African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Wagner, 1863

A primary source by Currier & Ives

Charge of the Massachusetts 54th, Currier & Ives, 1863. (GLC)On July 18, 1863, on Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a Union regiment of free African American men, began their assault on Fort Wagner, a Confederate stronghold. After the Civil War, a sergeant of the 54th, William Harvey Carney, became the first African American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for taking up the fallen Union flag and carrying it to the fort’s walls. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the regiment, was killed in the charge, along with 116 of his men, and the Union forces failed to capture the fort. Shaw, an abolitionist born to a prominent Boston family, had been recruited by Massachusetts governor John Andrew to raise and command the all-black regiment, the first regiment of African Americans recruited in the North.

Shortly after the battle, the printing firm of Currier and Ives commemorated the 54th’s charge, portraying black soldiers carrying the Union flag over the fort’s ramparts and into the Confederate phalanx. The Gilder Lehrman Collection has one of the few surviving copies of this print.

Questions for Discussion

You are seeing this page because you are not currently logged into our website. If you would like to access this page and you are not logged in, please login or register for a account, and then visit the link that brought you to this notice. Thanks!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to get free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments