54th Massachusetts Infantry Facts

54th Massachusetts Infantry Facts
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was the first black infantry regiment organized during the Civil War. The regiment was mustered into service in early 1863 and first saw action that summer in South Carolina. The 54th Massachusetts was initially hated by the Confederates and not respected by many Union soldiers, but they eventually gained respect through a series of notable battles, especially during the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina on July 18, 1863. Although the battle ended in a Confederate victory, the 54th was remembered for a brave charge on the parapet, which resulted in nearly 300 casualties to their regiment, including the death of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.
Interesting 54th Massachusetts Infantry Facts:
Black soldiers, both free and freedmen, were first allowed to fight in the Union army under the Militia Act of July 1862: the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 further sanctioned the use of black troops in the Union army
Every black Union unit was required to be led by a white officer.
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who came from a family with strong abolitionist views, was appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to lead the 54th.
Although the 54th haled from Massachusetts and carried the flag of the state, many of its enlisted men were from other states.
Most of the enlisted men were free blacks, although there were also some freedmen and runaway slaves who served in the regiment.
Notable abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass, played a key role organizing the 54th.
White abolitionists served as important recruiters and later as officers in the regiment.
Initially, the men of the 54th Massachusetts were only paid $7 a month while white soldiers were paid $13 a month. After protests by the white officers, Congress agreed to pay the men the same as white soldiers in September 1864.
The 54th mustered and trained at Camp Meigis near Boston.
Sergeant William Harney Carney was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1900 for grabbing the American flag as its bearer fell at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. Although other African Americans had been given the award before Carney, his was the earliest action to receive the award.
After Gould Shaw was killed at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, Edward Hallowell became the colonel and leader of the 54th Massachusetts.
Shaw was buried in a mass grave with many of the enlisted men of the 54th Massachusetts.
Hallowell and many of his officers were Quakers.
The 54th Massachusetts was involved in the Battle of Boykin's Mill on April 18, 1865, which was actually fought after the Battle of Appomattox Court House.
The Battle of Boykin's Mill was where the last Union officers was killed and the site of the last battle in South Carolina.
A monument commemorating the 54th Massachusetts was completed on the Boston Common in 1898.
The 54th Massachusetts' history was portrayed in the 1989 film Glory.


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