When the 54th Massachusetts has just marched past the Southern plantation, a group of slave children run out to wave at them. After being greeted by Undertaker, they wave. One of the slave children has a digital watch on his hand.
When Rawlins is promoted to Sergeant-Major, he is handed the insignia sewn onto a blue cloth backing. While this is common with Civil War reenactors, the stripes of the era were individual stripes that had to be sewn on one-by-one.
After Col. Shaw is notified of his promotion, he and Maj. Forbes are outside talking. Maj. Forbes is drinking champagne from a Dom Pérignon bottle. This champagne (made by Moët & Chandon) was first made in 1921 and released for sale in 1936.
After Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins talks to a group of children standing by a white fence, he walks away and you can briefly see a digital wrist watch on a child on the right side of the screen as they wave goodbye.
It is obvious that most of the battle scenes were filmed at Civil War reenactments as the soldiers approach far too close (especially to cannon) in large numbers before they fire. The weapons of the era were accurate at distances of up to 400 yards - nearly a quarter mile - with cannon being used at greater distances still.
During the singing of the Negro spiritual on the eve of the assault on Ft. Wagner, there is a moment when the key and tempo noticeably change when the sound track switches from playback to production sound (recorded on location).
After Rawlins hands out a rifle to Trip the latter fires it into the air with an audible "click" (as in no round loaded), but the hammer is still in cocked position meaning Trip never actually pulled the trigger and thus showing the "click" was added post-filming.
When Shaw finally loses patience with the Quartermaster, he marches in and demands 600 pairs of shoes and 1200 pairs of socks. After the initial interchange, Matthew Broderick (Shaw) says "Do you really think you can keep (pause) 700 Union soldiers..." Patently Matthew had forgotten just how many pairs he needed and the slight pause indicates he had momentarily forgotten his lines.
When Colonel Shaw volunteers to lead the charge on Fort Wagner, he tells General Strong, "you should have seen us in action two days ago - we were a sight to see". The skirmish Shaw was referring to occurred on James Island, SC on July 16th, 1863. The charge on Fort Wagner occurred two days later on July 18th. But the film portrays Shaw's conversation with General Strong as taking place on the 17th, with the regiment resting that night (the singing scene) and making the charge the next day (the 18th). So what he should have said was "you should have seen us in action yesterday", not "two days ago".
When Maj. Forbes approaches Shaw to ask why he is being so hard on the men, he is outside and not wearing his uniform blouse (coat) or a hat. Neither would be acceptable at the time of the Civil War. In fact, modern military regulations require hats (covers) be worn whenever outdoors.
When Shaw and Cabot are talking to General Harter about their transferring their men to combat command, Cabot has his hands on his lap when the camera faces him, but as the camera faces General Harter, Cabot's face is leaning on one hand.
When Rawlins is promoted to Sergeant-Major on the boats, he is called to front and center. As he does so, he salutes, with his palm facing forwards, to the officers. However, in the next shot, his palm is facing down to the ground.
When Trip is scuffling with the white soldier on the road. Sgt Major Rawlins walks up to break it up, his coat is unbuttoned with his undershirt clearly visible. When the scene cuts to his dialogue, his coat is buttoned all the way up.
During the final battle scene with the 54th forming up for the
attack on Ft. Wagner on the beach, the ocean is to their left. This would mean that they were headed south instead of north. Fort Wagner was actually attacked from the south, therefore, the Atlantic Ocean should be on the right, not the left.
In the movie, Shaw is surprised when the men refuse pay that was reduced because they are a "colored" regiment (though he eventually joins them in their refusal). In reality, Robert Gould Shaw's came up with the idea himself.
Gov. Andrew wanted the 54th to be an elite unit and so did not accept runaway slaves. In fact, among the soldiers of the 54th there was a private who was a medical doctor and all, or nearly all, of the men could read and write.
The film shows Shaw dumped in to the grave with his red sash. The red sash was taken by a private and later purchased from him by a Ft. Wagner officer. Twenty years later he returned the sash to Shaw's widow.
In the film, Shaw asks who will carry the colors if they should fall during the assault on Fort Wagner. In reality, it was General Strong who asked this question, and Robert Gould Shaw was the one who volunteered.
The film depicts the 54th Masachusetts Infantry Regiment training through the Christmas holidays of 1862 (after the September 1862 Battle of Antietam), but the real 54th Massachusetts did not organize until March 1863, just four months before attacking Fort Wagner in the climactic scene.
In the movie, it is claimed that "over half" of the regiment was lost during the assault on Fort Wagner. However, official records state that the 54th sustained 272 casualties, which is closer to 40%. Of these casualties, only 116 were fatalities, just under one fifth of the men to storm the fort. If the 156 soldiers that were captured are included, it would bring the total to "over half". In formal military terms, though, "casualties" include captured soldiers. In any event, by most standards, including those of the Civil War, these are heavy casualties and the regiment was widely viewed as having performed bravely indeed.
The film depicts the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry training through the Christmas holidays of 1862 (after the September 1862 Battle of Antietam). But the real 54th Massachusetts did not organize until March 1863, and it was engaged in its first battle on James Island, South Carolina, on July 16, 1863, and then Fort Wagner (the final battle in the film) on July 18, 1863. The 54th went on to fight at Olustee, Florida (February 20, 1864); Honey Hill, South Carolina (November 30, 1864); and Boykin's Mill, South Carolina (April 18, 1865).
General Charles Garrison Harker was not present in South Carolina at the time the 54th Massachusetts was there. He was part of the Army of the Cumberland's Tullahoma Campaign in Tennessee at the time and was only 25 at the time, unlike Bob Gunton who was 44 at the time of his portrayal.
Robert Gould Shaw did not receive the request to be Colonel of the 54th while at a party in Boston, nor did he accept immediately. In fact, he refused the command at least twice, feeling himself unworthy. It was only after some convincing by his friend (and the man who would later marry Shaw's sister) Charles Russell Lowell, commander of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, he would accept the command. Lowell's own command was unique in that 5 companies of Californians (known as the California Battalion) served in it.
The film depicts Shaw accepting regimental command after being promoted directly from Captain to Colonel. Historically, Shaw was not promoted immediately upon taking command of the 54th regiment, He was promoted to Major once the regiment had assembled its first company and then was made a Colonel a few weeks later only after the regiment was approaching full strength.
In the second assault on fort Wagner the movie shows Shaw getting shot three times in the midsection on the wall.When in real life he had made up to the top of the wall, where he was shot once through the heart dying instantly, and fell out side of the wall According to the color Sgt of the 54th Mass.
The character of "Gen. Harker," is, in actuality, based upon Maj. Gen. David "Black Dave" Hunter. It was Maj. Gen. Hunter who enlisted ex-slaves in the Department of South Carolina. He also was not as corrupt as the "Harker" character is shown to be in "Glory."
In the final scenes where Shaw is being buried, he is shown being thrown into a mass grave still in his uniform minus his boots and socks.But according to Confederate General Johnson Hagood Shaw's body was stripped and robbed before being thrown into the grave.
When Shaw is seen riding on his horse, using his saber in practice cutting watermelons, it is before Christmas and watermelons would not have been available for practice. They come in the late spring and early summer.
In their first battle the 54th are faced with a Confederate Cavalry charge which is easily repulsed.
In general, the Cavalry troops in the American Civil War on both sides did not attack deployed infantry head-on as depicted unless the attack was made in response to a surprise encounter, or an attack made of sheer desperation in order to escape an enemy encirclement. Regardless, In the vast majority of such attacks, whether executed from a accidental encounter or not, the result was almost always followed by heavy cavalry casualties.
The movie consistently shows Confederate troops carrying the classic "Confederate Battle Flag". That flag was a naval flag adopted late in the war and flown by a very few ships. It was proposed by Gen. Beauregard as a battle flag and MAY (note MAY) have been used for a very short time by the Northern Virgina Army - until it was officially rejected. It would have not been at any battle or site in South Carolina or Georgia.
During the advance of the 2nd Massachusetts infantry with Robert Shaw in front, the flag carried is the white state flag, however this flag, given to the regiment by the state government, was never carried in action. The correct flag would have been the state flag with a blue background,
On the night before the failed attack on Ft. Wagner the soldiers of the 54th are gathered around a campfire singing a Negro spiritual in which Noah is counting the animals boarding the ark 'two by two'. One of the pairs mentioned were kangaroos which were probably unknown to most Americans living at the time of the Civil War. Kangaroos were much less likely to have been known to Negro slaves in the south who were prohibited education - the likely source of the spiritual being sung -- nor would the elite educated (northern) recruits who actually made up the 54th Mass likely be familiar with work songs originating in the fields of southern plantations, much less contribute personally to adding new lyrics to the tune.
The actual Sergeant Major of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, rather than a grizzled laborer barely young enough to enlist like Morgan Freeman's character, was Lewis Henry Douglass, the oldest son of Frederick Douglass, age 22 when the unit was mustered in.
When Jupiter is picking off bottles with his newly issued rifle, he shoulders the weapon on his right side, but uses his left eye to sight in. He later explains to Shaw that he is a good shot. In order to be a consistently good shot, Jupiter should have been sighting in with his right eye. It would have been impossible (especially with an unfamiliar weapon) to get a proper sight picture with his left eye.
When the 54th returns from the Battle of James Island, the melody to "The Bonnie Blue Flag" can be heard in the background. While "The Bonnie Blue Flag" is a patriotic Southern song, actually closer to a Confederate National Anthem than "Dixie", the melody was not exclusive to that song and there were other songs with the same melody, including a humorous song titled "The Arms of Abraham" lamenting the experiences of a draftee in the Union Army, and the melody was popular on both sides of the war. It was originally a British song from the Crimean War, called "The Irish Jaunting Car."
In the opening scenes, when Shaw is seen marching beside his soldiers towards the Antietam battle, the rank insignia on his epaulets change from that of a captain (two bars) to that of a second lieutenant (no insignia within the epaulet borders) because it's a flashback.
Morgan Freeman's character was not too old to be recruited or conscripted into the Union Army in 1863; enlistment was limited to men between 18 and 45 years of age at the time, not with a maximum age of 35 as originally posted. (Reference THE TWENTIETH MAINE: A VOLUNTEER REGIMENT IN THE CIVIL WAR by John J. Pullen who mentions that Corporal Glazier Estabrook, who appears as a character in Gettysburg, was the oldest member of that regiment, at the upper age limit of 45, when it was mustered into service in August 1862; the 20th Maine was present but held in reserve at the Battle of Antietam, the opening scene of Glory.) Morgan Freeman was in his fifties when this film was made, but people, especially outdoor laborers like his character, aged much earlier in the 19th Century than in the 20th.
Shortly after being informed by Rawlins that the men need shoes, a soldier's shoe is slowly removed in front of Shaw. It shows how "worn out" the shoe is supposed to be, and subsequently the damage to the man's foot. If looked at closely however, the only part of the shoe that shows wear and tear is the midpoint of the sole, with nearly all of it remaining in very good to excellent condition.
The goof items below may give away important plot points.
Flogging was banned in the Union Army in 1861. Private Trip would not have been whipped, at least not by someone as by-the-book as Colonel Shaw; however, there were harsh punishments, such as being "spread eagled" on the spare wheel of an artillery limber, which often broke the man's back.
When Shaw is being buried, he is shown being thrown into a mass grave still in his uniform minus his boots and socks. But, according to Confederate General Johnson Hagood, Robert Gould Shaw's body was stripped and robbed before being thrown into the grave.
The character of Colonel Montgomery is portrayed as a greedy, cynical, and hypocritical racist who relishes his former days of being slaveholder. The real James Montgomery was a actually a fanatical abolitionist in the vein of John Brown (for whom he considered mounting a rescue mission). Montgomery's fanaticism did lead him to plunder and burn Darien, Georgia. Montgomery's motives were sincere (if immoral and brutal), and not cynically excused as portrayed in the movie.