Massachusetts infantry units in the Civil War customarily carried both a national color and a white state color bearing the coat-of-arms. Several sets of colors could be issued to a regiment as its originals were damaged, destroyed, or lost in battle. This is the state color of the Massachusetts 54th—the first black regiment to be raised in the North. It was captured at the desperate assault on Battery Wagner, Charleston, SC, July 18, 1863, and was returned to the Commonwealth in 1875.
This flag is the companion to the national color saved by Sgt. William Carney at the same battle. Three-times wounded, Carney managed to bring the U. S. color back to the Union lines while uttering that most memorable phrase, "the Old Flag never touched the ground, boys!"—for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress.