Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel by Robert Gould Shaw

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By Robert Gould Shaw

At the Boston universal stands one of many nice Civil conflict memorials, an impressive bronze sculpture via Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It depicts the black squaddies of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry marching along their younger white commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. whilst the thinker William James committed the memorial in may perhaps 1897, he stirred the assembled crowd with those phrases: "There they march, warm-blooded champions of a higher day for guy. There on horseback between them, within the very behavior as he lived, sits the blue-eyed baby of fortune."In this e-book Shaw speaks for himself with equivalent eloquence via approximately 200 letters he wrote to his friends and family in the course of the Civil struggle. The portrait that emerges is of a guy extra divided and complex--though no much less heroic--than the Shaw depicted within the celebrated movie Glory. The pampered son of rich Boston abolitionists, Shaw used to be no abolitionist himself, yet he used to be one of the first patriots to answer Lincoln's demand troops after the assault on citadel Sumter. After Cedar Mountain and Antietam, Shaw knew the carnage of struggle firsthand. Describing dusk at the Antietam battlefield, he wrote, "the crickets chirped, and the frogs croaked, simply as though not anything strange had occurred all day lengthy, and almost immediately the celebrities got here out vibrant, and we lay down one of the lifeless, and slept soundly till sunlight. there have been twenty lifeless our bodies inside of a rod of me."When Federal battle goals shifted from an emphasis on restoring the Union to the better target of emancipation for 4 million slaves, Shaw's mom confused her son into accepting the command of the North's leading edge black regiment, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts. A paternalist who by no means absolutely reconciled his personal prejudices approximately black inferiority, Shaw assumed the command with nice reluctance. but, as he informed his recruits in Readville, Massachusetts, through the early months of 1963, he got here to recognize their pluck and commitment. "There isn't the least doubt," he wrote his mom, "that we will depart the nation, with nearly as good a regiment, as any that has marched."Despite such expressions of self assurance, Shaw actually persevered to fret approximately how good his troops could practice below fireplace. the last word try out got here in South Carolina in July 1863, while the Fifty-fourth led a courageous yet ill-fated cost on citadel Wagner, on the method of Charleston Harbor. As Shaw waved his sword and recommended his males ahead, an enemy bullet felled him at the fort's parapet. a couple of hours later the Confederates dumped his physique right into a mass grave with the our bodies of twenty of his males. even if the attack was once a failure from an army point of view, it proved the proposition to which Shaw had reluctantly committed himself whilst he took command of the Fifty-fourth: that black infantrymen might certainly be scuffling with males. through year's finish, sixty new black regiments have been being organized.A earlier choice of Shaw's correspondence used to be privately released via his relatives in 1864. For this quantity, Russell Duncan has restored many passages passed over from the sooner variation and has supplied specific explanatory notes to the letters. moreover he has written a long biographical essay that areas the younger colonel and his regiment in old context.

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At least eight servants tended to the cooking, cleaning, driving, and gardening. Shaw met George William Curtis, a Brook Farmer who was well known as one of the country's top orators and writers and who edited Putnam's Monthly. Curtis and Anna Shaw were engaged and would marry that fall. In politics, Shaw's father had been a vehement free-soiler and now contributed to the Republican party's first campaign. He had just returned from the Republican National Convention, where he helped nominate John C.

But as an officer, he could no longer avoid them. He had always enjoyed the power of money, and now he held the power of rank. " He was quick to criticize any man or unit that did not meet his standards of order. He directed his deepest criticism toward the Irish, whom Shaw distinguished from "Americans," and his letters consistently berated their abilities as soldiers. Undoubtedly these feelings had grown as he watched the Irish stand strongly with the Democratic party and against the abolitionists.

After all, there were many who hoped the experiment would fail and some who were sure it would. The latter gave several reasons: a rebellion by whites should be put down by whites; blacks would not enlist; blacks were too cowardly to fight and would run when faced with white Southerners; blacks were not intelligent enough to learn drill; blacks with guns would return to the savage instincts of the jungle; Southerners would become more determined to keep up the fight; white soldiers would not serve alongside black soldiers; blacks would demoralize white soldiers.

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