Glory (1989) is an American war movie that narrates the story of the first all black volunteer infantry in the North, the 54th Massachusetts. The account in this film is told from the point of view of Robert Gould Shaw, who was the commanding officer of this contingent for the duration of the American Civil War. This movie reminds the viewer of the role played by the African American soldiers in the Civil War and in the obliteration of slavery.
This article will explore the movie, bringing out the relationship between the stories as reflected on the film in correlation to the actual occurrences that are documented in history books regarding these same episodes. The article will also tackle other features of the films such as the title, settings, and main characters along with how the movie functions as history.
The Cast of the movie includes Mathew Broderic who plays the part of Colonel Shaw, Morgan Freeman who plays the grave digger, and Cary Elves who is Major Forbes in this movie, Denzel Washington who plays the character of Trip, and Jimmy Kennedy who plays the field hand’s role.
The other characters are Andre Braugher (Corporal Searless), John Finn (Surgent Mulcahy), Domovan Leitch (Captain Morse), JD Cullum (Henry Russell), Jay Sanders (Brigadier Strong), Cliffe De Young (colonel Montogomery), Alan North (Governer Andrew), and Bob Gunton (General Harker).
The movie is filmed in Georgia and Florida and is facilitated by hundreds of Civil War historical re-enactors so as to bring out the historical background of the Civil War. The early scenes of the movie reveal Captain Shaw, who is portrayed as being dismayed and bewildered by the violence of the battleground.
The captain is then shown to be slightly wounded in combat and faints due to his injuries. A character christened as the gravedigger wakes him up and he is taken for treatment. While getting treatment, Captain Shaw is informed that President Abraham Lincoln is about to make an announcement that will see the setting free of some of the slaves held in rebel areas.
As the movie develops, Shaw is promoted to the rank of a colonel while he is on leave in Boston and given the responsibility of leading the first all blacks regiment, which was to be formed following Abraham Lincoln’s declaration speech. As the leader of his regiment, Colonel Shaw requests his friend from childhood, Cabot Forbes, to deputize him.
Other volunteers, who are mostly freed black men, offer to join Colonel Shaw’s regiment. In those days, whites enjoyed more privileges compared to blacks and this is well depicted in the movie by the tension that arises between Trip and Thomas. They however resolve their differences and become closer friends.
While at the camp, the 54th regiment undergoes a lot of difficulties due to the discrimination of their group. They are compelled to tolerate the unfaltering strict punishment of Sergeant Major Mulcahy.
Among the challenges they experience in the camp were inadequate suitable equipments and the open racial discrimination that was prevalent in the camp. In the camp, the African American soldiers were singled out by their white counterparts. There were no black soldiers in command and it seemed like such positions were preserved for only the whites.
After a long period carrying out their duties, Colonel Shaw realizes that his regiment was to be used to perform menial duties. This angered him so much that he threatened to report the unfair treatment to the war department. His request to have his regiment allowed to go to war like the rest of the regiments is then approved by his commanding officers.
Following his regiment’s first successful participation in the combat, Colonel Shaw volunteers his 54th Massachusetts to lead an assault on Fort Wagner. Subsequent to being honored by white soldiers and officers, Shaw leads his men to ambush a well guarded enemy’s fort but while trying to lead his men, Shaw is unfortunately shot at and killed instantly.
Unfortunately, this also happens to a member of his regiment known as Trip, who attempted to raise the flag and lead his other black men in absence of Shaw. The next scene of the movie opens with a morning scene in which the confederate banner is hoisted on top of the fort. This is followed by a burial of the deceased members of the 54th regiment together with that of Shaw and Trip are buried in a mass grave.
This movie is filled with imaginary character and incidences, presenting the viewers with a convincingly emotional story of togetherness between the African American soldiers and certain whites during the American Civil War.
Of the many characters in this move, only one character, Colonel Robert Shaw, is non fictional. From the onset of this movie, Robert Shaw is depicted as the main character and his presence is observed almost in all scenes of the movie. Another white character who is as well equally featured in this movie is Cabot Forbes, who is the second in command from Shaw.
The whites in this movie are shown as racists and this is clearly reflected in the movie by the way the white soldiers and officers relate to their African American counterparts. Instead of being paid thirteen dollars as the white soldiers are, the black soldiers are paid ten dollars.
The black soldiers are also not accorded enough equipment to fight the war yet the whites have more than enough. Yet another scene that portrays the racism theme is shown when the African American soldiers are initially subjected to menial jobs instead of equally being given a chance to play a part in active combat as the whites are.
Not all whites are shown as racists and Shaw and Forbes, who are portrayed as sympathizers of the blacks to the extent of demanding equal salary for their regiment. This is shown when, as earlier stated in this article, Shaw threatens to report the unfair treatment of the blacks to the war department. One is left wondering whether under normal circumstances in those days, Shaw and Forbes would really have behaved in similar comportment or if the movie was trying to depict them as good guys while in reality they were not.
Most of the Africa Americans individuals during the civil war era were depicted as violent and people who always had problems taking orders. It is no wonder that many people were perplexed by their ability to make good soldiers given that solders always act by the orders given to them.
This nature of being disobedient is also contrasted in this movie when the blacks protest against racism and their unequal salaries only to quickly soften their stand and accept disciplinary actions from their white counter parts. The blacks are also depicted as being obedient to military orders which eventually led most of them to their death.
There are some scenes in this movie that do not accurately portray the occurrences in the American Civil War. For instance, Shaw’s regiment did not actually triumph over the rival forces at Fort Wagner, but in this movie, we are shown the confederate flag flying high on top of the fort as a sign that the regiment was successful in defeating their enemies.
Another inaccurate depiction of the Civil War events is the duration of time it took Colonel Shaw to accept the offer of leading the African American Regiment. In the “Glory,” Shaw is shown as accepting the leadership offer right away while historical documentations illustrate that he accepted the offer after many days of careful deliberation. The number of the 54th regiment soldiers killed in battle is also not captured accurately.
The inaccuracies shown in this movie could have been due to the challenges in terms of cost that were encountered while producing this movie.
To produce a movie that would capture all the occurrences of the war accurately would have been very costly. Even with the inaccuracies mentioned above, a great extent almost every major incidence that took place in the 54th regiment has been accurately captured in this movie.
As one watches the movie, it can be difficult not to notice how this movie is able to capture how unfairly African Americans were treated during the war just because of their skin color. The “Glory” can therefore be said to be a movie that almost accurately portrays the occurrences in the American Civil War particularly the challenges faced by the African Americans in the war.
The movie “Glory” is reflection is of historical importance since it portrays the role of African Americans in fighting for the Union army in the historical American Civil War. Moreover, the “Glory” shows that the Union victory, which is an important milestone in the history of America, took place with the assistance of African Americans.
Despite being put through a lot of suffering in the form of slavery and other forms of discrimination, the movie portrays the African Americans as being capable of fighting in a war, just as their white counterparts and as such, they should be recognized as having greatly contributed to the history of the US. At the time of the Civil War, it was a common belief among many whites that the blacks were incapable of properly fighting in a war and therefore should not be allowed to participate in the war.
This belief was however proven wrong by history just as shown in “Glory,” which honors the African Americans for their role in the war. There were also some fears about the loyalty of the blacks during the war given their history of being slaves but once again, just as shown in the movie, the black fighters in the war proved very loyal and worthy to be in the battle despite their group being openly discriminated against.
The movie Glory is a celebration of the less known acts of courage and sacrifice during the Civil War. As shown by the movie, as much as the Civil War was about ending slavery and setting free the blacks, it is ironical that the blacks in the movie were not free to fight the war as shown by their bad treatment during the war.
This was perhaps a sign that the war would not mark the end of discrimination of the African Americans. In fact, most historians who write about the Civil War tend to ignore the crucial role played by the blacks yet more than 200 thousand of them actively fought and helped secure victory for the northerners.
A big part of the movie accurately portrays the exact happenings as they took place during the Civil War. After watching the movie, a viewer cannot fail to notice the huge effort put towards correctly portraying the details of the war. The main scene in the movie occurred just as it is portrayed in the movie and some of the main characters, including Douglas, Shaw and Frederick, actually existed and fought in the war as shown in the movie.
Even though a good number of the secondary characters are fictional, they have been included in the movie to represent the wide cross-section of individuals who joined the 54th Regiment. The movie can therefore be said to be an almost accurate representation of African American participation in the war and their struggles.
Some of the scary scenes in the movie, including the one showing an explosion of a soldier’s head, are included in an effort to show the gore and bloodshed that took place in the battlefield. Even with such scary scenes, the movie’s accurate depiction of an important historical occurrence has made it a perfect movie to be shown during history classes.
However, the version shown in schools is edited to reduce extreme violence. The movie is among the most shown movies in high school history classes to increase awareness of the important role played by blacks in the Civil War. Apart from telling the story of an important occurrence in US history, the movie contains elements associated with a great motion picture which leaves its viewers with a lot of memories.