May 28 – The 54th Infantry

On May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry departed for combat. The 54th was the first African-American regiment created after Abraham Lincoln authorized the recruitment of free blacks and former slaves into the military.

The Civil War was originally based upon the goal to reunite the severed states; to not allow the United States to tear itself apart. Ending slavery was not a stated objective. As the war progressed, and with the Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves free in the Confederacy, ending slavery became the heart of the Civil War. The men of the 54th regiment, a volunteer regiment, not only fought to end slavery but stood up for other injustices as well. White soldiers were getting paid $3 more a week. The entire regiment refused to accept their wages until wages of white and black soldiers were equal. This only happened once the war was almost over.

The regiment performed heroically, in the frontal assault of Fort Wagner in 1863, took 40 percent casualties, an event immortalized in the film, Glory.

Questions:

  1. Why do you think African-Americans were originally not allowed to serve in the army?
  2. Thinking about the excerpt in the clip, how important do you think it was for African-Americans, that they could fight  and die  to eliminate slavery? What difference did it make?
  3. The military has been the institution often called upon to lead the way in integrating outsiders into the country  whether it be former slaves or immigrants. Why do you think this is? Do you think it is the best institution for this task?
Image Citation:

18 May, 2018, Morgan Freeman in Glory, Dec. 15, 1989, . Retrieved from <google.com>.