Ramona La Roche portrays Susie King Taylor, the first black nurse during the Civil War, during the 2018 event | Herb Frazier file photos

Civil War reenactors will return to Morris Island on July 18 to remember the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment’s three-month assault on Fort Wagner that proved 159 years ago Black men had the courage to fight against slavery.

Retired teacher Joshua Washington is president of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company I, a Civil War reenactment group in Charleston.

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company I, a Civil War reenactment group in Charleston, will hold a memorial ceremony from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the island, just south of Fort Sumter at the entrance to Charleston harbor. A boat will depart the Charleston Maritime Center at 2:30 p.m. The cost to attend the event as a spectator is $30 per person. Tickets can be purchased at the dock. The boat can carry 49 people.

Before being mustered out of the military in 1865, the men of the 54th also fought in the  Sol Legare area of  James Island and the Battle of Honey Hill in Jasper County. The 54th is remembered for its failed 1863 attack on Fort Wagner from July 18 to Sept. 7 that is depicted in the 1990 award-winning movie, Glory.

This will be the first time since 2018 that Company I has organized a memorial ceremony on Morris Island, said Company I’s education director Donald West. After the 150th  anniversary of the Civil War in 2011, participation in Union and Confederate Civil War reenactment groups began to decline, he said. “We still have a group, and we participate in school programs but the events are now smaller and fewer,” he added.

Marlene Lemon and Ramona La Roche place a wreath on the Morris Island beach during the 2018 ceremony.

Joseph McGill, Company I’s co-founder, said, “It is good that we are reviving it. Those men always deserve to be honored and doing it at the place of the action certainly does that.” McGill often talks about history deniers who’d like to wipe African American contributions from the textbooks.

“This is part of that history they don’t want taught,” McGill said. “They don’t want their children to know their noble cause was defeated with the assistance of Black soldiers of that period,” he said. “They think it is too divisive and kids will be upset and mad” when they learn the true history of slavery and the Civil War.


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