Cover image for The Black regulars, 1866-1898
The Black regulars, 1866-1898
Dobak, William A., 1943-
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Publication Information:
Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xviii, 360 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
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Call Number
Material Type
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UB418.A47 D63 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Black soldiers first entered the regular army of the United States in the summer of 1866. While their segregated regiments served in the American West for the following three decades, the promise of Reconstruction gave way to the repressiveness of Jim Crow. But black men found a degree of equality in the service: the army treated them no worse than it did their white counterparts.

The Black Regulars uses army correspondence, court-martial transcripts, and pension applications to tell who these men were, often in their own words: how they were recruited and how their officers were selected; how the black regiments survived hostile congressional hearings and stringent budget cuts; how enlisted men spent their time, both on and off duty; and how regimental chaplains tried to promote literacy through the army's schools. The authors shed new light on the military justice system, relations between black troops and their mostly white civilian neighbors, their professional reputations, and what veterans faced when they left the army for civilian life.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Unlike previous works that deal only with the cavalry (Charles L. Kenner, Buffalo Soldiers and Officers of the Ninth Cavalry, CH, Jun'00; William H. Leckie, The Buffalo Soldiers, CH, Oct'67) or with black infantry (Arlen Fowler, The Black Infantry in the West, 1869-1891, CH, Oct'71), Dobak and Phillips explore both infantry and cavalry units to bring together all aspects of African American service in the US Army between 1866 and 1898. In so doing, they revise two historical assertions: that the Army's bureaus (quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance) discriminated against black regiments, and that blacks' excellent reenlistment rates made their units elite, with highly professional, effective, and experienced personnel. With extensive documentation based on archival research including service, pension, and court-martial records, newspaper articles, and memoirs and letters, the authors provide convincing evidence that the Army as an institution did not discriminate against African Americans, but that individual service members and civilians did exhibit prejudice. They also demonstrate that while black reenlistment rates were excellent, unit performance was similar to white units, and black units had to overcome shortages of skilled and literate soldiers. All levels and collections. J. A. Luckett formerly, United States Military Academy