Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site will host a July 18-Sept. 9 exhibit about Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It marks the 150th anniversary of the July 18, 1863, Battle of Fort Wagner.
Federal forces led by the black regiment attacked the Confederate-held fort on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor. Shaw was killed leading his men and was buried with them outside the fort. The movie “Glory” made the attack, Shaw and the 54th famous.
The Cornish site preserves the home, studio and gardens of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He created the bronze relief Shaw Memorial that stands on Boston Common across from the Massachusetts State House. A full-size replica of the 11 by 14 foot memorial and other works are on display at the estate.
A formal exhibit opening and consecration of the monument will be held on July 20 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., with a talk by curator Henry J. Duffy at 5.
The exhibit will focus on the 54th and the Battle of Fort Wagner and the Shaw Memorial. Maps, photos and memorabilia will include a Requa volley gun reported to have been used at Fort Wagner, an Enfield rifle, saber, and drum used by the New Hampshire 3rd Regiment.
The Shaw Memorial section of the exhibit will include preliminary studies and other material that will trace the memorial’s making.
A memorial honoring Shaw and his regiment was proposed for Boston, Shaw’s hometown, in 1865. Saint-Gaudens received the commission in 1883, then took 14 years to complete it.
The memorial features Shaw in the foreground on horseback with saber drawn and the black soldiers marching as they left the city on May 28, 1863. Thirty-four stars represent the states in the Union in 1863.
The memorial was unveiled on May 31, 1897. Sixty-five veterans of the 54th led the military parade. Sgt. William H. Carney of the 54th, the first black to receive the Medal of Honor, carried the American flag.
As the memorial was unveiled, a 17-gun salute was fired by artillery on the Common and three warships in Boston Harbor fired a 21-gun salute.
On Aug. 10 reenactors from the 54th Massachusetts will be at the site for a day of commemoration of the regiment and Shaw Memorial and other activities from 11-4. Yale Professor of American History David Blight will speak.
The site is open daily 9:30-4:30. Information is available at (603) 675-2175, Henry_duffy@nps.gov or www.nps.gov/saga