The Storming of Ft Wagner, a lithograph by Kurz and Allison 1890, honors the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, an all-black infantry regiment that saw extensive service in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

After 160 years, Concord will honor its Black Civil War soldier

By Celeste Katz Marston
July 10, 2023

One hundred sixty years ago this month, George Washington Dugan, a son of Concord, gave his life with the all-Black Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment. And if Concordians haven’t had the opportunity to learn more about the story of Dugan, this weekend is their chance.

From this Thursday through Sunday, a series of local events and ceremonies will honor Dugan, his sacrifice with the regiment memorialized in the 1989 film, “Glory,” and more broadly, shed light on how we record and retell our American history.

“I think Concord, like all communities, now is trying to do a better job of telling the full history of the town and looking to recognize the stories of people who have been ignored or forgotten — or in some cases, their stories may have been suppressed,” said Joe Palumbo, a town guide and native helping to publicize the events. 

“Concord is very proud [of] its history,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we’re acknowledging all of its history.”

The greater theme of the weekend: Tying together events of the American Revolution and the Civil War “to show how the concept of freedom, the seeking of freedom, and the winning of freedom” is an unfinished task that spans generations and eras, Palumbo said. 

Dugan, a Concord farmer and widower whose father had been enslaved, signed up at the 54th’s recruiting station in Boston in early 1863. He was presumed dead after fierce figthting by the 54th during the storming of Fort Wagner, S.C. on July 18th, 1863. Earlier this year, the Civil War Monument Task Force received funds that allowed the name of Private Dugan, the only Black Concordian to enlist in the conflict, to be added to the Civil War Solider’s Monument. 

Dugan will be discussed Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Goodwin Forum, Main Library, in a talk with Marvin-Alonzo Greer, lead historic interpretation and community engagement officer for the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. Greer, whose vivid historical commentary has large and avid followings on Instagram and TikTok, and his presentation will highlight “how as a community we can and must use our skills of historical interpretation, and cultural markers to celebrate and highlight all those often left out of the historical narrative.” Registration is available through the Library at:

On Friday, July 14, at 7 p.m., Greer will also lead discussion at a free interactive screening of “Glory” at the Umbrella Arts Main Theatre.

In one of the weekend’s highlights, on Saturday, July 15, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, a special ceremony will commemorate Dugan at Monument Square, with a procession to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for the dedication of a monument in his honor. 

Additionally, on Saturday, the National Park Service Boston hosts an all-day pop-up exhibit on the Massachusetts 54th in the North Bridge area. At 1 p.m., Greer will give a talk at North Bridge entitled, “Freedom Unfinished: The War of Independence and the War of the Rebellion 1775-1865. At 2 p.m., the Robbins House Lawn will feature Civil War Living History demonstrations, followed at 4 p.m. by a Life of a Civil War Soldier program near North Bridge.

Rounding out the weekend, living history demonstrations resume at Robbins House at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 16, followed by an open house featuring displays of Civil War artifacts at the Concord Armory.