Fort Wagner


Fort Wagner

Fort Wagner (also called Battery Wagner) was a fortification on Morris Island, South Carolina, that covered the southern approach to Charleston harbor. It was the site of two American Civil War battles in the campaign known as Operations Against the Defenses of Charleston in 1863.

The first engagement, the Battle of Fort Wagner or the First Assault on Morris Island, occurred on July 11, 1863. Only 12 Confederate soldiers were killed, as opposed to the Union's 330 losses. The second engagement is better known. The Battle of Fort Wagner, Morris Island, was the Union attack on July 18, 1863, led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first major American military units made up of black soldiers. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led the 54th Regiment on foot while they charged and was killed in the assault.

Named for deceased Lt. Col. Thomas M. Wagner, Fort Wagner measured 250 by convert|100|yd|m, and spanned an area between the Atlantic on the east and an impassable swamp on the west. Its walls, composed of sand and earth, rose convert|30|ft|m above the level beach and were supported by palmetto logs and sandbags. The fort's arsenal included fourteen cannons, the largest a convert|10|in|mm|sing=on Columbiad that fired a 128-pound shell. A large structure capable of sheltering nearly 1,000 of the fort's 1,700-man garrison provided substantial protection against naval shelling. The fort's land face was protected by a water-filled ditch, convert|10|ft|m wide and convert|5|ft|m deep, surrounded by buried land mines and sharpened palmetto stakes. [http://www.historynet.com/magazines/american_civil_war/3035986.html]

Although a tactical defeat,the battle proved to be a political victory for the Union since the valor of the 54th against hopeless odds proved the worth of black soldiers. It spurred additional recruitment that gave the Union Army a further numerical advantage in troops over the South.

The Union besieged the fort after the unsuccessful assault. After enduring almost 60 days of heavy shelling, the Confederates abandoned it on September 7, 1863. Due to erosion, much of the battle site is presently underwater.

Popular Culture

* The attack on Fort Wagner is the climax of the movie "Glory".

External links

* [http://www.generalatomic.com/PerrysSaints/chapter11.html Assault on Fort Wagner]


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