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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Edward Zwick
Produced by Freddie Fields
Written by Kevin Jarre
Starring Matthew Broderick
Denzel Washington
Cary Elwes
Morgan Freeman
Andre Braugher
John Finn
Cliff DeYoung
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Freddie Francis
Editing by Steven Rosenblum
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s) December 15, 1989
Running time 122 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18,000,000 (est.)
Gross revenue $26,828,365[1]

Glory is a 1989 American drama war film based on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as told from the point of view of its commanding officer, Robert Gould Shaw 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).



Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) leads his company of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry regiment in an attack on Confederates posted along the Hagerstown Pike at the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862. The regiment's Lieutenant Colonel (Dwight Wilder) is killed immediately in front of him, and the attack is beaten back with heavy losses. Shaw is wounded slightly in the neck, falls between two dead soldiers, and passes out. He is awakened by a black gravedigger named John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman). When he is getting medical care for his wounded neck, he hears that President Lincoln is going to free the slaves. Later, while on leave in Boston, Shaw (whose father was a wealthy and socially prominent abolitionist) is offered command of the first all black regiment authorized to be raised as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 54th Massachusetts. After some hesitation, he agrees, and asks his childhood friend, Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), to be his second in command. Their first volunteer is another one of Shaw's friends, an educated, free black man named Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher).

They soon have hundreds of men joining the regiment, including John Rawlins the gravedigger, a proud escaped slave named Trip (Denzel Washington), and a shy, stuttering, free black man named Jupiter Sharts (Jihmi Kennedy). While traveling to the camp, Sharts asks Thomas to teach him how to read. Once at camp, Thomas, Rawlins, Trip, and Sharts all share one tent along with a mute drummer boy. Immediately, Thomas's and Trip's relationship gets off to a bad start as they disagree over sleeping space in the tent. Trip ridicules Thomas's educated and refined manner and, subsequently, Thomas mistakenly patronizes Trip, setting off a pattern of animosity between the two.

Shaw soon learns of a Confederate proclamation that any black caught bearing arms against the Confederacy will immediately be returned to a state of slavery, and that any black captured wearing a Federal uniform will summarily be hanged. Furthermore, any white officer seen commanding black troops will be charged with citing servile insurrection and will be put to death. Shaw calls a company formation that evening and informs the men, including Maj. Forbes, that all applications for discharge will be honored. However, at the formation the next morning, Shaw discovers that none of the men have left and all want the opportunity to fight for their fellow slaves' freedom.

Shaw then appoints a tough sergeant from Ireland, Mulcahy (John Finn), to properly train the men for the battles ahead. Shaw also becomes much more strict. He begins by reprimanding Forbes for talking to Thomas casually when he, as an officer, should be addressing him as an enlisted soldier. Another example of Shaw's strictness comes when the 54th's issue of rifles arrives, and Forbes is assigned to train the men in marksmanship. However, instead of training the men in the correct manner, Forbes allows the men to shoot at bottles for target practice. Shaw arrives on the scene and makes Sharts, who is the best marksman among the enlisted men, practice loading and firing his weapon while being exhorted to do it quickly. Seeing that Forbes' lax methods aren't preparing the men for actual combat, Shaw makes Sharts load and fire while Shaw stands directly behind him firing a revolver toward the sky. Agitated by this imposed stress, Sharts is unable to perform his task adequately, which means he would be useless in battle. Shaw then matter-of-factly orders Forbes to train the men properly. Though disgusted, Forbes carries out Shaw's order to properly train the men in military drill.

Meanwhile, Thomas finds life in camp difficult as he is the weakest and slowest of the men, and is constantly harassed by Trip for being educated like a white man. During a bayonet drill, Thomas is forcefully reprimanded by Mulcahy for being tentative with his weapon. He baits Thomas into coming at him with the bayonet, and Mulcahy disarms him and smashes his face with the rifle butt to show Thomas that he must be willing to kill if necessary. Thomas then tries to speak with Shaw, but Shaw reprimands him for not using proper channels to speak with his commanding officer. Thomas at this point comes to realize his and Shaw's proper places as soldier and officer.

Trip himself has difficulty adjusting to camp life, always at odds with the other soldiers, especially Thomas. One night he leaves camp to get some shoes, as his old shoes are worn out and the quartermaster has refused to issue proper supplies to the black regiment. Trip is caught and presumed a deserter by the officers. Shaw has him flogged in front of the entire regiment, proceeding even after seeing that his back is severely scarred from floggings as a slave. Shaw, after learning the truth from Rawlins (that Trip was going out to find some shoes), finally forces the quartermaster to give the men new socks and shoes.

Soon, the men are assembled to receive long-awaited pay. However, upon learning that they will receive a $10 monthly wage rather than the $13 paid to white soldiers, the men, at Trip's provocation, tear up their wage sheets. In a show of solidarity with his soldiers, Shaw follows suit. However, spirits rise as the men receive uniforms. Jupiter is especially happy, long having desired a "blue suit". Before leaving Massachusetts, the regiment, dressed in new uniforms, file in review through the streets of Boston, passing Frederick Douglass and Governor Andrew in the reviewing stand.

Upon their arrival in Beaufort, South Carolina, Shaw appoints Rawlins as Sergeant Major, making him the highest ranking enlisted man in the regiment. Shaw soon learns that there is another all black regiment already on the scene (the 2nd Regiment South Carolina Volunteers); raised from the slaves of the vicinity, they are untrained and ill-disciplined, more rabble than soldiers. Under the command of a Kansas Jayhawker, Colonel James Montgomery (Cliff De Young), they are employed in plundering and destroying civilian property in the region. After looting the town of Darien, Georgia, Colonel Montgomery, a higher-ranking officer, orders Shaw's regiment to provide assistance in burning the houses. Shaw initially resists giving the order but, to save himself from a court-martial (which would leave his men under Montgomery's command), he reluctantly capitulates. Likewise, his troops, although disgusted with their fellows' craven behavior, carry out the order, aware their commander has no choice in the matter.

Shaw and his men soon become frustrated that they have been assigned to manual labor and not allowed to serve on the front line; the troops grow weary of the tedious work and chafe at the taunting of white soldiers bound for the battlefield. After Shaw approaches the area commander (General David Hunter) with a threat to expose the illegal activities undertaken by his command, his request that the regiment be transferred to the front is finally granted. In a battle on James Island, the troops turn back a Confederate cavalry and infantry attack. Thomas saves Trip from a Confederate soldier and suffers a bullet wound; however, he refuses to leave the regiment asking his colonel and long time friend Robert to let him stay. Shaw hopes that news of the battle will do credit to the regiment (and prove that blacks can be brave and able soldiers), but a reporter tells him that the headlines in the north are too filled with reports of the recent Battle of Gettysburg, to give the story any prominence.

Shortly thereafter, Shaw volunteers the 54th Massachusetts to lead a frontal assault on Fort Wagner. On the night before the attack, the men sing at the camp fire to raise their spirits for the imminent battle. The next day, the 54th Massachusetts is honored by white soldiers and officers on the march toward Fort Wagner. Shaw sees the reporter, hands him letters to give his family (anticipating his death), and tells him to spread the word in the north about what is about to take place. At sunset, the regiment charges up the beach toward the fort under enemy cannon fire, and takes shelter in the sand dunes beneath the guns. After nightfall, Shaw leads the men in a charge upon the fort itself. With the enemy firing down on them at point blank range, Shaw guides his men through the abatis and across the moat. He begins to climb the parapet when he sees the man bearing the American flag shot down. Shaw stands up and attempts to rally the men forward but is quickly shot and killed. The men are frozen in shock until Trip, who had earlier refused to carry the colors of a nation that regarded him as a non-citizen, springs forward, lifts the flag, and rallies the men. He too is shot and killed, but his example spurs the remaining men, led by Forbes and Rawlins, to charge up the parapet and close with the rebels in hand-to-hand combat. Thomas is stabbed, but Jupiter carries him into the fort. As the only officers not killed or wounded, Forbes and Rawlins lead the men onward. The surge forward pauses upon reaching a second line of defense; the scene ends in the smoke from blast of Confederate cannon fire.

The next scene opens the following morning with the Confederate flag being raised over the fort. Confederate burial parties gather the slain men of the 54th Massachusetts. Their corpses, including those of Shaw and Trip, are thrown into a mass grave (with their shoes removed).

The movie fades to black and a series of texts state that the 54th lost half its men in the attack on Fort Wagner and that the "fort was never taken." But news of the regiment's courage spurred the creation of many more black regiments. By the end of the war, there were more than 180,000 African-American men in uniform, a fact which President Lincoln considered instrumental in securing victory.

The final credits roll against the background of Augustus Saint-Gaudens's memorial to Shaw and his men that stands today on Boston Common.


Minor appearances

Historical inaccuracy

  • Early in the film, there is a scene where Colonel Shaw is presented with the concept of forming the 54th Massachusetts regiment, by his father, Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts and Frederick Douglass. This meeting never took place, as a matter of fact there is very little evidence to suggest that he ever had a conversation or met Mr. Douglass. Colonel Shaw became aware of the plans to raise the 54th, in 1862 while at camp in Maryland, by his father.
  • The film depicts Colonel James Montgomery as racist. While he may have shared the racial prejudices of his generation, the actual Col. Montgomery was a staunch abolitionist.
  • The film depicts the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry commencing its training in November 1862. However, the real 54th Massachusetts did not begin to train until February 1863.
  • The film suggests that most of the black soldiers were former slaves from seceded Southern states who wished to fight for the abolitionist North. In fact, the majority were born free in the North, although some did escape from slavery.[2]
  • 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.
The Storming of Fort Wagner (an 1890 lithograph)
Sgt William H. Carney, Civil War Medal of Honor recipient.
  • 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 it only after many days of feeling guilty and consulting his future wife.[3] 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 Colonel Shaw; however, there were harsh punishments, such as standing on barrels for hours at a time.
  • 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. But the person who asked the question was General George Crockett Strong, and Shaw was the person who responded. When the flag bearer fell, and after Shaw was killed, 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 African American to earn 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 "Forward, Fifty-fourth!" before he was shot several times in the chest. The film depicts him falling on the parapet; in fact, he made it to the top, and his body fell into the fort.[4]
  • 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 first stripped of its uniform;[5] in the film, only his shoes and socks are missing. In addition, he was thrown in first and his soldiers were buried on top of him. When Shaw's parents inquired about his body, the Confederate commander responded, "We buried him with his niggers." It seems to have been intended as an insult, but Shaw's father later said that he was proud that his son was buried with his men.[2] After the war, Shaw's parents visited the site of Fort Wagner, where their son was buried. The commander of a U.S. Army unit that was stationed at the wreckage of the fort offered to dig up the mass grave to find and remove Shaw's body so that it could be taken home for burial. Shaw's parents refused the offer, saying they could think of no better place for their son to be buried than with the soldiers he had commanded.
  • 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 who were captured are included, it would bring the total to "over half".
  • 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. This was due to Union forces laying siege to the fort in the traditional manner. They were constructing siege lines at acute angles to the fort and slowly getting nearer to the walls. When the Confederates realized that the end was near, they slipped safely away.
  • 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, or coming from the south. Also, the approach was along a narrow spit at high tide.
  • The real second in command was first Lt. Colonel Norwood Penrose Hallowell. Later, at the time of the attack against Fort Wagner, it was his younger brother Edward Needles Hallowell, who went on to become colonel and command the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The fictional Major Cabot Forbes, played by Cary Elwes, is based on Edward Needles Hallowell. Although he was seriously wounded, Hallowell survived the attack on the fort and led the regiment until it disbanded in 1865. He retired with the rank of Brigadier General.
  • In the film, Shaw appears 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 the film, Colonel Shaw volunteers his regiment for leading the charge. In reality, General Strong asked Shaw if he wanted to lead the charge. Although Shaw could have declined because his regiment was tired and hungry, he accepted because "if black men could storm the fort and open the door to the birthplace of the rebellion, the symbolism would be enormous."[6]
  • In the film, we see white Union soldiers cheering on and showing gratitude towards the 54th before they charge Fort Wagner. It is questionable whether or not this really occurred because although the Union stood for abolition most whites felt they were still superior to blacks, and had doubts whether or not blacks were good soldiers.[7]
  • 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 12 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 Francis 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 "Francis 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 had been specially mentioned among the enlisted men of the 54th by Shaw's successor, Col. Hallowell, and who had been awarded a private medal, died in August, 1863, following the attack on Fort Wagner. [2]


Featuring the Boys Choir of Harlem, the underscore for the film was composed by James Horner. Critics have remarked upon hearing echoes of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in the score, especially in regard to the cue "Charging Fort Wagner";[8][9] in fact, the score exhibits the influence of works by a number of composers, many of them British: Ralph Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis in "The Whipping", William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast in "Preparation for Battle", and Benjamin Britten's War Requiem and, indeed, Orff's Carmina Burana in "Charging Fort Wagner". One of the main themes of the score ("Blow the horn / Play the fife") betrays the influence of Britten's Owen Wingrave, an opera that, not inconsequentially, engages the concept of pacifism. Another theme borrows noticeably from Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible. A track listing of the soundtrack CD follows:

  1. A Call To Arms
  2. After Antietam
  3. Lonely Christmas
  4. Forming the Regiment
  5. The Whipping
  6. Burning The Town of Darien
  7. Brave Words, Braver Deeds
  8. The Year of Jubilee
  9. Preparation For Battle
  10. Charging Fort Wagner
  11. Epitaph To War
  12. Closing Credits

Home media

The film was first released on VHS in 1990. It was later released on DVD in 2003 and Blu-ray in 2009.

Academy Awards

The film was nominated in five categories, of which it won three:


  • Emilio, Luis F. 1995. A Brave Black Regiment: A History of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry: 1863-1865. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80623-0
  • McPherson, James M. “The ‘Glory’ Story,” The New Republic, January 8 & 15, 1990, pp. 22–27. (film review)
  • Adams, Virginia M. (Editor.) 1991. On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier's Civil War Letters From the Front. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst. ISBN 1-55849-202-X

Cited references

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b Emilio, Luis F. (1995). A Brave Black regiment: the history of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865. New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 4. ISBN 0-306-80623-1. 
  3. ^ Duncan, Russell (1999). Where Death and Glory Meet. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-2136-3. Pg. 52-59
  4. ^ Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, ed. Russell Duncan (Athens & London: The University of Georgia Press, 1992), 52.
  5. ^ Kathy Dhalle, "A Biography of Robert Gould Shaw,"
  6. ^ Duncan, pg. 110
  7. ^ Robert Gould Shaw.(2009). In American History. Retrieved December 1, 2009 from
  8. ^ Andreas Lindahl (2008), "Glory Sountrack (James Horner)",
  9. ^ Christian Clemmensen, (1997, rev. 2006), "Filmtracks: Glory (James Horner)",

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Glory is a 1989 film about the US Civil War's first all-black volunteer company as they fight against the prejudices of both their own Union army and the Confederates.

Directed by Edward Zwick. Written by Kevin Jarre, based on books by Lincoln Kirstein and Peter Burchard and the letters of Robert Gould Shaw.
Their innocence. Their heritage. Their lives. Nothing would be spared in the fight for their freedom.


Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

  • [in a letter] Dear Mother, They learn very quickly; faster than white troops, it seems to me. They are almost grave and sedate under instruction and they restrain themselves. But the moment they are dismissed from drill, every tongue is relaxed and every ivory tooth is visible and you would not know from the sound of it that this is an army camp. They must have learned this from long hours of meaningless, inhuman work to set their minds free so quickly. It gives them great energy. And there is no doubt we will leave this state as fine a regiment as any that as marched. As ever, your son, Robert.
  • We are fighting for a people whose poetry has not yet been written.

Private Trip

  • [addressing the 54th the night before battle] I ain't much about no prayin,' now. I ain't never had no family, and... killed off my mama. Well, I just... Y'all's the onliest family I got. I love the 54th. Ain't even much a matter what happens tomorrow, 'cause we men, ain't we? We men.


  • Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins [to a group of children]: That's right, honeys. Ain't no dream. We runaway slaves, but we come back fightin' men. Go tell your folks how kingdom come in the year of jubilee!
  • Pvt. Jupiter Sharts: [praying aloud] Tomorrow we goes into battle. So Lordy, let me fight with the rifle in one hand and the Good Book in the other. So that if I may die at the muzzle of the rifle... die on water, or on land, I may know that you blessed Jesus almighty are with me... and I will have no fear.


Shaw: Sgt. Mulcahy!
Mulcahy: Sir!
Shaw: I have no doubt you are a fair man, Mulcahy. I wonder if you are treating these men too hard. [Mulcahy hesitates to speak.] You disagree. You may speak freely.
Mulcahy: [referring to Searles] The boy is a friend of yours, is he?
Shaw: Yes, we grew up together.
Mulcahy: Let him grow up some more.

Trip: Hey, yo, nigger, that's my spot, see.
Searles: If you don't mind, I'd prefer a space where there's more sufficient reading light.
Trip: Oooh, I like it when niggers talk good as white folks!
Searles: I'd be happy to teach you. It would be my pleasure.
Trip: Now, listen here, snowflake, I ain't got nothin' to learn from no house nigger, you hear?
Searles: I am a free man, like my father before me.
Trip: Oh, you free, huh? Then move your free black ass out my space, see!

[Trip and Searles are about to fight when Rawlins steps in]
Trip: You better get your hands off me gravedigger!
Rawlins: Goddamn it! Does the whole world gotta stomp on your face?
Trip: Oh, I see. White man give you some stripes, next thing you hollerin' and orderin' everybody around, huh! Like you the massa hisself? Nigger, you ain't nothin' but the white man's dog! Shit. [Rawlins slaps him.]
Rawlins: And what are you? So full of hate you have to fight everybody because you've been whipped and chased by hounds. Well, that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain't dying. And dying's what these white boys been doin' for going on three years now, dying by the thousands! Dying for you, fool! I know, 'cuz I dug the graves. And all the time I keep askin' myself, "When, O Lord, when gonna be our time?" Gonna come a time when we all gonna hafta ante up and kick in like men, LIKE MEN! You watch who you callin' nigger. If there's any niggers round here, it's YOU! Smart-mouthed, stupid-ass, swamp-runnin' nigger. And if you ain't careful, that's all you ever gonna be.

Trip: I ain't fightin' this war for you, sir.
Shaw: I see.
Trip: I mean, what's the point? Ain't nobody gonna win. It's just gonna go on and on.
Shaw: Can't go on forever.
Trip: Yeah, but ain't nobody gonna win, sir.
Shaw: Somebody's gonna win.
Trip: Who? I mean, you get to go on back to Boston, big house and all that. What about us? What do we get?
Shaw: Well, you won't get anything if we lose.

Trip: See, the way I figure, I figure this war would be over a whole lot sooner if you boys just turned right on around and headed back on down that way, and you let us head on up there where the real fighting is.
Union Soldier: There's men dyin' up that road.
Trip: And there wouldn't be nothing but rebs dyin if they'd let the 54th in it.


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