The Legacy of the 54th Regiment.

Essay by chisamoreUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, July 2003

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During the Civil War traditional thoughts were perceived that black soldiers wouldn't fight. The legacy of the Fifty-fourth regiment was referred as a noble experiment. For the men of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth regiment infantry, it was a chance to contradict their white disbelievers. Their chance came when the Fifty-fourth led the Union courageously against the Confederate stronghold in South Carolina. The Fifty-fourth won the respect due to being a true fighting unit. In early 1863, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew appointed Colonel Robert Shaw, a twenty-five year old prominent abolitionist from Boston to command and organized the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts infantry. Shaw came from a wealthy and socially well-known family. His parents joined the American Anti-slavery Society in 1838 and a short time after helped runaway slaves gain their freedom. Shaw did not possess the strong anti-slavery trade of his parents however; he was very dedicated and loyal to the Union.

Shaw thought of the south as the violator, and if it took the end of slavery to restore the honor of America then he was willing to fight for it. When asked to lead this black volunteer infantry Shaw was hesitant due to the disapproval of other white ranking officers. However, after great discussion and a lot if thought he decided to take this task on.

As the word raised that the Union was forming a regiment for black troops, volunteers slowly came forward and by November of 1862 the Union had a complete regiment. As one of the first black units made up of mixed racial ancestry and runaway salves, the unit became a matter of great interest and curiosity. There had been earlier skirmishes in which black soldiers would not give in to discipline under fire. It was the courageous performance and the ability to overcome several problems...