Cover image for Campfires of freedom : the camp life of Black soldiers during the Civil War
Campfires of freedom : the camp life of Black soldiers during the Civil War
Wilson, Keith P., 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Kent, [Ohio] : Kent State University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xviii, 336 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E540.N3 .W72 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Three related themes are examined in this fascinating study: the social dynamics of race relations in Union Army camps, the relationship that evolved between Southern and Northern black soldiers, and the role off-duty activities played in helping the soldiers meet the demands of military service and the challenges of freedom.By vividly portraying the soldiers' camp life and by carefully analyzing their collective memory, the author sets the camp experience in the broader context of social and political change.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The subtitle of this book might more descriptively read, "The Mind and Culture of Black Soldiers during the Civil War." This is not a discussion of mundane soldier life. Rather, it is a profoundly thoughtful analysis of how black soldiers' previous experience of slavery influenced their actions and attitudes in the army and how their wartime experience influenced the shape of black culture in years to come. Wilson does this by examining black soldiers' songs, religious worship, protests against unequal pay and excessive fatigue duty, quest for literacy, and relationships with their white officers and with black camp followers. The author generally handles this task with great skill and balance, though on one occasion he mistakes an Isaac Watts hymn for a slave spiritual. Key to the behavior of the black soldiers was the conflict between their desire to leave behind all vestiges of slavery, and thus, as it seemed, of the white man's system, and their strong allegiance to the Union and its army, which was also a white man's system. Overall this is an excellent and useful book. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels and collections. S. E. Woodworth Texas Christian University

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Chapter 1 "There is No Trouble About the Drill` Training and Disciplinep. 16
Chapter 2 "A Matter of Principle` Dissent in the Campp. 38
Chapter 3 "This is Their University` Pastimesp. 59
Chapter 4 "Nearly All the Freedmen Are Eager to Learn` the Struggle for Literacyp. 82
Chapter 5 Godly Correspondents and Military Advocates Black Chaplains at Work in Usct Campsp. 109
Chapter 6 " God Have Mercy!` the Religion of the Former Slavep. 127
Chapter 7 "The Trumpets Sound` the Soldiers' Musicp. 147
Chapter 8 Married "under the Flag` Kinship and Gender Roles in the Campsp. 176
Epiloguep. 210
Appendix A Songs of Victoryp. 215
Appendix B A Selection of Negro Spirituals and Songs from Thomas W. Higginson's Collectionp. 225
Abbreviationsp. 239
Notesp. 241
Bibliographyp. 294
Indexp. 327