In a day where seemingly the controversial, the negative, or the bizarre are what make the news. Let me tell you a story about a former slaved named William Harvey Carney. Carney was born into slavery in Virginia but escaped to the north. In 1863 at the age of 23, he joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Five months later, he saw action at the assault on Fort Wagner. Those that have seen the film Glory will be familiar with the battle. Ultimately the assault was a failure, but it heavily showcased the bravery of black troops in one of the few opportunities they had.
A Hero Is Born
During the storming of the Fort flag bearer John Wall met his demise. Carney who was near Wall made sure to preserve the flag as to prevent it from touching the ground, as Wall fell dead. Carney then was in the line of enemy fire and was shot through the leg almost immediately after having possession of the flag. Instead of retreating, Carney carried the flag even higher and marched in the direction of the Fort and enemy fire. This courage and bravery was spread across the Union troops as they continued toward the Fort and danger until being forced to retreat. Carney struggled making it back across the battlefield. He was shot in the chest, arm and again the leg during his retreat but refused to let the flag touch to ground. Carney even had a bullet graze his head, even with a head wound he refused to let the flag go. He even refused help from soldiers of other regiments who tried to tend to his wounds. This was the flag of the 54th regiment. Only a member of the 54th regiment should carry it.
Carney finally made it back to the safety of the retreated regiment, he passed the flag on to another soldier and collapsed on the spot. The wounds sustained by Carney would likely be a death sentence for most during the Civil War, but he was able to make a full recovery and he kept all of this limbs. In the first picture of this blog you will see Carney posing for a picture with the very flag he carried during the duration of the battle.This would be Carney’s last battle as he was medically discharged and sent back home to Massachusetts and became a mail carrier. At the age of 60, Carney finally received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Civil War. Even though the storming of the Fort was a catastrophic failure, Carney showed that no matter the prejudice of the period, a man can still be recognized with pride for going above and beyond the call of duty.