Brief Biographies

John A. Andrew was a staunch abolishionist who became Governor of Massachusetts on January 1, 1861, and served until 1866.  From the beginning of the war, he advocated organizing black units, and successfully convinced Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton to allow him to begin forming the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first free state regiments of black soldiers,  after the release of the Final Emancipation Declaration in January, 1863.Wikipedia

Frederick Douglass was born in slavery in Maryland, about 1818. Separated from his mother as an infant, he went through a succession of households and owners. In Baltimore, his owner’s wife taught him the alphabet at age 12, and he subsequently learned to read and write by observing white children and the people with whom he worked. After several unsuccessful attempts, he finally escaped from slavery in 1838, travelling first to New York, and then on to New Bedford, MA, where he settled and became active in abolitionist activities. He published his first autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845 (online here). The success of the book led Douglass to travel to Ireland and Great Britian for two years in order to avoid possible recapture by his previous owner. His lectures there were successful, and his British supporters raised the money to purchase his freedom, allowing Douglass to return to the United States in 1847. He subsequently settled in Rochester, NY and started a succession of abolitionist newpapers, including the North Star and Douglass’ Monthly. He recruited over 100 men to enlist in the 54th Massacusetts Infantry Regiment, including two of his sons. After the war, he served in a variety of government positions and continued campaigning for voting rights and suffrage, including for women. He died on February 20, 1895.Wikipedia

Luis F. Emilio was born on December 22, 1844 in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of a Spanish immigrant who made his living as a music instructor.  Although the minimum age for service in the Union army was 18, in 1861 — at age 16 — Emilio gave his age as 18 and enlisted in Company F of the 23rd Massachusets Volunteer Infantry. He was noticably brave and steadfast, and by September, 1862 he had been promoted to the rank of sergeant.  Emilio was among the group of original officers of the 54th selected by Governor Andrew.  He mustered in as a 2nd lieutenant on March 30, 1863.  Two weeks later, Shaw promoted him to 1st lieutenant, and on May 27, he was made captain of Company E. Captain Emilio emerged from the ferocious assault on Ft. Wagner as the regiment’s acting commander, since all of the other ranking officers had been killed or wounded.  He fought with the 54th for over three years of dangerous combat, mustering out of the Union army on March 29, 1865, still not yet 21 years old. After the war, he went into the real estate business, first in San Francisco, and later in New York.  After assisting two old comrades documenting the history of the 23rd Massachusetts in the mid-1880s, he began work on his own documentation of the 54th, publishing the first edition of Brave Black Regiment in 1891, and the revised edition in 1894. [BBR, Intro.] Wikipedia

James Henry Gooding was apparently born in Troy, NY in 1837.  In the summer of 1856, he travelled to New Bedford, Massachusetts, to go to sea as a cook or steward on a four year Pacific whaling voyage, returning in 1860.  He then signed on for a shorter Atlantic voyage which returned in 1861, followed by a merchant voyage to Motevideo.  On February 10, 1863, the 54th recruiting office in New Bedford opened, and on February 14, Gooding enlisted as a member of Company C.  His letters to the New Bedford Mercury began shorly thereafter, on a regular bi-weekly and often weekly basis.  He was well regarded, and promoted to corporal in December, 1863.  He fought steadfastly with the regiment, in the midst of the assult on Ft. Wagner, and in the battle of Oustlee, Florida, where he was captured by rebels.  He died in captivity in Andersonville July 19, 1864. [OAF, Intro.] Wikipedia

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, from his innauguration on March 1861 until April 14, 1865 when he was assasinated.  Lincoln had been an Illinois legislator and a member of the United States House of Represenatatives, and had been an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery to the territories and new states.  His election was the precipitating event leading to the secession of South Carolina and the other original seceeding states.  He closely directed the war effort, which began poorly for the Union, and was initially slow to promulgate the Emancipation Proclamation for fear of inciting the border states such as Kentucky to also seceed, thus in all likilood causing the loss of the war.  However, he began drafting the Proclamation in 1862, and when the the Battle of Antietam was enough of a Union victory in September of 1862, he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation,  following up with the Final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Wikipedia

Robert Gould Shaw was born in Boston on October 10, 1837 into a wealthy abolishonist family. He spent his childhood in West Roxbury with his family, who later moved to Staten Island. During his teenage years, he travelled and studied in Europe. He also studied at the forerunner of Fordham University, and spent the three years from 1856 to 1859 at Harvard University, but left before graduating. Immediately after Lincoln’s election and the beginning of Southern Secession, Shaw joined the 7th New York Regiment, and marched with it to the defense of Washington D.C. in April of 1861. The unit disbanded after 30 days, and Shaw then joined the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry as a 2nd lieutenant, later being promoted to captain after the the Battle of Antietam. He was recruited by Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew to help raise and command the 54th Massachusets Regiment. Shaw married his fiance Anna Haggerty in New York City in May 1863. Shortly thereafter, the regiment was sent to Charleston, South Carolina to take part in the attempts to take the “citadel of the Confederacy”. On July 18th, the 54th and two bridages of white troops were ordered to assault the Confederate Battery Wagner. The 54th led the assault, and Shaw led his men through ferocious fire, and was shot through the heart at the top of a parapat.[BCF] Wikipedia

Edwin Stanton was United States Secretary of War from January 1862 through 1868.  Wikipedia

George E. Stephens was born in 1832 in Philadelphia, where his family had moved from Virginia the previous year to escape the white violence which arose following Nat Turner’s rebellion. His father worked as a bookblack, waiter, and laborer, and became a lay preacher in the First African Baptist Church, a strongly abolitionist congregation active in the underground railroad.  George Stephens became quite well educated, likely in schools operated by the Quakers and the Pennsyvania Abolition Society.  He worked as a cabinet maker, with stints also as an upholsterer and as a sailor, becoming active in the underground railway. Together with 15 other associates, in 1853 he founded a literary society and library named the Banneker Institute in honor of the African-American mathematician Benjamin Banneker. During his time at sea during 1857-1858, Stephens was nearly enslaved in Charleston, S.C., building his hatred of slavery even higher that his earlier strong abolishonist views. Like a great many Northern blacks, Stephens was outraged and frustrated by the Federal government’s initial unwillingness to allow them to fight against the South.  Stephens signed on as the cook and personal servant of Benjamin C. Tilghman, an officer in the Army of the Potomac’s 26th Regiment.  He began sending his war correspondence to the New York Weekly Anglo-African during his service with the 26th.  After the Massachusetts 54th began forming during March 1863, Stephens argued strongly for black support of the regiment, recruited enlistees for several months, and himself reported  to Camp Miegs on April 30, 1863 to join Company B.  Stephens fought in the heart of the the Ft. Wagner assault, barely escaping capture. He fought through the war with the 54th, initially as a first sergeant, later receiving a field commisions as a 2nd and then 2st lieutenant, mustering out of the Union army in July of 1865. [VT, Part 1] Wikipedia