Sunday, July 18, 2010
Buried Him In A Common Trench
Robert Gould Shaw was born October 10th 1837 in Boston Massachusetts the son of Francis George and Sarah Blake [Sturgis] Shaw. They were a prominent abolitionist family. Shaw’s family lived in a big estate in West Roxbury, and in his early teens he studied and traveled in Europe. He attended Harvard University from 1856 to 1859, but dropped out before graduating.
When the southern states began to secede, Shaw like many young men joined the military, first with the thirty day unit of the 7th New York Infantry and then with the 2nd Massachusetts. While he was serving in 1862 his father asked him to take command of an all black Regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. After careful thought Shaw accepted, although he didn’t think it was likely that a free black unit would succeed. He became impressed with the men of the 54th and when found that black soldiers would receive less pay then white soldiers he inspired boycott until the pay was equalized. Shaw married Annie Kneeland Haggerty May 2nd 1863 just before the unit left Boston.
The 54th Massachusetts was sent to Charleston South Carolina. On July 18th 1863 the 54th along with two brigades of white troops assaulted the Confederate battery of Fort Wagner. Shaw led his men into battle, he mounted the parapet to urge his men forward and was shot through the heart dying instantly. The Confederates intending to insult Shaw had him buried in mass grave with his black soldiers. The Confederate commanding officer; General Johnson Hagood said, had Shaw “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." Shaw’s family however claimed they were proud to know their son was buried with his troops.