Mass 54th African Americans Soldiers
The Mass 54th was the first unit of African American soldiers to be raised in the North during the Civil War. Massachusetts did not have many African American residents, but by the time the unit headed off to training in 1863 they had 1,000 volunteers.
Lenox has special ties to the 54th through both its commander, Robert Gould Shaw, as well as the surprising number of volunteers from a small town like Lenox.
Commander Robert Gould Shaw
Shaw, from a distinguished Boston abolitionist family, was the commander. He married Annie Haggerty and honeymooned at the original Vent Fort. Shaw died along with 2/3 of his fellow officers and half his troops at Fort Wagner, SC as immortalized in the film Glory. Annie remained a widow and is buried at Church on the Hill.
African American Soldiers Faced Prejudice
The heroic charge of Fort Wagner is made more heroic by the fact that the African American soldiers in the 54th weren’t paid. They were offered pay less than their white counterparts and they refused. The war was almost over by the time they received the pay they had rightly insisted on.
Mass 54 Volunteers from Lenox
From grave markers and MA military lists we identified nine Lenox residents in the Mass 54th. There may have been more among a regiment that grew to 1200. By the end of the Civil War, one in ten soldiers in the Union Army were African Americans. Information from these records plus census and Ancestry. Asterisk indicates buried at Church on the Hill.
- Jeremiah L.W. Bradley* B 54thMASS Inf. GAR 1861-1866
Enlistment Record shows 34 YOA as of 12/8/1863, enlisted Adams, MA got a $100 bounty for a 3 year enlistment, farmer, born Sheffield, MA, 5’11”, Ancestry – Married Mary Jane Whitford in GB; various other wives and children; death 10/13/1865 Adams; mustered out 8/20 1865 at Mount Pleasant SC, same
- Michael Broderick* D 49 MASS. Mil. INF Civil War
- George M. Brown* H 54thMASS Inf. GAR Civil War
Birth abt. 1842 Pittsfield? Lenox? Per enlistment record-barber 5’11”, Enlisted 11/25/1863, corporal 11/29/1864, reduced per order of Col. Adams March 28, 1865 colored cavalry MA 5th, Enlisted in Company I MA 5thCavalry on 3/26/1864, mustered out on 10/31/1865 at Clarksville, TX, death 4/7/1887
4. Alfred Michaels B, 5thMASS. CAV GAR Civil War
1880 Census, Black Married to Susan, Laborer, Not employed for 4 months, Mary Michaels (6), Florence Michaels 5&1/2, Military records – born 1845, enlisted 9/3/1864 in 5thMA Colored Cavalry, mustered out 5/24, 1865 at City Point, VA, death 4/22/1890
5. George Peters, Lenox, farmer 19 YOA
Spouse Sarah L. Fletcher, Children Mary Agnes, 1850 census HH Charles Peters 29, Henrietta Peters,; 1870 census Sarah L. Peters 22, Hattie A. Peters 3, Mary A. Peters, 2, George, G 24, military – Co. A 54thon 3/30/1863; Mustered out on 8/20/1865 at Mount Pleasant SC
6. Richard A. Adams, Lenox, farmer 18
7. George F. Waterman, Lenox, farmer (married, 2 children) 27
Enlisted in Co. A MA 54 3/30/1863, mustered out 7/18/1863 Fort Wagner S.C.
8. John Peters, Lenox, farmer (married) 37 literate
1855 State census HH with Sarah (?) age 25 and Charlotte(?) age 6; 18 “B” on that page; 1880 census 55 YOA in Stockbridge – still laborer on farm; several marriages? Death Tyringham? 1897?
9. Charles Vanalen, Lenox, farmer (married, 1 child) 29 literate
Enlisted 2/27/1863 Co. A, MA 54th; 3/30/1863 assigned to regiment; mustered out 5/9/1863 Morris Island S.C.; 1850 census – Richmond, MA spouse Elizabeth Vanallen 23 – application for widow’s pension?