History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Colored Infantry in the Civil War. The Real Story Behind the Movie Glory

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Junne describes the history behind the African Americans who fought in the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. His contention is that there are very few resources for scholars and laypeople to fully understand the impact that African-Americans had on American military history, and that this book will fill in that gap. In documenting a historiography of black oppression prior to the Civil War, Junne shows why African-Americans have been left out of the discussion, and then argues why they must be included to understand the war’s entire story.
His claim, and it is provocatively argued, is that African-American soldiers played such an important role in the Union Army that the outcome of the war would have been tipped in favor of the Confederacy had they been forbidden from fighting. What is lost in contemporary discussion of the war is that this was a hotly debated question at the time, with Lincoln deciding in favor of letting them fight which secured thousands of men (and their wives who cooked and did laundry for soldiers) which had an immeasurable impact on the war, and forever changed the future of America.


“George Junne has done a remarkable job reconstructing this history. He has meticulously combed the sources, including military records, newspaper accounts, personal and official correspondence, and a host of secondary sources. The result is a work that is in reality a melding of five interrelated and interconnected stories.”

-Prof. Cary D. Wintz,
Texas Southern University

“Junne has written a sweeping text based upon the conceit of motion pictures as a starting point for understanding history. It is detailed, readable, and just plain interesting, truly a fine contribution to our understanding of the complexities, successes, and failures of the Civil War and the contribution of black men and women to this chapter in American history.”

-Prof. Jack Ravage,
(Retired) University of Wyoming

"This work is specifically for the general reader who has an interest in black military history. The sources included in the bibliography alone, offer those searching for information on black participation in the Civil War, a treasure trove of names, dates, places, events, et al that serve as a starting place for those looking for researchable topics and questions. The book also is a primer on the collection and use of primary source documents that are the foundation of historical investigations."

-Prof. William M King,
Emeritus, Afroamerican Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder

Table of Contents

Foreword by Cary D. Wintz

Chapter 1: Massachusetts Before the Civil War
Boston’s Black Population
Slavery and Segregation in the Bay State
Black Religion and Fraternal Orders
The Fight for Equality
The Fugitive Slave Law and Emigration

Chapter 2: The War Comes to Massachusetts
Governor John Albion Andrew
The Emancipation Proclamation and its Effects

Chapter 3: Negro Soldiers in the Civil War – Early Efforts
Role of the Emancipation Proclamation
Black Attempts to Enlist in the War
Pro-Slavery and Anti-Slavery Concerns
Concerns Over the Training and Use of Black Troops

Chapter 4: Recruitment
Efforts of Generals Hunter and Sexton
Requests from Governor John A. Andrew
Frederick Douglass and Enlistment
Robert Gould Shaw, George Luther Stearns and Others
Recruitment for the 54th Begins

Chapter 5: Readville
Training at Camp Meigs Begins
Respect for Black Troops Swells

Chapter 6: The Fight for Dignity
Generals Butler, Hunter and Sherman on Black Troops
General Grant and Use of Black Troops
Various Military Opinions on Black Soldiers
General Attitudes Against Blacks

Chapter 7: From Massachusetts to Georgia
Presenting the Regimental Colors and Assignment
Reception in Boston
Journey to Hilton Head and Beaufort
Colonel James Montgomery and the Darien Incident
Saint Helena Island

Chapter 8: Fort Wagner
The 54th in Gillmore’s Army
The 54th in Action – James Island
Preparation for Fort Wagner
Leading the Charge
Wagner’s Shocking Finale

Chapter 9: Untangling the Tragedy of Wagner
Those Captured and Imprisoned
Conflictnig Accounts of the 54th at Wagner
Honoring Sergeant William H. Carney and Others

Chapter 10: Wagner’s Aftermath
The Question of Captured Black Soldiers
New Command and New Chaplain
A New Assault on Wagner
The Pay Issue and Continuing Concerns

Chapter 11: The Battle for Equal Pay
Congress Dodges the Pay Issue
The Court-Martial of Sergeant Walker

Chapter 12: The Florida Campaign
The 54th and Other Black Troops in Florida
The Battle of Olustee

Chapter 13: Marching Towards Peace
Return to Morris Island and the Pay Issue
The Battle of Honey Hill
From Pocotaligo to Charleston
The 54th Enters Richmond

Chapter 14: The Men of the Fifty-Fourth
Attempts to Define “Blackness”
Family Members As Enlistees
Home States and Occupations of Enlistees
Desertion Rates
Medical Care
Promotions and Achievements

Chapter 15: Praise and Implications
“They Buried Him with His Niggers” and “The Colored Soldiers”
Other Accolades
Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the Shaw Memorial
Dedication of the Memorial
More Praises in Song and Poetry The Return of the Massachusetts 54th


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