About the 54th

The U.S. civil war was the pivotal point in this country’s turn from slavery towards its slow growth into an inclusive society.  From the outset of the war, free northern blacks argued to be allowed to fight, but it was not until 1863, after the issuance of the Final Emancipation Declaration, that units composed of free blacks began to be formed by the U.S. government and the states.  The first of these was the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, arguably the most well-known today because of the movie Glory, and the most distinguished because of its role in the siege of Fort Wagner.

This blog presents the story of the 54th in 1863 through the words of the members of the regiment, in their letters and in excerpts drawn from the comprehensive history of the regiment written by one of its original officers.  The daily posts for the blog include the letters postmarked for the day and excerpts from the regimental history dealing with that day, together with other letters and writings from people significantly related to the regiment.  To this point, the blog opens with the January 1st, 1863 release of the final version of the Emancipation Declaration.  Most days include links to related stories which appeared in the New York Times for that day. The links point to a page in the NY Times archive which abstracts the first paragraph of the story when it is available; clicking the “View Full Article” button opens a PDF of the original article. Often, after opening the article page, one must click on the page and use both the vertical and horizontal scrollbars to navigate to the story — the PDF page is usually a snapshot of the original page with all or most of the other stories removed, leaving large patches of white space.

To the extent possible, maps, images and other relevant resources are also included. The Resources page lists useful books and links. The “JOINED ON THIS DAY” section of the sidebar lists the names of regiment members who initially signed up on that day. Clicking on a name takes you to the complete entry for that man in the regimental roster. Index tags for each post appear below the post, and a “cloud” of the most frequently used tags appears at the bottom of the right sidebar.  Clicking on a tag in either location causes all published posts tagged with the selected tag to collected and presented.