54th Massachusetts Called to Duty Once Again

Update: I totally called it. The Confederate flag was intended to honor the men of the 54th Massachusetts and was not a pro-Confederate statement.

Late last night a Confederate flag was discovered displayed on the Shaw Memorial on Beacon Street across the street from the Massachusetts State House. The flag remained displayed for a couple of hours before police arrived. While it is unknown who placed the flag on the monument or for what purpose it does not appear to be a pro-Confederate flag message. The flag is clearly dangling from Colonel Shaw’s sword. It certainly does make for a powerful image.

Most people know the story of the 54th Massachusetts from the movie “Glory”. The movie’s narrative ends with the regiment’s failed assault at Battery Wagner, outside of Charleston, South Carolina in July 1863. What often goes unnoticed, however, is the crucial role the regiment – along with its sister regiment, the 55th Mass. – played during the immediate postwar period. Both regiments were stationed in South Carolina from April through August 1865. Their responsibilities included managing relationships between former slaves and owners to ensure the arrival of a new crop and safeguarding government buildings and supplies. Most importantly, the two regiments played a vital role in protecting former slaves from their former masters who hoped to rebuild white supremacy on a new foundation.

In short, the 54th and 55th functioned as the face of the federal government in parts of South Carolina on the heels of its victory.

Shaw Memorial, Confederate FlagAnd here is another angle.

Shaw Memorial, Confederate FlagNote: The banner image featured above depicts the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry entering Charleston in February 1865.

10 comments… add one
  • Hi Kevin, it is interesting that the 54th is brought up in relation to the events in South Carolina, then and now! The first African American Officer in the 54th Stephen Atkins Swails, became a lawyer with a Confederate Veteran as a partner in Kingstree, he went to an integrated church and he rose to two terms as president pro tem in the Senate! He took a bullet in the temple at Olustee, and still managed all of this. Please consider promoting raising his portrait in the South Carolina State House, to support education about what you spoke of in your post, as well as the healing of the nation through a better knowledge of our integrated history.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1742021478/raise-a-sc-state-house-portrait-of-an-african-amer

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    • Looks to be an interesting project. Best of luck.

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  • but yet they claim Heritage not Hate. Hum…looks like hate strikes again. One wonders why when people act in such a manner that others don’t care for the flag. You are your own worst enemy.

    But then again I am assuming. This could have been done by one just trying to inflam or antagonize and NOT one of the heritage groups.

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    • If the flag was just left dangling on a sword than it is a complete failure as a racist message. It’s certainly ambiguous, which makes it that much more interesting and open to interpretation. I provided one way to think about it.

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  • From the picture it looks like a captured flag that was being dragged along. I take it as an anti-confederate message.

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    • That’s my reaction as well. You might wonder what kind of person in Boston would just have a Confederate flag handy, but they are (at least for now) pretty easy to get.

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  • Kevin,

    Where you find the Tea Party (modern version) in Massachussets you will find some who have that flag…and for reasons that has nothing to do with Heritage.

    Sadly…

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    • that should be have not has….insert redface here.

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  • I couldn’t agree more Buck. When you hear what comes out of the tea parties mouths, you can see many parallels of what southern politicians were saying before, and during the war. From states rights, to the Governor of Texas actually using the word secede in a public speech! To hell with the federal government, we’re going to have it our way. Very dangerous people, IMO. And, of course, I never forget that no one wanted their country back, until we elected a African American President. That’s the root cause of the tea parties existence.

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  • All of the black troops who were sent south after the war to serve and protect fellow Americans, were some of the bravest men who ever wore a uniform. I would of hated to be in their shoes.

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