ON THIS DAY IN UNITED STATES HISTORY
September 6, 1863
Confederates Abandon Battery Wagner in South Carolina
in the American Civil War
On this day in 1863, Battery Wagner (also known as Fort Wagner) was abondoned by the Confederate troops after
holding it througout the war in spite of two major Union assaults. In the first assault on July 11, 1863, only 12
Confederates where killed vs. 339 on the Union side. The second asssault was best known because the 54th
Massachusetts was one of the first American military units made up of black soldiers. Although the assault failed,
the 54th proved itself to be a courageous and capable fighting force which prompted additional recruitment of black
soldiers and gave the Union Army a greater numerical advantage over southern troops.
During the assault, 246 Union troops were killed along with 880 wounded and 389 captured. One of the dead was
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, a white man. After the battle, Shaw was buried by Confederate troops "with the negroes
that fell with him". Later, when efforts were made to recover Shaw's body, his father publicly argued against it
and in a letter he stated "We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and
devoted soldiers...We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted
followers, nor wish for him better company - what a body-guard he has!".
In a macabre way, that second battle played a hand in the eventual withdrawl of the Confederate troops. Many of the
dead Union troops had been buried clost to the fort and decomposition of the bodies had contaminated the fresh
water well inside the fort. That, along with continued bombardment and interception of food and water supplies by
Union forces, prompted the Confederate forces to evacuate.