Matthew Broderick-Colonel Robert Gould Shaw
Denzel Washington-Trip
Cary Elwes-Major Cabot Forbes
Morgan Freeman-Sergeant Major John Rawlins
Jihmi Kennedy-Jupiter Sharts
Andre Braugher-Thomas Searles
John Finn-Sergeant Major Mulcahy
Donovan Leitch-Charles Fessenden Morse
John David Cullum-Henry Sturgis Russell
Alan North-Governor John Albion Andrew
Bob Gunton-General Harker
Cliff De Young-Colonel James M. Montgomery
Christian Baskous-Edward L. Pierce
RonReaco Lee-Mute Drummer Boy
Jay O. Sanders-General George Crockett Strong





This 1989 movie is, in my opinion, the best Civil War picture ever made.  The story is largely seen through the eyes of Robert Gould Shaw, the young commanding officer of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment.  The Fifty-fourth was the first black regular army regiment in the Civil War.

Robert Gould Shaw was born in Boston on October 10, 1837.  He died in action during the assault on Confederate Battery Wagner on July 18, 1863.  He was born into a wealthy Boston family to abolitionist parents.  The Shaws associated with such people as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe and famed orator Frederick Douglass who helped form the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts.  His sons Lewis and Charles joined the regiment.

Matthew Broderick plays Shaw and while there has been some criticism of his performance, I think it is the best thing he's ever done and he did it well.  Cary Elwes plays his second in command, Major Cabot Forbes.  The best performances, however, are turned in by Denzel Washington who plays Trip and Morgan Freeman who plays Sergeant Major John Rawlins.  Washington won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the embittered runaway slave. Andre Braugher of Homicide fame is excellent as the educated Thomas Searles.

The story begins with Shaw serving as a Captain with the Second Massachusetts Infantry at the Battle of Antietam where he is wounded.  After accepting his appointment as colonel of the Fifty-fourth (his decision wasn't as cut and dried as the movie makes out) the story moves more toward the blacks who joined the regiment and the formation and training of the regiment itself.

We see the conflicts between Washington's character Trip and the other members of the regiment, especially Thomas Searles.  Freeman's character Rawlins is, in contrast, a calm, stabilizing force in the regiment.

The black troops are undisciplined so Shaw brought in a tough Irish sergeant major named Mulcahy (John Finn) to help toughen them up.  In the movie, he bears a strong resemblance to the drill instructors we are used to seeing today.  He is especially hard on Thomas Searles.  He said to Searles upon first noticing him, "Oh, look at this. Bonnie Prince Charlie. Are you a member of Congress or something?  Or are you the bloody Prince of Africa?"  After Mulcahy gets through, the regiment is as disciplined as any in the army.

At first, members of the Fifty-fourth are used for nothing more than manual labor until Shaw convinces his commander through the use of blackmail that they should be transferred to a combat command.  When they finally are transferred, they are involved in their first real battle at James Island, South Carolina on July 16, 1863 to be followed by the attack on Fort Wagner two days later.

In May of 1900, Sergeant William H. Carney became the first black to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroic actions he'd performed while a member of Company C of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment during the assault on Fort Wagner.






Wav Sound Files (11KHz)

(click on blue link to download)

Robert Gould Shaw: "We fight for men and women whose poetry is not yet written but which will presently be as enviable and renowned as any of them." (112K)
Governor Andrew: "I've submitted your name, Robert, to be commissioned Colonel of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry."  (59K)
Thomas Searles: "Rob, is it true? There's to be a colored regiment?"

Cabot Forbes: "So it seems."

Thomas Searles: "Then I am your first volunteer."  (111K)
Sergeant Major Mulcahy "Company halt! For God sakes man. Do you not know your right from your left?"

Jupiter Sharts: ", sir."  (60K)
Sergeant Major Mulcahy: "The boy's your friend, is he?"

Robert Gould Shaw: "We grew up together, yes."

Sergeant Major Mulcahy: "Let him grow up some more."  (83K)
Sergeant Major Mulcahy: "The prisoner is to be flogged before the entire regiment."  (31K)
John Rawlins:"The men need shoes, Colonel."

Robert Gould Shaw: "Yes, I know. I've been after the quartermaster for some time now."

John Rawlins: "No, sir. Now."  (85K)
Thomas Searles:"Robert, promise me that you won't send me back."  (81K)
Trip: "I mean, what's the point? Ain't nobody going to win. It's just going to go on and on."

Robert Gould Shaw: "It can't go on forever."

Trip: "Yah, but ain't nobody going to win, sir."

Robert Gould Shaw: "Somebody's going to win."  (109K)
General Strong: "No one will ever take Charleston without first silencing the forts which protect its harbor and the first one that must be taken is that. Fort Wagner."  (102K)


Wav Sound Effects From the Movie (11KHz)

Drum beats.  (27K)
Opening a wooden crate.  (36K)
Pistol shot.  (29K)
Sword practice on horseback.  (72K)
Sword being put back in scabbard.  (11K)
Cans and bottles being knocked to the floor.  (25K)
Musket shots with glass breaking.  (32K)
A face slap.  (6K)
Horses galloping.  (28K)
Naval cannon fire.  (35K)
Battle sounds.  (147K)
Rocket fire.  (33K)
Seagulls and ocean wave sounds.  (158K)


Trailer   (7,887K)

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