On this day, Union troops land on Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina, and prepare for a siege on Battery Wagner, a massive sand fortress on the island.
In the summer of 1863, Union General Quincy Gillmore waged an unsuccessful campaign to capture Charleston. Although the city was an important port for the Confederates early in the war, the attempt to capture Charleston was largely symbolic since a Union blockade of Confederate ports earlier on had bottled up Charleston Harbor anyway. Gillmore planned to approach it from the south by capturing Morris Island.
On July 10, Gillmore’s troops quickly secured most of the island. The only barrier left was Battery Wagner, an imposing fortress that guarded Charleston Harbor’s southern rim. The fort was 30 feet high, nearly 300 feet from north to south, and over 600 feet from east to west. Inside were 1,600 Confederates, 10 heavy cannons, and a mortar for hitting ships off the coast. Gillmore attacked on July 11, but the attack was easily repulsed. A much larger assault was made on July 18 with heavy Union losses.
After the July 18 battle, Gillmore settled in for a long siege. The Confederates finally evacuated the fort on September 7, 1863.