History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment (Brave Black Regiment)


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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 green cloth gilt.

First edition of a history of "one of the first black fighting units to see action in the field"—illustrated with 20 photographic plates and nine maps (two folding), in original gilt-stamped cloth.

Emilio's History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment "is the principal source of information on the celebrated regiment that attacked Fort Wagner on Morris Island in July 1863. One of the first black fighting units to see action in the field, the 54th was commanded by Col. Robert Gould Shaw" (Eicher 1068). When Lincoln ordered the War Department, in 1863, to allow Massachusetts governor John Andrew to raise troops for the 54th, "the War Department stipulated that these black troops could be commanded only by white officers. Congress added a further condition that black troops be paid $6 less per month than the standard $13… Governor Andrew persuaded Shaw to assume command of the 54th in early March 1863. Andrew carefully selected the regiment's white subordinate officers as well: Lt. Col. Edward Hallowell, captains William Simkins and Luis Emilio, and Adjutant Garth Wilkinson James… These officers' letters reveal how conscious and proud they were of the regiment's social as well as military significance. Shortly after its creation, the 54th, along with other black regiments, 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).

"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" (Eicher 1068). "His work followed the men of the 54th from recruitment to mustering out… and he praised their 'admirable' esprit de corps" (Sheehan-Dean, Companion to the U.S. Civil War). This valuable account "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). Basis for the 1989 film Glory that won Denzel Washington won his first Oscar. First edition. Copies found in green cloth (this copy) and brown cloth, no priority established. Blockson 3033. Work, 399. Nicholson, 271. Early owner signature.

Interior fresh with small bit of corner dampstaining to rear leaves not affecting text or plates, scant edge-wear to bright gilt cloth. A handsome near-fine copy.

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