Glory is a 1989 Academy Award-winning drama based on the history of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment during the American Civil War. The 54th was one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African American men (apart from the officers). The first was the 1st South Carolina
Robert Shaw is a determined leader who is hard on his troops. Even through his hard training, Robert will go to great lengths for his men. Colonel Shaw storms the office of the division supply officer, demanding 600 pairs of shoes and 1,200 pairs of socks. He sacrifices himself to inspire his men to stand up to storm the ramparts and charge the enemy at the Battle of Fort Wagner.
Though shot, he bravely continues to charge until he is shot 2 more times. His death causes his men to stand and charge, with Major Cabot Forbes and others yelling "Robert!" as they do so.
Major Cabot Forbes
Joined with Thomas and Shaw into the 54th regiment shortly after its creation. Shaw had asked Cabot to be the executive officer (second-in-command) of the regiment after the Governor and Frederick Douglass offered the position of commanding officer to Shaw. Forbes feels Shaw is too hard on his men, protesting Shaw's actions on multiple occasions. Forbes led the attack on Fort Wagner after Shaw was shot down, and his fate (death, capture by the Confederates, or departure from the battlefield) is not revealed in the film, although it is suggested that he is killed by cannon fire.Trip is an escaped slave who enlists in Shaw's regiment.
Trip is depicted as an embittered and angry escaped slave who is in the Army for the opportunity to take revenge on Southern slave owners. Trip is fearless, arrogant, callous, and so anxious for combat that he wants to fight anyone. He takes delight in teasing Searles, whom he resents for being a well-educated black man and calls him "Snowflake" because Thomas has not experienced slavery or hard work, and because he is a close friend of the regiment's commander. During basic training Trip sneaks away from camp, desperate for shoes. He is brought back under the premise of a deserter and is whipped. As the movie progresses, Trip is unrelenting in his harassment of Thomas, in an effort to provoke Thomas into a fight. He almost succeeds, but the altercation is stopped by Rawlins. Trip berates Rawlins for being a high ranking black soilder and ordering everyone around, he insults Rawlins by calling him the "white man's dog". Rawlins then proceeds to slap Trip in the face and lectures him about what it means to be a soldier. Trip gradually changes his attitude as the regiment finally starts seeing combat. He is killed during the charge on Fort Wagner.
John Rawlins is a middle-aged former slave. He is first seen by Colonel Shaw digging graves after the Battle of Antietam. Rawlins is one of the many African Americans who answer the call to arms by enlisting in Shaw's regiment. As the movies progresses, Shaw looks to Rawlins as a leader amongst the black soldiers, as well as a source of information on their feelings and needs. Rawlins is soon promoted to Sergeant Major making him the highest ranking enlisted man in the regiment.
Private Jupiter Sharts
An African American man who is unable to read, but throughout the movie gets help from Thomas. One of the best shooters in the regiment. His fate at the battle of Fort Wagner is unknown like Forbes, Rawlins, and Searles.
Corporal Thomas Searles
A childhood friend of Shaw and Forbes, he is the first to volunteer for the 54th. Because he is educated, can read and speaks "like a white man," Trip makes mean fun of him. Throughout the film Searles has a rocky relationship with Trip but just before the battle of Fort Wagner they become friends. His fate at the battle of Fort Wagner is unknown.
* The film depicts the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry training through the Christmas holidays of presumably 1862 (after the September 1862 Battle of Antietam,) but the real 54th Massachusetts did not organize until March 1863, and they were engaged in their first battle on James Island, SC on 16 July 1863, and then Battery Wagner (the final battle in the film) on 18 July 1863.
* The film suggests that most of the black soldiers were former slaves from Southern secessionist states who wished to fight for the abolitionist North, but in fact the majority were born free in the North, although some did escape from slavery.
* Of the major characters in the movie's version of the regiment, only Robert Gould Shaw was a real person. The rest are composite characters. The name of Shaw's executive officer (Cabot Forbes) is a combination of the first name from one of the real Shaw's friends and the last name of another.
* In the film, Shaw is offered and accepts the job to be the commanding officer of the 54th on the same day. In reality, he rejected the offer once and accepted only after many days. Shaw is also shown as promoted directly to colonel, whereas his record indicates he was a major for several months as the regiment grew in strength and was at last promoted to colonel just prior to the regiment being deployed.
* Flogging was banned in the Union Army in 1861. Pvt. Trip would not have been whipped, at least not by someone as by-the-book as Col. Shaw.
* The incident just before the charge into Fort Wagner in which Colonel Shaw points to the flag bearer and asks "If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry on?" is based on a real event. However, the person who asked the question was General George Crockett Strong; Shaw was the person who responded. When the flag bearer fell, another black soldier, Sergeant William Harvey Carney, grabbed the flag and carried it all the way to the bulwarks of Fort Wagner. He remained there under enemy fire until the 54th was forced to retreat. Sergeant Carney struggled back to Union lines with the flag, receiving four wounds from which he recovered. Carney became the first black recipient of the Medal of Honor.
* Colonel Shaw was married, but his wife is not depicted in the film.
* The manner in which Colonel Shaw dies in the movie is based on fact. His final words were "Onward, Fifty-fourth!" before he was shot several times in the chest. However, though the film depicts him falling on the parapet, he in fact made it to the top and his body fell into the fort.
* The final scene of the film shows Shaw's body being thrown into the burial pit alongside his fallen men. This is historically accurate, although his body was in fact first stripped of his uniform, but in the film, only his shoes and socks are missing. When Shaw's parents inquired about his body, the Confederate commander responded, "We buried him with his niggers." It seems to have been meant as an insult, but Shaw's father later said that he was proud that his son was buried next to his men.
* In the movie, it is claimed that "over half" of the regiment was lost during the assault on Fort Wagner. However, official records state that the 54th sustained 272 casualties, which is closer to 40%. Of these casualties, only 116 were fatalities, just under one fifth of the men to storm the fort. If the 156 soldiers that were captured are included, it would bring the total to "over half". In formal military terms, though, "casualties" include captured soldiers.
* The movie's epilogue also claims that "the fort was never taken." While it is true that the fort was never taken by force, it was abandoned by the Confederate Army two months later.
* In the movie, the ocean is on the left side of the regiment when they charge the fort; this was allegedly done in order to get the best quality of light at the time of filming. In reality, however, the regiment charged with the ocean on their right, coming from the south.
* The real second in command was Lt. Colonel Edwin Hallowell. The fictional Major Cabot Forbes, played by Cary Elwes, is based on him. Although he was seriously wounded, Hallowell did survive the attack on the fort and led the regiment until it disbanded in 1865. He retired with the rank of Brigadier General.
* In the movie, Shaw is surprised when the men refuse pay that was reduced because they are a "colored" regiment (though he eventually joins them in their refusal). In reality, the refusal was his idea, and he encouraged them to do it (in other words, "tear it up").
* In the attack on Fort Wagner, the regiment volunteers to be the vanguard of the charge, when in fact they did not volunteer, but were commanded to lead the charge.
* Years after the film was made, it came to light that the word Glory was used by one of the men of the Regiment. First Sergeant Robert John Simmons, of B Company, was a twenty-six year old Bermudian clerk, probably from St. George's, believed to have joined the 54th on 12th March, 1863 (many Black and White Bermudians fought for the Union, mostly in the US Navy. Many more profiteered from the war by smuggling arms to the South). Simmons was introduced to Frances George Shaw, father of Col. Shaw, by William Wells Brown, who described him as "a young man of more than ordinary abilities who had learned the science of war in the British Army". In his book, The Negro in the American Rebellion, Brown said that "Frances George Shaw remarked at the time that Simmons would make a 'valuable soldier'. Col. Shaw also had a high opinion of him". Sgt. Simmons was mentioned in an 1863 article of the Weekly Columbus Enquirer, which described him as "a brave man and of good education. He was wounded and captured. Taken to Charleston, his bearing impressed even his captors. After suffering amputation of the arm, he died there." The newspaper also described him as saying that he fought "for glory". Simmons, who has been specially mentioned among the enlisted men of the 54th, and who had been awarded a private medal, died in August, 1863, following the attack on Fort Wagner.