Uniform of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry (Colored)

yankee hoorah

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#41
Somebody always has to be the bad guy in the movies. I always feel like the 1st South Carolina Colored/33rd USCT got a bad reputation from Glory. I've thought before about buying a pair of red pants for my uniform and doing a living history impression and education for the public on the real history of this unit.


1st Regiment Infantry (African Descent)
Organized at Beaufort, S.C., January 31, 1863. Attached to District of Beaufort, S.C., 10th Army Corps, Dept. of the South, to January, 1864. Barton's Brigade, District of Hilton Head, S.C., 10th Corps, to February, 1864.

SERVICE.--Before muster, 3 Companies on Expedition along coasts of Georgia and Florida November 3-10, 1862 Spalding's, on Sapello River, Ga., November 7 (Co. "A"). Doboy River November 8. Duty at Beaufort, S.C., and Port Royal Island until March, 1863. Expedition from Beaufort up St. Mary's River in Georgia and Florida January 23-February 1. Skirmish at Township January 26. Expedition from Beaufort to Jacksonville, Fla.. March 6-10. Occupation of Jacksonville March 10-31. Camp Jackson March 10. Operations near Jacksonville March 22-31. Skirmish near Jacksonville March 29. At Beaufort, S.C., until January, 1864. Expedition up South Edisto River July 9-11, 1863. Action, Williston Bluff, Pon Pon River, July 10. Expedition to Pocotaligo, S.C., November 23-25 (Cos. "E" and "K"). Skirmish near Cunningham's Bluff November 24. (Cos. "C" and "K" at Hilton Head, S.C., until September, 1863, then moved to Beaufort, S.C.; Cos. "A" and "F" moved to Hilton Head September, 1863, returning to Beaufort, S.C., October 2.) Regiment moved to Hilton Head, S.C., January, 1864. Expedition to Jacksonville, Fla., February 6-8. Designation of Regiment changed to 33rd U.S. Colored Troops February 8, 1864.


33rd Regiment Infantry
Organized February 8, 1864, from 1st South Carolina Colored Infantry. Attached to U.S. Forces, Port Royal Island, S.C., 10th Corps, Dept. of the South, to April, 1864. District of Beaufort, S.C., Dept. of the South, to July, 1864. Folly Island, S.C., Northern District, Dept. of the South, to October, 1864. 1st Separate Brigade, Dept. of the South, to March, 1865. District of Savannah, Ga., and Dept. of the South, to January, 1866.

SERVICE.--Duty at Port Royal Island, S.C., District of Beaufort, S.C.. until July, 1864. Expedition to James Island, S.C., June 30-July 10. James Island near Secessionville July 2. Duty on Folly and Morris Islands operating against Charleston, S.C., to November. Demonstration on Charleston & Savannah Railroad December 6-9. Devaux's Neck December 6. Tillifinny Station December 9. Ordered to Folly Island December 9. Near Pocotaligo Road December 20. At Pocotaligo, S. C., until February, 1865. Occupation of Charleston until March 8. Moved to Savannah, Ga., March 8, and duty there until June 6. Moved to Augusta, Ga. Duty there and at various points in the Dept. of the South until January, 1866. Mustered out January 31, 1866.
Actually in glory that is the 2nd SC (Col. Montgomery). The 1st was commanded by Higginson. I do 1st SC as my primary kit. Stonybrook has the red trousers for about $100.
 

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#42
I just picked up the Osprey book African American Soldier in the Civil War, USCT 1862-66. I got it for the chapter on "Appearance and Dress" because I've been interested in finding out more about the sack coat vs. frock coat debate re Black soldiers. Someone pointed out to me a while back that all the pictures he saw of USCTs, they are wearing frock coats. Of course, I have seen plenty in sacks as well.

The book includes this illustration of a soldier in the 54th Massachusetts. Obviously, his uniform is different than as depicted in the movie Glory. But from original pictures I've seen, I believe the 54th wore the 9-button frock coat rather than the shorter length, four button sack coat with smaller size buttons.

This book points out that because USCT units were organized later than White units, many were actually uniformed and equipped better. By 1863-64, many of the shoddy manufacturers and older weapons were long gone, either distributed to White units or weeded out. So any unit- Black or White- had the luxury of coming to the war later and receiving better uniforms, shoes and weapons.

Interestingly enough, the book also mentions that some Whites- albeit well-intentioned- wanted to see the 54th in canary yellow and scarlet colors because they believed Blacks, being child-like, would prefer bright colors (p. 19).

Glory inspired a lot of people to get into reenacting. It's interesting to note that if the actors in that film used the frock coat instead of the sack, I think the world of Civil War living history would look very different today.
View attachment 28139
Hello, I'm new to this forum.

I'm hear looking for information about which uniform I should gather, while searching for reenactment purposes. I am 6ft7, so I know it won't be an easy find.

My 3rd Great Grandfather William Jay his brothers George and Wesley Jay all free men of color fought with the USCT, 54th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteer Infantry, Company B.

All 3 brothers survived the war and returned home to Hinsonville, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Any help would be appreciated, I live in Philadelphia if I can source within the tri state, that would be great. Online is fine too.

Thank You!

Civil War Descendant x2

- BML

Screenshot_20190108-222102_Ancestry.jpg
 

gary

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#43
I am not aware of uniforms being any different for the 54th Mass. I know some USCT were originally issued red trousers as a mark of distinction. They disliked them and eventually they were reissued the standard light blue infantry trouser.
 

captaindrew

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#44
Hello, I'm new to this forum.

I'm hear looking for information about which uniform I should gather, while searching for reenactment purposes. I am 6ft7, so I know it won't be an easy find.

My 3rd Great Grandfather William Jay his brothers George and Wesley Jay all free men of color fought with the USCT, 54th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteer Infantry, Company B.

All 3 brothers survived the war and returned home to Hinsonville, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Any help would be appreciated, I live in Philadelphia if I can source within the tri state, that would be great. Online is fine too.

Thank You!

Civil War Descendant x2

- BML

View attachment 218527
Welcome and thank you for sharing your family history. Be sure to check out the Reenactors forum. I'm no expert on the 54th's uniforms but I know who can help, paging James N. Have you been in contact with the 54th reenacting group? They would surely help you out.
 

major bill

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#45
Hello urbannerd and welcome to the forum. Part of the answer what you should buy is related to what kind of reenacting you want to do. If you plan to reenact with a reenacting unit, they may well have requirements or suggestions as to the uniform. What you do not want to do is purchase a uniform only to have to purchase another acceptable uniform. The good news is that most reacting units need recruits and would be happy to help you.
 

James N.

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#46
Welcome and thank you for sharing your family history. Be sure to check out the Reenactors forum. I'm no expert on the 54th's uniforms but I know who can help, paging James N. Have you been in contact with the 54th reenacting group? They would surely help you out.
Unfortunately I have lost touch with all the many reenactors with whom I worked back then; major bill's advice above is the best route to follow though.
 
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#47
Hello, I'm new to this forum.

I'm hear looking for information about which uniform I should gather, while searching for reenactment purposes. I am 6ft7, so I know it won't be an easy find.

My 3rd Great Grandfather William Jay his brothers George and Wesley Jay all free men of color fought with the USCT, 54th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteer Infantry, Company B.

All 3 brothers survived the war and returned home to Hinsonville, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Any help would be appreciated, I live in Philadelphia if I can source within the tri state, that would be great. Online is fine too.

Thank You!

Civil War Descendant x2

- BML

View attachment 218527
First, if you already have a unit, then as Major Bill says follow their guidelines, second if you do not have a unit, head over to Gettysburg and visit S&S Sutlers @ 331 Buford Ave, Gettysburg, PA 17325 Tim or Debbie will be glad to help you out. Tim will also know of 54th groups you might want to contact. You can also go over to Regimental Quartermaster on Steinwehr Ave and ask the same. Third, good luck, it's a great hobby with many wonderful people who for the most part, love history.
 
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#48
Following this thread.

What is a good source of reference material (images, etc.) for the uniforms and accouterments (sack coats, etc.) that the 54th of Massachusetts would've worn? I am interested in doing a series of illustrations pertaining to them and this is my first real step into the Civil War, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

For those interested, here is Luis Emilio's account of Col. Robert Gould Shaw's dress before the assault on Battery Wagner. I am curious as to what the "close- fitting staff-officer's jacket" would have looked like.
emiliodescriptionofshaw.png
 

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#49
.. For those interested, here is Luis Emilio's account of Col. Robert Gould Shaw's dress before the assault on Battery Wagner. I am curious as to what the "close- fitting staff-officer's jacket" would have looked like.
View attachment 291779
I imagine it would've been substantially the same as that portrayed in the film; however, there could be a question about the shoulder insignia. The logical thought would be that they were conventional colonel's shoulder straps as in the movie; however, by the middle of the war, officers were well aware that they were particular targets and items like the aforementioned silken sash were often omitted, and even shoulder insignia was sometimes limited to the particular emblems - in this case, a silver eagle - pinned or sewn directly to the shoulders minus the gold bullion-edged straps altogether. The headgear described, however, sounds like the regular Hardee or dress hat, or maybe the slightly shorter so-called Jeff Davis model popular with officers. A sword of the general description that belonged to Shaw is (or at least was twenty years ago!) displayed for some unknown reason in a case in Boston's Old North Church but I doubt it was the same one carried in the assault. It is an unofficial pattern known to collectors as Peterson #75 and is of European manufacture and based on the English Light Infantry officer's sword pattern with a steel basket hilt and plain all-steel scabbard.
 

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#52
That flat oval space on the hilt of Shaw's sword was where the VR Royal Cypher was placed on the regulation British examples; other than that, this is pretty much a British regulation infantry officer's sword. The Peterson #75 I mentioned earlier is different, having a steel cutout hilt copied from the Rifles Regiment pattern sword instead of this cast brass hilt.
 

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#53
In Mort Kunstler's depiction of the 54th, it shows them in sack coats, rather than frocks.

*Would love a print of this!*

View attachment 291868
You have to exercise extreme caution when referencing any of Kunstler's prints - too many of them are based directly on scenes from movies, especially The North and South, Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, for all of which he was hired by the producers to paint promotional art for them. He often gets details wrong, as in this one where the ranks of soldiers are not properly sized as they should be. On the other hand, his portraiture is usually excellent, although Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Chamberlain, and others too often look more like the actors who portrayed them!
 

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#56
One of my latest illustrations.

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw on Morris Island

ShawonMorris.png


Uniform and appearance based off of Luis Emilio's written account in A Brave Black Regiment. As well as long chats with Shaw living historian John Saporito.

The figure of Shaw was drawn using pencil and ink and placed in Photoshop on a photo I took of Morris Island during my visit on July 18th, 2018. Shaw was colored digitally, as well as adding tents, seagulls, and smoke from battery bombardments against Wagner. Adding Shaw's signature I felt was a nice touch as I am making prints of this piece.

And here is a brief video showing how I created the piece.
 

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#57
One of my latest illustrations.

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw on Morris Island

View attachment 294359

Uniform and appearance based off of Luis Emilio's written account in A Brave Black Regiment. As well as long chats with Shaw living historian John Saporito.

The figure of Shaw was drawn using pencil and ink and placed in Photoshop on a photo I took of Morris Island during my visit on July 18th, 2018. Shaw was colored digitally, as well as adding tents, seagulls, and smoke from battery bombardments against Wagner. Adding Shaw's signature I felt was a nice touch as I am making prints of this piece.

And here is a brief video showing how I created the piece.
Like it EXCEPT for the sword knot which should be pretty much the same gold/gilt as the hilt; also, if the rank insignia is simply pinned-on eagles, they would probably not be on the light blue background.
 

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#58
I was speaking with Living Historian John Saporito about that very same issue regarding the eagles on the shoulders, as well as additional uniform details. Here is Saporito's impression of Shaw based on Emilio's account...
HERE may well be exactly what they should look like!

1552329574127.png
 

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