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Practicing Medicine in a Black Regiment

Practicing Medicine in a Black Regiment: The Civil War Diary of Burt G. Wilder, 55th Massachusetts

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Practicing Medicine in a Black Regiment
    Book Description:

    In early 1863, in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Massachusetts began recruiting black soldiers to serve in the Civil War. Although the first regiment formed, the 54th Massachusetts, would become the bestknown black regiment in the war, the second regiment raised, the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, performed equally valuable service in the Union Army. Burt Green Wilder, a Bostonborn, Harvardeducated doctorintraining, was among the first white officers commissioned to staff the 55th Massachusetts. Like other officers serving in the state’s African American units, Wilder was selected for his military experience, his “firm AntiSlavery principles,” and his faith in the value of black troops. From the time he joined the 55th in May 1863 until the regiment was discharged in September 1865, Wilder recorded his experiences and observations. He described the daytoday activities of a Civil War surgeon, the indignities suffered by black enlisted men at the hands of a War Department that denied them the same treatment offered to white troops, and the role of the regiment in the campaign around Charleston and in Florida. Service in the southern states also allowed Wilder to indulge a passion for natural science and comparative anatomy, including the collection of unusual species, one of which—the spider known as Nephila wilderi—still bears his name. After the war he completed his medical studies at Harvard and joined the faculty of Cornell University, where he became a distinguished professor of zoology as well as an outspoken advocate of racial equality. In his introduction to the volume, Richard M. Reid analyzes Burt Wilder’s diary and places it within the context of the war, the experience of African American troops, and Wilder’s life and career.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-035-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-46)

    In the months immediately following the outbreak of the American Civil War, young black men across the Northern states attempted to volunteer to fight against the Confederacy. Given widespread white racism, however, the government was unwilling in 1861 to use black troops. Just two weeks after Fort Sumter surrendered, Secretary of War Simon Cameron announced that “this Department has no intention to call into the service of the Government any colored soldiers.”¹ Although President Abraham Lincoln personally opposed slavery and its extension, he believed that, as president, he was bound by the Constitution and was therefore compelled to defend the...

  5. The Civil War Diary of BURT GREEN WILDER 1863-1865
    (pp. 47-262)

    Sunday, May 3rd, I made quite a call upon Lt. Oakley and his wife whom I found in considerable anxiety as to whether her brother, a captain of the 7th (1st?) Wisconsin was not killed or mortally wounded; his name was in yesterday’s paper, but now the news is suppressed and nothing can be known with certainty. . . . Perhaps wounded will arrive tomorrow, for if rumours be credited a great fight is in progress. Adams² and Rothrock³ have been to call on the Baileys. Mrs. Bailey was very cordial and said she hoped we all would come as...

  6. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  7. A Selected Bibliography of B. G. Wilder
    (pp. 263-274)
  8. Index
    (pp. 275-282)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 283-284)