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A Brief History of the 15th Massachusetts

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

The 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that served from the State of Massachusetts during the American Civil War from 1861–1864. A part of the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac, the regiment was engaged in many battles from Ball's Bluff to Petersburg, and suffered the tenth highest fatality rate amongst Federal regiments. The regiment was composed almost entirely of men from Worcester County, and was mustered in on July 12, 1861.

The Regiment was attached to Gorman's Brigade, Stone's (Sedgwick's) Division, Army of the Potomac, to March, 1862. 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, to July, 1864

The regiment was mustered into Federal service on July 12, 1861, and left for the seat of war, arriving along the Potomac on August 25. On October 21, it was engaged with the heaviest loss among all Federal regiments at the Battle of Ball's Bluff. In the spring of 1862, it was made a part of the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac and accompanied it during the Peninsular Campaign, being engaged at the Battles of Seven Pines, Savage's Station, and Glendale with modest losses. In April 1862, the 1st Company Massachusetts Sharpshooters was attached to the regiment, serving with it until the spring of 1863. Spending most of the summer at Harrison's Landing, it departed in August just in time to miss the Battle of Second Bull Run. The regiment then embarked upon the Maryland Campaign, where it was savagely flanked by the Confederates at the Battle of Antietam, losing over 50% of its 600 men. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, it was kept out of the main assault on Marye's Heights and suffered relatively few losses. The Battle of Gettysburg found the regiment engaged against the assaults of the Army of Northern Virginia on July 2 and 3, 1863, with heavy loss. By 1864, the regiment's strength had dwindled, but it still faced rigorous campaigning with action at The Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the Siege of Petersburg. By June 22, the regiment could field only 75 officers and men. This small group was captured en masse that day when they were outflanked by a Confederate force on the Jerusalem Plank Road. The survivors and parolees mustered out of Federal service on July 26, 1864, with its recruits and re-enlistees being transferred to the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

During the war, the 15th Massachusetts Regiment sustained the 10th-highest number of men killed or fatally wounded in action among all 1,200 Federal regiments. Its losses at several engagements are as follows:

  • Ball's Bluff, Va., October 21, 1861: 40 killed or fatally wounded, 70 wounded, 202 captured (312 out of 650 engaged)

  • Antietam, Md., September 17, 1862: 104 killed or fatally wounded, 206 wounded, 14 captured (324 of 600 engaged)

  • Gettysburg, Pa., July 2–3, 1863: 37 killed or fatally wounded, 94 wounded, 24 captured (155 out of 239 engaged)

  • Wilderness, Va., May 5–6, 1864: 16 killed or fatally wounded, 51 wounded, 17 captured (of whom 6 died in prison)

Regiment lost during service 14 Officers and 227 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 121 Enlisted men by disease. Total 363.

In June 1886, veterans of the 15th massachusetts Volunteer Infantry gathered at Gettysburg to dedicate two monuments. The first was the small obelisk memorial for Col. Ward, as described above. The second, is located on Hancock Avenue, near the Copse of Trees. It marks the original position of the regiment on the morning of July 3, and consists of a 54 inch upright on a 24 inch high base. It bears a bronze relief of an armed soldier.
The 15th Mass. Reunion at Gettysburg, June 2, 1886

This blog entry is a direct pull from the 15th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment article in Wikipedia with minor edits for accuracy. Wikipedia contributors. (2021, June 9). 15th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:48, October 9, 2021, from

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