Private Alexander H. Johnson, Musician Of The Famous 54th-He Was The First Black Musician To Enlist During The Civil War

1864-Tintype-Massachusetts Historical Society

Johnson served as a musician in  Co. C. of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Colonel Shaw referred to Private Alexander Johnson, a 16-year-old recruit from New Bedford, Massachusetts, as the “original drummer boy.” He was with Shaw when the colonel died at Fort Wagner and carried important messages to other officers during the battle.

Alexander H. Johnson enlisted at the age of 16 as a drummer boy in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. He was the first black musician to enlist during the Civil War, and is depicted as the drummer leading the column of troops on the memorial honoring Colonel Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts in front of the Massachusetts state house in Boston. Alex was adopted by William Henry Johnson, the second black lawyer in the United States and close associate of Frederick Douglass. Johnson’s original surname was Howard and his mother was a Perry. His grandfather was Peter Perry, a native Hawaiian whaler who married an Indian woman.

After the war, Alex Johnson was a member of both the Grand Army of the Republic General George H. Ward Post #10 and of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is frequently mentioned in the book We All Got History by Nick Salvatore. Alexander Johnson died 19 March 1930, at the age of 82, just a few weeks after the 67th anniversary of his enlistment in the 54th. (Text from the Battle of Olustee website) http://artblart.com/tag/african-american-soldiers/

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