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Tue Aug 11, 2020, 08:22 PM

William H. Carney: The First Black Soldier To Earn The Medal of Honor

'William H. Carney: The 1st Black Soldier to Earn the Medal of Honor.' Thos. M. Hammond. Military Times, Feb. 5, 2018.

Of all the men who wore blue uniforms in the Civil War, none felt more keenly the purpose of his mission than the African American soldier. Every marching step, every swing of a pick and every round fired at Confederate enemies gave him a chance to strike a blow against slavery and prove himself equal to his white comrades. U.S. Colored Troops were consistently good fighters, performing well in every engagement in which they fought. Even their enemies had to grudgingly admit that fact. One USCT member, William H. Carney, transcended good to become great, and was the first black U.S. soldier to earn the Medal of Honor. On February 17, 1863, at age 23, Carney heeded the call for African Americans to join a local militia unit, the Morgan Guards, with 45 other volunteers from his hometown of New Bedford, Mass. That unit would later become Company C of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.

There was something unique about the new regiment, commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw; it was an all-black unit with the exception of senior officers and a few senior non-commissioned sergeants. The 54th Massachusetts was created to prove that black men could be good soldiers.



- Army Sgt. William H. Carney (1840-1908)

Carney was born a slave on February 29, 1840, at Norfolk, Va. His father, also named William, escaped slavery, reaching freedom through the underground railroad. William Sr. then worked hard to buy the freedom of the rest of his family. The free and reunited family settled in New Bedford in the second half of the 1850s. Young William learned to read and write, and by age 15 he was interested in becoming a minister. He gave up his pursuit of the ministry, however, to join the Army. In an 1863 edition of the Abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, Carney stated: “Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons,
I could best serve my God serving my country and my oppressed brothers. The sequel in short- I enlisted for the war.” The career change had momentous impact on Carney’s life, as the 54th Massachusetts had a chance to prove its mettle in the July 18, 1863, Battle of Fort Wagner outside of Charleston, S.C.

During the fight, the 54th made heroic attacks on the garrison, and Carney’s bravery earned him a promotion to sergeant and the U.S. military’s most prestigious award.

Fort Wagner on Morris Island guarded the entrance to the harbor of Charleston. Shaw and the 600 men of the 54th Massachusetts would spearhead the federal assault from a slim strip of sand on the east side of the fort, which faced the Atlantic Ocean. William H. Carney’s valor at Fort Wagner was honored on May 23, 1900, when he was awarded the Medal of Honor. That was almost 40 years after he so proudly served with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. He was the first black soldier to receive the award. When asked about his heroic actions, he simply said, “I only did my duty.” (Army)
The 54th burrowed into a sand dune about 1,000 yards from Fort Wagner. Behind it was the 6th Connecticut. Federal land and sea artillery bombarded the fort all day long. By nightfall, orders were passed down and the 54th stood up, dressed ranks and attacked in two wings of five companies each. As the men advanced they were immediately hit by a barrage of canister, musketry and shelling from the fort. A bullet struck the 54th’s color sergeant, and as the wounded man faltered, Carney threw down his gun, seized the flag and moved to the front of the 54th’s assaulting ranks.

He soon found himself alone, on the fort’s wall, with bodies of dead and wounded comrades all around him. He knelt down to gather himself for action, still firmly holding the flag while bullets and shell fragments peppered the sand around him. Carney surveyed the battlefield and noticed that other Union regiments had attacked to his right, drawing away the focal point of the Rebel resistance. To his left he saw a large force of soldiers advancing down the ramparts of the fort.
At first he thought they might be were Union forces. Flashes of musketry soon doomed his hopes. The oncoming troops were Confederates. He wound the colors around the flagpole, made his way to a low protective wall and moved along it to a ditch. When Carney had passed over the ditch on his way to the fort, it was dry. But now it was waist deep with water. He seemed to be alone, surrounded by the wreckage of his regiment. Carney wanted to help the wounded, but enemy fire pinned him down. Crouching in the water, he figured his best chance was to plot a course back to Federal lines and make a break for it...

~ Cheers greeted him when Carney finally staggered into the ranks of the 54th. Before collapsing, he said, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground!” ~

Read More,
https://www.militarytimes.com/military-honor/black-military-history/2018/02/06/william-h-carney-the-first-black-soldier-to-earn-the-medal-of-honor/



- William Harvey Carney, after the war wearing his Medal of Honor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harvey_Carney

- Fort Wagner and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, July 18, 1863. Brian C. Pohanka, American Battlefield Trust
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/fort-wagner-and-54th-massachusetts-volunteer-infantry

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Reply William H. Carney: The First Black Soldier To Earn The Medal of Honor (Original post)
appalachiablue Aug 11 OP
Marthe48 Aug 11 #1
appalachiablue Aug 11 #2
Karadeniz Aug 11 #3
appalachiablue Aug 12 #4
appalachiablue Aug 12 #5

Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Tue Aug 11, 2020, 08:27 PM

1. Thank you for posting

So many unsung or nearly forgotten heroes.

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Response to Marthe48 (Reply #1)

Tue Aug 11, 2020, 08:30 PM

2. YW. The efforts & sacrifices of these heroes needs remembering.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Tue Aug 11, 2020, 08:42 PM

3. So nice to meet the people behind history...thanks for sharing!

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Response to Karadeniz (Reply #3)

Wed Aug 12, 2020, 06:33 AM

4. For sure, we must honor and remember them, always.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Wed Aug 12, 2020, 07:29 AM

5. "Glory" 1989 Movie Depicting The Battle of Ft. Wagner, 54th Mass. Regiment



Trailer "Glory" 1989. The 54th Massachusetts Regiment had a chance to prove itself in the July 18, 1863, Battle of Fort Wagner outside of Charleston, S.C. During the fight, the 54th made heroic attacks on the garrison, and Carney’s bravery earned him a promotion to sergeant and the U.S. military’s most prestigious award. Fort Wagner on Morris Island guarded the entrance to the harbor of Charleston. Shaw and the 600 men of the 54th Massachusetts would spearhead the federal assault from a slim strip of sand on the east side of the fort, which faced the Atlantic Ocean.

William H. Carney’s valor at Fort Wagner was honored on May 23, 1900, when he was awarded the Medal of Honor. That was almost 40 years after he so proudly served with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. He was the first black soldier to receive the award. When asked about his heroic actions, he simply said, “I only did my duty.” (Army)

https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/glory-film/

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