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The Gallant Charge of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment

Artist
Currier & Ives Lithography Company, active 1857 - 1907
Sitter
Robert Gould Shaw, 10 Oct 1837 - 18 Jul 1863
Date
1863
Type
Print
Medium
Hand-colored lithograph on paper
Dimensions
Image: 22.6 × 31.5 cm (8 7/8 × 12 3/8")
Sheet: 32.3 × 40.3 cm (12 11/16 × 15 7/8")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number
NPG.2016.104
Exhibition Label
Born Boston, Massachusetts
On July 18, 1863, Col. Robert Gould Shaw led the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment in a fierce but ultimately disastrous attack on Fort Wagner, a beachhead near Charleston, South Carolina. The scion of a prominent abolitionist family, Shaw had been handpicked to command the regiment, which was the first in the Union Army to be manned entirely by black soldiers. Shaw recognized the capability of his troops and championed their right to receive the same wages as their white counterparts. Although the regiment suffered heavy casualties, including the death of Shaw himself (shown atop a parapet, recoiling from a fatal wound), their “gallant charge” became legendary for its display of military mettle and patriotic spirit. Indeed, the flag-bearing soldier behind Shaw recalls the courageous actions of William Harvey Carney, who rescued the American flag during the heated battle and who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1990.
Nacido en Boston, Massachusetts
El 18 de julio de 1863, el coronel Robert Gould Shaw lideró al 54o Regimiento Voluntario de Infantería de Massachusetts en un ataque feroz pero finalmente desastroso al Fuerte Wagner, un puesto de playa cerca de Charleston, Carolina del Norte. Miembro de una prominente familia abolicionista, Shaw había sido escogido expresamente para comandar dicho regimiento, el primero en el Ejército de la Unión compuesto en su totalidad de soldados negros. Shaw reconocía la aptitud de su tropa y luchó por su derecho a recibir el mismo salario que sus compañeros blancos. Aunque el regimiento sufrió serias bajas, incluso la muerte del mismo Shaw (mostrado en la pintura sobre un parapeto, recibiendo la herida fatal), su “valiente ataque” se hizo legendario por el despliegue de temple militar y espíritu patriótico. En efecto, el soldado abanderado que se ve detrás de Shaw recuerda la acción heroica de William Harvey Carney, quien rescató la bandera estadounidense durante la encarnizada batalla, por lo cual se le otorgó la Medalla de Honor póstumamente en 1990.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection