The Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer infantry Memorial Monuments are relief sculptures made of bronze; they are raised above the ground. In the Robert Gould Shaw monument, Saint-Gaudens used different men as models for the soldiers with each soldier standing out as a distinct person.
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The monument was meant to honor the bravery of Colonel Shaw and the 54th regiment. It is considered to be among the greatest public monuments (Hargrove 5).
The emancipation memorial, on the other hand, refers to the emancipation Group. The monument was sculpted by Thomas Ball. It consists of a sculptor of Lincoln standing before a rising slave whose wrist chain has been broken. It was erected in 1876 (Percoco 4).
This paper discusses the two monuments and finally points out which one shows more respect to the African Americans.
The Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer infantry Memorial historical perspective
Robert Gould Shaw was a Boston native and Union army officer. He was the privileged son of the abolitionist who devoted his life to fight for the Union. Shaw commanded the fifty fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. This was the first regiment of African American to be recruited in the North for service in the Union army.
Fredrick Douglass had urged many volunteers to enlist arguing that they (former slaves and decent Africans) would have full privileges of citizenship thereafter if they fought alongside Americans. Douglass was an escapee slave who fought for long to end the slavery. He was a famous public speaker. He encouraged African Americans to join Shaw’s 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
However, then they were mere slaves and were not organized in any formal military group. However, the arming of black soldiers still remained to be controversial even after the civil war. Shaw led the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It was the first all black regiment. Shaw wrote several letters to his relatives which contained information expounding on the regiment of the time.
Shaw died in the second battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863. Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment soldiers today are memorized through a monument on the Boston Common. 281 of the soldiers and officers from the Unit got lost, were killed or were never accounted for at the fort Wagner with countless becoming injured (Head start 61).
Description of the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer infantry Memorial
The art is a relief sculpture made of bronze measuring 11 feet by 14 feet. The Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment memorial is a monumental relief; its sculpturing begun 20 years after the end of the civil war. The task remained uncompleted for another 14 years.
The sculptor (Augustus Saint Gaudens) regarded the task as a labor of Love. The memorial is said to be commissioned by group of Bostonians as an Honor to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Augustus Saint Gaudens originally had envisioned an equestrian statue of the traditional hero on a horse back. This became objected by the Family suggesting the format of pretentious.
The design consisted of an officer riding a horse beside a company of foot soldiers marching towards their destiny. The monument is identified as one as the first American soldier monument dedicated to a group of citizens united for their country rather than a single hero (Anon 44).
Saint-Gaudens symbolized the paradoxical period where defeat gave rise to victory. The relief consists of an angle in the sky carrying the poppies which is a traditional emblem of death and remembrance with an olive branch for victory and peace. In the portrait, Shaw seems to be idealized by his rigid posture and resolute gaze.
This was according to the contemporary accounts of his bravery demeanor when he went to the fight like a sacrificial lamb. In the monument, Shaw is wearing a long jacket and boots. He is holding a sword in one hand and his horse reins on the other. Remarkably, the stoic procession of soldiers has not been portrayed as cogs in the machinery of war but rather as individuals participating in a moral crusade.
The ragged uniforms of the recruits have been disheveled differentially. The aim as put by artists was not to undermine the soldier’s gallantry but rather to honor their lengthy and dreary trudge to Charleston Harbor. The monument consists of a drum on the far right and flags on the left behind the rifles.
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The foot soldiers are wearing caps which are more wrinkled, long sleeve-shirts, shoes and pants. They are carrying canteens. On their shoulder are bed rolls and packs and rifles (Anon 44).
The artist created rhythm in the sculptor repeated the slant of leg and body lines and shapes at regular intervals across the sculpture. The riffles too create a steady rhythm in the top half of the sculpture. The only thing interrupting the steady match is the Shaw’s upright form and his horse neck.
The sense of depth in the sculpture is indicated by soldiers who stand out farther from the background in a greater relief than soldiers at the back. The overlapping of the closer form brings out sense of depth with Shaw figure being the closet to the viewers. From the sculptor, it is evident that Shaw (the man on the horse) is in command.
This is shown by the fact that he is above the other soldiers, carrying a sword and has fancy cuffs of an officer (Ballad of America 1). The sculpture is not only commissioned to commemorate Shaw but also the foot soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The monument is made of bronze.
The reason behind this could be the durability of the material and the ability to be worked on in minute detail such as thin forms like riffles and the like. More so, bronze reflects light, and it is dark and solemn. The sculptor also has a winged figure in the sky holding poppies and olive branch.
Artists analyze the situation as the winged creature to symbolize an angel. The poppies she is holding could be symbolizing death and remembrance whilst the olive branch depicting peace and victory (Anon 45).
Lincoln Emancipation Group, Heroic bronze of 1857
The monument became dedicated on April 14 in 1876. This day was declared by the Congress as a holiday. The monument is a twelve high foot statue which has been mounted on a ten-foot pedestal. It shows a benign half smiling Lincoln. He is holding the emancipation proclamation with his right hand.
His left hand is extended graciously towards the slave who is rising on his one knee. The slave’s wrist shackles are broken and his face turned upward ready to race for freedom and to accept the gift of emancipation. The statue was received warmly by most of African American. However, some disliked the kneeling posture of the freed slave and wished rather for a manly attitude (Peterson 59).
Description of Lincoln Emancipation Group, Heroic bronze of 1857
The statue was erected mainly as an attempt to bring emancipation proclamation to life through the sculpture. This provided another resonance for the document and the act itself. In the statue, Lincoln is depicted as a great emancipator. It is like he is blessing the slave who is holding a broken shackle on his right hand.
This monument has been depicted by history as the time of Lincoln’s visit in 1865 to Richmond when he moved through the chattered streets and the African American slaves got on their knees as Lincoln passed in a posture to show homage and supplication. He did not like that and would ask any slave who knelt down to rise up.
History holds that the slave figure is a model of a last African American to return to the south under the fugitive slave act, Archer Alexander. The symbolic devices used by the artists including the broken whip on the rear memorial and broken shackles depicting the broken chain and death of slavery (Percoco 4).
The Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry memorial relief sculptures are made of bronze. In the Robert Gould Shaw sculptor, Saint-Gaudens used different men as models for the soldiers with each soldier standing out as a distinct person. The monument was meant to honor the bravery of the Colonel Shaw and the 54th regiment in general. The monument took 14years to be complemented.
The Emancipation group shows the freeing of a slave and Lincoln’s great role in emancipation. Both sculptures depict the great achievements and the transformation processes.
However, as the essay depicts The Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry memorial is the one which shows more respect to the African American. I feel this is because it shows the African Americans fighting for their livelihoods and therefore freedom.
Anon. “Robert Shaw memorial, 1884-1897.” Kay Smidt, English Department, Menno Public School, 2002. Web.
Ballad of America. “Marching Song of the first of Arkansas: Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Chapter 9- Songs of the Civil war.” A ballad of America, 2003. Web.
Hargrove, Julia. Civil War’s 54th Massachusetts Regiment: The Shaw memorial. Boston, MA: Lorenz Educational Press, n.d. Print.
Head Start. “Robert Shaw Memorial, 1884-1897.” Administration for Children and families, 2006. Web.
Percoco, James. “Sculpture and public history: My summer with Lincoln.” James Percoco, 2003. Web.
Peterson, Merill. Lincoln in American Memory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University press, 1995. Print.