Item contributed by Massachusetts Historical Society
Henry A. Monroe was a musician in Company C, 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first regiment of African American soldiers raised by Massachusetts during the Civil War. Although he claimed to be eighteen, Monroe was only thirteen when he enlisted on 26 February 1863. Black men from the Northern states and Canada flocked to Massachusetts to join the 54th, although Company C had a large contingent of men, and some teenagers (including Monroe), from New Bedford. Monroe served through the last two years of the Civil War, from the 54th’s famous assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina, 18 July 1863, until the regiment’s final engagement at Boykin’s Mill, the last Civil War battle in South Carolina, on 18 April 1865. He was only fifteen when he was mustered out on 20 August 1865.
After the war, Monroe moved to Maryland where he was a teacher for the Freedmen’s Bureau, a customs inspector in Baltimore, and the editor of an African American newspaper. He retained connections to fellow Black veterans and was active in the GAR. Before the age of thirty, he embarked on another career, becoming a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He preached at and raised funds for churches in Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He died in 1912, after an extraordinarily full life, at the age of sixty-two.
Carte de visite, circa 1863-1865, Visible image: 8.5 cm x 5 cm.
From the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment carte de visite album.