You don’t need to be a Civil War historian to admire the gallantry of the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.One of the first all-volunteer black regiments formed during the Civil War, it was the unit whose heroic exploits were depicted in the Oscar-winning movie “Glory,” which featured a stellar cast that included Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman.

Prior to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in December of 1862, black men were not even allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces. This changed after the Proclamation was signed into law. It included a decree that read, “…such persons [black men] of suitable condition, will be received into the armed services of the United States.”

Although it was technically legal at this point for black men to join the Union Army, it is doubtful that the U.S. government would have agreed to the formation of a black regiment without an urgent reason for doing so. However, it just so happens that there was such a reason…

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By Austin Croup and Scott Sholl