This commemorative medal documents the Civil War experience of Miles Moore, the drummer boy for Company H of Massachusetts’ famed 54th regiment, the first Black regiment raised in the North during the Civil War.
In late April of 1863, a 16 year old from Elmira, New York, arrived at the camp of the 54th Regiment in Readville, Mass., ready to enlist. His enlistment record describes Miles Moore as 5 feet tall, with a light complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. In a photograph, probably taken before he had seen battle, Moore stares resolutely at the viewer, proudly bearing his drum. Although Moore had enlisted as a private, his muster-out papers reveal that he was “detailed as Drummer by order of Col. Shaw at organization of Regt.” That same Colonel Shaw—Robert Gould Shaw--would be dead just months later, killed at the Battle of Fort Wagner, memorialized on one leg of Moore’s medal.
Moore, however, survived until the end of the war, serving with the 54th until the regiment was mustered out in 1865. He then briefly returned home to New York where he moved back in with his widowed mother and siblings. His service with the 54th was just the beginning of his military career, however. When Congress passed legislation creating six African American units in 1866—the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments--Moore joined the 39th Regiment, organized in New Orleans, Louisiana, under Col. Joseph Mower. The next year, the 39th and 40th infantry units merged to become the 25th Infantry Regiment in response to Congressional budget cuts. The 1870 U.S. Census locates Moore at Fort Clark, Texas, where he is recorded as an “enlisted soldier in Regt. Band, 25th US Infantry.”
Moore was born David Miles Moore to David and Elizabeth Moore in either New York or Pennsylvania. At the time of his enlistment, the family was living in Elmira, New York. A June 1863 draft registration record for the county lists Moore’s father David, aged 38, a laborer; he died 6 months later, leaving his wife Elizabeth and several children.
After Moore’s military service ended in August of 1870, he relocated to New Orleans where he worked for the Customs Department as a laborer for the Weighers and Gaugers Department. In New Orleans, he married a woman named Adele (or Ardele) Collins and the couple had several children. The family eventually moved back to New York State, where directories reveal that Moore worked as a driver in Saratoga Springs for several years.
Miles Moore died 30 May 1904 at the age of 56 and is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Saratoga Springs. His widow remained in Saratoga Springs until her death in 1925, operating a boarding house from 1905 until at least 1910.
Like many veterans, Miles Moore was justifiably proud of his service to the nation and S.M. Ward & Company of New York—the “Headquarters for Army Corps and Campaign Badges”--provided veterans like him an opportunity to create personalized medals documenting their service. Advertisements in 1864 issues of Wilke's Spirit of the Times & New York Sportsman, #678 show Moore’s medal, with its central image of Fort Sumter, ready to be personalized for just $1.50 in solid silver. Moore chose to inscribe his medal with the locations of four of the 54th’s iconic engagements—James Island, South Carolina; Darien, Georgia; Fort Wagner; and Olustee, Florida.
Census and service records and directories used in tracing Miles Moore were accessed through familysearch.org and ancestry.org.
For more information about the 54th Regiment, see
Burchard, Peter. One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965.
Emilio, Luis F. History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1863-1865 Boston: Boston Book Co., 1894.
The MHS holds the records collected by Luis F. Emilio for his history of the regiment.
The 54th Regiment is featured in a website that accompanied a 2014 exhibition on Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and his men.