Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 1, Spring 2003. ISSN 0196-7134
Higginson came to his military career as a man of letters, as well as a militant abolitionist. Before the war, he had earned a reputation as an antislavery lecturer and written pieces for the Atlantic Monthly and other journals on topics including natural history, masculine health, and slave insurrections. He took a hiatus from writing for publication during his tenure with the First South Carolina; to do otherwise, he believed, would be "a sort of profaning this experience & mixing incompatible lives" . But he kept a journal of his wartime experiences, which he began editing and mining for articles in the Atlantic almost immediately after his return to civilian life. These articles, in turn, formed the nucleus of Army Life in a Black Regimen~ a book originally published in 1870 that has become a classic owing to Higginson's vivid descriptions of people and landscapes, his sympathetic depictions of the former slaves he encountered in his regimental camps and on the plantations along the South Carolina coast, and his keen ear for spoken and sung language (especially the ex-slaves' Gullah speech). Reprinted in many different editions over the years, Army Life in a Black Regiment is a powerful narrative and a valuable resource for students of abolitionism, slavery and emancipation, black soldiers in the Civil War, and African American culture in the nineteenth century.