Postcard Civil War Battle Storming Fort Wagner Charleston Black Americana Troops
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Postcard Civil War Battle Storming Fort Wagner Charleston Black Americana Troops:
STORMING FORT WAGNER
JULY 18 1863
CIVIL WAR BATTLE SIEGE
CHROMOLITHOGRAPH BY KURZ & ALLISON c. 1891
CHARLESTON SOUTH CAROLINA
The reluctance of some white Northerners to employ black combat troops was dispelled by the 54 Massachusetts Infantry's valor leading the Union's second assault on a fort that defended the harbor at Charleston South Carolina
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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.
Named for deceased Lt. Col. Thomas M. Wagner, Fort Wagner measured 250 by 100 yards (91 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 30 feet (9.1 m) above the level beach and were supported by palmetto logs and sandbags. The fort's arsenal included fourteen cannons, the largest a 10-inch (250 mm) Columbiad that fired a 128-pound shell. A large structure capable of sheltering nearly 1,000 of the fort's 1700-man garrison provided substantial protection against naval shelling. The fort's land face was protected by a water-filled ditch, 10 feet (3.0 m) wide and 5 feet (1.5 m) deep, surrounded by buried land mines and sharpened palmetto stakes.
The First Battle of Fort Wagner, occurred on July 11, 1863. Only 12 Confederate soldiers were killed, as opposed to the Union's 330 losses.
The Second Battle of Fort Wagner, a week later, is better known. This 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; he was killed in the assault. 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. This was one of the bloodiest battles due to the number of men lost in the charge.
The famous regiment that fought for the Union in the battle of Fort Wagner is the 54th regiment, which was the first African-American regiment in the war. The 54th was controversial in the North, where many people supported the abolition of slavery, but still thought of African-Americans as lesser or inferior to Caucasians. The bravery of the 54th regiment showed the North that African-Americans had the capability to fight a war.
After the battle, the Southern soldiers buried the regiment's commanding officer, Colonel Shaw, with the rest of his regiment, viewing this as an insult to him. Instead, his family thanked the Southern soldiers for burying Shaw with the rest of his men.
In popular culture
The Second Battle of Fort Wagner is depicted in the climax of the movie Glory.