The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was one of the first federally recognized African American regiments that fought in the Civil War. An enlistment station for Company C was located in downtown New Bedford, adjacent to the U.S. Custom House.
William P. Powell, Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1834 to an African American father and Wampanoag mother. He later became the first African American physician to receive a contract as a surgeon with the Union Army.
Powell — who trained at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in London, England — was assigned to Contraband Hospital in Washington, D.C. He served in D.C. from May 1863 through November 1864.
Powell died in England in 1915.
Isaiah King was a member of Company D of the 5th Massachusetts Calvary. King enlisted in New Bedford at the age of 16 in 1864, and participated in the Siege of Petersburg that year. His unit was among the first Union regiments to enter Richmond, Virginia on April 3, 1865. After the war, King served as commander of the Grand Army of the Republic Post 146 in New Bedford.
He died on February 13, 1933.
54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Memorial
Tobey & Coggeshall
Tobey & Coggeshall was a successful New Bedford tinsmith and plumbing storefront located directly west of the U.S. Custom House. In 1863, the building also served as the recruiting office for Company C of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry.
54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment Mural
(Located in the parking lot)
Last updated: April 8, 2021