Thursday, July 11, 2013

Attack on Fort Wagner

Ruins of Fort Sumter
Charleston, South Carolina was one of the most important cities of the south. A hot bed of secession fervor, it had seen the first battle of the war in the attack on Fort Sumter. 150 years ago the Union navy had decided to make the capture of the town a priority. The city and harbor had many defenses. Beside the forts which had been built by the Federal government before the war, the Confederates under the command of P. G. T. Beauregard had strengthened many works and built new ones.

General Gillmore
The Federals making the assault were under the command of Brigadier General Quincy Gillmore, commander of the Department of the South. Gillmore had experience in this area, as he had captured Fort Pulaski the year before. His plan was to begin by capturing Morris Island, and then he would place artillery there to assist the navy in bombarding Fort Sumter, which guarded the entrance to the harbor.

Union ships bombarding
The Union troops attacked the southern portions of Morris Island on July 10th. Within three hours they were able to capture most of the island and push to within 600 yards of the main fortification, Fort Wagner. Hoping to follow up on their success, the Federals advanced on Fort Wagner at daylight the next day, July 11th. As soon as they were sighted by the Confederates, they rushed forward with a shout. They pressed forward through very heavy fire from the fort. Rushing to the foot of the parapet, they tried to climb over. But the Confederate fire was too heavy, and although they bayoneted two of the fort's defenders, they were forced to fall back.

The attackers lost over 150 men, the jubilant Confederates only 12. The Yankees had been driven back for the moment, but it wouldn't be long before they made another attempt on Fort Wagner.


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