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Four of these regiments had fought in actions connected with the Vicksburg campaign during May and June 1863, winning plaudits for their performance.But these events had received little publicity in the Northern press. those graves beneath Fort Wagner’s walls, which the American people will surely never forget.” “Through the cannon smoke of the dark night,” said the Atlantic Monthly, “the manhood of the colored race shines before many eyes that would not see.” For the New York Tribune, the assault resolved any lingering doubts: “It made Fort Wagner such a name to the colored race as Bunker Hill had been for ninety years to the white Yankees.”White officers of the 54th represented the elite of New England society.
Forced by the ocean on one side and swamps on the other to approach the fort along several hundred yards of narrow beach, the regiment moved forward steadily through bursting shells and murderous musketry, losing men every step of the way but continuing right up the ramparts and breaching the parapet before the immense strength of the works stopped them. Anti-slavery in conviction, they had willingly risked stigma and ridicule to cast their lot with a black regiment.
(The portrayal of this attack in Glory is the most realistic combat footage in any Civil War movie I have seen.)A war correspondent for the New York Tribune vividly described the battle to Northern newspaper readers. Shaw’s death made a deeper impression on Yankee culture than that of any of the other 35,000 men from New England killed in the Civil War. but the trumpet of this war sounded the call and Oh!
Therefore, despite Lincoln’s personal abhorrence of slavery, he could not willfully turn this war for the Union into a war against slavery.
Nor could his War Department accept black volunteers in the Union Army in 1861, for to do so would have sent a signal that this was to be an abolition war.
Andrew was determined to appoint officers “of firm antislavery principles . As black volunteers came into training camp near Boston during the spring of 1863, Shaw shaped them into a high-morale outfit eager to prove their mettle.
In May 1863 the 54th completed its training and marched through Boston to embark for the front (a scene nicely depicted in Glory).
The Proclamation also stated that blacks would be “received into the armed services of the United States.”These events underlay the decision of Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts to organize a black regiment, which became the 54th Massachusetts.
A bold experiment, black soldiers could be made acceptable in the context of the time only if they were commanded by white officers. superior to a vulgar contempt for color.” In Robert Gould Shaw, son of a prominent abolitionist family, he found his man.
Neither would the Democrats, who constituted nearly half of the Northern voters.
And the Constitution that the North was fighting to defend guaranteed the protection of slavery in states that wanted it.