The 5th Regiment. Massachusetts Voluntary Cavalry was the only cavalry regiment from Massachusetts composed exclusively of colored men. It was organized at Camp Meigs, Readville, during the autumn of 1863 and the winter following. Company "A" was mustered in Jan. 9, 1864, but the last company ("M") was not mustered until the 5th of the following May. Henry S. Russell, who had had an excellent record as an officer in the 2d Regiment Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry and in the 2d Regiment Massachusetts Voluntary Cavalry, was made colonel of the 5th Cavalry. All the commissioned officers of the regiment were white men.
The 1st Battalion under Major Weld, the 2d under Major Adams, and the 3d under Major Bowditch left Camp Meigs on May 5, May 6, and May 8 respectively with orders to proceed to Washington, D. C. The entire regiment was assembled at Camp Casey near Fort Albany in the defenses of Washington, May 11, 1864. Two days later the entire regiment, armed and equipped as infantry, was ordered to Fort Monroe. Arriving May 15, it was immediately sent to City Point on the James River, arriving next day. Here it was assigned to Hinks' (3d) Division, Smith's (18th) Corps.
It was engaged in reconnoitering expeditions and on picket duty during the latter part of May and the early part of June on the lower Appomattox without loss. On June 14 as a part of Holman's (Provisional) Brigade, it participated in the advance toward Petersburg, being engaged with the enemy at Baylor's Farm where it lost three men killed and 19 officers and men wounded, among the latter being Colonel Russell, Major Adams, and Captain H. E. W. Clark. Major Bowditch now assumed command of the regiment, at 7 p.m. another assault was made in which five batteries commanding the Jordan's Point road were captured and the Confederates driven back toward the inner defenses of Petersburg. . The 5th Cavalry (dismounted) operated on the Petersburg and Bermuda Hundred fronts until the last of June when it was ordered to Point Lookout, Md., to guard Confederate prisoner at that post. Here it remained for the balance of the year 1864. Colonel Russell, having recovered from his wound, resumed command of the regiment Sept. 30, retaining the same until Feb. 14, 1865, when he resigned. Lieut. Col. Charles Francis Adams now became colonel.
The regiment returned to the Petersburg front in time to participate in the closing campaign of March and April, 1865, remaining in camp near that city until June when it was ordered to Texas. On Aug. 1, Col. S. E. Chamberlain late of the 1st Mass. Cavalry became colonel of the 5th and did much to improve the condition of the regiment.
The prospect of trouble in Mexico having ended, the regiment was mustered out of Federal service at Clarksville, Texas, October 31, 1865, and immediately started for Massachusetts, making most of the trip by steamer. On arriving in Boston Harbor the regiment was landed at Galloup's Island where it remained until the latter part of November when it was paid off and discharged.
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