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Sgt. William H. Carney was an African-American slave who later became a hero because of his contribution in the famed Battle of Fort Wagner. He was the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was a member of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the unit that played an important role in securing final victory for the North.
See the fact file below for more information on Sgt. William H. Carney or alternatively, you can download our 30-page Sgt. William H. Carney worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- William Harvey Carney was an African-American who was born into a family of slaves on February 29, 1840, in Norfolk Virginia.
- He was a teenager when his family was granted freedom when his father bought them out of bondage after he escaped through the Underground Railroad.
- The family then moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
- Despite laws banning blacks from receiving basic education, William secretly got involved in academics because of his eagerness to learn.
- He had wanted to go into ministry, but when the Civil War broke out in 1863, he decided that the best way to serve God was to serve his people by joining the Union Army, which later became Company C of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
- At least forty other black men served with him in union.
- “Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons, I could best serve my God serving my country and my oppressed brothers. The sequel in short — I enlisted for the war.”
The Liberator, Carney Abolitionist Newspaper, 1863
Career and Contribution
- On July 18th, 1863, Carney’s regiment became part of a major combat mission that took place in Charleston, South Carolina.
- Col. Robert Gould Shaw led the charge on Fort Wagner.
- The Battle of Fort Wagner was one of the bloodiest battles, killing around 1500 African-American troop members.
- Col. Shaw was shot to death as he reached the summit. Carney himself was badly wounded and was lying near Col. Shaw’s body when he saw an American soldier bearing the American flag falter. He gathered his strength and stood up to seize the colors. He held the flag tight, as he crawled up the hill to the walls of Fort Wagner, and planted it into the sand at the base of the fort. He held it upright until his almost lifeless body was rescued.
- Despite all the shots that Carney received, he held on to the flag and refused to give it to anyone who was not a member of the 54th Massachusetts. He finally surrendered it to a member of his regiment when they reached their temporary barracks. As his comrades cheered, he cried, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.” After saying this, he fell to the ground.
Death and Legacy
- The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was widely hailed for its bravery. This inspired many young black men to join the Union Army.
- Carney recovered from his wounds and people started talking about his heroic acts during the war. When his commander heard about this, he was promoted to sergeant.
- In the Battle of Olustee, the 54th Massachusetts fought again, but Carney was not able to participate because of the lingering effects of his wounds.
- He was discharged from the Army on June 30, 1864.
- On October 11, 1865, Carney married Susannah Williams, with whom he had a child.
- In 1866, he was appointed superintendent of streetlights for the city of New Bedford.
- He went to California, but returned to New Bedford in 1869 and worked for the Postal Service as a mail carrier. He did this job for 32 years before retiring.
- After retirement, he continued to work as a messenger at the Massachusetts State House.
- On May 23, 1900, almost 40 years after the Battle of Fort Wagner, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the battle.
- He was the first black soldier to receive the award. He served as a shining example of patriotism that every American should feel in their hearts.
- In 1908, he met an accident when one of his legs was trapped in an elevator. This accident caused his death.
Sgt. William H. Carney Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Sgt. William H. Carney across 30 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Sgt. William H. Carney worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Sgt. William H. Carney who was an African-American slave who later became a hero because of his contribution in the famed Battle of Fort Wagner. He was the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was a member of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the unit that played an important role in securing final victory for the North.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Sgt. William H. Carney Facts
- Scrambled Words
- Do you remember?
- What happened first?
- U.S. Army Ranks
- You and William
- Dear Sgt. Carney
- They’re Famous!
- Red and Yellow, Black and White
- The Awesome Ones
- Art Attack
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Link will appear as Sgt. William H. Carney Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 9, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
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