Civil War hero Sgt. William H. Carney
The Medal of Honor was awarded to U.S. Army Sgt. William H. Carney, Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment, for Gallantry at Fort Wagner, S.C., July 18, 1863, issued in 1900. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Carl J. Cruz Collection)
Of the 3,498 service members who have received the Medal of Honor throughout U.S. history, only 88 have been black.
In recognition of African American History Month, we’re sharing the stories of the brave men who so gallantly risked and gave their lives for others, even in times when others weren’t willing to do the same in return.
We’ll start with the first black recipient of the award: Army Sgt. William H. Carney, who earned the honor for protecting one of the United States’ greatest symbols during the Civil War — the American flag.
Carney was born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1840. His family was eventually granted freedom and moved to Massachusetts, where Carney was eager to learn and secretly got involved in academics, despite laws and restrictions that banned blacks from learning to read and write.
Carney had wanted to pursue a career in the church, but when the Civil War broke out, he decided the best way he could serve God was by serving in the military to help free the oppressed.
In March 1863, Carney joined the Union Army and was attached to Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment, the first official black unit recruited for the Union in the north. Forty other black men served with him, including two of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ sons.
Within a few months, Carney’s training would be put to the ultimate test during the unit’s first major combat mission in Charleston, South Carolina.
On July 18, 1863, the soldiers of Carney’s regiment led the charge on Fort Wagner. During the battle, the unit’s color guard was shot. Carney, who was just a few feet away, saw the dying man stumble, and he scrambled to catch the falling flag.
Despite suffering several serious gunshot wounds himself, Carney kept the symbol of the Union held high as he crawled up the hill to the walls of Fort Wagner, urging his fellow troops to follow him. He planted the flag in the sand at the base of the fort and held it upright until his near-lifeless body was rescued.
Even then, though, he didn’t give it up. Many witnesses said Carney refused to give the flag to his rescuers, holding onto it tighter until, with assistance, he made it to the Union’s temporary barracks.
Carney lost a lot of blood and nearly lost his life, but not once did he allow the flag to touch the ground. His heroics inspired other soldiers that day and were crucial to the North securing victory at Fort Wagner. Carney was promoted to the rank of sergeant for his actions.
For his bravery, Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900.
Carney’s legacy serves as a shining example of the patriotism that Americans felt at that time, despite the color of their skin.
As for the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment in which Carney served? It was disestablished long ago but reactivated in 2008. It now serves as a National Guard ceremonial unit that renders honorary funerals and state functions. It was even invited to march in President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade.
Ratification of the Constitution by the State of South Carolina, May 23, 1788. South Carolina was the eighth state to do so. South Carolina’s ratification message included several small suggested changes to the Constitution, including one to say “no other religious test” rather than “no religious test” in Article 6, an indication that the oath to the Constitution was considered by this body as a religious oath. The following text is taken from the Library of Congress’s copy of Elliot’s Debates.
In Convention of the people of the state of South Carolina, by their representatives, held in the city of Charleston, on Monday the 12th day of May, and continued by divers adjournments to Friday, the 23d day of May, Anno Domini 1788, and in the 12th year of the independence of the United States of America.
The Convention, having maturely considered the Constitution, or form of government, reported to Congress by the Convention of Delegates from the United States of America, and submitted to them by a resolution of the legislature of this state, passed the 17th and 18th days of February last, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to the people of the said United States, and their posterity, — Do, in the name and behalf of the people of this state, hereby assent to and ratify the said Constitution.
for complete article : usconstitution.net
Done in Convention, the 23d day of May, in the year of our Lord 1788, and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth.
THOMAS PINCKNEY, President.
Attest. John Sandford Dart, Secretary.