This Day in Black History: May 28, 1863

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry leaves Boston for combat.

Posted: 05/28/2014 12:00 AM EDT
This Day in Black History: May 28, 1863

The most notable African-American regiment of the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, left Boston for combat on May 28, 1863.

Colonel Robert Shaw was selected as the head of the infantry and organized the group made of freed or escaped slaves. This came after the War Department established the Emancipation Proclamation on May 22, 1863.

On the day of its departure, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry set sail on a steamer to Port Royal, South Carolina. The infantry faced pay discrimination, as they were given $10 a week while white soldiers got $13, a week. They protested the disparity but were not paid equal wages until towards the end of the war.

During the war, the African-American soldiers lost the battle at Fort Wagner and suffered great casualities in July 1863. But they were successful in siege operations in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida for the next two years. 

The infantry returned to Boston in September 1865. In 1989, the film Glory, starring Denzel Washington, portrayed the soldiers. 


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(Photo: MPI/Getty Images)

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