The importance of taking this battery is indicated in the film by an officer who points it out as something that has to be taken, and he also describes the armaments and the men who are to be faced. The fort was by then weakened because of several days of naval attack, and now it was necessary for troops to attack the fort. A narrow stretch of land made it possible for only one regiment to attack at a time, and the leading regiment would face massive losses. Colonel Shaw volunteers the 54th for this assault.
The battle itself was suicidal in reality and appears so in the film as well. Emilio describes the fortifications in more detail than the film, but the essential meaning is the same--taking the fort will be difficult and will entail many losses in the first wave, to be led by the 54th (Emilio 68-69). In Emilio's account, Shaw is eager to go into battle but does not volunteer as he does in the film. He is rather asked to lead the charge and told that he can choose to do what he wants. Certain details as reported by Emilio are fudged in the film--Shaw stays with his men rather than having them sent on forward while he remains behind to dine with General Strong, for instance. In both cases, Shaw gives letters and papers to Pierce to send back to his home if he does not make it through the battle, an indication of the premonition Emilio says he had of impending death. Much of the battle takes place at night, though in the film it begins in daylight while in reality it seems to have waited until dark:
Emilio agrees with the film as to the ferocity of the fire that rained down on the regiment as it neared the fort. The film seems as accurate a rendering of the battle as can be expected. All in all, the film is a good dramatization of the historical record of the 54th regiment.
It was a supreme moment for the Fifty-fourth, then under fire as a regiment for the first time. The sight of wounded comrades had been a trial; and the screaming shot and she