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The movie Glory was about the Civil War period. It focuses on Robert Gould Shaw and his 54th infantry. It was not entirely truthful historically but it gave a good main idea of how the blacks in the 54th infantry played their role. The battle scenes were done pretty accurately, showing how bloody and brutal the battles really were. The acting, according to most film critics, was well done. The critics say that the film had inaccurate details but the inaccurate details created a truthful mood and central direction for the movie.
The film starts out describing how Robert Shaw always wrote to his family on a regular basis. He wrote about how he felt and what was happening in his life with the military. The first letter of the movie stated how he controlled 100 men that were mostly older than he was. The real Robert Shaw actually did write a lot of letters home regularly and he was pretty well known for that.
The next scene was a battle scene of Robert Shaw at Antietam when he was First Lieutenant in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry. This actually was a part of his experience before he commanded the 54th Infantry. The combat technique in the film was also displayed accurately. The armies would keep marching in line, toward the confederate army, even though bullets, cannons, explosions, and shrapnel are flying everywhere and killing people left and right.
One important part of the film was displayed almost casually. After the battle of Antiedem, Robert Shaw was getting treated in a medical tent because of shrapnel that had hit him in the side of his neck. There was blood everywhere and one guy was screaming at the top of his lungs because he was in tremendous pain. During all this screaming, the guy treating Robert was talking about how Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation, which had made all slave states into free states other than the few loyal bordering slave states.
Robert attended a post-battle party and he was asked to command the 54th infantry. He hesitated at first but then he agreed to do it. In real life, he declined it because of all the pressure. It was almost unprecedented for anyone to command an all black infantry. He later did agree to do it though. He met the infantry and gave a speech how he hoped to restore the Union.
The infantry was a perfect example of how the film had inaccurate details, but gave off a truthful central feeling. In the film, a lot of the soldiers were previously slaves. This was not true because the 54th was all freedmen. This inaccurate detail gave the feeling of not knowing whether or not a black regiment could fight as well as any one else. Slaves were previously proved to be unequal because when they saw the whip of their masters they got intimidated and they didn’t fight. This is why it was so questionable about giving a black man a weapon. They had suspicions that, maybe, if the black man saw the confederate slave owners, they would get intimidated and will run away. There was also the thought that a black man was simply not as able as white men because they came from the African jungles. They thought that the black men would drop their weapons and run around like a bunch of monkeys.
Robert Shaw had a Swedish man train the soldiers because he didn’t treat black men any different than the way he treated white men. At one of the musters, Robert Shaw reads a threatening letter to the 54th Infantry. This letter, written by the Confederacy, announced, “Any Negro that is given arms to be used against the confederacy will immediately be returned to a state of slavery. Any Negro taken in federal uniform will be put to death. Any white commander of black troops shall be put to death. All charges will be granted in the mourning to all those who apply.” Courageously, the next mourning, the entire 54th regiment was still there and ready to be trained.
Most people never took the black soldiers seriously. Robert Shaw had to do a lot of work to supply his men with uniforms, shoes, firearms, and a chance to see the battlefield. They weren’t even paid the same amount as a white soldier. The first assignment this regiment got was just labor work. They were treated like slaves. Shaw brought his regiment along with Colonel Montgomery’s regiment and the Colonel had both regiments pillaging innocent towns. Robert didn’t like this at all and he pressured the higher ranks to get him to finally be able to fight a real battle.
The first battle they fought was in the middle of the woods. This wasn’t a big important battle though. This was a small battle that wasn’t getting much attention in the press. The significance of this battle is that the 54th regiment won and they proved that they were able to fight. Once again, it didn’t get much attention in the press, so the only way to bring national attention to the black soldiers was for the 54th Infantry to fight at a big battle like Fort Wagner.
This was the very next battle they fought. To this day, Fort Wagner was one of the most important battles of all time because of the fact that the black men fought along side with the white men. The first inaccuracy in this scene is that the film had the regiment march in from North to South, whereas in reality they went from South to North. Prior to the battle, the commanders all had a meeting at the beach and the top commander was talking about how the U.S. Navy has been bombarding the Fort nonstop for four days to weaken it. That was a fact. The next day when the 54th Infantry marched past the white infantries, the white soldiers all cheered them on. This is unexpected because of the fact that days before, the white soldiers were ridiculing the black soldiers.
The way they planned to enter the fort was a narrow path so only one regiment could enter at a time. The first regiment was going to be devastated and everybody knew that. The 54th Infantry bravely sacrificed themselves for the freedom of other black people by volunteering to be the leading regiment. As the infantry marched in, cannons were firing at them. Robert Shaw started the charge and held his sword high, optimistically, even though heavy casualties were already occurring. All his men followed him.
The first flag carrier got shot down and the next one took it to the top of the fort. This was very important because the rest of the Union Army needed to see this flag in order to see what direction to go and also to avoid friendly fire. In the real battle, a soldier by the name William Harvey Carney was the flag carrier and he had wounds in both legs and an arm. He had to crawl on his knees and hold the flag in one hand to get to the destination. He was miraculously able to do this successfully. 10 years later he was awarded the Medal of Honor and he was the first black man to ever receive this honor. The remaining soldiers of the 54th Infantry were all killed at Fort Wagner.
The Battle at Fort Wagner brought a lot of public fame to the 54th regiment and this made national recognition that the black people could fight just as well as white people. After this the Union Army started recruiting a lot more black men and they got to a point where they had more black soldiers than the entire Confederate army. The black soldiers fighting were one of the reasons the Union won the war.
After the war, the black men were pronounced free but they were still technically slaves. They were definitely not equal and they didn’t have the rights that white men had. They couldn’t pay taxes because they didn’t own any land. They had to do a lot of work for white men still and they were treated very poorly. They were basically slaves without their masters.
The Confederates took Robert Shaw’s body and threw it in a big trench hole. Then they threw the bodies of the black soldiers on top of him and buried them all together. In the movie, they casually threw Robert’s body in the middle of the pile, but in real life, he was thrown on the bottom.
Unless you have a word count requirement, I'd take out that last sentence. Since the Rebels thru him in with his men in order to try and disgrace him, you might, instead, include the quote from Robert's father about what he thought about them burying Robert with his men.
The sergeant that trained the 54th was Irish, not Swedish. (I don't think a Swede would have sounded as rough as an Irishman. lol.) Major Cabot (Cary Elwes) made a point that the Irish weren't fond of blacks.
You are correct in that the 54th was made up of free men, but I don't believe that they ALL were. It's my understanding that Gov. Andrew wanted the smartest men he could find as he knew that the 54th couldn't fail or the whole idea of arming blacks would fail. You might want to do research on whether the ENTIRE regiment were free men, or slightly change your wording. Obviously once they joined the regiment they were no longer slaves, but a few may have been slaves right before they joined.
You seem to have captured the essence of the film.
You might want to do some research into Frederick Douglass' direct/indirect involvement with the 54th.
(BTW, you write that William Carney was given the Medal of Honor 10 years later. I won't give you the answer, but check your research. Do a google search if you have to.
You also said that the remaining members of the 54th were killed, leading one to believe that the entire regiment was killed, save for Carney. The 54th went on to fight other battles, including at least one in Florida.)
Last edited on Tue Jun 20th, 2006 02:29 pm by