ABSTRACT

On 31 May 1897, William James gave a public address at the Boston Music Hall on the occasion of the unveiling of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s monument commemorating Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first black regiment in the American Civil War (1861-1865). The speech, as Linda Simon (1999: xi-xiv) so eloquently reveals in the opening of her biography, was a nervous and awkward one for James, but it honoured the memory of his deceased brother, Garth Wilkinson, who had served in the 54th and who had been injured in the same battle that Colonel Shaw had been killed. Indeed, James had witnessed the suffering of war through his wounded brother; at the time he had drawn a touching picture of his brother as he went through a long period of convalescence at the family home. The public oration no doubt also recalled James’s own uncomfortable feelings of watching the 54th regiment march through Boston ahead of being sent to battle in South Carolina as he stayed at home, prevented from going to battle by his father’s protection of his eldest sons.1 Garth Wilkinson survived the war but died from other health problems in 1883-a year after the death of James’s parents.