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Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune


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About the Author

Robert Gould Shaw (Author)
ROBERT GOULD SHAW (1837-1863) commanded the first all-black regiment (54th Massachusetts) in the Northeast during the Civil War. He was killed at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, near Charleston, South Carolina. Russell Duncan (Editor)
RUSSELL DUNCAN is a professor of history in the English Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the author of several books, including First Person Past: American Autobiographies, Freedom's Shore: Tunis Campbell and the Georgia Freedmen (Georgia), and Entrepreneur for Equality: Governor Rufus Bullock, Commerce, and Race in Post-Civil War Georgia (Georgia).


These letters will surprise readers who know Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry only through the movie Glory or the bronze memorial in Boston Commons. Most relate Shaw's wartime experiences in Virginia before he reluctantly agreed to lead the 54th; they are interesting yet unremarkable as Civil War letters. His letters after he took command reveal him as less ardent in his abolitionism and less certain of his black charges than movie and myth would have it, but they do suggest how war and social purpose drove a Boston blueblood to martyrdom on the ramparts of Fort Wagner. An excellent introduction and copious notes add to the importance of this book. Although less insightful than T.W. Higginson's classic Army Life in a Black Regiment (1870), Shaw's letters are essential for academic and large public libraries.-- Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia

Glory resurrected Robert Gould Shaw as a dramatic figure. This book highlights Shaw as the man he really was. The written word far surpasses the screen image in quality.--Richmond Times-Dispatch

A fine and conscientious work.

--Boston Globe

An affecting collection.

--Washington Times

Duncan shows the human side of war as it is rarely seen. . . . an engaging portrait.

--Orlando Sentinel

In the film Glory, Robert Gould Shaw was portrayed as a rather stuffy but dedicated and idealistic young officer who led his regiment of African-American soldiers to a magnificent death in an attempt to take the Confederate Fort Wagner off the coast of South Carolina. The real Shaw, as evidenced by this collection of letters written to his parents, siblings, friends, and fiancee, was a much more interesting personality. . . . His letters are a revealing and often moving account of a young man's growth in a time of war.

--Magill Book Reviews

In Russell Duncan's new edition of the colonel's letters, we meet Robert Gould Shaw at last as a person, not as a symbol. . . . Readers of Shaw's letters will find a young man, not always deep or profound, but with a quality of character forged in conflict. . . . Of course, most readers will want to turn to the letters recounting his experiences as commander of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, and they will not be disappointed in the story of how colonel and soldiers taught one another how to be men as well as soldiers. . . . There is something heroic in struggling against one's limitations to achieve greatness. Editor Duncan should be congratulated for reminding us of this truth through bringing us closer to Shaw.

--Journal of American History

Russell Duncan's outstanding edition of Shaw's letters is a model for this sort of work. . . . Sustained excellence.

--Civil War Book Review

Splendid . . . Important . . . Superb . . . Deserves a place on every Civil War bookshelf . . . Shaw emerges more vividly in this book than he did in the film Glory.

--New York Times Book Review

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