1838-1921; bulk: 1861-1918

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Civil War officer Luis F. Emilio of the 23rd and 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments, including correspondence with family members and friends, diaries, military papers, material related to his writing and research, and other papers.

Biographical Sketch

Luis Fenollosa Emilio was born in Salem, Mass. on 22 Dec. 1844 to Spanish immigrants Manuel (1812-1871) and Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio (1820-1888). Manuel Emilio was a music teacher in Salem with Luis's uncle Manuel Fenollosa (1822-1878). Luis had five younger siblings: Isabel Maria Emilio (1847-1879), Enrique Victor Emilio (1851-), Mary S. Emilio (1853-1928), Clara L. Emilio (1855-), and Manuel "Nello" Fenollosa Emilio (1858-1941).

On 19 Oct. 1861, when he was only 16 years old, Luis Emilio enlisted in the 23rd Mass. Infantry. He served with the 23rd Regiment primarily in North Carolina, fighting in the Battle of New Bern and other engagements. On 30 Mar. 1863, he was appointed by Gov. John A. Andrew second lieutenant in the 54th Regiment, Mass. Volunteer Infantry, the first regiment of black soldiers formed in the North during the Civil War. He was soon promoted to first lieutenant (14 Apr. 1863) and captain (22 May 1863). At the assault on Fort Wagner, all higher ranking officers were either killed or wounded, so Emilio served as acting commander of the regiment for a time. He was mustered out 27 Mar. 1865.

After the war, Emilio worked in real estate in San Francisco, Calif. (May 1867-1881) and then in New York. He wrote, among other works, a history of the 54th Regiment entitled A Brave Black Regiment: History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865 (Boston: Boston Book Co., 1891), which was revised with additions and reprinted in 1894.

On 29 Mar. 1876, Emilio married Mary Elizabeth Belden (1852-1903), the daughter of Josiah and Sarah (Jones) Belden of San Jose, Calif. The couple had three children, all of whom died young: Luis Victor Emilio (1879-1894), Margaret Belden Emilio (1886-1886), and Gerald Belden Emilio (1887-1888). Luis F. Emilio died on 16 Dec. 1918.


Emilio, Luis F. A Brave Black Regiment: History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865. Boston: Boston Book Co., 1894.

Emilio, Luis F. The Assault on Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863: The Memorable Charge of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, written for "The Springfield Republican". Boston: Rand Avery, 1887.

Collection Description

This collection consists of the papers of Civil War officer Luis F. Emilio, primarily his correspondence with family members. Letters written during the Civil War describe his service with the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (1861-Feb. 1863) and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (Mar. 1863-1865), including the Battle of New Bern, the assault on Fort Wagner, and the Battle of Olustee; his service as judge advocate in courts-martial; the 54th Regiment pay controversy; guarding Confederate prisoners; family matters; and events at home in Salem, Mass. Correspondents include his parents Manuel and Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio; his siblings Isabel Maria Emilio and Enrique Victor Emilio; his wife Mary (Belden) Emilio; friends William H. Simonds, Jr., Nathan D. A. Sawyer, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham; and some of the black soldiers of the 54th Regiment. Also included are diaries kept by Emilio just prior to his enlistment, during most of his military service, and for a short time after his return home.

The collection also contains post-war correspondence to Emilio in San Francisco, Calif. and New York, N.Y.; correspondence of his parents with family in Spain and of his wife Mary (Belden) Emilio; appointments, ordnance returns, and other military papers from Emilio's service with the 54th Regiment; papers related to his writings and historical research for his regimental history, including printed matter; and school papers.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by purchase, February 2014.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Correspondence, 1838-1918

The bulk of this series consists of Luis F. Emilio's personal correspondence during and after the Civil War, primarily with family members, but also with a few friends. The series also contains smaller amounts of correspondence of his parents and his wife.

A. Luis F. Emilio personal correspondence, 1861-1918

This subseries consists of personal letters to and from Emilio during and after his Civil War service. The bulk of the correspondence is with family members, primarily his parents Manuel and Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio; his siblings Isabel Maria Emilio, Enrique Victor Emilio, and Mary S. Emilio; and his wife Mary (Belden) Emilio (both before and after their marriage). Also among the correspondents are friends and fellow officers, including William H. Simonds, Jr., Annie A. Haraden, Nathan D. A. Sawyer ("Dave"), Elizabeth J. Silsbee, Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham ("Wendell"), Maria A. Parrey, Charles Silva, Herbert E. Valentine, and George M. Whipple. Black soldiers who wrote to Emilio include Addison White (13 Dec. 1864), Charles Owens (24 June 1865), George A. Johnson (17 July 1865), Joseph Sulsey (28 Nov. 1865), and Charles W. Lenox (1 Sep. 1884, 2 Oct. 1884).

Letters written during the Civil War discuss Emilio's enlistment and service with the 23rd Regiment (1861-Feb. 1863) at Annapolis, Md., with Burnside's North Carolina Expedition, at New Bern, N.C., and other places; the Battle of New Bern on 14 Mar. 1862; his commission in the 54th Regiment and service with that regiment (Mar. 1863-1865) in various places, primarily Morris Island and other South Carolina Sea Islands; the assault on Fort Wagner on 18 July 1863; the Florida Expedition and Battle of Olustee (Feb.-Apr. 1864); his service as judge advocate in courts-martial; the 54th Regiment pay controversy; guarding Confederate prisoners; items and money sent and received; photographs exchanged; personal and family matters; and events at home in Salem, Mass.

Correspondence beginning in 1867 consists mostly of letters to Emilio in San Francisco, Calif. and New York, N.Y. from family members, including his uncles Manuel Fenollosa and Luis Melio. Frequent letters from his future wife Mary "Mamie" Belden in San Jose begin in 1872. Subjects of this post-war correspondence include family, household, and financial matters; events in Salem; the 1868 Hayward (Calif.) earthquake; Emilio's engagement; Enrique Victor Emilio's career and engagement; the disappearance and probable suicide of Manuel Fenollosa in 1878; Isabel Maria Emilio's death from typhoid fever in 1879; renovations to the family home; and Luis Emilio's historical research and publications. The subseries contains very few letters written by Emilio after the war.

Box 1
1861-Aug. 1863
Box 2
Sep. 1863-1864
Box 3
Box 4
1872-Sep. 1875
Box 5
Oct. 1875-1879
Box 6
Box 7Folder 1-10

B. Emilio and Fenollosa family correspondence, 1838-1873

This subseries contains correspondence of Luis F. Emilio's parents, Manuel and Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio, primarily in Salem, Mass., with their families in Spain, including Isabel's parents Manuel and Isabel (del Pino) Fenollosa in Malaga, and Manuel's father and brother, both Luis Melio, in Cullera. Also included is correspondence of Luis F. Emilio's uncle Manuel Fenollosa, a few letters from other family members, and five letters from V. Teus in Manila (July 1854-Sep. 1855) discussing his life in Manila, international politics, and music. With the exception of Teus's letters and one by Manuel Fenollosa, all of the correspondence is written in Spanish.

Box 7Folder 11-18

C. Mary (Belden) Emilio personal correspondence, 1876-1890

This subseries contains correspondence between Mary (Belden) Emilio with friends and Belden family members, including letters from her mother Sarah Margaret (Jones) Belden in Philadelphia in 1876 and letters about the birth and death of Mary Emilio's youngest child.

NOTE: Correspondence between Luis and Mary (Belden) Emilio is located in Series I.A. (Luis F. Emilio personal correspondence). Letters to Mary from her mother-in-law Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio, including some joint letters to Mary and Luis Emilio and letters to their son Victor, are also filed in Series I.A.

Box 8Folder 1-4

II. Diaries, 1861-1866

This series contains five diaries written by Luis F. Emilio, primarily during the years of the Civil War. The first diary was kept in Salem, Mass. and ends with Emilio's enlistment in the army. Entries describe his daily activities with Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham, William H. Simonds, Jr., and other friends; lessons; local events; the outbreak of the Civil War; the mustering of troops; drilling; news of battles; Emilio's desire to enlist; and arguments with his father.

The second diary begins with Emilio's enlistment and covers most of his service with the 23rd Mass. Regiment. Emilio's service with the 54th Mass. Regiment is detailed in the diaries of 1864 and 1865. Entries describe travel to the front; life in camp; weather and provisions; marches, battles, and skirmishes; and courts-martial (1864). The diaries have some gaps and include no entries describing the 54th Regiment's assault on Fort Wagner or the Battle of Olustee. There is no diary for 2 Mar.-31 Dec. 1863. Diaries of 1865 and 1866 cover the end of the war and Emilio's return to civilian life in Salem.

Also included are miscellaneous memoranda. The first two diaries and parts of others are written in pencil and contain some smudges and erasures.

Box 8Folder 5
1 Jan.-20 Oct. 1861
Box 8Folder 6
19 Oct. 1861-1 Mar. 1863
Box 8Folder 7
1 Jan. 1864-23 Feb. 1865
Box 8Folder 7A
Items removed from 1864-1865 diary
Box 8Folder 8
1 Jan.-31 Dec. 1865
Box 8Folder 8A
Items removed from 1865 diary
Box 8Folder 9
1 Jan.-20 May 1866
Box 8Folder 9A
Items removed from 1866 diary

III. Military papers, 1863-1921

This series consists of papers related to Emilio's military service, beginning with his appointment to the 54th Mass. Regiment. Included are appointments and certificates; orders; ordnance receipts, invoices, statements, and returns; abstracts of expenditures; requests and approvals for leaves of absence; correspondence; affidavits; and a muster-out roll.

Box 9Folder 1-5
Box OSFolder 1
Oversize military papers, 1863-1865

IV. Writings and research, undated, 1861-1911

This series contains papers related to the Civil War and other topics, written and compiled by Luis F. Emilio. Included are biographies of his father Manuel Emilio and his uncle Manuel Fenollosa, manuscript notes on the history of the 23rd and 54th Regiments, some original documents, printed matter, and other papers. Printed items include nine maps showing the operations of the 54th Regiment, by James B. Gardner of the 44th Mass. Regiment; a large number of newspaper clippings on various subjects of interest to Emilio; a copy of the "Attack on Fort Wagner" engraving based on a painting by Thomas Nast; and two oversize clippings listing officers killed, one of which is annotated by Emilio.

NOTE: For correspondence about Emilio's research, see Series I.A. (Luis F. Emilio personal correspondence).

Box 9Folder 6-11
Memoir of Manuel Emilio and Manuel Fenollosa, undated (typescript; disbound)
Box 9Folder 12-16
Notes and excerpts on the 23rd and 54th Regiments and Robert Gould Shaw, undated
Box 9Folder 17
Songs to the 54th Regiment, undated
Box 9Folder 18
Notebook containing biographies of officers, undated

Printed material, 1861-1911

Box OSFolder 2
Maps of operations of the 54th Regiment, by James B. Gardner, undated
Box 10
Newspaper clippings, 1861-1911
Box 9Folder 19
Engraving: "Attack on Fort Wagner," 1867
Box OSFolder 3
Lists of officers killed, Lowell Morning Mail, 1882-1883
Box OSFolder 4
Military reports, 28 Mar.-21 May 1864

Included are four oversize reports: Tri-monthly report, 3rd R.I. Artillery, Battery C, 28 Mar. 1864; morning report, 1st U.S. Artillery, Horse Battery B, 10 May 1864; morning report, 76th Penn. Regiment, [10] May 1864; and morning report, 76th Penn. Regiment, 21 May 1864.

V. School papers, 1856-1865

This series contains report cards, programs, certificates, and other papers related to Emilio's education in Beloit, Wis. and Salem, Mass., up to his admission to Comer's Commercial College in Boston in 1865.

Box 9Folder 20

Preferred Citation

Luis F. Emilio papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Emilio, Enrique Victor, 1851-
Emilio, Isabel Maria, 1847-1879.
Emilio, Isabel Maria Fenollosa, 1820-1888.
Emilio, Manuel, 1812-1871.
Emilio, Mary Elizabeth Belden, 1852-1903.
Sawyer, Nathan D. A.
Simonds, William H., ‡c Jr., 1843-
Upham, Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1843-1905.


United States. Army--African American troops.
United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 23rd (1861-1865).
United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 54th (1863-1865).


African American soldiers--Massachusetts.
Courts-martial and courts of inquiry.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
Fort Wagner (S.C.).
Morris Island, Battle of, S.C., 1863 (July 10-September 7).
Morris Island (S.C.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
New Bern (N.C.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
Olustee (Fla.), Battle of, 1864.
Salem (Mass.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Maps.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories--Massachusetts Infantry, 23rd Volunteers.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories--Massachusetts Infantry, 54th Volunteers.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives. Artifacts have been removed to the MHS Artifacts Collection.