QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-05 > 1117283516
Subject: May 28, 1863
Date: Sat, 28 May 2005 08:31:56 EDT
1863 The 54th Massachusetts leaves Boston
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the most famous African-American regiment
of the war, leaves Boston for combat in the South. For the first two years of
the war, President Abraham Lincoln resisted the use of black troops despite
the pleas of men such as Frederick Douglass, who argued that no one had more
to fight for than African Americans. Lincoln finally endorsed, albeit timidly,
the introduction of blacks for service in the military in the Emancipation
Proclamation. On May 22, 1863, the War Department established the Bureau of
Colored Troops to recruit and assemble black regiments. Many blacks, often
freed or escaped slaves, joined the military and found themselves usually under
white leadership. Ninety percent of all officers in the United States Colored
Troops (USCT) were white.
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the idealistic scion of an abolitionist family,
headed the 54th. Shaw was a veteran of the 2nd Massachusetts infantry and saw
action in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley and Antietam campaigns. After being
selected by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew to organize and lead the 54th,
Shaw carefully selected the most physically fit soldiers and white officers with
established antislavery views. The regiment included two of Frederick
Douglass's sons and the grandson of Sojourner Truth.
On May 28, 1863, the new regiment marched onto a steamer and set sail for
Port Royal, South Carolina. The unit saw action right away, taking part in a
raid into Georgia and withstanding a Confederate attack near Charleston. On
July 16, 1863, Shaw led a bold but doomed attack against Fort Wagner in which he
and 20 of his men were killed.
The story of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts was immortalized
in the critically acclaimed 1990 movie Glory, starring Mathew Broderick,
Denzell Washington, and Morgan Freeman.
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