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Enlistments in the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry, 1863

Col. Robert Gould Shaw's Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry would very likely have failed to complete its organization if the state limited its recruitment efforts to Massachusetts, for comparatively few African American men lived within its borders. Fortunately for the famed regiment, the ranks were filled by free men and former slaves from across the North and South. A look at the rolls for Company A shows that Massachusetts men of color topped enlistments in February 1863. But a large group of New Yorkers and volunteers from other states dominated in March and May, the month the regiment left the state for the South. In total, 83 men hailed from Massachusetts, 33 from New York, and 15 from other states. Two individuals listed Canada and the West Indies as their places of origin. Of note is that replacements were relatively slow to join the company after the Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863. Although a few new recruits trickled in during the months after the assault, it was not until December that a sizable number of fresh volunteers were added to the depleted ranks of the company.

Source: Luis F. Emilio, History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865.                    

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