A Great Sacrifice is an in-depth analysis of the effects of the Civil War on northern black families carried out using letters from northern black women—mothers, wives, sisters, and female family friends—addressed to a number of Union military officials.
Collectively, the letters give a voice to the black family members left on the northern homefront. Through their explanations and requests, readers obtain a greater apprehension of the struggles African American families faced during the war, and their conditions as the war progressed. The original letters that were received by government agencies, as well as many of the copies of the letters sent in response, are held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
This study is unique because it examines the effects of the war specifically on northern black families. Most other studies on African Americans during the Civil War focused almost exclusively on the soldiers.