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Leading the Charge: The Massachusetts 54th

2012-02-20 | 🔗

A 1792 law prevented African Americans from taking up arms in the Civil War. As attitudes against blacks serving changed, black regiments were formed. But prejudices remained until the heroism of black soldiers won the attention of the nation.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey listeners. I wanted to tell you about a new podcast from my heart radio called the women hosted by read. It is Fascinating and deep dive interview show, where rose, talks, to change makers in disruptors and she finds out what really drives them. So she will ask each of them. What was your first stand and how do you navigate success and failure and really what's the cost of fighting for others? These interviews are really personal and their candid em for those there a little bit crass, but they are always really enlightening. You can listen, he's firebrands and take away lessons that will help you navigate your own life and for your own path, the debut season, pleads women like Valerie Plain, the former CIA agents who is now running for Congress and whistleblowers, the attrition, Doktor Mona Hannah, a teacher who exposed the flint water crisis and became the centre of swirling swirling amount of problems and He legendary Buffy Say Marie Sixty songwriter and activist I have personal interest in this show
his I adore rose and executive produce it and I think you're really going to enjoy the way that she gets into these relations that feel like two friends talking and they an absolute delight so subscribed to the women army. I hurt radio app on Apple podcast or wherever you get your pocket My name is severe Chemin escargot, p cordiality, and this is the peak and Sebastian POD catches a show just two guys. Hey I'm comedian, P Coralie, and I don't believe this. comedy goal: I listen to the people. Sebastian show, and I heard radio at Apple Pie Casper wherever you Peter PAN, welcome to stuff. You missed in history clouds from Catholics dot com.
Allowing workers as unfair daddy and I M going to talk or worry, and probably for the first time since our three hundred work can be talking about a subject that most of you might know better from the movie version. The fifty fourth Massachusetts Colored Infantry, We ve seen the nineteen eighty nine film glory. You know that the story covers and all african american Regiment in the civil war in their white, Colonel Robert goods who played by a barely out of Ferris Buehler, Matthew, broader egg, and, despite required, Hollywood twigs and change timeline for mean gonna sell tickets. After all, glory is considered one of the best civil war films, probably because it had shall be further. as its historical adviser and a really well respected. Cast Roderick Morgan Freeman, a young,
and though Washington actually check out the review of glory in the New York Times. Article archives- and they said he was clear- on his way to a major screen career. Indeed, the one, of course going to be talking about some of the high points featured in the film glory. The regiments parade through Boston there're pay refusal their tragic battle at Fort Wagner, but we are also going to be talking about why the fifty fourth was so remarkable in the first place and why it took until eighteen sixty three for a northern state to raise and all black regiment that last factors especially surprising when you consider African Americans fought in the revolutionary war. So why, in the civil war, when there pretty was again at stake. Were blacks not initially allowed to fight well when the war, again. Many free blacks wanted to join, but seventeen ninety two law prevented them from doing so also Northerners as a whole words in favour of it. They believed african Americans.
Unsuitable soldiers, cowardly or unintelligent, and they thought that they weren't equipped, to do anything beyond the hard labor work that was required for war, so grave digging, hauling cooking things like that, and if you listen to our episode on the stoner rebellion and if you ve, heard of other revolts Lake now Turner's is also easy to see that there was a fair amount of fear involved. It seemed a risk, almost outfit and armed black soldiers, but opinions did start to change over time, partly because the word dragged on longer than people had expected it to and fewer white men were so gung HO to go and list anymore also abolitionist started to make promoting black service a prime wartime ball. Many saw it as the natural road towards full freedom that you had to participate in, urging that freedom by fighting and one of the most famous abolition of the day, the former slave Frederick Douglass even said quote once the black man get them
On his person, the brass letters, you F a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket. There is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States. Finally, Some northern generals not all saw enlisting african american troops The way to win the war to end the war General Grant considered enlisting black troops as a definitive way to beat the confederacy. I mean it makes sense to you: have this huge minority of the population with a very strong investment in the fight? So why not let them? and let them have a go at it so by July? Eighteen, sixty two laws did start to change. To allow more black participation. Congress civil repealed in seventeen? Ninety two law, barring blocks from service they also pass thick. the station act which made all slaves of rubble masters free as soon as they crossed union lines, and they
the militia ACT which, in power the president to set out the black militias, so within them the war department, had authorize brigadier General Rufus Thaxton who can The union occupy area of South Carolina to raise five black, commence with white officers and the vote. Hearing was sluggish at first, but by November the First South Carolina Volunteer regiment was mustard under the command of Massachusetts. Abolitionists named Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higgins, in a second it was then form soon after commanded. By Colonel James, Montgomery and the first Carolina regiments quickly proved their worth. They raided Georgia, Florida and even occupy Jacksonville, and similarly organized groups of soldiers were soon find in cancer and occupied areas of Louisiana made up
free men and former slaves, so by fall. Eighteen sixty two. There were a few regiments of black soldiers and action, but so far none had been created by northern states still seem like a black army was a wave off one obstacle, of course, was the border states, President Lincoln and thankful to arm the negroes would turn fifty thousand bayonets from the loyal border states again that were four but the abolition is really continued to press their cause, as did the realities of a long worrying. I gotta have enough soldiers to fight the thing And finally, on January, first eighteen sixty three Lincoln Thymy Emancipation proclamation into law and the proclamation that Lincoln could not only remove resources from their conquered owners and laboring slaves from their conquered owners. He could use those Friedman to further his own wartime aims by turning them into soldiers. The african Americans could now enlist in
army and Navy, and the wailing can put it to grant really customs. The whole thing he said it works is doubly we, being the enemy and strengthening us, so Massachusetts seemed liquid natural place to form and all black state regiment, since it had been the heart of abolition movement for years master Governor John Andrew, who was an abolitionist himself, believed ardently that African Americans must play a part in ending southern slavery, really saw it as a moral issue like if this happens without their participation. How can we all go on with that? As the reality? where he petition Secretary of WAR, Edwin Stanton for permission to form a state regiment and was approved by the end of January. So it was officially on that point. First order of business was, of course, attracting soldiers. Massachusetts didn't. Have a large african american population at this time and according to William, see cash it just in american history, only one hundred
and volunteered in those first six. We must have been a major blow to Andrew, whose, though, excited about that prospect of forming a regiment in his state, so he decided to expand his that go beyond Massachusetts and with the help of other abolition, as he raised five thousand dollars to set up these recruiting post across the northern states, trying to draw the cream the crop in basically eventually attracting one thousand recruits he thin had enough recruits to form not only a Massachusetts. Fifty fourth but a Massachusetts. Fifty fifty two in the fifty fourth was a pretty diverse bunch as you, a as you'd figure from these recruiting posts all over the north, the fifty fourth featured men from twenty four different states, the District of Columbia, the West Indies and Africa. Twenty five percent of them had been slaves and some are pretty high profile, guys to two of Frederick Douglass. The funds for insight
in lifted. It was like a third kind of the best of the bats, were attracted to this regiment. Governor Andrew also promised potential black recruits. This wasn't a set up and white officers wouldn't be against our own men they'd be committed abolitionists with real war experience. I think the fear was that they would they would pair of the black troops with somebody who either didn't care about them. You know it's re read or somebody who just didn't know he was doing, and that would certainly speak to how much you cared about your regimented, put them with a poorly trained officer. We'll Governor Andrews Peck ended up being Captain Robert Gould Shaw, the twenty five year old son of Abolitionist Frances and Fair shot and shell Father was an extremely wealthy former merchant from Boston who had retired early to West Roxbury for an academic life, translating literature in Chicago attending top schools around New York in Europe and was seen as a private when the war started and fun loving.
To discipline, as he was shot really thrived in the army, where he was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant and finally, a cat. and with the second regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry, he saw act and was wounded twice, so he had a bullet this crowd on one hand He also had war experience. On the other hand, and together when you put the two together, he seems like the perfect candidate till the US. Fifty four had just the kind of guy that Governor Andrew was looking fire, but when she always offered the command delivered purse, we from the governor two shots father. So here's thieves this this offer from his own father. He didn't jump at the chance and he had a few reasons for for doing that. For one thing he liked his kind gig he liked being a captain with the Massachusetts
I for one thing he liked his kind gig. He liked being a captain with the mass cheese that second, second, he wasn't thrilled at the idea of what would undoubtedly be a very high profile, controversial and likely unpopular job no longer eyes would be on him and then, most surprisingly, he was really that much of an abolition personal beliefs weren't as strong as those of his parents, hey listeners, I wanted to tell you about a new podcast from my heart. Radio called the women hosted by read. It is fascinating and deep dive interview show where rose talks, to change makers in disruptors and she finds out what really drives them. So she will ask each of them what was Your first stand and how do you navigate success and failure and really what's the cost of fighting for others, These interviews are really personal and their candid em for those there a little bit crass, but they are always really enlightening. You can listen firebrands and take away lessons that will help you navigate your own life and for your own path. The debut season
please women, like Valerie Plain, the former CIA agents who is now running for Congress and whistleblowers. the attrition Doktor Mona Hannah, a teacher who exposed the flint water crisis and became the centre of swirling, swirling amount of problems and he legendary Buffy, say Marie Sixty songwriter and activist I have personal interest in this show his I adore, rose and executive produce it and I think, you're really going to enjoy the way that she gets into these relations that feel like two friends talking and they an absolute delight, so subscribed to the women Army, the hurt radio app on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast
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flight at you know they wasn't. It wasn't about slavery for him. According to a rustle Duncan book on shore in one eighteen, fifty eight letter Shaw actually, to his mother quote. I don't talk and think slavery all the time It's likely that it will shawls mother who finally urged him to accept the offer that his letter to future wife. Any Haggerty suggest that he also had glory on his mind as a motivator. He said quote, you know, Many eminent men consider a negro army of the greatest importance to our country at this time if it turns out So how fully repaid the pioneers in the movement will be for what they may have to go through I feel convinced I shall never regret having taken this step as far as I myself am concerned for awhile was undecided. I felt ashamed of myself as if I were cowardly, so whatever his reasons Shaw did ultimately accept the commission and he was promoted to colonel and from air he oversaw the training of his men at a camp near Boston. But one important thing to remember here:
of the officers in the unit, not just Shaw. We're way in many of them started. Working with pretty stereotypical views of their soldiers, then, shall we certainly included in it. he would use racial names on raining home to his parents. He expressed his surprise at how intelligent his men were things that I'm a little Ikey now when you read them today about working together do eventually foster a sense of unity between the soldiers and the officers, especially since both of them both and off theories were under intense scrutiny from white soldiers. Friends. when the man who had been promised fair pay at recruitment were only offered ten dollars per month, which was three dollars. Less than white soldiers were paid. Shaw, wrote to the winner vowing, that the whole regiment, including him, would refuse payment until it was fair and equal and we're gonna talk about that pay question a little bit.
later it's kind of overshadowed by later events that the fifty fourth go through, but it's one of their most important contributions to the war. And the bravery of both the man and the officers was also tested long before they even left mean grounds shortly after muster the Confederate Congress passing stating that any black soldier, or way off commanding black soldiers would be summarily executed if caught behind rebel lines. For that something, that's gonna certainly strengthen the ties between the officers and men and fell through the development of the fifty. Fourth, though, as we felt it was under intense scrutiny, but it was off the kind of a spectator sport almost about three thousand people ended up visiting them to watch the training and Frederick Douglass start by not she's depriving if it sends where were involved, but also the people came by to watch their progress. People were interested in it invested
but by May eighteen sixty three. It was time for the men to to ship out to get going and on the eighteenth governor Andrew himself delivered be regimental flags to Shaw, and they got there first assignment, which was going only strengthen the ties between the earlier and men. In that were in Kansas, were in Louisiana they're, going to really be in the thick of things procession through the Boston Harbour included a march through downtown and review in front of the governor before they boarded a shit found for Port Royal Island, South Carolina reporting to the department of the South for duty so what was going on in South Carolina this time they were attacks on Charleston, vacations, mostly, but now Shaw's learn. They were met with a bitter disappointment of manual labour, which they what this was post and not be a valid they showed up and they had to do some ditch digging, so it seemed like they were back to square one. Your wagon, through all this training, all this path
tree and just go back to digging ditches, though the fifty fourth and get the any action until June. Eighth when they joined the troops of Colonel James, Montgomery and his all african American Second South Carolina Regiment, even the fellow there. First taste of soldiering, with pretty much disappointment, Shaw and his men under the command of Karl Montgomery, were ordered to plunder and burn. This tiny town in Georgia called Darien. It's a bit north of Brunswick and shop with deeply disturbed with the order to burn down this defenceless, pretty unimportant town and afterward wrote to his superiors about the incident, knowing that writing about talking about it like this could mean disciplinary action, verbs speaking up
Ultimately, though, the officer who commanded Montgomery to sack the town was not long after relieved at his command by Lincoln, so maybe it was worth it for four shot a speaker. Finally, though July succeed, the fifty four I saw the time of action. They had been hoping for all long, not ditch digging, not burning down people's homes or businesses, but actual soldiering yeah. They do The white troops on James Island near Charleston, carrying Selves well ensured the safer tree of the tenth Connecticut Infantry after surprise, confederate attack, one Connecticut sold. Even wrote home to his mother that the fifty fourth had quote fought like heroes. So short Brigade Commander General George. These strong had about how well the men had done on James Island and Asher. If he led an attack on Fort Wagner on Morris Island, one of the strategic defenses of Charleston Harbor. So he was all for This was a great opportunity for then she had been angling for this assignment
he and his men as well as strong, saw it as a great honor. It was an honour to to leave here. Talk like that, but not everybody saw it that way The vision commander, Major General Truman Seymour only agreed to strong request because he saw the fifty fourth as disposable suffer him his. It was not a privilege to give. these men, though the honour of leading the attack against the for they were just cannon fodder and he would just assume dispose of them. First, the geography for it was. There may be a thought, especially tricky and organ, and have to explain it a little bit for the attack. It fell to make sense, though, from afar the earthen work for really looked conflict, fanned hills, inside? There were one thousand three hundred men from the North Carolina fifty first and thirty first and some South Carolina artillery man. So it's very well defended
and since it was in the middle of a dandy peninsula, the for it was only open to direct his thought on one side, which happened to be this tiny little sliver of sand. That was between the surf and the marsh mean if you ve ever been If the sea, I ll and few, can kind of imagine the terrain in the less developed areas, though this meant that the charge would have to be led in waves cause. They only have that tiny flavour of land to work on and they could only fit a few men shoulder to shoulder on the shore to run ahead, though, all through the day on the eighteenth, the union artillery shells for Wagner you hoping to weaken it
and for the little that by early evening, Shaw and six hundred of his men had group themselves into two wings made a five companies than they were using the surface, their guide to the fore, but before the charge Shaw told them, the eyes of thousands will look on what you do tonight. He handed over his personal effects to civilian. He had made friends with knowing full but he was Paulie not gonna. Come back from this charge that using his words for Moldovan Shun, they built to a full spread across the sand and made it all the way to the fort under heavy fire, Major Louis Douglas wrote that quote not a man flinched though it was a trying, time would explode and clear space of twenty feet. Our men would close up again, Shaw the charge until he was shot dead at the parapet. The flag of a mistake lag in the parapet, but the men only had the fort for a short time before being forced to it,
some were shot by advancing friendly fire when they did so twenty three zero. sergeant, William Carney by this point, shot in the head chest arm and a leg grabbed the flag on his way out, delivering it back to the union lines, and for this he became the first of twenty one, black man during the war to win the medal of honor. Other men, of course, couldn't make that retreat and became prisoners Mina. Maybe they were too wounded to be able to get out sergeant. Robert J Simmons, for instance, was shot in the arm taken prisoner and died later in a Charles. asked banal and if you listen to our earlier episode on the new draft riot, this will really resonate with you, but when storming the four he hadn't know that only three days earlier, New York draft riders had attacked his mother and sister there and beat his seven year old, nephew to death. So one of the programme is tragedies of the fifty four later waves of soldiers couldn't
the four either though you know it wasn't just the fifty fourth trying to China. Take it over all one thousand: five hundred fifteen union men were killed, wounded or went missing with two hundred fifty six of them from the fifty fourth, which was the highest regimental casualty number among the participating regiment falling. We have some exciting news yeah I am while
cited and people will have another opportunity to watch. We cry at art, yeah you set out its so called at its that not a calm situation at all. Our trip to Paris last year was really successful. Set were doing another similar trip this year, but this time to Roman Florence, its May fourteen through twenty first twenty twenty and like last time, it is with a company called defined destinations who is playing out this ultra for us yeah enduring Thou week long trip. We are gonna, see some of the great art that we have talked about on the show many times, including the glandular David. We are going to go to Tuscany, we're gonna visit, say Peters Basilica. We are going to the Sistine Chapel, so it's going to be a fantastic trip, even get the whole list of places that we are going and information about looking at defined destiny.
patients, dot com, scroll down to the roman foreign strip, was stuffy, miss than history glass or come over to our social media. We have posts about it. There too. I just realized that the first letter of every line of this rumour spells help me. It seems like everyone's accredit these days was in the world with our slightest opinions on our own many platforms, I'm scotch benefits and I break handling this February. Tenth comes citizen critic, abide CAS where we predict the critics and review the reviews of everything from movies, music and television to toasters, toiletries and pink colors will hear from the experts. Here's my review com is a hard lesson, as are undermining today's spend some of these. The adult go see at zero scar, as well as from all the citizen critics out there. So,
loved our experience here, because I read other views beforehand and did not stay eat dinner or officially toward her listen do citizen critic on the ice, heart, radio, F, apple pie, guests or wherever you get your bike, militarily. The mission was considered a failure. Scouting had been sub par. That was one reason why the fort hadn't been adequately guns and the men leading the charge. The fifty fourth had never practised storming. where's lower. A lot of things were keen against. Like the obvious fly to you, I mean that they were able to even make it now things uprising when you know that they have been able to practice that the discipline in the bravery of the fifty fourth was duly noted a month after the disaster Grant wrote to Lincoln Embassy, and even more startling figure, though blacks made up less than one percent of the north.
nation at the start of the war. By the end of the war, they made up a ten percent of the army. So what ultimately happened to the fifty four in a union army and they weren't regiments of grave digger. Their cloaks are laborers but regiments of soldiers than by the words and about a hundred and eighty thousand black men had thought burns documentary on the civil war includes, and even more startling figure, though blacks made up left one per cent of the northern population at the start of the war by the end of it or they made up to ten percent of the army. So what ultimately happened to the fifty? Fourth, after that fateful battle While this battle pretty much tore the regiment apart, it wouldn't fight in another major engagement again and it took until March, sixty five for Congress.
In order that the man who had now and paid for eighteen months to be compensated retro actively for their service Shaw, with very with his men, in a pet, at these site of Fort Wagner as a sign of disrespect, but when his father and where he was learned how he was very. He thought he was pleased that his son had been buried with his men on the field where he fell even prevented later attempts to relocate Shaw's body and so with his failing, but definitely assuring his legacy with act like that, it's no surprise Shaw became kind of a martyred you're after the fact, and if you take a closer look at his letters which contain as strange own war put that racism condescending language, you know it may have affected that reputation a little bit, but certainly not during the lifetime of his men. I think that's an important thing to consider. He wasn't, he wasn't reduced in their eyes. It seems only two weeks after the attack
and Fort Wagner, one of his sergeants had written quote, I still feel more eager for the struggle than I ever yet have four. I now wish to have revenge for our gallant, colonel in the built blood of our captain. We expect to plant the stars and stripes on the city of Charleston that of the fifty fourth quickly began raising money for their colonels memorial, hoping to build something Morris Island. Stared wound up sponsoring a school for emancipated children in South Carolina, which was named for Shaw, while Boston listen ass, raise money for a monument in their city by eighteen. Eighty, four, Commission was given to us to? Thank God into, is the biggest american sculptor of that day and he finished his work. eighteen. Ninety seven, the last summer, we must, I think, gardens for elevating Shaw above his man on horseback and for a model in the black soldiers from life subject instead of old photos, its generally considered a brilliant memorial, Alister, Luke's
The curator of sculpture at the National gallery of art calls it quote and knock out the name think on might ring a bell for some of you guys to we meant, TIM, or rather David Mccullough mentioned him a bit and our interview with him. Here, another referendum side note to show her isn't the only family member with a memorial, his sister Josephine Sharia LAW, who was the Social Reform the first woman to earn a public memorial in New York City. For there you, about this store in a way it is heroic and I can definitely see the the outcome is positive that African Americans are able to fight when they want. but the three really kind of bothered me in a way to it, took such an epic failure to catch people's attention and cheese, smiling that that disturbed me that it took Thelma ends
the other things the fact that they didn't get paid. I mean there's a lot that doesnt quite set There are about all the details of the story on another thing to consider. Two black soldiers had already fought admirably at Port Hudson militants banned by this point. Neither of them really receive much coverage, so it's almost like it took something this horrible. This disaster is to catch people's attention and in That doesn't bother me and I think, if you want to learn a little bit more about the flight or life depending on how you look at it as a black soldier. There's some great referred food that the National Park Service has online, really fantastic accounts of the history of african American in the military and civil war. Another resource, I might recommend, is the mass she's, its historical society. They have portrait of many of the men of the fifty fourth, I think one criticism of this story some time
that you have Shaw, he's a well defined figure and very much tied up with the regiment, but its harder to get as detailed personal stories from many of the men of the regiment. It is, after all, a company of man. You know it's a large group of people, but the mask use its historical that piety, does have portrayed portraits of the little drummer boys and staff who look like they're in their very early teens at the older than I think for me that helped put a little personality behind the men of the regiment
I just saw that's good to know. That's one thing I thought of tea while going through this is that, although we did have a couple of quotes and hear from soldiers, but it would have been nice to know a little bit more about the individuals who fought- and I think that a good place to start and to learn a lot more about african American serving in the word, though, if you guys have any other suggestions of of other reverses relating to the mask Fourth or any comments on the movie glory. What you thought of it, any historical inaccurately. As I know it, I love to talk about those of you. Can email throughout history podcast at discovery, dot com, also on twitter in history, and we are in Facebook and while you're looking for inaccuracies and glory, you can also check out some. historical inaccuracies in movies, and I thought ten article
We have on our website, called ten historically inaccurate movie appropriately enough, and you can that by visiting our Homepage W W W done how stuff works startup restored to check out our new video part gas stuff from the future joint house to work as we explore the most promising and perplexing possibilities of tomorrow. The house efforts has arrived download it today on Itunes. I dont think America has ever gone back to the way that it was before the DC sniper. The gunman likeliest, filled marksman fired six times in the course of sixteen hours, the police say they have never had a crime. Quite like this.
It is quite a mystery and then, as the DC sniper case, unfolded that terror boldly grew. This was the most intense man Hunt in american law enforcement. History, listen to monster DC, sniper on the eye hard radioactive apple podcast, or wherever you get your packets dear young, pod cast coming of age story about finding a home and rock music and learning to flourish in your own. Weird way. It's also a series of letters of advice to my young herself ass. She navigates ashes, adolescence seals with social anxiety body issues, relationships and discovers a transformative power during wrapper, comes from double Elvis productions is created and hosted by each also and executive produced by Jake Brennan of disgrace, land, listen dear young rocker. On the I hurt, radio, app apple pie costs or wherever you get your podcast