The Fifty-Fourth Tells It With Pride

mendez-coddington-cruzLast Tuesday night’s reception at the National Gallery of Art for the opening of the new exhibit about the Shaw Memorial and the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry was extraordinary.

At one point in the evening, as Anne and I were looking into the case in which my photograph of Maj. John W.M. Appleton was displayed next to his diary (on loan from the West Virginia University), a man came up and introduced himself. He was Carl Cruz, the great-great-grandnephew of Sgt. William H. Carney. Those of you who know the Fifty-fourth remember that Sgt. Carney carried the Stars and Stripes at Fort Wagner. He suffered several wounds that terrible night, and upon returning told a group of survivors, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.”

Carl is a great guy, and we had a wonderful chat next to the framed Medal of Honor that Carney received for his actions at Fort Wagner. Carl told me he used to play with the medal, take it to school, show it to his friends!

In this photo, Carl stands on the right. On the left is his cousin, Joseph Mendez.

There were a number of other attendees that we met. Chris Foard is a collector of Civil War nurse photos, letters and other personal items. Several images from his holdings were on display. Peter Drummey, the Stephen T. Riley Librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society, chatted with Anne and I in front of the Shaw Memorial. Among the topics we chatted about was Benjamin Butler. We had many stories to share, and both agreed that although the political general is known for his sordid dealings in politics, he also had a heart of gold who worked tirelessly for his constituents.

We also met old friends and acquaintances, including curators Sarah Greenough and Lindsay Harris. Sarah provided introductory remarks at the press opening earlier that day (I attended), and her words reflected her deep understanding of the importance of the memorial both as a work of art and as a reminder to us of the courage and sacrifice of the men who served in the regiment.

The exhibit opens tomorrow. It will travel to Boston in early 2014. Don’t miss it!

Book Talk at the Atlanta Cyclorama

Derek Williams and MomThoroughly enjoyed visiting Atlanta Cyclorama yesterday to talk about African American Faces of the Civil War! I could not have felt more welcomed at the home of the historic painting, and am deeply in debt to everyone involved for their support and enthusiasm.

Anthony Knight made all the arrangements, and kept me up to date on developments and details prior to my arrival. He was the perfect host. Monica Prothro made sure the facilities were set up. Beverly Williams was at her post at the bookstore. Derek Williams (pictured here with my mom, Carol, who came along to see her son speak about the book for the first time) gave us an abbreviated but highly engaging tour of the painting.

Mom and I were spoiled: The event included a table of wonderful hors d’oeuvres from Epicurean Drama Events.

My biggest thanks for all who attended, including Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Director Camille Russell Love, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation author Michael N. Henderson, Michael K. Shaffer of the Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center, James A. Yancey Jr. of the Georgia Civil War Commission, Metro Atlanta chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society President Emma Davis Hamilton, Executive Director Rob Williams of The Sable Arm in Acts of Valor, and my Marla San Miguel (we were at the University of Georgia together, and it was great to catch up!).

Book sales were strong, and I am thankful for everyone’s support. Among the books I signed was one for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

It was a wonderful day, and I only wished my stay could have been longer.