“Boys, I Only Did My Duty”: New Bedford's Black Soldiers in the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts

Earl F. Mulderink III

in New Bedford's Civil War

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780823243341
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823243389 | DOI:

Series: The North's Civil War (FUP)

“Boys, I Only Did My Duty”: New Bedford's Black Soldiers in the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts

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New Bedford's enlistees in the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment would acquire fame greater than the city's white soldiers as they fought for the Union, for equal pay, and for an end to slavery. This chapter focuses on black soldiers from New Bedford. These men, like other African Americans throughout the country, fought a “different Civil War” than whites as they battled against racism and for equal pay for black soldiers. New Bedford's black and white communities allied in agitating for emancipatory war aims and the full inclusion of blacks as citizens. In exploring the military recruitment and experiences of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, the chapter pays particular attention to the assault on Fort Wagner; the emergence of a local black war hero, William Carney; and the soldiers' quest for equal pay and equal rights. It also looks at black military enlistment and the New Bedford men of Company C of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts.

Keywords: New Bedford; Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts; black soldiers; military enlistment; equal pay; slavery; racism; Fort Wagner; William Carney; Civil War

Chapter.  8819 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Military History

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