Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    "...he had one wish, as he told me: to fight his Regiment alongside of a white one"

    [Robert Gould Shaw]: Poignant and Intimate Letter From Robert Gould Shaw's Father to His Brother Regarding His Son's Death. 5.25" x 8", 4 pp., n.d. [likely July 22, 1863], from Francis George Shaw to Quincy Adams Shaw, Boston, with the original transmittal envelope which appears to have a July post mark. It is likely that this letter was written the Thursday after Col. Shaw's death on Sunday, July 18, 1863 at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. This incredibly heartfelt letter was written by a grief stricken father to his younger brother and reads in full:

    "My Dear Quin / It was so - our dear Rob's death was fitting. He was as if transfigured when on that day, when I took what I believed to be my last farewell of him - but he had one wish, as he told me: to fight his Regiment alongside of a white one, & prove its equality. That wish was fully gratified on James' Island, the 54th not only proved its equality, but four companies of it saved the white Reg. so one of the soldiers of the latter told Mr. Haggerty. Rob's last letters to me hours before he died, (first on the parapet of Fort Wagner, ready to take the colors from the color-bearer should the latter fall, so Wilkie James [Lt. Garth Wilkinson James, another white officer in the Regiment and brother of novelist Henry James] has just told me, are full of joy & happiness & gratified pride for his Regiment - he had no selfish ambition as we all know - & he died in what was to him the hour of triumph - as we lament but for our loss. Dear Sarah bears up nobly & tries to comfort her aching, yearning heart by such thoughts as we all do - but we must feel our loss poignantly some times. Give our best love to Pauline, we hope that she may pass through her coming trial with the least possible suffering. Affectionately, Frank. Thursday."

    Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was born to a prominent Boston abolitionist family and it was perhaps only fitting that he accepted the command of the first all-black regiment (54th Massachusetts) to be organized in the northern states during the Civil War. There are conflicting reports of how he met his final end at Ft. Wagner, but by all accounts he died valiantly. Col. Shaw's story has been told many times in books and perhaps most notably in the 1989 Oscar-winning film Glory. The letter was acquired directly from the Shaw family. A copy of a typed letter dated May 15, 1962 from Quincy Adams Shaw Jr, Col. Shaw's nephew, gives additional background to the letter. That letter accompanies Robert Gold Shaw's identified epaulettes in lot 40120.

    Condition: Excellent. A bright, legible letter with a ½-inch split in a fold. The envelope has some toning and small closed tears along the edge with splits at the edge folds.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2018
    10th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,873

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 May 19 Manuscripts Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage Auctions and Mr. Chad Reingold were...professional and courteous in all transactions and provided outstanding service in answering my many emails. I recommend them at the highest level.
    Killy M.,
    Melbourne Beach, FL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search