Massachusetts Fifty-fourth

Governor Andrew recruited Robert Gould Shaw, son of prominent Boston abolitionists and a captain in the 2nd Massachusetts regiment, which had seen action at Antietam, to lead the new African American troop, as military policy did not allow blacks to serve as officers.

Reaction from the South to black recruitment was swift. The Confederate Congress issued a proclamation that African Americans captured in uniform would be sold into slavery, and white officers of such troops would be executed. Though not carried out, the threat was a grave challenge to every recruit and officer of the Massachusetts 54th.

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, May 1863, photograph, Boston Athenaeum

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Massachusetts Fifty-fourthShaw Biography
IntroductionThe ArtistHistorical BackgroundThe Memorial and Its ConservationThe ExhibitionTeaching Resources

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