Created By: Katie Mannix
William H. Carney was born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia in 1840. His father, who escaped via the Underground Railroad, purchased the freedom of his son William and the boy's mother and moved the entire family ultimately to New Bedford. In 1863, Carney enlisted in the all-black 54th Regiment commanded by Robert Gould Shaw. The 54th was sent to lay seige to Fort Wagner in South Carolina. While there, the unit became pinned down. When the flag bearer became mortally wounded, Carney charged foward to save the flag from touching the ground. In the act, Carney was shot several times. Nonetheless, Carney survived. Upon returning to New Bedford, Carney became one of only four letter carriers for the city and the only African-American, according to record. In 1906, Carney became the first African-American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Upon his death in 1908, flags at the Massachusetts State House were flown at half mast in his memory - an honor typically reserved only for a deceased governor, senator, congressman, or U.S. President.
Information courtesy of BlackPast.org - http://www.blackpast.org/aah/carney-william-h-1840-1908; SouthCoast Today - http://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20130714/News/307140328; The New Bedford Historical Society, Inc. - http://nbhistoricalsociety.org/Important-Figures/sergeant-william-h-carney/
This point of interest is part of the tour: New Bedford Historical Walking Tour