The Legacy Of The 54th Regiment

1378 words - 6 pages

During the Civil War traditional thoughts were perceived that black soldiers wouldn't fight. The legacy of the Fifty-fourth regiment was referred as a noble experiment. For the men of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth regiment infantry, it was a chance to contradict their white disbelievers. Their chance came when the Fifty-fourth led the Union courageously against the Confederate stronghold in South Carolina. The Fifty-fourth won the respect due to being a true fighting unit. In early 1863, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew appointed Colonel Robert Shaw, a twenty-five year old prominent abolitionist from Boston to command and organized the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts infantry. Shaw came ...view middle of the document...

However, southerners reacted to this by proclaiming that any black soldier captured in uniform would be sold back into slavery and white officers of these regiments would be executed. This challenged the Fifty-fourth regiment with an additional problem to overcome. Not only did they have to prove their worth as soldiers, but also their value to the country and as a race. These men were proud to be soldiers and proud to wear the blue uniform. Black soldiers showed their pride as they marched in uniform past the men, women and black children, who looked on in wonder and applauded. These fine men stood up and served their nation that would not serve them.From January to May 1863 the Fifty-fourth regiment was organized and trained, although only paid ten dollars per month, three dollars less then the white troops. Shaw who had become extremely dedicated and committed to his regiment and wrote a letter to Congress telling them that he and all other white officers would refuse pay until his soldiers were given equal pay. By doing this Congress granted equal pay to black soldiers until June 15, 1864. Once training was completed Governor Andrew traveled to camp to present Shaw and his regiment its regimental flags. Here is where he has been quoted saying " I know not, Mr. Commander, in all human history to any given thousand men in arms, has there been committed a work at once so proud, so precious, so full of hope and glory as the work committed to you." A few days later the fifty-fourth regiment of Massachusetts marched through the town of Boston where thousands of townspeople applauded and cheered as they proceeded to the South were the regiment saw its first action. Here in the south were the Fifty-fourth regiment fought battles on James Island and Olustee, Florida. During these battles the regiment anticipated the attack on Fort Wagner were they earned their fame despite their exhaustion and hunger.The Fifty-fourth regiment planned a night attack against Fort Wagner. At dusk on July 18, 1863, the Fifty-fourth regiment crowded together along with other regiments before charging forward. Robert Shaw addresses his men and reminded them "The eyes of thousands will look on what you do tonight." As the regiment charged forward where grenades and gunfire surrounded them. As members of the regiments continued to be surrounded by blood and guts, they realized they could not turn back they had to head forward for their final assault on the Fort. Here is where the heroic efforts of the Fifty-fourth regiment were observed. The fatalities were numerous and gunfire demolished soldiers including the flag bearer however, Sargent William Carney, a twenty-three year old barrel chested soldier seized the flag and planted it upon the fort barrier, while continuos fighting for over an hour until...

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