William Carney was born into slavery, but as a child, he escaped via the Underground Railroad to the north. He joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a Sergeant in 1863. In July of that year, the 54th spearheaded the charge on Fort Wagner. When the color guard was killed, Carney picked up the flag and moved to the front of the charge. After the regiment took the walls he found himself alone and was shot twice. Carney was forced to withdraw and joined up with another advancing unit and was shot again. After being escorted to a field hospital, he passed the flag to another member of the 54th. Carney never let the flag touch the ground. This was the first action of an African American soldier that resulted in the award of a Congressional Medal of Honor, though he did not receive the award until May 23, 1900.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award given to military heroes. In the first year of the Civil War, African Americans were denied the right to bear arms. In 1862 Congress revoked the militia laws banning blacks from serving in the Union Army. William Carney, a member of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, became the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor. Fifteen other African American soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor in the Civil War. More than 70 African American soldiers have received the Medal of Honor for their gallant actions during wartime.
This William Carney mug is part of our Medal of Honor Series and our Civil War Series profiling participants in the War Between the States. Thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers fought in battles such as Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. We honor their sacrifices by telling their stories.
The biographical History Mugs were created to teach and inspire individuals to learn about our diverse and interesting history. The biographies were researched and written by history enthusiast, Robert Compton. He colorized most of the historic photos and images used on the mugs, which were originally black and white or sepia tone. The images and biographies are imprinted on mugs at his studio in rural Vermont.
- Mugs are food and microwave safe.
- To preserve photographic quality we recommend hand washing.
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