The fine people at W.W. Norton & Company sent me a review copy of Elizabeth D. Leonard’s new book, Men of Color to Arms!. This is a well written book that as the subtitle says investigates “Black Soldiers, Indian Wars, and the Quest for Equality”. In telling this story Leonard takes the reader from the Civil War, out west to the Indian Wars (not like any John Wayne movie I ever saw), over to West Point, and closes the way she opens the book with the experiences of Christian A. Fleetwood (who won a Medal of Honor during the Civil War).
Leonard does an excellent job of relating the trials and tribulations of black soldiers seeking equality with their white counterparts in the army. She also discusses the experiences of the first few African Americans to be admitted to West Point and their struggle to be accepted. The story is not a totally gloomy oneas there are moments where race is forgotten. One such example is the Battle of Beecher Island where 30 black members of the Tenth Cavalry’s H Troop rescued white soldiers surrounded by Sioux and Cheyenne braves. Unfortunately, heroics by Aferican American soldiers did not translate into greater respect and equality.
Elizabeth D. Leonard has produced an important work that is just plain fun to read. She is the John J. and Corneila V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College. He students are lucky indeed.