The first person enrolled in the regiment was John Whittier Messer Appleton, who was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant today. He became Captain of Company A on April 14, 1863, and was promoted to Major on July 18, even though wounded in the assault on Ft. Wagner. Appleton began vigorously recruiting for the regiment — securing 25 men in the first 5 days — arranging for posters and placing the following ad which appeared in the Boston Journal on February 16:
To Colored Men. Wanted. Good men for the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers of African descent, Col. Robert G. Shaw. $100 bounty at expiration of term of service. Pay $13 per month, and State aid for families. All necessary information can be obtained at the office, corner Cambridge and North Russell Streets. Lieut. J.W.M. Appleton, Recruiting Officer.