The Mass. 54th Unit Exhibit Flyer

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Who Were The Massachusetts 54th

The age of the men varied. There were both the young and older men. Some of the men showed up and were dressed in suits. However, others looked like they just came off a slave plantation, dressed in slave clothing. Some of the men were field hands and others could possibly have been upper class citizens. Communication or speech was another big difference. Some of the men spoke very good English. Others had bad grammar or poor communication skills. One thing was the same of all the the men, they all appeared excited to be there. Lincoln needed more men to create a stronger army.


Below is a picture of what the soldiers may have looked like for the Massachusetts 54th.

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Training of the Massachusetts 54th

Most of the men did not know their left from their right when training. They learned very quickly when one of the generals stomped on one of the men's foot's. Explaining to them their left from their right. Training would continue on even if it started raining. The trainers were hard on the men even though they were informed not to be. Colonel Robert Shaw requested this of the trainers after seeing that some of the men were being trained with brutal force. When the men received their guns, they acted very childish and started playing games. Some men stated they could shoot properly with other gunfire going off around them. However, when training continued, it was found to be untrue.


Below is a picture of the soldiers training before the Massachusetts 54th.

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Facing Discrimination

There was a proclamation discriminating against the black soldiers. Any black soldier that would be wounded or captured during the war, would become a slave. The black soldiers were not treated fairly like their fellow white soldiers. The black soldiers are barefoot when they were training. The black soldiers did not complain even though their feet were getting destroyed. Colonel Shaw was very upset by this and demanded shoes and socks for the blacks. The black soldier's pay grade was even lower because of their race. A black soldier would only make $10.00 a month compared to the $13.00 a white soldier was entitled to. A black soldier, if caught wearing a uniform, would be executed. However, if a white soldier is thought to be helping a black soldier that was also a big problem. The white soldier could possibly executed for any help they are giving to to the black soldier. Also, if you are leading a group of black soldiers, the white soldier could also be executed. It would make all soldiers involved wonder; why are they even fighting in the first place.


Below is a picture of a flyer about the Massachusetts 54th.

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Their Arrival in South Carolina

When heading to South Carolina, Sergeant Rawlin's was given a big promotion. He was offered the position of Sergeant Major. He was not positive if he was really wanting to accept this position. However, he took the offer gratefully. When the soldiers arrived in the south they didn't remember what the lay of the land was like. They also did not remember South Carolina being as hot as it was. After being on land for a little while, they threw a party. The children started singing. The men and women began dancing. All were excited to be in South Carolina.


Below is a picture of Sergeant Major John Rawlins, the enlisted leader for the Massachusetts 54th.

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Their 1st Assignment in South Carolina

People were under the belief that supplies were being delivered to the people. However, there was a different assignment for the men. First, they were to raid the town. Next, they were to take everything from people's homes. Basically, robbing them of their belongings. Then, to burn the homes to the ground. The entire town was basically left in shambles. The belonging they took from the homes were sent back to the North.


Below is a picture of what the soldiers would have done to people homes in the town.

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No Fighting Just Manual Labor for the Massachusetts 54th

There were several different things they did for manual labor. Some cut down trees and took the large trees back to the camp. Once back to the camp then the trees would be cut down for other uses. Later, Silis tells the white soldiers to stay back and let the black soldiers fight for them. That led to a fight within the group. Rawlins, who was on horseback, had to step in and stop the fight. Rawlins wanted to press charges on one of the white soldiers. However, the Sergeant Major said it was only a little soldier fight and no charges would be filed.


Below is a picture of men cutting a tree, one example of manual labor.

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Their 1st Battle Assignment on James Island

They created two separate lines. One was kneeling in front of the line standing behind them. Some Confederate men, who arrived on horseback, were shot at. As soon as they were shot at, they quickly retreated. The Union was under the belief they had just won the battle. Out of nowhere, a large line of Confederate soldiers showed up. The Union had to quickly reload their guns. The Confederate Army was getting too close and now the Union Army had to use their bayonets to fight off the Confederates. Many were killed and once again the Confederates retreated. The Union had now declared victory. There was a total of 42 casualities. Thomas Searles was shot, but survived.


Below is a picture is how the soldiers were kneeling in the front and standing in the back during the first battle.

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The Massachusetts 54th Volunteers for the Attack of Fort Wagner

It was thought that this was going to be a difficult fight. Only one regiment was able to be sent at a time. They believed that this first regiment would be killed. If they would not be killed most likely severly injured. Colonel Shaw was honored to be chosen to lead the attack. He stated they would be ready for this fight. Even though they thought the outcome was bleak.


Below is a picture of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the leader of the Massachusetts 54th.

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The Attack on Fort Wagner

They marched in a slow pace in the beginning. Once the shooting started, they quickly picked up the pace. They marched in a line formation. They were trying to get to the sand walls, so they didn't shoot back. Colonel Shaw told them to take cover in the dunes until the nightfall. Once nightfall was upon them, they charged. At the sand walls, there are many obstacles and many died from injuries. There was a very steep hill and soldiers were standing at the top, shooting down upon the men climbing these hills. Colonel Shaw also tried to charge up the hill, was shot and died. Many of the men was devasted, but continued on with the fight. Once in the fort, more men died on both sides. They headed towards the middle of the fort once they made it through the front. Once they made it to the middle of the fort, they were greeted by men with cannons who fired upon them and killed them. The fort was never fully taken.


Below is a picture of a cannon, something that the Confederates had in the middle of the fort.

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The Outcome

The Confederates won the Massachusetts 54th. The Confederate Army went around and took all the deceased's shoes and socks. They only dug one large hole to throw all the dead bodies into. In the future, it was decided that more African Americans would be used in wars. They realized they were useful in many different ways. Not all the black soldiers were "dumb" as they originally believed. They were an important part of the Union Army. They were not just a number or a body.


Below is a picture of some African Americans ready for battle before the Massachusetts 54th.

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