The 54th United States Colored Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment was composed of African American enlisted men commanded by white officers and was authorized by the Bureau of Colored Troops which was created by the United States War Department on May 22, 1863.
Following the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, an organization of African-American troops was commenced in the Mississippi River Valley under the personal supervision of the adjutant-general of the army, Lorenzo Thomas. His first regiment was mustered into service on May 1, 1863, as the 1st Arkansas Volunteers of African Descent, The 2nd Arkansas was one of four regiments of African Americans that was raised in Helena, Phillips County, an important Union held fortified city and naval port on the Mississippi River.
Twenty-one-year-old Minos Miller of the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry, stationed at Helena Arkansas wrote in January 1863:
[W]e are rejoicing today over Brags [sic] defeat [at Murfreesboro, Tennessee] and Old Abe’s [Emancipation] Proclamation. We got the news last night at 8 o’clock that all the negros was free and them that was able for servis [sic] was to be armed and set to guarding foarts [sic]. I think the Union is safe and all will be over by the forth [sic] of July.
On April 7, Miller attended a speech by Adjutant General of the Army Lorenzo Thomas, who was promoting the raising of black regiments for service in the Union army (under white officers). Reaction to Thomas’s address was so favorable that three companies of a hundred soldiers each were recruited immediately, forming the nucleus of the 1st Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment (African Descent).
Encouraged by the response to General Thomas’s appeal, army officials made plans to create a second black Arkansas unit. Throughout the remainder of the spring, the first companies of the 2nd Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment (African Descent) were formed. Minos Miller volunteered to serve as an officer in this new regiment. On June 12, he wrote to his mother:
Our regiment is about 300 strong. We are drilling every day. The negros learn fast and will fight well. We have tried ours twice and know they will stand fire.
The Confederates were about to give the entire Federal garrison at Helena an opportunity to “stand fire.”
The regiment was organized at large in Arkansas on September 4, 1863, as the 2nd Regiment Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (African Descent) and assigned to the VII Corps (Union Army). The regiment was raised under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George W. De Costa and Major George W. Burchard and was composed primarily of freed slaves in the Arkansas River Valley. On March 11, 1864, the designation of Regiment changed to 54th U. S. Colored Troops.
|Dimensioni||8 × 11 × 3 cm|
The 39th Garibaldi Guard, raised by the Union Defense Committee of New York city, under special authority from the War Department, was accepted by the State May 27, 1861; organized and recruited at New York city under Col. Frederick George D’Utassy, and mustered in the service of the United States for three years at Washington, D. C., June 6, 1861,…