Glory and Respect
The actions and sacrifices of the men of the first all-black regiment, the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, helped break down racial barriers and revolutionized the constitution of our military forces. Under threat of death by the confederates, the Massachusetts 54th Regiment and their leader, Colonel Robert Shaw, bravely stood against many in the fight to free African Americans from the bonds of slavery. The soldiers of the 54th not only had to face prejudices from the confederates, but also from fellow Union soldiers and officers. An example of the blatant bigotry they faced is illustrated when supplies such as shoes, socks and basic necessities were denied and withheld from the regiment, being told they were "reserved for fighting readiness that supersedes" their regiment, and were told their salary would be $3 less per month than the white Union soldiers. Their strength and unwavering courage, despite overwhelming contempt for their very existence, could not be ignored, thus earning them respect and transforming the military forever.
Members of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment faced life threatening degradation and torment from everyone, including their fellow white counterparts. Even Colonel Robert Shaw had to endure the taunts and jeers of his fellow officers. While dining with friends, he was asked how the soldiers were performing, being assured he "could talk among friends." The other officers made comments like "Niggers never had it so good; three squares a day, a roof and no one will let them fight." The degradation continued when the 54th was ordered to pillage a small town full of civilians, for no valid reason except to give them something to do. Then they had to listen to comments from other white officers like "They're just little monkey children, just got to know how to control them." While on their way to checkpoints they would often pass by other white regiments, being antagonized with comments like "Stripes on a nigger,...
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