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 under orders, and they marched all night in a severe and prolonged thunder-storm, through swamps and over frail narrow bridges, among difficulties that can only be comprehended by those familiar with the peculiar topography of the Sea Islands, where every bayou, at low tide, becomes converted into a mere rivulet of water amid vast stretches of mud. They reached Cole's Island at 5 A. M.; they had scarcely any rations left and very little fresh water. In the evening they embarked on another steamer by means of a leaky long-boat holding but thirty,—so that they were all night in the embarkation. They reached Folly Island at 7 A. M., still without rations. Marching six miles, they waited for transportation across Light House Inlet, landing at Folly Island about 5 P. M., July 18, 1863. In this condition, the regiment being thus exhausted and still without food, their commander was asked by General Strong if he would lead the column of attack on what was called ‘the strongest single earthwork known in the history of warfare.’1 General Strong's words were, ‘You may lead the column if you say yes. Your men, I know, are worn out, but do as you choose.’ The offer was accepted. It is to be noticed that a previous assault on Fort Wagner had failed,—the leading regiment, the 76th Pennsylvania, having halted before the tremendous fire and lain down upon the ground.2 The attacking force for this second assault consisted of three brigades of infantry, the first under General Strong, composed of the 54th Mass. with five other regiments.3 The selection of the 54th was made by General Seymour and General Strong in consultation. It is worth recording that the latter had been a Democrat in politics and the former had been reported in the department as opposed to the enlistment of colored troops; but there is no reason to doubt that the selection was made in perfect good faith. The 54th was to lead the assault. The head of the column being formed, while the troops were waiting Colonel Shaw walked back to Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell and said, ‘I shall go in advance with the national flag. You will keep the State flag with you; it will give the men something to rally round. We shall take the fort or die there! Good-by!’ General Strong, riding up, said to the
1 It mounted eighteen guns and was garrisoned by seven hundred men. (Emilio, p. 170.) The Confederate authorities claimed for it, on the other hand, that no fort was ever so strongly attacked. (Southern Historical Society Papers.) For the best descriptions of the fort, apart from Emilio's, see Ohio Loyal Legion Sketches, II, 323, and Gordon's War Diary, p. 215.
3 The 6th Connecticut, 48th New York, 3d New Hampshire, 9th Maine and 76th Pennsylvania.
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