Lt. Col. Henry N. Hooper,
54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

Florida State Archives Photographic Collection

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Northey Hooper was born on December 16, 1834 in Boston, Massachusetts. He entered the Union army as a major on August 25, 1863 and joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on September 12, 1863. He was appointed a lieutenant colonel on July 18, 1864. He was discharged on July 11, 1865.

The following information obtained from A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the 5th Massachusetts, 1863-1865 by Captain Luis R. Emilio.

Henry N. Hooper, formerly captain, Thirty-second Massachusetts Infantry, was commissioned major of the Fifty-fourth, arrived October 16, 1863, and relieved Captain Emilio of the command [Captain Emilio having served as commander while Col. Hallowell was on hospital leave and subsequent assignment to higher command, following the death ofCol. Robert Gould Shaw in the assault at Battery Wagner]. Col. Hallowell returned the next day.

During the latter part of the battle at Olustee, late in the day about 5:30 pm in the early darkness, the 54th has lost heavily. However, it was discovered that all the other units had retired from the field, except for the 54th. Col. Montgomery had retired the regiment by telling them "Each man take care of himself."

...But this plan did not please Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, so telling Color Sergeant Wilkins to stand fast, and securing the cooperation of officers and reliable men near at hand, he shouted "Rally!" and a line was again formed.

At this time Colonel Hallowell with others became separated from the main portion. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, thus in command, briefly addressed the men, ordered bayonets fixed, and exercised the regiment in the manual of arms to bring it completely under control.

Ultimately, the regiment caught up with Gen. Seymour's main force, where Colonel Hallowell found it, and assumed command.

In the matter of unequal pay for black soldiers, after the Battle at Olustee, while occupying Pilatka (sic) on the St. Johns River in March 1864, Lt. Col. Hooper wrote:

"The question whether the men of the Fifty-fourth were legally enlisted into the service of the United States is about to be put before a court-martial here,—that is, a man of the regiment is to be tried by a court-martial for a military offence, and he will put in a plea in bar of trial, on the ground that he is not amenable to a court-martial because he is not a soldier; that he is not a soldier because he was illegally enlisted,—hence he is no soldier."
Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper then recited the Act of July 22, 1861, saying that its provisions were read to the man and subscribed to by him. But the Government instructed its agents that it could only pay the Fifty-fourth (to which this man belonged) according to the provision of the Act of July 17, 1862. He asked assistance in solving the question in behalf of his men, and further asked for a decision from Judge Holt bearing upon the point at issue.

Lt. Col. Hooper took command of the regiment on June 18, 1864 after Col. Hallowell was granted permission to proceed North to press the claims of the regiment for equal pay in person. Hallowell returned on July 16.

On September 28, 1864, the men of the 54th were paid from enlistment—most after 18 months of service, amounting to $170,000, of which $100,000 was sent home by Adams' Express.

[Editor's Note: Thakns to Jerry Brown of Gaithersburg, Maryland, who is Civil War reenactor and a member of Company B, 54th Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., for providing the above information on Lt. Colonel Hooper.]

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