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55th Massachusetts Infantry
in the Civil War

Regimental History
Fifty-fifth Infantry.— Cols., Norwood P. Hallowell, Alfred S. Hartwell; Lieut.-Cols., Alfred S. Hartwell, Charles B. Fox, William Nutt; Majs., Charles B. Fox, Sigourney Wales, William Nutt, Wheelock Pratt. Like the 54th, this regiment was composed of colored men with white officers and was recruited in the spring of 1863. The same recruiting committtee which provided most of the men for the 54th also furnished the men for the 55th. The men rendezvoused at Camp Meigs, Readville, and the first five companies were mustered into the U. S. service on May 31, 1863, for three years, and the last three on June 22. By the end of June all the officers were commissioned. It carried a total of 82 officers and 1,144 enlisted men on its rolls. During its term of service it took part in the engagements at James island, S. C, Picket, James island, Honey hill, Deveaux neck, and Picket St. Stephen's, all in the vicinity of Charleston, S. C. Its losses were 3 officers, 59 enlisted men, killed and died of wounds; 2 officers and 118 men, died by accident or disease; 1 missing; by desertion, 27. It left the state on July 21, 1863, embarking at Boston for New Berne, N. C, where it arrived on the 25th. As a part of Gen. Wild's brigade it was ordered to Charleston harbor on the 29th, and was assigned to Vogdes' division, 10th corps, and remained at Folly island, engaged in the performance of fatigue duty and various details connected with the operations against Charleston until February of the following year. Like the 54th, a grave injustice was done the men of the 55th in the matter of pay, as the Federal paymasters offered the men but $10 a month. This, they consistently refused to accept, and serious trouble with the men was narrowly averted in consequence. After Nov. 2, 1863, Col. Hartwell was in command of the regiment on account of the retirement of Col. Hallowell through disability, arising from a wound received at Antietam. On Feb. 13, 1864, the 55th was ordered to Jacksonville, Fla., and while Co. F was detailed to garrison Fort Fribley, near Jacksonville, Cos. B, I, K and C, assisted by a squad of N. Y. engineers, were detailed to fortify and garrison Yellow bluff, the remainder of the command going up the river to Palatka. Here it built strong fortifications and remained until April 18, when the regiment was ordered back to Charleston harbor. Here it once more engaged in arduous fatigue duty on Folly island and in various minor movements connected with the general operations against the city. On July 2, accompanied by the 103d N. Y. and the 33d colored infantry, it engaged the enemy on James island. It performed gallant service in charging a battery of the enemy under a brisk fire, capturing two 12-pounder Napoleon guns and driving the battery's support in disorder. The command lost 11 killed and l8 wounded during this expedition. Col. Hartwell was now detailed to command the post on Folly island and Lieut.-Col. Fox commanded the regiment during the rest of its term of service. On Sept. 1, the men finally received their pay, and expressed home more than $60,000 of the sum then paid them. Eight companies were despatched to Hilton Head, S. C, in November and assigned to a brigade commanded by Col. Hartwell in the coast division. On Nov. 30, this brigade was heavily engaged at Honey hill during the entire afternoon, Col. Hartwell being wounded, and the regiment losing 31 killed, 108 wounded and 1 taken prisoner. Thirteen of the wounded afterwards died. Returning to Boyd's neck on Dec. 7, it was engaged in fortifying and holding this position until Jan. 11, 1865, when it embarked for Savannah, Ga., and remained on duty there until Feb. 1, when it returned to Hilton Head. It took part in expeditions of Feb. 2, 9 and 11, and entered the city of Charleston on the morning of the 20th, being the first body of Union troops to enter that city after its evacuation. It was promptly sent with a column under Gen. Potter on an expedition into central South Carolina, to watch the movements of Gen. Hardee, in command of the retreating garrison, and returned to Charleston on March 10. A week later it moved to James island, served there by detachments until April 5, when it participated in an expedition to Eutaw springs, in support of a movement by Gen. Potter, and reached Charleston again on the 12th. On May 7, it moved to Summerville, and on the 19th to Orangeburg, where it served by detachments until its term of service expired. It was mustered out at Mount Pleasant Aug. 29, the men were finally paid and discharged at Galloupe's island, Sept. 22,, and disbanded on the 25th, after a reception and march through the streets of Boston.

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

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