Today in History:

13 Series I Volume XXVIII-I Serial 46 - Ft. Sumter - Ft. Wagner Part I

Page 13 Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.

E. One 30-pounder Parrott (navy) siege-carriage.

F. One Brooks rifle (siege).

G. One 8-inch navy gun.

H. One 8-inch navy gun.

I. One 8-inch sea-coast howitzer.

(See report of Brigadier-General Seymour, Appendix B; also report of Brigadier-General Strong, Appendices E and F.*)

73. Brigadier-General Terry was attacked on James Island by a largely superior force, including infantry, cavalry, and artillery, on the 16th of July. With the aid of the gunboat Pawnee, Captain Balch, and two army transports, each carrying a small armament, the enemy was repulsed. The demonstration in that quarter having accomplished its object, General Tarry's command was withdrawn on the 17th.

74. The failure of the assault on Fort Wagner of July 11, taken in connection with apparently reliable statements by prisoners and deserters from the enemy, giving sundry details of the trace and profile of that work, and the strength of its garrison and armament, induced me, upon conferring with Rear-Admiral Dahlgren, to establish counter-batteries against it.

75. It was determined to attempt, with the combined fire of the land batteries and gunboats, to dismount the principal guns of the work, and either drive the enemy from it or open the way to a successful assault. Batteries were accordingly established, and were ready to open fire on the morning of July 18.

76. Up to this period, our actual knowledge of the strength of the enemy's defense on the north end of Morris Island was quite meager. It was known that Fort Wagener was an inclosed work, reaching from high-water lone on the east side to Vincent's Creek on the west side of the island. It was thought that it mounted ten or twelve guns; that four or five of them were on the south front, to protect the land approach, and that two, or perhaps three, heavy guns covered the main channel abreast of the island. Battery Gregg, on Cumming's Point, was supposed to mount two or three guns for channel defense only.

77. The truly formidable character of Fort Wagner and the great strength and capacity of its bomb-proof shelter were very much underestimated. Moreover, it was not known until subsequently that the island at its narrowest point, near and just south of the fort, had been reduced by the encroachments of the sea to about one-fourth or one-third of the width show on the latest Coast Survey charts, and that during spring tides and heavy weather the waves frequently swept entirely over it, practically isolating that position defended by Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg, thus greatly augmenting the difficulty to be overcome in capturing the position, whether by assault or gradual approaches.


In the Field, Morris Island, July 17, 1863.

The several batteries against the enemy's positions on the north end of Morris Island are named as follows:

1. Battery Reynolds, in advance, comprising five 8-inch mortars (siege), two 30-pounders, and six 10-pounder Parrott, four 3-inch rifles, and two Wiard rifles.

2. Battery Weed, in rear of right of Battery Reynolds, comprising four 10-inch mortars.


*Printed as Nos. 9 and 12, under Operations on Morris Island, pp. 343 and 354.


Page 13 Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.