In Whose House Was Robert Gould Shaw's Sword Found?
July 19, 2017 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I've seen a few articles recently about how they found Robert Gould Shaw's sword in the attic of some distant relatives and I'm wondering if it's possible to find out exactly who these relatives were since when I was in seventh grade we watched Glory and a kid in my class distantly related to Shaw (last name: Shaw) brought in what he and his family said was Robert Gould Shaw's sword. Were they mistaken?

If it had just been this kid saying it was Robert Gould Shaw's sword I wouldn't have believed him but his mom said so too and she was generally trustworthy. It also sounds like after Robert Gould Shaw was killed the sword was stolen and then found and given to his sister who had a different last name so maybe it's more suspicious and not less that this kid's last name was Shaw? Per Wikipedia it doesn't look like he had any brothers or descendants so I don't know that the Shaw name would have been passed down.

So there are a few possibilities:

-The family was mistaken
-The family was lying
-He had two swords and they had one of them
-My memory is fault (this was about twenty years ago)
-This actually was the sword and they knew they had it and knew it was a big deal to them but didn't know how big a deal it was to historians and so this kid brought it in to show my seventh grade class and then they put it in the attic for safekeeping after we all saw it and then it was discovered again now when they were tidying up

Is there any way for me to find out if the people who had the sword were the same family I knew in seventh grade? In case it matters, this was at a private middle school in Rhode Island. It'd be neat if twenty years ago I'd seen the sword that is now such a big deal but I have no idea how to find out if that's the case or not.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Any of those sound plausible, but fwiw this Boston Globe article says that he sent his old sword home to his parents after he received the new sword which was the one he took into his final battle. So definitely he had at least two swords.
posted by Kriesa at 7:59 AM on July 19, 2017

I can't help with your specific inquiry, but if there's one thing I've learned watching Antiques Roadshow (and hobnobbing with Civil War buffs) it's that lots of families have objects whose historical significance gets enhanced/embellished with each subsequent generation.

RE: your classmate's mom's trustworthiness, mistaken provenance is often pretty innocent; descendents' memories get fuzzier and fuzzier and I think people are inclined to fill in their own romantic details; I grew up being told that my family had the belt buckle from my great-great-grandfather's civil war uniform, but when I finally found the object in question in an attic, it turned out to be a GAR belt buckle. Still very cool! But family lore was not quite accurate.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 8:13 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

This tweet is from the granddaughter of the woman whose house they found the sword in. Maybe you can reach out to her?
posted by COD at 9:17 AM on July 19, 2017

That Boston Globe article says it was in the attic of Mary Minturn Haskins. Here's her obituary, it mentions she lived in Boston and gives the names of her children.
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:18 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

According to Geni (a genealogical website), Robert Gould Shaw's father had two brothers, so possibly your friend was one of their decendants - that could make sense especially if the sword they had was not his final battle sword.

Incidentally, when I looked that up, Geni told me that *I* am distantly related: Col. Robert Gould Shaw (USA) is your first cousin twice removed's husband's sister's husband's second cousin's wife's sister's husband's great nephew's wife's first cousin twice removed. Ha!
posted by Kriesa at 9:32 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys, this is helpful, especially the Globe article. It doesn't sound like it was the same sword. Thank you all for your suggestions and research!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:33 AM on July 19, 2017

So three swords? His ceremonial sword given to the historical society years ago, the "lost in the attic" sword given to the historical society recently, and his final battle sword?
posted by Ranucci at 8:35 PM on July 19, 2017

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