Yesterday, July 18th, was the 156th anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, where the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry (Colored) made its spectacular but tragic charge and cemented its place in history. The story of the 54th is kinda-sorta told in the movie Glory, which came out thirty years ago and is still one of my favorite movies of all time.
Imagine, if you will, a little boy whose family was from Massachusetts, who read a book about the Civil War and learned about a brave unit, also from Massachusetts, that suffered some 44% casualties in its first major battle. The accompanying artwork was something that has stayed in my memory ever since.
So you can imagine my excitement when they actually made a movie about the 54th. The movie is far from perfect, both from a historian’s perspective and from a moviemaker’s perspective, but still, it is just a superb film and I love it. And the fact that they show how Colonel Shaw and his men were buried just makes the ending so powerful. The Confederates reported that they buried some 800 dead bodies in front of Fort Wagner that day, July 19th, 1863. They had intended to disrespect Colonel Shaw by burying him with his soldiers. But his parents, when asked if they wanted to try to recover his body, said that they could imagine no better place for him to be buried than with the men of his regiment.
Around the same time our “Stable Genius” leader was tweeting about the size of his “nuclear button” like he was a high school freshman, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they are going to hold a session on January 16th about teaching federal, state, and local first responders how to “prepare for a nuclear detonation”. Both Guam and Hawaii have been more focused on nuclear threats in recent weeks and months, as both places are likely within the range of ballistic missiles from North Korea.
And we are not alone. Our fellow Bostonians have spontaneously created a memorial to him in the Public Garden, on and around the bench where he sat during one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie Good Will Hunting.
Any of you people reading this blog, please go read this magnificent commentary in the Daily Beast by Arthur Chu (a fellow geek and historian famous for his Jeopardy appearances). It says so much that I could not possibly put into words myself, especially touching on the horrible event on that college campus in California and some of the strikingly awful responses to it generated by people who are overwhelmingly white, male, and angry, not to mention misogynistic on a scale that is literally hard for me to even comprehend.
If you are a nerd, and especially if you are a male nerd, you really must read it.
Kelly and I were working at a craft fair trying to sell some of her jewelry and the weather was just gorgeous. In the morning it was a bit low so I walked to a little neighborhood market to get a bite to eat for us. While there the nearby railroad crossing started flashing and dinging as a train approached the crossing. So I walked over to take a look.