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Before being given their back pay the entire regiment was administered what became known as "the Quaker oath". Andrew said, "I know not where, in all of human history, to any given thousand men in arms there has been committed a work at once so proud, so precious, so full of hope and glory." Colonel Shaw and his men also feature prominently in Robert Lowell's Civil War centennial poem "For the Union Dead." It was originally titled "Colonel Shaw and the Massachusetts' 54th" and published in Life Studies (1959).
In the poem, Lowell uses the Robert Gould Shaw memorial as a symbolic device to comment on broader societal change, including racism and segregation, as well as his more personal struggle to cope with a rapidly changing Boston.
270 of the 600 men who charged Fort Wagner were "killed, wounded or captured." At this battle Colonel Shaw was killed, along with 29 of his men; 24 more later died of wounds, 15 were captured, 52 were missing in action and never accounted for, and 149 were wounded.
The total regimental casualties of 270 would be the highest total for the 54th in a single engagement during the war.
General recruitment of African Americans for service in the Union Army was authorized by the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863. Stanton accordingly instructed the Governor of Massachusetts, John A.
Andrew, to begin raising regiments including "persons of African descent" on January 26, 1863.
In fact, at the Battle of Olustee, when ordered forward to protect the retreat of the Union forces, the men moved forward shouting, "Massachusetts and Seven Dollars a Month!
Instead, they were informed upon arriving in South Carolina, the Department of the South would pay them only per month ( with withheld for clothing, while white soldiers did not pay for clothing at all.) Refusing their reduced pay became a point of honor for the men of the 54th.
The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that saw extensive service in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
The unit was the first African-American regiment organized in the northern states during the Civil War.
This resulted in what he described as "a more robust, strong and healthy set of men were never mustered into the service of the United States." effectively put both African-American enlisted men and white officers under a death sentence if captured.
The proclamation was affirmed by the Confederate Congress in January 1863 and turned both enlisted soldiers and their white officers over to the states from which the enlisted soldiers had been slaves.
The new unit is now known as the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment.