Norfolk, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
West Point Monument
Norfolk's Civil War African American Heritage
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,”
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
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
Categories. • African Americans • Heroes • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 2,355 times since then and 11 times this year. Last updated on , by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos: 1. submitted on . 2. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.