These numbers are very exciting!
But then when I feel so good at continuing to add these numbers, I look at February... the very month set aside to give thoughts to the important roles our black friends and families have played in the growth of all of North America, and of course in the military to boot.
It's black history month in Canada and the US, and I believe Britain as well. Today is the 19th. Only nine days to go.
Going back several months ago the internet was abuzz about the great work so many of us did to finally unveil a proper marker for Joseph Noil, a black sailor who lay buried under the wrong name and without any acknowledgment whatsoever that he was a Medal of Honor recipient, for well over 130 years. But we put an end to that. The net stories about the event were seen by MILLIONS.
TV coverage and one of the press services carried stories to many parts of Canada about the event, though many missed the Canadian role in the story. No matter.
But now... with 9 days left in the month that honours our extensive black heritage, we have yet again dropped the ball. I speak of course about many in our media. I say this after several days of internet searches have failed to produce a single story about Joseph Noil in February, the very month that he ought to be front and centre with the likes of Nova Scotia's William Hall. Both men came from the same province. one earning the Victoria Cross and the other the medal of Honor. Both being black men, and the only black men in the country to earn their respective highest of highest medals for bravery from the highest of authority in both Britain and the US. Very few about Hall were found.
One step forward and 30 backwards, most frustrating!
If you hold the stamp under a black light, along its top you will see the hidden words..."Canada 150" and also the display of our sesquicentennial logo also.
South of the border, noted in the last few blogs, the Americans have recognized the importance of the black culture going back a long time, though some would argue with cause, that they have often forgotten of this treasure trove of heritage.
On the military front, the revolutionary war saw some 1500 blacks serving in the navy. They were loading the guns, working the sails, manned the boats and even commanding many a coastal vessel. About 1/6th of the navy during the War of 1812 were men of colour. One in four during CW days were blacks, and one in four of the casualties were also men of colour.
The navy came away from the Civil War with about 330 Medals of Honor. But only about a dozen of these went to black sailors.
One of these came to a fellow called Joachim Pease, whom, I hope you have read about in this space in the past. He served on the USS Kearsarge during the famous battle with the CSS Alabama of the French coast near the end of the Civil War. His gun shots were so accurate that the Confederates put a price on his head to take him out, but instead Joachim and the Union men took out the Alabama.
Past blogs have also brought you the story of John Hayes who also manned the same gun during this battle. He came from Newfoundland and whist awarded the medal in the 1860's no one bothered to tell him this. Whilst reading an old General Order about 40 YEARS LATER, he stumbled onto the fact that he has been awarded the medal. He made a fuss and finally got it.
Joachim Pease was thought to have been born in the US, then in Newfoundland but best evidence suggest he came from the West Indies. Most net resources still list him as being from the US or Canada.
Many of the navy medals were for rescues when someone fell off the ship. The rescue is often in the open seas with high tide or gale and frigid temperatures to deal with. In addition the struggling sailor is often panicking and waving about frantically and trying to grasp on anything or anyone. It is often the case where the rescuer himself may need rescue from being pulled down with the original victim. All points to consider before quickly assuming it is no big deal to dive in and pull someone out. Often tides even carry the rescuers farther away from the vessel, and further compounding rescue efforts.
Most Medal of Honor sources tell of yet of a third Black man associated with Canada that earned a Medal of Honor. He was said to be from Montreal, but as it turns out he was actually from the Caribbean Island of Montserrat. His name was Robert Sweeney and in 1881 he came to the rescue of a fellow who fell off the lower boom and could not swim.
In 1883 Sweeney and crew had just returned from a mission in the arctic to try and find what happened to Lt Adolphus Greeley, another MOH man mentioned in earlier blogs. In the NY harbour area he heard the screams to help a sailor who had fallen overboard from another vessel. The fog was so thick the sailor could not be seen, but never the less Sweeney dove in. Listening for the cries he swam about till he finally found the fellow. But by then even the ship could not be seen. So, listening for the ship's fog horn, he swam to it and soon had another rescue under his belt. And soon another Medal of Honor as well. He'd be the only black double recipient in US military history.
These men, and so many more men and women in and out of the military from years long since gone, need to be remembered and honoured during Black History Month. A month that started out as only a week in the US back in the mid 1920's. And the week chosen, the 2nd of the month was selected for the celebrations. This was because of the great work Abe Lincoln did for the Black community, and in celebration of his birthday during that 2nd week of the month. This also coincides with the birth of the great CW era orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The history books don't often tell just how much of a Scotsman he was. When he first came to America... it was not the US... but Canada. And at Montreal he set up shop for a short while and was trying to save up money to go to Chicago. But his wife had a way with money. She took a little and put a deposit on a hat. Then the ship, arrived to take them to the US. But she pleaded that they wait for the next one cause she needed more money to finish paying off the hat. They waited a little while, paid off the hat, and she was told that she could buy as many bonnie hats as she wanted. Seems that had they boarded the original vessel, the only way they would have arrive in the US was in a body bag. The ship boiler blew up and all were drowned.
Years later Pinkerton set up as an investigator and is pictured above as the owner of the agency that became the first Secret Service outfit in the US. The picture was taken at Antietam during CW days.
Black History Week in the US became month long in 1976 in the US.
Dan Oliver, shown at left, was a Senator from Nova Scotia. In Feb of 2008, following in her footsteps, this senator received unanimous support in that chamber to formalized Black History Month in Canada.
So there is a little history on our black friends and neighbours. You might want to call up your local press and tell than a little of this and ask why it is not being covered by the press. If they want more info, give them my url.
Cheers till next Sunday.