William Harvey Carney
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|William Harvey Carney|
Sgt. William H. Carney,
Civil War Medal of Honor recipient
February 29, 1840|
|Died||December 9, 1908
|Place of burial||Oak Grove Cemetery New Bedford, Massachusetts|
|Allegiance||United States of America
|Service/branch||United States Army
|Years of service||1863 - 1864|
|Unit||54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War
Second Battle of Fort Wagner
|Awards||Medal of Honor|
William Harvey Carney (February 29, 1840 – December 9, 1908) was an African American soldier during the American Civil War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Fort Wagner.
His actions at Fort Wagner preceded those of any other black recipient. He was awarded the Medal of Honor nearly 37 years after his gallantry which was the earliest action in which an African American received the Medal of Honor.
After the war he worked at a post office and was a guest speaker at public events until his death in 1908.
Carney was born simply as "William," a slave in Norfolk, Virginia on February 29, 1840. He ended up escaping through the Underground Railroad, and found his father living in Massachusetts. The two later bought the rest of their family out of slavery.
Carney joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a Sergeant in February 1863. He took part in the July 18, 1863, assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina. He received the Medal Of Honor for saving the American flag and planting it on the parapet despite being wounded several times. Recognizing the troops had to retreat under fire, Carney struggled back across the battlefield, being wounded twice more. He eventually made his way back to the Union lines, and turned over the colors to another survivor of the 54th, modestly saying "Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!"
. As the result of his wounds, he was discharged due to disability in June 1864. 
Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor May 23, 1900, nearly 37 years later. More than half such awards from the Civil War were presented 20 or more years after the fact. In later life, Carney was a postal employee and popular speaker at patriotic events. He died in Boston, Massachusetts, and is buried in the family plot at Oak Grove Cemetery in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Engraved on his stone monument is a gold image of the Medal of Honor.
Honors and awards
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and Organization:
- Sergeant, Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. Place and date: At Fort Wagner, S.C., July 18, 1863. Entered service at: New Bedford, Mass. Birth: Norfolk, Va. Date of issue: May 23, 1900.
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.
The attack on Fort Wagner is depicted in the film Glory.
- List of American Civil War Medal of Honor recipients: A–F
- "Boys The Old Flag Never Touched The Ground"
- List of slaves
- Carney, William Harvey (1863-07-18). "William Harvey Carney (1840 - 1908)". The Center for African American Genealogical Research, Inc. Retrieved 2011-02-08. "Medal of Honor 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.""
- Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War
- "William Harvey Carney". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
- "Medal of Honor recipients". American Civil War (A-L). United States Army Center of Military History. July 16, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Harvey Carney.|
- "William Harvey Carney". Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
- "Congressional Medal of Honor Society: William Harvey Carney". Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
- "Sergeant Carney's Flag: The True Story of the First Black Medal of Honor recipient". Home of Heroes. Retrieved February 24, 2010.