Charleston County residents will step back in time this Saturday as they experience the bravery and sacrifice of one of the nation’s first all-black regiments as the 54th Massachusetts, Company I, Civil War Reenactment Regiment sets up camp on the lawn of the St. Andrew’s Regional Library with a campfire, period clothing, weapons and equipment.
Learning about the lives of the soldiers from the Massachusetts 54th, their struggles featured in the movie Glory, is just part of the day-long Magical History Tour planned to celebrate African-American history and culture, particularly life in the Lowcountry. Events are scheduled from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the St. Andrew’s Regional Branch, 1735 N. Woodmere Drive off Sam Rittenberg Boulevard in West Ashley, including musical concerts by The Plantation Singers at 11 a.m., Bob Smalls and the African Drum Circle at 4:30 p.m., and Hip Hop Hooks on Black History at 3 p.m.
Courtesy The Post and Courier
Joined together by their love of country and desire to see the end of slavery, 650 freed black men volunteered in 1863 to form the Massachusetts 54th and faced their most famous battle on July 18, 1863, as they were ordered to the front of an attack at Fort Wagner on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor. The soldiers stormed the walls of the fort by crossing a narrow sand beach. Despite additional attacks from nearby Union ships, Confederate soldiers held strong, defending the fort and killing many of the members of the Massachusetts 54th, including the regiments white commander, Col. Robert Gould Shaw. During the attack, William H. Carney, the regiment’s standard bearer, was shot many times, but dragged himself to safety. Carney was the first black recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
When the regiment was formed, pay for black soldiers was set at a lower rate than white soldiers. Members of the Massachusetts 54th volunteered and refused to take pay until it was equal to the amount paid whites. After the battle at Fort Wagner, the commitment and sacrifice of the regiment became big news in the North, proving that black troops made excellent soldiers and increasing support for the end of slavery. Their actions and stand for equal pay ultimately played a role in the 1964 decision that all soldiers receive the same pay, regardless of skin color.
The day’s schedule includes:
10 a.m.-5 p.m. – Magical History Tour with the encampment of the Massachusetts 54th, Company I Civil War Re-enactors on the lawn.
11 a.m. – The Plantation Singers will feature a sing along about the Gullah culture.
12:30 p.m. – Re-enactors will present skits about the lives of the men from the Massachusetts 54th, including campfires and the firing of muskets
3 p.m. – Hip Hop Hooks on Black History will present an upbeat history lesson about famous African Americans.
4:30 p.m. – Bob Smalls and the African American Drum Circle provide the sights and sounds of a rich African tradition.
All Day – Children are encouraged to write and draw pictures about their dreams and share them on the branch’s Wall of Dreams.
Learn more about the lives of these brave soldiers through the help of 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company I, Inc. Civil War Reenactment Regiment, a non-profit group dedicated to educating the public that was founded in 1991 by Joseph McGill Jr.
This program is sponsored by The Humanities Council of South Carolina, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to inspiring, engaging and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture and heritage.