Log In | Account Info

Cart | Checkout

View the SIU Press Catalog
Double Duty in the Civil War
The Letters of Sailor and Soldier Edward W. Bacon
1st Edition
Edited by George S. Burkhardt
Other Formats
288 pages, 6 x 9, 26 Illus.

About the Book

In 1861 at the age of eighteen, Edward Woolsey Bacon, a Yale student and son of well-known abolitionist minister Leonard Bacon, left his home in New Haven, Connecticut, to fight for the United States. Over the next four years Bacon served in both the Union navy and army, which gave him a sweeping view of the Civil War. His postings included being a captain’s clerk on the USS Iroquois, a hospital clerk in his hometown, a captain in the 29th Connecticut Infantry (Colored), and a major in the 117th U.S. Colored Infantry, and he described these experiences in vibrant letters to his friends and family. Historian George S. Burkhardt has compiled these letters, as well as Bacon’s diary in the impressive Double Duty in the Civil War: The Letters of Sailor and Soldier Edward W. Bacon.

Bacon tells of hunting Confederate commerce raiders on the high seas, enduring the tedium of blockade duty, and taking part in riverine warfare on the Mississippi. He recalls sweating in South Carolina as an infantry officer during drill and picket duty, suffering constant danger in the battlefield trenches of Virginia, marching victoriously on fallen Richmond, and tolerating the boredom of occupation duty in Texas.

His highly entertaining letters shed new light on naval affairs and reveal a close-knit family life. The narrative of his duty with black troops is especially valuable, since few first-hand accounts from white officers of the U.S. Colored Troops exist. Furthermore, his beliefs about race, slavery, and the Union cause were unconventional for the time and stand in contrast to those held by many of his contemporaries.

            Double Duty in the Civil War is filled with lively descriptions of the men Bacon met and the events he experienced. With Burkhardt’s careful editing and useful annotations, Bacon’s letters and diary excerpts give rare insight into areas of the Civil War that have been neglected because of a lack of available sources. Given the scarcity of eyewitness testimonies to navy life and life in African American regiments, this book is a rarity indeed.


George S. Burkhardt is an independent scholar and writer who lives in Long Beach, California. A former news reporter and writer, he was the editor, publisher, and owner of California’s smallest daily newspaper, the Corning Daily Observer. He is the author of Confederate Rage, Yankee Wrath: No Quarter in the Civil War.


“This book—an adventure story told in the words of a young man who set out on a remarkable journey—sheds light on several important aspects of the Civil War that have not attracted as much attention as they deserve. Bacon’s diary and correspondence offer an important addition to the literature on life in the Civil War.”—James G. Hollandsworth, author of An Absolute Massacre: The New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866


“While numerous eyewitness accounts by Union army and naval personnel have been published, Edward W. Bacon’s letters stand alone in providing insights into the life of a young man who served as both a captain’s clerk in the U.S. Navy and as an officer in two black regiments. George S. Burkhardt deftly employs eyewitness accounts by fellow combatants on both sides of the war to corroborate and enhance Edward Bacon’s keen observations of people and events. Double Duty in the Civil War belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in the military experience of Union soldiers and sailors who fought to preserve the nation.”—Hugh Davis, author of Leonard Bacon: New England Reformer and Antislavery Moderate  


Recipient of the 2009-2010 Founders Award for outstanding editing of primary source documents, awarded by the Museum of the Confederacy. 

Also of Interest

Madness of Mary Lincoln
Jason Emerson

Autobiography of Silas Thompson Trowbridge M.D.
Silas Thompson Trowbridge. Introduction by John S. Haller Jr. and Barbara Mason

Baseball's Natural
John Theodore. Foreword by Ira Berkow

The Tennessee Campaign of 1864
Edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear