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54th Massachusetts

When abolitionist Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts issued the Civil War's first call for black soldiers, more than 1,000 men volunteered. Most were from Union states, but one quarter of the volunteers also came from slave states and the Caribbean. As in white regiments, fathers, sons, and brothers enlisted together. Probably the most famous enlistees were Charles and Lewis Douglass, sons of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Shortly after the creation of the 54th Massachusetts, the Confederate Congress announced that every black soldier they captured would be sold into slavery and every white officer in command of those troops would be executed for encouraging what they deemed to be slave rebellion. The 54th Massachusetts gained fame for leading the attack on Fort Wagner in South Carolina and were immortalized in a memorial sculpture that now stands on Boston Common and in the 1989 film Glory.

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