All should be in order to be shared with you next Sunday.
Sorry yet again, for another postponement. But I hope you will agree it will be worth it.
Canadian Medal of
Health and computer problems have slowed me down this week. That and some great info being sorted through re the next hero to be highlighted in this space.
All should be in order to be shared with you next Sunday.
Sorry yet again, for another postponement. But I hope you will agree it will be worth it.
Frustratingly, I still await some updates regarding the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross and discrimination played in the military services of Canada, the US and Britain over the years.
But until a few answers come in, I cannot bring that series of blogs to a close. I will however move on to others until my inbound emails bring the gems sought.
Back in early March Riverside National Medal of Honor Memorial, located at the Riverside California cemetery held an early celebration of the national Medal of Honor Day, usually celebrated on March 25th across the country.
The memorial is one of only 4 such official memorials across the U.S., though there are numerous museums etc and room for many more.
The lower picture, without the folks shown should be familiar to regular visitors to these blogs as it has appeared often. I have had the incredible honour of visiting the Riverside site several times. It is gorgeous and forces you to stop and do some real reflection several times as you view the many attractions, the kiosk that gives details of the more than 3,000 medal recipients, the Missing in Action and POW memorial..a national historic site in itself, and much more.
But the real treasure is in the etched names on the black granite walls of each recipient, less of course the purge men of 1916. These engraved names are shown to the left of the unknown gentleman in the lower picture. Beside him are four woman representing The Gold Star Wives of America, who's members are widows who have lost a spouse in active service to the nation. The Gold Star Mothers... another group mentioned in past blogs has an interesting Canadian connection, available to those who use the search engine at upper right of this page.
The above image shows the pink granite doorway, if you will, to enter the memorial listing all of the MOH men and one woman. Though dark, you can see the images of blocks, each containing names of hundreds of recipients. Of the 39 blocks I believe I counted 31 containing names of Canadian recipients, or with connections to Canada.
In the above picture, to the right of the title block you can see 3 blocks of names if you look very hard. Below these is a small reflective pool of water. When first there, the sun was so bright that I was blinded as I entered the area and marched RIGHT INTO the pool, with several folks rushing to help me out of my predicament. Wish I wasn't wearing my well labelled CANADA hat that day!
Surrounding the memorial is the actual massive cemetery. It is here that there are five Medal of Honor recipients at rest. There five names have now also been affixed to the Memorial's title block and you can clearly see the name of one of these...Lewis Millett to the right of one of the Gold Star women shown above.
Millett's story of heroism and indeed his entire military career is fascinating and, whist an American, served for a time if the Canadian forces. His story is often mentioned in past blogs and, again, is found by using the search engine.
Here we see the Colonel in his senior years, but still looking like someone you would not want to tangle with. HIs training in the Canadian Forces taught him how to use the bayonet, a skill he had not had in the US training prior to desertion to join the Canadians. He would later return to the US forces and become a hero before they realized he was a deserter and just about to be promoted. His service file is full of real gems... like the fact that his constant bayonet drills of his troops would lead to what has been claimed to be the first bayonet charge since Civil War days.
Another was in his pride at being the only Colonel that got the Medal of Honor and was a deserter. Yet another was that he loved his Canadian war medals though not allowed to wear them on his US uniforms. So he had then mounted them with velcro UNDERNEATH his other medals and would show them to friends when no one else was around.
It should also be mentioned that he lost a son in service, another served honourably and in later life, as a sculpturist is the very creator of the MIA/POW national memorial at Riverside and probably viewed by millions annually.
On March 25th the Allen County Ohio Museum unveiled a new memorial for MOH recipients. At least 3 of these connected to the state have Canadian connections. A historian is shown here having a look at a particular name, one of over 3,000 recipients listed.
To the left you can see the change in development of the army MOH ribbon from Civil War days , to a change in 1896 and the next in 1904.
Back in the Fall of 1990 President HW Bush signed Congressional documents that would, effective 25 March 1991, create what we now know of as Medal of Honor Day in the United States.
It was created to counter the public lack of knowledge of the Medal of Honor, its importance and the heroism of those wearing the medal.
On 25 March 1863 six survivors of a daring caper that went wrong, escaped and made it to Washington. They were sent off on a 200 mile journey into enemy territory. They'd then have to capture a train and travel between Atlanta Georgia and Chattanooga Tn and enroute, destroy some of the major bridges, rail line and telegraph lines.
The venture failed, many were caught and hung, the rest tortured and jailed under terrible conditions and six eventually escaped and made way to DC to tell of their story to the President and others. That day was 25 March, and thus President Bush choosing it as the day for the national holiday and day to give thoughts to the medal and its thousands of recipients.
The men became known as the Andrews Raiders, after their leader, a civilian spy by the name of James Andrews. The six above are..top left to right, Reddick, Pittenger and Bensinger. All curiously with the first given name of William. The lower left to right are Elihu Mason, Jacob Parrott and Robert Buffum.
The results of my interview with a relative of Jacob Parrott should show up in a site search.
Parrott being the youngest was voted by the other five to go first when all were presented medals on March 25 1863. His being the first is often quoted, but may not necessarily be correct. He was the first to be PRESENTED with the medal but others would later be awarded for actions before the train caper took place .
This is the Parrott Medal of Honor. A past blog tells about my being given an image of the distant relative wearing the medal at about age five, probably on his front lawn. Quite cute and possibly a magazine front cover some day.
Here is the cover of a book from early days and perhaps one of the first ever issued actually listing all of the Medals of Honor the author found to date of publication. And one ought to assume as a Brig. General and Adjutant General of the US Army at the time, he would have access to some good information.
And here is a most interesting entry re the 6 first to get medals. Parrott not being the first by order, but the last and several months after some of the others.
Moving along, here we see the US Vice President,visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb bf the Unknown Soldiers on Memorial Day. The President was out of the country in Japan at the time.
His remarks can still be heard on the net at... http://time.com/5596602/mike-pence-memorial-day-2019-arlington/
It is a good speech and notes throughout about our duty to keep the stories of these brave men alive each and every day of our lives. These blogs are just one of the ways I try to do just that.
Finally, my last thoughts today are on the cases of Montreal born Louis Chaput and St Johns Newfoundland born Thomas Kersey. Both are MOH men whose stories have appeared in this space in the past.
Both will also be the recipients, of new MOH grave markers in the weeks to come, and as news is obtained, it will be passed along in this space.
Hope to see you next Sunday. Bring along a friend.
Still with the theme of discrimination in the military in the 19th and 20th centuries, recent blogs have brought some of the pieces of the puzzle. Each being looked through an American, a Canadian and a British prism... if you will.
The next blog will bring you an update on the Canadian and British side of this story. Today I shall use this blog to bring forth some American materials for consideration.
I have mentioned the Congressional Medal of Honor Society many times in this space. It is the society to which most if not all the MOH recipients belong and participate in annual conventions and much more. From their site you can learn a lot about the history of the medals, the different types from days gone and current ribbons etc. Below is an entry from that site that acknowledges that in times past all soldiers sailors etc were not treated equally.
During the period from the end of the US Civil War in 1865 until the end of the Spanish American War in 1898, the US Congress requested the president award about 540 Medals of Honor. About 25 of these, or 5% went African American service men.
While it must be remembered that many were kept out of the front lines due to their being assigned labor roles rather than fighting roles for the most part, the numbers receiving the MOH amounted to about 5% of the totals for the period mentioned. And not being assigned to the front lines, in itself, was, arguably, also discriminatory.
Moving forward, during WWl and ll about 15 million Americans fought. Of these, some 1.3 million were African Americans. About 550 Medals of Honor were awarded for the two Great Wars. Not one went to a African American.
The along came Freddie!
Freddie was an African American Corporal leading at the head of a company trying to retake a heavily fortified hill from the Germans. About half his company would be killed in the fight. As his men proceeded the enemy faked a surrender and then by surprise killed 22 year old Freddie Stowers and many more of his comrades.
He was later recommended for the MOH but his case seems to have gotten lost somehow ???? It was discovered in 1987
Here we see President Bush, having just presented the framed Medal of Honor posthumously to one of Freddie's sisters (in pink) with the medal as the First Lady looks on.
Soon the nation's oldest Black College...Shaw... was invited to do research into the matter of discrimination regarding the issue or non issue of awarded to African Americans, This resulted in the identification that ten soldiers had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross rather that the Medal of Honor. The DSC is one medal BELOW the MOH.
Congress agreed with 7 of the cases, but in each of these all but one of the recipients was by then deceased.
Here we see Vernon Baker receiving his award from President Clinton. The remaining 6 would be awarded posthumously.
On 2001 yet another review was conducted and Tibor Rubin, a Holocaust survivor was awarded his MOH. I had the incredible privilege to meet and briefly chat with this very gracious hero in 2013 at Gettysburg, Sadly he has since passed.
A few weeks back the US government announced that it will be conducting yet another review to see if there are still more cases that need to be upgraded. (outlined above) Note the 2nd para comment about how the soldier not being properly awarded has his story taken from him...and his descendants. The very comment oft noted in this space.)
I shall be watching for news on this front and bring same to you as it is learned.
Canada and Britain should take a long look at how the US is trying to fix these many injustices and how they have worked around the rules that can be amended when common sense calls for such action.
My next blog on this comes on June 5th.
On the mean time here is a great song, that I have passed on in the past...please check it out... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaxGNQE5ZLA
I believe you will be glad you did!
Continuing on with the theme of several past blogs in this space, today I want to briefly mention the stories of Hersford, John and Benjamin, and a few more.
Well... lots more!
This little mini series, as it is turning out to be, is about the incredible resources men and women of colour have brought to the front lines when called upon to stand up against enemies of their homeland. And in so standing, these same warriors faced as much discrimination more often than not from the very comrades who stood shoulder to shoulder with them on the front lines. Or perhaps at desks far, far away from the dangers of the front lines.
Part of the story of discrimination involves the failure to recognize heroism, simple because of skin colour. Coupled with this are the oft heard excuses such as... it is too late now to fix it.. it had to be done within a few years of the event, or we needed written statements from officers of the day attesting to the heroism sought to be honoured with medals.
These are gut reactions and signs of simply protecting the status quo long since that status lost it's quo. It is always easier to find an excuse when...with a little hard work, positive results are also within reach.
Hersford's case is one such example!
In the mid 1780's a fellow by the name of Gettys bought some land from his father, chopped it up into 220 lots and sold them off, calling his little area a town, but later it became a "burg" (now known as a borough.) Hersford, shown above in a Civil War Union uniform, would become famous... many a year later.. for his actions at that borough... Gettysburg.
He'd be one of over 7,000 deaths in the 3 day battle of July 1863. Total casualties, MIA, POW etc numbered over 51,000...in a borough of some 2,500 citizens.
You have probably read about Hersford in my earlier blogs. But that was his 2nd given name. His first was Alonzo and his last was Cushing, a family that saw 5 brothers serve in that war.
Cushing was severely wounded several times but still manned his cannon and died doing so. It appears that he was not recommended for a Medal of Honor during the war or until decades later. Clearly he should have been.
So much for the requirement for an earlier recommendation. Neither does it seem, that an officer had to be an eyes on witness to the heroism before making the nomination.
Truth be told... it was not an officer, nor a witness but a TENANT of a building Cushing's parents used to live in that started making recommendations for the awarding of the Medal Of Honor.
Never mind recommending within a few years, Alonzo's nomination came in 1987. Then 124 years later. Several runs at it finally succeeded when a 1st cousin twice removed stood with others at the White House to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor on behalf of Alonzo Cushing. It was then November 2014. Stories are easily found on the net about the ceremony.
I tell you this today to show that regardless of the rules of the day, when an injustice takes place it can be fought. Though undoubtedly the odds are often against you. But a fight can be won by continuing to gather information and supporters and money and holding peoples feet to the fire.
In this case it would be the US Congress that would finally approve the medal and the request that the president of the day make it happen. He did.
The awarding of the medal gives the man or woman incredible pride and no doubt a desire to keep striving for higher goals in life. He or she is a pillar for his family, his friends and relatives and co-workers who will also want to emulate his or her actions. These awards are also door openers for many things in life that would simply not come the way of the hero had the award not been made. And for most with the medal, they would say almost to a man... or woman, that the medal is not their's. It is a burden, and a duty to carry for life in remembrance of those left behind.
And as such, the withholding of issue... for wrong reasons is an injustice to all who put their uniform on in the past and for those that will come along tomorrow and stand between us and our enemies.
Alonzo's immediate family never learned during their lifetimes of the hero status the nation assigned to one of their family members. That injustice can never be repaid... ever. A medal awarded years or decades later is but a start but with some efforts could have been better handled.
Same for John.
This Newfoundlander was one of the many heroes on the USS Kearsarge and involved in one of the most exciting and famous Civil War naval battles.
John Hayes has been mentioned several times in this space. As has his Medal of Honor. In June of 1864 his actions off the coast of Cherbourge France resulted in his being awarded the Medal of Honor in December of that year.
Trouble is nobody thought to track him down and tell him this. Nearly blind and in financial difficulties and living in a military old folks home he would be stunned one day in seeing his name in print. It told of his award. An award made 40 years earlier. Forty years and none could find him and deliver his medal to him. Hmmm.
When he wrote the government and learned where it was being held, he demanded its immediate release. They were so impressed they took the corroded medal and a rotting ribbon and MAILED them out to him. Some thanks!. AFTER a 40 year wait he would get to wear it a few times before he passed away 7 years later.
How many stories did he never get to tell because they couldn't find him. So they say.
How many other medals are being held to this very day, and what steps are being taken to locate descendants in each of these cases? Who knows? Or cares?
Here we see the front and back of the Hayes medal. It does not look very corroded but might be a replacement medal.
Ontario born Benjamin F Youngs earned his MOH also during the CW when he captured an enemy flag and was presented a medal in 1864. But records would later show he was listed as a deserter. Such listing usually resulted in medals being rescinded, and probably illegally. (For the same reasons noted often here regarding the 1917 purge.)
But Benjamin's medal was not taken away. Instead, when he applied for a MOH pension, that application was denied. So he caused an investigation to be held, the erroneous classification removed and the pension awarded going forward, but without any back pay. Nevertheless it was a partial victory when Congress created a special Act, voted and carried it to remove the negative listing back in 1925.
Again yet another example of fighting all odds to right a wrong.
During the Civil War about 1.6 medals of Honor out of 100 went to coloured men. In the period between the end of the war and the start of the Span. Am. War about 4.2 per 100 awarded went to men of colour. In the Span. Am. War the number increased to about 5.5 in every 100 awarded.
While more and more men of colour were allowed to join, and actually be used on the front lines increased as time went on opportunities for heroism obviously increased. But having said that, the numbers still suggest that prejudice actions still played a very large role in the award of these medals pre the era of the two great wars and beyond. And this is what I will be covering next Sunday in the last on this series.
Hope to see you then.
In the mean time it has come to my attention that the search engine on this site is yet again not functioning and steps are presumably being taken to yet again fix this. If you ever try to use the tool and it is not working, please let me know so that actions can be taken to again fix it.
History was made 158 years ago yesterday, at about 4.30 A.M. It was then that a cannon fired off the first round at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbour. A shot that saw the start of a Civil War that caused some 3.5 million people eventually leaving homesteads in over 30 countries to do battle in over a dozen US States. Six hundred-thousand never came home.
That first shot was claimed by many. One of these was a prominent land owner in his mid 60's by the name of Edmund Ruffin, shown above. In his 60's at the time, he claimed his comrades gave him the honour of the first shot, due to his age. Several others have also made the claim that they were the first to shoot at Fort Sumter. Historians still seems to be undecided on the point.
At war's end, and with the loss of his wife and over half of his children to death, Edmund decided he could not live under the rules of the North. So he went upstairs with a pitched twig and musket, put the barrel in his mouth and manipulated the stick till the trigger was pulled. The musket failed to go off, so it was reloaded. The 2nd attempt was more successful.
Just one of the millions of tragedies over the entire war, every one before... and since.
Since early February I have brought you many stories about the plight of those captured or born into slavery in the US, and about coloured troops in the military, and treatments most received in many cases. Yet to be covered are the steps taken over recent years to right the wrongs when those deserving, were not awarded medals simply because they were men of colour.
Last week's story of the horrors faced at Fort Wagner, were very much influenced by prejudicial feelings so strong that the very unit was created with this in mind. I suggested that you go to the library and get a copy of the 1989 movie Glory and learn about this famous regiment and what it endured.
Sadly it became famous because of the movie. That status belonged to it since CW days but was long forgotten by most till the movie brought the regiment's history back to life.
Moving forward exactly a year (and 2 days if you are counting,)
It was 30 July 1864, and the scene to explode, literally, was near Petersburg Virginia, a major railway hub that had to be taken by the Union forces. But with dead open ground to the front of the enemy lines, very heavily defended, the only approach was across that very dangerous field. The Union had no desire to make such an advance, having just recently been defeated in an important battle and failing to cross similar terrain and win the fight.
Three divisions of men were assigned to take the major Fort. One would go up the center and one to the left and right on an arc that would end at the left and right sides. So the plans said.
But an altered plan involved using one of the divisions that included pre-war miners who suggested a long tunnel underground that would end up directly underneath a major enemy cannon some 150 ft. away from the Union's concealed entry point. From there the tunnel would move off to the left and right some 50 ft. and also directly under two more powerful enemy cannons.
The commanders had both coloured and white troops on hand. It was felt that the more experienced white troops were better trained and disciplined and should be the first to enter the tunnel after some 8000 pounds of gun powder was lit and the tunnel blown up. But the whites had been exhausted before the battle and very weary and just worn out. Not so for the Blacks who had been usually employed on less important tasks and biting at the bullet to prove their worth. It was finally decided that the Blacks should go in first despite fears of accusations of discrimination should the plan fail.
The men were trained on what to do after the explosion, where to go etc, but just before the powder was lit, plans reversed and the whites were ordered in first.Tired whites already exhausted and NOT trained on what to do when they got to the pit that would result from the explosion.
The rumbling of the ground and noise was heard and felt many miles away. The explosion was so powerful that it blew cannons wagons, enemy troops, woodworks and more tens of yards into the air and all then came crashing down to shatter. Arms and legs of the enemy were sticking out of sand piles and Southern deaths numbered in the hundreds in minutes.
The White Union troops followed by the Coloured then entered the pit and were as stunned at what they saw as were the Confederates farther back. It took the Southerners about 1/2 hr to regroup and bring reinforcements up to the edge of the pit, that was about 130 ft. long, 60 wide and 30 deep. One would later say three houses could have easily fitted into the crater.
But with the excitement it seems that many of the Union forces did not go around as ordered, but got caught up in the interest or sheer movement of the mob and pushed into the pit. This created a pit of horror. Men could not get out because the sides were so slippery with mud and oil and loose sand and they could not dig their heels into anything that would allow them to climb out.
Then the real horror started with the Confederates who were under orders to shoot and kill every soldier of colour. and also every white officer that appeared to be in command of any of the blacks. Many trying to surrender threw up their arms and pleaded for mercy and were instead simply shot by the enemy. Some of the white Union officers even started to club and shoot their own black comrades in the hopes the enemy whites would spare them. Not so!
Here we see a sketch of the tunnel at bottom. At top left is a map showing the tunnel direction heading down and to the left. At the end it spreads out to the left and right, and each, as already noted, was below one of the Confederate cannons.. At upper right we see men after the battle of the Crater sitting on its edge. It was somewhere along that edge that Ontario born EE Dodd earned his Medal of Honor rescuing some of the wounded under very heavy fire. Over a dozen Canadians were in this battle.
The artist depicting this battle ought to have had far more soldiers in the pit than shown here. It was described by some as a mad mob with no one able to move in any direction because they were packed so close together, and thus easy prey for the Confederates. So much so that later General Grant would state that..."It was the saddest affair that I have witnessed in this war."
A later army Court of Inquiry sought answers on why the Union lost 8,500 soldiers in a manner of just over 24 hours. No doubt they were brought to tears as they heard from the witnesses who were in the battle.
One would tell of the Southern officer who yelled..."shoot the nigger but don't shoot the white man." Another said that..."whites and blacks threw down their weapons and then raised their arms to surrender. Suddenly however the Confederates began shooting and bayoneting the unarmed blacks." Others told of how the Southerners were throwing their bayonets into the crowded pit like spears knowing that they'd surely hit one of them.
Another gave testimony that when the Confederate officer yelled down...why don't you surrender, a Colonel yelled back..why don't you let us?" Another gave testimony that when some blacks were allowed to surrender, they were taken out of the pit, only to be later shot.
As the original title last week suggested, now you have seen some evidence that goes far beyond that of normal battle and casualties. Some would argue this is evidence of murder... possibly on both sides.
And based on nothing but discrimination.
I am now taking 2 weeks off to work on other research. My next blog will appear on May 5th.
Please come back for a visit then,
Avoiding Potential Discrimination Claims, Incompetent Orders led to Many of the 4,900 Casualties in Hours. Many Say Some Murdered!
Last blog I mentioned that Sam Rogers, pictured here, in later life as a retired light-keeper, was a Canadian born about 60 kilometers north of Montreal. The blog noted that just before the US Civil War he was serving in the US navy and on board a vessel that had captured a slave trading boat and helped to rescue over 600 men, women and children and grant their freedom. Months later he would repeat the event, whist still serving with his mates in the navy's African Squadron.
His story has been told in this space in the past. A site search will also show that after the Civil War, and whilst still in naval service Sam would go on to play a pivotal role in the saving of his officer's life when mortally wounded in Korea. Sadly the officer, after rescue and returning to his vessel, succumbed to the horrendous wounds received in battle. He and several others would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their bravery under very heavy fire to save his officer.
I repeated reference to Sam, since he and so many other Canadians fought with their American brothers (and sisters) in arms to help suppress the trade of Black Ivory. So too, the story appears because it is not readily recognized on the net or in most lists of MOH recipients that Sam was NOT an American, but a British North American and, as noted, born in what is now the province of Quebec.
I can remember as a silly teenager wandering about the streets of Toronto wearing a T shirt with the inscription... Warning..your local police may be armed and dangerous. This of course, many a year before I joined the first of three PD's.
But these posters are serious reminders of the past. They warned the coloured folks to be fearful of the very agency that ought to have been on the lookout to aid rather than capture.
This Boston Poster from the 1840's to early 1860's warns to be on the lookout for police and others who themselves were on the lookout for escapes slaves. And as often noted many a coloured who was NOT escaped... but a free man that was about to become a slave once scooped.
The Boston Vigilance Committee, who created this poster, would also be on the lookout for the escaped slave, or those arriving on the shores as a stowaway etc. They would provide whatever assistance they could, be it legal, shelter, food, a place to sleep and contacts in the underground railway to assist in the journey to the North and into Canada etc.
Regular readers are familiar with this map of the Charlston harbour, in South Carolina.
In December of 1860 the US had numerous forts around the harbour. But when S. Carolina suceeded from the Union Major Anderson, representing the Union and commanding troops on Fort Moultrie was in a pickle. Having been tasked to control the entry and exit of the harbour, Anderson decided his best defence was not at Moultrie, shown above, and he needed to move to another spot that could better meet his needs. So he moved his few troops available onto Fort Sumter, both shown above.
For several months the Southerners, now in possession of Moultrie and several other local forts, made attempts to secure Anderson's surrender.
After all Confederate attempts to force a surender failed, some 3000 cannon balls and shells were dropped onto Sumter. The Northerners did not loose a single man in the shelling, but due to lack of supplies Anderson eventual had to surrender.
Anderson's crew requested, and received permission from the South to fire off one last shot. A salute to the fort's flag as it was lowered. While firing it off, an explosion at the gun killed one of his men... the sole loss at the fort.
Anderson and crew were allowed to leave and returned to Union lines. One of the men hid the fort's flag under his clothing, and when Fort Sumter was captured back by the Union Navy years later, they would once again hoist that very flag.
The 2nd image above Here is an artist's rendition of the bombing of 12/13 April 1861, claimed by many to have been the first shots fired in the Civil War. But there are a few other incidents that also share the claim.
The 2nd image above is the wonderful fort as it stands today. No doubt a major tourist attraction for the Charlston Harbour area, the state and nation.
With the 1 Jan. 1863 Emancipation Proclomation, President Lincoln ordered that all slaves having escaped or those still in slavery within ten states to be immediately emancipated from slavery. The military was also ordered to accept into the service any African American that was fit for service. The 54th Massachusetts volunteer Infantry would be the 2nd such group consisting almost entirely by coloured soldiers, but under the command of white officers. The proclomation thus freed 3.5 million men of colour.
The above recruitment posters tell of signing up bonuses of $100 and $13 for monthly wages. But the regimental command could not have possibly known that it woult take a full 18 months before these soldiers signing up would get their full monthly pays. In the mean time they were being deducted $3 for clothing every month, and about half way through their service they were finally offered their FIRST payment... and that being only half what their white brothers would get. So they refused all payments till they were treated as equal to their brothers. They suceeded but not till June of 1864.
The 1989 movie called GLORY tells the story of the 54th and I highly recomend you go to a library to get a copy and watch it. It tells of the incredible discrimination, not only in pay days, but in many other areas of their lives, Though not so by their own officers.
Here we see some of the 54th soldiers back in 1863. The man at far right is wearing Sgt's stripes, being the high-est rank an African Ameriacn could obtain in the reigiment.
If you look at the above map, you will see a place called Fort Wagner at the bottom centre, and directly beow Fort Sumter. It would be here that some of the focus of the Movie GLORY brings the viewer. (Though the entire movie seems to fail to mention the word Canada once, at least 39 coloured men from Canada served in the regiment.
The 54th actions at Fort Wagner would once again show to the world the value of the Black soldier as equal to that of the white man. The movie would bring back to life the historic contributions the regiment made and once again made the regiment famous. Perhaps it's time to be brought back to the screen to remind all that we are ell equal in all ways.
After a 3 hr, early evening of crossing many obstacles and herculian attempts to mount 30 foot walls to gain entry to the fort, one in 3 would become a casualty. Over 800 from several regiments would soon lie in mass graves. The 54th colonel would be one of these , and said to have been wounded 7 times. He'd lost 2 of his Captains, 24 Privates, 15 captured and 52 missing in action and never again seen alive.
When William ran away from his slave master, he found his father who had also earlier escaped slavery. Soon they would meet up with a man that was so supportive of William's earnest desire to serve in the army, he gave William a name. The youngster, being a slave, only had a first name. So the man gave the boy his last name. It was Carney.
Now with a surname William managed to be accepted for military service. That service was with the 54th and at Fort Wagner he would be wounded at least twice in the legs, once in the chest and slightly to the face. When this soldier saw the colour bearer start to fall he raced to him and grabbed the flag and carried it throughout the battle and mounted it near the wall of the enemy fort before collapsing and be taken off the field...with the flag. For this he was promoted to Sergeant, the highest rank for a black soldier in the unit, and awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the first black man, by date of action, to be so awarded the medal in the Civil War and in fact the medal's history.
Here we see him wearing Cpl's stripes, but soon he would be promoted Sgt. Notice the tattered condition of the war torn colours.
Still more to come on Sunday next including the murder mentioned in the above title. I had hoped to cover it today, but the blog is yet again too long.
While February's Black History Month has passed by for another year, several recent blogs here have brought forth a handful of stories on these men and women that date as far back as the 1700's. No doubt many more could be found predating these.
The major focus of my blogs is the Medal of Honor stories touching on Canada. A mere drop in the bucket when you consider about 120 medals, compared to some 3,560 medals, possibly more since created back in 1863. (March 25th, and thus Medal of Honor Month in March, annually.)
But of that number of medals, and knowing that only about 100 went to men of colour, it is not difficult to assume race prejudice played a negative role on the recipient numbers. So too when looking at the total of about 1,370 Victoria Crosses and yet only about 3 dozen went to men of colour.
About 40 years ago the US Navy included about 30,000 men and women of colour, 600 of these at the officer level. In Civil War days the US Navy's total strength was about 30,000. And about 3200 of these became casualties. Some 800 were men of colour.
In 9 days, on April 13, we will mark the 158th year since the US Civil War began with the 1861 bombing of Fort Sumter, shown above. Over 620,000 would die before the war came to an end.
The Northern Army's Major Anderson, had been occupying Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, (also shown above,) but as the south and the north kept rattling swords, it was felt that to best affect the blockade runners the Southerners so much depending on, Anderson ought to move his troops onto Fort Sumter.
Occupying the fort in the middle of the night, the troops would remain there for several months. It was a stronghold needed to keep Southerner blockade runners in check. And the Southerners needed those runners running to bring in their own supplies, including Black Ivory... slaves. About four of every ten landing on US soil arrived at this very harbour. One also critical for continued cotton shipments to England.
On April 13 the Confederates had enough and dropped their payload on the Fort, about 3000 cannon balls, and with dwindling supplies, Anderson had to surrender the fort. (It would be taken back by the Northerners years later.)
A recent internet search indicates that between just 1858 and 1861 a total of at least 150 slave trading vessels were roaming the waters and coastlines of the world looking for black cargo they could seize and bring to the US and sell as slaves. Presumably in that same period of time, over 13,000 slaves were rescued and given their freedom from these traders.
Eight months before the Sumter bombing, the US frigate San Jacinto, above, would capture the well known slave trader Storm King on 9 August 1860. Two months later they would catch the trader Bonito loaded with slaves. Crews and ships were seized and the slaves given their freedom. Internet searches can tell on the horrendous conditions the slaves suffered. One ship alone carried well over 600 of these men women and children.
Here is another picture of the San Jacinto. The elderly man on the right is Sam Rogers and he ought to be wearing a Medal of Honor on his jacket.
Sam was part of the slave saving crews of the above ship, He would go on to serve on the navy in the civil war and beyond and ended up as a light-keeper for years, and as shown in this image. He would earn a MOH for bravery in trying with several others to rescue his mortally wounded officer in battle in Korea in October 1871. They were under intense fire but managed to rescue the officer and get him back to the ship but the officer later succumbed to his wounds.
Despite much on the net, Sam Rogers was born in Quebec, Canada, and no doubt for many a year told of his efforts to help save blacks being discriminated against and forced into slavery.
One without the fowling is shown at the right.On one internet site one of the 15 MOH awarded for actions in this Korean battle showed an image of the MOH. Not the one above. But it showed it to be of the kind with the Fowled Anchor as shown at above left. These were believed to have been issued for a very short time frame so, if Sam's is of this type, that would probably add to it's value today...wherever it is????? One without fowling is shown at the right.
Still more on topic comes this Sunday.
Dealing with systemic racism must not be limited to Black History Month. Nor should it be limited to those in uniform!
For almost 500 blogs over the past 6 years and more, stories here have shared with you the adventures of probably over 150 Medal of Honor and Victoria Cross heroes. Men who were either Canadian (British North Americans) or had ties, for one reason or another... with Canada. Many others covered up-dates and yet more interesting stories about the American and British Empire's highest awards for bravery in their respective military forces. They cover incidents right back to the very first awards for both the VC and the MOH.
On topic with today's and the most recent blogs, I have written about 3 Medal of Honor, and one Victoria Cross recipient in particular. All thought to be within the above guidelines. And all being men of colour.
Two would later be shown to probably not have Canadian connections, despite what most on the internet still declare.
The first of these is Joachim Pease, thought to be from Newfoundland but that has been challenged. Definitive evidence is still being sought. This sailor was involved in the Civil War famous battle between the Union's USS Kearsarge and the Confederate's CSS's Alabama. His aim with the big ship's gun was so accurate that the enemy actually put a price on his head. But they did not collect, which of course pleased Joachim. The battle was a major win for the Union and was fought off the coast of Cherbourg France in June of 1864. His award was approved by President Abraham Lincoln on 31 December of that year.
The President would be assassinated 3 1/2 months later!
This is a US Navy recruiting poster from about 1960.
Robert Sweeney was another navy Medal of Honor recipient. In fact, any references to him usually includes the fact that he is one of only 19 recipients who would actually be awarded two MOH's. But history seems to refuse to publish anywhere the truth of the story. There were NOT 19 but at least 21 actual double recipients, as evidenced often in blogs here. But what can be claimed is that he appears to be the lone recipient of colour that is a double recipient.
Most say he was from Montreal. This probably comes from the misreading many a day ago of a place called ... Montserrat, which is in the West Indies. Some probably confused it and thus recorded a birth in Montreal.
He dived into dangerous waters at the risk of his own life to save a drowning comrade in October 1881. He did this again to save yet another mate in December 1883.
President Chester A. Arthur awarded him an early Christmas present in October of 1884 with the presentation of not one, but 2 Medals of Honor.
The lone man of colour confirmed as being from Canada (Nova Scotia) to be awarded the Medal of Honor is Joseph Noil who's evolving story has been the subject of many blogs in this space. Yet another sailor, he also risked his life back in 1872 and just 4 months later, in March 1873 was also awarded the MOH, by President Ulysses S. Grant, the famed General of Civil War days. Noil's story of being buried under the wrong name, and without hero recognition for over 130 years was rectified a few years back after the great work of several folks in the US and this blog.
The fourth man was also a sailor. By date he should have been the first noted. His medal came to him back during the Indian Mutiny. His actions played a major role in the destruction of a wall that prevented the British from rescuing many of their countrymen, women, children and British Officers.
The action of hauling massive guns up to the face of the wall, firing, being driven back, remounting and advancing time and again resulted in finally blowing a hole in the defenses that allowed the British to enter and make their rescues.
The actions also resulted in the awarding of the first ever Victoria Cross to a coloured man. That being Nova Scotia's William Hall. The award was approved by Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria in 1859 for bravery on 4 November 1857.
For years those attending highland games across Canada got to watch serving members of the navy in teams from the west challenge teams from the east in a competition to dismantle a massive naval gun, struggle across various obstacles, remount the gun, run further to point of attack, fire, dismount, return to the obstacle and cross it, remount the weapon and take it back to the start point. It was a great crowd pleasing attraction annually but finally was cancelled because too many were getting injured. (A concept apparently not thought of back in 1859.)
At Hantsport Nova Scotia this memorial was dedicated to the memory of William Hall and erected in 1947. A wreath rests at its base and no doubt placed by the local branch of the legion annually. A replica Victoria Cross, made out of bronze is affixed over the plaque.
The Victoria Cross at right is actually the very medal awarded to William Hall and across its suspension bar's reverse, but not decipherable in this image, are the words... Seamen W Hall Royal Navy, and below, as are all VC's, is the date of the heroism. In this case... 16 Nov. 1857.
The medal is held by a museum in Halifax and many a year ago I had the distinct privilege of not only seeing but actually holding the medal. Over the years I have held over a dozen VC's, most being held by museum's. Three not so have been the subject of several earlier blogs in this space.
American readers should use this site's search engine (it is at top right of this page) to read up on the US connection to William Hall VC. He served in the US Navy during the Mexican War before joining the British Navy and still later being awarded the Victoria Cross.
It seems fair to assume that there is little doubt these four sailors all faced discrimination during some parts of their military service, before and even after. But these men were highly decorated. Thousands were not!
Also note that discrimination is not limited to those serving. Nor to the black community. Nor to Canada, the US and Britain. And it predates the US Civil War by almost 300 years..
It was back in 1563, 1564 and 1568 that Francis Drake (later Sir Francis) and relative Hawkins landed cargoes of captured slaves on the shores of America. The men, women and children were seized from Portuguese vessels and towns in West Africa.
Painter Samual Lane's depiction of Drake appearing to have his hand on a globe.
Regular readers of these blogs will recall the story of the creation of today's Purple Heart, reminiscent of the Badge of Military Merit introduced by President George Washington back in revolutionary days. But did you know that Washington had over 300 slaves at that very time working his plantation at Mount Vernon?
In fact, of the first dozen US presidents 10 owned slaves. And during the Revolutionary War of 1777 to 1783 the British tried to convince slaves held by American masters, to run away and enlist with the British in their fight against the Americans.
Three decades later, while the British had laws against the blacks joining their ranks, the authorities overlooked this and had thousands join up to fight the American invaders in the War of 1812. Men of colour who often had escaped slavery and feared return to same if caught by the Americans. And on the US side thousands also served with the army and upwards of 20% served on US ships manning the Great Lakes. Men who had in many a case came from slavery before the war.
Almost five decades would pass and in 1860 some 600 blacks fleeing from the struggles of racism in the US came to Vancouver Island BC. Many joined to form the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps It is believed to have been the first ever organized troop in Western Canada.
Discrimination of various kinds from the early settlers and the government of the day plagued the Corps (shown above) so much that it decided to split up several years later.
During their term of service the government held a Royal Commission on itself. Evidence was uncovered of discrimination of a different kind. In a plot to eliminate some of the northern native communities Hudson Bay blankets covered with Smallpox were given to the natives to take to their communities to keep warm, hoping they would all catch the deadly disease and die off.
In the next blog I will bring two horrendous Civil War stories of prejudice to these pages.
In the mean time, pause for a few moments tomorrow to give thanks to the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients. Tomorrow of course is Medal of Honor Day. Reflect also on the costs those men and their families and those today have paid so that you and I can sit down in peace and enjoy the freedoms. Rights earned as much by the bullets coming out of their guns as the diplomacy of our governments over the years..
Reflect also on the 2 who just gave their lives yesterday in Afghanistan and how tough the days to come will be for their families, their loved ones, friends, workmates, community and nation will be experiencing for you and I.
Find someone in uniform and thank their for their service in the days to come. They need to hear how much we owe them and appreciate their dedication to the cause of freedom for us, and those who cannot fight on their own.
See you next week,
I am sorry to say that I have yet to receive several items of confirmation re the next blog, that was to run today. If these are not received by Wednesday I will bring what I have that night rather than make you wait any longer.
Continuing with the theme of last week, I again this year bring you stories related to Black History Month. Mention was given to some of those written about in the past in this space. Names like black Medal of Honor recipients Joseph Noil, Joachim Pease and Robert Sweeney. I reminded you that much more than what was in the latest blog is available at this site by simply using the search engine at above right on this page.
Feedback tells me some of you have now done so. More should do so because in earlier blogs I often go into considerable detail about the Medal of Honor recipient, or others written about, and feel you should see the expanded stories as well as the latest snippets. Often these contain tidbits not readily available elsewhere.
Any serious writings about the Black soldiers and sailors and heroism is often incomplete and could be viewed as a disservice. I say this because far too often what is left out is the ugly head of racism. A scourge on mankind dating back centuries, not just in Canada and the US and England but elsewhere as well.
I am little qualified to take on the task of articulating this issue. Others hopefully will be ever watchful of these matters. But I have seen it regularly in the research being done regarding our military heroes,
But today's is a lead up...
As you can see, Timothy O'Hea (above) was not a Black man. Nor was he racist that we know of. But let's look at some other facts.
He was a soldier assigned to Canada from England. He was with a Sergeant and a handful of others who were to ride with a train west bound and traveling through the eastern townships of Quebec when he discovered the train almost on fire. It was attached to a passenger train. It also was concealing the transport of some 2000 rounds of ammunition, back in 1866, along with about 95 barrels of gunpowder en-route to the Lake Erie area to support the soldiers fearing impending Fenian attacks.
Also on board the same train were some 800 Doukhobor Immigrants heading to Western Canada.
The train was about to catch fire... and while the soldiers abandoned their posts for protection the lone O'Hea made 19 trips to gather a pail-full of water to throw on the smouldering mess. It did not explode and the immigrants were saved.
Each was LOCKED in carriage cars at the time. This was to prevent them leaving the train before arriving out west.
Racism at best!
Ohea's deed earned him a Victoria Cross, the only one in the history of the VC to be awarded for action on soil from what would, a year later become known as CANADA. Canadian. (Though others were presented within what was later Canada as well.)
We now jump forward from 1866 to 1946 and travel eastbound from Quebec to Nova Scotia. You will hopefully recall the story I brought a few weeks back about Viola Desmond and the new Canadian $10 bills recently issued for circulation.
Above we see the new bill front at right, and reverse at left that features her image. The bill is the first in Canada ever to have the major feature inverted to a standing position and requiring the bill to be turned on its end for proper viewing. It is also the first with a non-royal woman, and for a black Canadian. It of course has her in a standing position as she stood up... for her rights!
It all started with her being refused to be allowed to remain in a main floor movie house seating, back in 1946, whilst all black people were "required" to seat in an upper balcony.
The issues raised by her, would be similar to the bus boycott after the conviction in 1955 of Alabama's famous Rosa Parks' case where the black woman refused to give up seating so that a white passenger could sit. A case that is well known across North America and happening nine years after the Canadian case.
But like the Eveready Battery, the Canadian Mint keeps on giving!
A few weeks ago the Mint and Canadian government revealed a new 99.999 silver 20$ collector coin that also depicts Viola Desmond on it. As you can see above, it has a duplicate of her actual signature, and the double date of 1919 and 1965 for her years of birth and passing. The coin set will come complete with an actual ten dollar bill as shown above and a certificate of authenticity and will be made available in July, her month of birth.
Purchasing details are on the net and those interested should remember that there is a limited production run so order early.
I will be away on the 10th so the next blog will be on the 17th. Hope to see you then.