April 3, 1863: Letter About Annie


Part of the infinite tragedy of the Civil War was the hundreds of thousands of widows it created.  One of these was Annie Hagerty Shaw.  Born in 1835 she was the daughter of a rich New York auctioneer.  She and Robert Shaw met in 1861 and carried on a steady correspondence while he served with the Army of the Potomac.  Having narrowly missed death at Antietam in 1863, both Shaw and Annie realized that there was a very good chance that he could be killed in the War.  While he was training the 54th Massachusetts, he and Annie decided to be married.  His mother opposed the marriage as did her parents, all fearing that Annie risked being left a very young widow.  However both Annie and Robert were determined to be wed, as Shaw made clear in a letter to his father:

April 3,1863

Dear Father,

I received yours of 1st to-day. As regards our being married, Mr. and Mrs. Haggerty seem as much opposed to it as Mother. The reason I should like to have it, is the very one that Mother gives for opposing it; namely, that I am going away. I can’t help feeling that, if we are not married before I go, I shall feel very much dissatisfied and discontented. For the sake of Annie’s and my own peace of mind, I want it.

Your loving son,

Robert G. Shaw

On May 2, 1863 they were wed in New York City and spent a honeymoon of four days before Robert rejoined his regiment.  On May 28, 1863 Shaw led his regiment to the wharf in Boston to be transported South.  A crowd of 20,000 turned out to cheer the 54th, a proud Annie among them, along with Shaw’s mother and two of his sisters.  Less than three months later he was dead, killed leading the assault by the 54th at Fort Wagner.  As Confederate Lieutenant Robert Iredell who fought at Fort Wagner noted, “The Negroes fought gallantly, and were headed by as brave a colonel as ever lived.”   At 28, Annie was a widow.  She would never remarry and lived to be 71, dying in 1907.  The North celebrated Shaw as a hero, as did she, but she also mourned him as her husband who was taken from her after such a brief time together.

Annie Hagerty Shaw

Published in: on April 3, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 3, 1863: Letter About Annie  
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