Chapter 16: final service.
Upon the arrival of the several detachments of the Fifty-fourth at Charleston
, Companies A, C, F, H, and K, comprising the right wing under Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper
, located camp on the Neck in an open field to the right of the plank road, and nearer the city than Magnolia Cemetery. Major Pope
, with the left wing, relieved the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts at St. Andrew's Parish, across the Ashley River
, opposite the city, where they occupied high ground not far from the camp made just before first entering Charleston
From the Ashley
to Wappoo Cut was an intrenched line with several redoubts made by the Confederates
was placed in charge of what was known as the ‘Defences of Charleston
,’ comprising the intrenched line around the city, that at St. Andrew's Parish, and the James Island lines
; Mount Pleasant
was soon included in his command.
The troops under him were the Fifty-fourth, One Hundred and Seventh Ohio, and Twenty-first United States Colored Troops.
His headquarters were first at the Cary house
, but on the 8th were removed to Nos. 6 and 8 Meeting Street, Charleston
From camp on the Neck Lieutenant Reed
, with Company A, was sent on the 8th as train guard over the South Carolina Railroad to Summerville
, returning the next day. The One Hundred and Seventh Ohio arrived on the 8th
and 9th, taking post at the intrenchments.
The Twentyfirst United States Colored Troops was stationed on James Island
and Mount Pleasant
Orders being received for the right wing to join the left, on the 14th it marched from the Neck, crossed the river, and camped at St. Andrew's Parish, thus reuniting the regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper
He retained command until the 29th, when, having received leave of absence, he departed for the North
, leaving Major Pope
in charge of the regiment.
In accordance with Department orders issued May 29, Colonel Hallowell
, Colonel Gurney
, One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York, and Major Willoughby
, Twentyfirst United States Colored Troops, were constituted a board for the examination of volunteer officers in the Northern District, with a view to their retention in the military service.
All the officers of the Fifty-fourth appeared before this board.
with twenty-five men, on June 2, was sent on a ‘tin-clad’ steamer to the Santee River
On the 7th the men welcomed back to the regiment eleven of their comrades who had been prisoners of war. Two others had previously reported.
These men were paroled near Wilmington, N. C.
, on March 4. Colonel Hallowell
's command was broken up June 5; the Fifty-fourth was ordered to Charleston
; the One Hundred and Seventh Ohio and Twenty-first United States Colored Troops remaining brigaded under Colonel Hallowell
until the 10th.
Our regiment was ordered to relieve the Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops, forming part of the garrison.
On the 8th four companies crossed the Ashley
in small boats, taking post at the Citadel.
They were joined by five other companies on the 10th, Company I remaining at St. Andrew's
took command of his regiment on the 10th.
Quartered in the Citadel, the Fifty-fourth entered upon the usual duties incident to guard and patrol service in the Upper District
of the city.
The event of each morning was guard mounting on Citadel Square, which always attracted numbers of colored people, young and old, to witness the evolutions and listen to the martial music.
It was agreeable service for all. When off duty officers had the range of the city and its attractions.
The men were allowed frequent passes outside the spacious Citadel grounds, making friends with the colored people, which in some cases resulted in a partnership for life.
Charleston at this time was slowly recovering from the effects of war and the siege.
There was a growing trade in merchantable articles.
The churches were turned over to their several congregations.
The negroes who flocked in from the country greatly increased the population.
This soon resulted in a heavy death-rate among this class, which at one time reached one hundred per week.
Whites and blacks were closely watching the political developments, causing much friction.
was the Collector
of the Port, and Mr. Sawyer Inspector
of Internal Revenue.
Some arrests of prominent Secessionists were made,--notably that of George A. Trenholm
, the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury
Prominent citizens were returning.
Among them were Theodore D. Wagner
, J. B. Campbell
, James H. Taylor
, William Gregg
, Motte A. Pringle
, and Judge William Pringle
. General Hatch
was occupying the fine mansion of the latter gentleman, situated on King Street, as his headquarters.
Some cotton was coming in, and more was expected as soon as the railroads
Vegetables and fruits were becoming abundant in the markets.
Beef, mutton, and veal were ruling at thirty cents per pound.
Shipments were made North from the large stores of rice in the city.
From the paroled armies of the defunct Confederacy came large numbers of soldiers in dilapidated garments and emaciated physical condition.
They flocked to take the oath of allegiance and receive the bounty of government.
Such was their destitution that they were glad to share the rations of our colored soldiers in some instances.
's Amnesty Proclamation, when received, was variously regarded, according to the status of the critic as a Secessionist Radical or Conservative.
Major P. E. Dye
paid Companies A, B, and C of the Fifty-fourth on the 17th, and the remaining companies on the two succeeding days.
This was only the second payment of the enlisted men while in service.
the Masonic Lodge
organized on Morris Island
, of which First Sergeant Gray
of Company C was the Master
, met in the third story of a house just across from the Citadel.
, Alexander Johnson
, and Hemmingway
were among the members, who numbered some twentyfive or thirty.
It is thought that the charter of this lodge was surrendered ultimately to Prince Hall Lodge
, whence it came.
departed for the North
on the 17th, after taking leave of his squadron in orders.
On the 18th an affray occurred on the Battery
between a guard of the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York and some of the Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops, when a few soldiers and civilians were wounded.
A part of Jefferson Davis
's and Beauregard
's effects and correspondence
brought into Jacksonville
was turned over to Lieut. John W. Pollock
, Assistant Provost-Marshal
, on the 24th.
It included three handsome uniforms presented to Beauregard
by the ladies of Columbia
, and Selma
Independence Day was celebrated with great enthusiasm by the loyal citizens and soldiery.
National salutes were fired from Sumter
, and Gregg, the harbor resounding with explosions, bringing to memory the days of siege.
The troops paraded, the Declaration of Independence
and the Emancipation Proclamation
were read, and orators gave expression to patriotic sentiments doubly pointed by the great war which perfected the work of the fathers.
, with Company I, reported to the regiment from St. Andrew's Parish about July 1, but was soon sent to McClellansville
, where this company remained until just before muster-out.
On July 11 orders were received for the discharge of the Fifty-fourth.
They emanated from General Gillmore
, who afterward, finding that his authority was questionable, telegraphed to Washington
Meanwhile Capt. Thomas J. Robinson
, Fifty-fourth New York, mustering officer, furnished necessary instructions for preparing the rolls.
Naturally this order gave great satisfaction.
At one time it was thought that the colored regiments would be retained until the expiration of their term of service.
's One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York was mustered out on June 30, and the next day departed from Charleston
. Brig.-Gen. William T. Bennett
, Thirty-third United States Colored Troops, succeeded to the command of the city.
with Company K, on July 31, was ordered to Fort Johnson
to dismount guns on James Island
for transportation elsewhere.
This work was prosecuted until the company was relieved on August 16.
Orders were received from General Gillmore
directing that the commanding officers
of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, Twenty-sixth, Thirty-second, and One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops, about to be mustered out, should nominate such officers of their regiments as were desirous of appointments in other colored organizations.
No assurances were given of their receiving a higher grade than second lieutenancies.
It is not known whether any nominations were made from the Fifty-fourth.
During the interval of time between the arrival of the regiment and its muster-out, many changes of rank and duties occurred.
Commissions were received for Quartermaster-Sergeant Vogelsang
and First Sergeant Welch
, of Company F, as second lieutenants, May 22.
Applications being made for their muster, they were returned ‘disapproved,’ and the commissions for some reason destroyed.
, determined that the precedent established in the case of Lieutenant Swails
should be followed, appealed to higher authority, sending for new commissions.
These colored men were finally mustered as officers, and ultimately promoted to first lieutenancies.
Commissions were also issued to First Sergeant George E. Stephens
, of Company B, and First Sergeant Albert D. Thompson
, of Company D, but they were not mustered under them.
, John H. Conant
, and William McDermott
, newly appointed, reported and ultimately became first lieutenants.
Joshua B. Treadwell
reported for duty as assistant-surgeon.
was brevetted brigadier-general.
was promoted lieutenant-colonel and Captain Walton
. Lieutenant Emerson
became captain of Company E; Lieutenant James
, captain of Company C; Lieutenant Reed
, captain of Company K; and Lieutenant Newell
, captain of Company B. Lieutenant Cousens
, promoted first lieutenant, was afterward made captain of Company E. Lieutenant Joy
, after taking the intermediate rank, became captain of Company F. Lieutenants Edmands
, and Whitney
were promoted first lieutenants.
was made surgeon One Hundred and Fourth United States Colored Troops; and Lieutenants Leonard
One Hundred and Third United States Colored Troops.
Those who resigned, or were mustered out at the expiration of their personal terms of service, were Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper
, Adjutant Duren
, Quartermaster Ritchie
, Captains Bridge
, and Emerson
, and Lieutenants Spear
, and Jewett
. Lieutenant Edmands
acted as quartermaster until June 21, when Lieutenant Vogelsang
was made regimental-quartermaster.
relieved Lieutenant Whitney
as acting adjutant until Lieutenant Swails
relieved him July 1.
The latter was then succeeded by Lieutenant Conant
. Sergeant Wilkins
, of Company D, was appointed acting sergeantmajor, and Thomas E. Platner
, of Company A, principal musician.
Preparatory to discharge the Fifty-fourth was relieved from garrison duty, and ordered to rendezvous at Mount Pleasant
Headquarters were located there on the 14th, and by the 17th the companies were all present.
At this last camp the rolls and final papers were completed.
Under the supervision of Capt. Thomas J. Robinson
Fifty-fourth was discharged August 20.
The roster of officers at the time was as follows:—
Field and Staff
,—Colonel and Brevet Brigadier-General
, E. N. Hallowell
, George Pope
, James M. Walton
; Surgeon, Charles E. Briggs
; Assistant Surgeon
, Joshua B. Treadwell
,—James W. Grace
(A), Thomas L. Appleton
(G), Charles E. Tucker
(H), Willard Howard
(I), Charles G. Chipman
(D), Garth W. James
(C), Lewis Reed
(K), Robert R. Newell
(B), Joseph E. Cousens
(E), Charles F. Joy
,—Benjamin B. Edmands
, Stephen A. Swails
, Peter Vogelsang
), Frank M. Welch
, George W. Cranch
, William L. Whitney, Jr.
, John H. Conant
, William McDermott
Of the twenty-three officers, but eight were of those who left Massachusetts
May 28, 1863, for the field.
August 21, at night, Brevet Brigadier-General Hallowell
, with the right wing, embarked on the steamer C. F. Thomas,
sailed at 5 A. M. on the 22d, and reached Boston
at noon of the 26th, where it disembarked at Gallop's Island
. Lieutenant-Colonel Pope
, with the left wing, left Charleston
on the 23d upon the steamer Ashland,
completing the voyage on the 28th. Captain Grace
did not return North with the regiment, and fifty-nine enlisted men were left behind sick in hospital.
At Gallop's Island
, in Boston harbor
, the Fifty-fourth remained until September 2.
There the stores pertaining to the quartermaster's department were turned over to the government officer, and the ordnance stores to Major C. P. Kingsbury
About two thirds of the men exercised the privilege of purchasing their arms, as mementos of service in the war. On September
1 final payment was made, accounts settled, and discharges given out.
A telegram from Charleston
of the departure of the regiment was sent to the Adjutant-General
Upon its receipt the friends of the officers and men arranged for their proper reception in Boston
The newspapers made announcement of the event, indicated the route, and requested the display of the national colors and that refreshments be served on the march.
September 2, the Fifty-fourth at 9 A. M. landed at Commercial Wharf from the tugs ‘Uncle Sam,’ ‘William H. Stroud
,’ and another.
There it was received by the Fourteenth Unattached Company Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (Shaw Guards, colored), Capt. Lewis Gaul
; the Hall
owell Union Association, A. M. Hewlett
, marshal; a delegation from the Rev. William Grimes
's Twelfth Baptist Society; and many citizens, accompanied by Gilmore
's Band, —all under direction of J. J. Smith
, chief marshal
The Boston Brigade Band was also provided for the Fifty-fourth.
After the regiment had landed and passed the escort, the column moved from Commercial to State Street. This thoroughfare was thronged with people, who greeted the veterans with repeated cheers.
Great enthusiasm was displayed; and the passing of the colors was especially honored.
As the Fifty-fourth moved through Washington, Franklin, Devonshire, Summer, and Winter streets, similar plaudits greeted it from every side.
Entering Tremont Street from Winter, an incident of the occasion was the display in the window of Childs
's establishment of a portrait of Lieutenant Webster
, deceased, of the Fifty-fourth, draped in mourning.
In passing, appropriate
music was played, and the regiment gave a marching salute in honor of the deceased comrade.
From Tremont Street the column entered Park
, thence to the State House
, where from the steps Governor Andrew
, accompanied by his staff and the Executive Council, reviewed the veterans as they passed.
Proceeding down Beacon Street through Joy, Cambridge
, West Cedar, Mount Vernon
, Walnut, and Beacon to the Common, everywhere along the route cheers went up from admirers, and friends rushed to shake hands with relatives or acquaintances among the officers and men. Everywhere along the journey the public buildings, including the State House
, and parks of the city floated the stars and stripes.
Through the throng of citizens lining the curb, the Fifty-fourth marched, welcomed at every step, with the swing only acquired by long service in the field, and the bearing of seasoned soldiers.
Arriving upon the Common, the regiment halted.
In the presence of a very large assemblage, including Mayor Lincoln
, Colonel Kurtz
, chief of police
, Hon. Henry Wilson
, and other gentlemen of prominence, the regiment was exercised for a few moments in the manual of arms.
Forming from line into a hollow square, Brevet Brigadier-General Hallowell
called his officers around him, thanked them for the efficient and manly way they had performed their service, their uniform kindness to him, and tendered his best wishes for their success and happiness through life.
He then addressed the enlisted men, thanking them for the brave manner in which they had supported him in many trying times throughout their service.
He said whenever a ‘forlorn hope’ had been called for, the Fifty-fourth had been ready and prompt to respond.
They had protected
their colors and brought them home again,--there was little left of them, but enough to show how bravely they had been defended.
They had proved good soldiers in the field; now he hoped they would become good citizens.
When they left Massachusetts
, it was the only State which recognized them as citizens.
Now the whole country acknowledged their soldierly qualities.
He hoped that by good behavior they would show their title to all the privileges of citizenship.
Continuing, he reminded them that their blood had enriched the soil of South Carolina
, and Florida
; might the sweat of their brows now enrich the soil of Massachusetts
Might they show themselves to be men, without respect to color or former condition.
He bade them good-by.
He was glad to disband them, but he was sorry to part from them.
Still, he knew they looked upon him as their friend, and felt sure that wherever he might go he would find friends among colored soldiers and colored men. In conclusion, he reminded them that having received large sums of money just paid to them, it should be kept.
He hoped that all who had homes out of the city would return to them when disbanded.
Upon the conclusion of this address repeated cheers were given for General Hallowell
Then the square was reduced, and some manoeuvres were executed by the regiment.
It then marched to the Charles
-street Mall, and there partook of a collation spread upon tables, which had been prepared by William Tufts
at the order of friends of the Fifty-fourth.
Then the regiment was disbanded.
Company C, recruited largely in New Bedford, was escorted to the cars by the Shaw Guards
At New Bedford, when the company arrived, a large number of citizens,
a reception committee, and the Carney Guards
(colored), with the New Bedford Band
, were in waiting.
With the escort, the veterans, some twenty-two in number, passed through crowded streets to the City Hall.
There a meeting was held in their honor, which was called to order by W. H. Johnson
, at which speeches were made by Henry F. Harrison
and James B. Congdon
Afterward a collation was provided by the colored people for the company.
Before the officers of the Fifty-fourth parted, an invitation was extended to them for the succeeding Monday evening, to attend a reception at the residence of John Ritchie
, their late quartermaster
, at Chester Park
The Boston Evening Transcript thus referred to the event of the day:—
‘The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment, the pioneer State colored regiment of this country, recruited at a time when great prejudices existed against enlisting any but socalled white men in the army, when a colored soldiery was considered in the light of an experiment almost certain to fail, this command—which now returns crowned with laurels, and after two hundred thousand of their brethren, from one end of the traitorous South to the other, have fought themselves into public esteem—had such a reception to-day as befitted an organization the history of which is admitted to form so conspicuous a part of the annals of the country.’
In the words of Von Moltke
, ‘War is an element in the order of the world ordained by God.
In it the noblest virtues of mankind are developed,—courage and the abnegation of self, faithfulness to duty and the spirit of sacrifice: the soldier gives his life.’
With the loyal volunteers who defended the Union of States these virtues were not only dominant, but were joined with the nobler one of
patriotism, which nerved them to contend against national dissolution, brought on by Southern politicians to perpetuate their waning power, under the guise of a struggle for slavery and State rights.
It has been written that ‘the regiment is the family.’
To the soldier his true commander is a father; his superiors, elder brothers to be deferred to and obeyed; the recruits, his younger kinsmen whom he cares for and supports by example.
He cherishes and proudly recounts the traditions of glorious deeds and dangerous enterprises.
The flag is the object of his sentimental devotion, which he has sworn to defend with his life.
Every hole in the tattered silk or mark upon its staff tells of valorous strife in a just cause.
Each legend inscribed upon its stripes is the brief story of regimental glory.
Such esprit du corps
in its fullest perfection has served to carry men joyfully to death in the effort to win the imperishable renown secured by famous regiments.
It earned for the Fifty-seventh Demi-Brigade before Mantua
, in Napoleon
's first Italian
campaign, the name of ‘The Terrible;’ for the Forty-second Royal Highlanders, whose black tartans shadowed many a battlefield, its undying reputation; and for the Zouaves of the Guard who led the assault upon the Malikoff, the plaudits of their countrymen.
The gallant deeds of these foreign regiments were rivalled in our Civil War; but, unlike them, our organizations were of brief existence, and are of the past.
A recent writer upon our late war has said of the private soldier:—
‘He does not expect to see his own name on the titlepage of history, and is content with a proper recognition of the old
command in which he fought; but he is jealous of the record of his regiment, and demands credit for every shot it faced and every grave it filled.’
It is with a pride in the regiment which we trust others may deem pardonable, a painstaking endeavor to satisfy the natural expectations of the survivors who helped to acquire its honorable record and to preserve the traditions and recount the cheerful sacrifices of both the living and the dead, that this history has been written.
During a period of field-service covering twenty-six months almost every kind of military duty fell to the lot of the Fifty-fourth.
Not only did it, in common with other infantry organizations, encounter the foe on advanced posts, in assault, and battle-line, but its services under fire as engineers and artillerymen were required during the siege operations in which it bore part.
Thrice was the regiment selected for desperate duty,— to lead the charge on Wagner
, to advance the siege-works against the same stronghold when
defeat confronted the troops, and to hold back the victorious enemy at Olustee
until a new battle-line could be formed.
Twice did it land upon hostile territory preceding all other regiments of the invading force, receiving the fire of the enemy or driving his light troops.
The important task of guarding several hundred Confederate officers was also especially given to it.
But these services were not rendered without serious losses.
How great they were was not even known to the author until after the history, except these closing lines, was in print, as the Roster which follows was not completed, and only from it could be gleaned the long list of those who died of wounds in hospital, home, and prisonpen.
The mortality and casualty lists evidence the sacrifices made by the Fifty-fourth in the line of duty.
With an aggregate enrolment of 1,354 officers and men, the regiment suffered a loss of 5 officers and 95 men known to have been killed or who died of their wounds.
There were 106 men reported missing, 19 of whom are known to have died in prison, and 30 who lived to be released, leaving 57 missing in action.
The casualty list is completed by the further loss of 20 officers and 274 men wounded, making a total loss of 500, which is 36.9 per cent of the enrolment.
The death of 93 men out of an enrolment of 1,286, from disease and accident alone, gives a percentage of 7.2 against 15.9, which is said to be the rate for the total of colored troops enrolled.
This evidences superior material or care on the part of the Fifty-fourth.
It has been shown how the regiment by its steadfast resolve, with the assistance of its friends, wrung justice and equal rights with white soldiers from the Government
in the matter of pay and the muster of colored officers.
In connection with other colored organizations, the Fifty-fourth contributed to the establishment of a fact bearing strongly upon the military resources of our country then and now. We have read in the opening chapter that the United States
only called the blacks to bear arms when disaster covered the land with discouragement and volunteering had ceased.
It is also to be remembered that our enemy, having from the incipiency of the Rebellion
employed this class as laborers for warlike purposes, at the last resolved upon enrolling them in their armies.
This plan, however, was still-born, and was the final and wildest dream of Davis
, and the crumbling Confederacy.
the courage and fidelity of the blacks, so unmistakably demonstrated during the Civil War
, assures to us, in the event of future need, a class to recruit from now more available, intelligent, educated, and self-reliant, and more patriotic, devoted, and self-sacrificing, if such were possible, than thirty years ago.