West Point Monument

West Point Monument (HM1ECQ)

Location: Norfolk, VA 23504
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Country: United States of America
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N 36° 51.677', W 76° 17.096'

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Norfolk's Civil War African American Heritage

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," 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."
Details
HM NumberHM1ECQ
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Tags
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 7:08pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 385461 N 4080254
Decimal Degrees36.86128333, -76.28493333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 36° 51.677', W 76° 17.096'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds36° 51' 40.62" N, 76° 17' 5.76" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)757
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1300-1398 Armistead Ave, Norfolk VA 23504, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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