Called to the Mall: This Sculpture Tells the Story of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War

By Naod Samuel, 9 years old

This great sculpture, called the Shaw Memorial, is in the National Gallery of Art on the Mall in D.C. It shows the 54th Massachusetts Regiment marching in 1863. These men are African Americans who want to help the Northern Army to win the war and end slavery in our country. This is what the Civil War was about for them.

When I look at this, I see the black soldiers all around the white officer on the horse. The drummers are drumming and I think the drums are saying that they are ready to go. All the people have rifles and the leader, the man on the horse, has a sword and a pistol.

Shaw Memorial by Saint-Gaudens, Augustus (Courtesy National Gallery of Art)
Shaw Memorial by Saint-Gaudens, Augustus (Courtesy National Gallery of Art)

Everyone is carrying bags and bedrolls and they have water canteens. There is a lady floating over their heads. I think she’s an angel, a symbol of God looking out for all of them.

The man who made this is Augustus Saint-Gaudens.   He made the first version, a bronze sculpture, for 21 important men who lived in Boston. He did it in honor of the officer in the middle, who was named Colonel Shaw, and his brave regiment. That sculpture got put up in Boston. Then he did a slightly different version of the same story.   He did this one himself. He wanted to get all the details right. It took him more than ten years to finish it. Then this version was given to the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (later the Albright-Knox Art Gallery). The Buffalo Fine Arts gallery gave it to the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in 1949. Finally, it was donated to the National Gallery of Art, and that is where you can see it today.

• Called to the Mall: An Anthology of Stories about the National Mall was a project to teach children how to be active citizens in a democracy. It was created September 25, 2017 by Shining Stars Montessori Academy Public Charter School and sponsored by the National Mall Coalition, of Washington, D.C.

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