The African-American experience in columbus blog
This blog features brief articles on the African-Experience in Columbus from the Underground Railroad to the civil rights era.
By Matt Doran
In 1863, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew, with authorization from President Abraham Lincoln, organized the 54th and 55th Volunteer Infantry, the first African-American regiments in the American Civil War. Frederick Douglass, a leading African-American abolitionist, immediately became an active recruiter for the Union Army. Douglass published this notice in his newspaper, published in Rochester, New York:
Men of Color, To Arms
Douglass’s two sons, Charles and Lewis were the first two in the State of New York to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts regiment. Many African-Americans from Ohio were also recruited to the 54th, until the formation of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the summer of 1863.
Later renamed the 5th United States Colored Infantry Regiment, Ohio’s African-American regiment was organized at Camp Delaware on the east side of the Olentangy River from August to November of 1863. Captain Lewis McCoy, at the direction of Ohio Governor David Tod, organized the regiment.
The 5th Regiment moved to Norfolk, Virginia in November of 1863. The regiment saw action in Virginia as part of the Richmond–Petersburg Campaign and in North Carolina, where it participated in the attacks on Fort Fisher and Wilmington and the Carolinas Campaign.
By the time the regiment was mustered out in 1865, they had lost six officers and 243 enlisted men. Sergeants Beatty, Holland, Pimm, and Brunson were awarded medals for gallantry in action by Congress and by General Benjamin F. Butler.