Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Photograph of Men of the 55th Massachusetts

Today I came across a photograph (shown below) I had never viewed before. Located in the collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), it shows what looks to be a company of the 55th Massachusetts Infantry.

The 55th was the state's sister infantry regiment to the more famous 54th Massachusetts. The 55th regiment, like the 54th, was made up largely of free men of color from all across the Free States, and like the 54th they served primarily in the Department of the South, campaigning in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.

If you go to this link, and click on the photograph, you will be able to enlarge it and see amazing details not observable in the above view.

On the far left a drummer stands holding his sticks. Scattered about, some men lounge; one man rests his head on another soldier's leg. One pair of friends kneel with one man's arm across the shoulders of his pal. Another pair strikes a similar pose farther to the right. On the far right two comrades look to be pointing to each other's U.S. belt buckles. All of the men are wearing their issued enlisted men's frock coats and forage caps. Interestingly, only a few of the sergeants wear the eagle medallion on their cartridge box slings. The men's muskets have fixed bayonets and are in stacks behind the soldiers. What look to be their white officers, probably a captain and a first lieutenant, stand with their swords.

Thanks to the NMAAHC for making this image available to us Civil War enthusiasts.

Image of the 55th entering Charleston courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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