Tag Archives: 54th Massachusetts

Boston’s Civil War Top 10

black-soldiers-of-the-54th-massachusetts-regiment-memorial-in-boston-massachusettsI am working on finalizing a list of my top 10 favorite Civil War-related sites here in Boston for an upcoming issue of The Civil War Monitor. I’ve given a couple of talks in the area about how Bostonians commemorated and remembered the Civil War. It’s an interesting challenge given the extent to which the American Revolution dominates popular memory and heritage tourism. Boston’s commemorative landscape rivals any southern city and reflects the direct impact that the war and its outcome had on the region. Most of the sites listed below can easily be included in a family’s vacation itinerary.

  1. Robert Gould Shaw Memorial and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (the Boston Common)
  2. African Meeting House
  3. Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Lynn, MA
  4. Memorial Hall at Harvard University
  5. Mount Auburn Cemetery
  6. Tremont Temple
  7. Faneuil Hall
  8. Public Gardens (statues of Edward Everett Hale, Wendell Phillips, Thomas Cass, William Ellery Channing, and Charles Sumner and Emancipation/Lincoln statue)
  9. Fort Warren
  10. Governor Andrew House

The list is a work in progress so feel free to offer suggestions.

Is the Civil War Sesquicentennial Over?

It’s a question that is on my mind right now as I work to complete an editorial for the Atlantic. We’ve commemorated the trifecta of our Civil War Sesquicentennial, which in my mind includes Emancipation, Gettysburg, and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Other than the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, what else is there to acknowledge? It will be interesting to see whether President Obama accepts an invitation to speak at Gettysburg in November.

It seems to me that the war in 1864-65 takes the kind of turn that is not easily framed in the form of commemorations and celebrations. We shall see.

The Other Side of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

Shaw Memorial, 54th MassachusettsI’ve spent quite a bit of time watching others at the Shaw Memorial. Visitors marvel at Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s beautiful bronze relief of Shaw and his men marching to their glorious deaths outside of Charleston, SC, but few walk down the steps to take a look at the reverse side. They miss a great deal of what gives this beautiful monument its meaning. Continue reading

Commemorating the 54th Massachusetts in the Heart of the Rebellion

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This Thursday marks the 150th anniversary of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry’s unsuccessful assault at Battery Wagner outside of Charleston. Though the amount of attention focused on this event pales in comparison with the recent commemoration of the battle of Gettysburg, the event constitutes the “high water-mark” of the black soldier experience in the Civil War and in our popular memory. This is due in large part to the success and continued popularity of the movie, “Glory”. On the one hand, the movie obscures the rich history of those black men who fought for the United States during the war beyond the 54th, but it also opens a door that will hopefully be exploited by those involved in this commemoration over the course of the week. Continue reading

Vindicating Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th

burning-of-darien-from-glory

With the 150th anniversary of the burning of Darien, GA approaching one local historian hopes to vindicate Col. Robert Gould Shaw of any responsibility.  We all know the scene in Glory when Shaw orders his men to torch the town only after the threat of court-martial by Col. James Montgomery of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers.  Montgomery and General Hunter play the perfect villains in the movie, which ultimately leads to a transfer for the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry from hard labor to combat and glory at the base of Battery Wagner in July 1863.  It’s hard to know what McIntosh County historian Buddy Sullivan has planned for the commemoration beyond reminding his community that the raid did not take place during Sherman’s March of 1864 and that Shaw was indeed following orders.

Most of us know about this little incident from Glory and the movie gets a lot right.  Yes, Shaw disapproved of Montgomery’s order to join his unit and burn Darien.  According to historian Russell Duncan, “Shaw believed the action unjustified and disgraceful, and said he could have assented to it only if they had met Rebel resistance.” (pp. 43-44)  Shaw was concerned about the negative publicity that eventually was reported in northern and southern newspapers.  While it is true that Shaw was forced to follow orders it’s not clear whether noting that Col. Montgomery was also carrying out direct orders from General David Hunter will make it into Sullivan’s upcoming presentation.  Better to have a foil with which to vindicate Shaw.   Continue reading