A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist reveals the little-known story of the Union soldiers from Alabama who played a decisive role in the Civil War, and how they were scrubbed from the history books.
“It is my sincere hope that this compelling and submerged history is integrated into our understanding of our nation, and allows us to embrace new heroes of the past.”—Imani Perry, professor, Harvard University, and National Book Award–winning author of South to America
We all know how the Civil War was won: Courageous Yankees triumphed over the South. But is there more to the story?
As Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Howell Raines shows, it was not only soldiers from northern states who helped General William Tecumseh Sherman burn Atlanta to the ground but also an unsung regiment of 2,066 Alabamian yeoman farmers—including at least one member of Raines’s own family.
Called the First Alabama Cavalry, U.S.A., this regiment of mountain Unionists, which included sixteen formerly enslaved Black men, was the point of the spear that Sherman drove through the heart of the Confederacy. The famed general hailed their skills and courage. So why don’t we know anything about them?
Silent Cavalry is part epic American history, part family saga, and part scholarly detective story. Drawing on the lore of his native Alabama and investigative skills honed by six decades in journalism, Raines brings to light a conspiracy that sought to undermine the accomplishments of these renegade southerners—a key component of the Lost Cause effort to restore glory to white southerners after the war, even at the cost of the truth.
In this important new contribution to our understanding of the Civil War and its legacy, Raines tells the thrilling tale of the formation of the First Alabama while exposing the tangled web of how its wartime accomplishments were silenced, implicating everyone from a former Confederate general to a gaggle of Lost Cause historians in the Ivy League and a sanctimonious former keeper of the Alabama state archives. By reversing the erasure of the First Alabama, Silent Cavalry is a testament to the immense power of historians to destroy as well as to redeem.
About the Author
Howell Raines is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and former executive editor of The New York Times. He is the author of four previous books: Whiskey Man, The One That Got Away, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis, and My Soul Is Rested. Based in Pennsylvania, he was born and began his career in Alabama.
“[A] remarkable book . . . [filled with] startling and nearly unknown stories.”—The Guardian
“Raines . . . has done great work debunking another Lost Cause myth to bring [the First Alabama] soldiers into the light.”—Los Angeles Times
“A fresh history . . . [and] a much-needed addition to the demythologizing literature of the Civil War.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Resonant and lyrical . . . Raines delivers a superlative study in what makes history ‘history.’ This genealogical detective story is both a delight to read and an important corrective.”—Publishers Weekly
“Crafting colorful portraits of heroes and, more especially, villains, Raines tells the story of how the members of the First Alabama Cavalry served as spies and arsonists for Sherman. . . . [The book’s] revelations about the part Southerners played in the Union armed forces should prove enlightening even for more casual readers.”—Booklist
“Howell Raines’s Silent Cavalry is an astonishing act of historical recovery amidst our recent plague of historical amnesia. Silent Cavalry is honest history and brilliant storytelling at its best.”—Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times bestselling author and University Distinguished Professor, Vanderbilt University
“Howell Raines is a legendary writer, editor, and social critic. It is my sincere hope that this compelling and submerged history is integrated into our understanding of our nation, and allows us to embrace new heroes of the past.”—Imani Perry, professor, Harvard University, and National Book Award–winning author of South to America
“Howell Raines has uncovered the remarkable story of white men from Alabama’s hill country who fought for the Union and, equally important, the century-long effort by Confederate sympathizers to erase them from history. . . . An invaluable addition to revisionist—as in, actual—history.”—Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and co-author of The Southernization of America
“Silent Cavalry marks another chapter in Raines’s storied career of giving voice to the voiceless, highlighting the men and women who, without proper credit, did their part to make America a better, more equitable place.”—Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“Remarkable . . . A massive story told in an intimate, personal way.”—John Archibald, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of Shaking the Gates of Hell
“Silent Cavalry is a rescue mission. Shedding new light on the dramatic hidden battlegrounds of the Lost Cause, Howell Raines has restored forgotten north Alabama contrarians to where they always deserved to be, where they always were—on the right side of history.”—Kyle Whitmire, Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist, Alabama Media Group