Shaw Memorial Vandalized

Two months ago I wrote an entry regarding the dedication of the famous Robert Gould Shaw Memorial across from the State House in Boston. Sadly, a woman yesterday saw fit to empty a can of yellow paint on what I think of as Boston’s most beautiful Civil War monument. You can read about the details here and in a variety of other news sources. Apparently, prior to this episode, she tried to break the sword from Colonel Shaw’s grasp.

It goes without saying that this action is heinous. To so dishonor a memorial to men who died in service of their country, men who made a harrowing charge on Fort Wagner outside Charleston, is to me inconceivable. Perhaps more perplexing, according to various news articles she claimed she did so because she was upset about the historical inaccuracy of the monument or “the way the monument depicted history.”

It is perhaps a waste of time to ponder the motivations behind such an action. And yet I can’t help wondering, what about the monument so upset her? The answer is probably not a rational one.

According to the news reports, the woman was detained by a man whose daughter was also splashed by the yellow paint. He kept the vandal there until police could arrive. Bully for him! I wish I could shake his yellow paint-stained hand.

I happened to have a meeting at the State House in Boston today and so I had a chance to examine the monument and take a picture or two. Despite the paint and the police tape surrounding the memorial, tourists were happily posing for pictures in front of it as they always do. I watched numerous groups and heard them speak admiringly of the memorial. One teenager in particular caught my attention, asking his parents to take many pictures of him in front of it. Perhaps more than they had patience for. But he seemed truly caught up in the moment.

While I stood there for about ten minutes, quietly observing, no one mentioned the paint. They simply admired the monument, the memory of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. I take that as an indication that this vandal’s actions were truly meaningless.

At the meeting I attended, I learned that the clean up effort will commence tomorrow. Let’s hope it goes smoothly and quickly.

About Patrick Browne

I am a PhD candidate in History, former historical society and museum director of roughly 20 years, an author, and quondam Civil War reenactor. I specialize in early American History, particularly the Civil War era. View all posts by Patrick Browne

4 responses to “Shaw Memorial Vandalized

  • virginiaplantation

    What a sad event. I think the woman was looking for her 15 minutes of fame at the cost of dishonoring a man and his troops. Not matter what side you were on, all those that give their lifes in the service of their country should be honored and respected. I would gladly work on restoring it if I were there!

  • Carole

    We were so upset about this, too. I’m curious to hear more details about what she thinks is wrong with the historical accuracy of this monument but she’s probably just nuts.

  • Frank

    I hope the cost of repair is assessed to her by a judge or court and the state stays after her until she pays.

  • S. Thomas Summers

    Tragic.

    S. Thomas Summers
    Author of Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War

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