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THE CHARGING OF FORT WAGNER AN INTENDED HONOR OR AN INTENDED SACRIFICE OF LIFEPETER AUERBACHlest I should indirectly give a new impulse to war The only regiment I ever looked uponduring the war was the 54th Massachusetts on its departure for the South I can neverforget the scene as Colonel Shaw rode at the head of his men The very flower of grace andchivalry he seemed to me beautiful and awful as an angel of God come down to lead the hostof freedom to victory-John Greenleaf WhittierOn July 18 1863 the 54th Massachusetts infantry a Union regiment comprised of blacksoldiers and commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led an attack on Fort Wagner aConfederate stockade blocking the entrance to Charleston Virginia To some this wasconsidered a tremendous honor to the black soldiers who risked their lives that nightOthers felt that it was an excuse for racist commanding officers to sacrifice the lives ofblack soldiers in order to save those of whites In an attempt to answer this questionthree authors points of view will be examined-Peter Burchard Zak Mettger and Luis Emilio These three authors virtually agree on almost every factual aspect pertaining to the historyof this regiment except for the question why was the 54th was sent to lead the charge onFort Wagner On September 15 1862 Robert Gould Shaw who at that time was a captain of adetachment of troops in McClennans army arrived at Antietam Creek in SharpsburgMaryland Two days later Shaw was part of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War Shawsunit was lucky and only lost 5 men Shaw himself only received neck wound inflicted by agun shot from out of range Though this battle was a important victory for the NorthShaws life was affected more than he could have imagined Coming off of a solid victoryLincoln saw it fit to use his power as commander in chief of the United States Army to passthe Emancipation Proclamation an order to free
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