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Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Civil War Regiment
Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Civil War Regiment
Resource Typeimage
TitleFifty-Fourth Massachusetts Civil War Regiment
Coverage / Year1897 to Present
DescriptionRelief sculpture by Augustus Saint Gaudens shows Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
InterpretationShortly after President signed the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans were recruited to serve on the Union side. Actually, according to Dudley Taylor Cornish's "The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army", the southern armies utilized blacks, both slave and free from the beginning of the war as cooks, servants, and laborers. Northern generals such as General Ben Butler adopted the policy of using fugitive slaves as teamsters, cooks, officer's servants, and laborers. Early in the war some generals began organizing blacks into armed regiments. The Lincoln administration was aware of these activities, but chose to ignore them. The first official black regiment was the 54th Massachusetts. Robert Gould Shaw, a white officer, who was the son of a Boston abolitionist, volunteered to lead the unit. In May 1863, the regiment marched through downtown Boston and off to war. Among the recruits were Frederick Douglass's two sons, Charles and Lewis. The 54th saw action at Fort Wagoner near Charleston. Of six hundred men, 281 were killed, wounded, missing, or taken prisoner. Shaw was killed and thrown into a ditch with his men. Soon other black regiments were in the war. Thirteen men traveled from McLean County to Massachusetts to join the 55th Massachusetts. They were mustered into service at Readville on June 22, 1863. In November black soldiers were recruited in Illinois for the 29th United States Colored Infantry Regiment. The 29th USCI regiment was organized at Quincy, Illinois on April 24, 1864, under the command of John A. Bross of Chicago. The black regiments had white officers and were sometimes paid less than the white soldiers. By the end of the war 175, 000 African Americans volunteered to serve in the Union Army and Navy. Augustus Saint Gaudens spent thirteen years completing the sculpture, which stands across from the statehouse in Boston. Source: Wagers, Scott. McLean County Blacks in the Civil War. n. p.: unpublished paper, 1993, and other sources.
Lesson Plans / ThemesAmerican Communities in History; Antebellum Society and the Civil War
Learning Standards16 History
Author or CreatorIllinois Heritage Association
Subject / KeywordsCivil War; African American; Augustus Saint Gaudens
Collection PublisherIllinois Heritage Association
Further InformationFor any further information related to this record, please contact the Collection Publisher. See for more information about this project.
Rights Management Statement
Resource IdentifierIHA00209
CONTENTdm file name31219151412003_IHA00209.jpg
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