— New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park —
Near this spot, in February 1863, a recruiting office opened to enlist men for the first black regiment authorized to fight for the Union cause. The men who volunteered here formed Company C of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts.
If captured, these recruits faced the prospect of execution or slavery. Yet by the end of the war more than 185,000 African Americans had volunteered for the Union Army and Navy.
When the 54th marched through the streets of this town, the citizens and soldiers lined the walks, to get a look at the first black regiment from the North.... We leave tonight for, the Lord knows where, but we shall try to uphold the honor of the Old Bay State wherever we go.
Corporal James Henry Gooding, Beaufort, South Carolina, June 8, 1863.
Lower left - below each photo
Henry A. Monroe
, a musician in Company C at age 14, was one of the youngest men to enlist. After his honorable discharge from the 54th, he taught in freedmen schools in Maryland and later became a minister.
The Baptist minister William Jackson
(1818-1900) was a recruiter and acted as post chaplain to the 54th Regiment. Later appointed chaplain of the 55th Regiment, Jackson was the fiorst chaplain of color in the Union Army.
After President Lincoln order to open the recruit black soldiers, James W. Grace
opened the recuiting office and visited local black churches to encourage enlistment. Born in Maine, Grace was a sailmaker and merchant before the war.
lower right - newspaper article
COLORED MEN, ATTENTION!
Your Country calls!
One Hundred Colored Men Wanted.
To be a?tached to
Gov. Andrew New Regiment,
THE MASSACHUSETTS FIFTY-FOURTH.
The pay and rations to be the same as
Those of any other Massachusetts Regiment.
The families of the Colored men enlisted to re-
ceive the same as that furnished white men in other
Head-Quarters for enlisting at the first building
west of the Post Office. William Street.
N.B. - Colored men from any other town, city, or
State, wishing to enlist, will receive the same as
Though they were from this city.
Feb 12 J. W. GRACE, Recruiting Officer