White Officers and Colored Troops – Part III

Lead: On July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry led a daring assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina. It was the largest civil war engagement involving black troops

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.               

Content: The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was made up of black troops and white officers. It was one of the first regiments formed after the U.S. government authorized the enlistment of African Americans. It was Federal policy, however, that they had to be led by white officers. Early in 1863 Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts, an abolitionist and advocate of African American enlistment, began organizing the unit. He was committed to forming a model regiment and offered command to Robert G. Shaw, a battle-tested, well-educated, young officer from a prominent Boston abolitionist family. Shaw accepted, earned the respect of his regiment, which included former slaves, free blacks and the most well known of their recruits – Lewis and Charles Douglass – the sons of abolitionist militant Frederick Douglass. Under Shaw’s command, the regiment was organized, disciplined, and operated on the assumption that the notion blacks could not fight on a par with white troops was inaccurate and emerged from social bigotry.

White Officers and Colored Troops – Part II

Lead: In the uncertain year of 1863 during the Civil War, the Federal government established the Bureau of Colored Troops. Its goal: recruit, enlist, and muster African Americans into the army.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.               

Content: Up until the Civil War, blacks were not permitted officially to serve in the Army. With the passage of the Militia Act in 1862 (which allowed them to be used in military service) and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect in early January, 1863, northern white public prejudice against black military service began to break down. Whites began to show a willingness to tolerate the enlistment of black troops – particularly as the need for manpower in the Union Army escalated after the heavy body count in 1862.

White Officers and Colored Troops – Part I

Lead: On July 17, 1862, during the Civil War, the U.S. Congress passed the Militia Act. African-Americans became an official part of the Federal military establishment.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Under a 1792 law, blacks officially were barred from army service, not permitted to enlist. Despite this prejudice blacks had served in both the American Revolution and would serve in the War of 1812. In mid-1862, the Lincoln Administration, sensing the need to expand strengthen the Union Army, took the first steps allowing blacks to enter service. The Militia Act permitted colored soldiers to serve in “any military or naval service for which they may be found competent.”

Fort Sumter III

Lead: At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, after months of preparation, threat and posturing war erupted between the several United States of America. Southern forces attacked Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Battle of Fort Sumter was the first engagement of the Civil War. South Carolina, the first to secede from the Union, had seized all Federal property in South Carolina. All except Fort Sumter. It had been one of three national forts in Charleston Harbor. Major Robert Anderson, its commander under orders from Washington, refused to surrender the fort, and by April 1861 tensions were high.

Fort Sumter II

Lead: In February 1861, the newly formed Confederate government dispatched General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard to command Charleston, South Carolina, a city shimmering on the edge of crisis.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts. 

Content: By February of 1861, South Carolina, after seceding from the Union two months earlier, had seized control of Federal property in the state – with one exception. Fort Sumter, commanded by West Point graduate Major Robert Anderson, had refused to surrender. Confederate government sitting in Montgomery, Alabama, dispatched General Beauregard to Charleston to handle a tense situation which was becoming a symbolic point of tension North and South. Ironically, Robert Anderson was Beauregard’s artillery instructor at West Point, and at the time they were friends.

Fort Sumter I

Lead: On April 12, 1861, the first military engagement of the Civil War began in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Ft. Sumter was the target.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Fort Sumter was built on a shoal at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Construction began in 1829 and was still on-going at the onset of the Civil War. The fort was named after Revolutionary War hero, Thomas Sumter. It was one of three Federal forts guarding the approaches to Charleston Harbor, one of the best anchorages on the east coast. The other two were Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney. After Lincoln won the presidential election of November 1860, on December 20, South Carolina passed an order of secession. It was soon followed by six other states in the Deep South in the first wave secessionist sentiment.

The Man Pursued by War (McLean) II

Lead: In 1861 the first major battle in Virginia took place in the front yard of Wilmer McLean along Bull Run Creek. Seeking to protect his family from the fighting he moved them to south central Virginia.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: It was not uncommon for civilians to remove themselves from areas of intense fighting. Up to this point war was, for the most part, left to soldiers. As the war intensified Federal generals such as Sherman in Georgia and Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley made destruction of civilian property a matter of military policy. Sherman, in particular, boasted that he had destroyed $100,000,000 in property during his dash from Atlanta to Savannah in the fall of 1864.


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The Man Pursued by War (McLean) I

Lead: In 1850 Wilmer McLean, a prominent merchant of Alexandria, Virginia married the widow Virginia Beverley Mason. They lived at her plantation, Yorkshire, in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: McLean was a son of one of the most prominent commercial families of Alexandria. His marriage to Virginia Mason, among Virginia's wealthiest women, brought him extensive responsibilities as manager of the family's holdings. Yorkshire was a 1200 acre tract close by the small creek known as Bull Run just outside of the village of Manassas Junction.

In the spring of 1861, the McLeans and their neighbors were well aware of the approach of war. The Confederate army stationed troops at Manassas to protect the area as it was a vital rail junction linking the principle north-south line with one that rest west into the Shenandoah Valley. This made the region a military target and on June 1st, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard arrived to take charge since in was becoming evident that Federal forces were beginning to move into the area with an eye toward taking the junction.


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