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Milliken's BendMilliken's Bend

A Civil War Battle in History and Memory

Linda Barnickel

Winner of the A. M. Pate, Jr. Award; Winner of the The Jules and Frances Landry Award

Narrated by Scott Connolly

Available from Audible

Book published by Louisiana State University Press

At Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, a Union force composed predominantly of former slaves met their Confederate adversaries in one of the bloodiest engagements of the war. This small yet important fight received some initial widespread attention but soon drifted into obscurity. In Milliken’s Bend, Linda Barnickel uncovers the story of this long-forgotten and highly controversial battle.

The fighting at Milliken’s Bend occurred in June 1863, about fifteen miles north of Vicksburg on the west bank of the Mississippi River, where a brigade of Texas Confederates attacked a Federal outpost. Most of the Union defenders had been slaves less than two months before. The new African American recruits fought well, despite their minimal training, and Milliken’s Bend helped prove to a skeptical northern public that black men were indeed fit for combat duty. After the battle, accusations swirled that Confederates had executed some prisoners taken from the “Colored Troops.” The charges eventually led to a congressional investigation and contributed to the suspension of prisoner exchanges between North and South.

Barnickel’s compelling and comprehensive account of the battle illuminates not only the immense complexity of the events that transpired in northeastern Louisiana during the Vicksburg Campaign but also the implications of Milliken’s Bend upon the war as a whole. The battle contributed to southerners’ increasing fears of slave insurrection and heightened their anxieties about emancipation. In the North, it helped foster a commitment to allow free blacks and former slaves to take part in the war to end slavery. And for African Americans, both free and enslaved, Milliken’s Bend symbolized their never-ending struggle for freedom.

Linda Barnickel is an archivist and freelance writer with master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and The Ohio State University. Passionate about discovering the hidden and fascinating stories of history, she is interested in local history, military history, oral history, and the cultural power of archives.


“Linda Barnickel makes a significant contribution to Civil War scholarship through her exceptional book, Milliken's Bend.

On Point: The Journal of Army History

“he legacy of the battle and the men on both sides come alive again in Linda Barnickel's stellar new monograph. Her book, more than 20 years in the making, is much more than a mere battle narrative.”

Civil War Times

“With her new book, Linda Barnickel ably addresses [a] gap in Civil War historiography and memory.... Barnickel’s study just might resuscitate public memory of this forgotten battle, for she has produced a well-written, thoroughly researched, and informative book.”

Civil War History

“Barnickel provides a clear and workable summary of the Battle of Milliken’s Bend itself, which was not easy given the inconsistent accounts of the engagement. She does an admirable job sorting through the conflicting evidence, weighing and analyzing it, and providing plausible explanations of what probably happened where accounts do not agree.”

—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

““Impressively researched and well-written.... Barnickel excels by situating the fight at Milliken’s Bend in the longer history of slavery, emancipation, and white racial anxieties in the hinterlands of Louisiana.”


“An exhaustively researched gem and a model for future combined battle and memory studies.”

Civil War Books and Authors

“Barnickel does a wonderful job setting up the whole nature of Negro soldiers and how they were viewed by Union soldiers and officers and of course, Southerners. Her work studies race relations and places the context of the event within a larger historical framework. The evolution of Southern fears concerning slave revolts and how violently they dealt with such incidents. The venomous reaction by Southerners (men and women) to the Unions decision to arm blacks. The nature of Northern racism and their treatment of the newly formed black regiments is also keenly handled.”

Civil War Voices

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