Monday, January 31, 2011

African Americans served in 1st Massachusetts Infantry in 1861 before USCT

African Americans enlisted with the 1st Massachusetts Infantry in May 1861 before serving with the United States Colored Troops as officers according to "Massachusetts in the army and navy during the war of 1861-65, Volume 2" By Thomas Wentworth Higginson (included in second book below).  This dispels the falsehood that African Americans did not serve in the Union Army until the United States Colored Troops was organized.

Higginson explains that the list beginning on page 484 is far from complete.  He had difficulties at the time with being allowed to research at the Record and Pension Office in Washington.  It appears he was able to extract information from the Massachusetts regiment rolls where a record of the troops was recorded when they were promoted as officers to serve as USCT's.

Edward S. Daniels

He also explains that there are inaccuracies.  For this reason, I took the liberty of researching an officer, Edward S. Daniels, who enlisted May 23, 1862 and was a Private in Company A.  He was discharged on October 4, 1862 and later became a Captain with the 35th USCT Infantry until his discharge on May 18, 1866. See page 487.

Company A of the 1st Massachusetts was organized under Colonel Robert Cowdin on May 23, 1863.  Edward S. Daniels is also listed in the following book "First Regiment of Infantry, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia: Colonel Robert Cowdin," By United States Army on page 18.

History and documentation

You can read more about the history of the 1st Massachusetts Regiment here: Civil War in the East.  Edward S. Daniels' is also found in the U. S. Civil War Record and Profile database at  He was 26 when he first enlisted in May of 1861 and he was wounded while serving with the 1st Massachusetts Regiment.  A record of his service in both regiments is included.

For background on the 35th United States Colored Infantry, see the thesis, JUST LEARNING TO BE MEN: A HISTORY OF THE 35TH UNITED STATES COLORED TROOPS,1863-1866 by SHANA RENEE HUTCHINS and Thirty-Fifth United States Colored Troops (First North Carolina Colored Volunteers).

Daniels' Civil War Service Record is on Footnote.  It is a huge undertaking, but I would suggest that anyone who researches a Civil War soldier study the history of the regiments, battles, commanders, and biographies and records of fellow troops, etc. to be able to get an understanding of what your ancestor went through during the Civil War.  You may also find connections to other family members who served.

We will discuss Edward S. Daniels further in a future post.  He happened to be one of 800 prisoners exchanged and brought to Anapolis on March 7, 1865.  See CITIZEN PRISONERS RETURNED BY STEAMER GENERAL SEDGWICK AT ANNAPOLIS, MARCH, 7, 1865

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