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Sergeant Major Lewis Douglass, 54th Massachusetts Infantry, American Civil War
The eldest son of acclaimed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Lewis Henry Douglass apprenticed as a typesetter for his father’s anti-slavery newspapers. He answered the call for black soldiers and enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Shortly after joining, Douglass attained the rank of Sergeant Major, the highest rank an African American could hold at that time. Douglass saw action at the battles of James Island, Olustee, and Fort Wagner. He was wounded at Fort Wagner and half of his corps was killed: “This regiment has established its reputation as a fighting regiment [for] not a man flinched.” This battle proved the mettle of black troops and changed the sentiment of civilians and fellow white soldiers alike.
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