As part of ongoing observances of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Whaling Museum is hosting Heroes in Bronze; the 54th Regiment in words, music and art on AHA! Night, Thursday, August 9 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in partnership with New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the New Bedford Historical Society. The evening will feature a free public lecture by a national expert, Civil War re-enactors, fife & drum, readings and a youth performance.
At 6:00 p.m. members of the Boston Fife & Drum Service will lead a procession from 54th Regiment Plaza (William Street and Acushnet Avenue) to the Whaling Museum Plaza. They will be joined by some of the re-enactors of the Boston-based 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company A. Members of Battery B, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, and Company K, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry will also accompany the 54th re-enactors.
At 6:15 p.m. members of the New Bedford Historical Society will read excerpts of letters from the 54th Regiment on the museum plaza, followed at 6:45 p.m. by a performance of “54,” an original work by the Youth Ambassador Program.
At 7:00 p.m. Dr. Henry J. Duffy will present an illustrated lecture, Robert Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Consecration and Monument, in the Cook Memorial Theater.
Dr. Duffy is Curator at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. He holds a doctorate in Art History from Rutgers University and previously worked with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. An author and lecturer on Saint-Gaudens, nineteenth-century art and culture, Dr. Duffy has also appeared as a commentator on A&E America’s Castles.
The Youth Ambassador Program (YAP!) is a partnership program between the National Park and Third EyE Unlimited Youth Empowerment, where teens communicate national park themes through hip-hop culture and social media outreach, including creating music and videos about local, regional, and national park themes.
The evening’s events highlight the museum’s continuing exhibition of the bronzed busts for the 1897 monument on Boston Common honoring the regiment. The busts are on loan from the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.
The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial was created by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). Fourteen years in the making, it depicts the 54th Regiment marching down Beacon Street in 1863 led by Captain Shaw.
Leading his regiment in the assault on Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina, Shaw was killed with more than 50 of his soldiers in 1863 and buried with his men on the battlefield. Another 149 were wounded. The first African-American unit to fight for the North, the 54th ultimately suffered 272 casualties, the highest total for a single engagement during the war.
Men were recruited from throughout the region, especially New Bedford. Sergeant William Carney of the city received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor at the Battle of Fort Wagner.