Luis F. (Luis Fenollosa) Emilio.

History of the Fifty-fourth regiment of Massachusetts volunteer infantry, 1863-1865 online

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marched to Stono, accomplishing the three miles in as
many hours, for the day was hot and the men much
exhausted. There a sutler was found, from whom some
supplies were obtained. The regiment crossed the inlet
on the steamer " Golden Gate," whose captain kindly
furnished refreshments for the officers. Our march to
Lighthouse Inlet was equally severe, for the temperature
was at 98°. Thence the companies repaired to their sev-
eral stations, and welcomed the opportunity for rest, baths
in the surf, and clean clothes.

Thus the combined movements, admirably planned,
against a weaker enemy came to naught, for want of con-
certed action and persistence in attack. At every point
we largely outnumbered the enemy. General Hatch's
force, had it not been so delayed, might have found no
enemy in its front capable of withstanding its advance.
Many thought at the time that had Hatch's force been
sent against the repulsed enemy after the action at Bloody
Bridge, John's Island might have been swept of them, and
the James Island lines thus flanked, Charleston would
have fallen. Our total of losses in all the forces engaged


was perhaps three hundred men, including the one hun-
dred and forty captured with Colonel Hoyt, and eighteen
drowned by the capsizing of a boat in the Stono. That
of the enemy must have equalled ours. Their accounts
of our losses, exaggerated as usual, gave the number as
seven hundred.



T TPON returning to their several stations, the Fifty-
*-^ fourth companies reassumed the old duties. The
first noteworthy incident occurred on July 13, when, at
noon, six shells passing over the Third Rhode Island Ar-
tillery camp, fell into ours, one of which, exploding in a
tent, killed Private John Tanner and Musician Samuel
Suffhay, both of Company B. We had supposed the location
safe from any shell firing. These missiles came from Sulli-
van's Island, clear across the harbor. A lookout posted
on the sand-bluff near by gave warning thereafter when
this gun opened, which it did at intervals until the last of
August. At such times, day or night, we were obliged to
leave the camp for the sea beach. No further casualties
occurred, however.

Another example of dislike to colored troops took place
on the 15th. Lieut. John S. Marcy, Fifty-second Pennsyl-
vania, when directed to join the Fifty-fourth detail for duty
at the Left Batteries, with some of his men, the whole
force to be under one of our officers, refused to do so, say-
ing, " I will not do duty with colored troops." He was
arrested and court-martialled, and, by General Foster's
order, dishonorably dismissed. Colonel Hallowell returned
on the 16th, bringing assurances that the men would soon
be paid. With him came as visitors Mr. and Mrs. Lewis,
relatives of Quartermaster Ritchie.


During the heated term, which began with the month
and seemed interminable, we went about arrayed in
as few clothes as possible. The blazing siui heated the
sand beneath our feet, and reflected from land and sea,
dazzled the eyes. No relief came until nightfall, when the
sea breeze sprang up. On the 21st a change of weather
brought cooler temperature for some days. Mr. Hoadly,
the efficient agent of the Sanitary Commission on Morris
Island, was supplying the troops with stores. Ice was
still scarce.

For some weeks Sumter had been bombarded with un-
usual vigor, as during our season of quietness the enemy
had constructed two large bombproofs there, and mounted
five guns on the channel face. It was estimated that one
hundred of the garrison were killed or wounded during
this latest bombardment. Captain Mitchel, its com-
mander, was killed, July 19, by a mortar-shell, and was
succeeded by Capt. T. A. Huguenin, First South Caro-
lina (regulars), who continued in charge until its final

A special exchange of the fifty Confederate officers for
the same number of ours in Charleston was effected on
August 3. The released officers were received with cheers
and a display of flags from the vessels. From Edward R.
Henderson, steward of the truce boat " Cosmopolitan,"
Quartermaster Ritchie received a list containing forty
names of Fifty-fourth prisoners captured July 16 and 18,
1863, which was smuggled out by an exchanged officer.

Maj.-Gen. Daniel Sickles, who was on a tour of inspec-
tion, landed on Morris Island on the 3d, accompanied by
General Poster, and was received with a salute of thirteen
guns. During the succeeding night two officers of the One


Hundred and Third Ohio came to our lines, having escaped
from Charleston, and, with the assistance of negroes, pro-
cured a boat in which to cross the harbor. The enemy's
fire on Cummiug's Point on the night of the 6th wounded
five men of a colored regiment. A large propeller was
discovered aground toward Sullivan's Island on the morn-
ing of the 8th, whereupon our guns opened from land and
sea, soon destroying her. We gave our fire sometimes
from the great guns in volleys, — their united explosions
shaking the whole island and covering the batteries with
a white pall of smoke. Peaceful intervals came, when
the strange stillness of the ordnance seemed like stopped
heart-beats of the siege. Then the soft rush of the surf
and the chirp of small birds in the scant foliage could be

Major Api^leton, who had been in hospital since the
movement to James Island, departed North on the 7th,
and never returned. His loss was a great one to the regi-
ment, for he was a devoted patriot, a kind-hearted man, and
an exceedingly brave soldier. Captain Emilio came to
camp with Company E from Fort Green, on the 8th, when
relieved by Lieutenant Newell with Company B. Captain
Tucker and Company H reported from Black Island on the
20th, and Lieutenant Duren and Company D were relieved
at Fort Shaw on the 23d. Captain Pope succeeded Cap-
tain Homans in the command of Black Island on the 24th.
Our details for grand guard were increased after the 16th,
when the Thirty-second United States Colored Troops was
ordered to Hilton Head.

Salutes in honor of Admiral Farragut's victory at Mobile
were fired on the 25th. On the 28th, and again on Sep-
tember 1, the navy sent torpedoes, heavily charged, to float


and explode near Port Sumter, in the hope of shattering
the structure ; but they caused no damage.

In Congress the third Conference Committee reported,
on June 10, that the House recede from the amendments
reducing the bounty, and that all persons of color who were
free on April 19, 1861, should, from the time of entering
service, be entitled to the pay, bounty, and clothing allowed
by the laws existing at the time of their enlistment. The
Attorney-General was to determine any law question, and
the Secretary of War make the necessary regulations for
the pay department. After discussion this unjust com-
promise was accepted by both branches of Congress. Over
two months, however, passed, until, on August 18, the War
Department issued Circular No. 60, providing that officers
commanding colored organizations should make an investi-
gation to ascertain who of their men enlisted prior to Jan-
uary 1, 1864, were free April 19, 1861. The fact of free-
dom was to be settled by tlie sworn statement of the sol-
dier, and entered against the man's name on the muster-

August 29, Sergeant Cross and a few men of the Fifty-
fourth returned from Beaufort, where they had received
full pay from enlistment in accordance with the foregoing
regulations. Colonel Hallowell made the first effective
muster for pay of the regiment on the 31st. As no par-
ticular form of oath had been prescribed, he administered
the following : —

"You do solemnly swear that you owed no man unrequited
labor on or before the 19th day of April, 1861. So help you

This form had been the subject of much thought, and
was known in the regiment as the " Quaker Oath." Some


of our men were held as slaves April 19, 1861, but they
took the oath as freemen, by God's higher law, if not by
their country's. A more pitiful story of broken faith, with
attendant want and misery upon dependent ones, than this
deprivation of pay for many months cannot be told. If
ever men were seemingly driven to desperation and overt
acts, they were. How they bore it all, daily exposing
their lives for the cause and the flag they loved, has been
feebly told. That they were compelled to take this or
any oath at the last was an insult crowning tlie injury.

There was another meeting of truce steamers in the
harbor on the 3d, when a release without equivalent was
made by the enemy of thirty persons, — chaplains, sur-
geons, and some women. General Schimmelfennig, who
had removed district headquarters from Folly to Morris
Island August 2, on September 4 departed North, when
General Saxton took command. The next day the Fifty-
sixth and One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York ar-
rived ; and Col. Charles H. Van Wyck of the Fifty-sixth
assumed command of Morris Island, relieving Colonel

Captain Homans, with Company A, having reported from
Black Island to camp about September 1, there were the
following companies with the colors ; namely. A, D, B, G, H,
and K, a larger number than for some months. On the
6th, several boxes of canned goods were received for the
regiment, — the gift of Count Leo B. Schwabe, of Boston.
This gentleman belonged to a noble family, and was born
at Castle Schaumberg on the Weser. Before the war he
lived in South Carolina, where he owned slaves and planta-
tions. The slaves he freed as the war broke out. His
means were lavishly given for building chapels and hos-


pitals, establishing camp libraries, besides donations of
money and provisions for Union soldiers. He died but
I'ecently ; and it is sad to record that his last days were
passed in reduced circumstances.

September 1, several hundred Confederate officers, sent
to be confined under fire in retaliation for a similar hard-
ship suffered by our officers in Charleston, arrived off Mor-
ris Island on the steamer " Crescent." An enclosed camp
was made for them just nwth of Wagner, in full view of
the enemy and exposed to his fire. The enclosure was
228 by 304 feet, and formed of palisading of pine posts, ten
feet above ground, supporting a platform from which sen-
tinels could watch the prisoners. The " dead line," marked
by a rope stretched on posts, was twenty feet inside the
palisading. Good A tents, each to hold four men, were
pitched and arranged, forming eight streets. The ground
was clean, dry, quartz sand.

Several days before, the Fifty-fourth was assigned to
guard this prison camp. On September 7, Colonel Hallo-
well, with Companies D, E, G, and K marched to the land-
ing, where the steamer " Cossack " soon arrived with the
Confederates. The escort was composed entirely of colored
soldiers. First came three companies of the Twentj^-first
United States Colored Troops in column, then the priso-
ners, flanked on either side by two companies of the Fifty-
fourth, the rear closed by two companies of the Twenty-
first in column. In this order the Confederates were taken
to the camp.

This body of five hundred and sixty officers thus placed
in our charge was a singular-looking set of soldiers. There
were among them tall, lank mountaineers, some typical
Southerners of the books, —dark, long-haired, and fierce


of aspect, — and a lesser number of city men of jauntier
appearance. The major part were common-looking, evi-
dently of the poorer class of Southerners, with a sprinkling
of foreigners, — principally Germans and Irish. Hardly
any two were dressed alike. There were suits of blue jeans,
homespuns, of butternut, and a few in costumes of gray
moi'e or less trimmed. Upon their heads were all sorts of
coverings, — straw and slouch hats, and forage caps of
gray, blue, or red, decorated with braid. Cavaliy boots,
shoes, and bootees in all stages of wear were on their feet.
Their effects were wrapped in rubber sheets, pieces of car-
pet, or parts of quilts and comforts. Some had hand-sacks
of ancient make. Haversacks of waterproof cloth or cotton
hung from their shoulders. Their physical condition was
good ; but they made a poor showing for chosen leaders of
the enemy. It did seem that men of their evident mental
and intellectual calibre — \vith some exceptions — might
be supporters of any cause, however wild or hopeless. They
were of all grades, from colonels down in rank.

At the camp the prisoners were divided into eight de-
tachments, with a non-commissioned officer of the Fifty-
fourth, detailed from the guard, in charge of each, as
warden. Clean straw was provided for the tents, and a
good blanket given each officer. The regulations, so far
as they related to the prisoners, were read to them. Our
six companies of the Fifty-fourth were formed into three
reliefs ; namely, A and H, D and G, and E and K, each relief
furnishing one hundred men, with proper officers, for duty
at the stockade from 6 p. m. until the same hour the fol-
lowing day. When relieved, the detachment went into
Wagner for the succeeding night, returning to camp the
next morning. At the gate of the stockade was posted a


Requa rifled battery in charge of the reserve, and a sec-
tion of Battery B, Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery,
reported there each day.

Three times a day the roll was called by the wardens,
and every man accounted for to the officer of the day..
Policing of the streets was done by the prisoners. Sick
call was attended to by a surgeon, who removed the severe
cases to hospitals outside. Barrel-sinks were provided and
cared for by the prisoners. At night the camp and vicinity
were made bright as moonlight by means of a calcium light
on "Wagner's parapet. Oil lanterns were also used inside
the stockade when required. After taps sounded, no light
was allowed the prisoners, and they were not permitted
to enter the streets except to go to the barrel-sinks. Dur-
ing the day they had free range of the camp ; but groups
of more than ten prisoners were warned to disperse under
penalty of being fired upon if the order was disregarded.
Our charges were allowed to purchase writing materials,
pipes, tobacco, and necessary clothing. Letters could be
sent after inspection. Their rations were cooked by men
of the guard. The nearness of the enemy necessitated the
utmost vigilance. It was a tempting opportunity for some
bold rescue, and a boat attack was not improbable. At
first there was thought to be some danger from stray shells,
as Cumming's Point was the focus of the enemy's fire.
But as time passed, this seeming danger to friend and foe
was not realized.

Everything was done to care for and protect these unfor-
tunate officers whom the fortunes of war placed in our
hands except in two particulars, — they were kept in a
place within reach of the enemy's fire, and their rations
were reduced to conform in quantity to those furnished


our ofi5cers in Charleston, at first to one half the army
ration, and after some time still less. Food and cook-
ing -^vas the same otherwise as furnished the Fifty-fourth.
Of these inflictions in retaliation the enemy was duly in-
formed as the result of their own uncivilized acts, which
would be discontinued whenever they ceased to practise
the same.

September 9, Wagner fired a salute of shotted guns in
honor of the capture of Atlanta, Ga. The next day a re-
connoissance was made in small force by the army and
navy about Bull's Bay. Our shells caused a large fire in
Charleston on the 17th, plainly seen from Cumming's
Point, by which twenty-five buildings were destroyed.
Another, the next day, burned two mansions at the corner
of Trade and Meeting streets. With increased elevations
our shells fell a distance of two blocks beyond Calhoun
Street. A prisoner of war in Charleston thus graphically
describes the firing : —

" Every fifteen or twenty minutes we could see the smoke and
hear the explosions of ' Foster's messengers,' — two hundred-
pound shells. They told us of the untiring perseverance of our
forces on Morris Island. So correct was their aim, so well
did the gunners know our whereabouts, that shells burst all
around, in front, and often fell, screeching, overhead, without
injury to us. When the distant rumbling of the Swamp Angel
was heard, and the cry, ' Here it comes,' resounded through
the prison-house, there was a general stir : sleepers sprang to
their feet ; conversation was hushed ; and all started to see
where the messengers would fall. . . . The sight at night was
truly beautiful. We traced through the sky a slight stream
of fire similar to the tail of a comet, followed its course, until
' whiz ! whiz ! ' came the little pieces like grape-shot."



Charleston papers gave us information tliat yellow fever
was prevalent and increasing, not only among the pris-
oners, but the citizens, and especially the Germans.

At the stockade the captives gave no trouble, and readily
conformed to the rules. The wardens took great pride in
their office. At roll-calls they accurately dressed the lines,
and doubtless imparted some useful hints to the Con-
federate officers. From Major McDonald, Fifty-first North
Carolina, who was present in "Wagner during the assault
of July 18, 1863, very interesting particulars of the affair
were obtained. He confirmed the story of Colonel Shaw's
death and manner of burial.

After a few days' experience the prisoners lost all fear
of being struck by stray shells thrown by their friends ;
but they watched the bombardment always with interest,
so far as they were able. When Wagner opened, the heavy
Parrott projectiles passed directly over the camp, but high
in air. Our charges lounged about during the day, visiting
friends, or played cards, smoked, and read. There were
ingenious fellows who passed much time making chains,
crosses, rings, and other ornaments from bone or gutta-
percha buttons. Our officers found a number of most
agreeable gentlemen among them, who seemed to appre-
ciate such attentions and politenesses as could be extended
within the scope of our regulations.

Sudden orders came on September 21, at 10 A. M., to re-
move the prisoners to Lighthouse Inlet. This was done
by the Fifty-fourth, and they were placed on two schooners.
The reason for this temporary change is not known. Pos-
sibly some fear of a rescue under cover of the exchange
which was to take place may have occasioned it. On the
23d, after the truce had expired, the Fifty-fourth escorted


the prisoners back to the camp. When the rolls were
called, it was discovered that six officers were missing.
Without a moment's delay, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper and
Quartermaster Ritchie rode to Lighthouse Inlet, and with
guards, searched all the vessels there. Five officers were
recaptured just as they came from the hold of a vessel with
no clothes on, prepared to swim in an attempt to escape.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper himself searched every part of a
steamer previously examined, and at last found his missing
man concealed in the paddle-box. The recaptured officers
were doubtless surprised when the lieutenant-colonel took
them to his tent, offered stimulants, told them they were
blameless, and gave them peiunission to try again, before
sending them to join their comrades.

Among the prisoners were some rabid Secessionists
who would receive no favors at our hands. It is pleas-
ant to record, that, on the 27th, Capt. Henry A. Buist,
Twenty-seventh South Carolina (now a prominent lawyer
of Charleston), about to be exchanged, politely expressed
his thanks to our officers for kindnesses received.

September 28 was a red-letter day for the Fifty-fourth.
Paymaster Lockwood, on that date and the 29th, paid the
men from enlistment. They were wild with joy that their
only trouble was over. An officer wrote : —

" We had been eighteen months waiting, and the lialeidoscope
was turned, — nine hundred men received their money; nine
hundred stories rested on the faces of tliose men, as they
passed in at one door and out of the other. Wagner stared
Eeadville in the face ! There was use in waiting ! Two days
have changed the face of things, and now a petty carnival pre-
vails. The fiddle and other music long neglected enlivens the
tents day and night. Songs burst out everywhere ; dancing is


incessant ; boisterous shouts are heard, mimicry, burlesque,
and carnival ; pompous salutations are beard on all sides. Here
a crowd and a preacher ; there a crowd and two boxers ; yon-
der, feasting and jubilee. In brief, they have awakened ' the
pert and nimble spirit of mirth, and turned melancholy forth to
funerals.' "

It required 1170,000 to pay the Fifty-fourth. Over
$53,000 was sent home by Adams' Express ; and the sum
ultimately forwarded reached 1100,000. There was for a
time lavish and foolish expenditure of money on the part
of some.

October came in with clear, warm mornings and soft
breezes in the afternoon. During a truce on the 3d some
prisoners were exchanged, and two thousand suits of cloth-
ing and many packages were sent to our prisoners. We
received clothing and tobacco for the Confederate officers
from Charleston people. Brig.-Gen. E. P. Scammon on the
4th relieved General Saxton of the district command, and
reviewed the Morris Island troops on the 6th. We had
twenty-four officers and seven hundred and twenty-six
enlisted men of the regiment present for duty at the
several posts on this date.

For some time the freedmen had been contributing to a
Shaw monument fund to which the Fifty-fourth added
liberally. The following letters relate thereto ; —

Headquarters FiFTT-PotiRTn Mass. Vols,,
Morris Island, S. C, Oct. 7, 1864.
Brig.-Gen. R. Saxton.

Dear G-eneeai,, — In behalf of the enlisted men of the Fifty-
fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, I respectfully request
you to receive the enclosed sum of money to be added to the
sum subscribed by the freedmen of the Department for the


purpose of erecting a monument to the memory of Col. Robert
G. Shaw and those who died with him.

Thanking you for the interest you have always manifested in
the cause which is so dear to us, and for the trouble you have
taken to do honor to those who so nobly died in its support, I
have the honor to be, General, very respectfully.
Your obedient servaut,

E. N. Hallo WELL,
Colonel Commanding Begiment.


District of Beaufort, Oct. 17, 1864.

Mt dear Colonel, — I have received your letter of the 7th,
forwarding $1,545, as a contribution from the enlisted men of
youi' regiment to the monument soon to be erected in memory
of their former colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, and those who fell
with him in the assault on Fort Wagner. Please inform the
donors that their generous contribution with that contributed
by the freedmen in this Department makes the fund now about
§3,000. It is safely invested in Massachusetts interest-bearing
bonds. The glorious work which our armies in the field and
patriots at home are now doing means that the day is not far
distant when a granite shaft shall stand unmolested on South
Carolina soil, to mark the spot where brave men died, not, as
recent developments have shown, alone as soldiers, but as mar-
tyrs in the cause of Freedom. When for a month under my
command, your brave regiment guarded so vigilantly and so
soldierly six hundred Rebel officers near the spot where their
colonel and comrades were massacred, it required but little
faith to believe that the scales of justice were turning toward
the right, and that it was time to commence the monument.
I am. Colonel, with great respect, yours sincerely,

R. Saxton,
Brig.-Qen. Volunteers.

To CoL. E. N. Hallowell,
Commanding Fifly-fourlh Mass. Infantry.


Further sums were subsequently sent by the Fifty-fourth,
until, on the last of October, the total contributed by them
was 12,832. A much larger amount would have been
given had it been proposed to erect the monument else-
where than near Fort Wagner. It was then seen that
what has since occurred would take place, — the sea was

Online LibraryLuis F. (Luis Fenollosa) EmilioHistory of the Fifty-fourth regiment of Massachusetts volunteer infantry, 1863-1865 → online text (page 17 of 33)