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

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”.

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.