Confederates evacuate Battery Wagner and Morris Island, South Carolina - HISTORY
Year
1863

Confederates evacuate Battery Wagner and Morris Island, South Carolina

After months of campaigning against Battery Wagner on Morris Island in a protracted Union effort to capture nearby Charleston, South Carolina, a Confederate garrison finally flees the island.

Union Rear Admiral Samuel du Pont was ordered to capture Charleston in January 1863. In April, he launched a naval attack through the mouth of Charleston Harbor but the nine-ship squadron faced heavy fire from the forts that protected the narrow channel, and his ships sustained several hits. Du Pont turned the ships around, and Rear Admiral John Dahlgren assumed command of the effort to capture Charleston.

Morris Island protected the southern rim of the harbor, and the Confederates constructed a massive fortress of sand and timber on its beach called Battery Wagner. In July, Dahlgren landed troops and made two major attacks on the fortress. In the second attack on July 18, the 54th Massachusetts, an African-American regiment led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, was repulsed with heavy losses, and Shaw was killed. The story of the attack later became the subject of the 1990 movie Glory.

Waiting until September 4 before renewing his assault, Dahlgren launched a massive bombardment and continued to pound the forts for two days. By September 6, General Pierre G. T. Beauregard, commander of the Confederate defenses around Charleston, realized that the situation at Battery Wagner and nearby Battery Greg was hopeless. He ordered Morris Island and the two forts evacuated, and the job was complete by the end of the day.

Although the Yankees captured Morris Island, Charleston was still beyond their grasp. The Confederates continued to defend the harbor and the city where the war began, until they finally evacuated the area in March 1865, just days before the end of the war.

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