Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Iwalked Bostons Common Shaw Memorial

Iwalked Bostons Common Shaw Memorial - The Robert Gould Shaw & 54th Regiment Memorial is to celebrate the 54th Regiment who was the 1st all black regiment in the Civil War. You may have seen their tale told via the 1989 Matthew Broderick film, “Glory.” Shaw was just 25 years old when he took command of the 54th Regiment. On May 28, 1863 the infantry marched passed the State House (as depicted on the monument) en route to attack Fort Wagner in Charlestown, South Carolina. The attack was not successful as nearly one-half of the 600 whom attacked Fort Wagner were either injured or killed, including Shaw himself who met an untimely death.

Common Shaw Memorial
Common Shaw Memorial
This work, often considered one of the most impressive in all of Boston, is by the Irish-born sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens whom spent 14 years completing the high-relief monument. On this 11×14 foot monument you see Colonel Shaw astride a horse leading three rows of his troops. Now in inspection of these troops you will notice how each figure is unique and incredibly life-like. The reason for this is that Augustus utilized 40 men as models for the figures. Not only that but he apparently had a horse tied up in his studio so as model for Colonel’s Shaw’s mount. Floating above Shaw and his troops is an angel with an olive branch in its hand which is a symbol of peace.

The final work was dedicated in 1897 and then “re-dedicated” in 1982. For many years the monument solely went by the name of the Robert Gould Shaw Monument. In 1982, however, the names of each of the 62 members of the 54th Regiment were engraved on the back of the memorial and it was officially renamed the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Infantry Monument at this time.

While it is easy to recognize the significance of this monument and why it is part of the city’s Black Heritage Trail, there may be a bit of irony in its location on the edge of the Boston Common Shaw Memorial as blacks were not even allowed free access to the Common until July 4, 1836.