The Second Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was first assembled at Brook Farm, West Roxbury (just outside of Boston) on May 11, 1861; it was commanded by Colonel George Gordon.  The farm was designated “Camp Andrew” in honor of then Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, who had authorized the raising of the regiment.  From that date forward until the regiment boarded a train bound for New York City on July 8, the men drilled in army orders and procedures.  Reportedly, they did very well.

Plaque of commemoration at Brooks Farm, Roxbury, MA.
Provided with kind permission of Barbara Poole

The regiment originally consisted of 10 companies (designated by the letters A-K (without "J"). Company G's first commander was Captain Richard Cary. Subordinate officers were 1st Lieutenant Henry Russell and 2nd Lieutenant Anson Sawyer.

18-year-old Company G Private RICHARD GOODHIND ’s term of service was for 3 years.  He was mustered out of service at Chattanooga, Tennessee on May 23, 1864 (although the official record for the regiment gives the date at May 28th).  It would have been possible for him to sign up for a second term but clearly the 21-year-old had had enough war by then.  In the official record of his service, he was reportedly made a corporal at Gettysburg but his salary history indicates he was not promoted until April 1, 1864.  One wonders if perhaps this promotion was meant to be an incentive for him to re-enlist.  If so, it didn’t work!

In all, there were 62 infantry regiments raised from Massachusetts during the Civil War.  The 2nd Massachusetts was considered one of the most experienced.  After Richard left the 2nd Mass, they continued as a unit, eventually becoming part of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s devastating “March to the Sea.”  Following the end of the war, the unit was ultimately mustered out of service at Washington, DC on July 15, 1865.

Following the war, Chaplain Alonzo Quint, Company S, penned "The Record of the Second Massachusetts Infantry, 1861-5" (BOSTON: James P. Walker, 1867) which follows the history of the regiment through its various conflicts. You can read the book by following the link in the right sidebar.


Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry

In a regiment with as illustrious a career as the 2nd Massachusetts, it is difficult to single out particular individuals of note.  Nevertheless, one particular officer does warrant such attention.  2nd Lieutenant ROBERT GOULD SHAW, born in Massachusetts but having served in a New York regiment prior to the formation of this one, was with the 2nd Mass from its very beginning at Roxbury, eventually becoming a Captain.  He served during both the bloody battles of Cedar Mountain and Antietam, having been wounded in the neck at that latter battle.


Lt. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

Shaw came from a wealthy Boston family with devout abolitionist views.  In February of 1863, Governor Andrew approached Shaw’s father concerning a new commission for his son as a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the Union’s first all-black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry.  Accepting the commission but nevertheless hesitant at first, the 25-year-old Shaw initially drilled the men of his new command as a strict disciplinarian. Without the benefit of previous exposure to men of color, he came to respect the capabilities of his new soldiers.  He even championed equal pay for his men, denied by the Department of the Army, going without pay himself for many weeks until the salary was restored.

In May, Shaw married young Annie Haggerty of Lenox, Massachusetts but was shortly called back to his command.  In July, the 54th was sent to Charleston, South Carolina to participate in an offensive against the Confederate stronghold of Fort Wagner.  Faced with a fierce resistance during an assault on the fort on July 18, 1863, Shaw jumped upon a parapet to spur his men to fight.  He was shot three times and died almost instantly.  The battle came to be lost.

Shaw’s stripped body was buried with his men in a mass grave.  Although the bodies of other white officers were regularly returned to the North after such battles, the Confederates refused in his case, believing this to be a sign of insult to Shaw for having commanded a regiment of black men.  Later attempts to orchestrate a return his body were discouraged by Shaw’s father, who insisted that his son would have been honored to have remained with his men in death.

The exploits of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry were re-created for the 1989 film “Glory,” starring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.  The beginning of the movie carries a scene of the 2nd Mass supposedly fighting at Antietam.  However, this scene actually shows groups of Civil War re-enactors simulating the 2nd Massachusetts’ actions at the foot of Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg.


First Regimental Marker at Gettysburg

In the years immediately following the end of the Civil War in 1865, there was great national interest in first-hand accounts of events from veterans regarding their service during this great conflict. Whole families would visit the sites of great battles to gaze upon the battlefields themselves, still pock-marked by the bullets and cannon shells which had decimated them just a few years earlier. But by the late 1870s, much of this evidence of great war had already started to be overgrown by encroaching trees and the need to till the soil. Even at Gettysburg, large sections of this mighty national battlefield, originally just private farmland after all, were being sold off and redeveloped.

For veterans of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, this was both worrisome and galling. Remembrance of the loss of so many of their comrades in a senseless skirmish at the foot of Culp's Hill was already overshadowed by increasing interest in the drama of Pickett's Charge and the assault upon the 20th Maine at Little Round Top. The remaining veterans of the 2nd Massachusetts determined to change all that and give their fellow soldiers their proper place in history.

The veterans erected the first regimental marker on the Gettysburg battlefield in 1879. Dozens of both Union and Confederate regiments followed thereafter with their own grandiose monuments. Visiting the national battlefield at Gettysburg today, one cannot help but be struck by the powerful concrete markers which pepper the landscape there, each one attesting to the bravery and dedication of its men in the place where they fought. But it was this first marker, looking out atop a boulder on the edge of McAllister's Woods towards Spangler's Spring, that honors the stalwart Massachusetts men who lost their lives protecting this great country. Compared to other ornate and magnificent monuments at Gettysburg, this one, with plaques on both faces describing the skirmish and listing the men who died there, might seem a "poor cousin." But if not for this one, this first one, the sacrifice of those brave men might have gone unremembered over the passage of time.

You can read about the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry at Gettyburg by following this link. You can also visit a photo gallery of the area by following this link.



Richard Goodhind in the Civil War
How the Union Army was organized
Chronology of service for the 2nd Mass Infantry
Listing of Enlisted Men in 2nd Mass (last name starting with a "G")
Richard Goodhind - Prisoner of War
Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Gettysburg
2nd Massachusetts Infantry at Gettysburg
Gettysburg Photo Gallery
Richard Goodhind's Pension File

More about the 2nd Mass Infantry (off site)

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