An influential philanthropist, Francis George Shaw inherited his father's wealth, enabling him to pursue his passions: social reform, the abolition of slavery, and politics. By the mid-1850s Shaw and his family were living in Richmond County, beginning the flow of abolitionists to the island, many of whom, like Shaw, were expatriates from New England.
Along with Sydney Howard Gay and George William Curtis, Shaw started the first Republican Office on Staten Island, and the three became the most influential representatives of the new antislavery politics in Richmond County. They were also among those extremely outspoken national abolitionists who believed in applying pressure on President Lincoln. To further the connections these men shared, Shaw's daughter, Anna, married George W. Curtis.
Francis Shaw also undoubtedly had Lincoln’s ear when the decision was made to raise a volunteer regiment of “colored troops” in 1863. The first of these was the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry whose first commander was Shaw’s only son, Robert Gould Shaw.
While in the midst of their recovery from the devastation of the Draft Riots on the island, Francis and Sarah Shaw received news of the death of their son, Robert Gould Shaw. Col. Shaw was killed at Fort Wagner, South Carolina while leading the 54th Massachusetts into battle.
The Shaws continued to be prominent figures on Staten Island and beyond throughout their lives.
See the letter from Francis Shaw to President Lincoln requesting the return of his son's body and the protection of the remaining members of the 54th regiment at: https://tinyurl.com/y3jpr653. Read a transcription of the letter below.