The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863 opened the door for African American men to enlist in the military. With the help of prominent abolitionists including Frederick Douglass and Lewis Hayden, Governor Andrew succesfully recruited soldiers and officers to create the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first Black regiments to fight in the Civil War.
At the Battle of Fort Wagner, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led the 54th in the attack on Confederate forces. Despite losing the battle, their actions earned them widespread respect and admiration. As a result of their bravery, the 54th helped to erode public opposition to Black soldiers and inspired the enlistment of more than 180,000 African Americans in the U.S. Army.
The bravery and service of the enlisted men and officers proved instrumental in securing freedom for enslaved people. While the story of the 54th remains well known in history, the stories of many of its soldiers remain untold. Explore these data sets to learn more and make your own discoveries.
Soldier and Officer Database
These online, searchable data sets serve as a resource for finding soldiers and officers who served with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment between February 1863 and August 1865. Data include the men’s age, enlistment and mustered out dates, place of enlistment, profession at enlistment, rank, and company. Over 1,500 men are listed in the data sets below.
This table includes the names of individuals who served as enlisted soldiers with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
This table includes the names of individuals who served as commissioned officers with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
Emilio, Luis F., A Brave Black Regiment: History of The Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1863-1865, New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1995.
Last updated: January 22, 2021