Andrew Jackson Smith’s Medal of Honor

Influencing Lincoln asset

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My name is Andrew Shelton Bowman. My grandfather was Andrew Jackson Smith. He was born a slave in 1842, in Kentucky. Well, it wasn’t long after he discovered that his owner said he was going to take my grandfather back to the Confederacy as a slave, so he decided to run away. And knowing where the Navy and Army had an outpost, which was about 25 miles away, the next day after they got up and ran away to Smithlands Landing. And it wasn’t long after they were taken in, that they were offered an opportunity to fall in with the 41st Illinois. Mind you, he was not a regular soldier at the 41st Illinois. But after the Emancipation Proclamation was read in 1863, he was able to join as a regular soldier. And the recruiters came through and asked if they wanted to have freedoms for themselves, and that they will be paid $13 a month, just like white men. And it was there that he signed on to the 55th Massachusetts. They were then to follow the 54th Massachusetts down to South Carolina. By the time he got South Carolina, the 54th Massachusetts had engaged in a huge battle. It was called the Battle of Fort Wagner. And they had really been decimated by the Confederates. But now the 54th and 55th Massachusetts was combined for part of the war. My grandfather received the Medal of Honor because of his saving the colors at the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina. Their unit was sent to protect the railroad between Charleston and Savannah. And it was there at Honey Hill that Confederates had a fortification. They had guns sighted all up on the road coming up to Honey Hill. And when they saw the Black troops coming up, they set the grass on fire behind them. They also had their rifles and their artillery raised on the road. So when it when the troops started up the road, they actually mowed them down. And it was as they came forward, the 55th  Massachusetts was assigned to go into the fort. So the color bearer came out front and said ‘Smith will you come with me? I’m gonna go into the battle.” Andrew Smith followed him up the hill and just as they got near the top of the hill, within 100 yards of the fort, their color bearer was hit with an exploding shell and was blown to bits. Now when he fell, he could hear in the background, one of the officers saying “Smith, save the colors, save the colors!” And he grabbed the flag and saved the flag. Now the fire was so intense that they had to back off and retreat. And they started to back away from the hill, the other color bear who had the state flag, he fell and Andrew Jackson Smith grabbed his flag and was carrying both flags off the field. And that was considered gallant action under fire at the risk of one’s own life.


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