Soldiers in the Army of Freedom -- The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit by Ian Michael Spurgeon, Oklahoma UPress '14, $29.95, 400 pages, ASIN #0806146184. Index, bibliography, notes, two appendices, grouping of b&w images, other b&w images sprinkled through text.
"Over fence rails stacked to form a barricade, soldiers gazed at the peaceful landscape falling into shadows," writes historian Ian Michael Spurgeon in his latest work. "It was beautiful country, typical of western Missouri, the stillness interrupted only by an occasional gust of wind. Yet in the timber behind the mounds to the south lay the enemy.
"This was Union territory, but only in name. Most local residents, including Enoch Toothman, the owner of the farm the soldiers now occupied, were Southern sympathizers. Toothman's son John, was, in the words of one federal cavalryman, 'an unwilling guest of the guard house at Ft. Lincoln' for making war on the Union.
"Enoch and his neighbors outside Butler, Missouri, were now the unwilling hosts to 250 Union soldiers from Kansas who had arrived two days before to kill or capture secessionist guerrillas. They had constructed a fortified camp on the farm, and now waited for the opportunity to scatter rebel Missourians."
Author Ian Michael Spurgeon, who holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern Mississippi, is currently a historian in the World War II Division of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office in Washington, D.C. He has written numerous articles on U.S. history and also one previous book.
Madison's Music -- On Reading the First Amendment by Burt Neuborne, New Press '15, $25.95, 260 pages, ASIN #1620970414. Index, notes, unillustrated.
In his introductory chapter, author Burt Neuborne discusses "Reading the First Amendment as a Poem....This is not a work of history," he writes. "I claim no special expertise about James Madison's interior life. Nor do I claim to be describing his subjective purpose. I don't even claim that Madison himself was wholly responsible for his music. As we'll see, Madison's arranger, Robert Sherman, deserves some credit. Rather, it is an effort to read the First Amendment's 45 words -- all of them -- as a coherent whole in order to recapture what I call Madison's Music.
"I rest this book on the phrasing, rhythm, order, and placement of the 45 words themselves. When we read a great poem, we do not ask whether the poet intended to achieve a particular emotional aesthetic, or intellectual response. It is enough that the choreography of words triggers a responsive chord in a careful reader.
"The thesis of this book, dear reader, is that a careful study of the order, placement, meaning, and structure of the 45 words in Madison's First Amendment will trigger a responsive poetic chord in you that will enable us to recapture the music of democracy in our most important political text."
Author Burt Neuborne is the Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties and the founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School and is the author of three scholarly books. He lives with his wife in New York.
The Virtues of Abandon -- An Anti-Individualist History of the French Enlightenment by Charly Coleman, Stanford UP '14, 402 pages, ASIN #0804784434.
From the dust jacket:
"France in the 18th century glittered, but also seethed, with new goods and ideas. In the halls of Versailles, the streets of Paris, and the soul of the Enlightenment itself, a struggle was being waged over the question of ownership -- of property, of position, even of personhood. Those who championed the possession of material, spiritual, and existential goods faced the assaults of Christian mystics, philosophical materialists, and political revolutionaries.
"Charly Coleman traces the aims and activities of these seemingly disparate groups and the current of anti-individualism that permeated theology, philosophy, and politics throughout the period.
"Fired by the desire to abandon the self, men and women sought new ways to relate to God, nature, and nation. They joined illicit mystic cults, induced consciousness-altering dreams, railed against unfettered consumption, and ultimately renounced the privileges that defined their social existence. The denouement was the French Revolution, during which God and king were toppled from their thrones."