Son of a prominent Boston abolitionist family, Robert Shaw was serving as a captain in the 2nd Massachusetts when he was tapped by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew for a special assignment. Shaw was to raise and command the first regiment of black troops organized in a Northern state.
All the previous 11 colored" regiments had been raised principally from freed slaves in occupied areas. Shaw went about the organization of his command, recruiting free blacks from all over New England and some from beyond. The regiment was mustered into service on May 13, 1863, with Shaw as its colonel, and was sent to the South Carolina coast to take part in the operations against the cradle of secession, Charleston. After leading the regiment in smaller actions on James Island, at Legaresville on July 13, and Secessionville on July 16, Shaw moved the regiment over to Morris Island.
On July 18, 1863, he led the 54th, in conjunction with two brigades of white troops, in an assault on Confederate Battery Wagner. In the unsuccessful charge, the black troops proved themselves to be fully capable of standing up to enemy fire but lost about one quarter of their men, including Colonel Shaw. The rebels in the battery were so outraged by the Union commanders arming blacks that they decided to insult the white officer by burying him in a common grave with his black enlisted men. But Shaw's parents, when they heard of it, were pleased and believed that was the way their son woum have wanted it. (Burchard, Peter, One Gallant Rush: Robert GouldShaw and His Brave Black Regiment)
Source: "Who Was Who In The Civil War" by Stewart Sifakis
Atkinson, Edward, ed. The Monument to Robert Gould Shaw: Its Inception, Completion and Unveiling 1865-1897. Boston, 1897.
Blight, David. "The Meaning or the Fight: Frederick Douglass and the Memory of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts." The Massachusetts Review 36 (Spring 1995): 141-153.
Burchard, Peter. One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment. New York, 1965.
Burkhardt, J. Peter. All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing. New Haven, 1995.
Coffin, William; and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. "The Shaw Memorial and the Sculptor St. Gaudens." Century Magazine 54 (June 1897): 176-200.
Craven, Wayne. Sculpture in America. Newark, 1984.
Dryfhout, John H. The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Hanover, N.H. and London, 1982.
Duncan, Russell, ed. Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Robert Gould Shaw. Athens, Ga. and London, 1992.
Emilio, Luis F. History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865. New York, 1968.
Gooding, James Henry. Edited by Virginia Adams. On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier's Civil War Letters from the Front. New York, 1992.
Greenthal, Kathryn. Augustus Saint-Gaudens: Master Sculptor. Boston, 1985.
Griffin, Edward M. "Cincinnatus and the 'Shaw Memorial': Monument as Emblem in Saint Gaudens, Dunbar, and Lowell." In Bagley, Ayers L.; Griffin, Edward M.; and McLean, Austin J. ed. The Telling Image: Explorations in the Emblem. New York, 1996.
Hansen, Chadwick. "The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Black Infantry as a Subject for American Artists." The Massachusetts Review 15 (1975): 745-759.
Janson, H.W. 19th-Century Sculpture. New York, 1985.
Kaplan, Sidney. "The Sculptural World of Augustus Saint-Gaudens." The Massachusetts Review 30 (Spring 1989): 17-64.
Kirstein, Lincoln. Lay this Laurel. New York, 1973.
Lowell, Robert. For the Union Dead. New York, 1956.
Marcus, Lois Goldreich. "'The Shaw Memorial' by Augustus Saint-Gaudens: A History Painting in Bronze." Winterthur Portfolio 14 (Spring 1979): 1-24.
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus. Edited by Homer Saint-Gaudens. The Reminiscences of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. New York, 1913.
Savage, Kirk. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in 19th-Century America. Princeton, 1997.
Schwarz, Gregory; Brigid Sullivan; and Ludwig Lauerhass, Jr. The Shaw Memorial: A Celebration of an American Masterpiece. Cornish, N.H. 1997.
Swafford, Jan. Charles Ives: A Life with Music. New York, 1996.
Taft, Lorado. Modern Tendencies in Sculpture. New York, 1921.
Taft, Lorado. The History of American Sculpture. New York, 1903.
Tharp, Louise Hall. Saint-Gaudens and the Gilded Era. Boston, 1969.
Wilkinson, Burke. Uncommon Clay: The Life and Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. San Diego, 1985.
In her journal entries for 6 to 8 August 1863, Caroline Healey Dall, an American feminist, essayist, and reformer, writes of visiting with various members of the family of Robert Gould Shaw, late colonel of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. She describes in poignant fashion how his parents and sisters coped with the news of his death in the Battle of Fort Wagner on 18 July 1863.
Caroline Healey Dall, born on 22 June 1822 in Boston, Massachusetts, was the oldest of the eight children of Mark and Caroline Foster Healey. Dall’s father arranged for her to be educated in the classics and religion, and sent her to private school where she studied Latin, French, and Italian. Dall, who became an advocate of education for women, was an early leader in the women’s rights movement, as well as a vocal opponent of slavery. In 1844, she married Charles Henry Appleton Dall, a social worker and minister. They had two children, William Healey Dall (Willie) and Sarah Keene Healey Dall (Sadie). In 1855, Charles Dall left his family and traveled to Calcutta, India, as a missionary, where he remained until his death in 1886.
Robert Gould Shaw was born in Boston on 10 October 1837 to Francis (Frank) and Sarah Blake Sturgis Shaw. In 1847 the family, including Shaw’s sisters Anna, Susanna, Josephine (Effie), and Ellen (Nellie), moved to Staten Island. Robert returned to Massachusetts in 1856, acceding to his family’s wish that he attend Harvard. He left during his third year, however, and went to work for his uncle Henry P. Sturgis, a Manhattan merchant. Shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln, Shaw joined the 7th New York National Guard; of which Theodore Winthrop (also referenced in Dall’s journal) was a member. Upon the completion of his enlistment with the 7th, Shaw accepted a commission as a lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He served with that regiment for twenty months. During that time he was promoted to captain, and saw action at the battles of Cedar Mountain and Antietam.
In April 1863 Shaw was discharged from the 2nd to accept a commission as colonel of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first military unit consisting entirely of black enlisted men raised in the North during the Civil War. Shaw was selected for the commission by Governor John A. Andrew, and although he initially refused, he once again yielded to pressure from his parents, and accepted the commission. On 18 July 1863, Shaw and his regiment led the Union assault on Fort Wagner, on Morris Island, South Carolina. Shaw was killed during the attack, and 272 other members of the 54th were either killed, wounded, or captured. Although the attack at Fort Wagner was not a military success, it categorically answered the questions that had been previously raised concerning the ability of the black troops, as the courage and competence of the 54th unequivocally demonstrated the bravery, ability, and spirit of the black soldiers.
These journal entries were written while Dall and her children were visiting Sydney Howard and Elizabeth Neall Gay, family friends living on Staten Island. The Gays were abolitionists as were many in their West New Brighton neighborhood, including the extended family of Robert Gould Shaw. Dall writes in her journal of visiting with Effie and Nellie Shaw at which time, Effie told her of the touching letter Shaw wrote to his wife Annie on the morning of his death. In that letter, Shaw stated he “had not a wish ungratified” once he had “brought his colored troops, alongside of Stevenson’s white soldiers” (page 1). Dall also writes of her visit with Shaw’s mother Sarah. Sarah Shaw revealed to Dall that “the Lord had mercifully interposed to prevent her feeling any responsibility in regard to Rob’s decision” as the letter and telegraphs she had sent urging him to accept the commission in the 54th “failed to reach him” (page 4).
Dall compares Annie Haggerty, who married Robert Gould Shaw on 2 May 1863, to the Roman goddess Minerva, who was born without a mother having sprung fully formed from Jupiter’s head. Dall notes that Haggerty had no particular interest in the antislavery cause until she fell in love with Shaw, when she emerged as a “fully armed Minerva – new born into the cause” (page 4). Dall agrees with Shaw’s mother that Annie, despite having been married for only a few months and widowed at the age of twenty-eight, would in all likelihood never remarry. Her prophecy proved accurate--Annie Haggerty Shaw lived to the age of seventy-one, and never remarried, living a relatively reclusive life.
In 1879, Dall moved to Washington, D.C. where she became a founder of the American Social Science Foundation, an organization for assisting the underprivileged, the unemployed, and the mentally ill. She also wrote extensively, including works on various social issues of the time, transcendentalism, biography, and fiction. Dall died on 17 December 1912 at the age of ninety.Sources for Further Reading
The featured journal entries are from the Caroline Wells Healey Dall papers. The collection contains forty five journal volumes spanning the years 1838-1911. In addition, the collection contains a vast amount of personal correspondence, including both received letters and Dall’s own letterbook copies of her sent letters. In addition to a wealth of Civil War era material, the collection also contains material on 19th-century religion, literature, and social, political, and educational reform.
Burchard, Peter. One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965.
Dall, Caroline Healey. The Selected Journals of Caroline Healey Dall, Volume 2: 1855–1866. Edited by Helen R. Deese. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2013.
Dall, Caroline Healey. Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth-century Woman, Caroline Healey Dall. Edited by Helen R. Deese. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.
Duncan, Russell. Where Death and Glory Meet. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1999.
Shaw, Robert Gould. Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: the Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Edited by Russell Duncan. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
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Robert Gould Shaw (October 10, 1837 – July 18, 1863) was an American military officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. As Colonel. he commanded the all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. which entered the war in 1863. He was killed in the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. near Charleston, South Carolina.
He is the principal subject of the 1989 film Glory.Contents Early life and education Edit
Shaw was born in Boston to abolitionists Francis George and Sarah Blake (Sturgis) Shaw, well-known Unitarian philanthropists and intellectuals. The Shaws had the benefit of a large inheritance left by Shaw's merchant grandfather and namesake Robert Gould Shaw (1775–1853), and Shaw himself would have been a member by primogeniture of the Society of the Cincinnati had he survived his father.  Shaw had four sisters—Anna, Josephine. Susannah and Ellen) [ citation needed ] ;— scholarship and civic-mindedness inculcated into all the children.
When Shaw was five the family moved to a large estate in West Roxbury. adjacent to Brook Farm. In his teens he traveled and studied for some years in Europe. Later [ when? ] the family moved to Staten Island, New York, settling among a community of literati and abolitionists, while Shaw attended the lower division of St. John's College (comparable to a modern high school).
From 1856 until 1859 he attended Harvard University, joining the Porcellian Club. but withdrew before graduating. [ citation needed ]American Civil War Edit
Early in the American Civil War. Shaw joined the 7th New York Militia and in April 1861 marched with it to the defense of Washington, D.C. In May 1861 he joined the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry as a second lieutenant, with which he fought in the First battle of Winchester. the Battles of Cedar Mountain. and Antietam. [ citation needed ]
Shaw was approached by his father while in camp in late 1862 to take command of a new All-Black Regiment. At first he declined the offer, but after careful thought, he accepted the position. Shaw's letters clearly state that he was dubious about a free black unit succeeding, but the dedication of his men deeply impressed him, and he grew to respect them as fine soldiers. On learning that black soldiers would receive less pay than white ones, he inspired his unit to conduct a boycott until this inequality was rectified. The enlisted men of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry (and the sister 55th) refused pay until Congress granted them full back pay at the white pay rate in August 1863. [ citation needed ]
On June 11, 1863, Shaw wrote about war crimes committed against the citizens of Darien, Georgia when the civilian population of women and children were fired upon, forced from their homes, their possessions looted, and the town burned. Shaw noted in a letter, "On the way up, Montgomery threw several shells among the plantation buildings, in what seemed to me a very brutal way; for he didn’t know how many women and children there might be." Shaw was initially ordered by Colonel James Montgomery to perform the burning but he refused. Shaw noted in a letter, "The reasons he gave me for destroying Darien were, that the Southerners must be made to feel that this was a real war, and that they were to be swept away by the hand of God, like the Jews of old. In theory it may seem all right to some, but when it comes to being made the instrument of the Lord’s vengeance, I myself don’t like it. Then he says, “We are outlawed, and therefore not bound by the rules of regular warfare”; but that makes it nonetheless revolting to wreak our vengeance on the innocent and defenceless." 
Ironically, the original Scottish founders of Darien had signed the first Petition against the Introduction of Slavery in the colony of Georgia.Death at the Battle of Fort Wagner Edit
The 54th Regiment was sent to Charleston, South Carolina to take part in the operations against the Confederates stationed there. On July 18, 1863, along with two brigades of white troops, the 54th assaulted Confederate Battery Wagner. As the unit hesitated in the face of fierce Confederate fire, Shaw led his men into battle by shouting, "Forward, Fifty-Fourth, forward!" He mounted a parapet and urged his men forward, but was shot through the heart and died almost instantly. According to the Colors Sergeant of the 54th, he was shot and killed while trying to lead the unit forward and fell on the outside of the fort. [ citation needed ]
The victorious Confederates buried him in a mass grave with many of his men, an act they intended as an insult.  Following the battle, commanding Confederate General Johnson Hagood returned the bodies of the other Union officers who had died, but left Shaw's where it was. Hagood informed a captured Union surgeon that "had he been in command of white troops, I should have given him an honorable burial; as it is, I shall bury him in the common trench with the niggers that fell with him."  Although the gesture was intended as an insult, it came to be seen as an honor by Shaw's friends and family that he was buried with his soldiers.
Efforts were made to recover Shaw's body (which had been stripped and robbed prior to burial), but his father publicly proclaimed that he was proud to know that his son was interred with his troops, befitting his role as a soldier and a crusader for emancipation.  In a letter to the regimental surgeon, Lincoln Stone, Frank Shaw wrote: "We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers. We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company. – what a body-guard he has!" 
Annie Haggerty Shaw, a widow at the age of 28, never remarried. She lived with her family in New York, Lenox and abroad, a revered figure and in later years an invalid. She died in 1907 and is buried at the cemetery of Church-on-the Hill in Lenox. Personal life Edit Marriage Edit
On May 2, 1863, Shaw married Anna Kneeland "Annie" Haggerty (1835–1907) in New York City. They decided to marry before the unit left Boston despite their parents' misgivings. They spent their brief honeymoon at the Haggerty place, Ventfort, in Lenox, Massachusetts.  [ citation needed ]Letters Edit
Shaw is well known for the over 200 letters he wrote to his family and friends during the Civil War. [ citation needed ] They are currently located in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Digital facsimiles of this collection are publicly available. The book, Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune. includes most of his letters and a brief biography of Shaw. Peter Burchard also used these letters as the basis for his book One Gallant Rush . which is one of the books upon which the film Glory was based. [ citation needed ]Legacy Edit Memorials Edit
Memorial to Shaw and the 54th Regiment at the National Gallery of Art
Entry for Shaw in Harvard University's Memorial Hall
"There they march, warm-blooded champions of a better day for man. There on horseback among them, in his very habit as he lived, sits the blue-eyed child of fortune, upon whose happy youth every divinity had smiled."—Oration by William James at the exercises in the Boston Music Hall. May 31, 1897, upon the unveiling of the Shaw Monument. 
There was a time in Denzel Washington’s young life when he had entertained notions of becoming a preacher. After all, his father, the Reverend Denzel Hayes Washington Sr. (Denzel was named after his dad), was an ordained minister in the Pentecostal Church. And wouldn’t it have been nice if the son had followed in the father’s footsteps?
But at age 14, Denzel’s parents split up and the more junior Washington was sent off to a private prep school, i.e. Oakland Military Academy in New Windsor, New York. Although by the time Denzel had studied there the military curriculum had long since been discontinued, it was still a forlorn environment for the impressionable inner-city youth from Mount Vernon.
Years later, the actor would recall that the decision to send him to Oakland Military Academy had profound ramifications for his personal life. “I wouldn’t have survived in the direction that I was going,” Denzel stated. “The guys I was hanging out with at the time, my running buddies, have now done 40 years combined in the penitentiary. They were nice guys, but the streets got them.”
And Tinsel Town got nice guy Denzel, a fair trade at best. A little over 20 years passed when Washington, now a major force on the Hollywood scene after glowing reviews in several big-screen features, was signed to appear in the Civil War epic Glory (1989). He played the part of Pvt. Silas Trip, a former slave fighting for the North who also fought for the freedom of his people.
“I wanted to do something different,” Denzel indicated at the time, “and to feel removed from the present time. It’s difficult to do a period piece and to give yourself as an actor a different feeling, as though you’re in a different time.”
“He really defined that character,” commented film critic Julian Roman, “to the point of someone who became a part of the war… but beyond that became a comrade to his friends, became a loyal soldier to his regiment commander, and that’s a transcendent performance.”
“I didn’t even know that blacks fought in the Civil War,” the actor told the Associated Press. “The American history classes that I took didn’t seem to dwell on that at all. It was inspiring for me; it gave me a lot of energy to continue research and get further and further into it. Although the character I play isn’t based on a real person, I kind of put ideas together that I found from reading slave narratives and things like that.”
Battle Cry of Freedom
Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Library of Congress)
Directed by former Harvard-graduate Edward Zwick, the letters of another Harvard alumni, those of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a young, white Union commander in the 54 th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, written to his northern abolitionist mother (Jane Alexander, unbilled), formed the basis for this inspiring portrait of gallantry and racism during the American Civil War. Other relevant sources included the novel One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment by Peter Burchard and Lincoln Kirstein’s photographic compilation, Lay This Laurel .
Unlike the real-life 54 th. which was made up mostly of free black men from the north, the screen regiment is comprised almost entirely of ex-slaves. Except for the presence of Col. Shaw and the imposing figure of author, editor and speaker Frederick Douglass (Raymond St. Jacques) — two of whose sons actually signed up with and fought for the 54 th — the principal participants depicted in the drama are purely fictional.
One of these fictional creations, Pvt. Trip, is flogged for purportedly having deserted his troops in the midst of their training. As it turns out, Trip was only looking for a decent pair of shoes, which the troops had been denied due to the racist tendencies of one of the quartermasters in charge of supplies. Denzel’s tearful acquiescence in full view of his fellow troopers and before his commanding officer is one of the most powerful sequences in the movie.
Trip would rather take the punishment than show weakness by backing down. In his own words, Denzel put the case before us: “Basically what I did was, got on my knees and sort of communicated with the spirits of those who had been enslaved, who had been whipped. And when I came out I was in charge. I said ‘Trip was in charge.’ If this is what you men, which is what you call yourselves, want to do to Trip, then come with it.”
He and the other volunteers eventually get to display their fighting spirit and worth as soldiers in a futile and vividly realistic suicidal attack on an impregnable beach fortress off the coast of South Carolina.
Trip is flogged for desertion in Glory
“These men were looking for an opportunity to prove themselves,” Denzel continued. “The battle was no more dangerous than their day-to-day lives with the constant threat of slavery and slave masters with their mentality over their heads. They were looking for the opportunity to have a fair fight and to have a rifle as well, regardless of the odds.”
Channeling Reverend Denzel Washington Sr. Denzel Jr. sounds distinctly like a man preaching to the choir. And in a scene that takes place the night before the final battle, Denzel (in his guise as Trip) gets to clap and sing along with his fellow soldiers in a makeshift revival meeting. Do I hear an “Amen”?
The training and hardships these men experience along the way frame the main part of the story behind the unsuccessful charge at Fort Wagner where, historically, the 54 th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry lost half their men. Pride, courage, bravery, dignity and sacrifice are all touched upon in this potent war drama, a fitting tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in that vicious battle, which occurred almost simultaneously with a similar confrontation on the wide-open fields of Gettysburg, PA.
After several nominations wherein he came up empty-handed, in 1990 Denzel finally won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. For me, the most poignant moment of the entire film comes when the lifeless body of Col. Shaw is unceremoniously thrown into a mass grave alongside the corpse of Pvt. Trip and others of their group, with gulls and sea birds squealing and squawking noisily overhead.
Matthew Broderick as Col. Robert Gould Shaw
However, the real life incident of what actually transpired after the battle was mercifully omitted. In Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, published by the Society of American Historians, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, James M. McPherson, describes the outcome in distressing terms:
“The Confederate defenders of Fort Wagner stripped Shaw’s corpse and dumped it into an unmarked mass grave with the bodies of his black soldiers. When the Union commander sent a flag of truce across the lines a day later to request the return of Shaw’s body (a customary practice for high-ranking officers killed in the Civil War), a Confederate officer [General Johnson Hagood] replied contemptuously, ‘We have buried him with his niggers.’”
Interestingly, Col. Shaw’s father had quite a different reaction to his son’s burial: “We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers … We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company — what a body-guard he has!”
With a screenplay by Kevin Jarre and strikingly photographed by veteran British cinematographer Freddie Francis, Glory also featured excellent performances from Morgan Freeman as Sgt. Major Rawlins, Cary Elwes as Major Cabot Forbes, Andre Braugher as Thomas Searles, and Jihmi Kennedy as Jupiter Sharts, with Alan North, Bob Gunton, John Finn, Jay O. Sanders and Cliff De Young in other roles.
The exceptionally fine and moving musical score by James Horner, with the welcome participation of the Boys Choir of Harlem, is one of this composer’s best remembered pieces. It’s a favorite of record collectors, with more than a hint of Carl Orff’s Carmina burana in its sweeping choral passages and ethereal tonalities.
(End of Part Three – To be continued…)
Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes
This is the section for all our "FUN" Glory information - please enjoy!Did You Know?
… Matthew Broderick is thought to be distantly related to the character that he played (Colonel Robert Gould Shaw) in the movie.
. that the soldiers in the movie Glory were the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. After the Civil War the unit was disbanded. In 2008 the unit was reactivated as part of the Massachusetts National Guard to serve at military funerals and state functions.
. There is also an active group of Civil War re-enactors called Company B dedicated to recreating the history of the 54th. Many of the members appeared in the movie Glory. The group marched in the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Parade of Barack Obama
. Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award as a supporting actor for Glory.Glory On Location
The Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial
A bronze memorial was erected in honor of the brave and heroic 54th Regiment. The memorial was sculpted by August Saint-Gaudens and dedicated in 1897. The memorial is located in the famous Boston Commons in Boston, MA.
Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial
Boston Common at Beacon and Park Streets
Grauman's/Mann's Chinese Theater Footprints
Denzel Washington is just one of the many legendary celebrities to leave hand and footprints outside the famous Grauman's (now Mann's) Chinese Theater.
Glory © 1989 TriStar Pictures. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of this material is strictly prohibited. © 2001-2010 Destination Hollywood. All rights reserved.
Historian John Buescher is an author and professor who formerly headed Tibetan language broadcasts at Voice of America. His Ph.D. is from the University of Virginia and he has published extensively on the history of Tibetan and Indian Buddhism and on the history of 19th-century American spiritualism.Robert Gould Shaw
As I understand it, Robert Gould Shaw's parents decided to leave him buried in the mass grave near where he was mortally wounded at Fort Wagner. Is he still buried in that location beneath the sand? Is it now under water? Is there some sort of marker designating the burial spot?
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863) was the young white Civil War Union army officer who commanded the otherwise all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was killed while leading a fierce but unsuccessful charge by his troops on the sand and earth parapets of Fort Wagner on Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863. The 54th Massachusetts lost many men that day, with a casualty rate of over 50%. The other Federal units in the attack suffered heavy losses as well. Union casualties for the day numbered more than 1,500.
Union Brigadier General Quincy Granville sent an inquiry to the Confederate commander of Fort Wagner, asking about the disposition of Shaw’s body. The reply was that Col. Shaw had been “buried with his niggers,” in a common grave, a trench along the island’s shore, close to the fort. Indeed, this was where all the Union dead were buried on the tiny island.
Whether or not the Confederate commander thought of this as inflicting a particular insult on Shaw, this is how it was taken in the North, especially because Shaw’s fellow officer, Col. Haldimand Putnam, commanding the 7th New Hampshire Infantry, who also died in the attack, “received all the honors of sepulture which the circumstances of his death permitted, from the fraternal hands of his West Point classmate, General Robert H. Anderson, of the Confederate Army,” although his body was not recovered. Nevertheless, even in the few days immediately after the bloodbath, Shaw had become, in the North, an uncommon martyr for the principle of black emancipation, and sentiment sprang forth to exert every effort to exhume his body and rebury him back in his hometown of Boston as a hero.
Shaw’s parents, however, prominent in Boston as strong abolitionists, resisted this sentiment. His father sent instructions to the officers of his son’s regiment, writing, “We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave & devoted soldiers, if we could accomplish it by a word. Please to bear this in mind & also, let it be known, so that, even in case there should be an opportunity, his remains may not be disturbed.”
By September, the decomposition of the bodies in the trench had begun to contaminate Fort Wagner’s Confederate defenders’ fresh water supply, and they abandoned the fort as a consequence. Union soldiers immediately moved in, but, guided by Shaw’s parents’ wishes, did not exhume Col. Shaw’s body.
Morris Island is smaller than 1,000 acres and is subject to extensive erosion by storm and sea. Much of the previous site of Fort Wagner has been eroded away, including the place where the Union soldiers had been buried. However, by the time this had happened, the soldiers’ remains were no longer there because soon after the end of the Civil War, the Army disinterred and reburied all the remains—including, presumably, those of Col. Shaw—at the Beaufort National Cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina, where their gravestones were marked as “unknown.”
The Boston area has at least three memorials to Robert G. Shaw. In 1897, the Harvard Memorial Society erected a tablet on Massachusetts Hall, which had long served as a dormitory, that listed some of its past student residents who had gone on to fame. This tablet included Shaw’s name (he had been a Harvard student, but had withdrawn before graduating), along with such other notables as Artemas Ward, Elbridge Gerry, Francis Dana, Joseph Story, Jared Sparks, and Francis Parkman.
The Shaw family also placed a bronze tablet in memory of Robert Gould Shaw on an earlier-installed cenotaph in its family plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston.
The most well known memorial, however, is the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial. It is a bas-relief of Shaw and his men, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and placed on Boston Common, across Beacon Street from the Massachusetts State House, in 1897.
The memorial was the focus of attention during the late 1980s and early 1990s, concurrent with the making of the film Glory. that depicted the actions of the 54th Massachusetts at Fort Wagner. It occasioned a public reassessment of the fact that, beginning from the immediate aftermath of the attack, a significant portion of the sentiment of white Northern abolitionists had elevated Shaw’s place as a determined sacrificial martyr to the cause of black emancipation far above the level of the other men of the 54th Massachusetts, almost as if the black men of the 54th could do nothing by themselves without a white savior in the person of Shaw. Abolitionist Eliza Sedgwick’s 1865 poem about Shaw contained the lines: “Buried with the men God gave him—Those who he was sent to save; Buried with the martyred heroes, He has found an honored grave.”
Shaw’s mother and father did not have a patronizing view of the relationship between their son and his men and indeed shared a sentiment of African American empowerment that was embodied in a line from Lord Byron that abolitionists often quoted—“Who would be free themselves must strike the blow.” They objected to the original design for the memorial because it showed their son on horseback, elevated above the figures of the enlisted men around him on foot.
Nevertheless, a public commission funded Saint-Gauden’s bas-relief, which portrayed this design, and it was dedicated as a memorial to Shaw. The public reassessment of the 1990s eventually refocused the memorial on the 54th Massachusetts as a whole, rather than on Shaw in particular.
For more information
Robert Gould Shaw (October 10, 1837 – July 18, 1863) was the colonel in command of the all-black 54th Regiment. which entered the American Civil War in 1863. He is the principal subject of the 1989 film Glory . He was killed in a failed attempt to capture Fort Wagner . near Charleston, South Carolina.Early life and career Civil War
After Abraham Lincoln 's election and the secession of several Southern states, Shaw joined the 7th New York Infantry Regiment and marched with it to the defense of Washington, D.C. . in April 1861. The unit served only thirty days. In May 1861, Shaw joined the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry as second lieutenant. He served there for over two years, seeing action at the Battle of Antietam . and was promoted to captain.
He was then recruited by Governor John A. Andrew to raise and command one of the first regiments of black troops for the Union. Although he was initially unenthusiastic about his assignment, the dedication of his men deeply impressed him, and he grew to respect them as fine soldiers. On learning that black soldiers would receive less pay than white ones, he inspired his unit to conduct a boycott until this inequality was rectified.
Shaw was promoted to major on March 31, 1863, and to colonel on April 17, so he was in charge of the 54th when they were ordered to loot and then burn the city of Darien, Georgia . on June 11, much to Shaw's dismay. The destruction of the undefended city of little strategic importance had been ordered by Colonel James Montgomery .
On May 2, 1863, Shaw married Annie Kneeland Haggerty (1835-1907) in New York City . They had decided to marry before the unit left Boston despite their parents' misgivings. They spent their brief honeymoon at the Haggerty farm in Lenox, Massachusetts .
Robert Shaw is well-known for the over 200 letters he wrote to his family and friends during the Civil War. They are currently located in the Houghton Library at Harvard University . Some may also be found in the book Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune. which includes most of his letters and a brief biography of Shaw. They are also quoted liberally by Ken Burns in his documentary miniseries The Civil War .Death at Fort Wagner
The 54th Regiment was sent to Charleston, South Carolina . to take part in the operations against the Confederates stationed there. On July 18, 1863, along with two brigades of white troops, the 54th assaulted Confederate Battery Wagner . As the unit hesitated in the face of fierce Confederate fire, Shaw led his men into battle by shouting, "Forward, Fifty-Fourth Forward!" He mounted a parapet and urged his men forward, but was shot through the heart and he died almost instantly; his body fell into the fort.
The victorious Confederates buried him in a mass grave with many of his men, an act they intended as an insult. Following the battle, commanding Confederate General Johnson Hagood returned the bodies of the other Union officers who had died, but left Shaw's where it was. Hagood informed a captured Union surgeon that "had he been in command of white troops, I should have given him an honorable burial; as it is, I shall bury him in the common trench with the negroes that fell with him." Although efforts were made to recover Shaw's body (which had been stripped and robbed prior to burial), Shaw's father publicly proclaimed that he was proud to know that his son was interred with his troops, befitting his role as a soldier and a crusader for social justice. In a letter to the regimental surgeon, Lincoln Stone, Frank Shaw wrote:
We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers. We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!
After Robert Shaw's death, his young wife, Annie, moved to Europe to live with her sister. She never remarried.Memorials
In 1864, sculptor Edmonia Lewis created a bust of Shaw.
The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Stanford White. was built in his memory on Beacon and Park streets in Boston in 1897.
There they march, warm-blooded champions of a better day for man.There on horseback among them, in his very habit as he lived, sits the blue-eyed child of fortune, upon whose happy youth every divinity had smiled — Oration by William James at the exercises in the Boston Music Hall, May 31, 1897, upon the unveiling of the Shaw Monument. Image:St_GuadensShaw_Mem.jpgImage:ShawMemorial0.jpgImage:ShawMemorial1.jpgImage:ShawMemorial2.jpgImage:ShawMemorial3.jpgImage:ShawMemorial4.jpg
Some drawings and plaster mock-ups also exist. There is an additional casting of the Shaw Memorial at the Saint Gaudens National Memorial in Cornish, New Hampshire.
A monument to Shaw's memory was erected by his family in the family plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An annual commemoration is held there on his birthday.
Entry for Shaw in Harvard University's Memorial Hall
Shaw was also memorialized in the transept of Harvard University's Memorial Hall . which is dedicated to the students who perished in the war to preserve the Union. Although he did not graduate, he is credited with the class of 1860.
The story of Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts was dramatized in the 1989 movie, Glory . with Shaw portrayed by Matthew Broderick .
Shaw, the 54th regiment, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' memorial are the subject of Charles Ives 's piece Three Places in New England .
The New England poet Robert Lowell referenced both Shaw and the Shaw Memorial in the poem For The Union Dead.
Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem entitled "Robert Gould Shaw," in which he states: "Since thou and those who with thee died for right/Have died, the Present teaches, but in vain!"
The African-American poet Benjamin Griffith Brawley wrote a memorial poem entitled "My Hero" in praise of Robert Gould Shaw. Mount Ida College . a private liberal arts college, built its modern day campus on the site of the Shaw Family Estate in Newton . Massachusetts. Many of the estate's original buildings still exist; this includes the family's thirty room mansion, which is now a female residence hall at the center of campus. Other remaining structures house administrative offices and classrooms.See also References Notes Further reading
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