Milliken’s Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory

Milliken’s Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory, by Linda Barnickel, won the A. M. Pate Jr. Award in Civil War History this month. “Milliken’s Bend,” published by LSU Press in April 2013, is a compelling and comprehensive account of the battle of Milliken’s Bend, La., at which a Union force composed predominantly of former slaves met their Confederate adversaries in one of the bloodiest engagements of the war. Though the fight received some widespread attention initially, it soon drifted into obscurity. Barnickel’s exhaustive research has uncovered the story of this long-forgotten battle, whose controversial aftermath led to a Congressional investigation and the suspension of prisoner exchanges between North and South. Barnickel’s book illuminates not only the immense complexity of the events that transpired in northeastern Louisiana during the Vicksburg Campaign but also the implications of Milliken’s Bend upon the war as a whole. The battle contributed to Southerners’ increasing fears of slave insurrection and heightened their anxieties about emancipation. In the North, it helped foster a commitment to allow free Blacks and former slaves to take part in the war to end slavery. And for Blacks, both free and enslaved, Milliken’s Bend symbolized their never-ending struggle for freedom.