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Their innocence. Their heritage. Their lives. Their bravery. Nothing would be spared in the fight for their freedom.
- Directed by Edward Zwick. Written by Kevin Jarre, based on books by Lincoln Kirstein and Peter Burchard and the letters of Robert Gould Shaw.
- The 54th Massachusetts Brigade lost over half its number in the assault on Fort Wagner. The supporting white brigades also suffered heavily before withdrawing.
- The fort was never taken.
- As word of their bravery spread, Congress at last authorized the raising of black troops throughout the Union. Over 180 thousand volunteered.
- President Lincoln credited these men of color with helping turn the tide of the war.
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw
- Good morning gentlemen, I am Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. I am your commanding officer. It is a great pleasure to see you all here today. It is my hope that the same courage, spirit, and honor, which has brought us together, will one day restore this Union. May God bless us all.
- [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.
- It is my job to get these men ready. And I will. They have risked their lives to be here, they have given up their freedom. I owe them as much as they have given. I owe them my freedom... my life if necessary.
- If you men will take no pay, then none of us will! [Holds up his own paycheck and tears it in half]
- There's more to fighting than rest, sir. There's character. There's strength of heart. You should have seen us in action two days ago. We were a sight to see! We'll be ready, sir. When do you want us?
- [Last words] Come on, Fifty-Fourth!
- Mr. Rawlins, this regiment was formed with the promise that only white officers would be commissioned to lead it. Nothing was mentioned, however, about noncommissioned officers. Therefore, in recognition of initiative taken not only for yourself, but on behalf of the entire regiment, you are hereby awarded the rank of Sergeant Major. Congratulations.
- [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.
- Union Corporal: "Give'em hell 54th!"
- Army Surgeon: Heard the latest?
- Shaw: What's that?
- Surgeon: Well, I heard it from a friend who's a dispatch rider, who got it from one of Stanton's clerks in the War Office. He says Lincoln is gonna issue an Emancipation Proclamation. Gonna free the slaves.
- Shaw: What?
- Surgeon: Well, maybe not the ones in the border states but he's gonna free some of 'em, anyway.
- Shaw: My God.
- Surgeon: Yeah, he said he would have done it sooner, only he was waiting for a big victory, which is, I guess what this is.
- Trip: Wait, no. That's my space, nigger. I sleep better close by the door.
- Searles: Well, if you don't mind, I'd prefer a space where there's more sufficient reading light.
- Trip: Oh, I like it when niggers talk good as white folk!
- Searles: I'd be happy to teach you. It would be my pleasure.
- Trip: Hey, listen here, snowflake, I ain't got nothin' to learn from no house nigger, you hear?
- Searles: I am a free man, as was my father before me.
- Trip: Oh, you free, huh? Then move your free black ass out my space, before I have to bust it up!
- Shaw: Sergeant Major!
- Mulcahy: Sir!
- Shaw: At ease, Sergeant.
- 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's your friend, is he?
- Shaw: We grew up together, yes.
- Mulcahy: Let him grow up some more.
- [Col. Shaw approaches Rawlins after having Trip horse-whipped for desertion.]
- Colonel Robert G. Shaw: Mr. Rawlins... this morning, I... it would be a great help if I could talk to you from time to time about the men. That's all.
- [Shaw turns to leave]
- Rawlins: Shoes, sir. [Shaw turns around] The men need shoes, Colonel.
- Colonel Robert G. Shaw: Yes, I've been after the quartermaster for some time.
- John Rawlins: No, sir. Now. That boy ran off to find him some shoes, Colonel. He wants to fight. Same as the rest of us. More, even.
- [Trip and Searles are about to fight when Rawlins steps in]
- Trip: Get your hands off me, gravedigger!
- Rawlins: Goddamn it! Does the whole world gotta stomp on your face?
- Trip: Nigger, you better get your hands off me!
- Rawlins: Ain't no niggers around here, you hear me?
- Trip: Oh, I see. So the white man give you a couple of stripes, next thing you hollerin' and orderin' everybody around, like you the massa himself! 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. What do you want to do?
- Trip: I don't know, sir.
- Shaw: It stinks, I suppose.
- Trip: Yeah, it stinks bad. And we all covered up in it. Ain't nobody clean. Be nice to get clean though.
- Shaw: How do we do that?
- Trip: We ante up and kick in, sir. But I still don't want to carry your flag.
- 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.
- Union Solder: Listen-
- [Men of both regiments argue and begin fighting]
- Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins: Hold it! As you were, Trip! As you were! [To the Connecticut soldiers] You men move on.
- 10th Connecticut Corporal: [Scoffing as he notices Rawlins' rank] Stripes on a nigger. That's like tits on a bull!
- Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins: You're lookin' at a higher rank, Corporal. You'll obey and like it.
- 10th Connecticut Corporal: Make me.
- Trip: I'll make you!
- [The 10th Connecticut soldiers push forward again and the fight resumes; Major Forbes arrives on his horse]
- Major Forbes: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?! [The fighting immediately stops]
- Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins: Attention!
- Major Forbes: [Pointing at the 10th Connecticut Corporal] You! Yes, you! What's your name? I'm putting you up on charges!
- [The Corporal freezes in fear, unable to speak]
- Sgt. Maj. Rawlins: Ain't no cause for that, sir.
- Major Forbes: What's that, Sergeant?
- Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins: It's just a soldiers' fight, sir.
- Major Forbes: All right. You men move along. [pause] MOVE IT!
- [The 54th resumes its work and the 10th Connecticut continues marching; the Corporal looks at Rawlins briefly, then rejoins his unit.]
- [Shaw enters the quartermaster's office while some of his soldiers guard the door]
- Quartermaster: Good afternoon, Colonel. Change your mind about that bottle I was talking about?
- Colonel Robert G. Shaw: I want 600 pairs of shoes and 1200 pairs of socks... and anything else you've been holding out on us, you piece of rat filth!
- Quartermaster: I'd love to help you, Colonel, but we just don't have any.
- Colonel Robert G. Shaw: Not for niggers, you don't!
- Quartermaster: Not for anybody.
- Colonel Robert G. Shaw: I see. Pity. I'll just look around to see if you haven't misplaced them, hmm?
- [Shaw starts smashing up the place, throwing items off shelves and onto the floor.]
- Quartermaster: HEY!
- Colonel Robert G. Shaw: [Over the noise] Where are they, you son of a bitch?!
- [Shaw throws items off another shelf]
- Quartermaster: Goddamn it, you can't-!
- Colonel Robert G. Shaw: Can't I? I'm a colonel, you nasty little cuss! You really think you can keep 700 Union soldiers without proper shoes because you think it's funny? Now, where would that power come from?
- Shaw: Come on, Fifty-fourth! [Shaw is shot]
- Forbes: Robert!
[Shaw struggles forward, but is shot two more times and falls dead]
- Trip: [Gets up and take the flag from the dead Union soldier] COME ON! [Trip begins to carry the flag forward, but is shot and killed]
[Trip's courageous call increases the morale of all Union troops in the battle]
- Forbes: CHARGE! [All men charge uphill toward the Fort]
- Matthew Broderick - Col. Robert Gould Shaw
- Denzel Washington - Pvt. Tripp
- Cary Elwes - Maj. Cabot Forbes
- Morgan Freeman - Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins
- Jihmi Kennedy - Pvt. Jupiter Sharts
- Andre Braugher - Cpl. Thomas Searles
- John Finn - Sgt. Maj. Mulcahy
- Donovan Leitch - Capt. Charles Morse
- JD Cullum - Henry Sturgis Russell
- Alan North - Gov. John Andrew
- Bob Gunton - Gen. Harker
- Cliff De Young - Col. James M. Montgomery
- Richard Riehle - Kendric, quartermaster
- Raymond St. Jacques - Frederick Douglass