Here is the last installment in our ‘Firsts’ and Onlys’ theme for the month. William H. Carney is the first African-American MoH recipient, for actions with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
A fact based film on this unit, “Glory,” brought them into general public view a few years ago, and while no one character in the film is based solely on Carney, several well illustrate the attitude of him and his most remarkable fellows. Read more of the story here.
Controversy sometimes occurs between Carney and Robert Blake, an African-American Union Navy sailor from the Civil War who also received the Medal of Honor.
Blake was the second African American to perform a Medal of Honor action (25 December 1863), while Carney’s came first (18 July 1863), however Blake was the first African American to actually receive a Medal of Honor – his was presented to him in 1864, while Carney did not receive his until 1900.
But, because Carney’s Medal of Honor action occurred first, Carney has traditionally been credited with being the first African-American recipient. Read more on Blake here.
Make the most of your day!
WILLIAM H. CARNEY
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry.
Place and date: At Fort Wagner, S.C., 18 July 1863.
Entered service at: New Bedford, Mass. Birth: Norfolk, Va.
Date of issue: 23 May 1900.
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.