Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry

Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry

Article excerpt

Russell Duncan, Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Savannah, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1999.

Where Death and Glory Meet is an embellished narrative of the short life of Boston Brahmin Robert Gould Shaw. The book is full of details that made up Shaw's life. However, Duncan doesn't always qualify certain assertions and details with sources. There are paragraphs filled with data that have no footnotes or annotations telling from where Duncan got the information. For example, one paragraph in Chapter 10 begins, "During his twelve months in the Brahmin regiment, Shaw learned about the love that grows from depending on others for life" (29). The paragraph continues a few lines down: "With fear, hate, and love so near each other that one easily turned into another, a soldier felt all three at once" (29). Did he surmise these ideas after reading so many letters of Shaw's, or did Duncan simply neglect to note his source?

Apart from such difficulties the reader may encounter, the style of writing was excellent. Duncan tells a story in Where Death and Glory Meet. I was enchanted by some of his prose, only to be reminded a moment later that Where Death and Glory Meet is not a work of fiction.

Because Duncan set out to write a biography of Robert Gould Shaw, there is no unifying argument for Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. If Duncan had made a clear, strong argumentative statement, I would not have wasted so much time looking for one, and I would have enjoyed the book more. Duncan's goal, however, is clear. After writing a short introduction to some of Shaw's published letters, William McFeely encouraged Duncan to "expand that short biography into a book of its own."(xiv) Of his book, Duncan says, "Because Shaw deserved more than an `introduction,' this book found print." (xiv)

While there seems to be no main argument in the body of the text, in his preface, Duncan writes, "Shaw's experience in the war is a microcosm of the conflict. …

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