Civil War

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment

The 54th Regiment was comprised of free Blacks and consisted of all white officers. It was the first northern all black Volunteer Regiment. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led the 54th into the assault on Fort Wagner on July 18th, 1863 which would ensure the regiment's infamy. The assault would take the lives of 116 men, including COL Shaw. As the assault proceeded Sergeant William Carney would see the color bearer go down thus dropping the regimental flag. SGT Carney grabbed the flag and continuing to charge towards the ramparts in order to plant the flag. As he charged forward, SGT Carney was wounded and COL Shaw was shot through the heart and killed. SGT Carney would find himself alone as all his comrades had been killed around him. As the 54th was forced to retreat SGT Carney refused to leave the colors behind and continued to carry them though he was wounded another two times. As he reached Federal lines and called out "Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!" The dedication and actions of the men here helped to dispel the Union's doubts about black soldiers being able to fight.

                                                                                                               Memorial for all those that died on the assault of Fort Wagner


  • In the beginning the North and South both opposed Blacks enlisting
  • Blacks were not allowed to enlist in the Union Army until 1862
  • Over 100,000 black soldiers would enlist for the Union
  • The South used Blacks for heavy labor deemed necessary to rage war on the Union
  • Only 100 blacks were commissioned during the war
  • The end result was that six regular Army regiments of black troops were formed and led by white officers

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