Uncommon Valor: a story of race, patriotism and glory in the final battles of the Civil War, by Melvin Claxton. Christian Fleetwood was a 23 year old free-born black man living Baltimore when the recruiters of the 4th US Colored Infantry began assembling their forces. He joined the ranks on August 17th 1863 and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major (the highest noncomissioned ranking) just 4 days later. He became one of the earliest black Medal of Honor recipients in 1864. By all accounts Fleetwood was a gifted officer and inspired leader of men.
Every (white) officer of his regiment petitioned for him to be commissioned an officer. However, Fleetwood remained a non-com until his honorable discharge May 4, 1866. Uncommon Valor is an inspiring read. Make it your window into the world of the nearly 200,000 black men who, like Fleetwood, marched onto the fields of blood and sacrifice.The newly formed regiment that Christian Fleetwood joined in 1863 is ably chronicled in A Regiment of Slaves: the 4th United States colored infantry, 1863-1866 by prominent Civil War historian, Edward G Longacre. Longacre’s account personalizes the struggles of this neglected “band of brothers.” He will open your eyes to the sublties and complexities of this iconic conflict.