54th Regiment Essay

Topic The topic of this paper is the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Colored Infantry commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw during the Civil War. Question Why was the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer important during the Civil War? Structure and Sources This paper will first include the prelude to the 54th Volunteer Mass Regiment and how they started. This first section will include the history behind regiment and volunteer black regiments during the Civil War. It will also contain the origins of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and how he came to command the 54th.

The important sources for are Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, A History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Colored Infantry of the Civil War, A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the 54th Massachusetts 1863-1865, A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, and One Gallant Rush. The letters from Shaw in his early days will help with his background and provide primary source material for his preCivil War life as well as his initial military experiences Regiment.

The collection of documents: A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States will provide a brief history of black volunteers for regiments like the 54th. One primary source is a journal article from a medic in the 55th Volunteer Regiment titled Practicing Medicine in a Black Regiment: The Civil War Diary of Burt G. Wilder, 55th Massachusetts which provides another perspective from an individual in the medical field towards black regiments in the Civil War.

A secondary source titled Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008, helps to explain how and why blacks joined or did not join the Union for battle. This paper will use both biographies from Fredrick Douglass in order to establish the connection between black leaders during the Civil War and how they feel about the 54th. The next section will be a summary about the 54th Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War and will include notable figures within the regiment as well as important battles. This brief section will include what the 54th did in the Civil War.

Important sources for this section are A Brave Black Regiment, A Voice of Thunder, On the Altar of Freedom: Letters by Corporal lames Gooding, A History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Colored Infantry of the Civil War, a casualty list of the 54th Volunteer Regiment, and several other secondary sources covering the entire history of 54th. All of these resources will give ample explanation for the experiences of the 54th as a whole as well as individuals. The most important section of the essay is the answer to the question: why the 54th Mass was important?

Although this seems like a broad question in relation to a specific regiment in the Civil War, the importance of the regiment is multifaceted. This paper seeks to find the 54th Mass Volunteer Regiment’s importance to race relations, military effectiveness, politics, and more that has yet to emerge from the research. There are a multitude of current sources that will help with this part of the paper. A Brave Black Regiment is a first-hand primary source account of the 54th from the eyes of Captain Luis F. Emilio, an officer that served with the 54th from 1863 to 1865.

Captain Emilio provides over two years of first-hand experiences including letters from two other officers, Lieutenant John Ritchie, Captain Lewis Reed, Lieutenant Colonel H. N. Hooper, and several other officers and non-commissioned officers. A Voice of Thunder is a firsthand account from George E. Stephens who not only served as a non-commissioned officer in the 54th, but recruited Northern blacks to the Union cause and the 54th Volunteer.

The editor states in his preface that “George E. Stephens was the most important black correspondent of the Civil War. ” This is an important perspective from the view of a lack non-commissioned officer in the Civil War experiencing the troubles of not only war, but racism from Union soldiers. The Occupation of Jacksonville, February 1864 and the Battle of Olustee: Letters of Lt. C. M. Duren, 54th Massachusetts Regiment, U. S. A. is an important journal article from an officer other than Colonel Shaw in the 54th Mass. This journal article contains letters that Lt. C. M. Duren wrote to his mother and father in February 1864 in the field during battle. These letters shed light on how the 54th performed during battle and how an officer felt about his soldiers.

The secondary sources History of Black Americans, Where Death and Glory Meet, and Hope & Glory also provide several historian’s essays and views on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment as well as, in the case of Where Death and Glory Meet, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. The early findings from the preliminary research are the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment was important for only the other regiments that interacted with them in the beginning of the war, but eventually, towards the end of the Civil War, especially with news of the assault on Fort Wagner, they began to gain recognition.

The 54th also was important in bringing the issue of pay equality to light early on in history. In relation to Colonel robet Gould Shaw, preliminary research shows that Shaw was anxious about commanding this mostly-black regiment due to his image and his indifference towards blacks. The “so what? ” to this paper is that the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment was one of the first all-black fighting forces in the Civil War. They gained more recognition than most other regiments.

In a society that claims to have many race problems, these regiments, especially the 54th, are important to study for everyone regardless of stance and political party. This is important to see how far the military has come and the origins of racial integration in the military. Shaw is important to study because he truly was able to lead his men and gain their respect, a lesson that modern day military leaders could study in order to better the military. Overall, the 54th Mass and its importance during the Civil War is crucial in understanding race in the Union Army during the Civil War.