Cyrus Hamlin’s letters are not just another addition to the enormous corpus of soldiers’ testimony on the Civil War. Hamlin, the son of Lincoln’s first vice president, chased Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley and served as an officer in Brigadier General Daniel Ullmann’s brigade of black soldiers. His letters cover the Civil War from its beginning to the horrific New Orleans race riot of July 30, 1866, and early Reconstruction politics in Louisiana. Written by a young officer with rare access to men in power, these letters are uniquely valuable for the light they shed on the history of the Ullmann Brigade. Ullmann’s black regiments were among the first to be endorsed by the War Department. The dearth of attention to the Ullmann Brigade makes Cyrus Hamlin’s letters especially noteworthy. They provide unprecedented insight into a neglected chapter of the African American experience in the Civil War. Hamlin possessed no great intellectual gifts, a fact readily observable in his correspondence, but his letters offer a fascinating and detailed first-hand account of this turbulent time in our nation’s history. An appendix and bibliographical note complete this work. Several vintage portraits enliven the text.
David M. Gold
2011, 5½x8½, paper, 146 pp.