Friday, March 18, 2011

Captain Luis Emilio and a Brave Black Regiment

Luis Fenollosa Emilio (22 December 1844 – 16 September 1918)
Luis F. Emilio
Photo from the book Brave Black Regiment
On Monday I wrote about Manuel Fenollosa and Manuel Emilio, two Spaniards from Malaga who came to Salem, Massachusetts in 1838. They were musicians in the band aboard the US naval frigate United States. Manuel Emilio married his friend’s sister, Isabel Fenollosa. They had a son, Luis, who grew up surrounded by abolitionists and other reformers in ante-bellum Salem. As an underage teen, in 1861, Emilio enlisted in the Civil War, and by 1862 he was promoted to Sergeant. He was chosen for the 54th regiment in 1863, the famous black regiment you probably watched in the movie “Glory”. All the officers in this regiment were white, and many from Essex County.
His collection of military buttons, from Europe and the United States is in the Peabody Essex Museum, but I have never seen them on display. There is a catalog with ten images of the 240 buttons. In the Massachusetts Historical Society there is a collection of photographs of the 54th regiment, including Emilio and Robert Gould Shaw. Emilio wrote a book, Brave Black Regiment about the 54th Regiment, an eyewitness account to the Civil War and one of its most famous regiments. He was the only officer to survive the assault on Fort Wagner on 18 July 1863, and became the commander of the 54th Regiment.

From Brave Black Regiment

“A considerable number of the men had prepared themselves in some measure for bearing arms, others had been officer’s servants or camp followers; and as has been noted in all times and in all races of men, some were natural soldiers…During their whole service their esprit du corps was admirable.
Only a small proportion had been slaves. There were a large number of comparatively light-complexioned men. In stature they reached the average of white volunteers. Compared with the material of contraband regiments, they were lighter, taller, of more regular features. There were men enough found amply qualified to more than supply all requirements for warrant officers and clerks. As a rule, those first selected held their positions throughout service. The co-operation of the non-commissioned officers helped greatly to secure the good reputation enjoyed by the Fifty-fourth; and their blood was freely shed, in undue proportions, on every battlefield.”

Generation 1. Manuel Emilio, born in Spain, died 25 August 1871 in Salem, Massachusetts; married Isabel Fenollosa, born in Spain, died 1888 in Salem, daughter of Manuel Fenollosa and Isabel Del Pino. Manuel Emilio was the band leader on board the naval frigate United States. Both Manuels were music teachers in Salem. Isabel’s brother, Manuel Francisco Ciriaco Fenollosa, wrote the Emancipation Hymn in 1863.

Generation 2. Captain Luis Fenollosa Emilio, born 22 December 1844 in Salem, died 16 September 1918 and is buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem. He married on 19 Mar 1876 in San Jose, California to Mary Elizabeth Belden and had three children:

1. Luis Victor Emilio, born 22 June 1879 in California, died 24 August 1894.
2. Margaret Belden Emilio, born 28 January 1886 in San Francisco, died 26 July 1886.
3. Gerald Belden Emilio, born 17 October 1887 in San Francisco

Brave Black Regiment: History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1863-1865, by Luis F. Emilio, Da Capo Press, 1995 (this book has been reprinted many times, in many versions)

You can read Brave Black Regiment online at this link:   

54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment Photographs, ca. 1860 -1800, Photo Coll. 72, Massachusetts Historical Society Photo Archives.

Records of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 1863-1915, Ms. N-2063 (XT), Massachusetts Historical Society

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I’ve shared the “One Lovely Blog Award” with you. Stop by Tree Rings to pick it up!

    Dave Weller

  2. Where did you find the info on his wife and kids? Because I googled and found nada. (Except for this lovely blog, which had started my search in the first place!) If you can provide links, I would be forever grateful.

    1. The first six out of seven children of Manuel Emilio are in the Salem Vital records, as well as his marriage to Isabell Fenollosa. The seventh child, Manuel F. Emilio was born in Wisconsin.
      Luis Fenollosa Emilio's information can be found in the book "Brave Black Regiment", and you can read it online at Google Books. Two children died young, and the oldest, Luis, died at age 15, very sad. His wife died when visiting Atlantic City in 1903 (see page xii in the introduction of the book). See this link, too:
      I hope this helps you! Not everything is on line. You might have better luck researching Luis F. Emilio at a library or archive.

    2. Well, sadly, I don't imagine he ever made a trip to my tiny Midwestern state/town, so I probably have no access to archives. I have found some stuff and have not yet ceased looking!

  3. Le sigh. I can only find one brother, one sister, and him in the archives. Up to 1849. Also found his parents' wedding date. Nice discovery but not what I was looking for. Starting to get bitter. Thanks for the link, by the way.

    1. The Mass Births 1841 - 1915 are available to view (the scanned images from the Mass. VRs) at You will find Clara, Luis, Enrique, etc. Also at NERGC website, Mass VRs, Isabel, Luis, Manuel, Clara, etc.

  4. I love you, lady!!!! This site has made life worth living!! And it helped me find what I was looking for. Thank you.