Robert Gould Shaw of the Massachusetts 54th regiment fits my definition of a hero. Colonel Shaw showed great courage during the Civil War and did not fear criticism. As portrayed in the movie "Glory," Shaw stands out as a legendary hero.
Shaw was born into a wealthy family in Boston, Massachusetts. He joined the army to help preserve the Union and secure the freedom of African-Americans. Shaw did not have to join the Army but, because of his patriotism, did what he felt was right. He was made captain of a Union army regiment because of his family's popularity. Soon after he joined the army, he was wounded in the battle of Antietam. He was then sent home to Boston.
Shortly after, he had a discussion with the governor of Massachusetts and Frederick Douglas about the creation of an African-American regiment that would fight for the Union. The governor and Frederick Douglas requested that Shaw take the position of colonel in this new regiment. Shaw, aware of the consequences, including possible execution by the Confederates if captured, took the position.
News spread of the regiment and Colonel Shaw, as a white officer, was criticized by both North and South. Shaw took the criticism well; he felt it was his duty to prepare his men for battle. His regiment was treated poorly, receiving few supplies and little pay. Shaw became angry at how his men were treated because of the color of their skin and he fought to receive supplies from the Union. The next issue was obtaining an order to participate in battle. Shaw was told his men were only to be used for manual labor and would never see battle. But Shaw and his men did see battle.
Colonel Shaw's 54th regiment fought savagely and won their first battle against the Confederacy. The regiment wasn't even recognized in the newspaper. Nevertheless, Shaw was proud and requested his regiment be the first to open fire on the Confederacy at Fort Wagner. There, the 54th fought with courage and Shaw died. The Confederacy buried him without clothing alongside his African-American soldiers to show their lack of respect.
Despite criticism from his peers, Shaw trusted his instincts in leading the first African-American regiment in the Civil War. Robert Gould Shaw is a hero, in all respects. Q
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.