Militant Boston


Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) Autograph letter, signed, to Charles Sumner, 29 April 1865.

Douglass offered his influential voice in the raising of black soldiers for the 54th regiment. In this letter to Sumner, he discusses his son Lewis who served as Sgt. Major in the regiment and saw battle at Fort Wagner in July of 1863. Though they did not take the fort, this heroic yet tragic assault by the 54th helped erode Northern public opposition to the use of black soldiers and spurred further recruitment. The infusion of close to 200,000 black soldiers provided the additional manpower needed to win the war, maintain the Union, and end slavery in the country.

MS Am 1 (1902) – Gift of Edward L. Pierce, 1874.