The negroes fought gallantly, and were headed by as brave a colonel as ever lived.” –
Confederate Lieutenant Iredell Jones, who observed the 54th’s fateful advance on Fort Wagner.
In a Civil War mood lately because of current events. The below scene from the movie Glory (1989) never fails to move me. Courage is a precious virtue and the just never fail to honor it, even when displayed by foes.
Ah, Mary pierced with sorrow,
Remember, reach and save
The soul that comes to-morrow
Before the God that gave!
Since each was born of woman,
For each at utter need —
True comrade and true foeman —
We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers….We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!
Response of the parents of Colonel Robert Shaw as to whether they wished to have his body exhumed and brought back to Boston.
The 150th anniversary of the second assault on Fort Wagner, the Confederate fort on Morris Island, guarding entry into Charleston Harbor, made immortal by the film Glory (1989) depicting the attack of the 54th Massachusetts. The 54th sustained the following casualties out of 600 men: 29 killed, including the commander of the regiment, 25 year old Colonel Robert Shaw, 15 captured, 52 missing in action and 149 wounded. The white regiments that participated in the attack also sustained heavy losses. A total of 1515 Union casualties against approximately 174 Confederate casualties. Ironically Fort Wagner would be abandoned by the Confederates in September, it being too difficult to keep the Fort supplied in the teeth of a continual Union bombardment, and the water supply in the Fort being contaminated by the number of corpses in the soil surrounding the fort from the two unsuccessful assaults.
The courage shown by the men of the 54th put the lie to the fairly common belief, completely at variance with history, that black men could not make good soldiers. The 54th would go on to fight in several more battles during the course of the war.
Sergeant William Carney of the 54th earned a Medal of Honor in the assault. Despite being wounded several times he placed the national flag on the parapet of Fort Wagner, and when the 54th retreated he brought back the flag in spite of being wounded twice more. He told the men he gave the flag to: “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!”
A correspondent for the Tribune was present for the assault: Continue Reading
The longest siege in the Civil War was that of Charleston, South Carolina. 567 days the city was besieged by Union naval and land forces, only being taken by Sherman’s troops after the evacuation of the city on February 15, 1865 by the Confederate Army.
The siege began in July of 1863. Union troops landed on Morris, Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, their goal to take Fort Wagner.
Brigadier General George C. Strong, portrayed in the video clip at the beginning of this post, was in command of the Union brigade of troops that landed on Morris, Island. He attempted to take Fort Wagner on July 11, 1863, only to have his attack bloodily repulsed, sustaining 339 casualties to only 12 for the Confederates. He would try again on July 18, an attack made famous due to the participation of the 54th Massachusetts.