Saturday, November 30, 2013


In anticipation of the upcoming review of "Glory", here is the "History or Hollywood" quiz.

1.    Robert Gould Shaw was the son of upper class Massachusetts abolitionists. 

2.    Shaw was wounded leading a charge at the Battle of Antietam. 

3.    The Governor of Massachusetts offered command of the 54th to Shaw at an upper crust get-together. 

4.    The unit included runaway slaves. 

5.    The Confederate government issued a proclamation threatening to enslave any black soldier captured in a Yankee uniform and execute any of their white officers. 
6.     The unit refused to accept its pay to protest it being less than what white soldiers were paid. 

7.    After training, the 54th had a parade through Boston. 
8.    The 54th was sent to occupied South Carolina where its first action was the sacking of Darien, Ga. 

9.    Their first battle was at James Island against Confederate cavalry and then infantry. 

10. Shaw volunteered for the assault on Fort Wagner and Thomas volunteered to pick up the flag should it fall.  
11. The 54th charged along the shoreline, took refuge in the dunes, and then continued the charge after dark. 

12. Shaw was killed climbing the rampart. 
13. Shaw’s second in command led a small group into the interior of the fort. 

14. Shaw was buried with his men. 
2.    HISTYWOOD  Shaw’s unit saw little action in the battle and he participated in no charge.  He was wounded in the neck by a spent ball. 
3.    HOLLYWOOD  Gov. Andrew offered the command through a letter delivered by Shaw’s father while he was in camp.  Shaw refused at first and then reconsidered over night.  The movie accurately portrays the role of Frederick Douglass in encouraging the experiment.
4.    HOLLYWOOD  The unit was recruited from freed blacks so it is highly unlikely a Trip type of individual would have been in it.
5.    HISTORY  There was such a proclamation.  Threats of Northern reprisals kept the proclamation from being carried out.
6.     HISTYWOOD  True, except that Shaw initiated the protest instead of jumping on board.
7.     HISTORY  The parade was witnessed by Gov. Andrew, the Shaws, Douglass, and John Greenleaf Whittier.
8.     HISTORY  The raid was accurately portrayed with Col. Montgomery ordering his contraband troops and Shaw’s men to ransack the village and set it afire.  The 54th did reluctantly participate.  Montgomery was a sincere abolitionist who believed the secessionists needed to be punished.
9.     HISTYWOOD  The 54th did not initiate the action.  It was a rearguard action to rescue a white unit that was retreating.  They did fight well.
10. HISTYWOOD  Gen. Strong asked Shaw to lead the attack and then asked who would pick up the flag.  Shaw volunteered to carry the flag.
11. HISTYWOOD  The environment is authentic and the fort is well re-created, but the attack started after dusk and was not interrupted.  The fort was surrounded by a moat with stakes in it.
12. HISTYWOOD  Shaw was actually shot on the parapet and fell into the fort.  Several of his men went in after the body and died with him.  The flag was planted on the rampart by a William Carney who survived the battle with several wounds and managed to get the flag back to camp.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor (37 years later).
13. HOLLYWOOD  None of the unit got that far.  Shaw’s exec was a Norwood Hallowell.  He was wounded in the groin before reaching the crest.  Forbes was not based on him.  In fact, only Shaw is based on an actual member of the unit.
14. HISTORY  This was done to dishonor him.  His parents refused the chance to reinter his body after the war.


  1. Thanks. A lot of effort went into it, but the movie deserved it.

  2. I'm surprised it's not heaver on the history.
    Still love that movie.

    1. Agree. It is one of my favorites, too.

  3. Thanks for this factual comparison. I agree that it's a great movie and one of the reasons why is its generally accurate presentation of a historical event worthy of remembrance. If anything I wish that they had hewed even closer to the history, only departing from from it in cases like #9 where providing full historical context might take too much time or might confuse the audience.


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