Inside the Vault: Massachusetts 54th

On July 18, 1863, the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry led an assault against Battery Wagner on Morris Island, South Carolina. The battle demonstrated the bravery and fierce determination of African American soldiers even though they were paid less than White soldiers and were threatened with a policy of “no quarter” by the Confederates. Jermain Corbin, a history educator from South Boston joins us as we explore primary sources about the Massachusetts 54th.

Click here to download the slides from the presentation.

Classroom-ready resources for the documents presented

Use the timestamps below to jump to the topics you want to view

  • The Black Phalanx and Background on the Recruitment Black Soldiers: 2:00–6:52
  • Jefferson Davis’s Proclamation: 6:53–9:27
  • Confederate Resolution: 9:28–13:33
  • Inequality faced by Black soldiers: 13:34–14:19
  • The Black Phalanx: 14:20–15:14
  • Sargent Francis Fletcher on Equal Pay: 15:15–18:18
  • The Black Phalanx: 18:19–23:33
  • Charleston Mercury, August 7, 1863: 23:34–27:46
  • Harper’s Weekly, August 8, 1863: 27:47–34:57
  • Comparing depictions of the Battle of Fort Wagner: 34:58–44:33
  • General Hagood’s Remarks on Colonel Robert Gould Shaw: 44:34–47:44
  • The Black Phalanx: 47:45–53:34