Honoring the African American Recipients of the Civil War

african american MOH recipients of civil war

The American Civil War is known as one of the most pivotal wars in our nation’s history. In this article, we are honoring and remembering all of the African American Medal of Honor Recipients – past and present. Today we recognize the 25 African American Medal of Honor Recipients who so bravely fought and sacrificed their lives during this war.

The American Civil War

Lasting from 1861-1865, the Civil War was between the northern United States (the Union) and the southern states that seceded (the Confederacy). It was sparked over the historic discord regarding owning African Americans as slaves. War began in the months following Abraham Lincoln’s election to the Presidency in November of 1860. That December, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Six more states followed in February after President Lincoln announced that it was his duty to maintain the Union during his inaugural address. The seceded states formed the Confederate States of America and the Civil War began in April 1861 when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter. During the war, black soldiers served the Union as artillery and infantry personnel and performed all noncombat support functions as well. 

The Union and the Confederacy fought mostly in the South over the course of four years leaving 620,000-750,000 Americans dead, more than the number of U.S. military deaths in all other wars combined. The war ended April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Confederate generals throughout the south followed his lead. As a result, slavery was abolished and four million black slaves were freed.

Medal of Honor Recipients

Private Bruce Anderson Voluntarily advanced with the head of the column and cut down the palisading.
Corporal Andrew Smith Saved his regimental colors, after the color bearer was killed during a bloody charge called the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina.
Private William Barnes Among the first to enter the enemy’s works; although wounded.
First Sgt. Powhatan Beaty Took command of his company, all the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.
First Sgt. James Bronson Took command of his company, all the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.
Sgt. William Carney When the color sergeant was shot down, Sgt. Carney 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.
Sgt. Decatur Dorsey 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.
Sgt. Major Christian Fleetwood Seized the colors, after 2 color bearers had been shot down, and bore them nobly through the fight.
Private James Gardiner 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.
Sgt. James Harris – U.S. Army Gallantry in the assault.
Sgt. Major Thomas Hawkins Rescue of regimental colors.
Sgt. Alfred Hilton 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.
Sgt. Major Milton Holland Took command of Company C, after all the officers had been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.
Corporal Miles James 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.
First Sgt. Alexander 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.
First Sgt. Robert Pinn Took command of his company after all the officers had been killed or wounded and gallantly led it in battle.
First Sgt. Edward Ratcliff Commanded and gallantly led his company after the commanding officer had been killed; was the first enlisted man to enter the enemy’s works.
Private Charles Veal 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.
Seaman Robert Blake

(Contraband)

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.
Landsman William Brown 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.
Landsman Wilson Brown After regaining consciousness, Brown 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.
Landsman John Lawson 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.
Engineer’s Cook James Mifflin 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.
Seaman Joachim Pease Acting as a 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.
Landsman Aaron Sanderson Anderson carried out his duties courageously in the face of a devastating fire that cut away half the oars, pierced the launch in many places and cut the barrel off a musket being fired at the enemy.

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