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Chapter 5: the greater assault on Wagner.

On the ‘General Hunter’ the officers procured breakfast; but the men were still without rations. Refreshed, the officers were all together for the last time socially; before another day three were dead, and three wounded who never returned. Captain Simpkins, whose manly appearance and clear-cut features were so pleasing to look upon, was, as always, quiet and dignified; Captain Russel was voluble and active as ever, despite all fatigue. Neither appeared to have any premonition of their fate. It was different with Colonel Shaw, who again expressed to Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell his apprehension of speedy death.

Running up Folly River, the steamer arrived at Pawnee Landing, where, at 9 A. M., the Fifty-fourth disembarked. Crossing the island through woods, the camps of several regiments were passed, from which soldiers ran out, shouting, ‘Well done! we heard your guns!’ Others cried, ‘Hurrah, boys! you saved the Tenth Connecticut!’ Leaving the timber, the Fifty-fourth came to the sea beach, where marching was easier. Stretching away to the horizon, on the right, was the Atlantic; to the left, sand hillocks, with pine woods farther inland. Occasional squalls of rain came, bringing rubber blankets and coats into use. At one point on the beach, a box of watersoaked hard bread was discovered, and the contents speedily [68] divided among the hungry men. Firing at the front had been heard from early morning, which toward noon was observed to have risen into a heavy cannonade.

After a march of some six miles, we arrived at Lighthouse Inlet and rested, awaiting transportation. Tuneful voices about the colors started the song, ‘When this Cruel War is Over,’ and the pathetic words of the chorus were taken up by others. It was the last song of many; but few then thought it a requiem. By ascending the sand-hills, we could see the distant vessels engaging Wagner. When all was prepared, the Fifty-fourth boarded a small steamer, landed on Morris Island, about 5 P. M., and remained near the shore for further orders.

General Gillmore, on the 13th, began constructing four batteries, mounting forty-two guns and mortars, to damage the slopes and guns of Wagner, which were completed under the enemy's fire, and in spite of a sortie at night, on the 14th. He expected to open with them on the 16th; but heavy rains so delayed progress that all was not prepared until the 18th. Beyond this siege line, which was 1,350 yards south of Wagner, stretched a narrow strip of land between the sea and Vincent's Creek, with its marshes. At low tide, the beach sand afforded a good pathway to the enemy's position; but at high tide, it was through deep, loose sand, and over low sand hillocks. This stretch of sand was unobstructed, until at a point two hundred yards in front of Wagner, the enemy had made a line of rifle trenches. Some fifty yards nearer Wagner, an easterly bend of the marsh extended to within twenty-five yards of the sea at high tide, forming a defile, through which an assaulting column must pass. [69]

Nearly covered by this sweep of the marsh, and commanding it as well as the stretch of sand beyond to the Federal line, was ‘Battery Wagner,’ so named by the Confederates, in memory of Lieut.-Col. Thomas M. Wagner, First South Carolina Artillery, killed at Fort Sumter. This field work was constructed of quartz sand, with turf and palmetto log revetment, and occupied the whole width of the island there,--some six hundred and thirty feet. Its southern and principal front was doublebastioned. Next the sea was a heavy traverse and curtain covering a sally-port. Then came the southeast bastion, prolonged westerly by a curtain connected with the southwest bastion. At the western end was another sally-port. An infantry parapet closed the rear or north face. It had large bombproofs, magazines, and heavy traverses.

Wagner's armament was reported to its commander, July 15, as follows: on sea face, one ten-inch Columbiad,, and two smooth-bore thirty-two-pounders; on southeast bastion, operating on land and sea, one rifled thirtytwo-pounder; on south point of bastion operating on land, one forty-two-pounder carronade; in the curtain, with direct fire on land approach to embrasure, two eight-inch naval shell-guns, one eight-inch sea-coast howitzer, and one thirty-two-pounder smooth-bore; on the flank defences of the curtain, two thirty-two-pounder carronades in embrasures; on the southerly face, one thirty-two-pounder carronade in embrasure; in southwest angle, one ten-inch sea-coast mortar; on bastion gorge, one thirty-two-pounder carronade. There were also four twelve-pounder howitzers. All the northerly portion of Morris Island was in range of Fort Sumter, the eastern James Island and the [70] Sullivan's Island batteries, besides Fort Gregg, on the northerly extremity of Morris Island, which mounted three guns.

Brig.-Gen. William B. Taliaferro, an able officer, who had served with distinction under ‘StonewallJackson, was in command of Morris Island, for the Confederates. Wagner's garrison, on the 18th, consisted of the Thirtyfirst and Fifty-first North Carolina, the Charleston Battalion, two companies Sixty-third Georgia Heavy Artillery, and two companies First South Carolina Infantry, acting as artillery, and two guns each of the Palmetto and Blake's Artillery,—a total force of seventeen hundred men. Such was the position, armament, and garrison of the strongest single earthwork known in the history of warfare.

About 10 A. M., on the 18th, five wooden gunboats joined the land batteries in shelling Wagner, lying out of the enemy's range. At about 12.30 P. M., five monitors and the ‘New Ironsides’ opened, and the land batteries increased their fire. A deluge of shot was now poured into the work, driving the main portion of its garrison into the bombproofs, and throwing showers of sand from the slopes of Wagner into the air but to fall back in place again. The enemy's flag was twice shot away, and, until replaced, a battle-flag was planted with great gallantry by daring men. From Gregg, Sumter, and the James Island and Sullivan's Island batteries, the enemy returned the iron compliments; while for a time Wagner's cannoneers ran out at intervals, and served a part of the guns, at great risk.

A fresh breeze blew that day; at times the sky was clear; the atmosphere, lightened by recent rains, resounded [71] with the thunders of an almost incessant cannonade. Smoke-clouds hung over the naval vessels, our batteries, and those of the enemy. During this terrible bombardment, the two infantry regiments and the artillery companies, except gun detachments, kept in the bombproofs. But the Charleston Battalion lay all day under the parapets of Wagner,—a terrible ordeal, which was borne without demoralization. In spite of the tremendous fire, the enemy's loss was only eight men killed and twenty wounded, before the assault.

General Taliaferro foresaw that this bombardment was preliminary to an assault, and had instructed his force to take certain assigned positions when the proper time came. To three companies of the Charleston Battalion was given the Confederate right along the parapet; the Fifty-first North Carolina, along the curtain; and the Thirty-first North Carolina, the left, including the southeast bastion. Two companies of the Charleston Battalion were placed outside the work, covering the gorge. A small reserve was assigned to the body of the fort. Two field-pieces were to fire from the traverse flanking the beach face and approach. For the protection of the eight-inch shell-guns in the curtain and the field-pieces, they were covered with sand-bags, until desired for service. Thoroughly conversant with the ground, the Confederate commander rightly calculated that the defile would break up the formation of his assailants at a critical moment, when at close range.

General Gillmore, at noon, ascended the lookout on a hill within his lines, and examined the ground in front. Throughout the day this high point was the gatheringplace of observers. The tide turned to flow at 4 P. M., [72] and about the same time firing from Wagner ceased, and not a man was to be seen there. During the afternoon the troops were moving from their camps toward the front. Late in the day the belief was general that the enemy had been driven from his shelter, and the armament of Wagner rendered harmless. General Gillmore, after calling his chief officers together for conference, decided to attack that evening, and the admiral was so notified. Firing from land and sea was still kept up with decreased rapidity, while the troops were preparing.

Upon arriving at Morris Island, Colonel Shaw and Adjutant James walked toward the front to report to General Strong, whom they at last found, and who announced that Fort Wagner was to be stormed that evening. Knowing Colonel Shaw's desire to place his men beside white troops, he said, ‘You may lead the column, if you say “yes.” Your men, I know, are worn out, but do as you choose.’ Shaw's face brightened, and before replying, he requested Adjutant James to return and have Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell bring up the Fifty-fourth. Adjutant James, who relates this interview, then departed on his mission. Receiving this order, the regiment marched on to General Strong's headquarters, where a halt of five minutes was made about 6 o'clock P. M. Noticing the worn look of the men, who had passed two days without an issue of rations, and no food since morning, when the weary march began, the general expressed his sympathy and his great desire that they might have food and stimulant. It could not be, however, for it was necessary that the regiment should move on to the position assigned.

Detaining Colonel Shaw to take supper with him, [73] General Strong sent the Fifty-fourth forward under the lieutenant-colonel toward the front, moving by the middle road west of the sand-hills. Gaining a point where these elevations gave place to low ground, the long blue line of the regiment advancing by the flank attracted the attention of the enemy's gunners on James Island. Several solid shot were fired at the column, without doing any damage, but they ricochetted ahead or over the line in dangerous proximity. Realizing that the national colors and the white flag of the State especially attracted the enemy's fire, the bearers began to roll them up on the staves. At the same moment, Captain Simpkins, commanding the color company (K) turned to observe his men. His quick eye noted the half-furled flags, and his gallant spirit took fire in a moment at the sight. Pointing to the flags with uplifted sword, he commanded in imperative tones, ‘Unfurl those colors!’ It was done, and the fluttering silks again waved, untrammelled, in the air.

Colonel Shaw, at about 6.30 P. M., mounted and accompanied General Strong toward the front. After proceeding a short distance, he turned back, and gave to Mr. Edward L. Pierce, a personal friend, who had been General Strong's guest for several days, his letters and some papers, with a request to forward them to his family if anything occurred to him requiring such service. That sudden purpose accomplished, he galloped away, overtook the regiment, and informed Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell of what the Fifty-fourth was expected to do. The direction was changed to the right, advancing east toward the sea. By orders, Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell broke the column at the sixth company, and led the companies of [74] the left wing to the rear of those of the right wing. When the sea beach was reached, the regiment halted and came to rest, awaiting the coming up of the supporting regiments.

General Gillmore had assigned to General Seymour the command of the assaulting column, charging him with its organization, formation, and all the details of the attack. His force was formed into three brigades of infantry: the first under General Strong, composed of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, Sixth Connecticut, Fortyeighth New York, Third New Hampshire, Ninth Maine, and Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania; the second, under Col. Haldimand S. Putnam, of his own regiment,—the Seventh New Hampshire,—One Hundredth New York, Sixtysecond and Sixty-seventh Ohio; the third, or reserve brigade, under Brig.-Gen. Thomas G. Stevenson, of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, Tenth Connecticut, Ninetyseventh Pennsylvania, and Second South Carolina. Four companies of the Seventh Connecticut, and some regular and volunteer artillery-men manned and served the guns of the siege line.

Formed in column of wings, with the right resting near the sea, at a short distance in advance of the works, the men of the Fifty-fourth were ordered to lie down, their muskets loaded but not capped, and bayonets fixed. There the regiment remained for half an hour, while the formation of the storming column and reserve was perfected. To the Fifty-fourth had been given the post of honor, not by chance, but by deliberate selection. General Seymour has stated the reasons why this honorable but dangerous duty was assigned the regiment in the following words:— [75]

‘It was believed that the Fifty-fourth was in every respect as efficient as any other body of men; and as it was one of the strongest and best officered, there seemed to be no good reason why it should not be selected for the advance. This point was decided by General Strong and myself.’

In numbers the Fifty-fourth had present but six hundred men, for besides the large camp guard and the sick left at St. Helena Island, and the losses sustained on James Island, on the 16th, a fatigue detail of eighty men under Lieut. Francis L. Higginson, did not participate in the attack.

The formation of the regiment for the assault was, as shown in the diagram below, with Companies B and E on the right of the respective wings.

right wing.KCIAB
left wing.HFGDE

Colonel Shaw, Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell, Adjutant James, seven captains, and twelve lieutenants,—a total of twenty-two officers,—advanced to the assault.

Surgeon Stone and Quartermaster Ritchie were present on the field. Both field officers were dismounted; the band and musicians acted as stretcher-bearers.

To many a gallant man these scenes upon the sands were the last of earth; to the survivors they will be ever present. Away over the sea to the eastward the heavy sea-fog was gathering, the western sky bright with the reflected light, for the sun had set. Far away thunder mingled with the occasional boom of cannon. The gathering host all about, the silent lines stretching away to the rear, the passing of a horseman now and then carrying [76] orders,—all was ominous of the impending onslaught. Far and indistinct in front was the now silent earthwork, seamed, scarred, and ploughed with shot, its flag still waving in defiance.

Among the dark soldiers who were to lead veteran regiments which were equal in drill and discipline to any in the country, there was a lack of their usual lightheartedness, for they realized, partially at least, the dangers they were to encounter. But there was little nervousness and no depression observable. It took but a touch to bring out their irrepressible spirit and humor in the old way. When a cannon-shot from the enemy came toward the line and passed over, a man or two moved nervously, calling out a sharp reproof from Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell, whom the men still spoke of as ‘the major.’ Thereupon one soldier quietly remarked to his comrades, ‘I guess the major forgets what kind of balls them is!’ Another added, thinking of the foe, ‘I guess they kind of 'spec's we're coming!’

Naturally the officers' thoughts were largely regarding their men. Soon they would know whether the lessons they had taught of soldierly duty would bear good fruit. Would they have cause for exultation or be compelled to sheathe their swords, rather than lead cowards? Unknown to them, the whole question of employing three hundred thousand colored soldiers hung in the balance. But few, however, doubted the result. Wherever a white officer led that night, even to the gun-muzzles and bayonet-points, there, by his side, were black men as brave and steadfast as himself.

At last the formation of the column was nearly perfected. The Sixth Connecticut had taken position in [77] column of companies just in rear of the Fifty-fourth. About this time, 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!’

Presently, General Strong, mounted upon a spirited gray horse, in full uniform, with a yellow handkerchief bound around his neck, rode in front of the Fifty-fourth, accompanied by two aids and two orderlies. He addressed the men; and his words, as given by an officer of the regiment, were: ‘Boys, I am a Massachusetts man, and I know you will fight for the honor of the State. I am sorry you must go into the fight tired and hungry, but the men in the fort are tired too. There are but three hundred behind those walls, and they have been fighting all day. Don't fire a musket on the way up, but go in and bayonet them at their guns.’ Calling out the colorbearer, he said, ‘If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry it on?’ Colonel Shaw, standing near, took a cigar from between his lips, and said quietly, ‘I will.’ The men loudly responded to Colonel Shaw's pledge, while General Strong rode away to give the signal for advancing.

Colonel Shaw calmly walked up and down the line of his regiment. He was clad in a close-fitting staff-officer's jacket, with a silver eagle denoting his rank on each shoulder. His trousers were light blue; a fine narrow silk sash was wound round his waist beneath the jacket. Upon his head was a high felt army hat with cord. Depending from his sword-belt was a field-officer's sword of English manufacture, with the initials of his name worked [78] into the ornamentation of the guard. On his hand was an antique gem set in a ring. In his pocket was a gold watch, marked with his name, attached to a gold chain. Although he had given certain papers and letters to his friend, Mr. Pierce, he retained his pocket-book, which doubtless contained papers which would establish his identity. His manner, generally reserved before his men, seemed to unbend to them, for he spoke as he had never done before. He said, ‘Now I want you to prove yourselves men,’ and reminded them that the eyes of thousands would look upon the night's work. His bearing was composed and graceful; his cheek had somewhat paled; and the slight twitching of the corners of his mouth plainly showed that the whole cost was counted, and his expressed determination to take the fort or die was to be carried out.

Meanwhile the twilight deepened, as the minutes, drawn out by waiting, passed, before the signal was given. Officers had silently grasped one another's hands, brought their revolvers round to the front, and tightened their sword-belts. The men whispered last injunctions to comrades, and listened for the word of command.

The preparations usual in an assault were not made. There was no provision for cutting away obstructions, filling the ditch, or spiking the guns. No special instructions were given the stormers; no line of skirmishers or covering party was thrown out; no engineers or guides accompanied the column; no artillery-men to serve captured guns; no plan of the work was shown company officers. It was understood that the fort would be assaulted with the bayonet, and that the Fifty-fourth would be closely supported. [79]

While on the sands a few cannon-shots had reached the regiment, one passing between the wings, another over to the right. When the inaction had become almost unendurable, the signal to advance came. Colonel Shaw walked along the front to the centre, and giving the command, ‘Attention!’ the men sprang to their feet. Then came the admonition, ‘Move in quick time until within a hundred yards of the fort; then double quick, and charge!’ A slight pause, followed by the sharp command, ‘Forward!’ and the Fifty-fourth advanced to the storming.

There had been a partial resumption of the bombardment during the formation, but now only an occasional shot was heard. The enemy in Wagner had seen the preparations, knew what was coming, and were awaiting the blow. With Colonel Shaw leading, sword in hand, the long advance over three quarters of a mile of sand had begun, with wings closed up and company officers admonishing their men to preserve the alignment. Guns from Sumter, Sullivan's Island, and James Island, began to play upon the regiment. It was about 7.45 P. M., with darkness coming on rapidly, when the Fifty-fourth moved. With barely room for the formation from the first, the narrowing way between the sand hillocks and the sea soon caused a strong pressure to the right, so that Captains Willard and Emilio on the right of the right companies of their wings were with some of their men forced to march in water up to their knees, at each incoming of the sea.

Moving at quick time, and preserving its formation as well as the difficult ground and narrowing way permitted, the Fifty-fourth was approaching the defile made by the easterly sweep of the marsh. Darkness was rapidly coming [80] on, and each moment became deeper. Soon men on the flanks were compelled to fall behind, for want of room to continue in line. The centre only had a free path, and with eyes strained upon the colonel and the flag, they pressed on toward the work, now only two hundred yards away.

At that moment Wagner became a mound of fire, from which poured a stream of shot and shell. Just a brief lull, and the deafening explosions of cannon were renewed, mingled with the crash, and rattle of musketry. A sheet of flame, followed by a running fire, like electric sparks, swept along the parapet, as the Fifty-first North Carolina gave a direct, and the Charleston Battalion a left-oblique, fire on the Fifty-fourth. Their Thirty-first North Carolina had lost heart, and failed to take position in the southeast bastion,—fortunately, too, for had its musketry fire been added to that delivered, it is doubtful whether any Federal troops could have passed the defile.

When this tempest of war came, before which men fell in numbers on every side, the only response the Fifty-fourth made to the deadly challenge was to change step to the double-quick, that it might the sooner close with the foe. There had been no stop, pause, or check at any period of the advance, nor was there now. As the swifter pace was taken, and officers sprang to the fore with waving swords barely seen in the darkness, the men closed the gaps, and with set jaws, panting breath, and bowed heads, charged on.

Wagner's wall, momentarily lit up by cannon-flashes, was still the goal toward which the survivors rushed in sadly diminished numbers. It was now dark, the gloom made more intense by the blinding explosions in the [81] front. This terrible fire which the regiment had just faced, probably caused the greatest number of casualties sustained by the Fifty-fourth in the assault; for nearer the work the men were somewhat sheltered by the high parapet. Every flash showed the ground dotted with men of the regiment, killed or wounded. Great holes, made by the huge shells of the navy or the land batteries, were pitfalls into which the men stumbled or fell.

Colonel Shaw led the regiment to the left toward the curtain of the work, thus passing the southeast bastion, and leaving it to the right hand. From that salient no musketry fire came; and some Fifty-fourth men first entered it, not following the main body by reason of the darkness. As the survivors drew near the work, they encountered the flanking fire delivered from guns in the southwest salient, and the howitzers outside the fort, which swept the trench, where further severe losses were sustained. Nothing but the ditch now separated the stormers and the foe. Down into this they went, through the two or three feet of water therein, and mounted the slope beyond in the teeth of the enemy, some of whom, standing on the crest, fired down on them with depressed pieces. Both flags were planted on the parapet, the national flag carried there and gallantly maintained by the brave Sergt. William H. Carney of Company C.

In the pathway from the defile to the fort many brave men had fallen. Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell was severely wounded in the groin, Captain Willard in the leg, Adjutant James in the ankle and side, Lieutenant Homans in the shoulder. Lieutenants Smith and Pratt were also wounded. Colonel Shaw had led his regiment from first to last. Gaining the rampart, he stood there for a moment [82] with uplifted sword, shouting, ‘Forward, Fifty-fourth!’ and then fell dead, shot through the heart, besides other wounds.

Not a shot had been fired by the regiment up to this time. As the crest was gained, the crack of revolvershots was heard, for the officers fired into the surging mass of upturned faces confronting them, lit up redly but a moment by the powder-flashes. Musket-butts and bayonets were freely used on the parapet, where the stormers were gallantly met. The garrison fought with muskets, handspikes, and gun-rammers, the officers striking with their swords, so close were the combatants. Numbers, however, soon told against the Fifty-fourth, for it was tens against hundreds. Outlined against the sky, they were a fair mark for the foe. Men fell every moment during the brief struggle. Some of the wounded crawled down the slope to shelter; others fell headlong into the ditch below.

It was seen from the volume of musketry fire, even before the walls were gained, that the garrison was stronger than had been supposed, and brave in defending the work. The first rush had failed, for those of the Fifty-fourth who reached the parapet were too few in numbers to overcome the garrison, and the supports were not at hand to take full advantage of their first fierce attack.

Repulsed from the crest after the short hand-to-hand struggle, the assailants fell back upon the exterior slope of the rampart. There the men were encouraged to remain by their officers, for by sweeping the top of the parapet with musketry, and firing at those trying to serve the guns, they would greatly aid an advancing force. For a time this was done, but at the cost of more lives. The [83] enemy's fire became more effective as the numbers of the Fifty-fourth diminished. Hand grenades or lighted shells were rolled down the slope, or thrown over into the ditch.

All this time the remaining officers and men of the Fifty-fourth were firing at the hostile figures about the guns, or that they saw spring upon the parapet, fire, and jump away. One brave fellow, with his broken arm lying across his breast, was piling cartridges upon it for Lieutenant Emerson, who, like other officers, was using a musket he had picked up. Another soldier, tired of the enforced combat, climbed the slope to his fate; for in a moment his dead body rolled down again. A particularly severe fire came from the southwest bastion. There a Confederate was observed, who, stripped to the waist, with daring exposure for some time dealt out fatal shots; but at last three eager marksmen fired together, and he fell back into the fort, to appear no more. Capt. J. W. M. Appleton distinguished himself before the curtain. He crawled into an embrasure, and with his pistol prevented the artillery-men from serving the gun. Private George Wilson of Company A had been shot through both shoulders, but refused to go back until he had his captain's permission. While occupied with this faithful soldier, who came to him as he lay in the embrasure, Captain Appleton's attention was distracted, and the gun was fired.

In the fighting upon the slopes of Wagner, Captains Russel and Simpkins were killed or mortally wounded. Captain Pope there received a severe wound in the shoulder.

All these events had taken place in a short period of [84] time. The charge of the Fifty-fourth had been made and repulsed before the arrival of any other troops. Those who had clung to the bloody slopes or were lying in the ditch, hearing fighting going on at their right, realized at last that the expected succor would not reach them where they were. To retire through the enveloping fire was as dangerous and deadly as to advance. Some that night preferred capture to the attempt at escaping; but the larger portion managed to fall back, singly or in squads, beyond the musketry fire of the garrison.

Captain Emilio, the junior of that rank, succeeded to the command of the Fifty-fourth on the field by casualties. After retiring from Wagner to a point where men were encountered singly or in small squads, he determined to rally as many as possible. With the assistance of Lieutenants Grace and Dexter, a large portion of the Fifty-fourth survivors were collected and formed in line, together with a considerable number of white soldiers of various regiments. While thus engaged, the national flag of the Fifty-fourth was brought to Captain Emilio; but as it was useless as a rallying-point in the darkness, it was sent to the rear for safety. Sergeant Carney had bravely brought this flag from Wagner's parapet, at the cost of two grievous wounds. The State color was torn from the staff, the silk was found by the enemy in the moat, while the staff remained with us.

Finding a line of rifle trench unoccupied and no indication that dispositions were being made for holding it, believing that the enemy would attempt a sortie, which was indeed contemplated but not attempted, Captain Emilio there stationed his men, disposed to defend the line. Other men were collected as they appeared. Lieutenant [85] Tucker, slightly wounded, who was among the last to leave the sand hills near the fort, joined this force.

Desultory firing was still going on, and after a time, being informed that some troops were in the open ground, the force, numbering some two hundred, was formed by its commander, and advanced from the rifle trench. It is believed this was the only organized body of rallied men ready and able to support Stevenson's brigade, which alone was prepared after the repulse of the others to resist attack. Presently the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts was encountered; but upon reporting, it was found that support was not required. Marching back to the still deserted trench, that line was again occupied. By midnight firing entirely ceased. About 1 A. M., on the 19th, a mounted officer rode up, inquired what force held the trench, and asked for the commanding officer. Captain Emilio responded, and recognized General Stevenson, who thanked him for the support given the reserve brigade, and his dispositions for holding the line. He was also informed that a regiment would be sent to relieve his men, and shortly after, the Tenth Connecticut arrived for that purpose. When this was done, the white soldiers were formed into detachments by regiments, and sent to find their colors.

The Fifty-fourth men were then marched to the rear, and after proceeding a short distance down the beach, encountered Lieutenants Jewett, Emerson, and Appleton, with some of the men. There the Fifty-fourth bivouacked for the night, under the shelter of the sand-bluffs.

Although the storming column and supports did not move forward with a close formation and promptness in [86] support of the Fifty-fourth, which might have won Wagner that night, their attacks when made were delivered with a gallantry and persistence that made their severe losses the more deplorable and fruitless, by reason of such faulty generalship.

When Strong's brigade advanced, it met the same devastating fire at the defile; but a considerable number of the survivors, mainly of the Sixth Connecticut and Fortyeighth New York, pushed on to the southeast bastion, feebly defended by the Thirty-first North Carolina, and entered, securing a portion of the salient. Farther they could not penetrate against superior numbers. General Strong accompanied his column, and, as always, exhibited the utmost bravery.

General Seymour, learning the failure of Strong's brigade to carry the work, ordered Colonel Putnam to advance his regiments. That officer gallantly led forward his brigade, meeting the same severe fire as he neared the fort. With survivors of the Seventh New Hampshire, he entered the disputed salient, followed by portions of the Sixty-second and Sixty-seventh Ohio. His One Hundredth New York advanced to a point near the work, in the confusion and darkness poured a volley into our own men in the salient, and then retired. It must be understood, however, that all these regiments suffered severe losses; but losses that night do not necessarily indicate effective regimental action. The greatest number of men in the salient at any time hardly equalled a regiment, and were of different organizations. They were fighting in a place unknown to them, holding their ground and repelling attacks, but were incapable of aggressive action. Fighting over traverses and sand-bags, hemmed in by a fire [87] poured across their rear, as well as from the front and flanks, the struggle went on pitilessly for nearly two hours. Vainly were precious lives freely offered up, in heroic attempts to encourage a charge on the flanking guns. The enveloping darkness covered all; and the valiant, seeing how impotent were their efforts, felt like crying with Ajax, ‘Give us but light, O Jove! and in the light, if thou seest fit, destroy us!’

Every field-officer in the bastion was at last struck down except Major Lewis Butler, Sixty-seventh Ohio. Colonel Putnam had been shot through the head. When all hope of expected support was gone, Major Butler sent out the regimental colors, and gave orders to leave the bastion. There were, according to his account, about one hundred men each of the Sixty-second and Sixty-seventh Ohio, about fifty of the Forty-eighth New York, and some small detachments of other regiments, some with and some without officers. When this force had departed, and the enemy had been re-enforced by the arrival of the Thirtysecond Georgia, the wounded, those who feared to encounter the enclosing fire, and those who failed to hear or obey the order for abandonment, were soon surrounded and captured. General Stevenson's brigade had advanced toward the fort, but it was too late, and the men were withdrawn.

Upon the beach in front of the siege line, drunken soldiers of the regular artillery, with swords and pistolshots, barred the passage of all to the rear. They would listen to no protestations that the regiments were driven back or broken up, and even brutally ordered wounded men to the front. After a time, their muddled senses came to them on seeing the host of arrivals, while the [88] vigorous actions of a few determined officers who were prepared to enforce a free passage, made further opposition perilous.

Thus ended the great assault on Fort Wagner. It was the second and last attempted. The Confederate loss was 181 killed and wounded, including Lieut.-Col. J. C. Simkins, Captains W. H. Ryan, W. T. Tatom, and P. H. Waring, and Lieut. G. W. Thompson, killed. Our loss was 1,515, including 111 officers, and embracing General Seymour wounded, General Strong mortally wounded, and Colonel Putnam (acting brigadier) killed. Of the ten regimental commanders, Colonel Shaw was killed, Col. J. L. Chatfield, Sixth Connecticut, mortally wounded, and five others wounded. Such severe casualties stamp the sanguinary character of the fighting, and mark the assault as one of the fiercest struggles of the war, considering the numbers engaged. This is further evidenced by the fact that the losses exceeded those sustained by our forces in many much better-known actions during the Rebellion,—notably Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, Cedar Mountain, Chantilly, Prairie Grove, Pleasant Hills, Sailor's Creek, Jonesborough, Bentonville, and High Bridge, in most of which a much larger Federal force was engaged.

The following is the official report of the part borne by the Fifty-fourth in the assault:—

headquarters Fifty-Fourth Mass. Vols., Morris Island, S. C., Nov. 7, 1863.
Brig.-Gen. T. Seymour, Commanding U. S. Forces, Morris Island, S. C.
General,—In answer to your request that I furnish you with a report of the part taken by the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers in the late assault upon Fort Wagner, I have to state:— [89]

During the afternoon of the 18th of July last, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, Col. R. G. Shaw commanding, landed upon Morris Island and reported at about six o'clock P. M. to Brig.-Gen. G. C. Strong. Colonel Shaw's command present consisted of a lieutenant-colonel of the field, a surgeon, adjutant, and quartermaster of the staff, eight captains and eleven subaltern, officers of the line and six hundred enlisted men. General Strong presented himself to the regiment, and informed the men of the contemplated assault upon Fort Wagner, and asked if they would lead it. They answered in the affirmative. The regiment was then formed in column by wing, at a point upon the beach a short distance in the advance of the Beacon house. Col. R. G. Shaw commanded the right wing, and Lieut.-Col. E. N. Hallowell the left.

In this formation, as the dusk of evening came on, the regiment advanced at quick time, leading the column. The enemy opened on us a brisk fire, our pace now gradually increasing till it became a run. Soon canister and musketry began to tell on us. With Colonel Shaw leading, the assault was commenced. Exposed to the direct fire of canister and musketry, and, as the ramparts were mounted, to a like fire on our flanks, the havoc made in our ranks was very great.

Upon leaving the ditch for the parapet, they obstinately contested with the bayonet our advance. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the men succeeded in driving the enemy from most of their guns, many following the enemy into the fort. It was here upon the crest of the parapet that Colonel Shaw fell; here fell Captains Russel and Simpkins; here were also most of the officers wounded. The colors of the regiment reached the crest, and were there fought for by the enemy; the State flag there torn from its staff, but the staff remains with us. Hand grenades were now added to the missiles directed against the men.

The fight raged here for about an hour, when, compelled to [90] abandon the fort, the men formed a line about seven hundred yards from the fort, under the command of Capt. Luis F. Emilio, —the ninth captain in the line; the other captains were either killed or wounded. The regiment then held the front until relieved by the Tenth Connecticut at about two o'clock A. M. of the 19th.

The assault was made upon the south face of the fort. So many of the officers behaved with marked coolness and bravery, I cannot mention any above the others. It is due, however, to the following-named enlisted men that they be recorded above their fellows for especial merit:—

Sergt. Robt. J. SimmonsCo. B.
Sergt. William H. Carney Co. C.
Corp. Henry F. PealCo. F.
Pvt. Geo. WilsonCo. A.

The following is the list of casualties:—


Col. R. G. Shaw killed
Lieut.-Col. E. N. Hallowell wounded
Adjt. G. W. James wounded
Capt. S. Willard wounded
Capt. C. J. Russel missing, supposed to be killed
Capt. W. H. Simpkins missing, supposed to be killed
Capt. Geo. Pope wounded
Capt. E. L. Jones wounded
Capt. J. W. M. Appleton wounded
Capt. O. E. Smith wounded
1st Lieut. R. H. L. Jewett wounded
1st Lieut. Wm. H. Homans wounded
2d Lieut. C. E. Tucker wounded
2d Lieut. J. A. Pratt wounded


Enlisted Men.

Killed 9
Wounded 147
Missing 100
Total 256

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

E. N. Hallowell, Colonel Commanding Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers.

Lieutenant Howard, in falling back from the fort, with a few men he had gathered, retired directly down the beach, not encountering the larger part of the regiment. Lieut. T. L. Appleton retired first but a short distance, where, in the sand-hills, he found General Strong with some detachments which he was urging to advance. Lieutenant Appleton moved forward again a short distance, but finding there was no concerted advance, went rearward. Sergeant Swails of Company F was with Captains Simpkins and Russel under the left bastion. They climbed the parapet, and were at once fired upon. Captain Russel fell wounded, and Simpkins asked him if he would be carried off. When he declined, and asked to lie straightened out, Simpkins directed Swails to help him do this, and while kneeling over his friend's head, facing the enemy, was himself hit. Putting his hand to his breast, he fell across Russel, and never spoke or moved again. Swails, who relates this, says he was soon asked by Russel to change his position, that he (Swails) might not draw the Rebel fire on the wounded, and did so. Frank Myers, of Company K, whose arm was shattered, states that he stood under the uplifted arm of [92] Colonel Shaw, while that officer was on the parapet, waving his sword, and crying, ‘Forward, Fifty-fourth!’ He saw the colonel suddenly fall, and was struck himself a moment after. Thomas Burgess, of Company I, makes a similar statement.

Capt. J. W. M. Appleton, at the curtain, hearing firing at last on the right, climbed with Captain Jones and Lieutenant Emerson into the southeast bastion, and joined in the desperate fighting there. Captain Appleton was finally badly wounded, and made his way out with great difficulty, to report the situation in the bastion. Captain Jones was also severely wounded. He fell into the moat, where he remained until assisted rearward by George Remsley of Company C. Lieutenant Emerson in the bastion used the musket he had picked up before the curtain. To protect the wounded lying near he pulled out sand-bags. When a volunteer was wanted to report their situation to some general officer, he offered himself, saying, ‘I will go, but if I am killed, just tell them I did not run away!’ As he was still able to fight, Captain Appleton, who was disabled, went instead. Lieutenant Homans was wounded near the fort, and thought himself mortally hurt, as he was spitting blood, but staggered along until he was met by Lieutenant Dexter, who assisted him to the rear.

Sergt. George E. Stephens of Company B, in a letter to the writer, says,—

‘I remember distinctly that when our column had charged the fort, passed the half-filled moat, and mounted to the parapet, many of our men clambered over, and some entered by the large embrasure in which one of the big guns was mounted, the firing substantially ceased there by the beach, and the Rebel [93] musketry fire steadily grew hotter on our left. An officer of our regiment called out, “Spike that gun!” . . . Just at the very hottest moment of the struggle, a battalion or regiment charged up to the moat, halted, and did not attempt to cross it and join us, but from their position commenced to fire upon us. I was one of the men who shouted from where I stood, “Don't fire on us! We are the Fifty-fourth.” I have heard it was a Maine regiment. . . . Many of our men will join me in saying that in the early stages of the fight we had possession of the sea end of Battery Wagner. . . . When we reached the Gatling battery drawn up to repel a counter-attack, I remember you were the only commissioned officer present, and you placed us indiscriminately,—that is, without any regard to companies in line,—and proposed to renew the charge. The commanding officer, whom I do not know, ordered us to the flanking rifle-pits, and we then awaited the expected counter-charge the enemy did not make.’

Lieutenant Smith, severely wounded, remained on the field until the next day, when he was brought in. Lieutenant Pratt, wounded in two places, concealed himself in the marsh. There he remained many hours, until at last, braving the fire of Rebel pickets, he escaped into our lines. First Sergeant Simmons of Company B was the finest-looking soldier in the Fifty-fourth,—a brave man and of good education. He was wounded and captured. Taken to Charleston, his bearing impressed even his captors. After suffering amputation of the arm, he died there.

Contemporaneous testimony is complete as to the gallant part taken by the Fifty-fourth in the assault. Samuel W. Mason, correspondent of the New York Herald, on Morris Island, wrote under date of July 19, 1863, of the regiment:— [94]

‘I saw them fight at Wagner as none but splendid soldiers, splendidly officered, could fight, dashing through shot and shell, grape, canister, and shrapnel, and showers of bullets, and when they got close enough, fighting with clubbed muskets, and retreating when they did retreat, by command and with choice white troops for company.’

Edward L. Pierce, the correspondent of the New York Tribune, in a letter to Governor Andrew, dated July 22, 1863, wrote,—

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.”

To the correspondent of the New York Evening Post General Strong said that the Fifty-fourth ‘had no sleep for three nights, no food since morning, and had marched several miles. . . . Under cover of darkness they had stormed the fort, faced a stream of fire, faltered not till the ranks were broken by shot and shell; and in all these severe tests, which would have tried even veteran troops, they fully met my expectations, for many were killed, wounded, or captured on the walls of the fort.’

The Confederate commander of Wagner has written,—

‘One of the assaulting regiments was composed of negroes (the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts), and to it was assigned the honor of leading the white columns to the charge. It was a dearly purchased compliment. Their colonel (Shaw) was killed upon the parapet, and the regiment almost annihilated, although the Confederates in the darkness could not tell the color of their assailants.’


Official reports show, and the same Confederate officer has stated as his impression, that ‘the greater part of our loss was sustained at the beginning of the assault, and in front of the curtain, although we suffered some additional loss from the troops who gained the bastion,’ which loss must necessarily have been inflicted by the Fifty-fourth, as it was the leading regiment, and attacked the curtain.

Further Confederate testimony is furnished in a letter of Lieut. Iredell Jones, who writes,—

‘I visited the battery [Fort Wagner] yesterday. The dead and wounded were piled up in a ditch together sometimes fifty in a heap, and they were strewn all over the plain for a distance of three fourths of a mile. They had two [only one, the Fifty-fourth?] negro regiments, and they were slaughtered in every direction. One pile of negroes numbered thirty. Numbers of both white and black were killed on top of our breastworks as well as inside. The negroes fought gallantly, and were headed by as brave a colonel as ever lived. He mounted the breastworks waving his sword, and at the head of his regiment, and he and a negro orderly sergeant fell dead over the inner crest of the works. The negroes were as fine-looking a set as I ever saw,—large, strong, muscular fellows.’

Of those reported missing belonging to the Fifty-fourth, some sixty were captured, about twenty of whom were wounded. The remainder were killed. Their capture occasioned one of a number of new and important questions raised for governmental consideration, which it was the fortune of the regiment to present and have decided for the benefit of all other colored soldiers. Before the actions of July 16 and 18, no considerable number of [96] black soldiers had been captured. Under the acts of the Confederate Congress they were outlaws, to be delivered to the State authorities when captured, for trial; and the penalty of servile insurrection was death.

The fate of Captains Russel and Simpkins was also unknown. It was thought possible that they too were captured. Governor Andrew and the friends of the regiment therefore exerted themselves to have the Government throw out its protecting hand over its colored soldiers and their officers in the enemy's hands.

Two sections were at once added to General Orders No. 100 of the War Department, relating to such prisoners, a copy of which was transmitted to the Confederate commissioner, Robert Ould. The first set forth that once a soldier no man was responsible individually for warlike acts; the second, that the law of nations recognized no distinctions of color, and that if the enemy enslaved or sold the captured soldier, as the United States could not enslave, death would be the penalty in retaliation. The President also met the case in point involving the Fifty-fourth prisoners, by issuing the following proclamation:

Executive mansion, Washington, July 30, 1863.
It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person on account of his color, and for no offence against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age. The Government of the United States will give the same protection [97] to all its soldiers; and if the enemy shall sell or enslave any one because of his color, the offence shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our hands.

It is therefore ordered that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a Rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a Rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works, and continue at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due a prisoner of war.

Abraham Lincoln.
By order of the Secretary of War, E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Such prompt and vigorous enunciations had a salutary effect; and the enemy did not proceed to extremities. But the Fifty-fourth men were demanded by Governor Bonham, of South Carolina, from the military authorities. A test case was made; and Sergt. Walter A. Jeffries of Company H, and Corp. Charles Hardy of Company B, were actually tried for their lives. They were successfully defended by the ablest efforts of one of the most brilliant of Southern advocates, the Union-loving and noble Nelson Mitchell, of Charleston, who, with a courage rarely equalled, fearlessly assumed the self-imposed task. Thenceforth never noticed, this devoted man died a few months after in Charleston, neglected and in want, because of this and other loyal acts. For months no list could be obtained of the Fifty-fourth prisoners, the enemy absolutely refusing information. After long imprisonment in Charleston jail, they were taken to Florence stockade, and were finally released in the spring of 1865. The best attainable information shows that the survivors then numbered some twenty-seven, some of whom rejoined the regiment, [98] while others were discharged from parole camps or hospitals.

Colonel Shaw's fate was soon ascertained from those who saw him fall, and in a day or two it was learned from the enemy that his body had been found, identified, and, on July 19, buried with a number of his colored soldiers. The most circumstantial account relating thereto is contained in a letter to the writer from Capt. H. W. Hendricks, a Confederate officer who was present at the time, dated from Charleston, S. C., June 29, 1882; and the following extracts are made therefrom:—

‘. . . Colonel Shaw fell on the left of our flagstaff about ten yards towards the river, near the bombproof immediately on our works, with a number of his officers and men. He was instantly killed, and fell outside of our works. The morning following the battle his body was carried through our lines; and I noticed that he was stripped of all his clothing save under-vest and drawers. This desecration of the dead we endeavored to provide against; but at that time—the incipiency of the Rebellion—our men were so frenzied that it was next to impossible to guard against it; this desecration, however, was almost exclusively participated in by the more desperate and lower class of our troops. Colonel Shaw's body was brought in from the sally-port on the Confederate right, and conveyed across the parade-ground into the bombproof by four of our men of the burial party. Soon after, his body was carried out via the sally-port on the left river-front, and conveyed across the front of our works, and there buried. . . . His watch and chain were robbed from his body by a private in my company, by name Charles Blake. I think he had other personal property of Colonel Shaw. . . . Blake, with other members of my company, jumped our works at night after hostilities had ceased, and robbed the dead. . . . Colonel Shaw was the only officer buried with the colored troops. . . .’

[99] Such disposal of the remains of an officer of Colonel Shaw's rank, when his friends were almost within call, was so unusual and cruel that there seemed good ground for the belief that the disposition made was so specially directed, as a premeditated indignity for having dared to lead colored troops. When known throughout the North, it excited general indignation, and fostered bitterness. Though recognizing the fitness of his resting-place, where in death he was not separated from the men he was in life not ashamed to lead, the act was universally condemned. It was even specifically stated in a letter which appeared in the ‘Army and Navy Journal,’ of New York City, written by Asst.-Surg. John T. Luck, U. S. N., who was captured while engaged in assisting our wounded during the morning of July 19, that Gen. Johnson Hagood, who had succeeded General Taliaferro in command of Battery Wagner that morning, was responsible for the deed. The following is extracted from that letter:—
‘. . . While being conducted into the fort, I saw Colonel Shaw of the Fifty-four Massachusetts (colored) Regiment lying dead upon the ground just outside the parapet. A stalwart negro man had fallen near him. The Rebels said the negro was a color sergeant. The colonel had been killed by a rifle-shot through the chest, though he had received other wounds. Brigadier-General Hagood, commanding the Rebel forces, said to me: “I knew Colonel Shaw before the war, and then esteemed him. Had he been in command of white troops, I should have given him an honorable burial; as it is, I shall bury him in the common trench with the negroes that fell with him.” The burial party were then at work; and no doubt Colonel Shaw was buried just beyond the ditch of the fort in the trench where [100] I saw our dead indiscriminately thrown. Two days afterwards a Rebel surgeon (Dr. Dawson, of Charleston, S. C., I think) told me that Hagood had carried out his threat.’

Assistant-Surgeon Luck's statement is, however, contradicted by General Hagood; for having requested information upon the matter, the writer, in December, 1885, received from Gen. Samuel Jones, of Washington, a copy of a letter written by Gen. Johnson Hagood to Col. T. W. Higginson, of Cambridge, Mass., dated Sept. 21, 1881. General Hagood quotes from Colonel Higginson's letter of inquiry relative to Colonel Shaw's burial, the conversation which Assistant-Surgeon Luck alleges to have had with him at Battery Wagner about the disposition of Colonel Shaw's body, as set forth in the extract given from Assistant-Surgeon Luck's letter, and then gives his (General Hagood's) account of the meeting with Assistant-Surgeon Luck as follows, the italics being those of the general:—

On the day after the night assault and while the burial parties of both sides were at work on the field, a chain of sentinels dividing them, a person was brought to me where I was engaged within the battery in repairing damages done to the work. The guard said he had been found wandering within our lines, engaged apparently in nothing except making observations. The man claimed to be a naval surgeon belonging to gunboat “Pawnee;” and after asking him some questions about the damages sustained by that vessel a few days before in the Stono River from an encounter with a field battery on its banks, I informed him that he would be sent up to Charleston for such disposition as General Beauregard deemed proper. I do not recall the name of this person, and have not heard of him since, but he must be the Dr. Leech [Luck?] of whom you speak. I [101] have no recollection of other conversation with him than that given above. He has, however, certainly reported me incorrectly in one particular. I never saw or heard of Colonel Shaw until his body was pointed out to me that morning, and his name and rank mentioned. . . . I simply give my recollection in reply to his statement. As he has confounded what he probably heard from others within the battery of their previous knowledge of Colonel Shaw, he may at the distance of time at which he spoke have had his recollection of his interview with me confounded in other respects.

You further ask if a request from General Terry for Colonel Shaw's body was refused the day after the battle. I answer distinctly, No. At the written request of General Gillmore, I, as commander of the battery, met General Vogdes (not Terry), on a flag of truce on the 22d. Upon this flag an exchange of wounded prisoners was arranged, and Colonel Putnam's body was asked for and delivered. Colonel Shaw's body was not asked for then or at any other time to my knowledge. . . . No special order was ever issued by me, verbally or otherwise, in regard to the burial of Colonel Shaw or any other officer or man at Wagner. The only order was a verbal one to bury all the dead in trenches as speedily as possible, on account of the heat; and as far as I knew then, or have reason to believe now, each officer was buried where he fell, with the men who surrounded him. It thus occurred that Colonel Shaw, commanding negroes, was buried with negroes.

These extracts from the letters of Assistant-Surgeon Luck and General Hagood are submitted to the reader with the single suggestion that what is said about Colonel Shaw's body being brought into Fort Wagner, contained in Captain Hendricks's letter, should be borne in mind while reading the latter portion of the extracts from General Hagood's letter.

But how far General Hagood may be held responsible [102] for the lack of generous and Christian offices to the remains of Colonel Shaw, his family and comrades, is another matter. And the writer submits that these faults of omission are grave; that the acknowledged bravery of Colonel Shaw in life, and his appearance even in death, when, as General Hagood acknowledges, ‘his body was pointed out to me that morning,’ should have secured him a fitting sepulture, or the tender of his body to his friends. This burial of Colonel Shaw, premeditated and exceptional, was without question intended as an ignominy. It served to crown the sacrifices of that young life, so short and eventful, and to place his name high on the roll of martyrs and leaders of the Civil War.

Colonel Shaw's sword was found during the war in a house in Virginia, and restored to his family. His silk sash was purchased in Battery Wagner from a private soldier, by A. W. Muckenfuss, a Confederate officer, who, many years after, generously sent it North to Mr. S. D. Gilbert, of Boston, for restoration to the Shaw family. Only these two articles have been recovered, so far as known.

No effort was made to find Colonel Shaw's grave when our forces occupied the ground. This was in compliance with the request contained in the following letter:—

New York, Aug. 24, 1863.
Brigadier-General Gillmore, Commanding Department of the South.
sir,—I take the liberty to address you because I am informed that efforts are to be made to recover the body of my son, Colonel Shaw of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment, which was buried at Fort Wagner. My object in writing is to say that such efforts are not authorized by me or any of my family, and that they are not approved by us. We hold that a [103] soldier's most appropriate burial-place is on the field where he has fallen. I shall therefore be much obliged, General, if in case the matter is brought to your cognizance, you will forbid the desecration of my son's grave, and prevent the disturbance of his remains or those buried with him. With most earnest wishes for your success, I am, sir, with respect and esteem,

Your obedient servant,

Captains Russel and Simpkins were doubtless interred with other white soldiers, after their bodies had been robbed of all evidences of their rank during the hours of darkness.

After all firing had ceased, about midnight, Brig.-Gen. Thomas G. Stevenson, commanding the front lines, ordered two companies of the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania, under Lieutenant-Colonel Duer, to advance from the abatis as skirmishers toward Wagner, followed by four companies of the Ninety-seventh, without arms, under Captain Price, to rescue the wounded. General Stevenson saw to this service personally, and gave special instructions to rescue as many as possible of the Fifty-fourth, saying, ‘You know how much harder they will fare at the hands of the enemy than white men.’ The rescuing party, with great gallantry and enterprise, pushed the search clear up to the slopes of Wagner, crawling along the ground, and listening for the moans that indicated the subjects of their mission. When found, the wounded were quietly dragged to points where they could be taken back on stretchers in safety. This work was continued until daylight, and many men gathered in by the Ninety-seventh; among them was Lieutenant Smith of the Fifty-fourth. It was a noble work fearlessly done. [104]

Throughout the assault and succeeding night, Quartermaster Ritchie was active and efficient in rendering help to the wounded of the regiment and endeavoring to ascertain the fate of Colonel Shaw and other officers. Surgeon Stone skilfully aided all requiring his services, sending the severely wounded men and officers from temporary hospitals to the steamer Alice Price.

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