On November 7, 1862, exactly one year after the Day of the Big Gun Shoot, The 1st South Carolina Volunteers became the first colored regiment to be mustered into Union forces. Formed almost entirely of former slaves, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers were known as a “contraband” regiment.
Early in 1863, the regiment was joined in Beaufort by the first regiment of free blacks, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers.
In its ranks were blacks who had escaped to the North and freedom and many others who had never known slavery. Serving in the Massachusetts 54th were graduates of Oberlin College, two of Frederick Douglass’ sons, successful business men and former teachers.
Eventually joining them in the war were more than 160 colored regiments, including Beaufort’s second contraband regiment the 2nd SC Volunteers.A total of more than 180,000 black soldiers fought on the side of the Union – though the vast majority enlisted without the encouragement of Frederick Douglass’s words...
“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”...they shared the goal.
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