The New International Encyclopædia/Shaw, Robert Gould

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SHAW, Robert Gould (1837-63). An American soldier. He was born in Boston and was educated in Switzerland and Germany and at Harvard. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War he obtained a commission as second lieutenant in the Second Massachusetts Volunteers. With this regiment he participated in the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, was an aide on General Gordon's staff at the battle of Cedar Mountain, and distinguished himself at the battle of Antietam. He was promoted captain in August, 1862, and in January, 1863, was offered by Governor Andrew the colonelcy of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, the first regiment of negro troops to be organized under State authority in the North. This commission, although he doubted his capacity, and realized the criticism and censure he would have to face for taking command of a negro regiment, he felt it his duty to accept, and at once returned to Massachusetts, where he organized the regiment and left Boston with it for the South, May 28, 1863. The regiment was sent on transports to Hilton Head, and its first participation in the war was as part of an expedition to Florida early in June, in the course of which the town of Darien was burned, contrary to the wishes of Colonel Shaw. In July the regiment was attached to General Strong's brigade and took part in the futile and disastrous attack on Fort Wagner. There on the evening of July 18th the Fifty-fourth Regiment, weary and worn from all night marching and exposure, formed the centre of the attacking column. Against the well-intrenched Confederates, Colonel Shaw gallantly led his negro troops in the face of a withering fire, and himself fell dead, sword in hand, on the parapet. Colonel Shaw was a man of particularly pure and noble character, and of great ability as a soldier, and his death was a severe loss to the Union. A splendid monument to him, the work of Augustus Saint Gaudens (q.v. for illustration), was erected at Boston. Consult Harvard Memorial Biographies (Boston, 1866).