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A white man in military uniform rides a horse in front of a regiment of five rows of Black troops in this sculpture, which is painted entirely in gold. The artist created a shallow, stage-like space with an arched top so the men are sculpted in three dimensions, though they become more compressed as they move back in space. The men and horse face our right in profile in this view. The man on the horse has a pointed, straight nose and a goatee. He wears a cap with a flat top and narrow brim, a knee-length coat, gloves, and knee-high boots with spurs. He holds a thin sword down by the side of the horse with his right hand and holds the reins of the horse with his left. The horse’s head is pulled upwards by the short reins and its mouth is open around the bit. About twenty soldiers are lined up in rows beyond the horse, and they march in unison. They carry blankets rolled atop knapsacks, canteens, and rifles resting on their right shoulders. However, the details of how their uniforms bunch up around their equipment and the way their caps have been molded and fit is unique to each person. Their ages also vary from young, cleanshaven individuals to bearded older men. Two men carry furled flags near the back, to our left, and a drummer boy plays at the head of the regiment, to our right. All the men look straight ahead, their lips closed. A female figure in a billowing robe floats above them under the arched top with her eyes closed. Her left arm is outstretched and she holds a laurel branch and poppies close to her body with her right arm. An inscription in the upper right corner is created with raised capital letters: “OMNIA RELINQVIT SERVARE REMPVBLICAM.” A longer inscription is carved into the base along the bottom edge of the memorial, also in all caps: “ROBERT GOVLD SHAW KILLED WHILE LEADING THE ASSVLT ON FORT WAGNER JVLY TWENTY THIRD EIGHTEEN HVNDRED AND SIXTY THREE.” The artist’s signature is inscribed In the lower right corner, in smaller letters: “AVGVTVS SAINT GAVDEN M-D-C-C-C-L X X X X V I I I.”

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial, 1900, patinated plaster, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire, X.15233

In Depth: “Shaw Memorial” by Augustus Saint-Gaudens

In honor of African American History Month

  • Thursday, February 20, 2020
  • 1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • West Building, Main Floor - Rotunda

This monumental sculpture commemorates the valiant efforts of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts—the first Civil War regiment of African Americans enlisted in the North. Overnight, they became legendary. Over time their valor would inspire many tributes in poetry, music, and the visual arts. This talk tells the story of their bravery under fire and their determination to fight for emancipation and full citizenship.

Julie Springer, lecturer