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SELF-SACRIFICE FOR THE COLORED RACE.
EQUESTRIAN STATUE OF COLONEL SHAW, FIRST COMMANDER OF MASSACHUSETTS COLORED TROOPS.
ARTICLE IN THE BOSTON DAILY ADVERTISER, OCTOBER 2, 1865.
HE two colored regiments enlisted, equipped, and sent forth by Massachusetts have returned home. and been mustered out. Officers and privates are now dispersed. The last music has died away. Of these two famous regiments, which made such a mark on the times, nothing now remains but the memory. This cannot die; for it belongs to the history of a race. But all who went have not returned. The youthful hero, so gentle and true, who was selected by the Governor to command the Fifty-Fourth Regiment, fell at the head of his men on the very parapets of the Rebel enemy, and was buried in the sand with his humble companions in arms, thus in death, as in life, sharing their fortunes. Family, parents, wife, were left to mourn. As was said of "Bonnie George Campbell," in the beautiful Scotch ballad,
"Hame cam' his gude horse,
But never cam' he."
Few who were in Boston at the time can forget that pleasant day in May, when this colored regiment, with
Colonel Shaw riding proudly at its head, passed by the State-House, where it had been equipped and inspired. Cheers and the waving of handkerchiefs greeted it. There were tears also. It was a joyous and a sad sight to see this new legion, acquired to the national service, promptly marching to its distant and perilous duty, under a commander who, turning away from the blandishments of life, consecrates himself to his country. Nor was another consecration forgotten. It was to the redemption of a race. Massachusetts had sent forth many brave regiments; but here was the first regiment of colored soldiers marshalled at the North. It was an experiment, destined to be an epoch. By the success of this regiment a whole race was elevated. As he went forth, it became less an incident of war than an act of magnanimity and moral grandeur. Sidney, who refused the cup of cold water, was one of our young hero's predecessors.
Not long after came tidings of the bloody assault on Fort Wagner, when, by an advance without parallel over an open beach, exposed to a storm of shot and shell, these new-made soldiers of a despised color, sleepless, dinnerless, supperless, vindicated their title as bravest of the brave. They had done what no other troops had done during the war. This was their Bunker Hill, and Shaw was their martyred Warren. Though defeated, they were yet victorious. The regiment was driven back; but the cause was advanced. The country learned to know colored troops, and they learned to know themselves. From that day of conflict nobody doubted their capacity or courage as soldiers. There was sorrow in Massachusetts as we were told how many had fallen, and that the beloved officer so
recently admired in our streets was sleeping in an unknown grave; but even this sorrow did not blind an intelligent people to the magnitude of the event. Grief was chastened by honest pride. Swelling hearts were soothed by the thought that much had been done for humanity.
A desire arose at once for a monument to commemorate alike the hero and the event. But the Rebellion was then raging. It was no time for monuments. At last, with the overthrow of the Rebel arms, the time seems to have arrived. The youthful commander still sleeps with his comrades in death. There let him sleep. Westminster Abbey has no resting-place more honorable. But his patriotic sacrifice and the great event deserve commemoration, as well for gratitude as for example. Some propose a monument on the spot where he fell. This may be made; but it can be only a mound or pile of stones, to be seen by ships as they enter the harbor of Charleston. This is not enough. It will not tell the whole story.
The monument should be in Massachusetts, where the hero was born, and where the regiment was also born. Each belonged to Massachusetts, the martyr by double title: first, as he drew his breath here, and, secondly, as he commanded this regiment of Massachusetts. Let the monument be here. Of course, no
It must be of
common stone or shaft will be sufficient.
future generations, as long as bronze shall endure, look upon him there riding always, and be taught by his example to succor the oppressed and to surrender life for duty. Especially let legislators of Massachusetts, by daily sight of the symbolic statue, be gratefully led to constant support of the cause for which he died. Here is a theme for Art, and its elements are youth, beauty, self-sacrifice, death, and a great cause.
On the Continent of Europe, by general usage, only members of a royal family are allowed the honor of an equestrian statue. In the unequalled monument by Rauch, at Berlin, the royal Fritz is mounted, but his generals are about him standing. Near by is Blücher, who was prince and marshal, also standing. In England there are equestrian statues of kings, and of the Duke of Wellington. But this is no reason why a grateful people should not decree an equestrian statue to a youthful hero, whose duty was on horseback, and who was last seen in our streets on horseback. As an American citizen he belonged to our sovereignty, and we fitly celebrate him with the highest honors. Few belonging to any royal family have so good a title. In the Republics of Italy, during the early ages, when royalty did not exist, there were equestrian statues. The first of these in merit, and one of the first in time, was the renowned statue in bronze of the condottiere Bartolommeo Coleoni, who, after a lapse of centuries, is still admired as he rides bravely in a public square of Venice, while the artist has secured the immortality of his own name by engraving it upon the girth of the saddle. It is sometimes said, on doubtful authority, that this early chieftain was the first to mount cannon on wheels, so that they could be used in the field. But
our chieftain did more than mount cannon, and the triumphant experiment with which his name is linked surpasses far anything in the life of an Italian trooper. His act was above any triumph of battle. It was a victory of ideas, and belongs to the sacred history of Humanity.
Let the monument be made. Boston has a sculptor without a superior among living artists, whose soul and genius would be in the work. Already a colored person, well known among us, with a heart full of gratitude, has subscribed five hundred dollars. Other colored persons are contributing in smaller sums, according to their means. They properly lead now in tribute to him who died in leading them. But others of ampler means must see that this generous effort does not fail. I should not suggest this, if I thought that I should take away from other things deserving aid. The present charity is so peculiar, that it appeals equally to all who are moved by patriotism, by gratitude, by sympathy, or by Art.
This article was followed by a public meeting in the Council Chainber of the State-House, at the invitation of Governor Andrew, to consider the proposition of an equestrian statue in honor of Colonel Shaw. The following committee was appointed to collect subscriptions and superintend the erection of the statue: John A. Andrew, Charles Sumner, Joshua B. Smith, Charles R. Codman, Samuel G. Howe, Robert B. Storer, Frederick W. Lincoln, Jr., James L. Little, William W. Clapp, Jr., Charles Beck, Rev. Leonard A. Grimes, Peleg W. Chandler, William G. Weld, Edward Atkinson, Charles W. Slack, Robert E. Apthorp, Henry Lee, Jr., Edward W. Kinsley, George B. Loring, Le Baron Russell, Henry I. Bowditch.
At a meeting of this committee, Charles Sumner, Samuel G. Howe, Charles Beck, George B. Loring, Le Baron Russell, Henry I. Bowditch, and Charles R. Codman were appointed a sub-committee to select an artist, to contract with him, to secure a proper place for the statue, and to superintend its erection.