When Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew proposed to raise the first military unit consisting of black soldiers during the Civil War, he was assured by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that the men would be paid, clothed, and treated in the same way as white troops. As the recruiting posters and newspaper advertisements stated, this included a state bounty and a monthly pay of $13. In July of 1863, an order was issued in Washington fixing the compensation of black soldiers at the laborers' rate of $10 per month. This amount was offered on several occasions to the men of the 54th, but was continually refused. Governor Andrew and the Massachusetts legislature, feeling responsible for the $3 discrepancy in pay promised to the troops, passed an act in November of 1863 providing the difference from state funds. The men refused to accept this resolution, however, demanding that they receive full soldier pay from the federal government.
Learn more about this pay controvery, and how it was resolved, through items on display in our current exhibition Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial.