54th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry
The 54th Massachusetts is arguably the most well-known all-Black regiments that fought during the Civil War. Organized by abolitionist Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts, the regiment drew recruits from across the country. On May 28, 1863, the 54th received its colors and marched through Boston in front of a large crowd. They boarded a ship for the trip south.
At first, the men were only given manual labor jobs. However, on July 16, 1863. they were involved in a skirmish at James Island. Then, on the evening of July 18, they participated in the assault on Fort Wagner. The movie "Glory" made this scene and the regiment famous. The 54th suffered roughly 42% casualties in a brutal battle against a strongly defended Confederate position. Of 600 men in the regiment, over 280 were killed, wounded, captured, missing or presumed dead.
The regiment continued to serve in the southeast US for the remainder of the war. They served near Charleston Harbor, and also saw action at Olustee, Florida. They also fought at Honey Hill and Boykin's Mill, South Carolina. The regiment mustered out of service in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina on August 20, 1865.
OVERVIEW: Organized at Readville and mustered in May 13, 1863. Left Boston on Steamer "De Molay" for Hilton Head, S. C., May 28, arriving there June 3. Attached to U. S. Forces, St. Helena Island, S. C., 10th Army Corps, Dept. of the South, to July, 1863. 3rd Brigade 1st Division, Morris Island, S. C., 10th Army Corps, July, 1863. 3rd Brigade, Morris Island, S. C., to August, 1863. 4th Brigade, Morris Island, S. C., to November, 1863. 3rd Brigade, Morris Island, S. C., to January, 1864. Montgomery's Brigade, District of Hilton Head, S. C., to February, 1864. Montgomery's Brigade, District of Florida, February, 1864. 3rd Brigade, Ames' Division, District of Florida, to April, 1864. Folly and Morris Islands, S. C., Northern District, Dept. South, to October, 1864. 1st Separate Brigade, Dept. South, to November, 1864. 2nd Brigade, Coast Division, Dept. South, to February, 1865. 1st Separate Brigade, Northern District, Dept. South, to March, 1865. 1st Separate Brigade, District of Charleston, S. C., Dept. South, to June, 1865. 3rd Sub-District, District of, Charleston, Dept. South Carolina, to August, 1865.
SERVICE: -At Thompson's Plantation near Beaufort, S. C., June 4-8, 1863. Moved to St. Simon's Island June 8-9. Expedition up Altamaha River June 10-11. At St. Simon's Island June 12-24. At St. Helena Island June 25-July 8. To Stono Inlet July 8. Expedition against James Island July 9-16. Affair Legaresville July 13. Secessionville July 16. Moved to Morris Island July 16-18. Assault on Fort Wagner July 18. Siege operations against Forts Wagner and Gregg, Morris Island, July 18-September 7, and against Fort Sumpter and Charleston September 7, 1863, to January 28, 1864. Capture of Forts Wagner and Gregg September 7, 1863. Moved to Hilton Head, S. C., January 28, 1864. Expedition to Jacksonville, Fla., February 5-7. Capture of Jacksonville February 6. Expedition to Lake City, Fla., February 7-22. Battle of Oolustee February 20. Duty at Jacksonville till April 17. Moved to Morris Island April 17-18. Duty on Morris and Folly Islands, S. C., till November, 1864. Expedition to James Island June 30-July 10. Actions on James Island July 2, 9 and 10. Six Companies in charge of rebel prisoners under fire of Charleston Batteries September 7 to October 20. Eight Companies moved to Hilton Head, November 27. (Cos. "B" and "F" at Morris Island till February, 1865.) Expedition to Boyd's Neck, S. C., November 29-30. Boyd's Landing November 29. Battle of Honey Hill November 30. Demonstration on Charleston Camp; Savannah Railroad December 6-9. Moved to Graham's Neck December 20. Connect with Sherman's Army at Pocotaligo, S. C., January 15, 1865. March to Charleston January 15-February 23, skirmishing all the way. (Cos. "B" and "F" occupy Charleston February 18.) Regiment on duty at Charleston February 27 to March 12. At Savannah, Ga., March 13-27. At Georgetown, S. C., March 31-April 5. Potter's Expedition to Camden April 5-25. Seven Mile Bridge April 6. Destruction of Eppes' Bridge, Black River, April 7. Dingle's Mills April 9. Destruction of Rolling Stock at Wateree Junction April 11. Singleton's Plantation April 12. Statesburg April 15. Occupation of Camden April 17. Boykin's Mills April 18. At Georgetown April 25. Duty at Georgetown, Charleston, and various points in South Carolina April 25 to August 17. Mustered out at Mount Pleasant, S. C., August 20, 1865. Discharged at Boston, Mass., September 1, 1865.
Pvt. Benjamin Patten (1840-1896)
One Williamson County man is known to have served in the famous 54th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry. Pvt. Ben Patten (Patton) was born in Greene County, Tennessee around 1845. It is not known the circumstances under which he made his way to Cincinnati, Ohio but he was living there and farming before he enlisted on April 14, 1863, in Company G of the 54th at Readville in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
The governor of Massachusetts was casting a wide net to fill the regiment. One of the recruiters sent to help was A. P. Dunlap, a white clerk living in Buffalo, New York. Interestingly, Dunlap would also have a role in recruiting Pvt. Alfred Fields into the 3rd US Colored Infantry in Philadelphia, and the men of the 14th USCI. Pvt. Patten enlisted with 31 other Black Ohioans into Company G. He was described as a 23-year-old laborer who was 5'11" tall and had a light complexion. He was present with his Company during all its significant battles at James Island, Fort Wager and the Battle of Olustee. In November & December 1864 he was sick in a hospital at Morris Island, South Carolina. By March 1864 he was back with his unit. On August 20, 1865, he mustered out with his regiment at Charleston, South Carolina.
It is not yet clear what Pvt. Patton did after mustering out of the service, he may have briefly returned to Ohio. However, by June 1890 Patten was living in the 18th Civil District of Williamson County, TN. In October of that year, he applied for a pension. He died on September 12, 1896, and his remains were buried in the Nashville National Cemetery with a military headstone.
Pvt. Benjamin Patten (Patton) Company Descriptive Book
Benjamin Patton was counted in the 1890 Veterans Census for the 18th Civil District of Williamson County in June 1890.
He applied for a pension in October 1890.
Benjamin Patten died on September 12, 1896. His remains were buried in the Nashville National Cemetery in Madison, Tennessee.
National Park Service, 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
National Park Service, Battle Unit Details
A Noble Experiment: Buckeyes in the 54th Massachusetts Depart for War, October 09, 2020. Dan Masters' Civil War Chronicles.
Fort Wagner and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, American Battlefield Trust.
Massachusetts Historical Society, https://www.masshist.org/features/54thregiment