The Fighting 55th

Less well known than the famous African American 54th Regiment under the command of abolitionist Robert Gould Shaw, the 55th Regiment was the second of three African American Regiments from Massachusetts that saw service in the Civil War. When the 54th rapidly became fully subscribed by free Blacks, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew in 1863 authorized the formation of a sister regiment, the 55th. Both regiments trained at Camp Meigs in Dedham, the largest of Massachusetts’ camps, and saw service together during the war, most notably at the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina in November 1864. e 55th also distinguished itself at the Battle of Olustee in February of 1864 during the invasion of Florida under General Truman Seymour, and at battles for James Island in South Carolina in May and July of the same year. In February of 1865, Union troops, including the 55th, under General William Tecumseh Sherman, entered Charleston, SC, where the war had begun, to the “welcoming cheers of newly freed men, women, and children.”

The 55th was officially marshaled out of service in September of 1865. In 1866 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts placed a monument on a large plot that it had purchased in the Old Village Cemetery for the 64 men who had died in training at Camp Meigs. Among these were men from the 54th and 55th Regiments.

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