Now or Never!: Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry's War To End Slavery

144p. bibliog. chron. further reading. index. notes. photos. Calkins Creek. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629793405.
Gr 6 Up—George Stephens and James Henry Gooding, two African American writers and soldiers, answered and extended Frederick Douglass's "Now or Never" call to arms to help mobilize troops for the 54th Massachusetts. The disparity between the pay, conditions, and perceptions of African American Civil War soldiers is delineated well throughout the narrative, and Shepard realistically presents Stephens's and Gooding's reactions to the inequalities. The author will captivate readers with masterfully built suspense, exemplified in the regiment's march through the streets of Boston and the battle for Fort Wagner, and with phrases like, "proud Charleston fell with an earth-rattling boom." The context of the war and the political climate of the country are interjected along with the complexity of sentiments about African Americans, whether through the discussion of the riots in Philadelphia and New York City, or through excerpts from letters that reveal individual prejudices. The inclusion of a time line, maps, drawings, and photographs (none of Stephens or Gooding exist) further enriches the narrative, and Shepard explains his inclusion of epithets and the capitalization of the words black and white when referencing groups of people.
VERDICT While books, such as Clinton Cox's Undying Glory: The Story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment have been published on the subject, this is an excellent addition to the history.

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