Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Burning of Darien: The Real Story; Union Officer Usually Thought of as the Villain, Really Wasn't

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Burning of Darien: The Real Story; Union Officer Usually Thought of as the Villain, Really Wasn't

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Morrison

Robert Gould Shaw, the Union Army colonel maligned for burning the coastal town of Darien during the Civil War, was following orders and doesn't deserve the reputation he has borne for a century and a half.

That's one wrong McIntosh County historian Buddy Sullivan wants to right as the 150th anniversary of the town's burning approaches.

"It's a great misconception," he said. "Everyone assumed Shaw was the one that burned Darien, especially since the movie aeGlory' came out."

Matthew Broderick played the white Shaw in the 1989 movie about the otherwise all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment. It was actually his superior officer, Col. James Montgomery of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers, who ordered the attack, Sullivan said.

"Shaw reluctantly carried out the raid under threat of court-martial," Sullivan said.

The burning took place on June 11, 1863, and Darien will commemorate it with a town festival on Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The festival will feature a living history encampment by the 54th Massachusetts re-enactment group out of Charleston, S.C., as well as the usual festival food and arts and crafts vendors, Fort King George Historic Site Park Ranger Jason Baker said.

The re-enactors will simulate camp life as it was during the war, Baker said.

"They'll be sitting around in their uniforms with their muskets, talking soldier talk," he said. "It will be like a day in the life of a Union soldier."

Sullivan will provide commentary during three one-hour boat tours piloted by Capt. Phillip Kempton along the Darien River from the town's waterfront park to Fort King George and back.

"It'll be free of charge on a first-come first-served basis," Sullivan said.

Shaw wrote his mother, Sarah Blake Shaw, and wife, Anna Haggerty Shaw, after the raid, expressing his remorse for an operation he considered unnecessary, Sullivan said. Shaw's survivors set about restoring his reputation after his death. …

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