"THE FIRST BLACK REGIMENT TO BE RECRUITED IN THE NORTH": EMILIO'S HISTORY OF THE FIFTY-FOURTH REGIMENT, 1891, "THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF INFORMATION ON THE CELEBRATED REGIMENT," IN ORIGINAL CLOTH
EMILIO, Luis F. History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865. [A Brave Black Regiment.]. Boston: Boston Book, 1891. Octavo, original brown cloth gilt. $2500.
First edition of Captain Luis Emilio's landmark account of the famous regiment, whose recruits included two of Frederick Douglass’ sons and William Carney, the first African American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, illustrated with 20 photographic plates, including frontispiece, and nine maps (two folding), a handsome copy in original gilt-stamped cloth.
"The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was the first black regiment to be recruited in the North during the Civil War… it gained fame and recognition for its courage and valor in the assault on Battery Wagner, SC for which one of its soldiers, William Carney, became the first black to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor" (Gilder Lehrman Center, Yale). From the beginning African Americans "eagerly offered their services to the Union, but were rebuffed… yet the faltering military situation led many white Northerners to decide that it had become a military necessity to call on blacks, and in January 1863 Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation specifically encouraged their enlistment… Black and white abolitionists took up the cause, including Wendell Phillips, George Sterns (one of the 'Secret Six' that had financed John Brown's raid), William Wells Brown and Frederick Douglass… Among the first recruits was Abraham Brown, the son of fugitive slaves living in Canada; Alex Johnson, the son of an abolitionist lecturer and lawyer; Carney, an escaped slave from Virginia; and Lewis and Charles Douglass, two of Frederick Douglass's sons" (Brasher, New York Times).
Soon after its creation the 54th, commanded by Col. Robert Gould Shaw, "faced Confederate legislation authorizing the execution of both black Union troops and their white officers. This legislation combined with northern white bigotry to bond the regiment's white officers with their black troops. The 54th's officers and men, in a joint protest, all served without pay until Congress authorized equal wages to black soldiers" (Karsten, Encyclopedia of War, 272). "This is the principal source of information on the celebrated regiment… Emilio served throughout the war as a captain in the regiment, and his insights on the peculiar origin of the regiment, its national composition and the youthful commander who was killed at Wagner are valuable. The work was composed from Emilio's own notes and recollections as well as the diaries, letters and remembrances of many other members of the regiment, mostly within the two decades following the war. The narrative is tight and factual, and the author offers resplendent detail" (Eicher 1068, emphasis added). Basis for the 1989 film Glory that won Denzel Washington his first Oscar. Blockson 3033. Work, 399. Nicholson, 271.
Interior very fresh and clean with expert paper repair to stub of folding map, inner hinges expertly reinforced; light toning to spine with expert cloth restoration to spine ends and corners.