Most references say that Sweeney is one of only 19 cases of one fellow becoming a double recipient, though clearly evidence is available that at least two others also were double recipients. Their cases are a little complicated and thus most do not want to readily admit... or even know about them. Each has been explained in past blogs in this space.
Sweeney was said for years to have been a Canadian and coming from the province of Quebec, but a few years back it was pretty well determined, though not definitive, that he actually did not have a Canadian connection and was born in the West Indies Isalnd of Montserrat. This no doubt sounded like Montreal to some clerk at some point in the record keeping.
On December 20 1883 Robert earned his 2nd MOH, and this was just 2 years almost to the day since he earned his first. Seven years later, again almost to the day, he passed away and lays at rest today at Calvary Cemetery in NY City. There is no known image of him that has turned up after years of research. His was thought to be the 2nd and third of only 3 medals coming to a Canadian of colour in the medal's 150 year history. Since his place of birth had been probably solved, yet a third coloured man earning a MOH, has now been credited to Canada. His name is Joachim Peace from Newfoundland, and as per the others, has received coverage in this space in the past.
More can be read about this hero at... www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/1/post/2012/12/only-in-every-2105263-earned-not-1-but-2-medals-of-honor.html
There seems to be no known images of Robert Blake who earned a Medal of Honor for actions in the Civil War on Christmas Day in 1863. This image is an artist's rendition, one of many made for naval recruiting purposes about 100 years later. To the right is an image of William Harvey Carney who, with Blake can claim that he was the first man of colour to get a Medal of Honor. But, as discussed in previous blogs, the answer to who got the very first ... depends on how the question was asked.
Was in the first to be actually awarded by the President, the first to actually change hands, or the first action for which the award resulted. Three dates all, for each of the above heroes.
By date of the award being made by the President, Blake wins with a General Order date of 10 April 1864. Carney, who's action was before Blake's and on 18 July 1863, but was not finally recognized by the President with an award until in the year 1900, an injustice in itself.
Readers of Civil war materials often come across the term... "Contraband." This rather insulting term referred to men of colour who had run from slavery, or those rescued by the Union forces of the North and brought into military service in the army or navy of the day.
Blake and about 400 other slaves were rescued by the navy from a South Carolina plantation and taken into the navy as Contraband, Blake being assigned first to the USS Vermont and later on the USS Marblehead, a namesake later to become famous again during the Spanish American War of 1898.
On Christmas night his ship came under heavy fire from land based howitzers and a 14 hour bloody battle evolved that resulted in many deaths onboard his vessel. Blake's job was as a steward to the captain and as such he had no business on the upper decks unless called for. During the battle several of the powder boys were injured or killed and the upper decks needed volunteers to come forth and fill the boots of their comrades in getting the powder to the guns on time for battle needs. Blake immediately volunteered and when asked by his officers what he was doing he said that his help was needed and help he would give. The captain was so impressed with his efforts he later recommended Blake successfully for the Medal of Honor. It would be a first of sorts... for all coloured troops in the US service from 1863 till today.
History cruelly had yet to reveal were and when he died and were he rests today. Someday hopefully this will be resolved and given the massive attention it deserves.
While history is kind, above, it is cruel in that it reveals the system never bothered to officially recognize his heroism until a later US President finally awarded his medal in May of 1900... almost 40 years later.
Carney's Regiment was the first all coloured regiment of army soldiers, and had a compliment of white officers. The government originally only paid lower wages till the men almost mutinied, for just cause, I'd offer, but kept at their jobs and refused to accept any pay at one point till equal payments were finally offered the men.
Their actions at Fort Wagner during the CW made them famous, as was clearly their due. Carney's story and that of Robert Blake and other coloured men have been mentioned often at this site and a re-read of some of the blogs will remind you of the incredibly important role they played, mostly downplayed for decades, in the war efforts of then till today. Here are 2 of those blogs...
The Movie of about ten years ago and called... GLORY depicts the bravery of this regiment and the horrible treatment it received at the face of the enemy... and from other CW units till that incredible day in 1863.
Your homework is to down-load that movie and watch it again. There were at least 39 Canadians in it but those making the movie didn't think the Canadian involvement that day was worth any mention in the movie. Three of those Canadians were even in the very company Carney was in.
Strange what you can find when you research the true non-Hollywood versions eh!
Wednesday being a holiday, I'll be back on Friday.
Cheers till then,
and another at...