Afro-american Troops In The Civil War: The 54th Massachusetts Essay, Research Paper

Afro-american Troops in the Civil War: The 54th Massachusetts

The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts was organized in early 1863 by Robert

Gould Shaw, 26 twelvemonth old member of a outstanding Boston emancipationist household.

Shaw had earlier served in the Seventh New York National Guard and the Second

Massachusetts Infantry, and was appointed colonel of the Fifty-fourth in

February 1863 by Massachusetts governor John A. Andrew.

As one of the first black units organized in the northern provinces, the

Fifty-fourth was the object of great involvement and wonder, and its public presentation

would be considered an of import indicant of the possibilities environing the

usage of inkinesss in combat. The regiment was composed chiefly of free inkinesss from

throughout the north, peculiarly Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Amongst its

recruits was Lewis N. Douglass, boy of the celebrated ex-slave and emancipationist,

Frederick Douglass.

After a period of recruiting and preparation, the unit proceeded to the

Department of the South, geting at Hilton Head, South Carolina, on June 3,

1863. The regiment earned its greatest celebrity on July 18, 1863, when it led the

unsuccessful and controversial assault on the Confederate places at Battery

Wagner. In this despairing onslaught, the Fifty-fourth was placed in the vanguard

and over 250 work forces of the regiment became casualties. Shaw, the regiment & # 8217 ; s immature

colonel, died on the crest of the enemy parapet, shouting, & # 8220 ; Forward, Fifty-

4th! & # 8221 ;

That heroic charge, coupled with Shaw & # 8217 ; s decease, made the regiment a

family name throughout the North, and helped spur black recruiting. For the

balance of 1863 the unit participated in siege operations around Charleston,

before get oning conveyances for Florida early in February 1864. The regiment

numbered 510 officers and work forces at the gap of the Florida Campaign, and its

new commanding officer was Edward N. Hallowell, a 27 twelvemonth old merchandiser from

Medford, Massachusetts. Anxious to revenge the Battery Wagner repulse, the Fifty-

4th was the best black regiment available to General Seymour, the Union

commanding officer.

Along with the First North Carolina Colored Infantry, the Fifty-fourth

entered the combat tardily in the twenty-four hours at Olustee, and helped salvage the Union ground forces

from complete catastrophe. The Fifty-fourth marched into conflict shouting, & # 8220 ; Three

cheers for Massachusetts and seven dollars a month. & # 8221 ; The latter referred to the

difference in wage between white and colored Union foot, long a sore point

with coloured military personnels. Congress had merely passed a measure rectifying this and giving

coloured military personnels equal wage. However, word of the measure would non make these military personnels

until after the conflict of Olustee. The regiment lost 86 work forces in the

conflict, the lowest figure of the three black regiments present. After Olustee,

the Fifty-fourth was non sent to take part in the bloody Virginia runs

of 1864-1865. Alternatively it remained in the Department of the South, contending in a

figure of actions before Charleston and Savannah. More than a century after the

war the Fifty-fourth remains the most celebrated black regiment of the war, due

mostly to the popularity of the film & # 8220 ; Glory & # 8221 ; , which recounts the narrative of the

regiment prior to and including the onslaught on Battery Wagner.

To break demo how the 54th felt underfire, here is a missive place from

Orderly Sergeant W.N. Collins of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry accounting

Plotter & # 8217 ; s Raid.

& # 8220 ; Well, we arrived at Georgetown, S.C. , on the 3Ist ( March 1865 ) , and

went into cantonment. On the 1st of April we started upon our errand through the State,

and had nil to molest us for three yearss. We saw nil of the Johnnies, and

on Friday the 8th of April, at Epp & # 8217 ; s Ferry, Cos. H and A were detached from the

regiment to travel and destruct the said Ferry. Myself, one corporal and 15

genitalias were in the progress. On we went, neither hearing nor seeing any thing

in peculiar. After progressing approximately two stat mis, and wading through H2O and clay,

we spied a Johnny sitting upon his Equus caballus as a lookout. He left his station and

secreted himself. Halting my work forces for farther orders, I received instructions to

continue forward with the extreme cautiousness, and screen my work forces every bit much as possible

in the forests. The swamp through which we had to go through was waist-deep.

Onward we went, and after acquiring through the swamp, non over seventy-

five paces from Johnny, he saw that we were acquiring excessively near to him ; and at

that clip the Second-Lieutenant of Co. A came along, and I told him that Johnny

was acquiring ready to fire ; and at that minute, Johnny & # 8217 ; s balls began to fall

midst and fast around us.

The Lieutenant got wounded in the right arm. I had two work forces wounded & # 8211 ; one

in the right leg, the other in both shoulders ; and it appeared T

o us that the

Rebels had nil much but bird-shot to fire at us, which whizzed about our

ears in perfect showers. The author got annoyed somewhat in the left manus by one

of these bantam missiles from Johnny & # 8217 ; s shot-gun. They saw that we were

determined to finish the occupation, and they destroyed the levee and fled. So we

returned to our bid on the 8th. We entered Manningville with a loss of but

one adult male killed, who belonged to the 4th Massachusetts Regiment.

On the I0th we left Manningville, and arrived at Sumterville on Sabbath,

the 11th ; and after a short and crisp battle, we took the topographic point, captured three

pieces of heavy weapon complete, killed five Rebels, wounded some more, and besides

captured a few.

We encamped in the metropolis that dark, and destroyed the terminal, together

with three engines and a train of 35 autos. We left on the I3th,

after destructing every thing that fire would fire, and went to Manchester, and

at that place destroyed one locomotor and a train of 20 autos.

The 54th was detailed to travel seven stat mis from the topographic point for the intent

of destructing some trestle-work. After a considerable sum of hold, the

progress guard, which was from Co. F, Sergeant Frank M. Welch commanding, pushed

Forth. They had non gone far when they espied a train of autos, with locomotor

attached, and a full caput of steam on. The column at one time halted and Colonel

Henry N. Hooper went frontward to see for himself and at that place, certain plenty, was the

train. The crisp study of a rifle shortly told those on the train that the blood-

hounds were on the path. The applied scientist instantly jumped from the train and ran

for his life. Nothing could be seen of him but coat-tails and dust. The bid

to travel forward was given. With a loud cry and enormous cheer the male childs

charged over the trestle-work, three stat mis in length, caught the autos, and ran

them ourselves in topographic point of the Rebels.

Lieutenant Stephen A. Swails got wounded in his right arm. There are

40 autos and six engines, and we destroyed so all. Some of the autos were

loaded. We so turned the path inverted. Sergeant Major John H. Wilson and

Private Gee. Jorris, of Co. A, got mashed by the autos. Private Jorris got his

collar-bone broken. The Sergeant Major has got partially over the hurts he


Leaving at that place, we encamped at Singleton & # 8217 ; s plantation, and sent two

thousand contrabands to Georgetown in charge of the 32 U.S.C.T. When they

returned, we started upon our mission & # 8211 ; and from that clip, the 14th, we fought

every twenty-four hours with the Rebels, and drove them before us. But at length they made a

base at Swiss Creek, and fought urgently. We captured nine captives. On the

15th we left for the intent of taking Camden, which we did capturing all of the

Rebel sick and wounded at that place, totaling, a least, from three to four hundred work forces.

On the I6th. we left Camden, and from that we fought until we got to

Swiss Creek, where the Rebels once more made a base. Cos. F and H were on the

skirmish line, the battalion on the modesty, the 102d U.S.C.T. in the centre,

and the 3rd U.S.C.T. on the left wing. We drove them to their lair, when they

fought rather urgently for a clip. For if they flee from the equestrians, how can

they contend with the footmen? The Rebels had a dike constructed all around them,

and there was no manner of acquiring at them but to go through over it in individual file. The

left flying went to extreme right for the intent of flanking Johnny and there it

was that we lost our baronial Lieutenant Edward L. Stevens. Who will assist us mourn

his loss & # 8211 ; for he fell in defence of the beloved old flag?

Bodily Uames P. Johnson and Corporal Andrew Miller of Co. H had six

genitalias wounded. But the 54th stormed the hill and carried it at the point of

the bayonet, doing themselves Masterss of the field, as they ever do. Just

like them! Brave boys they are! Who will state, Three cheers for the 54th Mass.

Vols. , 32d and I02d U.S.C.T. , and for the 25th Ohio Vols. , the I07th Ohio Vols. ,

I5th and 56th N.Y. vols. , and the 4th Mass. , and the 3d New York Artillery, and

for General [ Edward E. ] Potter & # 8217 ; s weather military personnels? For we are the 1s that

destroyed and drove the Rebels from the field, wholly corrupting them.

The last battle we had was at Statesburg, and at that place the Rebels stood for

the last clip ; for we slaughtered them in great Numberss. They left the field

strewn with their dead and hurt. We captured, for the remainder, in South Carolina,

on our return to Georgetown, 15 engines, and one hundred and forty autos

loaded with ammo, little weaponries and shops. We destroyed them all. We

captured five 100 contrabands, five hundred captives, destroyed a huge trade

of belongings, and captured about 80 caput of Equus caballuss. We are now encamped at

Georgetown, and I hope we will shortly be home with our friends and relatives. & # 8221 ;

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