On 16 July  the Fifty-fourth had the opportunity to recoup its self-esteem when Confederate forces waged a surprise attack on James Island, South Carolina. A group of 250 members of the Fifty-fourth held off repeated assaults, giving the Federal troops time to organize a defensive retreat. Two days later, on Morris Island, Shaw proudly volunteered his regiment to lead the assault on the impregnable Fort Wagner, the first step in an offensive on the Confederate stronghold of Charleston, South Carolina. When the Fifty-fourth charged the fort, 272 were killed, wounded, or captured. One of those who fell was Shaw. Although the assault failed, the bravery of the Fifty-fourth proved the ability of African-American troops in battle. In death, the young Shaw was ennobled as a martyr to freedom and as a symbol of enlightened sacrifice. He and the Fifty-fourth were later memorialized by Augustus Saint-Gaudens's mythic monument placed on the Boston Common.
Matthew H. Crocker, "Shaw, Robert Gould," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-01086.html.