Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial

The Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry was the first African American regiment formed in the US Civil War.  Lead by Robert Gould Shaw the regiment endured heavy casualties and fought with valor. Shaw was killed in the attack on Fort Wagner South Carolina in 1863.  Sgt William Carney was the first African American to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in that fight.

Dedicated in 1897, the monument was created by August St. Gaudens and paid for by private donations.  The relief shows Shaw and the troopers marching off to a war that would free their countrymen from chattel slavery.  It sits opposite the State House on Beacon Street in Boston.

At the dedication
The military units present began to march past the Memorial, led by 65 veterans of the 54th Regiment. Some of the officers wore their Civil War uniforms, but most of the enlisted men were in their best frock coats. Black veterans from the 55th Massachusetts and the 5th Cavalry were also present. Among the men of the 54th, Sergeant Carney carried the American Flag. The sight of him elicited cheers from the onlookers who knew of his exploits. The 54th veterans laid a large wreath of Lilies of the Valley before the monument. All of this deeply moved Saint-Gaudens:

"Many of them were bent and crippled, many with white heads, some with bouquets... The impression of those old soldiers, passing the very spot where they left for the war so many years before, thrills me even as I write these words. They faced and saluted the relief, with the music playing 'John Brown's Body'…. They seemed as if returning from the war, the troops of bronze marching in the opposite direction, the direction in which they had left for the front, and the young men there represented now showing these veterans the vigor and hope of youth. It was a consecration."



Woe to the bedlamites who just lynched the bronze opposite number of St. Gauden's memorial from its plinth in North Carolina:

EliRabett said...

Do try not to be smartass for once Russell. Trump's friends are coming for you too.


Eli, those hauling on that noose are hostes humani generis , and they certainly don't sound like friends of Trump.

EliRabett said...

Russell, you are an asshole. How would you like to have to walk into a courtroom past a statue extolling the people who enslaved you? There was nothing uplifting and everything threatening about that Durham statue. That was its purpose and the purpose of all the Confederate monuments.


One hopes to see the peace Lee & Grant made at Appatomox endure

I have less respect for the handful of vandals bent on erasing all the history they dislike than the millions of Confederate desendents who have since served the Union well ,while leaving St. Gauden's masterpiece intact and Gen. Hooker sitting atop his horse on Beacon Hill.

If you really want Lee expunged from the Anthropocene , write your woke congressperson . and demand the creation of the Stone Mountain Atomic Test Site

Beakers said...

Pardon me for butting in as an outsider (and defeated colonial overlord at that) but I would have thought that celebrating as a hero, a leader of a rebellion seeking to hang on to (and extend) slavery is being 'bent on erasing all the history they dislike'.
Franco memorials (of which the arse was very fond), should the Spanish respect those? Perhaps those Saddam Hussain bronzes should have been held in safe keeping until the Iraqis calmed down, so respecting the 'millions of Bath Party descendants who have since served the state well' - ?
Perhaps we in the UK should put up a nice statue of Colonel Dyer (AKA the Butcher of Amritsar)to represent British military commanders who served in the far flung empire, shooting unarmed people in the back in our name. If India was at all upset about that being thrown up outside their consulate in London, would they be 'vandals bent on erasing all the history they dislike'.

Toby said...

Well I am Irish, but a long time student of the ACW.

How do you commemorate a good man who fought for a bad cause? (I think that lets Dyer out, and any Nazis). While 80% of Ireland became independent of the UK in 1922, A statue of Queen Victoria stood outside our Parliament until 1948, when Ireland became a Republic. A statue of Horatio Nelson dominated the capital's main thoroughfare until terrorist blew it up in 1966. We have a certain experience, not always good, in negotiating different traditions, memorials and commemorations.

Queen Victoria was a good Queen for Ireland (not all agree!), and Lee was a good man, who did his duty as he saw it. But he clearly does not represent the aspirations and ideals of modern Americans where his statues are displayed. So I think locals should be able to remove or re-locate statues by consent.

I disagree with the illegal Durham removal of the statue - I think that may backfire. It will probably make it harder to remove other statues legally.

Lee is a legitimate part of the southern military tradition, so I think there is scope to memorialise him where there are military cemeteries, most of which are away from main thoroughfares. Franco? He stays around as long as a majority of Spanish feels he is relevant.

So how do you commemorate good women or men in bad causes? The answer is: appropriately and by negotiation. We have commemorations of World War I, a when some 35,000 Irish died, in a war few now feel was worthwhile (again, not all agree!). The National World War I Memorial Park is away from Dublin city centre, where a Garden of Remembrance commemorates Irish patriots.

Toby said...

The St Gaudens statue of William Tecumseh Sherman that stands in Manhattan is definitely triumphalist - Sherman is clearly Marching Through Georgia preceded by Victory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tecumseh_Sherman_(Saint-Gaudens)

Would the citizens of Atlanta, I wonder, be enthusiastic about accepting a replica for their city?

Whenever I visited Boston, I made a point of visiting the monument to the 54th Masschusetts.

Beakers said...

I favour benevolent neglect (but then I am rather lazy). The Delhi Durbar park is a fine example, grand statues of the former imperial overlords left alone with weeds. Other statues retired there such as one of George V that India was no longer particularly interested in having adorning India Gate, a symbolic entrypoint to the nation like the Statue of Liberty.
But military statues of leaders who fought to defend and extend slavery, put up and maintained outside courthouses, outside government buildings? Its not a good look.
I would not advocate hiding, removing or desecrating German war cemeteries in France, but if anyone wanted a Bronze of the German war leaders proudly posing in front of the Eiffel Tower (springtime, for Hitler, and Germany...) in Paris as a memorial to 'commemorate good women or men in bad causes'? No.

Beakers said...

Orange Order parades down the Falls Road?


As the lynching of monimental figures puts iconoclasm tourists and other cultural sadists at risk of substantial fines, the funds might go not just to Johnny Reb replacement , but brazen images of two under-represented figures from the American past:

Crispus Attucks & the Earl of Dunmore, :

By His Excellency the Right Honorable JOHN Earl of DUNMORE, His Majesty's Lieutenant and Governor General of the Colony and Dominion of VIRGINIA, and Vice Admiral of the same.

As I have ever entertained Hopes, that an Accommodation might have taken Place between GREAT-BRITAIN and this Colony,... I have thought fit to issue this my Proclamation, hereby declaring,... every Person capable of bearing Arms, to resort to His MAJESTY'S STANDARD...

And I do hereby further declare all indented Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His MAJESTY'S Troops as soon as may be, foe the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper Sense of their Duty, to His MAJESTY'S Crown and Dignity...

GIVEN under my Hand on board the Ship WILLIAM by Norfolk, the 7th Day of November in the SIXTEENTH Year of His MAJESTY'S Reign.
GOD save the KING

Anonymous said...

I am the proud son of the confederacy. Cavalry. There is no Civil War history that matters at the vast majority of courthouses and public parks and schools in the USA. None. The place a statue of Robert E. Lee belongs is a battlefield where he fought, or where his army fought: Gettysburg; Antietam, etc. That is where the history of my ancestors took place. They were soldiers. Lee was a soldier. The men who fought for the Union at Gettysburg would want him to be at there; the rebels would want him to be there; the African Americans who live in Gettysburg would most likely want him to be there. Should there be a park named after Lee in Dallas that has a big statue of Lee in uniform and armed? Absolutely not. Nothing happened at Lee Park. Washington and Lee University can legitimately argue there should be a statue of Lee there, but he should not be dressed in his uniform. He should have no weapons. He was civilian who could have been hanged.

Jeffrey Davis said...

I don't understand the belief that statues of traitors are somehow "history". Does Iva Toguri D'Aquino deserve a statue?

marktime said...

Well you couldn't have chosen a more suitable recipient if you tried. Try Google if yo want to improve your knowledge, and perhaps better, before posting.

Anonymous said...

I might have more sympathy for your argument had the monuments in question been erected after the Civil War rather than after WWI and WW II when black soldiers returning home from defending our country confronted resurgent racists trying to reassert white supremacy.

Monuments are not history. They are a statement about what we venerate removed from historical context. (Or do you contend that Mt. Rushmore tells us something deep about Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or Roosevelt I?)

One hundred fifty two years after the end of the Civil War, the South continues to define itself in terms of its "peculiar institution". By every measure or metric or argument, Southerners are better off for having lost that war. A victorious South would have become a bucolic backwater. And yet, Southerners seem intent on following Pickett up the hill to oblivion on the way to an antebellum utopia that never was.

Shouldn't it tell you something that it's only the Klan and neonazis who get upset at the thought of the removal of these monuments?

Bryson said...

Thanks to Snarkrates & others here who've pointed out the separation between history (a bitter war fought in defense of a cruel and unconscionable institution-- of which Lee himself was a particularly cruel practitioner) and the erection of these monuments (as part of a re-invention of that history, focused on the 'noble cause' of 'states' rights'). I first heard the language of that re-write in grades 5 and 6 in Baton Rouge, along with talk of the'the war between the states,' and 'states' rights.' The rhetoric of revanchist white supremicism was in the air. It's an ugly thing to hear today on the lips of the President and his biggest fans.


Civil war memorials don't stop at the Mason-Dixon line , they start In Maine and continue down a line of town squares descending Route 1 A down the whole Eastern seaboard. Perusing their inscriptions , one sees they were erected not in 1924, but shortly after the wars end, many by such Yankee veterans organizations as the G.A.R.

In larger townships are preceded by memorials to the Revolution , the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, and followed by statues of Rough Riders , Doughboys, and WWII vets, The desacration of monuments to the fallen remains an affront to civility as barbarous as any outrage of the Thirty Years War.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Is the Vietnam Wall an affront to civility or 'American values?' Should we tear it down?

An argument can be made that The Wall simply honors those that made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country; that it does not attempt to justify the Vietnam War or the rationale behind the war. I do not find this a very persuasive argument.

There are hundreds of statues around the country that one could object to - but they are not only past tokens of appreciation, they are now also part of our history. I would rather see a statue of George Custer left where it is, but with a progressive educational text accompanying it, than to see it simply taken away.


A decent respect for the feelings of Ethon demands my apolology for amplifying Eli's grief - Jefferson must be pretty unhappy too.

Tom Curtis said...

Russel Seitz, you are rewriting the facts to suite your arguments. Lee was not among the fallen of the Civil War. Nor are the monuments in question erected as memorial monuments in terms of monuments to remember the dead of the war. They are monuments erected to celebrate traitors to the United States who turned traitor in defense of slavery. The monuments celebrate that defense, and by implication the ongoing economic and political suppression of African Americans.

There are places where statues of Confederate soldiers would be appropriate. That is, at graves to the war dead of the civil war, or war memorials of that war. And even there, they are only appropriate if the US dead of the same war are (at least) equally memorialized.

Statues of Lee erected before the Civil War due to his role in the war with Mexico can also reasonably be preserved, although given that the turned traitor, it would also not be unreasonable to remove them.

Anonymous said...

Are you being deliberately obtuse? The issue is not monuments to the war dead--which were erected after the war--but monuments to the leaders of the Confederacy, most of which were erected decades after the war (many in the 1880s after the "corrupt bargain" that ended Reconstruction and left the black population to its fate and many others in the aftermath of WW I and WW II to reassert white dominance).

Even Lee, himself, resisted any attempt to build memorials--believing, correctly, that the nations that forgot their civil wars fared best (e.g. you don't hear much about Cromwell in England). There was a Mexican poet in the era of the Mexican civil wars who said that it was a good thing to pile a lot of earth on the dead lest they walk the earth and disturb the living.

Should it not tell you something that the folks who are most upset about removal of these monuments are the neonazis and open racists.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Is there another country in the world that honors its traitors?

E. Swanson said...

Jeffrey Davis, There's much being said about the War Between the States, as we Southerners called it. I was in high school in Atlanta during the 100 year anniversary and lived in an area with woods which still had trenches from the battles, including a Union trench line along a ridge top a few miles to my north near Sherman's crossing of the Chattahoochee River. There are large cemeteries for both Union and Confederate soldiers near a major battle field in the middle of the next town to the north. During those years, I felt drawn to the Southern Cause, the memory of which had been turned into a more noble picture by later generations. While a college freshman, we regularly rose at attention when Dixie was played by the band at football matches and many of our ROTC students went into battle in Vietnam, another failure of imperialist thinking.

But, history is written by the winners and if things had turned out differently, General Washington, a traitor to to the English Crown, would not have his monument and a city named after him. General Sherman, that "hero" of the Abolitionist Civil War, went on to lead the War Department in the wars against the western Indians, using the most brutal tactics, including the near extermination of the buffalo. Here's some quotes from the Wiki article: After George Armstrong Custer's defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Sherman wrote that "hostile savages like Sitting Bull and his band of outlaw Sioux ... must feel the superior power of the Government." He further wrote that "during an assault, the soldiers can not pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age."

At the end of the 19th century, the sciences of biology and medicine had progressed to the point that some advocated for "improving" humanity by selective breeding, much like is regularly undertaken with animals. Such thinking led to the Eugenics movement in the US, which gained many followers and we still see the idea of "fitness" thru diet and exercise remaining within the culture. Indeed, Hitler claimed to have acquired some of his ideas directly from these American sources. We still entertain a cultural notion that people should be allowed to advance according to their abilities, as the best students are rewarded with the best jobs upon graduation. I submit that the meritocracy which those of us holding college degrees is quite similar to the earlier selection process based on crude measures like skin color. How many who post here would willingly take a job beneath their education level, such as working below ground in a coal mine, picking fruits and vegetables in the fields or doing janitorial work in one of Trump's hotels?

Slavery has been abolished, but how many people are caught in jobs which are a form of "wage slavery", much like Marx described in the 19th century? Thru globalization, corporations have morphed into transnational operators which have no allegiance to any single nation, enabling them maximum profits and influence on national governments. The issues raised by the alt-right go to the core of the question asked by Samuel Huntington, "Who Are We?", as in, what does it mean to be an American vs. everybody else. Is the proper vision that of the globalist, neo-liberal of free trade and open borders, or should a nation act in the best interest of it's present citizens? These issues are only now beginning to boil up and I submit that finding the answer won't be easy. Clearly, it's not about statues...

Jeffrey Davis said...

E. Swanson, lots of words to say "No".

Kevin O'Neill said...

JD writes:"E. Swanson, lots of words to say "No".

Is that what you took away from E.S's comment? It's a very small black and white world you live in. Must be nice to have all the nuances eliminated for you.

Perhaps you should ask yourself what does it mean to be a traitor? A traitor to what? To God? To humanity? To your own beliefs? As E.S. points out, Sherman was all in favor of killing men, women, and children - at least if they were native Americans. Whose statues should we tear down first - those of Sherman or those of Lee?

We celebrate Columbus Day in this country. Celebrate a man who oversaw the genocide of the indigenous Taino population of Hispaniola that some estimates put as high as 1 million. But C.C. wasn't a 'traitor' so I guess that makes the celebrations OK.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Kevin O'Neal, that's a pretty amazing leap. Hope you stuck the landing.

Kevin O'Neill said...

JD, ES wrote: "...the question asked by Samuel Huntington, "Who Are We?", as in, what does it mean to be an American vs. everybody else. Is the proper vision that of the globalist, neo-liberal of free trade and open borders, or should a nation act in the best interest of it's present citizens?"

And you found my comment building on his a 'leap'??? You must consider curbs at every street corner to be the equivalent of rock climbing cliffs.

PG said...

Yes, taking down a statue is totally changing history. Because the main way anybody learns about history is through statue-based study.


Skip to 5:30 for the statue comments.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with having no monuments to Sherman. Let's face it, a monument is not a very effective medium for conveying the complex characters of any human being.

Monuments are not history. They are ahistorical in that they remove the subject from their historical context and present them as an ideal worthy of emulation.

The problem with the confederate monuments is THEIR historical context. They have been a focus for rallying racism and white supremacy from their beginning. Many were erected specifically for the purpose of reminding black Americans of "their place." Their presence is an affront and a threat to these communities--much as if you erected a statue of Sherman or Phil Sheridan on an Indian Reservation.

The argument about whether the Confederate leadership and generals were traitors is more complex. There was not even general agreement as to whether the United States was a nation or a super-national body of individual states. Jefferson Davis, however, was almost assuredly a traitor. There is evidence of his having laid the groundwork for an eventual Southern rebellion while serving as Secretary of War. This information came to light long after his death, or he almost assuredly would have been hanged. Lee is more complex. As the nation's most able soldier at the time and as a hero of the Mexican War, he was probably approached by Davis and his conspirators, but there is no evidence of his acting against the interests of the US before he resigned his commission and rode south.

Humans are complex. A monument cannot accurately represent them or their history. However, it should tell us something that the folks most upset about the removal of these monuments are white supremacists.

The South launched the war to defend Slavery. It lost the war because Slavery had prevented it from industrializing and modernizing. It is certainly arguable if not certain that the South is better off for having lost the war. And it is inarguable that t's attachment to the "Lost Cause" has impeded its progress. At some point, they must let go and progress.

Bryson said...

In hopes of returning to the main topic here, consider this:


These monuments (as others have said) were, first a deliberate expression of white power, the power to continue the oppression of black people across the south, and second, part of the development of the myth of the "noble" lost cause. Their demolition is long overdue.


The Civil War being long since decided in the Union's favor, let us all take time off from the Climate Wars to watch the skies :


E. Swanson said...

The solar Eclipse may offer an interesting measure of climate change. It might be possible to compare the rate of cooling at the surface during the totality with similar data from previous events. While the time of totality will be only a few minutes, the added CO2 over recent decades might result in the reduction of the rate of cooling. If this could be demonstrated in the data, this might be taken as direct proof of the enhanced Greenhouse Effect.


SRM is where you find it


Anonymous said...

For whatever it is worth, the name most commonly used for the Civil War in southern public schools was "The War of Northern Aggression". Basically my Missouri ancestors, using guerrilla warfare tactics, started killing Kansas civilians so as to prevent Kansas from coming in as free state. The USA sent in troops to fight the guerrillas. This was viewed as northern aggression.

EliRabett said...

Eric, probably not because ground level CO2 varies strongly with position, time of day and local exhilation.

davidp said...

To satisfy those wanting to maintain respect for the military, I suggest replacing statues of Robert E. Lee with statues of Colin Powell.