Now or Never!  The story of two Civil War freedom-fighters, journalists, and abolitionists who answered Frederick Douglass’s clarion call:

Men of Color

To Arms! To Arms!

    Now or Never


Told from the war dispatches of George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding, free Black men from the North who risked enslavement and their lives to liberate African Americans imprisoned in Southern slave camps. 

Stephens and Gooding felt duty-bound to enlist in the Union Army and prove to the country that “they were worthy to be freemen.” Among the first to volunteer for Massachusetts’ 54th Infantry, an all-Black regiment, they eagerly recruited other free men to join. But it wasn’t long before they discovered the harsh realities of army life. As soldiers and also the war’s first Black correspondents, they wrote eyewitness reports exposing the dangers and tragedies experienced on and off the battlefield, as well as the shocking injustices they endured in their own army.

Now or Never! is an enthralling but factual story that gives young adult readers, ages 12 to 80, a deeper understanding of how and why the Civil War changed from a war to save the Union to a war of emancipation. It reveals the critical weapon a hesitant Abraham Lincoln waited two years to deploy—a weapon the Confederates possessed in greater numbers but dared not use —180,000 armed Black men

Shepard tells the courageous stories of Stephens and Gooding, little-known but extraordinary men whose service and sacrifices provide an intensely personal perspective on the Civil War.