Here’s an excerpt from our interview with Bob Luke about his book Soldiering for Freedom that looked at African American soldiers during the Civil War:
What drew you initially to the story of black Union soldiers? How did you first start on this project?
The Civil War fascinated me long before I co-authored the book. My grandfather on my father’s side, born just ten years after Appomattox, treasured his copy of Francis Trevelyan Miller’s The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes. He bought it during the Depression with money saved from ever-declining sales at his art supplies store in Denver. My grandmother never quite forgave him for the extravagance. I poured over Mathew Brady’s graphic photographs, read the articles, and happily accompanied my parents on trips to battlefields such as Gettysburg, Antietam, and Balls Bluff. Twenty-year old Private Samuel W. Isenberg, 1st Regiment, Pennsylvania Light Artillery, (14th Reserves), my mothers’ great grandfather, saw action at Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. I watched Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War several times and attended a book signing where I got an autographed copy of his companion book. Burns included the role of “black” soldiers but as a minor theme.