1989’s Glory is currently the most requested movie to cover. Gregory J. W. Urwin is an author, military historian, and Professor at Temple University. He’ll join us today to separate fact from fiction in Glory.
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One common thing a lot of movies do is to make up fictional characters or create composite characters. So, let’s start with the “who” of the characters we see in Glory.
The movie opens by introducing us to the main character and senior officer in the 54th, Robert Gould Shaw, who we learn is 23-year-old son of wealthy Boston abolitionists. Soon after, we’re introduced to his friend and fellow officer Cabot Forbes. Those two make up the two commanding officers of the 54th throughout the movie. Then there’s four main infantrymen: Trip, Jupiter Sharts, Thomas Searles and John Rawlins.
Were those all real people in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 02:28
Robert Gould Shaw was the first Colonel of the 54th played by Matthew Broderick Shaw was born October of 1837. Sony took command of the 54th, Massachusetts in early 1863. He was 25, which was Broderick Sage at the time, so it was inspired casting to defeat Easterners. The only big difference was that shot was blocked. Matthew Broderick was brunette and didn’t die. Didn’t dye his hair. Kevin Forbes his best friend and his second in command has the rank of Major. He is a fictional character. The two other field officers original field officers and the 54th were a pair of brothers, who came from a Quaker family in Philadelphia. Penrose. Pat Halliwell was the first lieutenant colonel and then Edward and Ned Halliwell was the major Sony black screen to Massachusetts when they began recruiting the 54th to join the regiment that they had a surplus, and so the governor of Massachusetts, decided to establish a second black Regiment, the 55th and Penn Halliwell. Shaw’s Lieutenant Colonel original Lieutenant Colonel becomes the colonel of 55th and net that moves up and becomes Lieutenant Colonel by the time of the fort Wagner attack. There was a cap among the officers of the 54th his name was Kevin J. Russell, but he was Captain awesome Among the black characters, all four of them are fictional. The original Sergeant Major the regiment was not some father figure in his 50s. Like Morgan Freeman. He was one of the sons of Frederick Douglass, Lewis Douglas, who was around 22 when he became Sergeant Major, so the sergeant major regiment was a young energetic man made a big impression on his superiors in a subordinate. So they call him the lion of the regiment, and most of the other black soldiers in the 54th. Almost all of them were not runaway slaves. They were free blacks. Some may have been born in slavery, but they lived a long time in the north, others lived in the north and that was the whole point of the regiment, Governor john albia. Andrew, who founded it was afraid that a regiments composed of former slaves having been conditioned to fear white men have been indoctrinated and being inferior that they I’d stand up to the Confederates in battle unless they had robots, Northern blacks, men who had never called anyone else baster, who could go and show them. Yes, black men can do the same thing that white men can do on the field of battle. So the 54th was supposed to be the robot Regiment, consisting of the cream of black northern manpower and also the cream of white anti slavery society in the officer corps.
Dan LeFebvre 05:28
Hmm. The way that the movie shows the 54th being formed. It happens after the battle at Antietam Creek in 1862. We see Captain chaws. He’s the data Captain at that point, he’s recovering from an injury. And at some sort of a party or something movie doesn’t really explain what the party is, but he’s introduced to a few important people that you mentioned, Frederick Douglass and the governor of massachusetts john Andrews, and it’s here that Shaw finds out the governor is planning to form this all black regiment and Shawn is going to be promoted from Captain to Colonel as he takes over Over command of the regiment there. How well did the movie do showing how the 54th was formed?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 06:06
The basic facts are correct, but the timeline is compressed shot gets hit by spent ball. And to us that must have hurt quite a bit. But he returns to service with his regiment the white second Massachusetts and Governor Andrew who was a longtime abolitionist, one of the staunchest supporters of the Northern war effort given pushing for a long time for permission to recruit black soldiers. But the door doesn’t open until Abraham Lincoln promulgates the the final version of his Emancipation Proclamation, January 1 1863. And that grants permission Andrew jumps on that and on January 26, so it’s a couple months after Antietam, which was September 17 1862. On January 26 1863, Andrew gets permission to raise a black regiment rose Stoney grace Corps, including people of African Set. So he says I want to raise a black regiment. He sends a letter to Shaw’s father, Francis G. Shaw, who is depicted briefly in the movie. So that’s another real guy that we see. Francis Shaw, formerly Boston’s living on Staten Island. And Andrew says, Yeah, I need somebody from the right kind of family with the right kind of connections associated with the right kind of values to be the colonel, your son has done well in the second Massachusetts would he be interested? And so Francis shot goes down, down into believes Virginia, where the second Massachusetts was in camp during the winter of 1860 to 63. And he tells his son about the governor’s offer, and he didn’t buy him everything mom and dad report. Yeah, he had an own idea about how he wanted to lead his life. But after a couple of days, he changes his mind and accepts the offer. There’s some speculation that mom got involved. Tarah Blake Sturges saw she was the dominant member of that family. And she may have put a guilt trip on him or maybe he thought she would put a guilt trip on you. But he, he accepts he accepts the offer of the courtesy and agrees to preside over this, this controversial experiment.
Dan LeFebvre 08:22
In the movie after the regimen is formed, we do see them going through some training at reedville camp in Massachusetts. And according to the movie, this is toward the end of 1862. So I’m getting a sense that there’s going to be some timeline changes already. But we learn from some letters that Shaw is writing to his parents that the men are learning fast. But we also get some racism from the white Union soldiers who are making fun of the black soldiers in the 54th calling them names that I’m not going to repeat here. Did the men in the 54th face racism from the white soldiers in the Union army?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 08:53
Oh, sure. Let’s face it from their Colonel Shaw when he’s writing about the regiment and even beforehand In his correspondence, it’s littered with the N word and dark D and things like that. But as he Yeah, different abolition, abolitionist family, I’m sure he was exposed to prominent black leaders, people like Frederick Douglass, but he really didn’t know, blacks as people. You know, the ordinary African American, maybe is waiters and barbers and things like that, but they weren’t part of his social circle. So, you know, he writes, but they surprise him once he gets to know them. I think he writes things and again, this shows that have more than one prejudice. They’re smarter than the Irish. I’ve had the Irish hypocrites I’ve had in the second Massachusetts they pick up the drill faster and they’re so motivated, they’re so dedicated. And he ends up saying that I am confident we will leave this state with a spine a regiment and ever marched. So your movies about Robert Gould Shaw coming of age, right, you know, as a man, and a little It doesn’t show that side of his personality, he becomes more enlightened in his views on race. And that’s one of the admirable things about him because he’s a 19th century bat and starts rising above the limitations of his age.
Dan LeFebvre 10:17
That’s interesting that you mentioned that about having multiple prejudices there.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 10:22
Yes. And he’s dealing with a cross section of the Northern black population. Massachusetts didn’t have enough black men to fill the region. So they set out recruiting parties or recruiting agents, as far west as Chicago, Illinois. And you’ve got guys coming in from all the different northern states, a lot of them from Pennsylvania, a lot from Ohio, like Oberlin, which was the first college to admit African Americans as undergraduates, some coming in from Canada, where if you were a runaway slave, that was the one place in North America where you were free because you are beyond the reach of federal law. And so it’s a daily education. For him and interacting with these men, most of them because the prejudice of the day comes from the lower tier of the economic pyramid, waiters, barbers, people in different service occupations, although waiters were often a term for caterers who blacks who had their own restaurants and because they were very good at the culinary arts, they were frequented by a lot of wealthy white people. But also there were there were men who had been at least one doctor, several educated ordained ministers, engineers, not civil engineers today, the people who could keep engines running steam engines, that kind of stuff. And most of them could read and write. Most of them were literate, which means that we have more testimony about the 54th from black voices than we do for regiments where most of the men were slaves and were kept a letter by a southern state law.
Dan LeFebvre 11:57
One thing I’m curious about while I was watching the movie, I kind of got the sense from a lot of the dialogue that was going on that nobody really expected the 54th to ever see real combat. And we’ll get to kind of how the movie depicts them overcoming that in a little bit. But as I was watching it, I was like, Well, why would you form a regiment in the military? If you while the war is going on, if you never expected them to actually see real combat? Can you give a little more historical context around that as
Gregory J.W. Urwin 12:28
well, that was not governor Andrews attention, I can assure you, he wanted these guys to go into battle and prove that black men could fight and die as bravely as white men. And there were a lot of opportunities to do this because this was still ranked as America’s bloodiest war in terms of American lives lost. But there was widespread prejudice against African Americans most 19th century whites viewed them as inferiors, and thought if you put them into uniform if you put them into battle though, they’ll do one of two things. They will Bolton era, because they’re not gonna be able to stand up to white men, or they will run them up like savages and kill everybody, you know, murder the wounded and stuff like that. They’ll be out of control. So, you know, most of the black troops that are raised during the Civil War because of that prevailing prejudice, they are used as garrison troops. Now, because guerrilla war was so prevalent, they had people shooting at them a good amount of the time. But you know, Sherman didn’t take any black troops with him on his Atlantic campaign. He didn’t take any black troops with him. On his March this he kept them back in Tennessee to guard that union held state and the Confederate Army invaded and tried to take Nashville in the black troops prove that they could fight in fact, their commander, George Henry Thomas, who was born in Virginia, as a young child was almost killed in the Nat Turner revolt. He stayed loyal to the union, but he still had the racial prejudices. After you saw what his black troops did. He decided that they were worthy of political equality that African American Can should have the vote. So it’s another example of a prejudiced Person of the 19th century, who, by having actual experience with African Americans, rethinks a lot of his worldview.
Dan LeFebvre 14:11
Was that something that you think that Andrews knew was going to happen with them being a regiment was going to open up the worldview for a lot of people who would then have to be interacting with them. And almost one of the one of the reasons why he was doing that, beyond just the military side, you think,
Gregory J.W. Urwin 14:27
oh, certainly, that was his goal. In fact, Frederick Douglass, who acted as one of the primary recruiters for the regiment, after about a four bagger, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later, said that that put to rest more capitals more lives, about black manhood than a century of normal observation. And that’s exactly what what Andrew wanted to do want to show, you know, encourage other African Americans, runaway slaves, you know, to enlist and to fight to realize they weren’t inherently inferior to whites, but sure, he was still Trying to make a statement to the rest of America. So he wants these guys to get into battle. There’s There’s no doubt about that. That’s his intention. But he’s not in charge of everything. Yeah, he can form a regiment and hand it over to the States Government. But once it’s mustered in the federal service, then it’s under federal control.
Dan LeFebvre 15:17
Yeah, that makes sense. And so it kind of outside of his hands at that point,
Gregory J.W. Urwin 15:21
you can still make waves. He’s a governor of one of the more powerful populous states like it needs.
Dan LeFebvre 15:28
There’s a scene in the movie where Denzel Washington’s character trip is caught for deserting the regimen. His punishment is to be flogged before the entire regiment and when they take off his shirt, you can see the scars of where he’s been whipped before presumably when he was a slave. Despite major forbs disapproval shot orders the flogging to take place anyway. And the way the movie shows it. flogging seems to be a normal punishment for anyone deserting the army but then there’s a moral conflict with carrying out the punishment on the men on the 54% is pretty much the same punishment carried out by slave owners. And maybe it’s just me but as I was watching the movie, I saw, shot and tripperz just staring at each other through the flogging. I could almost see your the gears turning inside of Shaw’s minds, you know, coming from an abolitionist family like, Am I better than the institution of slavery then? So against? If I’m punishing people in the same way when they don’t follow orders? Was that a real punishment for deserting the army and was there any sort of moral conflict that Shaw had in carrying out a punishment on the regiment?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 16:32
Well, you get the point. The state certainly is set up to create that kind of inner tension. And again, that friction will help to shape Shahs redemption or his maturation, however you want to put it true to its British army roots. The United States Army made pretty free use of corporal punishment going back to the revolution. flogging was an actual punishment throughout the antebellum period in August 1816. 104 summers pay like 600,000 700,000 citizen soldiers flock into the Union Army. I mean, these are our voters, they’ve got relatives back home who can vote. They get rid of flogging in August of 1861. They end that punishment. But Shaw, you know, he was a strict disciplinary and he believed in discipline that you know, you’ve got to be tough on these guys because they’re facing tests that are even tougher than what they’ll meet on the drill field. So he did use was a corporal punishment for somebody, you know, kept following up or wouldn’t conform to orders he had to stand on a barrel, or they had a punishment called bucking and gagging. And they would take a bayonet and they would tie it tight into your mouth, and they’d make you sit down and they put a stick under your knees and then they bring your make your bed forward and bring your elbows up the stick and they tie in place. And if you sat that way, all day, you’d be pretty sore. You You would get a lesson so Sha according to contemporary accounts, use that barrel standing which it can be tough especially people make funny and you’d be the object of ridicule. Way of shaming people but bucking and gagging that wasn’t like flogging, but it was I wouldn’t want to have either this is
Dan LeFebvre 18:18
that sounds horrible that mean they both sound horrible, but especially bucking and gagging. The other the the barrel almost sounds like like almost like stocks where you’re kind of stuck there and forced to be humiliated and, you know, in front of the public, that sort of thing.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 18:33
Dan LeFebvre 18:34
going back to the movie, we see a division Quartermaster named Kendrick, and he’s one of the soldiers who says there’s no way the 54th is going to see combat. And since he’s in charge of making sure the soldiers get their provisions, he purposely withhold shoes from the men of 54th. The excuse that he gives is that soldiers who are going into combat need the provisions first and since the 54th are never going to see combat. They don’t get the shoes. The way the movie shows it in He’s out in the movie is you can tell that there’s some racism going on there from Kendrick. After finding out just how badly he has many the shoes, we see a shot of trips feet, and they’re all bloody and they’re in really bad shape. We get to see an angry side of shock. He burst into the quartermasters office demands 600 shoes and 1200 pairs of socks or he’s gonna report the quartermaster for keeping 700 Union soldiers from getting their shoes. And then in the next shot, we see everyone getting new shoes. How much of that actually happened?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 19:30
Well, this is where it can’t read bill or cat mags and Rico, Massachusetts. That wouldn’t have happened with Governor Andrew on the job I’ll show I had to do is to send a telegram to the governor and holy hell would have descended on that and that Quartermaster and shotguns No, no indication that happened. He said when men were coming in, they would watch them constrict, take a bath and then they would close them they’d issue them uniforms. The scene gives a chance to show how Shaw is now identified With these men, these strangers who belong to a race strange to him, there’s a solidarity developing. He’s going beyond the rules now he’ll break the rules for the sake of his man. He didn’t impress the men unless they met his standards that they said no one could have been kinda. If you did what you were supposed to do then then you found him to be a fair and understanding officer. Something like this, though happened in the making of the movie, in which I was involved when we were shooting the final scenes for the attack on Fort Wagner on a beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia and was like March it wasn’t too hot, but you’re on a sandy beach, white sand sand would reflect the heat. Half of the extras, the black extras who portrayed the 54th were black reenactors middle class, Americans are above who are there because they wanted to participate in this chance to show black man as heroes and because of one Black reenactors at the time the other half the other 100 receipt people from Brunswick new George Brunswick, Georgia. Yeah, these are people working for 35 bucks a day. It was a way to make some money sounds like fun, etc. And a lot of them were kind of wild and when the film copy would come out with pickup trucks full of of soft drinks and bottled water for the extras, a one time these guys just kind of stormed the truck and just started walking around with six packs and things and scared the hell out of these white Hollywood liberals. I’m a white East Coast liberal myself, but scared the hell these guys and they stopped bringing refreshments to the black experts. Not just the street people but also the extras in the reenactor companies and white officer in one of the reenactor companies. I got to feel was like to me blush. I was being I was being shorted because I was with these black guys. And of course my mentor We’re suffering. And so the white officers in the reenacted companies, we went to the assistant producer, Ray harbeck. And we said, Look, this is what’s happening. And if it doesn’t stop, our guys are walking, we’re leaving, you know, you’ll have only half as many and, and the best drill, best looking extras will be gone. And then the film company may make changes. And they said, Can you keep the speed people from rushing the caterer? And we’ll say, yeah, we’ll make sure that and that’s the guys. They backed up on some out, but they were decent people. And they said, yeah, we want to get our stuff too. So we worked it out. So it happened in Hollywood didn’t happen in history,
Dan LeFebvre 22:38
as you say, so you’ve got to play the role of shy and that we saw in the movie was pretty much kind of your role there. Interesting. But there was another example that we saw in the movie of prejudice against the 54th. And it had to do with their pay. And this was another scene where it kind of what you were mentioning earlier in the movie, he start to see Shaw starting to sympathize with his men and starting to To understand them, in this case, Shah has to stand up in front of all his men and tell them that even though they agree to be paid the regular army wage of $13 a month, they’re only going to get paid $10 a month. Of course, nobody’s happy about this. They tear up their papers. And then Shaw ends up tearing his up to saying that if they’re not going to take any pay, none of us will. But the movie never really goes back to that topic. Did they? Did nobody end up getting paid, or did anybody get paid at all?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 23:28
Well, that’s an excellent question. And it’s a wonderful issue. I’m glad that they did illustrate the movie, I believe was the militia act of 1862, which was passed before Washington authorized the recruitment of blacks but it said the black troops were raised, they would be paid the same amount of money as black laborers. Union Army private at that time, got $13 a month that if you were corporal or Sergeant or Sergeant Major get more, but the law said that black troops would get paid $10 a month regardless of running and to dollars would be stopped for their clothing. So you get seven bucks a month. Now Governor Andrew kind of ignored that. And he told them at the 54th when if you join this Regiment, he will get the same pay as white troops or give you a $50 $50 bounty. And also the state raised money to help support the wives and children of the of these men, but shawl found out after the race was formed, that it was going to be paid that $10 flat fee, the officers would get there, the regular pay, you know, but but but nothing less than that. You know, it wasn’t dramatic, like the movie. It wasn’t this big scene where Denzel Washington kind of leads a limited mutiny. Bashar says, if you’re going to pay us what these might have been promised, none of us will take pay. None of us will take pay so but that does capture the spirit. This went on for 16 months. Friends of black troops, Andrew putting pressure on the War Department. And then after about a year and a half, the federal government said that it was just renovating 64. Okay, we’re going to get the same pay as white troops. And if you were not, its enslaved if you did not own any Oh, anyone unrequited, like labor at the start of the war deal, get your backpack. So the guys the 54th qualified for getting everything that was intended to which they were entitled to. But more than two thirds of the US Colored Troops were former slaves. So it’s not until 1865 to the very end of the war, where they change that and say no equal pay for, for all Union soldiers. So yeah, you know, they show this refusal to take pay, but it’s months later before it’s resolved long after shots job long after the movie ends.
Dan LeFebvre 25:41
It’s another example of compressing timeline, which a lot of movies have to do in order to get that but it sounds like very an important part to to at least highlight and mention
Gregory J.W. Urwin 25:52
is that it was a real burden on the troops to I mean, the officers they came from well off families they had, you know, Making money from home. But a lot of these guys today would say they live from paycheck to paycheck, there wasn’t really a paycheck system back then. But you live from your wage, one wage period to another. So not only do they lack money to send home to their dependents if they have the money to go and buy a drink in your free time or some other creature comfort and some of them got quite surly. After months of this, some offices from the 54th and their letters and diaries talked about having the men were refusing to do duty and so they had to pick them up by the scruff of the neck and push them in the line and stuff. You know, so we made a principled stand, but principles sometimes Well, they can only take you so far. I mean, the regiment never actually mutiny, but there was friction because of this situation. They felt betrayed. They felt lied to those black troops,
Dan LeFebvre 26:50
understandably so. I mean, you’re expected to get paid and if you don’t get paid, then why am I risking my life?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 26:56
Dan LeFebvre 26:58
We head back to the movie. According to the movies timeline, it’s June of 1863. That training and, and then Colonel Shaw and the 54th are placed under the command of General Charles Parker in South Carolina. And here we get to see the 54th getting their first action, but it’s not really what they anticipated. It’s not combat but instead sheis ordered by General Harker second in command Colonel Montgomery to burn a town after they loot it. Was that what the first action was for the 54th burning and looting towns?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 27:31
Well, that one incident fairly well represented. The regiment finished its training by the middle of May May 18, or so got its colors on the 28th of may paraded through Boston, which is captured while in the movie and it takes shipped down to the Department of the South union controlled islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. The department commander is Major General David Hunter, who tried to raise black troops without authorization. He was a real abolitionist harkers a made up character But 54th is assigned to a brigade commanded by Colonel James Montgomery, who is in charge of a contraband regiment former slaves the second South Carolina, and in his first action 54 joins a substantial part the second and they sail off to a town called Darien, Georgia, and they go in and they ensure there are no rebels there and and then Montgomery permits his troops to loot. And then he decides to burn the town. Even though he’s met with no resistance, it would be a different thing if there were rebels in this side of the house is shooting at you, but it’s just going to burn the town to make an example of it and that really upset Shawn. He would write home he would write to superiors that he didn’t go down south to be a plunder, okay, he brought his men down to fight in a stand up battle like our Potomac army is accustomed to a line from one whose letters so yeah, they are average to top Darien, two of the three churches are burned down, in fact, shots really upset and affects his family. After the war, his mother, on two occasions were raised money a total of $1,000. And that’s back when $1,000 really amounted to something to help rebuild the churches of Derry or at least the Episcopal Church. So they’ll erect a church and a chapel. So that that really mortified shot and, and he and he realized if this is what my regiments given to do, you know, they’re not fighting. They’re not proving themselves as men, they’re marauders. They’re in effect acting like savages, and that’s the purpose of this regiment. So yeah, he files complaints.
Dan LeFebvre 29:44
We see a little bit of that in the movie shot just the course. I guess the way the movie portrays it, it’s he’s not a fan of the looting and stuff, but he really just gets fed up that the 54th are not allowed to go into combat. We see him sit down with general Harker And he then uses this he talks about how he knows about some 34 mansions that have been pillaged and burned. He knows about the 4000 bales of cotton that have been smuggled through the lines with payments to parties unknown so the movie says it except by Harker, of course. And there’s false Quartermaster requisitions and confiscated valuables ship north as personal baggage. And so if we’re to believe the movie, we see that Colonel Shaw is basically blackmailing general Harker to get the 54th transferred to a Combat Command. Did that really happen?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 30:35
Well, there’s not a face to face confrontation, but letters Get set. This is not what we this is not our purpose. And this is not what I consider legitimate warfare. James Comey had a different point of view. He came from Kansas. He had been a friend of john Brown, you know, part of these paramilitaries battling border raffia rescuing slaves from Missouri He believed in the hard hand of warfare that these people want to want to rebel, then they’re going to lose everything, that that’d be a lesson to them. And hopefully that will be a lesson that people haven’t lost everything yet to give up.
Dan LeFebvre 31:14
Was that something that was common taking a step back from this part of the war was looting and pillaging by the Union Army, something that happened a lot.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 31:23
looting and pillaging happens whenever you give 10s of thousands of young men weapons, and put them in positions of danger and fatigue and deprive them of getting as much food they need to eat. If they find cattle or chickens or wine cellar in France during World War Two, they’re going to help themselves. The Union Army originally tried to suppress such behavior because their rationale is this is going to be a quick war. And we don’t want to have to maintain half a million men in the south for an indefinite period. We know we want a reconciliation. So we’re not going to touch slavery or return slaves, at least to loyal masters. And we’re not going to go after private property. It’s being used to help the war effort. That’s one thing. But as time goes by, you know, if you’re in the Union Army during this war, the moment you walk into Confederate territory, you are a target for gorillas. The minute you walk behind your picket line, you go on a foraging expedition that people are trying to kill you this constant, I mean, you may be imbalanced in less than a week out of every year. But you face this constant danger and gorillas can’t survive unless civilians, support them, and cover for them and hide them. And the attitude begins to rise that Okay, these people are helping the world for these people are helping helping to hurt us, these people are resisting. They’re not going to quit, unless we take the gloves off and hit them too. And so it becomes, it becomes increasingly common, so that by 1864, it’s really official, you don’t Paulus grant, cut Sherman loose to ravage Georgia and the Carolinas he says, Philip, me sharing Shenandoah Valley do the same thing. And it’s not happening elsewhere, as well as these people started this work. They did it because they want to protect their slaves and their wealth. Well, we’re going to beat them or to take their slaves and wealth away from them and teach them a lesson. And hopefully that No, they won’t try this again.
Dan LeFebvre 33:27
Yeah, wow, almost becomes Total War at that point.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 33:30
Pretty cool. So we’re not dropping bombs on them. Sure. We’re homes before the heat burn them down. So we haven’t crossed that line, but we’re crossing up into what we what we do regularly in modern warfare.
Dan LeFebvre 33:44
Well, according to the movie, the actual first combat that we see for the 54th is at James Island in South Carolina, and the date in the movie is July 16 1863. As it’s shown in the movie, this is a battle that takes place in the woods. First, we see the Confederate cavalry charge. They’re repelled by the 54th. And then as they’re kind of celebrating, repelling the cavalry, then the infantry come in, we see the two sides forming lines. They take aim fire at each other. And before long the Confederate line advances and the fighting turns to bayonets and hand to hand combat. How well do you think the movie did depicting the Battle of James Island?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 34:22
It’s a nice view of civil war linear combat. The 54th shots letter writing campaign finally paid off. And on July 8 1863, and 54th Massachusetts embarks for Charleston, where braider General quincy adams Gilmore, who has succeeded Dave Hunter’s commander, the Department of the South, he has assembled an army of more than 10,000 men to take Charleston, the capital of South Carolina, the place where the civil war began. And he’s going to approach Charleston Harbor from the south Charleston Harbor on the south and scorned by several islands on the island. That Gilmore’s really interested in is called Morris Island because it kind of curves around for the southern side and the southern mouth of Charleston Harbor. If you get to that far end of it you can plant cannon to take out Fort Sumter, which is now a confederate held for controls the mouth of Charleston Harbor take out something no in the place Charleston under naval guns and force it to surrender. So Gilmore wants to capture all of Morris Island, but he decides to create a diversion. There’s another island on the south side of Charleston Harbor called James Island since about 4000 troops there, including the 54th, Massachusetts to make the Confederate sing. That’s his main effort. The Confederates fall for the bait and decide to to counter attack on the morning of July 16. The 54th has three of its 10 companies along with some companies from white Regiment, the TEF Connecticut events picket line and picket lines, kind of like your advanced warning system. you place them in front of your, your main group of troops of the enemy moves on you. You don’t have enough men to stop them. But you have enough men to slow them down and make a lot of noise. You can form up the rest of your force and turn out and fight unsurprised. So there are picket duty and Confederates attack, mostly infantry, they do have a company of cavalry, and they hit these picket lines and they hit them hard. The tough Connecticut boys are deployed with their backs to a swamp. And if the 54th men fall back too fast, they’ll be cut off and captured. So the 54th guy stand longer than would normally be the case to hold the rebels at bay, and the 10th Connecticut escapes. And then if there’s mealies Confederate troops get in among them and even some of the Calvary get it with their revolvers and sabers, and they take some casualties before they fall back. By that time the rest of the Union force on James Island swarm able to stop the Confederate Smackdown Any further, and the 54th guys get credit for saving their white comrades it’s big attitude transformation at this time. So that’s how that fight unfolded in the movie shows a kind of like phases a Calvary attack against the line of infratry, which is a foolish thing to do. And then the Confederate infantry and then you have a melee. So, you know, again one can argue with the choreography, but yeah, they see their first action, and they do very well.
Dan LeFebvre 37:29
That’s something I’ve always been fascinated by is how, especially in movies depicting the Civil War, how it’s, it tends to go in waves like that, like you have, okay, well, in this case, you have the horses first, but even if there’s, it’s just infantry, it tends to go from Okay, we’re going to shoot from, we’re going to line up, we’re going to shoot from far away, and then maybe we’ll advance a little bit further, we’re going to line up and shoot a little bit closer, and then it always ends up going to bayonets and hand to hand fighting and that’s just the way it always happens.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 38:00
Well, you know again the tactics are pretty authentic Civil War infantry were trained to fight in a to rank light of battle. The manual told infantry men that in order to maintain their lines so that every rifle could be, could be used wouldn’t have people getting out to front of too far in front of their comrades make a shot at burned by the blasts of the shots. The gunpowder coming out of the barrel of the guy behind them, they were told, you know, to just two racks are supposed to be within 18 inches of each other. And each line the men were told to maintain that line, you maintain the touch of the elbow, so they’re sandwiched together. If you don’t fire too high or too low, there’s a good chance that you’ll hit something Fortunately, most Civil War soldiers weren’t trained marksman. So there was a lot of over and under firing. That’s why officers often heard yelling at them and aim at their belt buckles aim at their knees because they’re jerking the trigger by the rifle musket which was introduced in 1855 to the US Army replaced the smooth mosquito killing range of about 100 yards. With a rifle musket, you could penetrate six inches of pine board at 600 yards. That’s enough penetration to kill a human being. And because it was rifle because of a spin or spiral on the bullet, it was much more accurate than the old smooth bore. So, you know, you could reach out and touch someone at a much greater distance. But you know, America is not one big vast open plane of tree lines, houses etc. Most of the spotting was at 250 350 yards, but still, you know, you could deliver an accurate and telling fire at that distance. Most attacks got shot to pieces before it became a matter of bayonet today. I mean, it did happen on James Island because the Federals are badly outnumbered they couldn’t put that enough fire to keep the rebels from getting close to them. But most most bandit attacks didn’t work that well if your enemy was alert had a good clear field of fire and plenty of artillery support but it looks good. It looks great. added on. And again, I can’t put well because there was banned fun on James.
Dan LeFebvre 40:05
Well, speaking of battles, the big battle at the end of the movie is at Fort Wagner. And we’ll get to the battle itself in a moment. But before we do that, I’d like to see how well the movie did setting up the events before the battle because the way the movie explains it is through General George strong, and he’s saying that no one will take Charleston without first silencing before it’s that protected harbor. The first of those forts is fort Wagner. He says there’s a natural defile or narrow pass and only one regiment can go in at a time. That leading regiment needs to keep the defending Confederate soldiers occupied for long enough that reinforcements can exploit the breach. And when I was watching this, it’s one of those it almost seemed like a Hollywood moment like oh man, we need to do this. This You know, this is a massive campaign, but of course only one regiment is going to be able to fit it just almost seems to line up to perfectly so of course, Shah volunteers the 54th having the honor of leading the charge, even though They haven’t slept in two days according to the movie. How well did the movie do setting up the attack on Fort Wagner being led by the 54th after not slipping for a couple days,
Gregory J.W. Urwin 41:08
that’s accurate. After the fight on James Island, which is the 16th of July, Shaw and some of the other troops there, since there was a diversion. I ordered two more song for the main push, but no one’s really thought out how to get them from point A to point B. And so they go marching from one island to another and the South, the South Carolina coast, swamps and harasses, and very narrow footpaths through these bonds and things like that. I mean, they start them off, it’s almost night. So they’re they’re staggered around in the darkness and it rains all that evening and they get drenched there and wool uniforms, and it’s just very slow going at one point, they’re ferried onto a steamer to go part of the way they only have one little rowboat the ferry more than 600 men, you know under this steamer so people are standing on the beach trying to dry out and get rained on again. They’re on their feet for 50 hours. I mean some guy just sat down while they were waiting at some place where the going was slow etc. Now George Crockett strong Brigadier General George sprocket strong. He’s another real character. He’s one of the people to whom Shaw writes as strong as fairly newly arrived in the department of the South is given command of the upper brigade. He’s a Massachusetts fan. So he’s someone who’s enjoyed Andrews patronage and his rise to military grander and Charleston. Yeah. And less my men fight besides white, instead of being you know, the segregated brigade doing this rating stuff, and that’s the fight beside white men don’t have no witnesses to what they can do. Would you please take me under your command? Could you pull some strings? So, Shawn is guys they arrive on Morris Island, and it’s getting on towards the evening of what’s the least well into the afternoon on the 18th Just two days later, strong says to him, you can lead the attack if you want to. I know you guys are worn out. But yeah, this is this seems to be what you want. And Shaw says yes, shot agrees could because he doesn’t know when he’s going to get an opportunity. Like one of his letters. In fact, he said, if they will only give us a chance, well, here’s his chance. And so he, he agrees
Dan LeFebvre 43:25
that gives me a lot more context than I even got from the movie just knowing that they were set up as a regiment to look up to for other regiments in the army as well, which is a huge part of it. And I know the movie kind of implies some of that, but a lot of the context that you gave earlier really helped set up how much more important it is to take advantage of those opportunities.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 43:45
And for the layout of Charleston’s defense, more Cylons on the south side of Charleston Harbor. It’s the furthest to the east. And it’s kind of, you know, think of a Heron. You have a body that’s the southern Apart where the Union troops are and then leading North the island narrows you have this this neck and then it kind of curves to the northwest and at the far tip that’s Cummings point. And there’s a confederate fortification of battery there to protect fort Sumpter which is across the water in Fort Wagner guards at the back of that narrow neck. So you have to take fort Wagner and then you can go up to the very northern tip of Morris Island and aim your guns at Fort Sumpter and take Sumpter that kicks in the door to trust
Dan LeFebvre 44:38
the speaking of the the battle at Fort Wagner we can get to the actual battle itself which happens at the very end of the movie. We see the 54th lead the charge they take covering the sand dunes until under the cover of knights they attack the fort itself and then the charge on the fort Shaw is shot and killed. While we don’t actually see the other main characters dying we see them racing to the end. Before they run into some large Confederate guns and then the camera kind of, you see a bunch of smoke, it fills the screen. And when it clears, the battle is over, and the movie focuses on Colonel Shaw’s body and a mass grave of bodies being buried. At the very end, the movie has some texts that says the 54th Massachusetts lost over half its number in the assault and the fort was never taken. But word of their bravery spread and Congress authorized raising black troops throughout the union. Is that an accurate depiction of what really happened?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 45:31
Overall, they reach more asylum, they’re put at the head of the assault column. 6000 troops three brigades the lead brigade is general strongs. They’re going to charge along a beach no more than 100 yards wide. You have the Atlantic Ocean on your right if you’re in the 54th and then you have marshes from this screen. On your left, the space is so narrow, you can’t deploy the entire regimen in line so Shaw breaks his regimen. into two divisions. He goes with the first division with the National colors the stars and stripes, as you see in the movie, and then his second in command. Ned Halliwell was not Lieutenant Colonel went with the white state colors of Massachusetts and they’ve been bombarding fort Wagner all day from both land and sea. It was arguably the most intensive barbin to civil war 9000 shells plowed into this sand Fort 30 feet tall and in fact, and they thought they were just leveling it but what happened was a union shell would plow into the floor explode, the sand would go up in the air and then come back down. It was wrinkled and rump looking, but the walls were still there. It was still intact. The guns weren’t knocked out. Confederate garrison about 1300 men, most of them were crammed into what they call a bomb proof shelter with this just big cavernous room under 12 feet of sand thick rafters and things like that they’re in their own They’re hot, dry day in South Carolina, saved their lives but it must have been held vegan this unventilated space, so they’re bardenas but this fork and they’re thinking the Confederates aren’t firing back. They’re not stupid enough to show themselves. Under that bombardment. They think okay, we silenced it. Let’s go. And so Sha is put first and he’s ordered to spearhead this attack. The attack is launched at dusk, just as the light is failing. So it’s not full daylight as a movie because the idea was give the Union troops the protection of darkness. And Shaw’s guys start moving down the beach. They’re observed from Fort Wagner. They’re also observed from Confederate forts. On other points all around trust Harbor, which began firing on the beach began firing, exploding shell. Officers Civil War ammunition would be a hollow cast iron projectile filled with with gunpowder and then other projectiles, maybe golf ball sized Cast iron balls, cup canister shells turned into shrapnel so they’re firing on the beach as well. When you’re really reserves expire until Shaw’s guys are about 200 yards away and it just opens up according to one eyewitness, it becomes a volcano of detonate death. And so they’re there with an artillery range. They’re also within Muskett range. According to Lewis Douglas, he saw shells explode among the troops that were clearly spaces 20 feet wide. He will be there, you know, or they’ll be chunks of bodies. But they closed rang Shaw drew his, his brandish to sword yelled, forward, men started running and they started running after him. heads are down. He’s trying to get through that storm of iron and lead and they headed toward Wagner. If they’d gone straight ahead, they would have hit the part of the fort that covered the bomb proof and that part Was undefended initially because it was supposed to be held by a regiment that was at the back of the bomb proof at least guys for work. So as part of they were partially fixated they were they were so days that they didn’t get out quickly enough but for some reason, Shaw veered to the left to a straight wall that connected the two ends of Southern the southern curtain of the fort. And there was a moat there, five feet deep, three to four feet of water in it, they splash across that and then shot leads them up the sloping 30 foot sand wall, which must have been tough because you’re trying to climb a giant sand hill. Your feet are getting stuck in that in that you know you’re slipping and sliding. He’s the first one to the top. So unlike in the movie where he’s halfway up he gets the top raises his saber yells onward boys and North Carolina soldier there shoots a rifle musket into his heart and kills but some of his man pile over the wall and There’s a melee bayonet to ban. But yes, you’re coming up over this wall, you’re a perfect target, you’re silhouetted against the sky for the defenders. So some guys follow him in and dive with him. And then the rest of the regiment, they hunker down along the outer wall and try to hold it as like a beach or bridge it for the other Union troops who are coming up behind the other 5400 or about 600 men in the 54th, Massachusetts when it made this attack, but their support doesn’t come. The rest of strong brigade is delayed and when it moves, it goes straight ahead into that portion that the 54th bypass that portion of the fourth and the second brigade was held back for 15 minutes that being fed in piecemeal, I guess Confederates time to react to shift troops once part of the world another and the whole union assault falls apart eventually the minute 54 they realize that it’s a lost effort and then they will melt away they will retreat the National colors during the attack on the fourth, the original color bearer falls into a rifle pit foxhole in the darkness and a sergeant named William H. Kearney picks up the flag and carries it to the top of the parapet so it reaches the top of the wall and he’s hit several times and each leg in the shoulder and an arm. The staplers reaches the parapet and the rebels tried to capture it and they managed to tear it off the Flagstaff but the Flagstaff is staged so it’s not like we just ourselves just in the middle of this of this ruckus, we lost the state flag got torn to shreds you know the other Union troops they go into the top of the bomb proof has a very narrow exit the rebels are able to seal it off. Commander that brigade generals strong is wounded command second brigade eventually gets hit in the forehead by a by a bullet that blows out the back of his head. The Union commander hearing that the attack is just being shot. Two pieces. General Gilmore doesn’t send the third brigade in. So the whole thing falls apart. It’s a big bloody mess. 1500 Union casualties out of the 6000 went in so the 54th lost just under half of its of its personnel. Two thirds of its officers become casualties. The senior officer is an 18 year old captain, we step Amelio he takes command to the regiment, what’s left of it, but of the 10 Union regimental commanders, I think only three came out of it unscathed. So it’s it’s, you know, it’s 25% casualties. Civil War saw a lot of bloody battles that would swap as far as per capita losses that would, that would be, you know, one of the one of the worst casualty rates I mean, there were worse, but that was bad enough.
Dan LeFebvre 52:50
So then after that battle, the movie seems to imply that the 54th was used as almost propaganda might not be the right term, but you know, only Most used as a as a marketing rally cry almost to try to recruit more black troops around the union where they use then after that, you know that suffering these heavy losses but were they used as that post fort Wagner.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 53:14
Let’s start with the question about propaganda certainly. Again, that was their role and they lived up to expectations. They fought and died as bravely as white men in the stupid tactical fashion that was invoked during the Civil War charged tak attack this prepared position. They went in with their muskets, rifle muskets unloaded. Take this a day at that point. They loaded once they get reached the top of the wall. They were firing over at the rebels, but they did what was asked of them. That was unsuccessful, but enough of it wasn’t like they all broke around at the first at the first shot. They suffered nearly 50% casualties. We can’t ask more of that from human flesh. And the people who were in the attack general strong was morally But he gave them an endorsement said that they they really deserved greater success because they gave their all and Robert Gould Shaw becomes a mark. This guy you know he comes from a well known family puts his life on the line, he leaves them into the jaws of death he dies at their head. And then the Confederates Well, they they played into the anti slavery causes hands. After they found his body, they mistreated the use of black troops by the union was a real sore point among Confederates because they believe that one reason you had to keep black slaves was that if they weren’t slaves, they could turn against their masters. And then either the Masters would have to exterminate them, or the slaves would exterminate the master class, Thomas Jefferson agonized over whether it be possible to get rid of slavery in the end decided no because as he put it, the South has the wolf by yours. You pick a wolf up by yours, you can’t let go because mophie will tear your throat out then This was the psychology. It’s one reason why these people left the union in the first place. We’ve got a president who says he wants to phase out slavery can’t be done peacefully. Our lives are at stake. So we’re hysteria and we’re leaving the union never happened but didn’t keep people from believing it. But fear has such power to shape history. So this biker who dare to lead black troops, we’re not going to treat him with the honors of war. They stripped him down to his underwear, put them on display inside Wagner for a while. Then they took him outside with a dug a pit, they threw him at the bottom. And then they threw 25 of his dead black soldiers on top of him as a way of, you know, dishonouring him in their eyes that was designed and after a fight when things calm down and the fight for fort Wagner devolved into a seat I mean, eventually was taken federal dug trenches and saps enforce the Confederates to evacuate fort Wagner by September 1863. But they didn’t take it back to Seoul. But in the interim, you know, they would exchange flags of troops. They asked about the whereabouts of Shaw’s body because because it was customary high ranking officers their remains would be released to their friends for burial. And Confederates replied he buried him with his mother Edward. Little later a union commander on Morris Island, General Gilmore got a letter from shotspotter. And Shaw’s mother said, we’ve heard that there’s an effort being made to recover my son’s body. in the forefront, especially after fort Wagner if it’s taken. The family doesn’t want that. We can’t think of any better burial place for our son than among his men. And later, when the Robert Gould Shaw memorial was being planned to be placed on Boston Common where it stands today, it was considered aesthetically probably the best Civil War Memorial ever, ever fabricated the original plan the The sculptor Augustus St. Dobbins was to have an equestrian figure show on their full three dimensional statue, his family insisted that he be shown with his men. So at the end of the movie that bass relief, Shawn horseback and those bronze black soldiers marching beside him. Again, that’s testimony to the principles of the Shaw family and the principles for which he ultimately die. Wow. Not only the shot become a martyr, as the result of his death and the circumstances surrounding his burial at Fort Wagner, but the 54th that effect is used as a regiment of martyrs. Now, some black regiments had already been raised before the 54th and 54th was the first black regiment from a Northeastern state raised for the Union Army but do they began raising a couple of regiments in South Carolina, second South Carolina vectors here with 54th arise in the department of science They raised some black regiments around New Orleans, a roga or Maverick Kansas centered new Jim lane raised his own black regiment in 1862 didn’t give a damn if Lincoln would authorize or not. First Kansas colored infantry, then eventually a spot in the Union Army. But there was question as to whether this was a good idea. Yeah, there was a question as to whether blacks would fight or fight well, and the 54th Massachusetts example helped to sweep away a lot of doubts, and opened the doors to this experiment in earnest. So that by the war is in close to 180,000 black men will be enlisted. In the Union Army 166 or so regiments are added to the union order about which makes a big difference. Even though a lot of these guys were kept in rear isn’t number defied. Not just the 54th or black troops who were involved. And combat in the trans Mississippi, in the western theater, and around Petersburg, especially black division was one of the units that helped cut off Lee’s retreating Maddox, which really must have rubbed those Confederate soldiers wrong, that vision, see all these black guys with guns telling them your war’s over? Even though as I say, a lot of blacks were kept in support, or garrison roles still that that contributed to the overall gain in America supremacy that helped the war turn out the way it did. There was no pause on the assault like in the movie, you know, they start out and take covering the dunes and then we’ll start with our attack began as darkness was falling, and then they didn’t stop until they were until they ran into the brick wall or the dirt wall at Fort Wagner. But again, extending the action, of course, makes for better entertainment. It doesn’t really violate the spirit of what happened.
Dan LeFebvre 59:55
Sure was speaking of the entertainment side you were since you were involved in the production of The movie itself have any other like behind the scenes stories of what that was like.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 1:00:04
There was a lot of idealism. among people who got involved in a film. The reason I got involved in it was because I knew the story of the 54th. And I thought, well, this is going to present American audiences with a moment in which white Americans and black Americans came together, put their lives on the line to extend the boundaries of freedom, which films made 1989 was a good lesson to be taught at that time, and it’s just as valid and just as needed today. Well, the idea was on the side, the nitty gritty of making a movie, they wanted to this these were the days before CGI, so to shoot the film, especially the big assault scene at the end, they wanted to have lots of black reenactors supporting actors, but there weren’t really that many in the United States at that time. So they put out a call to people white guys who are involved in living history trends. recruit black units, and I taught at a college or university in Arkansas, the University of Central Arkansas and I convinced my superiors would be a great idea if we took a contingent of our kids out there to work in a Southern University, helping to commemorate a stirring page in black history, and I was able to raise enough money to outfit 13 of my kids. And so we went to Jekyll Island, Georgia and met all these people from other parts in the country are about 16 fellas from Ohio State. And he was professor at the same brilliant idea and brought them down. Brian pohanka, who is a big Civil War, public historian work for time life books he and a ranger an African American Ranger Bill Walton, he in the National Park Service raised about 50, black, just ordinary middle class guys from the Washington DC area and then we have these street people from Brunswick, Georgia, who are full of machismo and like to show off and especially try to impress my my country, kids. supermarkets tell them all kinds of crazy if that one day while we’re waiting to attack for a bag or one of my students soldiers came up to me said, Doctor, when they saw it as a DJ, you know, we’re looking at the spices and he said, that guy over there’s got a gun. And I gave him a look and I said, TJ, we all got guns, if you have to worry about this kind of Saturday Night special. He showed it to me. He says he’s going to use it on the ribs when we get into into the 40s. He’s just he just just tough talking. He’s not gonna do that and hoping that I was right. I was. But when we attacked fort Wagner, we cross them out. And we stopped at the base of the fort. And that’s the scene where Sean is guys are under fire and they’re the attack snarled up and shot Sideswipe got to get on my feet and grab the color bear and lead the way and there are a few seconds where some of the 54th guys exchange fight with the ribs on top. And so you know we shot crossing the road a couple of times and then we’re on the base of the why everything got shot more than once. Eight or nine takes very often they decided now Okay, we’re gonna do this little firefight and the production people just move them all black reenactors and handed out playing cartridges and guys loaded up and they say when when they Oh, action, you’ll start shooting no don’t shoot at once some of you take your time. So we did that and we’re fighting real black powder like they did during the Civil War creating clouds of black of white smoke, bang, bang, bang, bang bang cut. So we stop and we’re looking at the walls of Wagner at the ribs and the smoke dissipates, and sticking out of the walls of Wagner were three rammers Ram rots, Amanda gave cartridges to st people who weren’t trained to load and fire these weapons and didn’t realize that you take the rammer out. If you don’t you turn it into a projectile that could employ somebody that was spine tingling or the production people went through all the black Wi Fi extras and got the white officers there’s this guy know what he’s doing. No, he doesn’t give us those cartoons. That was a near miss or near misses maybe some overshot to I don’t know, but the movie turned out a lot better than I thought it would because there was a lot of chaos going on. And the director it’s wicked never directed at epic before. He had some odd ideas. Some things that happened when I wasn’t on set, but I heard from people who had been there longer than he, when the 5400 Leesville or camp makes for its training one of the men to sing a hip hop version of we are coming father Abraham, the stalker consultants, other people said they didn’t box didn’t sing like that. And then it said Don’t tell me I’m an expert on 19th century black music but fortunately that hit the the cutting room floor. One of the best sources we have on the 54th after its arrival in the south comes from the pen of Charlotte’s forte. She was a light skinned African American woman came from a well established Philadelphia family. And after the Federalists began taking over some of these islands, she went south to teach school to the children of runaway slaves. And when shawl comes down, she meets them and she’s utterly charmed by him. He’s a consummate gentleman. And he’s just happy to deal with someone educated to socialize with her. They meet a couple times once she’s in front of his tent and the regional Glee Club sings for them, she ends up writing. You know how bless it is his mother and his wife. He got married shortly before he went south. In fact, that doesn’t show up in the movie. Well, the script decided to let Shaw have an affair with Charlotte before, but that got cut too. Back in those days, movie houses wanted films that ran two hours so they can talk more often and make more money. And so a lot a lot of things got cut from the final version that some it’s a good thing that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Dan LeFebvre 1:05:53
adding on to that then if you were in charge of what made it into the movie and what didn’t make it into the movie, is there anything you wish they hadn’t? cluded that they didn’t,
Gregory J.W. Urwin 1:06:01
I think it works well as drama. So I don’t want to sound too persnickety. It holds, it holds the audience attention. It captures the spirit of the black military experience in the Civil War, not necessarily the 54th in every detail. But I would have been neat. I think, if they really shown that this was a different kind of regiment that that mostly free blacks, most of the black men we meet a runaway slaves just one exception. And neat to see Lewis Douglas easily movie soldiers are much older than the guys they’re portraying. My friend of mine chronically refers to Tom Hanks as the world’s oldest Army Ranger Captain over to one thing that they did shoot that hit the cutting room floor and I’m sorry about that. But Frederick Douglass wrote a wonderful manifesto urging blacks to join the 54 It started men of color to arms, the Iron Gate of our prison stands half open, one gallons rushed from the north, well funded wide open. And for millions of our brothers and sisters shall March out into liberty, which I just did that sums up what this regiment meant to the African American population. Yeah, they find the Savior, but they’re fighting to gain a state for their race in the United States to prove that they belong, that they contribute, that this is their, their country to one of these three blacks, wrote to a black religious newspaper published in Philadelphia, and he summed up what these guys what these guys were doing. He said, if we understand the Declaration of Independence that asserts the freedom and equality of all men, we asked nothing more, give us equality, and acknowledge us as men, and we are willing to stand by the flag of our union and support The leaders of our great government until every trader shall be banished from our shore, you can see this in a manifesto for Black Lives Matter today. It’s the same impulse. It’s the same desire. Denzel Washington certainly, you know, captures the ambivalence of blacks who are oppressed in the NFL he does for the flat. So he does with his actions, expressed those values, but I would have liked to see it maybe spelled out a little bit more explicitly.
Dan LeFebvre 1:08:28
I would agree. I think that would have added to the movie a lot more, for sure. Thank you so much for coming on to chat about glory. I know you’ve published a lot of work about the 54th if someone is listening to this wants to learn more about the 54th can you share a little bit of information about your work and where someone can find it?
Gregory J.W. Urwin 1:08:46
Well, the starting point for History 54th was a book called brave black Regiment, which was written by Luis F. Emilio, who is the 18 year old Captain I mentioned he was the captain of company and he survived the war and he Which the 1991 and then publish the corrected version at 94 and 100 years later, that was republished by a firm called the Kappa press, da ca p O. And I wrote the introduction for that. So, you know, it’s still available on paperback. There are other additions about a great black regiments a good place to go. Another fine book was edited by Russell L. Duncan called Blue Eyed child of fortune. And that is a collection of Sean’s letters. These letters, ended up at Houghton library at Harvard University, and Duncan edited them and annotated down, and it’s a good way to see how Sean develops up to near the point of his death. But as they say, a number of his black soldiers, too many of them were literate. Some of their letters have been published a voice of thunder, edited by Donald yakka bone, why a co p o, n e, and those were the Letters of Georgian Stephens. It’s pretty thick books even survived the war and wrote a lot about it. He’s one guy who complained about not getting equal pay was pretty bitter about that. So you get that perspective. They weren’t all saints didn’t just live on patriotism, who does. And then another fine collection of 54th letters on the altar of freedom, edited by Virginia Adams and those are the letters of corporal James Henry good. He does not survive the war. These former, I believe, was a former Seaman, or a lot of sailors in the 54th. His testimony again, is quite informative in places quite nice. And then I added the book called Black Flag over Dixie, which deals with racial atrocities during the Civil War. So I’ll get the plug in for my own own, I will tell them they’re the first three books I mentioned. If you focused on the 54th you won’t be dissatisfied by reading.
Dan LeFebvre 1:10:54
Thank you again so much for your time.
Gregory J.W. Urwin 1:10:56
My pleasure. Thank you.