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Robert Gould Shaw

Soldier / Civil War Figure

Born: 10 October 1837
Died: 18 July 1863 (killed in battle)
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Best known as: Civil War leader of the African-American 54th Massachusetts Infantry
Robert Gould Shaw was just 25 years old when he was killed leading a regiment of black soldiers into battle during the American Civil War. Shaw was born into a wealthy Boston family and attended Harvard University before enlisting in the U.S. Army early in the Civil War. After distinguishing himself in battle, Shaw was picked to lead the 54th Massachusetts, a regiment of black soldiers raised following Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. (Orator Frederick Douglass was instrumental in helping to form the 54th Massachusetts, and his own sons Lewis and Charles joined the regiment.) Shaw was made a colonel at age 25 and given command of the 54th in February 1863. Five month later he and many of his men were killed while storming Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina.
Extra credit: The story of the 54th Massachusetts was made into a 1989 movie, Glory, starring actor Matthew Broderick as Shaw.

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