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The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry
The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry
54th Massachusetts

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The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry

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The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that saw extensive service in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment was one of the first official African American units in the United States during the Civil War. The 1st South Carolina Volunteers (Union) recruited from freed slaves, was the first Union Army regiment organized with African American soldiers in the Civil War, though many had fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812 on both sides.

The regiment was authorized in March 1863 by the Governor of Massachusetts, John A. Andrew. Commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, it was commissioned after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton decided white officers would be in charge of all "colored" units. Colonel Shaw was hand picked by Governor John Andrew. Governor Andrew also selected Norwood Penrose "Pen" Hallowell as the unit's second in command in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Like many officers of regiments of African-American troops, both Shaw and Hallowell were promoted several grades, both being captains at the time. The rest of the officers were evaluated by Shaw and Hallowell. Many of these officers were of abolitionist families and several were chosen by Governor Andrew himself. Lt. Col. Norwood Hallowell was joined by his younger brother Edward Needles Hallowell who was eventually appointed major in the regiment and would later command it after Shaw's death. 24 of the 29 officers were veterans, but only six had been previously commissioned.

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