54th US Colored Infantry

Organized March 11, 1864, from 2nd Arkansas Infantry (African Descent). Attached to 2nd Brigade, Frontier Division, 7th Corps, Dept. of Arkansas, to February, 1865. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 7th Corps, to August, 1865. Dept. of Arkansas to December, 1866.

SERVICE: Duty at Helena, Ark., till May, 1864. Ordered to Fort Smith, Ark., and duty there till January, 1865. Actions at Fort Gibson September 16, 1864. Cabin Creek September 19. Cow Creek, Kansas, November 14 and 28. Ordered to Little Rock January, 1865. Action on Arkansas River January 18. Duty at Little Rock and at various points in Dept. of Arkansas till December, 1866. Mustered out August 8 to December 31, 1866.

Predecessor unit: ARKANSAS VOLUNTEERS. 2nd REGIMENT INFANTRY (AFRICAN DESCENT). Organized in Arkansas at large September 4, 1863. Attached to District Eastern Arkansas, Dept. Arkansas, to January 1864. Distrct Eastern Arkansas, 7th Army Corps, Dept. Arkansas, January, 1864. Post of Little Rock, Ark., 7th Corps, to March, 1864.

SERVICE: Post and Garrison duty at Helena, Ark., till January, 1864. Repulse of Holmes' attack on Helena July 4, 1863 (before muster in). Ordered to Little Rock, Ark., January, 1864, and Post duty there till March. Designation of Regiment changed to 54th U.S. Colored Troops March 11, 1864.

Two men from Williamson County enlisted in the 54th US Colored Infantry. They both enlisted in Company B on August 27, 1863 in Helena, Arkansas. And they both shared the last name Shottle - it is not clear if they were related by blood or by common bondage or some other tie.

Another man named Minor Shottle enlisted in the same company on the same day in the same location. His place of birth was not noted.

Twenty-one-year-old Minos Miller served as a 1st Lt. of the 54th USCI. He was stationed at Helena, Arkansas. In a letter to his mother on April 18, 1863, Miller wrote about the reaction of other white soldiers to arming African American Troops:

“General [Lorenzo] Thomas made a speech to the soldiers here last Monday a week his buisness was to know the feeling of the Soldiers in regaard to arming the negroes he spokee in favor of it and then Gens [Benjamin M.] Prentiss Washborn [Cadwallader W. Washburn] [Alvin P.] Hovey [Clinton B.] Fisk and Cols Cameron and Bussy [Cyrus Bussey] they all spoke in favor of it in the strongest terms the speking was in the Foart and it was crowed as full of soldiers it would hold after the speeking was over General Prentiss got up and told the boys that the [MS illegible] counted them to give some demonstration in favor of the policy that had been advocated for [Adjutant] Gen Thomas to carry back to President Lincoln he told them that was in favor of arming the negroes to pull off their hats and in a second evry head (that I could see and I was where I could see the most of the crowd) was bare he then told them to give three cheers and such yelling you never heard I reckon he told them that would do he then told them that if there was any that was opposed to it to pull off their hats but not a man dared to raise his hat since that there has been one regt raised here and another will be impressed in a few days”

On June 12, he wrote again: 

Our regiment is about 300 strong. We are drilling every day. The negros learn fast and will fight well. We have tried ours twice and know they will stand fire.

[African American soldiers mustered out at Little Rock, Arkansas]

Published in: Harper's Weekly, v. 10, 1866 May 19, p. 308.

Library of Congress.