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Matthew Broderick was a Civil War hero, and Denzel Washington missed out on his Medal of Honor. Come read about the fighting men of Massachusetts in all their Glory.
On this day in 1863, Robert Gould Shaw, better known to you as Matthew Broderick in the movie Glory, departed his home state as the commanding officer of the first all-black regiment in the Civil War - the 54th Massachusetts.
Shaw was born into a prominent abolitionist family who received a large inheritance from the grandfather Shaw was named after. The family moved around a bit, even shipping Robert off to Europe for some education, then bringing him back to attend Harvard. During this time, the fire of racial equality began to ignite in the young man.
When the war broke out, Shaw became a commissioned officer and fought in a few battles, the only one you ever heard of (Antietam), so don't worry about it; obviously, he wasn't killed or captured.
By January 1863, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew wanted to enlist freed black men into the commonwealth’s militia. He took a trip down to DC to meet with War Secretary Stanton, who backed the idea and thus began the recruitment of black soldiers.
Andrew recruited Shaw, who initially demurred the opportunity, then ultimately accepted it, most likely for dramatic effect since he was secretly Matthew Broderick.
Equal Pay for Equal Death
Taking command in February, we see the beginning of building the relationship between Shaw and his men, who were recruited from all over the north. Andrew had promised equal pay, then failed to deliver. Sensing a moment that would play well on any movie screen, Shaw commanded his unit not to train until they, too, received equal pay.
Stalemated on the issue, the 54th took no pay and shipped right on down to good ole South Carolina to fight those rebels on their own turf.
Give ‘em Hell 54th!
Shaw always wanted his regiment to be on the front lines of battles, and Fort Wagner, heavily defended by southern goobers, was his chance for a dramatic ending. No doubt this scene played out exactly as was depicted in the move, where Shaw led his men to the beach that fateful July day, onward to certain victory.
Unfortunately, Shaw didn’t read the entire script because he was killed.
However, Denzel Washington grabbed the flag and should have received a medal of honor if his character was William Harvey Carney, who survived the battle.
Instead, Washington played a character named Trip, who did not.
The 54th was an inspiration to expedite recruiting of black men across the country that helped turn the tide of the war. Remember, in 1863, the UNITED States went on a victory parade up and down the Mississippi River while pushing back Lee at a small farm town in central Pennsylvania over the Fourth of July holiday.
If you haven’t seen Glory, my question is, why not? It’s Memorial Day weekend; pull it up and remember the service Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, The Princess Bride guy, oh, Morgan Freeman, that dude from Homicide who played the gay lieutenant in Brooklyn 99 and the lady from Kramer vs. Kramer, did for our country and kept us free. It’s awesome. This scene is fantastic.
What’s your favorite Glory scene? Who else do you think could pull off Shaw on screen?
An earlier version of this post claimed Shaw fought in battles you had never heard of. A real historian read this and pointed out Shaw fought at Antietam.
The same historian noted that equal pay was not finalized until 1864, and instead the 54th fought without taking a salary. The post has been updated.