The legacy of Darien, Georgia
Signpost marking the Burning of Darien
After watching the movie Glory, I was struck by the actions of the Union soldiers on the town of Darien, Georgia. I know that the movie is based upon factual events, so I decided to look up information about Darien and its destruction during the Civil War. I found out the Darien had indeed been plundered by Colonel James Montgomery and Colonel Robert Shaw. Col. Shaw was unhappy about his part in the raid, and wrote about its happenings to his wife, Annie, afterwards. He explains that the only people left in the town were a few women and negroes. He tells her about Montgomery’s order to burn down the homes. Montgomery tells him that, “the Southerners must be made to feel that this was a real war, and that they were to be swept away by the hand of God, like the Jews of Old….We are outlawed, and therefore not bound by the rules of regular warfare”
Did “outlawed” mean that since they were in charge of black soldiers, they were not really part of the regular Union army? I find Montgomery’s statement to be revealing about how officers felt about commanding African American soldiers. Col. Shaw may be the exception to the rule, as his parents were abolitionists and he may have felt less ostracized by being in command of black soldiers.
Remaining Structure of the Burning of Darien
McIntosh County history describes the, “…the lumber industry devastated, and even the once-thriving seaport town of Darien was destroyed as the result of the “total war” tactics of a renegade Union field officer.”
Could Col. Montgomery have been acting alone in his actions of plundering, stealing and burning this town to the ground? Or was this a practice of many commanders? There is rumor that Shaw’s family helped rebuild Darien after the war, but I could not corroborate that information. That may have been a myth perpetuated by the movie Glory
. A book about the infamous raid and the 54th
Regiments involvement was published in 1965 and is based on the letters from Col. Shaw to his wife. It also was one of the sources for the movie Glory
Glory, directed by Edward Zwick, (1989, Culver City, CA. Tri-Star Pictures) DVD.