Civil War Wiki
File:Glory ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Edward Zwick
Produced by Freddie Fields
Written by Kevin Jarre
Starring Matthew Broderick
Denzel Washington
Cary Elwes
Morgan Freeman
Andre Braugher
Jihmi Kennedy
John Finn
Cliff DeYoung
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Freddie Francis
Editing by Steven Rosenblum
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s) December 15, 1989 (1989-12-15)
Running time 122 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18,000,000 (est.)
Gross revenue $26,828,365[1]

Glory is a 1989 American drama war film based on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as told from the point of view of its commanding officer, Robert Gould Shaw during the American Civil War. The 54th was one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African-American men (apart from the officers).


Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) leads his company of a Massachusetts Infantry regiment in an attack on Confederates posted along the Hagerstown Pike at the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862. The regiment's Lieutenant Colonel (Dwight Wilder) is killed, and the attack is beaten back with heavy losses. Shaw is wounded slightly, and passes out. He is awakened by a black gravedigger named John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman). When he is getting medical care for his wounds, he hears that President Lincoln is going to free the slaves. Later, while on leave in Boston, Shaw is offered promotion to the rank of Colonel and command of the first all-black regiment authorized to be raised as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 54th Massachusetts. He agrees, and asks his childhood friend, Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), to be his second in command. Their first volunteer is another one of Shaw's friends, an educated, free black man named Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher).

They soon had hundreds of men joining the regiment, including John Rawlins the gravedigger, an escaped slave named Trip (Denzel Washington), and a shy free black man named Jupiter Sharts (Jihmi Kennedy). Once at camp, Thomas, Rawlins, Trip, and Sharts all share one tent along with a mute drummer boy. Immediately, Thomas's and Trip's relationship gets off to a bad. Trip ridicules Thomas's educated and refined manner and, subsequently, Thomas mistakenly patronizes Trip, setting off a pattern of animosity between the two.

At camp, the 54th passes through many hardships and discriminations. Their drill seargent Mulcahy's cruelty. Their lack of proper equipment (even though their supplier had such things in stock), and the camp's racism and revulsion of the 54th was just some of the problems Shaw faced.

After spending time doing menial tasks and participating in a few important battles, Shaw volunteers the 54th Massachusetts to lead an assault on Fort Wagner. The next day, the 54th Massachusetts is honored by white soldiers and officers on the march toward Fort Wagner. At sunset, the regiment charges up the beach toward the fort under enemy cannon fire, and takes shelter in the sand dunes beneath the guns. After nightfall, Shaw leads the men in a charge upon the fort itself. With the enemy firing down on them, Shaw guides his men through the abatis and across the moat. Shaw stands up and attempts to rally the men forward but is shot and killed. The men are frozen in shock until Trip (Denzel Washington) springs forward, lifts the flag, and rallies the men. He too is shot and killed, but his example spurs the remaining men, led by Forbes and Rawlins, to charge up the parapet and fight the rebels in hand-to-hand combat. Thomas is stabbed, but Jupiter carries him into the fort. Forbes and Rawlins lead the men onward. The surge forward pauses upon reaching a second line of defense; the scene ends in the smoke from blast of Confederate cannon fire.

The next scene opens the following morning with the Confederate flag being raised over the fort. Confederate burial parties gather the slain men of the 54th Massachusetts. Their corpses, including those of Shaw and Trip, are thrown into a mass grave.

A series of texts state that the 54th lost half its men in the attack on Fort Wagner and that the "fort was never taken." News of the regiment's courage spurred the creation of many more black regiments. By the end of the war, there were more than 180,000 African-American men in uniform, a fact which President Lincoln considered instrumental in securing victory.

The credits roll against the background of Augustus Saint-Gaudens's memorial to Shaw and his men that stands today on Boston Common.


  • Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw
  • Morgan Freeman as Sergeant Major John Rawlins (Gravedigger)
  • Cary Elwes as Major Cabot Forbes
  • Denzel Washington as Private Silas Trip
  • Jihmi Kennedy as Private Jupiter Sharts (Field hand)
  • Andre Braugher as Corporal Thomas Searles (Snowflake)
  • John Finn as Sergeant Major Mulcahy
  • Donovan Leitch as Captain Charles Fessenden Morse
  • JD Cullum as Henry Sturgis Russell
  • Jay O. Sanders as Brigadier Gen. George Strong
  • Cliff DeYoung as Colonel James Montgomery
  • Alan North as Gov. John Andrew
  • Bob Gunton as General Charles Harker
Minor appearances
  • Peter Michael Goetz as Francis George Shaw, Robert Shaw's father
  • Jane Alexander as Sarah Blake Sturgis Shaw, Robert Shaw's mother
  • Raymond St. Jacques as Frederick Douglass
  • Carla Brothers as Charlotte Forten uncredited
  • Richard Riehle as Kendric the quartermaster
  • Bill Nunn as uncredited character
  • Mark Margolis as a 10th Connecticut soldier
  • Ethan Phillips as a hospital steward


Featuring the Boys Choir of Harlem, the underscore for the film was composed by James Horner. Critics have remarked upon hearing echoes of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in the score, especially in regard to the cue "Charging Fort Wagner";[2][3] in fact, the score exhibits the influence of works by a number of composers, many of them British: Ralph Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis in "The Whipping", William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast in "Preparation for Battle", and Benjamin Britten's War Requiem and, indeed, Orff's Carmina Burana in "Charging Fort Wagner". One of the main themes of the score ("Blow the horn / Play the fife") betrays the influence of Britten's Owen Wingrave, an opera that, not inconsequentially, engages the concept of pacifism. Another theme borrows noticeably from Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible. A track listing of the soundtrack CD follows:

  1. A Call To Arms
  2. After Antietam
  3. Lonely Christmas
  4. Forming the Regiment
  5. The Whipping
  6. Burning The Town of Darien
  7. Brave Words, Braver Deeds
  8. The Year of Jubilee
  9. Preparation For Battle
  10. Charging Fort Wagner
  11. Epitaph To War
  12. Closing Credits

Home media[]

The film was first released on VHS in 1990. It was later released on DVD in 2003 and Blu-ray in 2009.

Academy Awards[]

The film was nominated in five categories, of which it won three:

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Denzel Washington. (Won)
  • Best Cinematography - Freddie Francis. (Won)
  • Best Sound Mixing - Donald O. Mitchell, Gregg C. Rudloff, Elliot Tyson, Russell Williams II. (Won)
  • Art Direction - Norman Garwood (art direction) & Garrett Lewis (set decoration). (Nominated)
  • Film Editing - Steven Rosenblum. (Nominated)


  • Emilio, Luis F. 1995. A Brave Black Regiment: A History of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry: 1863-1865. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80623-0
  • McPherson, James M. “The ‘Glory’ Story,” The New Republic, January 8 & 15, 1990, pp. 22–27. (film review)
  • Adams, Virginia M. (Editor.) 1991. On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier's Civil War Letters From the Front. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst. ISBN 1-55849-202-X

Cited references[]

  1. [1]
  2. Andreas Lindahl (2008), "Glory Sountrack (James Horner)",
  3. Christian Clemmensen, (1997, rev. 2006), "Filmtracks: Glory (James Horner)",

External links[]

Template:Edward Zwick

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