The Glory of Freedom
In 1861, the United States of America was torn by Civil War. Soldiers on both sides fought bravely and wondered how long it would last.
In Massachusetts, the Governor issued a call for black men to join the army, and men came by the hundreds to join the new regiment.
“Attention!” yelled an officer. “Gentlemen,” he said, “My name is Colonel Robert Shaw. I am your commanding officer. Thank you for volunteering with the Massachusetts 54th Infantry. No one is quite sure what we will face in the days ahead. But one thing is certain…we shall fight together for freedom!”
The men cheered, and Colonel Shaw ordered everyone to report to their officers, and the men were assigned to their tents and ordered to settle in.
Training began the next day. A bugle woke the recruits at dawn. After breakfast, the recruits marched, ran, and practiced shooting their rifles. They were not used to army life, but they quickly adapted to the work and schedule.
One evening Colonel Shaw gathered his soldiers. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I just received news the Confederate Congress has said that any black man caught in army uniform will be executed. We will give full discharges in the morning to any of you who request them.”
The soldiers went back to their tents, deep in thought. Should they get out while they could or continue their stand for freedom?
The next morning, a bugle sounded the call to gather. The colonel slowly stepped forward to see who remained. He hardly believed his eyes! Not one of the soldiers had left! The entire 54th Infantry stood ready to serve!
After three months of training, they received orders to head south and join the war, but plans changed when they arrived. For weeks they cut down trees, fixed equipment, and built roads. Instead of getting upset, the men followed instructions and made the most of their situation.
Word finally came that the 54th would help attack Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina. On July 17, 1862, Colonel Shaw gathered his men together. “We will lead the attack,” he said.
Bugles and drums sounded as the Massachusetts 54th marched toward the fort. Cannon fire exploded around them as they climbed the walls of Fort Wagner. The men fought valiantly, but the defenders held their ground.
During the battle, the Massachusetts 54th Infantry lost half of its men, including Colonel Shaw. The Union Army failed to capture the fort, but those who survived the battle of Fort Wagner continued to fight with bravery and distinction.
Despite constant change and difficult times, the men of the 54th Massachusetts served their country well and stood firm—for the glory of freedom.