PITTSFIELD -- Since its unveiling 141 years ago, the statue of a color sergeant carrying an American flag on Park Square has rarely shined as brightly as on Saturday.
Standing 25 feet above Park Square and representing the ultimate sacrifice made by 108 local soldiers during the Civil War, the statue was recognized during a rededication ceremony with a color guard ceremony featuring a rifle salute, speeches of civil service and America's ideals, and patriotic singing.
The statue was created by sculptor Launt Thompson of New York on Sept. 24, 1872, and was cast in the bronze from Civil War cannon barrels. In the last year, a $40,000 restoration effort was undertaken so the statue would again glisten in the sun.
"I have driven by this monument thousands of times in my life," keynote speaker and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli said. "I see a bold, frank man, resolute rather than defiant, self-reliant yet modest, capable of either commanding or obeying, looking forward into the future as well as into the distance."
"This color sergeant is not a portrait, but rather an ideal picture representing no particular hero, no particular company, but rather a representative picture of the American volunteer. It is not a face or figure that can be claimed by any one town or city. But we have to believe there are thousands in this United States that this face intended for their loved ones.
Prior to the unveiling of the statue wrapped in a white sheet, patriotic songs were sung, including the National Anthem and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Following the unveiling, Rob Putnam sang "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" accompanied by an impromptu chorus of about 100 people at the ceremony.
Col. Gregory Young was also acknowledged during the ceremony for envisioning the restoration. Young passed away in December, but his vision was completed.
Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi gave a speech about the many veterans who can claim Pittsfield as their home. There was also a Gettysburg Address reading by Myron Hood dressed as Abraham Lincoln.
Ivan Newton, of the Samuel Harrison Society, spoke of the bravery needed by a color sergeant. He recalled a color sergeant for the first black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War, which bravely marched into battle at Battery Wagner and was decimated.
Before the flag could fall, Sgt. William Carney grabbed the flag and continued to lead the troops.
"Sergeant William Carney threw his rifle aside and grabbed the colors before it touched the ground. Another rifle slug sliced through the air. This one hitting Sgt. Karney in the leg," Newtown said. "With soldiers falling all around him, Sgt. Karney mustered the strength to ignore pain in his leg, hoist the colors high in the air, and continue to lead the advance."
Sgt. Karney would protect the flag, even after being wounded by Confederate soldiers. He would eventually reach safety where he collapsed to the floor. Karney would survive and eventually be the first African-American to receive a Medal of Honor for hoisting the flag on the parapet.
"Before collapsing among them from his many wounds, his only words would be, ‘Boys, I only did my duty. The flag never touched the ground," Newton said.
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