The Massachusetts 54th Exhibit
Who were the Massachusetts 54th?
Here below is a picture of the Massachusetts 54th. The Massachusetts 54th was an African American troop lead by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. They were never meant to go out into battle, Lincoln needed them only for numbers. They were not treated the same as white soldiers and were taunted by other troops. These soldiers proved several people wrong and fought with pride.
Training of the Massachusetts 54th
Here below is a picture of the 54th's training Major. Sergeant Major Mulcahy is the Irish Sergeant that trained these men. Before their training they did not know the difference between left and right. This Sergeant yelled rude comments in their faces, hoping to make them stronger. These men learned very fast. When they received their guns they acted like children and pretended to shoot at each other. They thought that they were really good at shooting but Colonel Robert Gould Shaw yelled in their faces, shooting his gun behind their ears, and shouting in their faces to go faster to give them the feel of battle. They were really struggling and were really shaky during this. The Irish Sergeant used the same type of teaching for bayonet training as he did for marching. He calls them weak and makes them cry to toughen them up.
Here below is an example picture of how they were discriminated. They were promised $13 for fighting in the war. When payday rolled around they were only given $10 because they weren't white. At first they were just doing labor thinking that eventually they were going to get in battles but originally that wasn't planned. Their feet were raw from their non supportive shoes and socks (if they had them). The guy who holds all the supplies for the soldiers had told Colonel Robert Gould Shaw that the shoes and socks weren't supplied for the African Americans. Colonel Shaw forced the guy to give them extra socks and new shoes so their feet could recover.
Their 1st Assignment in South Carolina
Below is a picture of the Massachusetts 54th's first assignment. They were first told they had to go in and get supplies. When they eventually got there they were told they were to liberate the town. They were ordered to shoot at the houses and raid them. They went inside their homes and took the citizens person stuff outside and destroyed all of their belongings. If there were and silver, gold or anything that was valuable they took it back to the camp with them. After they were done, they started to burn the buildings.
No Fighting Just Manual Labor for the Massachusetts 54th
Here below is a picture of what it would've looked like during their manual labor. These men were so excited to get into battle but they made them do manual labor instead. They were forced to cut down trees to clear out the areas for their camps. They also had to dig holes.
Their 1st Battle Assignment on James Island
Below is a picture of their first assignment on James Island. They did better than they were expected to be and ended up working really fast. The first time the Massachusetts shot at the other side and the other side turned away! They ended up coming back, like a time out. They were very polite and waited until each side was ready to shoot, but just like the first time they were fast and held strong. They used the same procedure the Irish Sergeant had taught them during their training.
The Massachusetts 54th Volunteers for the Attack on Fort Wegner
Below here is a picture of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw getting ready to volunteer them. They volunteered to be the first wave to basically take all the bullets so a second wave could come in and raid Fort Wagner. The first group was not likely to survive. They would leave at dusk for an advantage. It was really dangerous for this first group. Not only do they take all the bullets, but they have no where to go. They have the ocean on one side, they are running on sand, and Fort Wagner is up above them, shooting at them.
The Attack on Fort Wegner
Below is a picture of the attack on Fort Wagner. The African Americans of Massachusetts 54th spent their last night singing and making music together. They showed all of their emotions and made each other feel better by praying. In the morning their march to the beach was very quiet at first. All the white soldiers were there to respect them. All of a sudden they all started yelling for them and taking their hats off to show respect for them. During the assemble on the beach they looked very nervous. Out of no where the Massachusetts 54th started yelling for Colonel Shaw and they stand proud and tall for who they were. Colonel Shaw gave them a speech and off they went. They started slow down the beach at first and then started into a jog. Once the men in Fort Wagner started shooting at them they sprinted. They were ordered to take cover in the dunes. They were there until dark and the Confederates still hadn't stopped shooting at them. After that, they charged. As they got closer it was an easier target for the Confederates. There were pointy sticks set up to slow them down and then water they had to go through to get to the walls of the Fort, making it even easier for the Confederates to hit them. Colonel Shaw was killed and it made the Massachusetts 54th take stronger charge and shoot at the Confederates. They get up and try to fight them.
Below is an example of the outcome of the battle. The Confederates had defeated the Massachusetts 54th taking the win. When the Union was cleaning up the bodies of the 54th they took their weapons, shoes, and socks to reuse. All of the men were all put into just one big hole on the sand where it happened, without a tombstone. Fort Wagner was never taken by the Union.
The Impact the Massachusetts 54th
Below is a picture of the Massachusetts 54th and them standing proud of who they are which created an impact. The impact these men made were that they proved white soldiers wrong. They proved that African Americans can fight just as hard as a white soldier and can learn just as well. They eventually would be the reason that Lincoln would allow more African American regiments to go out and fight for the Union.