Fifty-Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
Three Years

Acton men who served in the 55th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry:


Regimental history from Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, compiled and published by the Adjutant General:

    The 55th Regt. Mass. Vol. Inf. was the second military organization composed of men of African descent to be raised in Massachusetts. Its nucleus was the men left over from the recruits of the 54th. The recruits began to arrive at Readville early in May, 1863. Five companies were mustered in May 31, two more on June 15, and the remaining three June 22. Lieut. Col. Norwood P. Hallowell of the 54th was commissioned colonel, and Capt. A. S. Hartwell of the same regiment, lieutenant colonel.
     The 55th broke camp at Readville, July 21, proceeded to Boston, and embarked on the transport CAHAWBA for Morehead City near Beaufort, N. C., arriving on the 25th and proceeding thence to Newbern by rail, reaching their destination the same evening.
     On the 2d of August the 56th embarked for Folly Island, below Charleston, S. C. Here it became apart of Wild's Brigade, Vogdes' Division, Gilmore's (10th) Corps. During August and September it furnished large detachments for work on Morris Island, building entrenchments and performing all kinds of fatigue duty, many of these detachments being constantly under fire from Forts Gregg and Wagner.
     In September, Colonel Hallowell, who suffered severely from an old wound received at Antietam, resigned, and Lieut. Col. Alfred S. Hartwell was promoted to colonel in November. The amount of fatigue duty required of the regiment diminished during the latter part of the fall of 1863, and until the middle of the winter the regiment enjoyed comparative quiet, remaining in camp on Folly Island.
     Early in February, 1864, the 55th was ordered to Florida to join the expedition under General Seymour. Three companies under Lieut. Col. Fox embarked Feb. 13, on the steamer PECONIC, while the remaining seven under Colonel Hartwell boarded the COLLINS, the two detachments arriving at Jacksonville on the 14th and 15th respectively. On the 19th six companies marched inland as far as Barbour's in support of General Seymour's main column which, on the 20th, fought the battle of Olustee. On the 22d the entire force was back in Jacksonville, the 55th having suffered no loss.
     On Feb. 28, Lieut. Col. Fox with Companies "B" and "I" proceeded to Yellow Bluff, half way to the mouth of the St. John River, where Companies "K" and "C" later joined them. Here they built a signal tower, erected fortifications, abatis, etc., and remained until April 17.
     On March 11, the rest of the regiment was sent to Palatka, some distance up the St. John. Here under Colonel Hartwell the men threw up a large system of defensive earthworks, spending a pleasant five weeks period. Palatka and Yellow Bluff were both abandoned about April 17, and the whole command returned to Folly Island.
     The 55th was variously engaged on the islands south of Charleston until July 2, when it was heavily engaged at James Island, losing 11 killed and 18 wounded. After a somewhat uneventful fall, on Nov. 26, eight companies of the 55th were ordered to report at Hilton Head where they were assigned to a brigade commanded by Colonel Hartwell, the 3d Brigade in Hatch's Coast Division.
     On Nov. 30, the 56th was engaged with the enemy at Honey Hill, losing Captain Crane, Lieut. Boynton, and 31 men killed, and Colonel Hartwell and 108 officers and men wounded, several mortally, the heaviest loss of the regiment in any one action. It retired to Boyd's Neck a week later, where it remained until Jany. 11, 1865, when it embarked on transports bound for Savannah, Ga. Here it was occupied doing garrison duty at Forts Jackson, Bartow, and other points until Feb. 1, 1865, when it embarked for Hilton Head. It there boarded the steamer LOUISBURG and went on an expedition up the Edisto River. This expedition was without results worthy of note, and on the 6th of February the regiment was ordered back to its old camp near Stono Inlet. On the 10th it was sent to James Island where it was engaged without loss. The following day it was sent to Bull's Bay, ten miles north of Charleston, and after much difficulty in landing, disembarked Feb. 18. The following day it received news of the evacuation of Charleston by the Confederates, and on the 20th the regiment advanced and entered Mount Pleasant, a suburb of the city. The city proper was entered the following day. After two days in the captured city, on Feb. 22, the 55th was attached to Potter's Division and sent on an expedition into the interior of the State as far as St. Stephen's Depot on the Santee River, returning to Charleston, March 10.
     About March 17, it was sent back to James Island to do guard duty. April 5 it accompanied an expedition under General Hartwell into the interior of the State. On the 21st of April the cessation of hostilities was announced, the regiment at this time being at St. Andrew's. Here it remained until May 7 when it was sent to Summerville, twenty-one miles up the Ashley River. From this place on the 19th it was sent to Orangeburg where its headquarters remained, though the regiment was scattered in small detachments at various points.
     In this vicinity it remained until Aug. 24 when it proceeded to Charleston, and on the 29th was mustered out of the United States service at Mount Pleasant. Six companies started for Boston, Sept. 6, on the steamer KARNAC, arriving at Galloup's Island on the 18th. The rest of the regiment sailed Sept. 14, on the BEN DEFORD, arriving Sept. 23. On the 25th the entire regiment was paraded on the Common and disbanded.
     The soldiers of the 55th Regiment had the same struggle to secure the full pay of $13 per month that had agitated the men of the 54th. On several occasions they were offered $10 per month by the government paymaster, and as many times it was refused. When the legislature of Massachusetts voted to make up the difference of $3 per month, this also was refused. Near the close of September, 1864, justice long delayed was at last done to the regiment and its men were paid in full at the regular rate of $13 per month from the date of muster into the service.


Regimental history from A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, by Frederick Dyer:

     Organized at Readville and mustered in June 22 1863, Left State for New Berne, N. C., July 21, 1863 arriving there July 25, thence moved to Folly Island S.C., July 30-August 3. Attached to Wild's African Brigade, Vodge's Division, North End, Folly Island, S.C. 10th Army Corps, Dept. of the South, to October, 1863 3rd Brigade, Vodge's Division, Folly Island, 10th Army Corps, to February, 1864. 3rd Brigade, Ames' Division District of Florida, to April, 1864. Folly and Morris IsIands, S.C., Northern District, Dept. of the South to November, 1864. 2nd Brigade, Coast Division, Dept. South, to January, 1865. 1st Separate Brigade, Dept. of the South, to March, 1865. 1st Separate Brigade District of Charleston, Dept. South, to June, 1865. District of Charleston, S.C., Dept. South Carolina, to August, 1865.

    SERVICE.--Fatigue duty on north end of Folly Island, S.C., and in trenches on Morris Island August 9 to September 5, 1863. Fatigue duty on Forts Wagner and Gregg, Morris Island, S.C., and operations against Fort Sumter and Charleston September 17-October 28 Camp on Folly Island until February, 1864. Expedition to John's Island February (Co. "F"). Moved to Jacksonville, Fla., February 13-16, and Provost duty there until March 11. Advance to Baldwin February 19-20 (Co. "F" detached as garrison at Fort Fribley, Jacksonville, February to April.) Companies "B" and "I" at Yellow Bluff February 28 to April 17. Regiment ordered to Palatka, Fla., March 11, and duty there until April 17. Moved to Folly Island, S.C., April 17-18. Duty there until November 27. Demonstration on James Island May 21-22. Expedition to James Island June 30-July 10. Action on James Island July 2. Moved to Hilton Head, S.C., November 27-28. (Co. "G" detached at Battery on Long Island, and Co. "H" at Fort Delafield, Stono Inlet, until February 12, 1865.) Hatch's Expedition up Broad River to Boyd's Neck November 29-30. Battle of Honey Hill November 30. Demonstration on Charleston & Savannah Railroad December 6-9. Deveaux's Neck December 6. At Boyd's Landing until January 11, 1865. Moved to Hilton Head, thence to Fort Thunderbolt, near Savannah, Ga., January 11-13. Duty at Forts Jackson, Bartow and Battery Lee until February 1. Moved to Hilton Head, S.C., thence to Beaufort, S.C., February 1. Expedition up South Edisto River February 1-6. Moved to Stono Inlet February 6. Expedition to James Island February 9-10. Expedition to Bull's Bay February 11-15. Moved to Mount Pleasant February 19-20. Expedition to Santee River February 21-March 10. Duty at and near Charleston until May 7. Expedition to Eutaw Springs April 6-12. Moved to Sumpterville May 7-8, thence to Orangeburg May 19, and Provost duty there until August. Mustered out August 29, 1865. Discharged at Boston, Mass., September 23, 1865.

    Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 64 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 128 Enlisted men by disease. Total 197.

See also:

Voices of the 55th: Letters from the 55th Massachusetts Volunteers, 1861-1865. Edited and annotated by Noah Andre Trudeau. Dayton, Ohio : Morningside, 1996.   973.744 V889

Wilder, Burt G. The Fifty-Fifth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Colord [sic], June 1863-September 1865. Brookline, Mass.: The Riverdale Press, 1919.

Wilder, Burt G. The Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts volunteer infantry, colored, Volume 1. Brookline,1917.

Wilder, Burt G. The Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Colored, Volume 2. Brookline,1917.