Fort Wagner and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry notes

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Fort Wagner and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry The path that had brought these determined men to the embattled sands of South Carolina had been a long one, born of idealism and fraught with difficulty. That they had succeeded in the face of bigotry and doubt was due in great measure to the colonel who led them. Slight and fair-haired, Robert Gould Shaw appeared even younger than his 25 years. But despite his initial trepidations, the Harvard-educated son of abolitionist parents had assumed the weighty responsibilities of command, and never wavered in his fervent resolve to show friend and foe alike that black soldiers were the fighting equals of their white counterparts. Suddenly, a mounted general and his staff rode up before the assembled ranks. The officer was handsome and smartly dressed, and grasped the reins of his prancing gray steed with white-gloved hands. Brigadier General George C. Strong pointed down the stretch of sand to the sinister hump of a Confederate earthwork that loomed amidst the roiling smoke and spitting fire of the guns. Loudly, Strong asked, ‘Is there a man here who thinks himself unable to sleep in that fort tonight?’ ‘No!’ shouted the 54th. The general called out the bearer of the national colors, and grasped the flag. ‘If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry it on?’ After the briefest of pauses, Shaw

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