Three-bar ladder badge with shield and drop, approx. 2 x 4.25 in., identified to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the 54th Massachusetts Colored Troops. Bars with text reading "CO. A.," "54," and "MASS," with shield below featuring crossed rifles and text reading "VOL. / INF." Badge with small piece of tattered blue ribbon still attached and larger piece fully separated.
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the Union's first military unit to include African Americans. Though the Emancipation Proclamation had opened the proverbial door for the enlistment of free black men, many northerners still fought the formation of the regiment, finding it too controversial to allow black men to fight a "white man's war." Amidst these conflicting views, Massachusetts's abolitionist Governor John A. Andrew persisted in forming the regiment, with the concession that commissioned officers would be white and the enlisted men would be black. The regiment's most memorable contribution to the Union cause took place on July 18, 1863, when its men led an attack against Confederate Fort Wagner on Morris Island. Despite suffering numerous losses, including their leader, Colonel Shaw, the soldiers of the 54th did not retreat. Lauded for this show of bravery, the experimental unit was viewed favorably by many back home. Notable members of the regiment included two of Frederick Douglass' sons, Charles and Lewis.
Mounting pin with possible repair; ribbon extremely fragile, in tatters; bars with some surface wear.
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