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(Kindle) ⚨ Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw ⚷ eBook or E-pub free

I really wanted to like this bookthan I did, especially as it is often the first recommended source for Col Robert Gould Shaw and his brave black regiment Naturally I was excited to get my hands on it However when I did get it, there were issues that I felt prevented me from fully enjoying it Like many Civil War heroes Shaw has fallen under much scrutiny by revisionist historians I agree that revisionist history has it s place but I feel that Duncan judges him overly harshly and tends to largely focus on the negative aspects of his life and personality over the positives Shaw after his death had no input when it came to his canonisation, and knowing him, he probably wouldn t have even wanted it Nevertheless his saint status in the abolitionist community and later the popularity of the film Glory, in turn caused him to receive a fair amount of bashing from revisionists It s not nearly as bad as Sherman s demonisation but there are still major problems which I feel I have to address Here for instance, Robert is portrayed as a hapless, unmotivated and self absorbed young man who never amounted to what the rest of his family became After looking at Shaw s wartime letters though, you d think that the author was talking about a different individual altogether Yes, he wasn t exactly the mould of his abolitionist parents and he was not the most passionate Unionist, preferring to cut off the South, but I don t see how him fighting just to do his duty should detract from his character The concept of duty is something that Duncan often appears to brush off without considering it s sheer importance in 19th century American society Rob obviously loved his country dearly and at the end of the day, he, with the guidance of friends and family, wanted to do what he believed was right, even if it meant his imminent demise.While Shaw s letters are of great intrigue, I had trouble coming to terms with Duncan s analogy of events In the introduction he makes a rather insulting albeit ironic statement, that Robert s sole motivation to fight boiled down to him wanting to rid America of the Southern menace so he could get on with the pleasures of living , the war barely changing this view even on his dying day If that was the case, why would he leave his beloved comrades of the 2nd Massachusetts regiment to take on such a dangerous and uncertain job which he must have known, risked unpopularity and execution if captured Why did he answer with a firm yes when asked if his regiment could lead the attack at Fort Wagner, even though he had foreseen his own death in the 54th s next big fight I don t think Robert took it on merely for his parents approval Captain Shaw had seen three battles and had proven himself mature and independent enough to seize such an opportunity In agreement with Joan Waugh, I think this factor played a huge role in his decision, as well as his support of black troops On paper Duncan makes a convincing argument, but I doubt that his mother s guilt tripping alone would have prized the battle scarred Captain Shaw away from his beloved 2nd Massachusetts regiment Rob had frequently rejected her heartfelt pleas to dedicate himselfto the abolitionist movement, I don t think he would accept command of a black regiment if he really didn t want to He also frequently disagreed with her, especially on McClellan s role in the conflict Meanwhile the blurb implies that he refused the command due to being a paternalist While Shaw did hold paternalistic views on African Americans, views not uncommon for his time and place, his refusal wasdue to the new risks at hand, as well as the prospect of leaving behind his comrades that he had faced the elephant with I think the line that he assumed the command with great reluctance is a little exaggerated too, especially as his first letter since his acceptance shows him pouring out support for black troops, arguing that those not brave or patriotic enough to fight should not place obstacles in the way of men going to fight for them.Civil War Shaw was a very different man to his unruly, overly dependent pre 1861 self Not unlike many of the young men who signed up to fight, he took this opportunity to prove his manhood As a result he gained a new sense of maturity during his life in the army, but at the same time went through a remarkable change in personality and spirit He not only cared deeply for his comrades but also, contrary to the revisionists widely held belief of the rebellious son , displayed great concern for his family s wellbeing, including that of his mother whom he had mutual respect for I m not convinced that Rob used his position in the army to pull at the strings of his female dominated family as the author claims They certainly had their disagreements as I previously mentioned but there was no hostility between mother and son If Robert truly fought solely to get back to the pleasures of living as Duncan puts it, I think he would have taken one look at the governor s offer and ran for the hills, with or without parental pressure Robert knew when he accepted his new position that there would be a high chance of him not returning alive, hence why he wanted to marry his sweetheart, Annie Haggerty so desperately.Also according to the author, he neither fully understood or dedicated himself to the cause of black emancipation, despite the fact that he put his soldiers through intense training in order to guarantee that they could fight just as well as their white counterparts, boycotted the unfair pay that emerged from Washington and practically begged the generals to let his men fight alongside white regiments, beyond guerrilla warfare and labouring, before finally dying at the top of Fort Wagner as he encouraged his men forward Although many say he was disinterested in commanding African Americans, Shaw had actually talked about the arming of black men before the 54th s formation, though like Grant, he saw them as mostly a resource before his colonelcy He even considered becoming an officer in a black regiment when so many in the Union were against such a prospect He went along quite happily with his influential friend, Morris Copeland when they tried and failed to set up such a regiment in 1862 His alleged great reluctance to accept command of the 54th was mostly due to military related matters Suddenly being asked to lead a perilous, possibly suicidal task was most likely pretty overwhelming for him, especially as months before his Colonelcy, he had narrowly escaped death at Antietam, one of the most devastating battles ever fought on American soil When he did accept he and his father worked together, retaining a business like correspondence to get the 54th on it s feet If that s not dedication I don t know what is.There is one snippet of the book where I was all but convinced that the author hates Shaw I am aware that there is one controversial letter in which Rob states that the passage of the conscription act made the raising of coloured troops less important Duncan in the footnotes makes a superficial statement that Robert never seemed to understand or never cared to understand, about putting black men in uniforms to have them spill blood in order to pave the way for citizenship and freedom Aside from portraying Shaw as a heartless villain, this point is questionable to say the least What Robert said in that letter was stupid I m not going to lie, but if he truly never understood or never cared , I highly doubt that he would have been so eager to lead the charge towards Fort Wagner to prove blacks men and to show racists across the nation that they can and will fight as any other soldier The author doesn t seem to realise that the notion of manhood was an extremely important component to black citizenship in 19th century America While he certainly had prejudices of his own, Robert knew that his task was to the challenge the racist stereotypes that black men were lazy and cowardly by demonstrating their ability to do battle, thus smashing many widespread ideas preventing African Americans from being taken seriously in society I know he wasn t the best abolitionist, but the idea that the Colonel of America s first official black regiment did not see that link at all seems absurd to me Secondly Duncan s statement is contradicted by a later letter of Shaw s A month after his arrival to Boston, he correctly predicted in a letter to his friend that the black regiments were destined to make the Proclamation of Emancipation a reality by drawing the slaves out of the plantations the author mysteriously makes no comment on this It sounds fairly similar to the words of Frederick Douglass when he called upon African Americans to fight, not only to end the war sooner but also to raise the banner of emancipation among the slaves Douglass was obviouslyinsightful on the issue but after writing this, Robert must have had at least some idea about the purpose of black troops beyond being used as a weapon.Throughout the war, Shaw believed that deploying black troops was the right thing for his country, militarily and morally With no end in sight for the war, Shaw knew that the only thing he could do was to serve his country well He took on the 54th mostly out of a masculine sense of duty However he knew it was an unpopular cause Morris Copeland had experienced this the hard way and that there were unknown dangers involved He knew that this new experiment ran a high risk of being unsuccessful due to the amount of skepticism in the North Also at this point he seemed to underestimate how well and quickly black men could adapt to military life Therefore when he first heard about the Conscription act shortly after his colonelcy he likely, at first, thought that it was the most practical, risk free solution for finally crushing the South on paper at least Like most northerners who had experienced the horror of the battlefield, social reform was not his main priority at that particular time.By the time of his voyage southwards though, he had become attached to his men and had began to respect their abilities Becomingconvinced of their success, he appeared to change his mind Shaw expressed immense gratitude for being part of a cause that could be of great benefit, not just for his country but also for the black race If the raising of black troops did just that, he vowed to thank God a thousand times for taking his share in it again for some reason, Duncan makes no comment here either These words, straight from the horse s mouth, show that he most likely did have the liberties of the black race in mind as he climbed up the parapets of Wagner Further, him initiating the pay boycott further demonstrates that he did care about the civil rights of races outside his own When he encountered overgrown plantations and empty houses on campaign his parents abolitionist side finally began to shine through He described each of them as a harbinger to the freedom of the slaves and exclaimed that every man who loved his country, even if they had no feelings for the slaves should rejoice When he encountered the slaves from the Butler plantation, he felt genuine disgust when he discovered that their family members had been sold off like cattle Sadly many revisionists tend to look over this fact and believe that his mindset remained almost entirely static throughout the war.Duncan points a finger at Shaw for making his regiment suffer for his insecurity after the burning of Darien While we can certainly criticise some of the questionable methods which he used to train his men, we have to remember that if the 54th slipped up even once, then it could have a domino effect on all the other black regiments being set up at the time From a military perspective he had a right to be worried, anyone who has read about Shiloh understands what could happen when rookies were placed in the line of fire In this case however there was the added risk of blacks being stereotyped as cowards If his troops ran, any further hopes of black men fighting at all could be stifled Shaw determined that no mistake ever fell upon the 54th again, was reversing the damage done to his regiment s image, even if he went the wrong way of going about about it.Ironically, the author often contradicts himself throughout his analysis and as I previously mentioned, is contradicted even further by Shaw s letters, who at the end of the day one has to remember, was a man of his time and lived in a society in which class and racial perceptions were different to ours today, something Duncan often appears to forget It s strange that he skims over some vital facts such as the aforementioned pay boycott, mentioned only in the footnotes Funnily enough I remember reading in other reviews that Duncan actually omitted certain letters in the original version of this book, mostly ones that didn t support his ideas including Shaw s letters protesting the pay He also doesn t mention certain significant events such as Shaw willingly sharing the exposure of the men during the regiment s stormy embarkation to Morris Island, himself guiding the last boat of his soldiers to the Hunter when he could have opted instead for a warm cabin stationed nearby Also Mr Duncan, I don t think the word gentlemanlike means what you think it means Shaw was no Saint, his prejudices and initial ignorance surrounding African Americans certainly proves that, but this book often reads as though the author just has a huge grudge against him because he didn t quite match up to Duncan s standard of heroism It is especially frustrating how Duncan at times seems to depict the abolitionist community as this perfect entity which could do no wrong In fact, white reformers were largely responsible for the feminisation of the blacks, portraying them as a fragile, childlike race rather than men and women who could fight their own battles Abolitionists were not exempt from their own stereotypes, look up Harriet Beecher Stowe s quote when she literally compared Sojourner Truth to her native palm trees The worst example of evidence skewing to suit the author s beliefs in this book, has to be the way in which Duncan describes the relationship between Shaw and Charlotte Forten, which comes off as sensationalist drivel Apparently Shaw was never comfortable with his own men, but was head over heels for this young African American woman Robert only mentions Forten briefly in his letters, yet the author automatically assumes that was a sign of his infatuation towards her despite him only recently being married and him requesting his mother to pass said letter onto Annie, something Duncan ignored While it may at first appear that Charlotte had a crush on Shaw, you have to remember that Robert s so called romantic gestures towards Charlotte would have simply been expected of him, considering the fact that he grew up in a society where chivalry was highly valued among young gentlemen By all means the two certainly appreciated each others company, but the sources so far suggest that their relationship didn t go beyond a platonic level I think Duncan liked the idea of an interracial relationship between the two, which is fine, but please save it for fan fiction and not a serious historical text, especially when there is limited evidence to back up your claims Even Glory ended up dropping the axe on such an idea.The letters however are fantastic, they are enjoyable as well as moving Robert appears to be a young man with a degree of naivety about him but at the same time, you can see how he becomes wiser andindependent as the unrelenting war drags on I think he wasconfident about his abilities than we tend to give him credit for, indeed, Joan Waugh agrees that his acceptance of the 54th s colonelcy was no abject bowing to his parents wishes Duncan seems to see the letters to his mother, the prominent and intelligent abolitionist Sarah Sturgis Shaw, as proof that Robert never escaped his mother s iron grip and implies that he was merely a puppet for her aims, even going so far as to say that the monument in Boston Common is muchrepresentative of her ambition than of his In reality it was not uncommon for soldiers in both the Union and the Confederacy to receive words of comfort from their mothers at home Robert s case was not unique, as stated by Waugh, it was custom for women on the home front to sacrifice their sons for a noble cause Any letters from home suggesting otherwise could result in desertions at the drop of a hat In other words he was noof a mummy s boy than any other young recruit in the field I don t think Sarah forced Rob into accepting the command as Duncan suggests, but rather she was enacting the role of countless American mothers at the time, the moral compass of the family as Donald Yacovone puts it.All in all get this book for the letters, you will not be disappointed, but tread carefully when reading Duncan s analysis He obviously put a lot of time and effort into putting these letters together and we should thank him for that, but his constant misunderstanding of the time period means that he fails to place the man within a proper historical context I don t understand why his view of Shaw s life is treated as gospel nowadays, unless it s due to the author s writing style, which admittedly does a good job at sucking the reader in despite being misleading at times Still, it s a shame that arguably better andcomplex theories such as Joan Waugh s are left in the dust by pop history If you want me to recommend a better summary of Shaw s character and motives, I d recommend One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchard That book certainly has some problems too but I felt when reading it that it judged Robert for the most part in the context of his time and place rather than from an overly presentist standpoint I would also suggest taking a look at Waugh sbalanced essay analysing Robert and his family in Hope and Glory Essays on the Legacy of the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts Regiment I really wanted to like this book further, I really did, but I feel that Duncan does a less than stellar job of depicting the so called reluctant hero The main problem is not Shaw himself, but rather how the voices of his men have been left out of the 54th s legacy throughout the years It could be argued that their work has been overshadowed by the achievements of their white leader The solution is not to vilify their Colonel but instead to acknowledge that it was not only Shaw who sacrificed himself for black freedom upon the South Carolina Coast but also, most importantly, his brave and devoted black soldiers. A throughly good read I remember watching the film Glory as a youngster which first got me interested in the story of Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Having read this book I am astounded at just how significant the trial of the 54th, especially the fatal charge on Fort Wagner, would impact the future for all African Americans With the South wanting to put them all back into slavery and even some sections of Northern society doubting whether they could be considered equals, including RGS initially, it was vital for the 54th to prove themselves worthy, and that they did with unwavering bravery which changed the course of American history The story of Robert Shaw himself is a tragic one, a newlywed of just a couple of months dying with his men on the approach to Fort Wagner A man committed to his family, especially his mother, and eventually eager to fulfill the goal of both his parents, who were staunch abolitionists, by making the 54th a success story Sadly he wouldn t live to see the outcome of his parents vision The change seen in Shaw from his first taking the colonelcy of the 54th to the fateful day at Wagner is astounding From initially been sceptical about Black soldiers he experiences a change in feelings as he gets to know the soldiers and starts to comprehend their way of life He goes from been a stranger in their eyes to been a leader well respected by all The sacrifice made by him and his soldiers would go on to turn the tide of the civil war and change to the course of history These letters give a good insight into the life of RGS and the making of the 54th, well worth reading if your interested in this field. What an amazingly well put together collection of the letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who led the first black contingent of soldiers, the Mass 54th , during the Civil War Excellent read. Even though it took me a very long time to read, it is an excellent book I loved the history and reading his personal accounts of things that went on during the war I personally feel he lead a very sad life which centered around the war the military. I read this book years ago, but have always thought fondly of it I first saw the movie Glory, and then saw this book and had to read it It gave a deeper understanding to Shaw and what exactly he did and it was fairly monumental For anyone interested in the Civil War, I recommend this book without hesitation. If you want to understand what the American Civil War was about, then this book gives you a very good insight You discover that the gulf between abolitionists and supporters of slavery was not as great as you might imagine What was remarkable about Shaw was how he grew as a person once in the company of his black soldiers.Soldiers know each other as people and not as topics for polite conversation or intellectual debate Shaw discovered something important about people and was willing to die for it Buried with his men on that Charleston beach was supposed to have dishonoured him, but is was probably the greatest honour he could have been awarded.Shaw s letters are so important because they are ordinary Had he led a white regiment they would be unremarkable Because he led the 54th he changed and he grew and his letters record this.A must read for everyone. A fascinating look at the letters of Robert Gould Shaw This is particularly interesting as it spendstime during the almost two years Shaw spent with the 7th NY Militia and 2nd Mass Vol Inf, rather than the admittedlysignificant six months he spent with the 54th Mass Vol Inf A solid read for the American Civil War buff. I read this mostly because I knew it was one of the sources for the film Glory The colonel s letters were only so so overall However, Civil War enthusiasts may find the bookinteresting than I did. (Kindle) Þ Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Ü On The Boston Common Stands One Of The Great Civil War Memorials, A Magnificent Bronze Sculpture By Augustus Saint Gaudens It Depicts The Black Soldiers Of The Fifty Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Marching Alongside Their Young White Commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw When The Philosopher William James Dedicated The Memorial In May , He Stirred The Assembled Crowd With These Words There They March, Warm Blooded Champions Of A Better Day For Man There On Horseback Among Them, In The Very Habit As He Lived, Sits The Blue Eyed Child Of Fortune In This Book Shaw Speaks For Himself With Equal Eloquence Through Nearly Two Hundred Letters He Wrote To His Family And Friends During The Civil War The Portrait That Emerges Is Of A Man Divided And Complex Though No Less Heroic Than The Shaw Depicted In The Celebrated Film Glory The Pampered Son Of Wealthy Boston Abolitionists, Shaw Was No Abolitionist Himself, But He Was Among The First Patriots To Respond To Lincoln S Call For Troops After The Attack On Fort Sumter After Cedar Mountain And Antietam, Shaw Knew The Carnage Of War Firsthand Describing Nightfall On The Antietam Battlefield, He Wrote, The Crickets Chirped, And The Frogs Croaked, Just As If Nothing Unusual Had Happened All Day Long, And Presently The Stars Came Out Bright, And We Lay Down Among The Dead, And Slept Soundly Until Daylight There Were Twenty Dead Bodies Within A Rod Of Me When Federal War Aims Shifted From An Emphasis On Restoring The Union To The Higher Goal Of Emancipation For Four Million Slaves, Shaw S Mother Pressured Her Son Into Accepting The Command Of The North S Vanguard Black Regiment, The Fifty Fourth Massachusetts A Paternalist Who Never Fully Reconciled His Own Prejudices About Black Inferiority, Shaw Assumed The Command With Great Reluctance Yet, As He Trained His Recruits In Readville, Massachusetts, During The Early Months Of , He Came To Respect Their Pluck And Dedication There Is Not The Least Doubt, He Wrote His Mother, That We Shall Leave The State, With As Good A Regiment, As Any That Has Marched Despite Such Expressions Of Confidence, Shaw In Fact Continued To Worry About How Well His Troops Would Perform Under Fire The Ultimate Test Came In South Carolina In July , When The Fifty Fourth Led A Brave But Ill Fated Charge On Fort Wagner, At The Approach To Charleston Harbor As Shaw Waved His Sword And Urged His Men Forward, An Enemy Bullet Felled Him On The Fort S Parapet A Few Hours Later The Confederates Dumped His Body Into A Mass Grave With The Bodies Of Twenty Of His Men Although The Assault Was A Failure From A Military Standpoint, It Proved The Proposition To Which Shaw Had Reluctantly Dedicated Himself When He Took Command Of The Fifty Fourth That Black Soldiers Could Indeed Be Fighting Men By Year S End, Sixty New Black Regiments Were Being OrganizedA Previous Selection Of Shaw S Correspondence Was Privately Published By His Family InFor This Volume, Russell Duncan Has Restored Many Passages Omitted From The Earlier Edition And Has Provided Detailed Explanatory Notes To The Letters In Addition He Has Written A Lengthy Biographical Essay That Places The Young Colonel And His Regiment In Historical Context The letters to his family and friends are very sweet You really get into his thoughts about the boredom, confusion, and stress associated with his post It s also rewarding to witness his growth as a human being through his letters.