But the story, continuing today, need not only be brought forth during February every year. It, like so much more history needs to be put on our platters DAILY. It needs to remind us each and every day of the year about those who came before us, and those still within us. Those men, women and families who have and continue giving so much on our behalf.
Please turn on your speakers and listen to U.S. Sgt Christian Ball tell us a little about these sacrifices.
Click below, listen and then please return to this blog.
Please widely distribute this blog so that others can hear that wonderful voice, the passion of the singer, and more importantly the story it tells.
Moving on, a few weeks back I received a wonderful email from a university in central Canada. The writer had not given permission for my releasing the author's name nor the university. But I was advised that information about Blacks from Canada fighting in the US Civil War were being sought. Considerable research had already been done, and confirmation was requested regarding the numbers involved. Information about other interesting cases about Blacks fighting in the Civil War would also be most welcome.
The writer advised that a university search was made for details about Joseph Noil. (One that I believe was almost completely ignored yet again this year.)
The writer added that "no matter where I turn, your name is mentioned." In follow up conversations I gave information regarding the detailed role I and others played on several fronts, though seldom mentioned on the net.
Mention was given regarding my efforts, that started at least 7 years earlier, and later joined by others, resulted in the actual verification of Joseph Noil's final resting place.
At my continued pressures, enthusiastically received by the cemetery officials, I advocated for a most formal unveiling ceremony of a new marker. A ceremony that would include the highest available government and military officials from both Canada and the US, and that the press receive the appropriate information and invitations to attend, and where appropriate, to actually contributing to the story.
The ceremony that came to fruition also included actual descendants, who had no idea who Joseph was, what he had done or how he was rewarded so many years earlier. All they knew was that some distant relative was a hero. But they knew little more, till just a few weeks before the ceremony actually took place.
There has been considerable attention dedicated in earlier blogs here about this incredible story.
It also used the research of another historian who had done exhausted investigations into Canada's involvement with the war. Interestingly I too, had enjoyed many communications by phone and email with this 2nd expert years ago. Sadly he has now passed away, but he went knowing of his exhaustive research and the importance it would... and has continues to play in our North America wide historic military heritage.
Regardless, I obtained a library copy and spent several days going through it again. I then compared the names from the book again, and combined these with other dated documents. From these I found an addition 35, by name. These now bring the numbers up to 1,850 men of colour, and a few women who went off to war from British North America to fight in the Union's army and navy during the Civil War.
Of particular interest to me where at least 277 Blacks who served as sailors in the Civil War. Some say that these Blacks served on upwards of 160 different warships, and both they and the army Blacks from British North America had participated in virtually every part of the Civil War. My records contains the names of at least 60 ships the Medal of Honor recipients connected to Canada and the civil war, served on. But the above figure is more expansive than limited to just the Medal of Honor recipients.
At least 79 of these sailors came from Nova Scotia.
As time goes on more and more names are discovered and I expect that these numbers are perhaps a lot lower than they ought to be.
I would encourage you to get a copy of this book. Sources on line tell you where to buy your own copy. The library here in Victoria had to get a copy shipped in for me.
This is a federal crime in my mind! A copy belongs in every library in the country!
This major seaport was the hotbed for secession activities, and South Carolina would become the first to actual break or secede if you will, from the United States in 1860. Within 2 months 6 other states would join them to form what they called the Confederate States of America.
It would be here at Fort Sumter that the first shots of the war were apparently fired in April 1861. The poorly supplied Sumter, was held by the Union's 50 men. The southerners, 500 strong, fired about 3,000 shells at them over 34 hours.
In a miracle no one was killed in the battle. But one fellow died as a result of an exploding gun or shell from within the Union's arsenal.
(I say apparently, above, due to the fact that there were several incidents of deaths before this date. Perhaps to be discussed in a later blog.)
In the 2nd map above, Fort Sumter is depicted with the lowest red marker. Note Charleston to the left of Sumter in the above map.
And here is a much better image of that fort, built about one mile out in the harbour.
The recruiting poster forgot to mention that blacks would only get $10 per month. But even then, another $3 was withheld apparently for their uniforms. Worse yet, the men had to wait several months before even seeing a payday.
When the pay finally arrived, the Black soldiers were only paid at 1/2 that of white soldiers in other regiments. The Blacks refused the lower amounts, and their own officers also became so incensed that they too refused any payment till the troops were given what they were promised on day one.
But also in this photo is a triangular piece of land at the entrance to the Charleston Harbor, right below the tip of the red marker shown. It would be here that the 54th Massachusetts Regiment gained it's fame. A fame shared by 62 Black soldiers who called either Canada East or West, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland their home.
At the very tip of this land the Confederates has erected a very powerful fortress known as Fort Wagner. It provided critical coverage of the entrance to Charleston from the Atlantic Ocean.
To gain entrance from the Atlantic to the Charleston harbour and the important Confederate held city of Charleston, the Northern Union troops had to capture Wagner first.
After an initial failed attempt at taking the fort, a second was later tried. The would be where the 54th Massachusetts all black infantry regiment (except officers) would become famous.
Fort Wagner, being an incredibly powerful fortress, had to be taken. It would lead to a significant Union victory during the war. It was also of great importance for the Blacks fighting on either side of the war. It would shown the Whites that the Blacks were as equally brave, and loyal to their cause and that they would hold their own if just given the chance to prove themselves. Wagner was that chance!
As noted above, this was the 2nd attempt at taking the fortress. And the 54th Massachusetts Infantry were given the opportunity to lead the charge
But this was a Forlorn Hope, a phrase that in military lingo meant... that the action was a suicide charge. It would take the lives of far too many, but the justification was in the hopes that those surviving would go on to capture this most important prize... the very Fort itself.
The 54th new the costs would be very heavy... but they accepted their fate and moved forward.
To begin the battle the union men had to advance some 1200 yards over open territory. They would face the forts immense fire power and obstructions. Among these were 14 cannons, many capable of lobbing shells weighing 128 pounds. Then of course were the enemy infantry, some 1,700 strong firing their muskets at the Blacks who had no shelter to protect themselves.
While many were initially slaughtered some reached the fortress but then found they came across a 10 ft. wide moat filled with 5 feet of water. And at the bottom of the moat were other surprises... Mines! And in addition the Confederates had erected a barrier of sharp tipped pikes within the moat. And of course while navigating all of this them 54th were still being fired upon from within the fort. The lucky few who managed to get through all of this then reached a wall they had to scale. A wall that was 30 ft. high.
When the slaughtering battle came to an end, the Confederates found that they had lost some 174 men. The attacking union army of 9 regiments lost 1,515 men.
A large pit was dug later and all the Union dead were tossed in, as was the body of their 25 year old leader Lt. Colonel Shaw.
There would be further attempts to take the fort, that failed and eventually the Southerners had to abandon the fort as they were needed elsewhere during times that the war was not going in their favour.
But it was here that the first Medal of Honor to a Black man was awarded ...so history tells us!
While the facts show the medal was the first earned, by date of battle, the recipient had to wait 37 years before the hero actually got his medal. And by that time many others had earned and been presented in person or more than likely, through the mails, with their own Medals of Honor.
Of all the heroes that mid July 1863 was one fellow named Willy. He was an escaped slave. And being an escaped slave, Willy had no last name. His parents were also slaves but he managed to escape and make his way north with the intention of joining the army.
One story of the net tells us that as Willy was running through the countryside to escape his slave owners, he came across and older man who had the same first name... ..Willy... or William. When asked what the younger Willy was doing the older man was told he was in search of the Union army and wanted to join up.
On learning this the older fellow told the youth that he could not join unless he had a last name... and the youth had none. So the older fellow, liking the youth, told him to us the old man's name.
And so that day Willy became William Carney ... the hero of the 54th Massachusetts.
And so it came to be that William Carney was allowed to join up with a regiment called the Morgan Guard . After a short time he heard of the 54th, applied and was accepted. And about March of 1863 he was promoted to Sergeant.
He is no doubt depicted below with troops advancing towards Fort Wagner.
But it seems that somehow the image has been reversed. The ocean was on the regiment's right as they move forward, not on their left.
The second regarding the Great Escape of 1944 in Germany, also fails to recognize the very significant roles played by Canadians in the events told in that movie.
And the third... Argo..., a film of 2012, fails to acknowledge that it was the Canadian Ambassador and his staff that played such important roles in saving the American hostages in that story.
All movies made by Americans, for an American audience. This despite the failure to acknowledge the roles Canada played in each event.
Much more to come on this story. Hopefully to appear on Sunday the 13th,
Cheers till then,