Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September 3, 1863: Union forces prepare for third attempt to storm Fort Wagner

Union Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren.

On this day 150 years ago, the Union forces on Morris Island and the Union naval squadron off Charleston Harbor prepared for a third attempt to storm Fort Wagner. Both of the earlier attempts to storm the fort had ended in disaster, most famously the charge of the 54th Massachusetts on July 18, 1863. After the failure on July 18, 1863, Union Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore and his men had resorted to the laborious process of a formal siege with advancing lines of parallel trenches. Now the Union trenches were within 70 yards of Fort Wagner and only a few yards of sand sown with landmines ("torpedoes") separated Union troops from Confederate held Fort Wagner.
FLAG-STEAMER PHILADELPHIA, Off Morris Island, September 3, 1863.

Brigadier General Q. A. GILLMORE, U. S. Army,

Commanding Department of the South:

DEAR SIR: I understood you to say yesterday that your trenches were within 70 yards of Wagner, which intervening space had been filled with torpedoes to destroy your storming column. When you are ready to move on the work, I propose to bring in the iron-clads and maintain a steady fire until you ask me to cease. Any other facility I can offer is heartily at your service.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Rear-Admiral, Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH, Morris Island, S. C., September 3, 1863.

Rear-Admiral JOHN A. DAHLGREN,
Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron:

DEAR SIR: In reply to your letter of this date, offering the service of the iron-clads to maintain a steady fire on Fort Wagner when I should be ready to move, I would say I should be very thankful for this co-operation, and hope to be ready to avail myself of it very shortly.

Colonel Turner, my chief of staff, has gone on board your flagship, with a memorandum setting forth briefly the plan of operations, which I propose for your approval. The cutting off of the enemy's communications with this island forms an important element in this plan, and I hope it may commence to-night.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Union Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore.

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