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For the Union Dead

For the Union Dead


by Robert Lowell

Analysis: Allusions

When poets refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Historical References

  • Colonel Shaw: A colonel of the Union Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the 54th Infantry from Massachusetts, the first all-black infantry.
  • He was killed, along with many of his men, in the Second Battle at Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina in 1863. (21 and after)
  • Negro infantry: Refers to the 54th Infantry from Massachusetts, the first all-black infantry that fought for the Union in the American Civil War. (22 and after) 
  • St. Gaudens': Augustus Saint-Gaudens was an American sculptor who created the Robert Gould Shaw memorial in 1897. (23) 
  • William James: An American philosopher. He gave the memorial dedication for the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. (28)
  • Hiroshima: A Japanese city. In 1945, during World War II, The United States Army dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, devastating the city and killing over a hundred thousand of its residents. (56)

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