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Doc. 41.-the attack on Fort Wagner.

New-York Tribune account.

Morris Island, S. C., July 19, 1863.
again Fort Wagner has been assaulted and again we have been repulsed, and with, I regret to say, a much more formidable loss in killed. wounded, and missing than in the first attempt.

The first assault failed, as I stated in my last letter, on account of the tardiness of the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania and the Ninth Maine to properly support the successful assault of the Seventh Connecticut, who were left alone on the [212] parapet and within the ditches of the Fort to battle with the whole rebel garrison.

In the assault of the eleventh instant, but one brigade, and that a very small one, under the command of General Strong, were engaged; in that of last evening a whole division, consisting of three full brigades, were drawn out in line to take part in the action, but on account of some misunderstanding of orders, but two actually participated in the fight.

Since the engagement of the eleventh, General Gillmore has strained every nerve to strengthen his position on Morris Island, and so far as human foresight can discern, has made his lines of defence impregnable before advancing to the attack.

Three fourths of the island is in our possession; five batteries have been erected, in all containing nine thirty-pound and four twenty-pound Parrotts, and ten ten-inch mortars on the left, with two thirty-pound Parrotts, ten ten-inch mortars, and three full batteries of light artillery on the right. The earth-works protecting these guns have all been erected by the New-York volunteer engineers, under the direction of Captain Brooks and Lieuts. Mirche and Suter of General Gillmore's staff. During the action of yesterday, Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson, Chief of Artillery on General Gillmore's staff, commanded on the left, and Captain Langdon, of the First U. S. artillery, company M, on the right. The extreme right rests on the ocean beach; the extreme left on the edge of a swamp, about five hundred yards from the small creek separating Morris Island from James Island. The whole line of batteries sweeps in the form of a semicircle, and is at all points about one thousand eight hundred yards from Fort Wagner. Nearly all the guns upon the left are about four thousand yards from Fort Sumter; but being of light calibre compared with the one on that formidable structure, were not brought to bear upon her at any time during the action.

General Gillmore designed to commence the bombardment of the Fort at daylight yesterday morning, but on account of a terrific thunderstorm, which commenced early in the evening and continued until morning, delaying the work of the engineers and dampening the ammunition, the action did not open until half-past 12. At that hour Admiral Dahlgren signalled that he was ready, and in a few moments the Montauk, (his flag-ship,) the Ironsides, the Catskill, the Nantucket, the Weehawken, and the Patapsco moved into line in the order in which I have named them, and commenced hurling their heaviest shot and shell around, upon, and within the Fort, and, with intervals of but a very few minutes, continued this terrible fire until one hour after the sun had gone down. During all the afternoon the iron fleet lay about one mile off from the Fort, but just at the close of the engagement, and but a few moments before the first assault was made by General Strong, the Admiral ran the Montauk directly under the guns of Fort Wagner, and, within two hundred and eighty yards, fired round after round from his fifteen-inch gun, sending, as every shot struck, vast clouds of sand, mud, and timber high up into the air, making one huge sand-heap of that portion of the Fort facing the sea, and dismounting two of the heaviest guns.

Deserters and prisoners tell us that Fort Wagner mounts thirteen rifled guns of heavy calibre, but during all this furious bombardment by land and sea, she condescended to reply with but two--one upon the whole fleet of iron-clads, and one upon the entire line of land-batteries. She may possibly have fired one shot to our one hundred, but I think even that number is a large estimate. There were no casualties on the monitors or Ironsides, and but one man killed and one slightly wounded within the batteries. The firing was almost entirely from our own side. With the most powerful glass, but very few men could be seen in the Fort. At half-past 2, a shot from one of our guns on the left cut the halyards on the flag-staff and brought the rebel flag fluttering to the ground.

In a moment, almost before we had begun to ask ourselves whether they had really lowered their flag, and were upon the point of surrendering or not, the old red battle-flag, which the army of the Potomac has so often had defiantly shaken in its face, was run up about ten feet above the parapet, a little cluster of men rallied around it, cheered, waved their hats, and then disappeared, and were not again seen during the day. Fort Sumter, the moment the rebel flag came to the ground, sent a shot over our heads to assure us that it had been lowered by accident and not by design. In this shot she also desired us to distinctly understand that before Fort Wagner surrendered, she herself would have to be consulted. With the exception of this little episode, almost profound silence, so far as the rebel garrison themselves could maintain it, prevailed within the Fort. A heavy cloud of smoke and sand, occasioned by our constantly exploding shell, hung over the Fort all the afternoon, and it was only when the wind drifted it away that we were able to see the amount of damage we had done. In a few hours what had been the smooth, regular lines of the engineer, and the beautiful sodded embankments, became rugged and irregular heaps of sand with great gaps and chasms in all the sides of the Fort exposed to our fire. From my point of observation, a wooden look-out, fifty feet high, erected for General Gillmore and staff upon a sand-hill of about the same height, and situated a short distance back of the batteries, it seemed as if no human being could live beneath so terrible a fire whether protected by bombproofs or not, and in this opinion I was fully sustained by nearly every person around me. There seemed to be but one opinion, and that was that we had silenced nearly every gun, that the fifteen-inch shells had driven the rebels from the bomb-proofs, and that if there had been a strong infantry force in the rear of the Fort we had made it impossible for them to remain there and had slaughtered them by hundreds. But [213] there were a few later developments that proved their opinion was the correct one, who said this profound silence on the rebel side was significant, not of defeat and disaster, but of ultimate success in repulsing our assault; that they were keeping themselves under cover until they could look into the eyes of our men, and send bullets through their heads, and would then swarm by thousands, with every conceivable deadly missile in their hands, and drive us in confusion and with terrible slaughter back to our intrenchments.

The afternoon passed, and the heavy roar of the big guns on land and sea gradually ceased. Slowly and sullenly the monitors, with the exception of the Montauk, moved back to the anchorage ground of the morning. The music of the sublime billows, forever hymning their sublime chants, was again heard along the shore; the sun went down, not in golden glory, but in clouds of blackness and darkness, and mutterings of thunder and flashes of lightning. In the slight interval between the cessation of the cannonade and the assault at the point of the bayonet, the. artillery of heaven opened all along the western horizon, and in peal after peal demonstrated how insignificant is the power of man when compared with that of Him who holds the elements in the hollow of his hand.

For eight hours the monitors and the Ironsides have kept up a continuous fire, and Fort Wagner has not yet surrendered. For eight hours fifty-four guns from the land-batteries have hurled their shot and shell within her walls, and still she flaunts the red battle-flag in our face.

“Something must be done, and that, too, quickly, or in a few days we shall have the whole army in Virginia upon us,” said an officer high in command. “We must storm the Fort to-night and carry it at the point of the bayonet!”

In a few moments signals are made from the top of the look-out, and soon generals and colonels commanding divisions and brigades were seen galloping to the headquarters of the Commanding General. A few words in consultation, and Generals Seymour, Strong, Stevenson, and Colonels Putnam and Montgomery are seen hastening back to their respective commands. Officers shout, bugles sound, the word of command is given, and soon the soldiers around, upon, and under the sand-hills of Morris Island spring from their hiding-places, fall into line, march to the beach, are organized into new brigades, and in solid column stand ready to move to the deadly assault.

Not in widely extended battle-line, with cavalry and artillery at supporting distances, but in solid regimental column, on the hard ocean beach, for half a mile before reaching the Fort, in plain sight of the enemy, did these three brigades move to their appointed work.

General Strong, who has so frequently since his arrival in this department braved death in its many forms of attack, was assigned to the command of the First brigade. Colonel Putnam of the Seventh New-Hampshire, who, although of the regular army, and considered one of the best officers in the department, had never led his men into battle nor been under fire, took command of the Second, and General Stevenson the Third, constituting the reserve. The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, (colored regiment,) Colonel Shaw, was the advanced regiment in the First brigade, and the Second South-Carolina, (negro,) Colonel Montgomery, was the last regiment of the reserve. The selection of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts to lead the charge was undoubtedly made on account of the good fighting qualities it had displayed a few days before on James Island, an account of which you have in my letter of the seventeenth.

These brigades, as I have remarked before, were formed for this express duty. Many of the regiments had never seen their brigade commanders before; some of them had never been under fire, and, with exception of three regiments in the First brigade, none of them had ever been engaged in this form of attack. All had fresh in their memories the severe repulse we had met on the morning of the eleventh instant. For two years the department of the South had been in existence, and until the storming of the batteries on the south end of Morris Island the army had won no victory fairly acknowledged by the enemy.

Just as darkness began to close in upon the scene of the afternoon and the evening, General Strong rode to the front and ordered his brigade, consisting of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Shaw, (colored regiment,) the Sixth Con necticut, Colonel Chatfield, the Forty-eighth New-York, Colonel Barton, the Third New-Hampshire, Colonel Jackson, the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania and the Ninth Maine, Colonel Emery, to advance to the assault. At the instant, the line was seen slowly advancing in the dusk toward the Fort, and before a double-quick had been ordered, a tremendous fire from the barbette guns on Fort Sumter, from the batteries on Cumming's Point, and from all the guns on Fort Wagner, opened upon it. The guns from Wagner swept the beach, and those from Sumter and Cumming's Point enfiladed it on the left. In the midst of this terrible shower of shot and shell they pushed their way, reached the Fort, portions of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, the Sixth Connecticut, and the Forty-eighth New-York dashed through the ditches, gained the parapet, and engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with the enemy, and for nearly half an hour held their ground, and did not fall back until nearly every commissioned officer was shot down. As on the morning of the assault of the eleventh instant, these brave men were exposed to a most galling fire of grape and canister, from howitzers, raking the ditches from the bastions of the Fort, from hand-grenades, and from almost every other modern implement of warfare. The rebels fought with the utmost desperation, and so did the larger portion of General Strong's brigade, as long as there was an officer to command it. [214]

When the brigade made the assault General Strong gallantly rode at its head. When it fell back, broken, torn, and bleeding, Major Plimpton of the Third New-Hampshire was the highest commissioned officer to command it. General Strong, Colonel Shaw, Colonel Chatfield, Colonel Barton, Colonel Green, Colonel Jackson, all had fallen; and the list I send you will tell how many other brave officers fell with them. Stories are flying about that this regiment and that regiment broke and run; that but for the frightened Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (negro) we would have carried the Fort; that the Ninth Maine did not reflect much honor upon the gallant State she represents, and a thousand other reasons which I care not to enumerate. It is absurd to say these men did not fight and were not exposed to perhaps the most deadly fire of the war, when so many officers and so many of the rank and file were killed. It must be remembered, too, that this assault was made in the night — a very dark night — even the light of the stars was obscured by the blackness of a heavy thunder-storm, and the enemy could be distinguished from our own men only by the light of bursting shell and the flash of the howitzer and the musket. The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, (negro,) whom copperhead officers would have called cowardly if they had stormed and carried the gates of hell, went boldly into battle, for the second time, commanded by their brave Colonel, but came out of it led by no higher officer than the boy, Lieutenant Higginson.

The First brigade, under the lead of General Strong, failed to take the Fort. It was now the turn of Colonel Putnam, commanding the Second brigade, composed of the Seventh New-Hampshire, the Sixty-second Ohio, Colonel Steele, the Sixty-seventh Ohio, Colonel Vorhees, and the One Hundredth New-York, Colonel Dandy, to make the attempt. But alas! the task was too much for him. Through the same terrible fire he led his men to, over, and into the Fort, and for an hour held one half of it, fighting every moment of that time with the utmost desperation, and, as with the First brigade, it was not until he himself fell killed, and nearly all his officers wounded, and no reenforcements arriving, that his men fell back, and the rebel shout and cheer of victory was heard above the roar of Sumter and the guns from Cumming's Point.

In this second assault by Colonel Putnam's brigade, Colonel Turner, of General Gillmore's staff, stood at the side of Colonel Putnam when he fell, and with his voice and sword urged on the thinned ranks to the final charge. But it was too late. The Third brigade, General Stevenson's, was not on hand. It was madness for the Second to remain loner under so deadly a fire, and the thought of surrendering in a body to the enemy could not for a moment be entertained. To fight their way back to the intrenchments was all that could be done, and in this retreat many a poor fellow fell, never to rise again.

Without a doubt, many of our men fell from our own fire. The darkness was so intense, the roar of artillery so loud, the flight of grape and canister shot so rapid and destructive, that it was absolutely impossible to preserve order in the ranks of individual companies, to say nothing of the regiments.

More than half the time we were in the Fort, the fight was simply a hand-to-hand one, as the wounds received by many clearly indicate. Some have sword-thrusts, some are hacked on the head, some are stabbed with bayonets, and a few were knocked down with the butt-end of muskets, but recovered in time to get away with swollen heads. There was terrible fighting to get into the Fort, and terrible fighting to get out of it. The cowardly stood no better chance for their lives than the fearless. Even if they surrendered, the shell of Sumter were thickly falling around them in the darkness, and, as prisoners, they could not be safe, until victory, decisive and unquestioned, rested with one or the other belligerent.

The battle is over; it is midnight; the ocean beach is crowded with the dead, the dying, and the wounded. It is with difficulty you can urge your horse through to Lighthouse Inlet. Faint lights are glimmering in the sand-holes and riflepits to the right, as you pass down the beach. In these holes many a poor wounded and bleeding soldier has lain down to his last sleep. Friends are bending over them to staunch their wounds, or bind up their shattered limbs, but the deathly glare from sunken eyes tells that their kind services are all in vain.

In this night assault, and from its commencement to its close, General Gillmore, his staff, and his volunteer aids, consisting of Colonel Littlefield, of the Fourth South-Carolina, and Majors Bannister and Stryker, of the Paymaster's Department, were constantly under fire and doing all in their power to sustain the courage of the troops and urge on reenforcements. All that human power could do to carry this formidable earth-work seems to have been done. No one would have imagined in the morning that so fierce a cannonade from both the navy and the batteries on shore could fail to destroy every bomb-proof the rebels had erected. But the moment our men touched the parapets of the Fort one thousand three hundred strong streamed from their safe hiding-place, where they had been concealed during the day, and flesh and strong, were prepared to drive us back. We then found to our sorrow that the fifteen-inch shot from the monitors, even when fired at a distance of but one thousand and eighty yards, had not injured them in the least. Only the parapets of the Fort had been knocked into sand heaps.

In their proper places I forgot to mention that the gunboats Wissahickon, Captain Davis, the Chippewa, Captain Harris, the Paul Jones, Captain Buger, and the Ottawa, were also engaged in the bombardment at long-range, and that during every day of the week, from the tenth to the seventeenth, had been more or less engaged with the work.

The amount of shell thrown at Fort Wagner would almost build another Ironsides.

N. P.

Letter of Edward L. Pierce.

The following letter from Edward L. Pierce, Esq., was addressed to Governor Andrew, of Massachusetts:

Beaufort, July 22, 1863.
my dear sir: You will probably receive an official report of the losses in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts by the mail which leaves to-morrow, but perhaps a word from me may not be unwelcome. I saw the officers and men on James Island on the thirteenth instant, and on Saturday last saw them at Brigadier-General Strong's tent, as they passed on at six or halfpast six in the evening to Fort Wagner, which is some two miles beyond. I had been the guest of General Strong, who commanded the advance, since Tuesday. Colonel Shaw had become attached to General Strong at St. Helena, where he was under him, and the regard was mutual. When the troops left St. Helena they were separated, the Fifty-fourth going to James Island. While it was there General Strong received a letter from Colonel Shaw, in which the desire was expressed for the transfer of the Fifty-fourth to General Strong's brigade. So when the troops were brought away from James Island General Strong took this regiment. into his command. It left James Island on Thursday, July sixteenth, at nine P. M., and marched to Cole's Island, which they reached at four o'clock on Friday morning, marching all night, most of the way in single file, over swampy and muddy ground. There they remained during the day, with hard tack and coffee for their fare. and this only what was left in their haversacks; not a regular ration. From eleven o'clock of Friday evening until four o'clock of Saturday they were being put on the transport, the General Hunter, in a boat which took about fifty at a time. There they breakfasted on the same fare, and had no other food before entering into the assault on Fort Wagner in the evening.

The General Hunter left Coles's Island for Folly Island at six A. M., and the troops landed at the Pawnee Landing about half-past 9 A. M., and thence marched to the point opposite Morris Island, reaching there about two o'clock in the afternoon. They were transported in a steamer across the inlet, and at five P. M. began their march for Fort Wagner. They reached Brigadier-General Strong's quarters about midway on the Island, about six or half-past 6, where they halted for five minutes. I saw them here, and they looked worn and weary.

General Strong expressed a great desire to give them food and stimulants, but it was too late, as they were to lead the charge. They had been without tents during the pelting rains of Thursday and Friday nights. General Strong had been impressed with the high character of the regiment and its officers, and he wished to assign them the post where the most severe work was to be done, and the highest honor was to be won. I had been his guest for some days, and knew how he regarded them. The march across Folly and Morris Islands was over a very sandy road, and was very wearisome. The regiment went through the centre of the island, and not along the beach where the marching was easier. When they had come within about one thousand six hundred yards of Fort Wagner, they halted and formed in line of battle — the Colonel leading the right and the Lieutenant-Colonel the left wing. They then marched four hundred yards further on and halted again. There was little firing from the enemy at this point, one solid shot falling between the wings, and another falling to the right, but no musketry.

At this point the regiment, together with the next supporting regiments, the Sixth Connecticut, Ninth Maine, and others, remained half an hour. The regiment was addressed by General Strong and Colonel Shaw. Then at half-past 7 or a quarter before eight o'clock the order for the charge was given. The regiment advanced at quick time, changed to double-quick when at some distance on. The intervening distance between the place where the line was formed and the Fort was run over in a few minutes. When within one or two hundred yards of the Fort, a terrific fire of grape and musketry was poured upon them along the entire line, and with deadly results. It tore the ranks to pieces and disconcerted some. They rallied again, went through the ditch, in which were some three feet of water, and then up the parapet. They raised the flag on the parapet, where it remained for a few minutes. Here they melted away before the enemy's fire, their bodies falling down the slope and into the ditch. Others will give a more detailed and accurate account of what occurred during the rest of the conflict.

Colonel Shaw reached the parapet, leading his men, and was probably killed. Adjutant James saw him fall. Private Thomas Burgess of company I told me that he was close to Colonel Shaw; that he waved his sword and cried out, “Onward, boys!” and, as he did so, fell. Burgess fell, wounded, at the same time. In a minute or two, as he rose to crawl away, he tried to pull Colonel Shaw along, taking hold of his feet, which were near his own head, but there appeared to be no life in him. There is a report, however, that Colonel Shaw is wounded and a prisoner, and that it was so stated to the officers who bore a flag of truce from us, but I cannot find it well authenticated. It is most likely that this noble youth has given his life to his country and to mankind. Brigadier-General Strong (himself a kindred spirit) said of him to-day, in a message to his parents: “I had but little opportunity to be with him, but I already loved him. No man ever went more gallantly into battle. None knew him but to love him.” I parted with Colonel Shaw between six and seven Saturday evening, as he rode forward to his regiment, and he gave me the private letters and papers he had with him to be delivered to his father. Of the other officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell is severely wounded in the groin; Adjutant James has a wound from a grape-shot in his ankle, and [216] a flesh-wound in his side from a glancing ball or a piece of shell. Captain Pope has had a musket-ball extracted from his shoulder. Captain Appleton is wounded in the thumb, and also has a contusion on his right breast from a hand-grenade. Captain Willard has a wound in the leg, and is doing well. Captain Jones was wounded in the right shoulder. The ball went through and he is doing well. Lieutenant Homans wounded by a ball from a smooth-bore musket entering the left side, which has been extracted from the back. He is doing well.

The above-named officers are at Beaufort, all but the last arriving there on Sunday evening, whither they were taken from Morris Island to Pawnee Landing, in the Alice Price, and thence to Beaufort in the Cosmopolitan, which is specially fitted up for hospital service and is provided with skilful surgeons under the direction of Dr. Bontecou. They are now tenderly cared for with an adequate corps of surgeons and nurses and provided with a plentiful supply of ice, beef and chicken broth and stimulants. Lieutenant Smith was left at the hospital tent on Morris Island. Captain Emilio and Lieutenants Grace, Appleton, Johnston, Reed, Howard, Dexter, Jennison, and Emerson, were not wounded and are doing duty. Lieutenants Jewett and Tucker were slightly wounded and are doing duty also. Lieut. Pratt was wounded and came in from the field on the following day. Captains Russell and Simpkins are missing. The Quartermaster and Surgeon are safe and are with the regiment.

Dr. Stone remained on the Alice Price during Saturday night, caring for the wounded until she left Morris Island, and then returned to look after those who were left behind. The Assistant Surgeon was at the camp on St. Helena Island, attending to duty there. Lieutenant Littlefield was also in charge of the camp at St. Helena.. Lieutenant Higginson was on Folly Island with a detail of eighty men. Captain Bridge and Lieutenant Walton are sick and were at Beaufort or vicinity. Captain Partridge has returned from the North, but not in time to participate in the action.

Of the privates and non-commissioned officers I send you a list of one hundred and forty-four who are now in the Beaufort hospitals. A few others died on the boats or since their arrival here. There may be others at the Hilton Head hospital; and others are doubtless on Morris Island; but I have no names or statistics relative to them. Those in Beaufort are well attended to-just as well as the white soldiers, the attentions of the surgeons and nurses being supplemented by those of the colored people here, who have shown a great interest, in them. The men of the regiment are very patient, and where their condition at all permits them, are cheerful. They expressed their readiness to meet the enemy again, and they keep asking if Wagner is yet taken. Could any one from the North see these brave fellows as they lie here, his prejudice against them, if h<*> had any, would all pass away. They grieve greatly at the loss of Colonel Shaw, who seems to have acquired a strong hold on their affections. They are attached to their other officers, and admire General Strong, whose courage was so conspicuous to all. I asked General Strong if he had any testimony in relation to the regiment to be communicated to you. These are his precise words, and I give them to you as I noted them at the time:

The Fifty-fourth did well and nobly, only the fall of Colonel Shaw prevented them from entering the Fort They moved up as gallantly as any troops could, and with their enthusiasm they deserved a better fate.

The regiment could not have been under a better officer than General Strong. He is one of the bravest and most genuine men. His soldiers loved him like a brother, and go where you would through the camps you would hear them speak of him with enthusiasm and affection. His wound is severe, and there are some apprehensions as to his being able to recover from it. Since I found him at the hospital tent on Morris Island, about half-past 9 o'clock on Saturday, I have been all the time attending to him or the officers of the Fifty-fourth, both on the boats and here. Nobler spirits it has never been my fortune to be with. General Strong, as he lay on the stretcher in the tent, was grieving all the while for the poor fellows who lay uncared for on the battle-field, and the officers of the Fifty-fourth have had nothing to say of their own misfortunes, but have mourned constantly for the hero who led them to the charge from which he did not return. I remember well the beautiful day when the flags were presented at Readville, and you told the regiment that your reputation was to be identified with its fame. It was a day of festivity and cheer. I walk now in these hospitals and see mutilated forms with every variety of wound, and it seems all a dream. But well has the regiment sustained the hope which you indulged, and justified the identity of fame which you trusted to it.

I ought to add in relation to the fight on James Island, on July sixteenth, in which the regiment lost fifty men, driving back the rebels, and saving, as it is stated, three companies of the Tenth Connecticut, that General Terry, who was in command on that Island, said to Adjutant James:

Tell your Colonel that I am exceedingly pleased with the conduct of your regiment. They have done all they could do.

Yours truly,

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