By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new book, 20 years in the researching, takes a look at a Civil War battle where African-American troops, some fresh from slavery, were in the thick of things.

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The battle of Milliken’s Bend, Mississippi, June, 1863, could just have been Confederate attempt to lift the Union siege of Vicksburg, but Linda Barnickel, author of Milliken’s Bend:
A Civil War Battle in History and Memory, says the Emancipation Proclamation, so lauded today, had ignited in the South a visceral fear of slave rebellion.

“The Confederate Congress did pass legislation that said, ‘any white officers in command of black troops should be executed on a charge of inciting slave insurrection,'” she says.

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And at Milliken’s Bend a division of Texans cornered the so-called African Brigade on a levee, the Mississippi River to the rear.

“These were former slaves,” Barnickel says. “They had only been in the service, it couldn’t have been more than two months and most of them not that long, so they’d have been very well trained.”

Yet Barnickel says they performed admirably, despite high casualties from vicious hand-to-hand combat.

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