1861 Ball's Bluff Flag









"One of the very best regiments in the service."


"One of the very best regiments in the service" (General A.A. Humphreys, Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac).

"Scarcely any Union regiment was in the heart of the storm longer than the Twentieth Massachusetts" (History Today magazine).


Organized: Readville, Mass. on September 9, 1861

Mustered Out:  July 16, 1865

Officers Killed or Mortally Wounded: 17

Enlisted Men Killed or Mortally Wounded: 243


Enlisted Men Died of Disease, Accidents, etc.: 148









Oct '61

Mar '62




Army of Potomac


Mar '62

Mar '64




Army of Potomac


Mar '64

Jul '65




Army of Potomac

Mustered Out


Summaries of the 20th's service record

     From Dyer's "Compendium of the War of the Rebellion"

     From Fox's "Regimental Losses in the American Civil War"

     From Adjutant General's Report  (courtesy Marge Reid, external site)

Web summary: The 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, popularly known as the "Harvard Regiment", was one of the most honored regiments of the Army of the Potomac in the Civil War. The prominence of the Regiment is reflected in the significant number of recent articles and books focusing on the Regiment and its members. The Twentieth was "The Harvard Regiment" because it was officered largely by young Harvard graduates, the most famous being future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Other notable names in the officer corps of the Twentieth include Henry L. Abbott, William Bartlett, George Nelson Macy, William Lee, Henry Ropes, Francis Palfrey, and Paul Revere, Jr. The Regiment won its fame not only from its "star" roster, however, but from hard and bloody fighting in almost all major battles fought by the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac from 1861 to 1865. The Harvard Regiment's heroic performance in battle was the stuff of poetry. The Twentieth was in the thick of the worst fighting, from Ball's Bluff in 1861, through the Peninsula Campaign (including Fair Oaks-Seven Pines), Antietam, and the savage street fighting in Fredericksburg in 1862, to its critical role during Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg in 1863, and continuing through the Wilderness and the bloody 1864 battles. By late 1864 it was "fought out", losing by casualties and reorganization its identity as the "Harvard Regiment". Indeed, a recent article on "Combat Trauma in the Civil War" featured members of the Regiment, noting that "scarcely any Union regiment was in the heart of the storm longer than the 20th Massachusetts". The Regiment nonetheless existed and fought as a unit to the war's conclusion at Appomattox in April 1865. The Twentieth had the highest number of casualties among Massachusetts regiments, and of two thousand total Union regiments, it ranked fifth in casualties. The Twentieth was also labeled "The Copperhead Regiment", given the anti-abolitionist beliefs of some officers, including a significant number of the Harvard men. There was social and political conflict within the Regiment between anti-abolitionist pro-McClellan "Copperheads", and the Twentieth's abolitionists, particularly the two companies made up of German immigrants. More and more people have begun to learn of the Twentieth's pivotal role in the American Civil War through various readings and history lessons; this knowledge will be passed on to the next generation by those pursuing an early childhood education degree or others with an interest in American history.




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