Fort Wagner

From Academic Kids

The Storming of Fort Wagner
The Storming of 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. The second 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, the first major American military unit made up of African Americans. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led the regiment on foot while they charged and was killed in the assault.

The Confederate fortifications, garrisoned by around 1,800 men, extended across the northern quarter of the low and sandy island. The main wall ran for 630 feet from the eastern ocean to salt marshes on the west. The wall was up to 30 feet high and a wide, but shallow, trench stretched in front. Much of the fort was earth barriers and sandbagged emplacements. The site of the fortifications is currently underwater.

Missing image
Plan and sections of Fort Wagner, 1863.

Union forces landed on the island in early July 1863. The first assault on the fortifications was by three brigades on July 11 and it failed. A second force was gathered by Major General Quincy Gillmore and dispatched against the fort in the early hours of July 18.

The approach to the fort was constricted to a strip of beach 60 yards wide. After a bombardment from both land and sea, the Union infantry moved in. The assault force was headed by the 54th Massachusetts and included five other brigades, around 5,000 men in total. Unfortunately for the assault force, the prior bombardment failed to seriously damage the fighting power of the fort. Consequently, the Union infantry suffered considerable casualties in the rush towards the fort.

As the Union troops reached the parapets, the fighting proved intense. Three brigades managed to occupy a portion of the walls, but they were forced to withdraw after an hour of fierce hand-to-hand combat where almost every officer was killed. The Union forces suffered around 1,600 casualties and the Confederate garrison under 200.

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.

The July 18 assault on the fort is dramatized in the Academy Award winning film, Glory.

External links


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools