May 23, 1900: Sergeant William Harvey Carney receives Medal of Honor
Have you ever heard of Sergeant William Harvey Carney? He was the first African-American soldier to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900. He was awarded for the valor that he showed while fighting with the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry on July 18, 1863. Read on to see why Carney was one of America’s unsung heroes.
One brave soldier
The year was 1863, and the 54th Massachusetts had just been formed. It was one of the earliest African-American infantries for the Union army. The troop’s first battle occurred in James Island, South Carolina, where they were approached by the Confederate armed forces. After fighting for three days, the 54th Massachusetts spearheaded an attack on Fort Wagner. This stronghold was under Confederate control at Charleston Harbor in, South Carolina.
Proud to be an American
Despite endless cannon and rifle fire, Carney’s 54th managed to reach the fortress’ barrier within a couple of hours. Once there, Carney was hurt as he was trying to stick the American flag into the ground. At the same time, his commander Colonel Robert Gould Shaw lost his life, and the infantry members were forced to retreat.
However, Carney refused to fall back before he could remove the U.S. flag. Even though he was shot again while he did it, he was able to complete his mission and to rejoin his troops.
Remember the heroes
Out of 600 soldiers, over 280 men were killed on that fateful day. The war continued and the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry moved on to battle bravely throughout Georgia and Florida. They even fought in the Battle of Olustee. In the end, Sergeant William Harvey Carney successfully recuperated from his war-time injuries. On June 30, 1864, he was honorably discharged due to his disability. America is grateful for his service.