The Amazing Story of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

Posted: July 11, 2017 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, History, Things I Love, War
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Perhaps some of you know of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. Shaw was born into a prominent abolitionist family, and because of his beliefs he accepted command of the first all-black Union regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. He actually encouraged his men to refuse their pay until it was equal to the white troops’ wage. Sadly, at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, a beachhead near Charleston, South Carolina, Shaw was killed while leading his men to the parapet of the enemy fort. Although they were overwhelmed and driven back, Shaw’s leadership, as well as the performance of his men, passed into legend and inspired tens of thousands of African-Americans to enlist for the Union and contribute to ultimate victory for the North. Incredibly, before this battle near Charleston most people had serious doubts regarding how blacks would perform under fire.

Anyway, I just finished a book about the Civil War, it told Colonel Shaw’s story in detail, and one part really stood out to me. It seems that after Colonel Shaw’s death, Confederate commander Johnson Hagood not only refused to return Shaw’s body to the North, he ordered it thrown into a mass grave. Hagood’s statement?

We have buried him with the n—–s.

That racist statement actually became a rallying cry for Union troops, and rather than be offended, Shaw’s parents said the following:

“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 bodyguard he has!”

Awesome.

Note: On a related note, you may have learned about Colonel Shaw in the movie Glory, starring Matthew Broderick. Great movie, but it doesn’t mention Colonel Shaw’s burial or his family’s reaction to it.

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