During the American civil an infantry called the 54th Massachusetts volunteer infantry was formed. This unit mainly was formed for the purpose of recruiting black African men into the military as soldiers for the first time and by then the North was still fighting the South. This would encompass or be derived from the free black population at the time who had already been freed form slavery although they were not that many yet. The unit was formed by the then governor of Massachusetts who at the time was a one John Andrew; he had been a long time advocate for the formation of black regiments but with no avail and the law didn’t exactly allow it up to that point in time which had been enabled through the declaration of the emancipation proclamation by the then secretary of state who was called Edwin Stanton.
This led to the formation of the first black regiment in the north. It primarily comprised of soldiers from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. And this was of prime importance in relation to the future of blacks as it was just after the emancipation proclamation by Abraham Lincoln and they were other black regiments but from the south hence in the North their future mainly depended on their conduct as the other regiments who had been formed were mainly on support roles but not the full scale of the war. The regiment was formed in 1863 and it lasted for about three years to the year 1865 by which at that time the civil war was coming to an end. Their had been other regiments but this was the first one made up of ex slaves form the north as the others comprised some doing other duties but comprised African Americans from the southern states. This paper seeks to answer the following question, who were and what is the 54thn Massachusetts volunteer infantry?
Due to the fact that the idea of introducing black army officers in the military was quite new and they were not sure if the whole process was going to work, there were no funds set aside for the exercise so it was done on a voluntary basis and the support being given by the wealthy people who were abolitionists or the getting rid of slavery. So the wealthy people or families were counted to support this exercise financially and this resulted in the seeking of popular black leaders to support the movement by first allowing their sons to join and by this showing their degree of commitment to the cause like a one Douglass Frederick who at the time was among the more renowned abolitionists. With such support both from the white and black communities the process began and it was selected that Colonel Robert Shaw could lead the regiment which was then selected as a tactic as he was the son of a prominent and wealthy white family who supported the abolitionists but also a Harvard graduate and this could have easily united the two communities.
Under his leadership they marched out of Boston where they were based amid cheers from crowds who supported them as they went to board ships that took them to Carolina and on the edge of the battle. Before he led them to one of the battles he told them that they needed to prove themselves as the world was watching to see how good or bad they were or if the declaration signed by Lincoln was justified or not which could have proved right the confederation and what they stood for which was to avoid the abolishment of slavery as the blacks were inferior and could never be equal. The recruitment process was mainly carried out by abolitionists who were mainly white and wealthy and the same time provided assistance to the regiment by providing blankets, boots and other stuff which are basic needs like food while they went to the bases. The process included advertising through the newspaper that was available then and through mass rallies that encouraged the same especially black men who have been released to join.
Some of the issue encountered in the formation of the 54th regiment was mainly the issue of resources and racism. As far as the emancipation proclamation had been declared by then to some especially the white who still believed that the black Americans lacked intellectual capability to perform well, in the battle. This was a result of many believing that to begin with the blacks had brought about the war due to the declaration and deeply resented this factor. Another issue of prime importance was the lack of financial resources where there union lacked enough resources to form the regiment but this was quickly solved as the strong abolitionists did everything in their power to make this a success and prove to the critics that black Americans were equal in the society and would serve in any capacity hence moral support was offered to the recruits along with other needs that they required in the camp. Also they provided funds through contribution that was used for training and the rest for equipment. Due to a lot of support offered it results in a large turnout of young men and this was in surplus hence introduction of medical criteria to select those qualified where the really physically fit young men were selected but the main cause of this was that those enrolling to join were mainly ex-slaves who wanted to fight and free those who were still in slavery.
This resulted in a regiment of physically well built or athletic soldiers in the army as is portrayed because not many men from this regiment died during this war as was the case at the time due to poor medical aid and lack of enough resources.
Another issue that raised queries was in relation to the payment packages offered. Here the problem became cause of the factor of whites being paid more than the black American soldiers and yet the duties performed were the same. This was a fact as white soldiers were paid about three more dollars than black Americans who were paid about 10 dollars per person. This was as a major issue cause one of the promises given during the recruiting process was that the pay would be equal while in fact it was a lot les as a further 3$ was deducted from their pay as the expense that catered for uniforms. Though this was corrected a few years later when the congress changed that and leveled the pay. And later in the war the officers refused to take the lower pay from the state as a honor to signify that they no longer inferior but equal and taking this would surmount to them accepting inferiority but by around this time its when the congress also passed a bill that gave them equal pay and without any deductions.