An Important New Book on the Most Glorious Day in African American Military History -- A Great Black History Month Story

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An exciting new book based on the most glorious day in African-American military History. The book, "Uncommon Valor", tells the gripping tale of the Civil War battle of New Market Heights, in which 14 black soldiers won the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Contact: Shirley Smith


A new groundbreaking book on the role of African American soldiers during the civil war has been released. The book, UNCOMMON VALOR: The Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War (Wiley, December 2005; $25.95/Cloth), tells the riveting story of the battle of New Market Heights.

This battle is arguably the single most important in African American military history. More black soldiers won the Congressional Medal of Honor for this battle than in any other single day of combat in an American war.

But for more than 140 years the Civil War story of the black farmers, laborers, and tradesmen who bravely risked their lives on a killing field in Virginia remained largely untold. And while the battles of Atlanta, Bull Run, and Gettysburg would be memorialized in history books and in the minds of Americans, few have heard of New Market Heights. This is truly unfortunate, because few battlefields should be more hallowed, or dead more sacred.

In UNCOMMON VALOR, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Melvin Claxton and former investigative reporter Mark Puls tell for the first time this powerful tale of war, heroism, and liberation. Using personal diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts, the authors follow Christian Fleetwood, a free twenty-three-year-old black man living in Baltimore, who, a few days after Gettysburg, made the momentous and patriotic decision to enlist. Many other African Americans, some free and some slaves, made the same decision, willingly risking their lives to save a nation and win freedom for their race.

UNCOMMON VALOR brilliantly describes how Sergeant Fleetwood and his fellow “colored” troops were torn between the righteousness of their cause and the daily reminders of their second-class status, until they finally had a chance to prove themselves at the Battle of New Market Heights. Fleetwood and 13 of his comrades were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for outstanding bravery in that battle.

Claxton and Puls not only tell the story of New Market Heights, but also examine its impact on the passage of the 1874 Civil Rights Act, which was voided almost immediately by the U.S. Supreme Court. That court decision, the authors point out, paved the way for nearly a century of Jim Crow laws in the South. This book, hailed as “riveting” by the Library Journal, is essential reading for anyone interested in the fundamental underpinnings of race relations in America.

The Authors are available for interviews for news stories, and copies of the book can be made available upon request to reviewers. For further information please contact Shirley Smith at the email address or telephone number listed above.


MELVIN CLAXTON (Nashville, TN) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with the Nashville Tennessean and Gannett News Service. He is a former investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit News. MARK PULS (Detroit, MI) is a former investigative reporter with the Detroit News. He is currently writing a book about the Revolutionary War.


The following is a review of UNCOMMON VALOR from the Library Journal, November 2005.

“Seeing their race's future hanging in the balance, nearly 200,000 black men like Christian A. Fleetwood of Baltimore shouldered arms on the Union side during the Civil War. Detroit News investigative reporters Claxton (a Pulitzer Prize winner) and Puls relate Fleetwood's service in the U.S. Colored Volunteer Infantry from Gettysburg's aftermath in July 1863 through his unit's desperate fight in September 1864 at New Market Heights, VA. The 24-year-old Fleetwood and 13 comrades there earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Working from firsthand accounts such as diaries and letters, the authors re-create the suffering and sacrifice of black men battling not only rebel enemies but abusive racism from officers and soldiers on their own side. More the story of a unit than of a man, the narrative encompasses a full range of black Civil War service. This is a riveting read for general audiences that contributes a personal face to scholarly treatments available from Ira Berlin, John David Smith, and Noah Andre Trudeau, to name a few. Recommended for black, Civil War, and military collections.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.”

UNCOMMON VALOR is available at local bookstores or online at: In Canada, call 1-800-567-4797


A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War

By Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls


Publication Date: December 2005


ISBN: 0-471-46823-1

Contact: Shirley Smith


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