Scene 1: Antietam [Scene runs
from 00:01:47 to 00:07:18. For those with DVDSs, it begins in the
first chapter and ends with a minute left of ch. 2.]
The film involves the historical figure Robert
Gould Shaw, the son of wealthy Boston abolitionists, who enlisted
in the Union Army at age 23 in the War between the States. The movie
tells us that he wrote home regularly, telling his parents of life
in the gathering Army of the Potomac, and that those letters are
collected in the Houghton Library of Harvard University. In the
first scene we see him marching with the army, and here is voice
reading a letter to his mother.
Shaw's Voice Over: Dear Mother, I
hope you are keeping well and not worrying too much about me. You
mustn't think that any of us are going to be killed; for they are
collecting such a force here that an attack would be insane. The
Massachusetts men passed through here this morning. How grand it
is to meet the men from all the states, east and west, down here,
ready to fight for their country, as the old fellows did in the
Revolution. But this time, we must make it a whole country, for
all who live here, so that all can speak. Before this war began,
many of my regiment had never seen a Negro. Now the roads are choked
with the dispossessed. We fight for men and women whose poetry is
not yet written, but which will presently be as enviable and as
renowned as any form. Last night we heard of yet another defeat.
But we are not disheartened. I am honored to be part of such a splendid
company. They have made me captain, of which I am enormously proud.
You would think it strange to see me giving orders to a hundred
men, most of whom are older than I am. Thank you for sending my
volume of Emerson. His words come home to me like truth--‘A
deep man,' he says, ‘believes that the evil eye can wither,
that the heart's blessing can heal, and that love can overcome all
odds.' My dearest love to Father. Your son, Robert.
The Army of the Potomac approaches Confederate
forces at Antietam Creek, Maryland, September 17, 1862.
Shaw leads his troops into battle, walking with
his sword extended. Cannons fire. Men fall. Union soldiers continue
to march forward.
Shaw: Steady boys. [More shooting]
Forward. Fire. (We hear gun and cannon shots, see the confusion
of battle, and men falling.)
Union soldier: (to the men)
For God's sake, come on.
Voice: (shouting) Robert,
come on. We must fall back.
Shaw: No, Forbes! Forbes!
Shaw is hits and falls, as does his friend Forbes, who had called
out to him.
Scene of quiet battlefield. Men lie dead and wounded.
African Americans, carrying shovels, pick up bodies. Shaw looks
up into the sun, and distinguishes a man standing over him.
Gravedigger: You all right there,
Shaw, holding his neck, which has been hurt, pulls
himself up. The gravedigger walks away.
Scene 2: Running for President [Scene runs
from 00:17:13 to 00:20:36. For those with DVDs, it begins ch. 16.]
Wounded at Antietam, Shaw returns to Boston. We
see him at a party at his parents' house, where he meets the governor
of Massachusetts and Frederick Douglass. He learns of a proposal
for a new regimen, composed of African Americans who enlist. The
Governor attributes the idea to Douglass, who says that by this
means "we will offer pride and dignity to those who know only
degradation." Shaw accepts command of the new regimen, and
asks Forbes to be his second in command. A childhood friend of theirs,
Thomas, an African American, offers to be the first volunteer. The
new enlistees assemble for training at Meadville Camp in Massachusetts.
At the beginning of the nest scene, we see them arriving at camp
to the mockery of white soldiers in the Union army who are looking
Voice of a white solider: Look at
what's walking in here! Look at ‘em!
Another white soldier: I'd rather
have a hog than a nigger. ‘Least you could eat the hog!
Another white solider: It's gettin'
dark mighty early around here! Laughter
Shaw and Forbes , who are on horseback, ride up
to each other and salute.
Another white solider: Show us a
little dance, nigger boys!
Robert and Forbes exchange glances.
A group of the new enlisted men enter their tent.
One of them is Thomas, whom we met earlier.
Voice: (In the background) Sergeant
of the guard, post your sentry.
Sergeant: Yes, sir.
In the tent.
Trip: (to Thomas, who prepares to sleep near
the door of the tent) Wait, no, see, that's my space, nigger.
I sleep better close to the door.
Thomas: Well, if you don't mind,
I'd prefer the more-- the space with more sufficient reading light.
Trip: (Smiling) Oh, I like
it when niggers talk good as white folk.
Thomas: I'd be happy to teach you.
It would be my pleasure.
Trip: Hey, look here, snowflake,
I ain't got nothing to learn from no house nigger, ya hear?
Thomas: I am a free man, as was my
father before me.
Trip: Oh, you free?
Trip: Oh good. Well why don't you
move your free black ass on out my space before I have to bust it
Rawlins (whom we recognize as
the gravedigger whom we met at Antietam): Hey, hold up there,
Trip: Ain't nobody said nothing to
Thomas: It's all right. I'll be fine
Thomas: (as he moves to the back
of the tent) Excuse me.
Young African American boy enters with drum.
Sharts: (Stuttering) W-w-wonder
when they gonna give us the blue suit.
Trip: Ain't no blue suit for the
black soldiers. Blue suit's for the white soldiers.
Sharts: Well, we soldiers now.
Trip: Where you from, field hand?
Sharts: South Carolina.
Trip: South Carolina. Well you ought
to know better than that, boy.
Trip: (to the boy) Hey,
would you quit that? (Boy still drumming) Say, boy, quit
that drumming. (Boy still drumming; Trip goes over to boy, takes
drumsticks, drums, and taps boy's hat.) (To boy) What's your
name, huh? (Boy remains silent.) I said, what's your name,
Thomas: Can't you see that he's mute?
Trip: He what?
Thomas: He's mute.
Rawlins: You mean this child can't
Thomas shakes his head "No."
Rawlins: Hey, come over here, hon.
(Boy goes over to Rawlins.)
Trip: Dummies and field hands, if
that ain't a bitch.
Rawlins: What about you, here, buck?
Whereabouts you from?
Trip: I'm from around Tennessee.
Ran away when I was twelve years old, and I ain't never looked back.
Sharts: W-w-whatcha doing since then?
Trip: I run for president.
Trip: I didn't win though.
Rawlins laughs; all laugh.
Scene 3: Training [Scene runs from 00:28:26
to 00:29:40. For those with DVDs, it occurs the last minute and
half of ch. 7.]
Soldiers are running in time. Sergeant Mulcahy
calls for them to halt. Thomas pants, coughs, and falls down. Mulcahy
quickly comes up to him.
Mulcahy: (to Thomas) You
aren't dismissed, boy. You get up. You fall out when I say, and
bot before. Understand? Get up!
Mulcahy kicks Thomas, when Thomas can't get up.
Shaw: (watching the scene, calls
Mulcahy over to speak to him) Sergeant Major.
Sergeant Mulcahy: (approaching
and standing at attention): Sir.
Shaw: At ease, Sergeant. I have no
doubt that you are a fair man, Mulcahy. I wonder if you are treating
these men too hard. You disagree. You may speak freely.
Mulcahy: The boy's your friend, is
Shaw: We grew up together, yes.
Mulcahy: Let him grow up some more.
Shaw: I see.
Mulcahy: Will that be all, sir?
Shaw: Yes. Dismissed.
Scene 4: I Owe Them My Freedom [Scene runs
from 31:00 to 36:44 For those with DVDs, it begins a little over
a minute into ch. 8 and runs through ch. 9.]
Shaw watches the men to whom guns have just been
distributed. Playfully, they pretend to be fighting each other,
and fall down. Robert has a flashback to Antietam.
Camera cuts to rifle practice. Sharts shoots a
bottle on a post.
Voice (in background): Good
Rawlins: (standing next to him)
Do that again! Hit it! (to Thomas) Give him your weapon.
(to Sharts) Do that again.
Voice: (in background):
One dime he can't do it.
Rawlins: Dime on each of you. Go
Sharts hits another bottle. Rawlins cheers.
Rawlins: That's a dime! That's a
dime on each of you!
Sharts smiles and is proud. He looks at Forbes,
who smiles back. The men are still cheering. Then Forbes sees Shaw
Forbes: Attention, company! (Shaw enters; Forbes
yells again) Attention, company!
Shaw: As you were.
Shaw salutes Sharts.
Shaw: (to Sharts): Front
and center. (Sharts steps in front of the line of soldiers)
You're a good shot, Private.
Sharts: Thank you, sir. S-squirrel hunting.
Shaw: You ever killed a man?
Sharts: No, sir.
Shaw: But you're handy with a gun.
Sharts: Yes, sir.
Shaw: Reload. (Sharts begins
to reload, smiling) Faster. (Sharts reloads a bit faster.)
Faster. (Sharts begins to look apprehensive, and begins to be
flustered. Shaw yelling) Faster. (Sharts looks surprised
and afraid, but finishes reloading.) Discharge your weapon.
(Sharts adds the bullets; Shaw repeating) Discharge your
weapon. Do it.
(Sharts fires, then looks at Shaw fearfully. Shawaddress
him again, speaking forcefully.)
Shaw: Now, do it again. Only this
time I want it done quickly. [
Sharts gets to work. Shaw turns to the rest of
Shaw: . A good man can fire three
aimed shots in a minute.
Sharts is still working on reloading, though more
furiously now. Shaw walks over to Forbes.
Shaw: Major Forbes, give me your
Forbes looks at him incredulously.
Shaw: Your gun.
Forbes, still bewildered and worried, slowly reaches
toward his belt.
Shaw: Give it to me.
Shaw takes the gun. He turns back to Sharts.
Shaw: Faster. (Sharts shoots.)
Reload. (Raising the revolver behind Sharts head.)
Sharts realizes there is a gun behind his head
and looks afraid.)
Shaw: Quickly. Faster! (Sharts
begins to reload. Robert shoots in the air. Sharts turns around,
threatened.) Faster. Load. (shooting again) Faster.
Shaw shoots again, then walks around to the side
Shaw: Do it! Do it!
Flustered, Sharts stops loading and just looks
fearfully at Shaw.
Shaw: (yelling) Do it!
Shaw shoots a final time, walks over to Forbes,
and gives the gun back. In the background, Thomas is watching.
Shaw: (to Forbes) Teach
them properly, Major.
Forbes: (Angrily) Yes, sir.
Shaw walks off.
Forbes: Attention, company! (Rifle
practice continuing) Ready! Aim! Fire!
Shaw is riding with his sword drawn through the
tree stumps, slashing the watermelons which are placed on them.
He comes into the camp, and finds Forbes standing there.
Shaw: Good morning, Major. You're
Forbes: I want to talk to you.
He rides up to him, and puts his sword in its
If you wouldn't mind getting down from your horse.
Forbes: Why do you treat the men
this way, Robert?
Shaw: How should I treat them?
Forbes: Like men? (Folds his
arms. They look at each other.) And what about Thomas? Why
are you so hard on him? Shaw: He's not a very good solider. I'm
getting these men ready for battle.
Forbes: Robert, they're already as
good as the Seventh ever was. They march well. They're disciplined.
Shaw: No thanks to you.
Forbes: I beg your pardon.
Shaw: You heard me.
Forbes: Who do you think you are,
acting the high-up colonel? You seem to forget, I know you, and
so does Thomas.
Forbes walks away.
Shaw: Forbes! If you don't believe
in what we're doing here, maybe you shouldn't be part of it.
Forbes: Part of what? Huh? Left,
right! Little finger along the seams of your trousers? Marching
is probably all they'll ever get to do
Shaw: 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. Maybe so do you, Cabot.
(Camera cuts to Forbes.) I think you do.
Forbes bows, sarcastically, as if to say, "Your
Highness," and walks off.
Scene 5: And More Training [Scene runs from
36:45 to 38:46. For those with DVDs, it begins ch. 10.]
Soldiers are engaged in bayonet practice.
Mulcahy: Develop! En garde!
Men practice fighting.
Mulcahy: Thrust! Develop! (To
Sharts, who is practicing on a hanging bag.) You're not at
dancing school, son. Take his head off! (As he is walking around
the room, examining the soldiers, Mulcahy comes to Thomas.)
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! What have we here? Bonny Prince Charlie
and his little toy bayonet. You're not reading your books now. Go
on, go on. Get over, get over. (Mulcahy pushes Thomas across
from him.) Now stab me.
Mulcahy: Stab me.
Thomas prepares to stab him, and thrusts his bayonet.
Mulcahy swats the bayonet aside.
Mulchay: Come on! Stab, not tickle!
Thomas tries again.
Mulcahy: Come on! You prissy little
schoolgirl! You're the worst solider in this whole company! Now
Thomas tries again, and this time he tries harder,
with more spiritedness. As Thomas goes for Mulcahy, Mulcahy takes
Thomas' bayonet from him, hits him in the gut with the butt of the
gun, hits him on the head and knocks him down, and points the spear
at his throat. Thomas is bleeding. Shaw looks at Thomas, and then
Mulcahy: (to Thomas) No
shame, son. Get up.
Thomas cries, and moves, but does not get up.
Mulchay: I said get up!
Camera cuts to Trip, who is watching.
Trip: Nigger forgot to duck, that's
Shaw: Sergeant, deal with that man.
Mulcahy walks over to Trip.
Mulcahy: I'll tell you a wee secret,
son. Learn to keep your mouth shut.
Mulcahy shoves Trip. Rawlins catches him. Trip
is about to retaliate.
Rawlins: Save it, son. Save it.
Shaw: Carry on, Sergeant Mulcahy.
Shaw turns to walk out of the training room. Forbes
looks disapproving. Thomas gets up and moves toward Robert. His
voice is faltering.
Thomas: Robert. Robert. I'd like
to speak to you a moment in private, if I may.
Shaw: Enlisted men wishing to speak
to their commanding officer must first get permission. You understand,
Thomas : (Fighting back tears,
and with a more steady voice.) Yes, sir.
Thomas salutes Shaw, who returns the salute. Shaw
again walks toward the door.
Mulcahy: (in the background) En garde.
Thrust! Develop! Recover!
As these commands continue in the background,
Thomas again fights back a sob, and seems to "Recover!"
in his own way. He and Forbes exchange a sympathetic look.
Scene 6: Time to Ante Up [Scene runs from 01:11:56
to 01:14:30. For those with DVDs, it begins ch. 18.]
Thomas enters the tent, and speaks to Sharts,
who is reading.
Thomas: I've got the guard. Let me use your looking
Sharts gives him the mirror.
Thomas: Thank you.
Trip: Yeah, button up that collar.
Suck in that gut. Tuck in them big black lips. Lighten your skin.
Shrink up that nose.
Thomas hands the mirror back to Sharts.
Thomas: I don't have to listen to
He gets up to leave. Trip stands in his way.
Trip: Where you goin', boy?
Thomas: Let me by.
Trip: Let you by? Let you by. Let
me tell you something, boy. You can march like the white man. You
can talk like ‘em. You can-- you can learn his songs. You
can-- you can even wear his suits. But you ain't never gonna be
nothin' to ‘em, but an ugly-ass chimp in a blue suit. (Thomas
swallows.) Oh, you don't like that, do you?
Trip: Hmm. Well, what we gonna do
about it? Want to fight me, boy? Huh? What you gonna do about it?
You want to fight me, don't you? Don't you?
The men are standing very close. Trip makes a
monkey face and noises at Thomas. Thomas shoves Trip.
Trip: Come on, nig.
Thomas takes his hat off. Rawlins steps in, a
hand on each of the men.
Rawlins: All right! All right!
Trip: (To Rawlins) Get your
hands off me, gravedigger.
Rawlins grabs Trip by the collar.
Rawlins: God damn it. Does the whole
world gotta stomp in 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 know, you hollerin'
and orderin' everybody around like you the massa hisself. Nigger,
you ain't nothin' but the white man's dog.
Rawlins slaps Trip in the face.
Rawlins: And what are you? So full
of hate you just wanna go out and fight everybody, ‘cause
you was a whipped and chased by hounds. Well, that might not be
livin', but it sure as hell ain't dyin'.
He raising his voice, as if aware of an audience,
and turning toward the other men, then again facing Trip
Rawlins: And dying's what these white
boys been doin' for goin' on three years now. Dyin' by the thousands.
Dyin' for you, fool! I know ‘cause I dug the graves. And all
the time I'm diggin', I'm asking myself, "When?" "When,
O Lord, is it gonna be our time?" The time's comin' when we're
gonna have to ante up. Ante up and kick in like men. (Looking
at the other men) Like men! You watch who you call a nigger.
If there's any niggers around here, it's you. Smart-mouth, stupid-ass,
swamp-runnin' nigger. If you ain't careful, that's all you ever
gonna be. (To the other men listening) You men go on back
Scene 7: Worthy of Battle [Scene runs from
01:20:18 to 01:23:45. For those with DVDs, it begins a little over
three minutes into ch. 19 and runs through ch. 20.]
In this scene, we see the 54th regiment has finally
been given a chance to fight. The battle occurs on James Island,
South Carolina, July, 1863. After facing an initial deploy of a
few Confederates on horses, who are easily beaten, the 54th celebrates.
Then the Confederate army approaches, shooting and marching. The
54th charges, and fights well. We see Thomas shot, but he later
saves Trip's life as a confederate solider attacks Trip from behind.
Sharts shoots and reloads and shoots again, with his good aim, in
time to save himself from an approaching Confederate solider. Several
men display skill with their bayonets. The Confederate soldiers
are eventually routed, and the 54th regiment appears to have won
the battle. Shaw looks weary, and orders that the ranks be re-formed.
Shaw walks among the dead and wounded. He finds Thomas, who is lying
on the ground, wounded. Forbes and another man are with him.
Thomas: How do, Colonel?
Shaw: Hurts, doesn't it?
Thomas nods, as Forbes gives him a drink.
Shaw: Well, I'm extremely jealous.
You'll be back in Boston before me, sitting by the fire, reading
Hawthorne, cup of decent coffee.
Thomas: I'm not going back.
Forbes: Thomas, listen to me. You're
shot. You have to go back.
Thomas shakes his head, "no."
Thomas: Robert, promise me (Shaw reaches out
his hand) that you won't send me back. Promise me!
Shaw: (Nodding his head.)
All right. All right.
Scene 8: Getting Clean [Scene runs from 01:24:46 to
01:27:45 For those with DVDs, it begins one minute into ch. 21 and
runs to the end.]
It is after the battle, and Trip is sitting on
a log near a pond, apart from the others who are celebrating. When
Shaw approaches, he stands and salutes.
Shaw: As you were. Trip, isn't it?
Trip: Yes, sir.
Shaw: You fought very well yesterday,
Trip. Sergeant Rawlins has recommended that you receive a commendation.
Trip: Yes, sir?
Shaw: Yes, and I think you should
bear the regimental colors.
Trip: (Shaking his head.)
Shaw: It's considered quite an honor.
Trip: Well, I'm-- want in' to say something', sir,
Shaw: Go ahead.
Trip: All right. See, um, I ain't
fighting' 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: It can't go on forever.
Trip: But ain't nobody gonna win,
Shaw: Somebody's gonna win.
Trip: Who? I mean, you-- get to go
on back to Boston to a 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. I mean, ain't nobody clean. Be nice to get
Shaw: How do we do that?
Trip: We ante up and kick in, sir.
But I still don't wanna carry your flag.
Scene 9: Remember What You See Here [Scene
runs from 01:38:14 to 01:42:20. For those with DVDs, it begins ch.
24 and runs forty seconds into ch. 25.]
The Union army's next assignment is to attack
and take Fort Wagner, which is one of the forts guarding Charleston.
Colonel Strong explains the difficulty of the approach, a narrow
strip of land which allows only one regiment to go forward at a
time. He expects the casualties for the leading regiment to be heavy.
For the 54th Massachusetts, Shaw "requests the honor"
of leading the attack on the fort, relying on his tired men's "character"
and "strength of heart."
In the next scene, the 54th is assembled on the beach
to lead the charge against the fort. Other Union soldiers, who are
commanded to follow later, cheer them as they walk by. Shaw. On
his horse, comes to some white men who are watching the battle.
In the group is Pierce, a reporter, who is there to write about
Shaw: Ought to be quite a show, Pierce.
Pierce: Best seat in the house.
Shaw: I wonder if you might do something
for me. I have some letters here. Personal things.
Pierce: Certainly, Colonel.
Shaw: Also, if I should fall, remember
what you see here.
Shaw rides away. We see Forbes ride to the front
of the troops, and speak the young drummers.
Forbes: (to the drummers)
You are relieved. Report to the rear as stretcher bearers. Do it
now. Forward. March.
The drummers turn and walk to the back. The mute
drummer passes Rawlins, who is in the front line, stops and looks
up at him.
Rawlins: You go back, honey. We be
Camera cuts to Thomas and Trip standing together
in the ranks. Trip puts his hand on Thomas' shoulder in a gesture
Shaw rides to the side of his troops, looking
at his men with pride and concern, and then at the fort in the distance,
which they are about to attack. His dismounts, and sends his horse
back, and walks through the ranks of his men to the front of their
Soldiers: (lifting their caps, to
pay Shaw tribute, as he foes to the front) Colonel Shaw!. Colonel
Shaw! Colonel Shaw!
Shaw: (to his men, pointing to
the man carrying the flag): If this man should fall, who will
lift the flag and carry on?
Thomas: (stepping up) I
Shaw: I'll see you in the fort, Thomas.
Soldiers shout Huzza, and lift their caps to him several
times. Shaw gives the commands that move the army forward.
Shaw: Fix. Bayonets. Shoulder. Arms.
Charge. Bayonets. At the quickstep. Forward. March.
The troops march in rank toward the fort.
Scene 10: Picking up the Flag [Scene
runs from 01:48:25 to 01:50:00. For those with DVDs, it occurs a
minute into ch. 27.]
The men of the 54th charge the fort, with led
by Shaw. In this short scene from the battle, they are under heavy
fire as they attempt to mount the walls of the fort. Shaw loads
his pistol and charges with the color guard. He is hit, and falls,
but rises and keeps going forward. He is shot again, and dies. After
a moment of shock at his death, his men charge again, led by Trip,
who picks up the flag and yells for the men to charge. Trip is dies
holding the flag.