Massachusetts 54th Exhibit


Who were the Massachusetts 54th

The Massachusetts 54th was the first all African-American military unit. It was made up of former slaves, educated Northerners, and poor African Americans. Lincoln was running out of soldiers to fight, and needed the support of the African American population.

Training of the Massachusetts 54th

The volunteers were for the most part uneducated. They had to be taught basic marching, counting, and the alphabet.

Facing Discrimination

The 54th were often discriminated against. They were goaded and looked down upon. They were denied proper shoes, uniforms, and proper pay.

Their arrival in South Carolina

The 54th's arrival in South Carolina was a big deal. As it was a Southern state, it was reminiscent of the reason they fighting in the first place. The oppressed lives of their countrymen was the reason they joined.

Their 1st Assignment in south carolina

Their first assignment was something of an eye-opener. They were told they were going to a nearby town to pick up a shipment of supplies. When they reached the town, the other African-American regiment was ordered to pillage the town and steal their belongings. The Massachusetts 54th was against the unnecessary violence but Shaw complied in order to stay in control of his regiment.

No fighting, just manual labor for the massachusetts 54th

They 54th was deployed for the majority of the stay in South Carolina to complete manual labor. They were charged with clearing forest, and hauling supplies.

Their 1st battle assignment on james island

Their first battle experience went well. Their line shooting skills weren't great, but they excelled at hand-to-hand. They won the battle with minimal casualties.

The Massachusetts 54th volunteers for the attack on fort wagner

The attack on Fort Wagner proved to be an exercise in frustration. The Army needed a regiment to volunteer to go first, as the strip of land they were invading through had only enough room for 1 regiment. The Massachusetts 54th volunteered to go first. This was seen as an act of incredible bravery. This regiment was going to experience heavy casualties.

The attack on fort wagner

The attack on Fort Wagner went worse than expected. The 54th suffered heavy casualties, and General Shaw died. They succeeded in overtaking the Fort's walls, but they did not succeed in taking the Fort.

The Outcome

The members of the Massachusetts 54th were heavily decorated after the attack on Fort Wagner. It jump-started the further enlistment of African Americans in the army. Lincoln called this event "the turning point of the war".