I am still sometimes surprised by the ways in which the movie Glory has shaped my understanding of Robert Gould Shaw and the men in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Consider this scene from the movie in which Shaw chastises Major Forbes for his failure to properly train the men to discharge their weapons in an efficient manner.
The relationship of Shaw to his men seems to stand in apparent contrast to that of Thomas Wentworth Higginson. As you know, Higginson came to write a series of sympathetic essays about the black soldiers in his regiment, which he later gathered into a book. I wonder if the example of Higginson, who remained a significant figure until his death in 1911, influenced how Shaw was remembered?
I suspect your assessment of Shaw’s relationship with his soldiers is correct, especially when it come to oversight of or participation in training. And, I doubt that it was a great deal different from the relationship other Colonels had with their regiments in the United States Army of the period. When it came to training the individual soldier or even the company that was the job of the sergeant or lieutenant, or captain.
I really am enjoying your posts about your research on Robert Gould Shaw. It is funny, his story is not that uncommon. I am really looking forward to reading all of this when your book is done. I really enjoy the biography of these Civil War Leaders. They tell a back story to their battlefield experiences that enriches their story. I did. that in my Gettysburg Staff Ride Text so my students would get to know the people, not just the battle. Thank you.