Do you remember the movie “Glory”? Here is a tribute that on this day in 1900 Sergeant William Harvey Carney was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery on July 18, 1863, while fighting for the Union cause as a member of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. He was the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor, which is the nation’s highest military honor.
The 54th Massachusetts, formed in early 1863, served as the prototype for African American regiments in the Union army. On July 16, 1863, the regiment saw its first action at James Island, South Carolina, performing admirably in a confrontation with experienced Confederate troops. Three days later, the 54th volunteered to lead the assault on Fort Wagner, a highly fortified outpost on Morris Island that was part of the Confederate defense of Charleston Harbor. Struggling against a lethal barrage of cannon and rifle fire, the regiment fought their way to the top of the fort’s parapet over several hours.
Sergeant William Harvey Carney was wounded there while planting the U.S. flag. The regiment’s white commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, was killed, and his soldiers were overwhelmed by the fort’s defenders and had to fall back. Despite his wound, Carney refused to retreat until he removed the flag, and though successful, he was shot again in the process.
The 54th lost 281 of its 600 men in its brave attempt to take Fort Wagner, which throughout the war never fell by force of arms. The 54th went on to perform honorably in expeditions in Georgia and Florida, most notably at the Battle of Olustee. Carney eventually recovered and was discharged with disability on June 30, 1864.
Get yours now! The Department of Oklahoma in OKC has Legion 100th Anniversary coins for sale at $15 each. I got my 10 coins and they are beautiful (I have awarded eight of them to special folks in my life). I will continue to distribute mine to folks who have a special meaning to me. Also, please participate in our rifle raffle. Carl Blue has set up opportunities at the NAPPA Store (Thanks to the Breedloves) and The Hominy Pawn Shop.
On the Memorial Day weekend, the will flags go up on Main Street May 25th retrieve May 29th. On the 25th as well at our cemetery. This will include our legendary Flag Man Babo Carter. Volunteers at the cemetery 0900.
We are now a “Purple Heart City” due to the sacrifices of our past veterans. Thank you, John Mashunkashey and Commander O’Leary, for making this happen Thanks to our Mayor and City Council for recognizing our wounded warriors. For some of our young veterans who have returned. Not all wounds are visible. Your Legion is here for you.
Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings in May are still scheduled for biscuits and gravy with always a cup of Joe (coffee to the civilians). Keep your eye on the weather in case things must be postponed (like freezing weather). If you are a veteran come on by. If you have a good story it may end up in print. Also keep up with us at website “americanlegion142.org”.