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54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was one of the first official black units in the U.S. armed forces. Led by the white officer Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment was met with disdain by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who accused President Lincoln of encouraging a black revolt. Though promised equal pay, the black soldiers were initially paid less than their white counterparts. The 54th Regiment refused to collect their unequal payment, and Congress eventually relented. The regiment suffered several hundred casualties at the battle of Fort Wagner, but established a reputation for heroism and helped to significantly bolster the Union’s recruitment of black troops.

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This program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural Program.