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Norfolk, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
West Point Monument
Norfolk's Civil War African American Heritage
 
West Point Monument Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Angela Threatt, January 20, 2008
1. West Point Monument Marker
 
Inscription. The memorial before you, the West Point Monument, was built in 1909 as a tribute to African American veterans of the Civil War and Spanish-American War. James A. Fuller, a former slave and veteran of the 1st U.S. Colored Cavalry, led the effort to erect this monument. Fuller was Norfolk’s first African American councilman, and he successfully lobbied for the establishment of this section of Elmwood Cemetery, named West Point, as a burial ground for Norfolk’s African American citizens. The cornerstone of the Soldier’s Monument was laid by William Fuller in 1908, however, the monument was not completed until 1920. When the monument was finally unveiled, it was the first memorial to African American soldiers in Virginia.

The Civil War soldier depicted on the West Point Monument is Norfolk native Sergeant William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts volunteer Regiment. While his parents were born slaves, they secured their freedom and left Norfolk with their son for New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1855. Carney enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts in 1862, and fought with his regiment during the July 18, 1863, attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina. When the color bearers were shot down in the failed assault, Carney, despite being severely wounded, managed to save the U.S. flag from capture. “When they saw me bringing in the colors,”
 
The West Point Monument Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, October 1993
2. The West Point Monument
This photograph was taken prior to installation of the marker. Location of the marker is to the right of the monument.
 
Carney recollected, “they cheered me, and I was able to tell them that the old flag never touched the ground.” Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary bravery under fire. He was the first of sixteen African American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. Sgt. Carney’s stone figure solemnly stands today as a tribute to the 100 African American veterans at rest in West Point Cemetery.

Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle upon his button and a musket on his shoulder … and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.” - Frederick Douglass

(Sidebar)
Carney was one of about 200,000 African American soldiers and sailors to serve the Union during the Civil War. The Union could not avoid using African Americans to aid its war effort. Each former slave serving with a weapon or as a laborer lessened the South’s ability to maintain its economy and fight the larger Federal army. Consequently, Congress passed the Militia Act of July 17, 1862, authorizing President Lincoln to organize African Americans “for any military or naval service for which they may have been found competent.” This act, coupled with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, opened the door to African Americans not only seeking their freedom, but also helping to release those still held in bondage. As one former slave wrote: “This was the biggest thing that ever happened in my life. I felt like a man with a uniform on and a gun in my hand. I felt freedom in my bones.”
 
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. 36° 51.677′ N, 76° 17.096′ W. Marker is in Norfolk, Virginia. Marker can be reached from East Princess Anne Road. Click for map. The memorial is within Elmwood Cemetery, northwest from the south entrance off Princess Anne Road. Marker is at or near this postal address: 238 East Princess Anne Road, Norfolk VA 23510, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. West Point Monument at Elmwood Cemetery (here, next to this marker); Fort Tar (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Norfolk 17 (approx. 0.4 miles away); Hospital of St. Vincent dePaul (approx. 0.6 miles away); Father Ryan's Home (approx. 0.6 miles away); First Baptist Church (approx. 0.7 miles away); St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church (approx. 0.7 miles away); Bank Street Baptist Church (approx. 0.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Norfolk.
 
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
 
Also see . . .
1. Norfolk's Two Civil War Monuments. (Submitted on April 2, 2010.)
2. The African American Registry entry for William Carney. (Submitted on April 2, 2010.)
 
Additional keywords. USCT
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on April 2, 2010, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,623 times since then. Last updated on May 12, 2014, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1. submitted on April 2, 2010.   2. submitted on April 6, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
 
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