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Carrying the Colors (Hardback)

The Life and Legacy of Medal of Honor Recipient Andrew Jackson Smith


By W Robert Beckman, Sharon S MacDonald
Imprint: Westholme
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 44 halftones
ISBN: 9781594163418
Published: 30th October 2021
Expected Re-release Date: 30th May 2022


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In 1862, Andrew Jackson Smith, son of a white landowner and enslaved woman, escaped to Union troops operating in Kentucky, made his way to the North, and volunteered for the 55th Massachusetts, one of the newly formed African American regiments. The regiment was deployed to South Carolina, and during a desperate assault on a Confederate battery, the color bearer was killed. Before the flag was lost, however, Smith quickly retrieved it and under heavy fire held the colors steady while the decimated regiment withdrew. The regiment’s commanding officer promoted Smith to color sergeant and wrote him a commendation for both saving the regimental flag and bravery under fire. Smith was honorably discharged following the war and returned to Kentucky, where over the course of the next forty years he invested in land. In the early twentieth century, Burt G. Wilder, medical officer of the 55th, contacted Smith about his experiences for a book he was writing. During their correspondence, Wilder realized Smith should have been recommended for the nation’s highest award. In 1916, Wilder applied to the army, but his request for Smith’s medal was denied due to the absence of records. At Smith’s death in 1932, his daughter Caruth received a box of his papers revealing the extent of her father’s heroism. Her nephew took up the cause and through long and painstaking research located the “lost” records. With the help of historians, local politicians, and others, Andrew Jackson Smith received his long overdue Medal of Honor in 2001. In Carrying the Colors: The Life and Legacy of Medal of Honor Recipient Andrew Jackson Smith, the riveting journey from slavery to a White House ceremony is revealed, with the indomitable spirit of Smith—slave, soldier, landowner, father—mirrored by the dogged pursuit through archives, museums, and libraries of his grandson and his wife and their allies to finally reveal the truth about an American who dedicated his life to the service of his community and country.

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About W Robert Beckman

W. ROBERT BECKMAN has taught history for more than two decades at Dunlap High School, one of Illinois’s leading public schools. He earned an MS in history from Illinois State University.

About Sharon S MacDonald

SHARON S. MACDONALD is professor emerita of history at Illinois State University specializing in American Civil War military history. She earned her doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota. MacDonald and Beckman were the historical advisors to Alexander Jackson Smith’s family for obtaining Sergeant Smith’s Medal of Honor.

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