|In 1863 black soldiers were finally admitted to the Union army. The 54th Regiment became the first of its kind in the North, and was led by Robert Gould Shaw. The 54th Regiment led the battle in which Charleston, South Carolina was captured. Many from the Regiment, including Robert Shaw, were killed. Sergeant William Carney of New Bedford was wounded three times as he tried to save the American flag from Confederate soldiers. Carney was the first African American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. |
Initially the 54th Regiment was offered lower salaries that white soldiers. They refused to accept the lower pay and later received the increase.
Dedicated in 1897, many former members of the 54th Regiment, and Booker T. Washington, attended the ceremony. The monument sits across from the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Street.
The inscription on the reverse side of the monument was written by Charles W. Eliot, then president of Harvard University. The inscription reads exactly as follows:
To The 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry
The white officers taking life and honor in their hands — cast in their lot with men of a despised race unproved in war and risked death as inciters of servile insurrection if taken prisoners — besides encountering all the common perils of camp march and battle the Black rank and file volunteered when disaster clouded the Union cause — served without pay for eighteen months till given that of white troops — faced threatened enslavement if captured — were brave in action — patient under heavy and dangerous labors — and cheerful amid hardships and privations.
Together they gave to the nation and the world undying proof that Americans of African descent possess the pride courage and devotion of the patriot soldier. One hundred and eighty thousand such Americans enlisted under the Union Flag 1863-1865.
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