1900 – Civil War hero Sgt. William H. Carney became the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor, 37 years after the Battle of Fort Wagner.


William Carney, the First African-American to be Awarded the Medal of Honor

Carney’s heroism at Battery Wagner was finally honored on May 23, 1900, when he was awarded the Medal of Honor. That was nearly 37 years after he took part in what was termed, “One Gallant Rush” with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. He was the first black soldier to receive the award. When asked about his actions on that day, he simply said, “I only did my duty.”

Carney’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded.”

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