Well, the Philadelphia Inquirer has finally given the world a glimpse of Don Troiani’s painting “Three Medals of Honor” which depicts the 6th USCT at New Market Heights.
Rather than go on at length about the painting itself, have a look for yourself.
Here is a portion of the fact sheet that I wrote that will accompany the print once it’s for sale:
At first, the advance went well – the morning mist enshrouded the attacking column and enveloped them “like a mantle of death” as their brigade commander recalled. Soon enough, however, the Confederate pickets were alerted and the concentrated rifle and artillery fire of veteran southern troops devastated the soldiers who had become entangled in the obstacles that the defenders had left in their path. As was the case in innumerable fights throughout the entire Civil War, the color guard was especially hard hit. The 6th USCT carried into battle that day the national colors and a blue regimental flag that was given to them in Pennsylvania bearing the motto, “Freedom for All.” Both flags, and the men who proudly carried them into the fight, went down within minutes. Seeing the desperate situation from different vantage points, three men saw the plight of the color guard and pushed forward to help. Risking life and limb for the honor of their unit, Lt. Nathan Edgerton, Sgt. Maj. Thomas R. Hawkins, and Sergeant Alexander Kelly slogged their way to the colors as best they could
The painting shows the moment when Edgerton and Hawkins arrived to bear away the regimental flag. Edgerton had recovered the flag from the dead body of another white officer and picked it up only to notice that he could not move freely. As he recalled after the battle, he looked down to see that “my hand was covered in blood, and perfectly powerless, and the flag staff [was] lying in two pieces.” Sgt. Maj. Hawkins, who had already distinguished himself as a natural leader of men, came to Edgerton’s assistance and helped carry the colors off, receiving serious wounds in the arm, hip, and foot. Coming to the rescue of the national colors was First Sergeant Alexander Kelly. He recalled that “after the color guard was all either killed or wounded …we got orders to retire.” Kelly weighed the risk and “seeing the flag was being left I seized them and carried them to rear where I rallied the few remaining men.”
I’m hopelessly biased on this matter, but I think it’s safe to say that this is now the standard by which all other artwork depicting USCTs in combat will be judged.
It was a huge honor to be a small part of the process of creating this masterwork. It is a fitting tribute to the brave souls who fought in the USCT.