ON THIS DAY IN UNITED STATES HISTORY
July 18, 1863
The Second Battle of Fort Wagner Occurs
in the American Civil War
On this day in 1863, the Union 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw attempted
an assault by foot on the Confederate Fort Wagner. The assault is 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!".