The Peninsula Say What? Saturday -- Don't I Know Adjutant Shaw?

Andy Cardinal

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The 38th Georgia was raised in the fall of 1861 and served near Savannah before departing for Virginia in June 1862 as part of the reinforcements rushed to Richmond to save the Confederate capital from McClellan's army. They were part of Lawton's brigade and assigned to Ewell's division under Stonewall Jackson's command. They went into action for the first time at Gaines Mill on June 27. Although they were at the rear of Jackson's column and among the last to be engaged, their losses were staggering, with over 250 men killed and wounded.

The next day, the Georgians went about burying their dead. As a member of Company D recalled: "After that hard fight in which we were successful, some of us were passing over the battle field where the dead and dying were thick upon the ground, when all of a sudden we came upon Gus Shaw dead, poor fellow, with his body shot literally to pieces. We gathered up his remains as best we could and wrapped them in a blanket and because he was such a favorite among the men, held a special burial service at this grave. There was hardly a surviving man who did not shed tears when he heard Gus Shaw was killed, but those were times when one couldn't weep long, even for this own kin."

Some of the men apparently were not convinced that the body was Shaw's. According to Lt. George H. Lester, "Some of the company seemed dubious on the subject but our comrade ... said, 'Don't I know Adjutant Shaw?' The soldier raised the cap off his face as Shaw was lying dead on the battlefield and was certain it was Adjutant Shaw."

The saddened comrades of the 38th Georgia moved on, although they were not really engaged in the rest of the Seven Days battles. Shortly after the end of the campaign, some members of the regiment saw in a Northern newspaper that Adjutant Shaw of the 38th Georgia had been taken prisoner. One day in mid-August, Shaw walked into camp where, according to Lt. Lester, he was saluted with, "Don't I know Adjutant Shaw!"

The unknown man buried in the battlefield was later reinterred in Richmond's Oakwood Cemetery. He remains there today, still under the name of Adjutant Augustus Shaw. Meanwhile the real Gus Shaw survived the war and lived until 1905. He is buried in Fulton County, Georgia.

Source -- Nichols, Hurrah For Georgia! 21-22.
 
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