Thursday, February 25, 2016

"OMNIA RELINQVIT / SERVARE REMPVBLICAM" - The Shaw and 54th Massachusetts Memorial (Boston #2)

"He left behind everything to save the Republic"

Detail - Shaw/54th Memorial - photo by James M Schmidt
Today's post provides information and photos of another landmark I visited on my trip to Boston late last summer (August 2015): "Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment" - a monument to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiment (one of the first official African-American units in the United States during the Civil War) and their commander, Col. Robert Gould Shaw.  Shaw and the regiment were featured in the film "Glory" (1989).

The memorial stands at the edge of the Boston Common, just across the street from the Massachusetts State House.

Front of the Shaw/54th Memorial - Photo by James M. Schmidt
 From Public Art Boston:

Col. Shaw - Library of Congress
Sergeant Henry F. Steward - 54th Mass - Mass Hist Soc

Artist: Augustus Saint Gaudens
Location: Boston Common, at Beacon St. and Park St.  map it
Neighborhood: Back Bay
Type: Sculpture
Year: 1897
Medium: Marble and granite

The famous American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens spent over a decade creating this bronze bas- relief monument, which is generally considered one of his finest works. It commemorates the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first volunteer regiment of African-American soldiers, active during the Civil War. The Regiment was led by white colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of prominent Boston abolitionists.

Shaw and his regiment are famous for their assault on Fort Wagner in 1863. Outnumbered, many of the troops, including Shaw, were killed and buried in a mass grave by Confederate soldiers. One of the soldiers who survived the assault, William H. Carney, received a Medal of Honor in recognition of his bravery. The 54th also reportedly included Frederick Douglass’ two sons and the grandson of abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

In the relief, an angel accompanies the men as they march down Beacon Street on May 28, 1863, leaving Boston to head south. She holds an olive branch, which symbolizes peace, and poppies, which symbolize death. Through this imagery, Saint-Gaudens alludes to both the soldiers’ individual fates and the North’s eventual victory. Other features of the relief are realistic, rather than symbolic. For example, each soldier’s face is markedly distinct, endowed with a unique appearance and expression. Saint-Gaudens’ respect for the soldiers is shown through his efforts to portrays them as individuals, not simply as a group. In 1982, the names of the African-American soldiers who died were added to the reverse side of the memorial.

Here is the program from the monument's dedication ceremonies via the Internet Archive:

And a wonderful photo from the Massachusetts Historical Society depicting "Dedication of the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Boston, 31 May 1897":

Massachusetts Historical Society - description here
It's a breathtaking sculpture and well worth a visit - it's the starting point for Boston's "Black Heritage Trail" and also a great launch point for Boston's "Freedom Trail."

Detail - Shaw/54th Memorial - photo by James M Schmidt

Detail - Shaw/54th Memorial - photo by James M Schmidt
Detail - Shaw/54th Memorial - photo by James M Schmidt
Detail - Shaw/54th Memorial - photo by James M Schmidt
Detail - Shaw/54th Memorial - photo by James M Schmidt

Detail - Shaw/54th Memorial - photo by James M Schmidt
54th Mass Recruiting Poster in Boston Storefront - photo by James M Schmidt
You might also like my other posts:

Other Posts on Boston:
Boston #1 - Poe Statue 

Other African-American Civil War Monuments
Monument to the 62nd and 65th USCT in Jefferson City, MO

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