The Fifth Massachusetts Colored Cavalry in the Civil War


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About the Book

In January 1863, a long-anticipated military order arrived on the desk of Massachusetts Governor John Andrew. President Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, had granted the governor authority to raise regiments of black soldiers. Two units—the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry—were soon mustered and in December, Andrew issued General Order No. 44, announcing “a Regiment of Cavalry Volunteers, to be composed of men of color…is now in the process of recruitment in the Commonwealth.”
Drawing on letters, diaries, memoirs and official reports, this book provides the first full-length regimental history of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry—its organization, participation in the Petersburg campaign and the guarding of prisoners at Point Lookout, Maryland, and its triumphant ride into Richmond. Accounts of the postwar lives of many of the men are included.

About the Author(s)

Steven M. LaBarre (degree in history and sociology from Olivet Nazarene University) is head of reference and adult services for a public library in a Chicago suburb. He has been featured in the scholarly journal Gettysburg Magazine. He lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Steven M. LaBarre
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: 28 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6384-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2342-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
“The Colored Soldiers” by Paul Laurence Dunbar xi
Preface 1
Introduction 10
1. Do You Think I’ll Make a Soldier? 25
2. A Precarious Predicament 49
3. Seeing the Elephant 74
4. The Bottom Rail Had Got on Top 93
5. The Day of Jubilo 123
6. Honorable Soldier, Honorable Discharge 136
7. Forever Free: Life After War 150
8. In Reunion and Remembrance 169
Chapter Notes 181
Bibliography 197
Index 207

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “This thoroughly researched regimental history traces the story of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry (Colored). LaBarre chronicles the troop’s history from recruitment to muster out…. Recommended”—Choice
  • “LaBarre has created a captivating history of this New England cavalry regiment’s service during the Civil War. Provides breadth and depth to the history of a regiment that contributed honorable and essential service to the Nation. LaBarre does an excellent job with a candid and contemporary historical look at life in a New England regiment of color”—Military Review
  • “This regimental history pays homage to the bravery of the 5th’s enlisted men…. The author deserves commendation for his exhaustive research that uncovered personal letters and diaries as well as obscure documents and newspaper articles. This book should serve as the most comprehensive compendium of the 5th Regiment’s war record for many years to come”—Civil War News
  • “Little work has been done on the black cavalries that served during the Civil War, and LaBarre’s book is a useful and welcome contribution to that historiography”—The Civil War Monitor.