battle of fort wagner

The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground by Rick Reeves

The 54th Massachusetts, a segregated “Colored” Regiment during the American Civil War, makes their assault on Fort Wagner, July 18, 1963. Although the assault failed, the unwavering bravery of the soldiers nevertheless earned respect of their superiors, and ensured that black soldiers would continue to be utilized in combat.

(National Guard)

55 Little Known People in Black History
  1. Elijah Abel- (1808 –1884)- The first African-American elder and seventy in the Latter Day Saint movement, and one of the few black members in the early history of the Latter Day Saint movement to receive the priesthood.
  2. Jordan Anderson- (1825-1907) - A slave who following his emancipation, wrote a letter to his former master offering to work on his plantation. The letter has been described as a rare example of documented “slave humor” of the period and its deadpan style has been compared to the satire of Mark Twain
  3. Josephine Baker- (1906 –1975) - Born in the US but spent most of her life in France, Baker was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934), or to become a world-famous entertainer. She assisted the French Resistance in WWII, receiving the Croix de guerre and was made a Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur.
  4. Ebenezer Bassett-(1833–1908)- The first African-American diplomat, serving as US ambassador to Haiti.
  5. Mary McLeod Bethune- (1875 –1955)- Built schools for African-Americans in Florida. 
  6. Stephen Bishop- (c. 1821–1857)- One of the lead explorers of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system in the world.
  7. Blanche Bruce- (1841 –1898)- The first elected black senator to serve a full term.
  8. Absalom Boston- (1785–1855)- The first African-American captain to sail a whaleship, with an all-black crew.
  9. Melvin “Mel” Boozer-(1945 –1987)- Activist for African American, LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues. In 1980 he became the first openly gay candidate for Vice President of the United States, running on the Socialist ticket.
  10. William Wells Brown- (c.1814-1884)- Wrote Clotel the first novel published by an African American
  11. William Harvey Carney- (1840–1908)- The first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. 
  12. Wentworth Cheswell- (1748 –1817)- The first African American elected to public office in the history of the United States, being elected town constable of Newmarket, New Hampshire in 1768.
  13. Fanny Jackson Coppin- (1837 –1913)- An African-American educator and missionary and a lifelong advocate for female higher education.
  14. Martin Delany- (1818 –1885) Abolitionist, journalist, physician, and writer, and arguably the first proponent of black nationalism. He was one of the first three blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School.
  15. Storm DeLarverie- (1920 –2014)- A butch lesbian whose scuffle with police was one of the defining moments of the Stonewall uprising, spurring the crowd to action. She was nicknamed “the Rosa Parks of the gay community.”
  16. James Derham- (c. 1757-1802?)- The first African American to formally practice medicine in the United States though he never received an M.D. degree.
  17. Father Divine- (c. 1876 –1965)- An African American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death. Father Divine made numerous contributions toward his followers’ economic independence and racial equality.
  18. Mary Fields- (c. 1832–1914)- The first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States and the second woman to work for the United States Postal Service.
  19. Henry Ossian Flipper- (1856–1940)- The first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point
  20. Gordon- (dates unknown)- A slave on a Louisiana plantation who made his escape from bondage in March 1863.The pictures of Gordon’s scourged back provided Northerners with visual evidence of brutal treatment of slaves and inspired many free blacks to enlist in the Union Army.
  21. Samuel Green- (c. 1802–1877)- Minister who was jailed in 1857 for possessing a copy of the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
  22. Nero Hawley- (1742–1817)- Slave who was enlisted in place of his owner, Daniel Hawley, in the Continental Army on April 20, 1777 during the American Revolution and earned his freedom.
  23. Jupiter Hammon- (1711 – before 1806)- The first African-American writer to be published in the present-day United States. He is considered one of the founders of African-American literature.
  24. Michael A. Healy- (1839 –1904)- Nicknamed “Hell Roaring Mike,” Healy has been identified as the first man of African-American descent to command a ship of the United States government. Healy patrolled the 20,000 miles (32,000 km) of Alaskan coastline for more than 20 years, earning great respect from the natives and seafarers alike.
  25. Hercules- (c. 1755-Unknown)- Slave who worked as a cook for George Washington. Hercules escaped to freedom from Mount Vernon in 1797, and later was legally manumitted under the terms of Washington’s Will.
  26. DeHart Hubbard- (1903 -1976)- The first African American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event; the running long jump at the 1924 Paris Summer games.
  27. Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori- (1762-1829)- A West African prince who was brought as a slave to the US. After 40 years own slavery, he was freed as a result of negotiations between the Sultan of Morocco and President John Quincy Adams.
  28. Thomas L. Jennings- (1791–1856)- The first African American to be granted a patent for his invention of a dry-cleaning process
  29. Anthony Johnson-(c.1600 –1670) - An Angolan who achieved freedom in the early 17th-century Colony of Virginia, where he became one of the first African American property owners and slaveholders.
  30. Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones- (1868/1869 –1933)- First African american to sing at Carnegie Hall.
  31. Barbara Jordan- (1936 –1996)- The first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives, and the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.
  32. Henrietta Lacks- (1920-1951) - An African-American woman who was the unwitting source of cells from her cancerous tumor which were cultured  to create the first known human immortal cell line for medical research.
  33. Edmond Lewis- (1844 –1907)- The first African-American woman to achieve international acclaim as a sculptor.
  34. Henry Berry Lowrie- (c. 1845-Unknown)- Robin Hood style outlaw who targeted the Confederate government of North Carolina during the US Civil War and the KKK after it. He was never captured although many believe he died of injuries sustained in a 1872 robbery.
  35. Mary Eliza Mahoney- (1845 –1926)- The first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States, graduating in 1879
  36. Jean Saint Malo-(Unknown-1784)- Escaped Spanish slave who led guerrilla attacks against the Colonial Spanish govemrnt of Louisiana
  37. Hattie McDaniel- (1895 –1952)-  First African-Americna to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress fro her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind
  38. Doris Miller- (1919 –1943)- The first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross. During the attack on Pearl Harbor Miller, then a cook on the U.S.S West Virginia, manned a gun tower, firing until he ran out of ammunition. He became an icon for African-American serving in the war.
  39. Tom Molineaux- (1784 –1818)- An African-American bare-knuckle boxer. He spent much of his career in Great Britain and Ireland, where he had some notable successes.
  40. P. B. S. Pinchback- (1837 –1921) - The first person of African descent to become governor of a U.S. state, serving as Governor of Louisiana for 15 days.
  41. George Poage- (1880–1962)- The first African-American athlete to win a medal in the Olympic Games, winning two bronze medals at the 1904 games.
  42. Bass Reeves- (1838-1910)- First black Deputy U.S. Marshals who arrested over 3,000 felons and shot and killed fourteen outlaws in self-defense. It is believed that he may have been the inspiration for The Lone Ranger.
  43. Hiram Rhodes Revels- (1827 –1901)-  The first African American to serve in the United States Senate, and was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress.
  44. John Rock-(1825–1866)- First African-American man to earn a medical degree and the first black person to be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. He coined the phrase “Black is Beautiful”
  45. Robert Smalls- (1839 –1915)- Slave who commandeered a Confederate transport ship, CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor, and sailed it from Confederate controlled waters to the U.S. blockade. he was later elected to the South Carolina State legislature and the United States House of Representatives
  46. D. Augustus Straker- (1842-1908)- Barbadian who immigrated to the United States to educate former slaves. In 1890, he became the first Black lawyer to appear before the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing that "separate but equal" was unconstitutional according to Michigan law
  47. Augustus Tolton- (1854-1897) - First African American to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. In 2011 he was named a “Servant of God” one of the first steps toward sainthood.
  48. Alexander Twilight- (1795–1857) - The first African American elected as a state legislator, serving in the Vermont General Assembly.
  49. Colonel Tye- (c.1753—1780)- New Jerseyan slave who escaped to fight for the British during the American Revolution. He was one of the most effective guerrilla leaders opposing the American rebel forces in central New Jersey.
  50. Moses Fleetwood Walker- (1856 -1924)- The first African American to play Major League Baseball. After leaving baseball, Walker became a businessman and advocate of Black nationalism.
  51. Robert C. Weaver- (1907–1997)- The first African American to be appointed to a US cabinet-level position, serving as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1966-1968.
  52. Phillis Wheatley- (c. 1753 –1784)- The first African-American poet to have her work published.
  53. Cathay Williams- (1844-1892)- The first African-American female to enlist, and the only documented to serve in the United States Army posing as a man, under the pseudonym William Cathay.
  54. Marcos Xiorro-(Unknown-1821)- An African slave who, in 1821, planned and conspired to lead a slave revolt against the sugar plantation owners and the Spanish Colonial government in Puerto Rico. Although the conspiracy was unsuccessful, he achieved legendary status among the slaves and is part of Puerto Rico’s folklore.
  55. York- (1770?–1822?)- Slave who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He gained the respect to the rest of the expedition and is believed to have been given his freedom or escaped to freedom following their return the the US. 

Edward “Ned” Needles Hallowell: A Name Forgotten To History

He was an officer that commanded the all black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry following the death of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. (of the Movie “Glory” Fame).  Legacy: The character of Major Forbes in the film Glory is based somewhat on Edward Hallowell.

He was a Quaker from Philadelphia who’s father was an abolitionist.  Lt. Edward Hallowell accepted an appointment in the 54th Massachusetts, which was to be led by Robert Gould Shaw as colonel and his brother Norwood as Lieutenant Colonel. The regiment was to be made up of white and black abolitionists fighting together for black freedom. Edward recruited African-American soldiers in Philadelphia and was actually the first officer to occupy the barracks set aside for the 54th at Camp Meigs in Reedville. Recruiting for the regiment proved so successful that a second regiment, the 55th, was formed. Norwood Hallowell was designated as the 55th’s colonel and Edward was promoted to major and was second-in-command to Shaw.

By the time of the famous assault by the 54th on Fort Wagner Hallowell was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In the assault on Fort Wagner he commanded the left wing with half the regiment’s companies. Because of the narrow defile through which the 54th had to pass the left wing was deployed directly behind Shaw and the right wing. Hallowell suffered three wounds in the assault and went home to recuperate. Upon returning he commanded the 54th as a full colonel for the rest of the war, except when he was in temporary command of a brigade. The 54th and Hallowell continued to serve with distinction during the war. He fought at the Battle of Olustee, the Battle of Honey Hill and the Battle of Boykin’s Mill. At Boykin’s Mill, Hallowell was in command of Major General Potter’s 3rd Brigade.

He was mustered out of the Union Army volunteer service in 1865. Hallowell marched with the Massachusetts members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment at a post-war victory review held in Boston in December 1865. After the war Edward returned to Medford and became a wool commission merchant. His wounds from the war undoubtedly cut his life short and he died in 1871. He is buried with his wife Charlotte at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

Little lasting recognition of either Edward or his brother Norwood exists. One exception is at the famous Union Club off of Boston Common which has meeting rooms dedicated to Edward and Norwood as well as Robert Gould Shaw.

Badass doesn't always show on the outside.

Alexander the Great: (356 BC- 323 BC)Macedonian King, conqueror of much of the ancient world.

Germanicus: (15BC- 19 AD) Famed Roman military commander.

Hua Mulan: (7th century AD) Young Chinese peasant girl who disguised herself as a man so that her father wouldn’t be conscripted.  Rose the ranks to become a high ranking general.

Joan of Arc: (1412-1431) Teenage girl who led the French to victory against the English during the Hundred Years War.

Pope Julius II:  (1443 - 1514) “The Warrior Pope” who donned armor and personally led armies into battle.  

Elizabeth Stokes: (early 18th century) One of the most popular bareknuckle boxers in 17th century England.

Harriet Tubman: (1820-1913) Former slave, underground railroad conductor, army scout, co-commander of the Combahee River Raid, underwent brain surgery without anesthesia. 

Sgt. John Clem: (1851 - 1937) Enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 9. Youngest non-commissioned officer in the US Army with the rank of Sergeant.  Was wounded twice.

Maj. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain: (1828-1914) “The Fighting Professor”  Spoke nine languages fluently. Taught every subject in the curriculum at Bowdoin College.  Commanded the 20th Maine Regiment in the successful defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Led his men in an assault despite being shot in the groin at the Battle of Petersburgh.  Medal of Honor recipient.

Col. Robert Gould Shaw: (1837 - 1863) Commander of the all black 54th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War.  Killed in action at the 2nd Battle of Fort Wagner.

Edith Garrud: (1872-1971)“The Jiu-Jitsu Suffragist”

Sgt. Stubby: World War I veteran. Served in 17 battles. Warned his unit of gas attacks and incoming artillery, found wounded in no man’s land, and caught a German spy.  Was wounded in action once.

Nancy Wake: (1912 - 2011) Commanded 7,000 French Resistance fighters during World War II. The Gestapo (German Secret Police) had a 5 million franc bounty on her head.

Klavdiya Kalugina: (20th century) Soviet sniper during World War II, age 17.

Audie Murphy: (1925-1971) World War II veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, America’s most decorated soldier in history. Among his awards were the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, four Purple Hearts, the French Legion of Honor, two French Croix de Guerre’s, the French Fourregere (worn around his shoulder),and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Was rejected by the Marine Corps and Navy because he was only 5'5" and 110 Lbs.

Unsinkable Sam: (1941-1955) Survived the sinking of three warships during World War II. (Bismarck, HMS Cossack, HMS Ark Royal)

Sgt. Major Mike Vining: Delta Force Operator. Veteran of Vietnam, the Iran Hostage Crises rescue attempt, Grenada, the Gulf War, Haiti, as well as numerous other classified missions. 

Below is what he looked like when he was awarded his first Bronze star.

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Rukhsana Kauser: 18 year old farmgirl from India who defended her family from 6 heavily armed terrorists with an axe and a captured assault rifle.

Yang Yuode: A Chinese farmer who defended his home from a band of thugs with a homemade rocket launcher and a homemade cannon.

Brennan Hawkins: Survived 5 days lost and alone in the Utah wilderness.

Tombstone at Ferncliff Cemetery, Springfield, Ohio, 2013. Photo courtesy of C. Crawford.

Our ancestor, Pvt. Varnal W. Mayo, was a member of the famous 54th Massachusetts regiment. The soldiers were depicted in the motion picture, “Glory.” He was from Granville County, North Carolina, having moved to Ohio before the Civil War. When a call for volunteers of African descent was issued by the governor of Massachusetts, Varnal went there to enlist. The racial practices of the American military were very clear about the ethnicity of soldiers in regiments and their assignments, with very few minority enlisted or commissioned officers.

A foot injury at the Battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island and a stay at DeCamp Hospital on David’s Island resulted in his medical discharge. He was married several times, in NC before going to Ohio, and before and after the war in Ohio. Varnal Mayo lived the rest of his life in Ohio, never returning South to live. After the war, he continued to work and as a military veteran, became a pensioner. He was active with the Grand Army of the Republic until his death in 1900. The permission to use this original photograph from Ferncliff Cemetery in Springfield, Ohio was granted by Ms. C. Crawford in 2013 and 2016.

Story from A.G. Adan 

Lieutenant Colonel Warren Adams of Co. H, 1st South Carolina Infantry Regiment In Uniform

Lt. Colonel Warren Adams commanded of the 1st South Carolina Infantry Regiment in defense of Battery Wagner at Charleston. He fended off the attacks of the African American 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Attacked twice on July 11 and July 18, 1863, he repelled the Union forces with modest losses. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was killed in the second assault on the fort. It eventually succumbed to siege when the Confederates abandoned it on the evening of September 6-7, 1863. The Battles of Battery Wagner are the source of the 1989 movie Glory. Adams went on to serve the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry and was shot from his saddle at the Battle of Bentonville in 1865.- He was the son of South Carolina Governor James Hopkins Adams and Jane Margaret Scott Adams.

  • Purchased from: Cowan’s Auctions, Cincinnati, Ohio, June 2015.
  • Forms part of: Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress).