Massachusetts 54th Exhibit

A LOOK AT THE MASSACHUSETTS 54TH ALL AFRICAN-AMERICAN UNIT

WHO WERE THE MASSACHUSETTS 54TH

This regiment were a group of black men of all different origins. Some where former slaves, hunters, or farmers. Some were even highly educated, but most could not count, and most did not know their left from their right, but Lincoln needed them. Thinking the war would not last very long, he had soldiers sign up for ninety days. Unfortunately, it lasted much longer, and they were in need of soldiers. Lincoln was fortunate to have such willing volunteers.

TRAINING OF THE MASSACHUSETTS 54TH

The army for the 54th was much more than learning to shoot and march. They had to learn left from right, how to count, and other simple tasks. These men had to endure abuse, kicking and punching. Fortunately, it proved a quick teaching method, and the men learned relatively quickly.

FACING DISCRIMINATION

You would think that these men would be put out to fight right away, but you would be mistaken. These men were put through acts of hard labor, which included cutting and carrying wood. The highest position you could could get in the army if you were black was Sergeant Major. They had crummy food, no suitable shoes or socks, and only get paid $10 instead of $13.

THEIR ARRIVAL IN SOUTH CAROLINA

On arrival in South Carolina was a hot and sweaty one. Memories of their old lives as slaves have come pouring back. A party was thrown in honor of their arrival, supposedly it was Lincoln's idea. The children who were there sang a patriotic song.

THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT IN SOUTH CAROLINA

To the 54th's knowledge, they were going so they could collect supplies. Unfortunately, the real reason happened to be that they were ransacking houses. They burned down the town, and take everything. The reason why the 54th had to do this was because when people thought back to who took their wealth, they would think of the African Americans.

NO FIGHTING, JUST MAN LABOR FOR THE MASSACHUSETTS 54TH

Although the 54th was created to be the first African American regiment, they were first sentenced to hard labor. Among the many things they had to do, they had to carry and chop wood. The white men often made fun of the African Americans, and that sometimes resulted in yelling, and even fighting.

THEIR FIRST BATTLE ASSIGNMENT ON JAMES ISLAND

The attack on James Island started at the hands of the north. The north fired first while the south came in with a small attack. They then came with a larger one. When it was impossible to shoot, they used their guns like swords, stabbing and slicing. The soldiers also used things such as sticks as clubs. The north won, but there were approximately 42 casualties.

THE MASSACHUSETTS 54TH VOLUNTEERS FOR THE ATTACK ON FORT WAGNER

It was a suicide mission. So dangerous, the bravest white man couldn't take the mission. That is why the Massachusetts 54th took the job. It was a way to prove themselves as soldiers. The plan was to take Fort Wagner with a narrow pathway. So narrow, you could only send one brigade at a time. It was the bravest thing anyone had ever seen.

THE ATTACK ON FORT WAGNER

With their arrival on the beach was very honorable. They walked in between a path formed by the white soldiers, and they encouraged the 54th. As they assemble on the beach, the drummer boys are asked to leave. There are reporters and just watchers at the edge of the battle field. The attack starts with a run down the beach, they are constantly being fired at and getting blasted in the face by sand. As they try to climb up the sand walls, they slip down, for it is hard to run on sand. The moat has wooden spikes sticking up, and men are falling on them. The commander, Robert Shaw, is sadly killed. The 54th never stopped, they continued forward through it all.

THE OUTCOME

Only a very small amount of people who were in the 54th survived. The south apparently had a small attack ready in the middle of the fort. Fortunately, the memory of their heroic action never died. They were honored, a flag raised in their honor. They are all buried underneath that flag.