Robert Gould Shaw (1776 - 1853) MP

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Birthplace: Gouldsboro, Maine
Death: Died in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Managed by: Erica Isabel Howton, (c)
Last Updated:

About Robert Gould Shaw

"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.


Despite his image in the 1989 film Glory, Robert Gould Shaw was a reluctant leader of the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry, one of the first African American regiments in the Civil War. At the time he took command of the 54th in 1863, Shaw was 25 years old and had already taken part in several battles with his old regiment, the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, including engagements at Cedar Mountain and Antietam. Shaw was hesitant to leave his comrades for service in a regiment that he doubted would ever see action.


RELATED BATTLES Cedar Mountain Antietam Battery Wagner HISTORY ARTICLES Fort Wagner and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Morris Island, SC Slideshow RELATED LINKS Robert Gould Shaw Memorial - NPS MORE BIOGRAPHIES P. G. T. Beauregard Nathaniel Banks George B. McClellan



Born to a prominent Boston abolitionist family in 1837, Shaw did not share the passion of his parents for freeing the slaves. As a young man, he spent several years studying and traveling in Europe before attending Harvard University from 1856 to 1859. Unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, Shaw dropped out before completing his studies.


When war came in 1861, Shaw seemed to find a purpose, and he immediately enlisted in the 7th New York Infantry, and served in the defense of Washington, DC for 30 days, after which the regiment was dissolved. In May of that year, Shaw joined the 2nd Massachusetts as a second lieutenant, serving for two years and attaining the rank of Captain.


Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew, a strong abolitionist, recruited Shaw in March of 1863 to raise and command one of the first regiments of African American troops in the Union army, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Initially taking the command to appease his mother, Shaw eventually grew to respect his men and believed that they could fight as well as white soldiers. He was eager to get his men into action to prove this. When he learned that black soldiers were to receive less pay than whites, Shaw led a boycott of all wages until the situation was changed.


On May 28, 1863, Shaw led the 54th in a triumphant parade through Boston to the docks, where the regiment departed for service in South Carolina. Shaw had married Annie Kneeland Haggerty just 26 days before.


Initially assigned to manual labor details, the 54th did not see real action until a skirmish with Confederate troops at James Island on July 16. Two days later, Shaw and his men were among the units chosen to lead the assault on Battery Wagner, part of the defenses of Charleston. Shaw was killed in the charge, bravely urging his men forward, but the 54th had proven that they were as brave as anyone, black or white.


Confederate General Johnson Hagood refused to return Shaw’s body to the Union army, and to show contempt for the officer who led black troops, Hagood had Shaw’s body buried in a common trench with his men. Rather than considering this a dishonor, Shaw’s father proclaimed “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!”


http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/robert-gould-shaw.html

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Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial Robert Gould Shaw Memorial Boston African American NHS/ NPS The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, located across Beacon Street from the State House, serves as a reminder of the heavy cost paid by individuals and families during the Civil War. In particular, it serves as a memorial to the group of men who were among the first African Americans to fight in that war. Although African Americans served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, northern racist sentiments kept African Americans from taking up arms for the United States in the early years of the Civil War. However, a clause in Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation made possible the organization of African American volunteer regiments. The first documented African American regiment formed in the north was the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, instituted under Governor John Andrew in 1863. African American men came to enlist from every region of the north, and from as far away as the Caribbean. Robert Gould Shaw was the man Andrew chose to lead this regiment.

Robert G. Shaw was the only son of Francis George and Sarah Blake (née Sturgis) Shaw. The Shaws were a wealthy and well connected New York and Boston family. They were also radical abolitionists and Unitarians. Robert did not blindly follow his parents ideological and religious beliefs, but all recognized the importance and responsibility involved in leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment.

The Massachusetts 54th Regiment became famous and solidified their place in history following the attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina on July 18, 1863. At least 74 enlisted men and 3 officers were killed in that battle, and scores more were wounded. Colonel Shaw was one of those killed. Sergeant William H. Carney, who was severely injured in the battle, saved the regiment’s flag from being captured. He was the first African American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The 54th Regiment also fought in an engagement on James Island, the Battle of Olustee, and at Honey Hill, South Carolina before their return to Boston in September 1865. Only 598 of the original 1,007 men who enlisted were there to take part in the final ceremonies on the Boston Common. In the last two years of the war, it is estimated that over 180,000 African Americans served in the Union forces and were instrumental to the Union’s victory.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens took nearly fourteen years to complete this high-relief bronze monument, which celebrates the valor and sacrifices of the Massachusetts 54th. Saint-Gaudens was one of the premier artists of his day. He grew up in New York and Boston, but received formal training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts Paris. In New York, forty men were hired to serve as models for the soldiers’ faces. Colonel Shaw is shown on horseback and three rows of infantry men march behind. This scene depicts the 54th Regiment marching down Beacon Street on May 28, 1863 as they left Boston to head south. The monument was paid for by private donations and was unveiled in a ceremony on May 31, 1897.

http://www.nps.gov/boaf/historyculture/shaw.htm

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Robert Gould Shaw's Timeline

1776
June 4, 1776
Gouldsboro, Maine
1809
February 14, 1809
Age 32
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
October 23, 1809
Age 33
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
1811
March 3, 1811
Age 34
1813
November 19, 1813
Age 37
1815
September 17, 1815
Age 39
1817
August 6, 1817
Age 41
Boston, Suffolk County, MA, USA
1819
June 10, 1819
Age 43
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
1821
January 22, 1821
Age 44
1823
February 3, 1823
Age 46