On January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was given by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. In the Emancipation Proclamation it stated, “Such persons (African American Men) of suitable condition, will be received into the armed forces of the United States.” After the proclamation was delivered, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry was formed. Prior to their first engagement on the battlefield, the infantry was then forced to destroy a town in Georgia by Colonel James Montgomery. Although, the 54th involvement with this raid was very small their leader, Colonel Robert Shaw, was furious that his men were used in the raid on an innocent town. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s first engagement on the battlefield was on July 16th. This battle occurred on James Island, South Carolina. The 54th prevented a Confederate attack but lost a total of 47 men in the process. The Infantry is most remembered for their attack on Fort Wagner, on July 18, 1863, near Charleston, South Carolina. The 54th Infantry suffered tremendous losses in their attack on Fort Wagner when 272 out of 600 men were captured, wounded, or killed. Colonel Shaw was killed along with his men at this battle. Under the leadership of Colonel Edward Hallowell, following the death of Colonel Shaw, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry fought at the Battle of Olustee. They then attacked the Confederate Army in November, 1864 at the Battle of Honey Hill. Their final battle was the Battle of Boykin’s Mill in April of 1865 which helped ushered in the end of the Civil War. These brave men volunteered and were willing to sacrifice everything to bring to pass freedom for all men.
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry contributed much to the Civil War through their determination and valor. These men sought to deliver freedom to through their willingness to volunteer and fight under the cause of freedom. After the Infantry’s brave attack on Fort Wagner many people witnessed this attack and it helped solidify this unit in the minds of many as a brave and honorable group of men. Word spread of their valor at Fort Wagner and it caused other African Americans to enlist. The enlistment of African American soldiers led to more soldiers fight on the Union side. President Lincoln said that the enlistment of African American soldiers was key in acquiring total victory in the Civil War. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry showed the South that African Americans wanted their own freedom very