Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
The long-lost sword of an historic Massachusetts colonel was put on display Tuesday, 154 years to the day after his death in the Civil War.
The Massachusetts Historical Society unveiled its new exhibit focused on Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who led 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment — the first all-black regiment assembled during the Civil War.
“To have located ‘the holy grail of Civil War swords’ is a remarkable discovery,” the historical society’s president Dennis Fiori said in a statement. “Experts and visitors alike can finally see a piece of history that has been searched for since July 1863.”
The sword is now safely recovered and on display, but until this year it was feared to have been lost to history since the end of the war between the Union and Confederacy. Shaw carried the sword as he led the 54th Massachusetts into battle on July 18, 1863, at Fort Wagner near Charleston, S.C. He was killed that day after suffering a gunshot to the chest.
Although he died with the sword in his hand, his body was looted before his burial and the whereabouts of his personal effects — including the sword — became a mystery.
The sword finally surfaced more than 150 years later, when Shaw’s descendants discovered the long-lost weapon in a family home this March. Three grandchildren of Susanna Shaw Minturn, Shaw’s sister, stumbled across the artifact while cleaning the attic, and decided to donate the sword to the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Now, after months of research and preparation, the Shaw sword was unveiled to the public in a small display alongside other artifacts related to his and the 54th Massachusetts’ legacy.
A ceremony to commemorate the exhibition of the relic was attended by members of the 54th Massachusetts Company A, a National Guard ceremonial unit. The current 54th, reactivated in 2008, takes its name from Shaw’s original Civil War regiment whose story was fictionalized in 1989’s “Glory,” featuring Matthew Broderick as Shaw.
Also in attendance was Robert Minturn, Shaw’s great-great-nephew and one of the family members who discovered the sword tucked away in the spring.
“It was very touching,” said Brenda Lawson, the historical society’s vice president for collections, of the presentation. “It was much more emotional than I expected it to be.”
Members of the ceremonial volunteer regiment, including retired Brigadier General Sterling D. Macleod, an honorary colonel with the 54th, and Minturn, spoke alongside the small case containing some of Shaw’s personal effects and original 54th Massachusetts memorabilia — highlighted by the historic sword.
“I really think the sword has an immediacy, knowing he held it when he was killed,” Lawson said of the importance of the display. She added that 54th Massachusetts items were placed with Shaw’s belongings to highlight “the importance of this as a unit,” and the symbolism of black soldiers finally gaining respect in the military and society of that time.
The Shaw collection and the 54th Massachusetts artifacts will be displayed at the Massachusetts Historical Society through September.
Authorities ordered scores of fishermen to return to shore after the owner of many of the boats didn’t account for the fish they caught.Continue reading »
These schools are debunking a theory that serving large populations of English language learners is a recipe for failure.Continue reading »
Even while Al Franken’s politics are often mine, I’m uncomfortable with his defenders pointing at other people’s behavior to minimize his.Continue reading »
Monday marked the transit agency’s biggest spending day in three years.Continue reading »
Fifteen students made the claims in a statement to the campus newspaper, The Dartmouth.Continue reading »
A national study by UConn says that food swamps have a stronger impact on obesity rates than food deserts.Continue reading »
Massachusetts correctional institutions have long resisted providing methadone or Suboxone, but both the House and Senate criminal justice bills would require it.Continue reading »
A sleek, relatively new vaping device called a “Juul” has school administrators sending warning e-mails home.Continue reading »
If you’re looking to avoid the traffic jams over the Thanksgiving holiday (and who isn’t?) this data can help you plan your trip.Continue reading »