Today's blog is about Black Canadian and American heroes. Men who in many cases we cannot see because those who came before us often did not want us to see. Take for example a most recent claim in a book that there were a dozen more blacks that were awarded the Medal of Honor but you don't see any of their names at the usual places listing about 86 known Black recipients. Could it now be 98, or more. Bet it's possible! And you can also bet when more proof arises on these dozen you will read about it here in these blogs.
But for today I want to talk about two of the acknowledged heroes.
There are many sources that tell us that there was only one Black double recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was believed until most recently to be a Canadian. He was not, but more on him on another day. There is a black recipient from Nova Scotia that will later also be talked about. And there has most recently been revealed some info that suggests that yet another Black may well be a double recipient. I am persuing this and will bring you news ASAP. Thus the need for you to keep coming back to this blog.
But for now let's draw a line 20 miles long and drop it on a map of South Caroliona. We shall put a place called Fort Wagner at the right end and at the other end, in a south west direction let's put John's Island in the Stone River.
At each end of the line the Blacks made history!
The above poster was recruiting for the 54th Massachusetts. When the ban on Blacks entering the army was finally lifted, hundreds from several states flocked to Massachusetts to sign up with the 54th. The officers were all white and the men all Black. It took them quite some time to get paid and when they were offered less than the whites they declined all payments till paid fairly. This was the regiment selected to lead the front line suicidal attack on Fort Wagner, and where one in three was either killed, wounded or captured. Most of the killed inluding their colonel, were all thrown in the same pit and covered over.
The story of the 54th was told in the decade old movie GLORY. But like most movies about the war, it seems to have fogotten that at least 39 of the blacks fighting were Canadian black men, or had connections to Canada.
At Fort Wagner, when the colour bearer was shot down Carney grabbed the flag and whilst wounded not once or twice or three times, but 4 times, he managed to carry it through the battle, get back to his lines and finally collapse.
Carney and his flag, are shown above. His actions on 18 July 1863 would result in his being the first Black ever... by date of action, to receive the Medal of Honor, even though it took the government till 1900 to make the award.
Robert Blake was a salior and is depicted here in one of a series of posters for recruiting purposes in the 1960's. (Please disregard the word "congressional" before the term Medal of Honor as the use of the term is wrong)
Blake was also a slave. When his plantation was burned down in the Civil War he and about 400 others escaped with the aide of the Union Navy. He would repay them by signing up with the USS Vermont first and later the USS Marblehead. (Not to be confused with the Spanish American War vessel of the same name.) It was at John's Island in the Stono River that Blake was serving as an aide to one of the officers. The vessel came uder attack and whilst having no such obligation, he took the place of a powder doy who was killed. He maintain the supply of ammunition to one of the guns and partially due to his efforts the battle was won, and the enemy retreated. He would receive his medal by a general order issued on 16 April 1864 for the battle that took place on 25 December 1863. So he technically was the first Black man to receive the MOH. And that was 149 years ago today.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours,
PS... Have you ever seen Santa perspire so much?