On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves in the states and areas in rebellion and to permit blacks to serve in the Union army. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was promptly formed from volunteers from Massachusetts and other states. Robert Gould Shaw, son of a Boston abolitionist family and veteran in the Union army, was appointed to lead the unit.

On May 28, 1863, over 1,000 black soldiers and their white officers assembled in the Boston Common to march to Boston Harbor for transport south.

On July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment stormed Fort Wagner at the Port of Charleston. Colonel Shaw was shot and killed as he led his troops over the parapet, and the 54th Regiment suffered over 250 casualties that day. After two years of engagements, the 54th returned to Boston in September 1865.

On October 22, 1887, the iconic Standing Lincoln monument was unveiled in Lincoln Park in Chicago.

On May 31, 1897, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial was dedicated in the Boston Common. The memorial portrays the departure of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment from the site of the memorial more that thirty years earlier. Colonel Shaw rides his steed, his troops shoulder their rifles, and drummer boys lead.

On May 30, 1903, the Sherman Monument was dedicated at the Grand Army Plaza in Central Park, New York City. Hettie Anderson, a black woman from South Carolina, was the model for the goddess Winged Victory who leads General Sherman forward. Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens has described her as “…the handsomest model I have ever seen of either sex, and I have seen a great many.” Today, Winged Victory is gilded in gold.

See all of these statues in this download: Saint-Gaudens Statues.pdf