Heavy Medal

The home of a hero you haven't heard about

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ergeant William H. Carney took the American flag from the fallen standard-bearer and carried it under fire to the Confederate parapet of Fort Wagner in South Carolina during the brutal Civil War battle there on July 18, 1863. Which would have made him just another run-of-the-mill hero—if he wasn’t black. For his exploits, Carney, who lived in this house, became the first black recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor (although, tellingly, he didn’t receive it until 35 years after the war). Wounded several times, he nonetheless returned with the colors to tell his colleagues in the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, made famous in the movie Glory: “The old flag never touched the ground, boys.”

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William H. Carney’s face appears on the famous monument to the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment across the street from the State House in Boston. But only the names of the white officers were inscribed on the monument when it was built. The names of blacks who died were not added until 1982.

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