Memoriae Positum

Monday, January 19, AD 2015

(Reposted from 2013.)

 He leads for aye the advance,

 Hope’s forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good

For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood;

James Russell Lowell

Memoriae Positum, memory laid down.  The Latin phrase is a good short hand description of  what History accomplishes.  In 1864 the poet James Russell Lowell wrote a poem entitled Memoriae Positum in tribute to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who died heroically at age 25  leading the unsuccessful assault of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first black Union regiments, on the Confederate stronghold of Fort Wagner at Charleston, South Carolina on July 18th, 1863.  The poem predicts that Shaw’s memory will live forever and feels sorrow only for those, unlike Shaw, who are unwilling or unable to risk all for their beliefs.  It is a poem completely out of step with the predominant sentiments of our day which seem to value physical survival and enjoyment above everything else.  Here is the text of the poem:

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4 Responses to Memoriae Positum

  • I re-watched that movie Glory last night. I lack the bravery of those men who knew that on the day of battle against that fort by the ocean, they would surely die and yet they would have it no other way.

  • Paul Primavera. We have Glory in our small inventory of movies. The scene you mention brings the soul to weep.
    The movie portrayal is something to behold however Mr. McClarey might be able to define fact from Hollywood.

    The first wave, the 54th assault on the Fort, seemed to pierce the defenses and I pondered the timing of subsequent waves. It seemed that if the second assault was on the heels of the 54th that possibility a victory could of transpired.

    This is ONLY from viewing the movie, however it has crossed my mind.
    Could you or Mr. McClarey give a historical reason why this didn’t happen, or if it did happen why the advance was unsuccessful.

    I will not be disappointed if you ask me to research this inquiry, as I do appreciate your expense in time and money for your education, however the Civil War history is definitely a passion of Mr. McClarey’s, and I hope it’s not insulting to either of you for my question.

  • Philip, the post below has an account by a New York Times correspondent who was present for the assault:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2013/07/18/july-18-1863-assault-on-fort-wagner/

  • Thank you for the courtesy. The eye witness report was quite detailed.
    What a sacrifice. I appreciate the link Mr. McClarey.

July 18, 1863: Assault on Fort Wagner

Thursday, July 18, AD 2013

We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers….We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!

Response of the parents of Colonel Robert Shaw as to whether they wished to have his body exhumed and brought back to Boston.

The 150th anniversary of the second assault on Fort Wagner, the Confederate fort on Morris Island, guarding entry into Charleston Harbor, made immortal by the film Glory (1989) depicting the attack of the 54th Massachusetts.  The 54th sustained the following casualties out of 600 men:  29 killed, including the commander of the regiment, 25 year old Colonel Robert Shaw, 15 captured, 52 missing in action and 149 wounded.  The white regiments that participated in the attack also sustained heavy losses.  A total of 1515 Union casualties against approximately 174 Confederate casualties.   Ironically Fort Wagner would be abandoned by the Confederates in September, it being too difficult to keep the Fort supplied in the teeth of a continual Union bombardment, and the water supply in the Fort being contaminated by the number of corpses in the soil surrounding the fort from the two unsuccessful assaults.

The courage shown by the men of the 54th put the lie to the fairly common belief, completely at variance with history, that black men could not make good soldiers.  The 54th would go on to fight in several more battles during the course of the war.

Sergeant William Carney of the 54th earned a Medal of Honor in the assault.  Despite being wounded several times he placed the national flag on the parapet of Fort Wagner, and when the 54th retreated he brought back the flag in spite of being wounded twice more.  He told the men he gave the flag to:  “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!”

A correspondent for the Tribune was present for the assault:

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Memoriae Positum

Thursday, July 18, AD 2013

(Reposted from 2012.)

 He leads for aye the advance,

 Hope’s forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good

For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood;

James Russell Lowell

Memoriae Positum, memory laid down.  The Latin phrase is a good short hand description of  what History accomplishes.  In 1864 the poet James Russell Lowell wrote a poem entitled Memoriae Positum in tribute to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who died heroically at age 25  leading the unsuccessful assault of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first black Union regiments, on the Confederate stronghold of Fort Wagner at Charleston, South Carolina on July 18th, 1863.  The poem predicts that Shaw’s memory will live forever and feels sorrow only for those, unlike Shaw, who are unwilling or unable to risk all for their beliefs.  It is a poem completely out of step with the predominant sentiments of our day which seem to value physical survival and enjoyment above everything else.  Here is the text of the poem:

Continue reading...

One Response to Memoriae Positum

July 11, 1863: First Assault on Fort Wagner

Thursday, July 11, AD 2013

The longest siege in the Civil War was that of Charleston, South Carolina. 567 days the city was besieged by Union naval and land forces, only being taken by Sherman’s troops after the evacuation of the city on February 15, 1865 by the Confederate Army.

The siege began in July of 1863.  Union troops landed on Morris, Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, their goal to take Fort Wagner.

Fort Wagner

Brigadier General George C. Strong, portrayed in the video clip at the beginning of this post, was in command of the Union brigade of troops that landed on Morris, Island.  He attempted to take Fort Wagner on July 11, 1863, only to have his attack bloodily repulsed, sustaining 339 casualties to only 12 for the Confederates.  He would try again on July 18, an attack made famous due to the participation of the 54th Massachusetts.

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June 11, 1863: Raid on Darien, Georgia

Tuesday, June 11, AD 2013

The video clip above from the movie Glory depicts the raid on Darien, Georgia.  Commanded by an old Jayhawker, Colonel James Montgomery, the commander of the 2nd South Carolina, go here to read about him, with the participation of the 54th Massachusetts, the raid degenerated into the looting and burning of Darien, much to the disgust of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the 54th.  Here is letter to his newly wed wife in which he details his opinion of the raid:

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9 Responses to June 11, 1863: Raid on Darien, Georgia

  • Do you know of any familial relationship between the Gould Family (apparently originally from Massachusetts) that owned the plantation and Robert Gould Shaw? I would think that the Gould name, especially from Massachusetts, could not be so diverse as to have no connection between the two.

  • I have come across no connection Jonathan, although that does no mean that one did not exist.

  • Some quick research:

    Robert Gould Shaw (1776 – 1853), the father of Quincy Adams Shaw, himself the uncle of Robert Gould Shaw (1837 – 1863), the commander in question. RGS (1776) was a moneyed landowner, born in 1776 in Gouldsboro, Maine, a town established when settlement land was given to “Colonel Nathan Jones, Francis Shaw and Robert Gould in 1764”, per a town history website.

    James Gould (b. 1772) came to Georgia from Massachusetts sometime before 1807 to cut timber for the U.S. Navy, convinced the federal gov. that a lighthouse was necessary, and received a federal contract to build a lighthouse on St. Simon’s Island in 1807. He purchased land and built a plantation. His descendents apparently still live in the area. His father, according to “Findagrave” was born in Yorkshire, England at an unspecified date, but died in 1788 in Massachusetts.

    As far as I can tell, any common ancestry of these two is remote.

  • Concomitantly (the military acts known as the Gettysbburg Camaign), Gen’l Lee issued General Order No. 72, which prohibited plundering private property and specified rules for requisitioning supplies; to be paid for with Confederate currency or vouchers.

  • Lee was a gentleman, and followed the example of his kinsman by marriage, George Washington. Would that some (most?) of his adversaries had shared his finer qualities.

  • And before that last comment is taken as a slur against our Yankee brethren (as opposed to certain pillagers and burners and, in my estimation, war criminals among the Yankee command), I believe it safe to say that few men in the history of this Nation – if any – share Robert E. Lee’s finer qualities.

  • If I recall, there’s a stirring moment in “The Guns of the South” by Harry Turtledove where Lincoln is being removed from the White House and treated roughly, and the soldiers doing so are strongly rebuked by Lee.

  • “The reasons he gave me for destroying Darien were, that the Southerners must be made to feel that this was a real war, and that they were to be swept away by the hand of God, like the Jews of old. In theory it may seem all right to some, but when it comes to being made the instrument of the Lord’s vengeance, I myself don’t like it.”

    It’s one thing to believe that the war itself might be an instrument of God’s judgment (Lincoln himself thought so as stated in his Second Inaugural Address); it’s quite another to believe that it is YOUR personal calling or duty to inflict that judgment. The latter type of conviction is, IMO, a sure sign that it is NOT God or the Holy Spirit who is inspiring you.

  • To read what the slaves thought of their master is a chilling example of how slavery crushes the human spirit. To have someone take away your children and then speak of them with such affection is to be hardly above the level of a dog: a dog that licks the hand of the man that kicks it. It is instances like these, more than the seeing the images of scarred backs or shackled wrists, that make me think of Lincoln’s second inaugural address and the fact that God was exceedingly merciful in ending the civil war after only some 600,000 dead. It is the sad truth that the slavery culture still exists in the black community. Blacks still speak with the greatest affection for those who take away their children and destroy their families. Only now “massa Butler” has been replaced with “Democratic Party”.

September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

Saturday, September 22, AD 2012

Something for the weekend.  Give us a Flag, the unofficial anthem of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, written by a private serving in the 54th Massachusetts.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the notice by Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation, to take effect on January 1, 1863, Lincoln doing so after the Union victory at Antietam on September 17, 1862.  Reaction was, to say the least, mixed.  In the North the abolitionists were enraptured.  Most Northern opinion was favorable, although there was a substantial minority, embodied almost entirely in the Democrat party, that completely opposed this move.  Opinion in the Border States was resoundingly negative.  In the Confederacy the Confederate government denounced the proposed Emancipation Proclamation as a call for a race war.  Today, almost all Americans view the Emancipation Proclamation as a long overdue ending of slavery.  At the time it was very much a step into the unknown, and the consequences impossible to determine.  Lincoln had converted the War for the Union into a War for the Union and against Slavery.  It remained to be seen as to whether the War, whatever its objectives, could be won.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation:

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7 Responses to September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

  • Replace “slave” with “Catholic taxpayer”, “religious believer” and “Catholic Church” and teach respect for freedom.

  • Reaction to the proclamation remains mixed even today, because from a practical, on the ground standpoint, it didn’t free ANY slaves, at least not immediately. It didn’t apply to border slave states still loyal to the Union, nor (in its final form) to Union-occupied areas of the Confederate states. The only areas that it applied to were areas where it wasn’t going to be enforced immediately. Some abolitionists were disappointed in it for that reason. It was a carefully crafted political move — but still a brilliant one. Also, what happened to the part about compensating slave owners who remained loyal to the Union?

  • Lincoln tried for compensated emancipation throughout the War in loyal slave states like Delaware and Kentucky and in offers to the Confederates in exchange for peace and Union. The slaveholders were never interested. By the end of the War slavery was dead, and after all the blood and treasure expended to accomplish that feat, Congress was in no mood to give to slaveowners what they had rejected during the war.

    Lincoln limited the Emancipation Proclamation to areas under Confederate control for several reasons. First, he believed he had no authority to abolish slavery except as a war measure. That is why he successfully pushed for the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery. Second, he did not wish to alienate the loyal slave states.

    In regard to the Emancipation Proclamation it gave Union military commanders in Confederate areas the authority to abolish slavery, something a few of them had already attempted. Wherever the Union armies established control slavery ended. The Confederates understood this, which is why they reacted with such outrage to the Proclamation,

  • It was another in a string of unconstitutional acts by Lincoln. Just because we might like the object of the abuse of power does not make the abuse of power legitimate.

    And yes of course it was an entirely cynical ploy by Lincoln to buttress up flagging support for the war by throwing a moral patina on the business that “preserving the glorious union” did not have.

    Lincoln’s person view was expressed early on when he verified that the war was not about slavery and that he would use that issue only insofar as it would aid in his effort forcibly to unite the country, but that he had no interest in slavery per se as a war aim. After Antietam, to buck up failing domestic support and to ensure non-intervention by European powers, he made the calculated decision that he could indeed use the issue of slavery to advance what he considered the only aim of the war–reunion.

  • Wrong on all points Tom:
    “It was another in a string of unconstitutional acts by Lincoln”

    1. There is nothing unconstitutional about confiscating property in war time that is being used to support the enemy war effort. Slave labor was crucial for the Confederacy. The Confederates contended that slaves were property. Lincoln took them at their word and freed their “property”.

    “to buttress up flagging support for the war by throwing a moral patina on the business that “preserving the glorious union” did not have.”
    2. Incorrect Tom. Support for war for the Union was almost universal in the North except among Copperheads. In the border states it commanded at least 50% support. In the Confederacy support for war for the Union was quite popular in certain regions, especially West Virginia and East Tennessee. Lincoln was taking a big gamble in adding the war aim of the abolition of slavery.

    “Lincoln’s person view was expressed early on when he verified that the war was not about slavery and that he would use that issue only insofar as it would aid in his effort forcibly to unite the country, but that he had no interest in slavery per se as a war aim.”

    Lincoln’s personal view was always that slavery must be abolished. He separated that from his prime duty as President which was to uphold the Union. He expressed this well in his letter to Horace Greeley:

    “Washington, August 22, 1862.

    Hon. Horace Greeley:
    Dear Sir.

    I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

    As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

    I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

    I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

    Yours,
    A. Lincoln.”

    Of course at the time that he wrote this Lincoln knew that he was going to Emancipate the slaves and was using this letter skillfully to help butress his argument that the abolition of slavery was necessary for the preservation of the Union

  • Oh, and this is also the 150th anniversary of that *other* unconstitutional act, suspension of habeas corpus, which Lincoln also perpetrated.

    Don, I know you love your fellow Illinois-an, but really. The Constitution is a document which gives the president only limited, *expressed* authority. Declaring the property of every owner in many states to be confiscated, whether or not that property is involved in war, is not a power granted to the president.

    Really, it’s very simple: if the constitution does not *expressly* grant the president a power, he does not have it. No constitutional provision permits the president to declare the property of people forfeited, particularly without any kind of due process.

  • “Oh, and this is also the 150th anniversary of that *other* unconstitutional act, suspension of habeas corpus, which Lincoln also perpetrated.”

    And the suspension of habeus corpus was reaffirmed by Congress when it met in December of 1862. The Constitution clearly allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in the event of invasion or rebellion. I would note that Jefferson Davis also suspended habeas corpus and declared martial law.

    Confiscation of property used against the United States in war time has been upheld time and again by the US Supreme Court. Congress ratified the action of the President by legislation and the country ratified the action of the President by approving the Thirteenth Amendment.

Memoriae Positum

Sunday, March 11, AD 2012

He leads for aye the advance,

Hope’s forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good

For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood;

James Russell Lowell

Memoriae Positum, memory laid down.  The Latin phrase is a good short hand description of  what History accomplishes.  In 1864 the poet James Russell Lowell wrote a poem entitled Memoriae Positum in tribute to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who died heroically at age 25  leading the unsuccessful assault of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first black Union regiments, on the Confederate stronghold of Fort Wagner at Charleston, South Carolina on July 18th, 1863.  The poem predicts that Shaw’s memory will live forever and feels sorrow only for those, unlike Shaw, who are unwilling or unable to risk all for their beliefs.  It is a poem completely out of step with the pre-dominant sentiments of our day which seem to value physical survival and enjoyment above everything else.  Here is the text of the poem:

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Memoriae Positum

  • Good post. We owe men like Shaw a debt we can hardly understand, much less repay. Ideals higher than one’s personal appetite are foreign to many modern minds. I had a discussion recently about how different the characters from the movies “Casa Blanca” and “The English Patient” placed their personal passions in relation to the sacrifice required for higher ideals. Worth pointing out.

  • Lisa couldn’t have said, God Bless you, to Rick if she didn’t get on the plane.
    Both the Hunters of Kentucky standing up with Jackson for New Orleans and the determination to help free fellow man seen in Shaw’s 54th are reminders of what noble means – from history and art as opposed to from deeds forming the history of 2012.
    Hoping for some as yet unknowns, probably never to be known in the same way, to stand in the unnamed war with present day evil. The field is open to us all.

Theme From Glory

Saturday, January 14, AD 2012

Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.

                                                               Frederick Douglass

Something for the weekend.  The theme from the movie Glory (1989), which tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first black regiments raised by the Union in the Civil War;   a superb historical film and a long overdue salute to the black Union troops who helped preserve this nation.

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