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.