A moving account of the formation and valiant record of the first black regiment (a story also told in the film Glory), from the firing on Fort Sumter to an 1887 reunion. Cox, a prize-winning journalist, has woven an impressive amount of research into his straightforward narrative; battle details put readers on the scene with compelling immediacy, while they also learn how these men proved their competence and dignity against incredible odds--including not only their struggles with the Confederacy (which at first planned to treat black prisoners of war as mutinous slaves) but also the cruel effects of racism on their own side (e.g., the devastating hardship inflicted on soldiers' families by the government's failure to honor its promise to give them the same pay as whites). There are frequent, effective quotes from participants and from luminaries, including Charlotte Forten and Frederick Douglass, whose son was a member of the 54th. A distinguished presentation of the historical record. Bibliography of sources; b&w photos and index not seen.