In January 1863, a long-anticipated military order arrived on the desk of Massachusetts Governor John Andrew. President Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, had granted the governor authority to raise regiments of black soldiers. Two units--the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry--were soon mustered and in December, Andrew issued General Order No. 44, announcing "a Regiment of Cavalry Volunteers, to be composed of men of color...is now in the process of recruitment in the Commonwealth."
Drawing on letters, diaries, memoirs and official reports, this book provides the first full-length regimental history of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry--its organization, participation in the Petersburg campaign and the guarding of prisoners at Point Lookout, Maryland, and its triumphant ride into Richmond. Accounts of the postwar lives of many of the men are included.