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51st Massachusetts Infantry
in the Civil War

Regimental History
Fifty-first Infantry. — Col., Augustus B. R. Sprague; Lieut.-Col., John M. Studley; Maj., Elijah A. Harkness. The 51st was recruited from the southern part of Worcester county during the summer and autumn of 1862. The men rendezvoused at Camp Wool, Worcester, and from Sept. 25 to Nov. 11 were mustered into service for nine months. The regimental rolls show a total of 42 officers and 879 enlisted men. It lost no men in action, but 40 died from disease, suffering especially from cerebrospinal meningitis. The field officers were all taken from active service with other organizations. Col. Sprague having served previously as captain of the 3d battalion rifles, and as lieutenant-colonel of the 25th infantry. He had been in action at Roanoke island and New Berne. By request of Gen. Foster the regiment was ordered to North Carolina. It left the state on Nov. 25 and arrived at Beaufort Nov. 30, proceeding directly to New Berne, where it was assigned to Amory's brigade, composed of Massachusetts troops. It took part in the Goldsboro expedition, in which it lost 2 men wounded. On Dec. 30 Co. G, under Capt. T. D. Kimball, was detailed for special service at Brice's ferry, where it continued throughout its term of service. In Jan., 1863, seven companies shared in the expedition to Pollocksville and Trenton, returning to New Berne on the 21st. Throughout March and April, it was distributed along the railroad between New Berne and Morehead City in the performance of garrison duty, having its headquarters at Beaufort. Meanwhile the health of the regiment had materially improved and it returned to New Berne on May 4. On June 24 it was ordered to Fortress Monroe, and arrived there on the 27th, having left behind 183 men sick. Its term of service had now expired, but it volunteered for further service during the emergency created by the entrance of Lee's army into Maryland, and was first employed on special service in Baltimore until July 5. The next day it reported to Gen. H. S. Briggs, in command of a provisional brigade of Massachusetts troops, and was stationed on Marye's heights until the 12th, when it was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac at Funkstown. The regiment had suffered so much from disease contracted by exposure in the swamps of North Carolina, that it was now reduced to 275 men for duty. When Lee's army escaped into Virginia, it was ordered to return to Massachusetts, and reached Worcester on July 21. It was mustered out of service July 27, 1863, after serving almost ten months.

Regimental history taken from "The Union Army" by Federal Publishing Company, 1908 - Volume 1

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