African American: American Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients

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African American

American Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients

 

BRUCE ANDERSON

Private, Company K, 142d New York Infantry. Place and date: At Fort Fisher, N.C., 15 January 1865. Entered service at Ephratah, N.Y. Born: Mexico, Oswego County, N.Y., 9 June 1845. Date of issue: 28 December 1914. Citation: Voluntarily advanced with the head of the column and cut down the palisading.

WILLIAM BARNES

Private, Company C, 38th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at------. Birth: St. Marys County, Md. Date of issue 6 April 1865. Citation: Among the first to enter the enemy's works; although wounded.

POWHATAN BEATY

First Sergeant, Co. G, 5th U.S. Colored Troops. Powhatan Beaty was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1839. He entered the service June 7 1863. He saw action at Chaffin's Farm (Fort Harrison), VA on September 29 1864. His citation reads that Beaty "took command of his company, all the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it." The Medal of Honor was presented on April 6 1865. Powhatan Beaty was a 24-year-old farmer when he enlisted. He stood 5' 7" tall. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on June 9th 1863 at Camp Delaware, Ohio, two days after enlisting. 

ROBERT BLAKE

Contraband, U.S. Navy. Entered service at Virginia. G.O. No.: 32, 16 April 1864. Accredited to: Virginia. Citation: On board the U.S. Steam Gunboat Marblehead off Legareville, Stono River, 25 December 1863, in an engagement with the enemy on John's Island. Serving the rifle gun, Blake, an escaped slave, carried out his duties bravely throughout the engagement which resulted in the enemy's abandonment of positions, leaving a caisson and one gun behind. 

JAMES H. BRONSON

First Sergeant, Company D, 5th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at Delaware County, Ohio. Birth: Indiana County, Pa. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: Took command of his company, all the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it. 

WILLIAM H. BROWN

Landsman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1836, Baltimore, Md. Accredited to Maryland. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Brooklyn during successful attacks against Fort Morgan rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. Stationed in the immediate vicinity of the shell whips which were twice cleared of men by bursting shells, Brown remained steadfast at his post and performed his duties in the powder division throughout the furious action which resulted in the surrender of the prize rebel ram Tennessee and in the damaging and destruction of batteries at Fort Morgan. 

WILSON BROWN

Landsman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1841, Natchez, Miss. Accredited to Mississippi. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: On board the flagship U.S.S. Hartford during successful attacks against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. Knocked unconscious into the hold of the ship when an enemy shell burst fatally wounded a man on the ladder above him, Brown, upon regaining consciousness, promptly returned to the shell whip on the berth deck and zealously continued to perform his duties although 4 of the 6 men at this station had been either killed or wounded by the enemy's terrific fire. 

WILLIAM HARVEY CARNEY *

Sergeant, Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. Place and date: At Fort Wagner, S.C., 18 July 1863. Entered service at New Bedford, Mass. Birth: Norfolk, Va. Date of issue: 23 May 1900. Citation: When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded. 

DECATUR DORSEY

Sergeant, Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 30 July 1864. Entered service at Baltimore County, Md. Birth: Howard County, Md. Date of issue: 8 November 1865. Citation: Planted his colors on the Confederate works in advance of his regiment, and when the regiment was driven back to the Union works he carried the colors there and bravely rallied the men. 

CHRISTIAN A. FLEETWOOD

Sergeant Major, 4th U.S. Colored Troops. Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1840, Fleetwood entered service in Baltimore on August 11, 1863. He saw action on September 29, 1864 at Chaffin's Farm Fort Harrison, VA. His citation stated that he "seized the colors, after two color bearers had been shot down, and bore them nobly through the fight." Christian Fleetwood was a 23-year-old clerk when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He stood 5'4" tall. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major on August 19, 1863. Fleetwood described the act which won him the Medal of Honor as follows: "Saved the regimental colors after eleven of the twelve color guards had been shot down around it." The rank of Sergeant Major was at the time the highest rank a black soldier could attain in the U.S. Army. 

JAMES GARDINER

Private, Co. I, 36th U.S. Colored Troops. Born in Gloucester Virginia in 1843 or 1844, James Gardiner entered service in Yorktown VA on September 15 1863. He saw action on September 29, 1864 at Chaffin's Farm Fort Harrison VA, he was cited as one who "rushed in advance of his brigade, shot a rebel officer who was on the parapet rallying his men, and then ran him through with his bayonet. The Medal of Honor was presented on April 6, 1865. Gardiner was a 19-year-old oysterman from Gloucester, VA when he signed on for three years service in the U.S. Army. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on September 30, 1864, as a result of his gallantry the day before. Sergeant Gardiner was mustered out of service at Brazos de Santiago, Texas on September 20, 1866. 

JAMES H. HARRIS

Sergeant, Company B, 38th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At New Market Heights, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at------. Birth: St. Marys County, Md. Date of issue: 18 February 1874. Citation: Gallantry in the assault. 

THOMAS R. HAWKINS

Sergeant Major, 6th U.S. Colored Troops. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Thomas R. Hawkins entered service in Philadelphia, PA. He saw action at Chaffin's Farm in Fort Harrison, VA on September 29, 1864. His citation read the that he rescued the regimental colors. The Medal of Honor was presented on February 8, 1870. 

ALFRED B. HILTON

Sergeant, Company H, 4th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date. At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at------. Birth: Harford County, Md. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: When the regimental color bearer fell, this soldier seized the color and carried it forward, together with the national standard, until disabled at the enemy's inner line. 

MILTON MURRY HOLLAND

Sergeant Major, 5th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at Athens, Ohio. Born: 1844, Austin, Tex. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: Took command of Company C, after all the officers had been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it. 

MILES JAMES

Corporal, Company B, 36th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 30 September 1864. Entered service at Norfolk, Va. Birth: Princess Anne County, Va. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: Having had his arm mutilated, making immediate amputation necessary, he loaded and discharged his piece with one hand and urged his men forward; this within 30 yards of the enemy's works. 

ALEXANDER KELLY

First Sergeant, Co. F, 6th U.S. Colored Troop. Born in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania on April 7, 1840. Alexander Kelly entered service in Allegheny City, PA on April 7, 1863. He saw action on Chaffin's Farm (Fort Harrison), VA on September 29, 1864. His citation read that Kelly "gallantly seized the colors, which had fallen near the enemy's lines of abatis, raised them and rallied the men at a time of confusion and in a place of the greatest danger. His Medal of Honor was presented on April 6, 1865. He was a 23-year-old coal miner who stood 5 feet 3 and one-half inches in height. On September 3rd, 1863, he was appointed First Sergeant of his unit, at that time stationed at Camp William Penn, Chilton Hills, PA. Kelly was mustered out of the U.S. Army at Wilmington, NC, on September 20, 1865. 

JOHN LAWSON

Landsman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1837, Pennsylvania. Accredited to Pennsylvania. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: On board the flagship U.S.S. Hartford during successful attacks against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. Wounded in the leg and thrown violently against the side of the ship when an enemy shell killed or wounded the 6-man crew as the shell whipped on the berth deck, Lawson, upon regaining his composure, promptly returned to his station and, although urged to go below for treatment, steadfastly continued his duties throughout the remainder of the action. 

JAMES MIFFLIN

Engineer's Cook, U.S. Navy. Born: 1839, Richmond, Va. Accredited to Virginia. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Brooklyn during successful attacks against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay, on 5 August 1864. Stationed in the immediate vicinity of the shell whips which were twice cleared of men by bursting shells, Mifflin remained steadfast at his post and performed his duties in the powder division throughout the furious action which resulted in the surrender of the prize rebel ram Tennessee and in the damaging and destruction of batteries at Fort Morgan. 

JOACHIM PLEASE

Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: Long Island, N.Y. Accredited to New York. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as seaman on board the U.S.S. Kearsarge when she destroyed the Alabama off Cherbourg, France, 19 June 1864. Acting as loader on the No. 2 gun during this bitter engagement, Pease exhibited marked coolness and good conduct and was highly recommended by the divisional officer for gallantry under fire. 

ROBET PINN

First Sergeant, Company I, 5th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at Massillon, Ohio. Born: 1 March 1843, Stark County, Ohio. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: Took command of his company after all the officers had been killed or wounded and gallantly led it in battle. 

EDWARD RATCLIFF

First Sergeant, Company C, 38th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at ------. Birth: James County, Va. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: Commanded and gallantly led his company after the commanding officer had been killed; was the first enlisted man to enter the enemy's works. 

CHARLES VEAL

Private, Company D, 4th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at Portsmouth, Va. Birth: Portsmouth Va. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: Seized the national colors after 2 color bearers had been shot down close to the enemy's works, and bore them through the remainder of the battle.

Source: National Park Service: American Civil War

Recommended Reading: African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor: A Biographical Dictionary, Civil War Through Vietnam War (Hardcover). Description: The Medal of Honor, one of the world's most highly revered military decorations, has been awarded to 3,457 men and one woman since its inception on December 21, 1861. This honor is bestowed upon those individuals who demonstrate courage in a life-threatening situation, who put their own lives at risk for the sake of others, and who display valor above and beyond the call of duty. This text details the stories of the 88 African Americans who have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Continued below...
Each entry chronicles the acts of bravery and courage that led to the serviceman's receiving this honor. Beginning with a brief history of the Medal of Honor, the book is then divided into eight sections covering every major conflict from the Civil War through the Vietnam War. An appendix of the number of medals awarded by wars and campaigns, a bibliography, and an index are included.

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* Recommended Viewing: "Glory". Description: One of the best films about the Civil War... Fact Based film about a 25-year-old son of Boston abolitionists who volunteered to command the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. A Stunning history about the heroic Fighting 54th and its bravery which turned bitter defeat into a symbolic victory; brought recognition to black soldiers; turned the tide of the war; shifted national attitudes regarding colored soldiers; and etched a legacy in the annals of American history. Won 3 Oscars: another 9 wins & 10 nominations. Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Matthew Broderick comprise an all-star cast and give stirring and emotional performances. "Great for every family, classroom and American."

 

Recommended Reading: Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African-American Achievement. Description: With all the flair of his last-second game-winning sky hooks, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar delivers a well-written and important collection highlighting the lives of America's greatest black heroes. Taking his title cue from John Kennedy's Profiles in Courage, Abdul-Jabbar brings to life the exploits of a wide variety of African Americans, including Estevanico, a Moorish slave who discovered Arizona and New Mexico; Cinque, a kidnapped African slave who led a mutiny aboard the slave ship Amistad and later won his freedom in the U.S.; and Harriet Tubman, who brought hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Continued below...

In a time when the media beams negative images of African Americans around the world, Black Profiles in Courage is indispensable for young adults of other races as well as African-American youth, showing that attributes like courage are not coded by color. For those young blacks who feel distant from America because of racism, books like this are a small but potent antidote against prejudice, reminding them of the important contributions African Americans have made to their country.

 

Recommended Reading: The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union. Description: In this classic study, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James M. McPherson deftly narrates the experience of blacks--former slaves and soldiers, preachers, visionaries, doctors, intellectuals, and common people--during the Civil War. Drawing on contemporary journalism, speeches, books, and letters, he presents an eclectic chronicle of their fears and hopes as well as their essential contributions to their own freedom. Continued below...

Through the words of these extraordinary participants, both Northern and Southern, McPherson captures African-American responses to emancipation, the shifting attitudes toward Lincoln and the life of black soldiers in the Union army. Above all, we are allowed to witness the dreams of a disenfranchised people eager to embrace the rights and the equality offered to them, finally, as citizens.

 

Recommended Reading: Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Description: This book refutes the historical slander that blacks did not fight for their emancipation from slavery. At first harshly rejected in their attempts to enlist in the Union army, blacks were eventually accepted into the service—often through the efforts of individual generals who, frustrated with bureaucratic inaction in the face of dwindling forces, overrode orders from the secretary of war and even the president. Continued below...

By the end of the Civil War, African American soldiers had numbered more than 180,000 and served in 167 regiments. Seventeen were awarded the nation’s highest award for valor and heroism--the Medal of Honor. Theirs was a remarkable achievement whose full story is finally revealed.

 

Recommended Reading: A Grand Army of Black Men: Letters from African-American Soldiers in the Union Army 1861-1865 (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture). Description: The Civil War stands vivid in the collective memory of the American public. There has always been a profound interest in the subject, and specifically of Blacks' participation in and reactions to the war and the war's outcome. Almost 200,000 African-American soldiers fought for the Union in the Civil War. Although most were illiterate ex-slaves, several thousand were well educated, free black men from the northern states. The 129 letters in this collection were written by black soldiers in the Union army during the Civil War to black and abolitionist newspapers. Continued below...

They provide a unique expression of the black voice that was meant for a public forum. The letters tell of the men's experiences, their fears, and their hopes. They describe in detail their army days--the excitement of combat and the drudgery of digging trenches. Some letters give vivid descriptions of battle; others protest racism; while others call eloquently for civil rights. Many describe their conviction that they are fighting not only to free the slaves but to earn equal rights as citizens. These letters give an extraordinary picture of the war and also reveal the bright expectations, hopes, and ultimately the demands that black soldiers had for the future--for themselves and for their race. As first-person documents of the Civil War, the letters are strong statements of the American dream of justice and equality, and of the human spirit.

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