The 54th Colored Volunteer Massachusetts Regiment was one of the first official black units in the U.S. armed forces, authorized in 1863. This all-black infantry regiment exhibited extreme courage and courage during the Civil War. The 1989 film “Glory” starring Denzel Washington was based on “The 54th,” as it’s called.
President Lincoln, with the support of black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, encouraged the use of black troops. There were thousands of runaway slaves and freed blacks who wanted to fight for their freedom and joined the Union Troops wherever they appeared.
General Ulysses Grant, whose army occupied the southern states where there were the most black refugees, was an enthusiastic supporter of the use of black troops, and in an August 1863 letter to President Lincoln he stated:
“…by arming the Negro we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weakens him in the same proportion they strengthen us. I am therefore most decidedly in favor of pushing this policy the enlistment a force sufficient to hold all the South falling into our hands and to aid in capturing more.”