it. There is battle history and there is social history. While a popular idea, mixing the two seldom works well. This book mixes them into a very interesting and comprehensive military/social history that is both enjoyable and informative. The military aspect of recruiting officers and men, their training and the battle is excellent. While the emphasis is on the Union Afro-American units, the author never forgets the Confederates. The reader will have a good grasp of both sides of the battle neither side being reduced to window-dressing. This leads to a detailed and understandable account of the battle. As social history, the author fairly presents the feelings of the North and the South about Afro-Americans and using them as soldiers. For the South, fighting armed former slaves presented a complex legal, moral and emotional problem. One chapter takes a detailed look at Southern treatment of POWs and the North's exploitation of rumors. This is a balanced and carefully detailed examination of this question with surprising results. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. The author tends to overstate the impact of the USCT on ending the POW exchanges. This is a common failing and more people need to read While in the Hands of the Enemy: Military Prisons of the Civil War for a complete picture. The maps are sufficient. The illustrations are at the end of the text. The appendixes are worth reading and supportive of the text. Endnotes, Bibliography and index complete the book. The book is from LSU Press ensuring a quality physical book for a gift or to keep.