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  • Identified U.S. Belt and Buckle 54th Massachusetts Infantry of “Glory” Fame Killed in Action at Honey Hill, South Carolina / SOLD

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    Identified U.S. Belt and Buckle 54th Massachusetts Infantry of “Glory” Fame Killed in Action at Honey Hill, South Carolina - Inventory Number: LEA 356 / SOLD

    Anthony L. King - Residence Becket MA; a 21-year-old Gentleman. Enlisted on 8/24/1864 as a Private. On 8/24/1864 he mustered into Unassigned MA 54th Infantry, He was transferred out on 10/1/1864. On 10/1/1864 he transferred into "B" Co. MA 55th Infantry, He was Killed on 11/30/1864 at Honey Hill, SC.


         The 54th Regt. Mass. Vol. Inf. was the first military unit composed of men of African descent to be raised in Massachusetts.  Twenty-seven men, the nucleus of the organization, assembled at Camp Meigs, Readville, Feb. 21, 1863. The companies were mustered in on various dates between March 30 and May 13, the recruits coming from all parts of Massachusetts and many from outside the State.  As more enlistments were secured than were needed, the surplus became the nucleus of the 55th.

         Captain Robert Gould Shaw, an officer in the 2d Mass. Inf., was commissioned colonel of the 54th, and Captain Norwood P. Hallowell of the 20th Mass. Inf., lieutenant colonel.  All the commissioned officers of the regiment were white men.

         Lieut. Col. Norwood P. Hallowell did not remain long with the 54th.  On May 30, 1863, he was commissioned colonel of the 55th, and on the following day Major Edward N. Hallowell was commissioned lieutenant colonel in his place.

         Leaving camp May 28, 1863, the regiment was reviewed by Governor Andrew, and embarked the same day on the transport DE MOLAY for the coast of South Carolina.  Touching at Hilton Head, June 3, the transport proceeded the same day to Beaufort.  During the month of June the 54th visited New Frederica, St. Simon's Island, and St. Helena Island. Embarking July 8, it proceeded to Stono Inlet, where it became a part of General Terry's expedition to James Island near Charleston, S. C.  Near Secessionville, July 16, the Federals were attacked by a force under General Colquitt, and in the battle which followed the 54th lost 14 killed, 18 wounded, and three missing.

         Ordered to report to General Strong on Morris Island, July 18, it was there assigned to lead the attack on Fort Wagner the same evening.  In this disastrous assault the 54th lost Colonel Shaw, Captains Russell and Simpkins, and over 20 men killed, Lieut. Colonel E. N. Hallowell, ten other commissioned officers, and 125 men wounded, and over 100 missing, many of the latter being killed.  Six days later Col. M. S. Littlefield of the 4th South Carolina was placed in command of the 54th, and held it through the summer and early fall.

         All through the month of August the regiment was occupied in constructing intrenchments and parallels which were gradually pushed up to within a short distance of Fort Wagner, and when the fort was evacuated by the Confederates, Sept. 7, the 54th was the first regiment to enter the works.

         The autumn of 1863 was occupied in the reconstruction of Forts Wagner and Gregg so that they would face toward Fort Sumter and Charleston, and in erecting other fortifications. On Oct. 17, Lieut. Colonel E. N. Hallowell, now promoted to colonel, returned and assumed command.  Service in front of Charleston, such as outlined above, occupied the 54th until mid winter.

         In the latter part of January, 1864, the regiment was assigned to an expedition to the Florida coast commanded by General Seymour.  It broke camp on Morris Island, Jany. 29, reported next day at Hilton Head, and sailed Feb. 5, for Jacksonville.  Arriving Feb. 7, about a week later it accompanied an expedition into the interior.  On Feb. 20, it was engaged with the enemy near Olustee, Fla., while covering the retirement of General Seymour's force from that place, losing 13 killed, 66 wounded, and eight missing.

         The regiment now remained at Jacksonville until April 17, when it returned to Morris Island in front of Charleston, S. C.  Now commanded by Lieut. Col. Henry N. Hooper, it spent the summer and fall of 1864 in the fortifications on James and Morris Islands.

         On Nov. 27, eight companies, under command of Lieut. Col. Hooper, were transported to Hilton Head, and attached to Hartwell's (3d) Brigade, Hatch's Coast Division.  Six of these companies were engaged at Honey Hill, Nov. 30, losing three killed 38 wounded, and four missing.  On Dec. 6, they were engaged at Deveau's Neck without, loss.  From Dec. 19, 1864, to Feb. 12, 1865, the 54th, as a part of Hatch's Division, was on guard duty at or near Pocotaligo, S. C., Sherman's base of supplies, and making frequent demonstrations along the Cambahee River.  About Feb. 13 it was reported that the  Confederates had retired to the Ashepoo River in the direction of Charleston.  Hatch's Division soon followed, crossing the Combahee, Feb. 16, the Ashepoo on the 20th, and reached a position on the Ashley opposite Charleston Feb. 23.  Here it was found that the city was in the possession of the Union forces, mostly from Morris Island, and among them Companies " B " and " F " of the 54th which had been detached from the rest of the regiment since the preceding November.  The Confederates had evacuated the place the night of Feb. 17, first setting fire to the bridge across the Ashley River and  to all buildings in the city which were used as storehouses for cotton, and the following morning the place was occupied by the Federal forces.  The main body of the 54th was ferried over the Ashley and entered the city Feb. 27, and now the separated companies of the regiment were reunited.

         Here the 54th remained until the 12th of March when it was sent by transport to Savannah, Ga.  From there, on the 27th, it was sent to Georgetown, S. C., arriving on the  31st.  Here it was attached to Hallowell's Brigade of Potter's Division, and on April 5 set out on a raid into the interior of the State.  At Boykin's Mills, April 18, the 54th was  engaged with the enemy, losing three killed and 24 wounded, one of the killed being 1st Lieutenant Stevens of Brighton, Mass.  On April 25 the regiment returned to Georgetown, the close of hostilities having been announced four days previously.

         Returning to Charleston, May 6, a large part of the regiment was distributed at various points in the State until Aug. 17, when it was assembled at Mount Pleasant, and  mustered out Aug. 20.  Embarking on the following day on the transports C. F. THOMAS and ASHLAND, it reached Galloup's Island, Boston Harbor, Aug. 27 and 28.  The men were  paid off Sept. 1, and on the following day, after being reviewed by the governor, and having paraded in the vicinity of the Common and Beacon Hill, the regiment was disbanded.

         An important chapter in the history of the 54th was its fight for the regular soldier's pay of $13. per month.  At the outset the men were assured by Governor Andrew that they should receive the same pay and emoluments as all other volunteer soldiers.  But in July, 1863, came an order from Washington fixing the compensation of colored soldiers at $10. per month, and several times an offer was made to the men of the 54th of this amount.  As many times it was persistently refused.

         In November, 1863, the legislature of Massachusetts passed an act providing that the difference of $3. per month should be made up by the State, but the men of the regiment refused to accept money so appropriated by Massachusetts.  They demanded that they receive from the national government their full soldier pay.  For eighteen months after the first companies entered the service the men received nothing for their services and sufferings.

         Finally in September, 1864, their just demands were acceded to by the government, and all the members of the regiment received their full pay from the time of their  enlistment totaling approximately $170,000.


    Inventory Number: LEA 356 / SOLD