William H. Carney, was the first Black recipient of the Medal of Honor. He earned it for protecting one of the United States' greatest symbols during the Civil War -- the American flag. Carney joined the Union Army 1n 1863 and was attached to Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment, the first official black unit recruited for the Union in the north. On July 18, the soldiers of Carney's regiment led the charge on Fort Wagner. During the battle, the unit's color guard was shot. Carney, who was just a few feet away, saw the dying man stumble, and he scrambled to catch the falling flag. Despite suffering several serious gunshot wounds himself, Carney kept the symbol of the Union held high as he crawled up the hill to the walls of Fort Wagner, urging his fellow troops to follow him. He planted the flag in the sand at the base of the fort and held it upright until his near-lifeless body was rescued. Even then, though, he didn't give it up. Many witnesses said Carney refused to give the flag to his rescuers, holding onto it tighter until, with assistance, he made it to the Union's temporary barracks. Carney lost a lot of blood and nearly lost his life, but not once did he allow the flag to touch the ground.