54th Massachusetts Regiment

By Kurz & Allison - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b52016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1489968
The 54th Massachusetts at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Francis Shaw, an influential Republican and abolitionist from Staten Island, undoubtedly had Lincoln’s ear when the decision was made to raise a volunteer regiment of “colored troops” in 1863. The first of these was the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry whose first commander was Shaw’s only son, Robert Gould Shaw. 


By 1863, Frederick Douglass began working very closely with Francis Shaw in the recruitment of troops for young Colonel Shaw’s regiment. The Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment of the United States Colored Troops was organized February 21, 1863, and although mustered in Massachusetts, many of its recruits were from the New York area. Among the early recruits was Thomas Peter Robinson of Staten Island, who enlisted on May 7, 1863 in Readville, Massachusetts.


Col. Robert Gould Shaw was killed at Fort Wagner, South Carolina while leading the 54th Massachusetts into battle, and Thomas P. Robinson was injured in the same battle.


While Shaw was storming Fort Wagner, his sister and brother in law Anna Shaw and George William Curtis were facing angry rioters protesting the Civil War draft.


See the letter from Francis Shaw to President Lincoln requesting the return of his son's body and the protection of the remaining members of the 54th regiment at: https://tinyurl.com/y3jpr653. Read a transcription of the letter below.

54th Regiment Recruitment Poster. Image courtesy of pinterest.com
Letter from Francis George Shaw to Abraham Lincoln, July 31 1863. Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.
Letter from Francis George Shaw to Abraham Lincoln, July 31 1863. Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.