ABOUT THIS BOOK
An Escaped Slave who Fought for the Union and Whose Wartime Heroism was Finally Recognized with the Nation's Highest Honor for Military Valor
In 1862, Andrew “Andy” 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, 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. Honorably discharged, Smith 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 was eligible 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 of his grandson and his allies in the quest to discover the truth about an American who dedicated his life to the service of his community and country.