Picture of Luis F. Emilio

First Lieutenant Luis F. Emilio became the Captain of Company E of the 54th Massachusetts on May 27, 1863. He was the only surviving field officer not incapacitated with wounds after the assault on Fort Wagner and became the Regiment’s acting commander. He fought through the entire war, until mustering out in March 1865. He published the first edition of his history of the 54th, A Brave Black Regiment, in 1891.

(From Luis F. Emilio, Brave Black Regiment [BBR, 1-2]):
At the close of the year 1862, the military situation was discouraging to the supporters of the Federal Government. We had been repulsed at Fredericksburg and at Vicksburg, and at tremendous cost had fought the battle of Stone River. Some sixty-five thousand troops would be discharged during the ensuing summer and fall. Volunteering was at a standstill. On the other hand, the Confederates, having filled their ranks, were never better fitted for conflict. Politically, the opposition had grown formidable, while the so-called “peace-faction” was strong, and active for mediation.

In consequence of the situation, the arming of negroes, first determined upon in October, 1862, was fully adopted as a military measure; and President Lincoln, on Jan. 1, 1863, issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In September, 1862, General Butler began organizing the Louisiana Native Guards from free negroes. General Saxton, in the Department of the South, formed the First South Carolina from contrabands in October of the same year. Col. James Williams, in the summer of 1862, recruited the First Kansas Colored. After these regiments next came, in order of organization, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, which was the first raised in the Northern States east of the Mississippi River. Thenceforward the recruiting of colored troops, North and South, was rapidly pushed. As a result of the measure, 167 organizations of all arms, embracing 186,097 enlisted men of African descent, were mustered into the United States service.