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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (31 October 1863)
L. H., "To Robert Gould Shaw" The Anglo-African (31 October 1863): [4]View Poem Image
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Buried by South Carolinians under a pile of twenty four

On Alaric,[2] buried in Busento's bed, The slaves the stream who turned were butchered thrown, That, so his grave eternally unknown, No mortal on the Scorge of God might tread. A nobler hero thou hast nobler grave, In Wagner's trench, made by unwilling slaves, Beneath the corpses hid of thy black braves, Who, freed, their lives for freedom willing gave. In death, as life, round thee their guard they keep, And, when next time they hear the trumpet's sound, Will they with thee on heaven's parapet leap; The four and twenty elders[3] on the ground Their crowns before thy lowly comrades lay, While, "Come up higher, friend!" thou hear'st God say.
Evening Post.[5]


  1. Robert Gould Shaw (1837–July 18, 1863) was colonel of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, the first regiment of African American volunteers raised in the North, authorized in late January 1863 and mustered into the US service on May 13. Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts received War Department authorization to raise the first Northern regiment of African American volunteers in January 1863. Determined to form a model regiment, Andrew took care to select advisers, officers, and recruiters with antislavery convictions or connections; he offered Shaw the regiment's colonelcy at the end of January, on the basis of the young captain's military record and his wealthy family's influence in reform circles. Shaw turned Andrew down; he did not have abolitionist principles to trump his strong attachment to the Second Massachusetts Infantry. His mother persuaded him to think again.
    Black leaders called on men to enlist and thereby seize their "golden opportunity" and "first best chance" to establish an undeniable claim to the full rights of American citizens (Frederick Douglass, "Men of Color, to Arms!" reprinted in the Anglo-African, March 7, 1863, [2]; editorial, Anglo-African, March 7, 1863, [2]). The Fifty-Fourth quickly filled with men "from virtually every black community in the North" (Donald Yacovone, A Voice of Thunder: A Black Soldier's Civil War [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998], 31). A number of the new recruits would provide the Anglo-African and the Christian Recorder with correspondence from the front during their term of service. Both titles served as a channel of communication between distant volunteers and the folks at home.
    Under Shaw's command, the regiment took shape at Camp Meigs in Readville, Massachusetts. On May, 28, 1863, after weeks of training, the men paraded through Boston's cheering streets and then embarked on the steamer De Molay, bound for South Carolina's Sea Islands and the theater of war. On July 18, 1863, Shaw and the Fifty-Fourth courageously led a frontal attack on Morris Island's (South Carolina) Fort Wagner. Their bravery could not compensate for General Quincy Gillmore's poor planning; the assault failed, and 272 members of the regiment were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner (Russell Duncan, ed., Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Col. Robert Gould Shaw [Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999], 52). Northern newspapers reported that Fort Wagner's Confederate garrison had buried Shaw in a mass grave with his men. Abolitionists reinterpreted the Confederate gesture of contempt as a mark of distinction. Shaw's parents made known their wish that his body should not be disturbed: "We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave & devoted soldiers, if we could accomplish it by a word" (letter dated August 3, 1863, quoted in Duncan, 54).
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  2. Alaric I (370–410), King of the Visigoths. He died soon after conquering Rome, and was buried beneath the river Busentinus by "captives" who were then slaughtered: "the secret spot . . . was for ever concealed by the inhuman massacre of the prisoners" (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. David Wormersley [London: Penguin, 1995], 2:212).Go back
  3. See Revelation 4:4: "And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."Go back
  4. Unidentified.Go back
  5. The New York Evening Post, founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801. William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) began to write for the title in 1826, having struggled to make a living as a poet; by 1830 he was the Post's editor-in-chief, and the daily's financial prospects looked good (Allan Nevins, The Evening Post: A Century of Journalism [New York: Russell and Russell, 1968], 134-136). Committed to Free Soil principles, Bryant severed the Post's connection with the Democratic Party in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and backed the fledgling Republican Party in 1856. He threw his weight behind Lincoln's presidential campaign in 1860. Although the Post remained staunchly Republican throughout the war, Bryant did not shrink from criticizing Lincoln's policies. The Post "shared with the Tribune the advocacy of what came to be called the 'radical' Republican doctrines during the Civil War—namely, emancipation, the need of strong and swift military measures, and the removal of pro-slavery and Democratic leaders from the government and army" (Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States Through Twenty Years, 1690–1940 [New York: Macmillan, 1941], 5:344).
    The Anglo-African complimented and criticized the Post in its issue of October 3, 1863. It "never, like the Tribune, [got] the 'stericks,' no matter what the case may be," but it was not "a safe guide in all things." "In its heart of hearts it does not recognize God's black man as a man and a brother—intellectually perhaps it does, but morally and socially, it does not. Hence while it hates slavery, it covets slave territory for free white labor, with a 'scourging' out of the 'inferior race' into some part of the tropical region belonging to nobody; it meanly 'begrudged' Florida to the free blacks." As a result, the Anglo-African's "great neighbor" made arguments "of which he ought to be ashamed." The editor cited the Post's assertion that African American soldiers were due the same protections but not the same "honors and emoluments" as white soldiers. As far as the Anglo-African was concerned, "[the government] cannot treat the black soldier as an inferior and ask the Confederates to treat him as an equal" ([3]).
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