Introduction - 54th Massachusetts FactsAs the American Civil War progressed there was a push by many abolitionist to allow black soldiers to join the Union Army. There were many doubters who thought black soldiers would not be disciplined enough and would turn and run at the first sign of danger. In July of 1863 the black 54th Massachusetts Regiment would quiet all doubters with their brave assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. On this page is a list of interesting facts about the 54th Massachusetts Regiment including these brave black soldiers assault on Fort Wagner, when the regiment was formed, and where they fought. This information is written for both kids and adults.
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Interesting 54th Massachusetts Black Regiment Facts
- In 1863 the governor of Massachusetts issued a call for black soldiers. Volunteers came not only from Massachusetts but from several other states including southern states.
- Chosen to lead the 54th was Robert Gould Shaw the son of prominent abolitionist activists. At only 25 years of age he had already had significant battlefield experience including being wounded at the Battle at Antietam.
- Among the volunteer black soldiers forming the 54th Massachusetts were Charles and Lewis Douglass; two sons of the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
- The black soldiers and their white officers faced additional danger over white troops; the Confederates had promised to enslave or kill all captured black soldiers and to kill white officers who commanded black troops.
- After completing their military training the regiment departed Boston on May 28th of 1863 and traveled to Beaufort South Carolina.
- The black soldiers of 54th Massachusetts saw their first action on James Island in South Carolina on July 16th of 1863 where they halted an assault by the Confederate Army, they lost over 40 men that day.
- The 54th Massachusetts Assault on Fort Wagner is what they are most remembered for (see below) however they participated in other action including the Battle of Olusteem, the Battle of Honey Hill, and the Battle of Boykin's Mill.
- The movie "Glory", released in 1989, tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment from the formation of the regiment through their famous assault on Fort Wagner.
- In 1897 a memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment was unveiled on the Boston Common in Massachusetts.
54th Massachusetts Assault on Fort Wagner Facts
- The 54th Massachusetts saw a lot of action during the American Civil War but are most famous for their assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina.
- On the evening of July 18th of 1863 six hundred soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts stormed the Confederate's Fort Wagner which defended the Port of Charleston in South Carolina.
- Before leading his men into battle Robert Shaw addressed them saying "I want you to prove yourselves ... the eyes of thousands will look on what you do tonight".
- The black soldiers bravely stormed the fort but they were greatly outnumbered. After nearly half their men were wounded or killed, along with their commander Shaw who had lead the charge, they retreated.
- Shaw was buried in a mass grave with his men. The Confederates thought this would enrage the Northerners including Shaw's family. Shaw's parents responded that their son could rest in "no holier place... surrounded by ... brave and devoted soldiers."
- During the assault on Fort Wagner Sergeant William Harvey Carney grabbed the U.S. flag when the flag bearer was shot. He was later awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for his bravery that day.