In popular imagination, the American Civil War remains a conflict in which all soldiers acted out of personal bravery and self-sacrifice. Communal memory and historical scholarship have insisted that every soldier was a hero. But there were men, not paragons but humans, who did not perform admirably or heroically. Many were shirkers, skulkers and deserters; those who fled from battle, or slipped away during long marches. I Never was a Coward focuses on a single northern regiment to highlight broad questions about bravery and cowardice.
The wartime record of the 16th Connecticut Infantry Regiment includes candid accusations, confessions and observations of cowardice in battle, in camp, at home, and in prison. By examining letters, dairies and newspapers, we learn firsthand how this regiment defined and redefined cowardice. Their fascinating story provides fresh insight into a topic rarely explored by Civil War historians.
Lesley J. Gordon is associate professor of history at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. She earned her AB in history from the College of William and Mary, and her MA and PhD from the University of Georgia. Her publications include General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend (Chapel Hill, 1998), Intimate Strategies of the Civil War: Military Commanders and their Wives (New York, 2001), This Terrible War: The Civil War and its Aftermath (New York, 2003), and Inside the Confederate Nation: Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas (Baton Rouge, 2005).