Colonel Robert Gould Shaw; Massachusetts 54 cannon fodder (1837-1863) was the young white Civil War Union army officer who commanded black union troops during the American Civil War, he rode at the head of his men. The very flower of grace and chivalry, he seemed to me beautiful and awful, as an angel of God come down to lead the host of freedom to victory.” To lead a Union regiment comprised of an all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Colonel Shaw led an attack on Fort Wagner, a Confederate stockade blocking the entrance to Charleston, Virginia.
He, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was killed while leading a fierce but unsuccessful charge by his troops on the sand and earth parapets of Fort Wagner on Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863. The 54th Massachusetts lost many men that day, with a casualty rate of over 50% 350+ black soldiers, and only 12 Confederate soldiers died. The unit was chosen because they were thought of simply as cannon fodder. And numerous other black units in the Union Army for the remainder of the war.
Charleston Harbor’s Morris Island is smaller than 1,000 acres and is subject to extensive erosion by storm and sea. Much of the previous site of Fort Wagner has been eroded away, including the place where the black Union soldiers had been buried. However, by the time this had happened, the soldiers’ remains were no longer there because soon after the end of the Civil War, the Army disinterred and reburied all the remains—including, presumably, those of Col. Shaw—at the Beaufort National Cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina, where their gravestones were marked as “unknown.”
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.