GOVERNOR PATRICK CELEBRATES THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF MASSACHUSETTS’ 54TH REGIMENT
BOSTON – Thursday, July 18, 2013 – Governor Deval Patrick today honored the famed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment at a ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Wagner in Charleston, S.C.
Governor Patrick, joined by descendants of the officers and soldiers and flanked by the color guard of the 54th Regiment, then laid a wreath in honor of the bravery of the first black regiment from the North in the Civil War 150 years ago.
The 54th Massachusetts Regiment was officially authorized by the War Department in January 1863 and was composed primarily of free black soldiers. The Regiment was recruited by Governor John Andrew, Frederick Douglass and other abolitionist leaders after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation that same year. The Regiment was commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who was the son of Boston abolitionists and formerly a Captain in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry before accepting this ground breaking command. Colonel Shaw led the Regiment’s attack on July 18, 1863, at the Battle of Fort Wagner, which represented a turning point for the nation, the 54th Regiment and the eventual outcome of the Civil War. This battle encouraged further enlistment and mobilization of African American troops; some 200,000 would serve by the end of the war, a key development that President Abraham Lincoln once noted as helping to secure the final victory, and gave the Union Army a much needed numerical advantage over the South.
Speakers and presenters included: Governor Patrick, Secretary of Health Human Services John Polanowicz, Executive Director of the Museum of African American History Beverly Morgan-Welch, Berklee College of Music Assistant Professor Jerome Kyles, poet, musician and educator Regie Gibson, and Harry Pratt, a descendent of Colonel Edward Needles Hallowell who was an officer in the Union Army and commander of the 54th Regiment after the death of Colonel Shaw.
“First and foremost, the 54th Regiment proved their ability and bravery as soldiers at the Battle of Fort Wagner,” said Morgan-Welch. “Furthermore, they proved themselves valiant citizens, serving without pay, when offered unequal compensation as soldiers of this nation.”
“It is a privilege to commemorate the heroism of the men who served in the 54th regiment,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “Their patriotism, selflessness and unyielding pursuit of freedom exemplify the American character. These brave souls are a personal inspiration and we must never forget all they did to give us the opportunities we enjoy today.”
In April 2011, Governor Patrick signed Executive Order No. 529, which created the Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the Civil War. The Commission was charged with developing programs that commemorate the Civil War, its veterans and the contributions of Massachusetts to the Union over the 150th anniversary years (2011 to 2015) of this national conflict. The Commission is dedicated to educating the nation and the world about the significant role Massachusetts played in our country’s history.
“Today’s event was a honorable tribute to a historically significant event for both this Commonwealth and the entire Nation,” said Senator Stephen Brewer. “The Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the Civil War has been committed to remembering the veterans of the Civil war and ensuring that we all remember the important role this conflict had in the history of the United States.”
"This is such an important anniversary,” said Representative Byron Rushing. “When those 600 African American troops charged Fort Wagner, all black Americans could claim active agency in their own emancipation. And although 150 years later that liberation unfortunately is not complete, we can celebrate that we are closer to a state and nation that are informed by their ideals."