July 14, 2013

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, July 14

‘Glory’: African-American regiment assaults Fort Wagner


Associated Press

— After one recent failed attempt to take Fort Wagner on Morris Island on South Carolina’s coast, an all-black regiment formed as the 54th Massachusetts Infantry launched an all-out attack on July 18, 1863, that would inspire the 1989 movie “Glory.” Vicious hand-to-hand fighting ensued, with many left dead and wounded as Confederates holding the fort fought back from a fort bristling with artillery. Black troops bravely headed up the parapets, even as many were mowed down by artillery and gunfire. It was one of the prominent moments when African-Americans played a major role in Civil War combat. After the bloodied, tattered regiment was turned back, other Union units also tried to take the fort and failed. Once the fighting subsided, far heavier losses were counted on the Union side with about 1,515 casualties to about 174 Confederates defending the fort. The 54th’s colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, was among the dead. Soon afteward, Federal forces would besiege Fort Wagner and force it to be abandoned by the Confederate defenders in September 1863, far later than Union generals had hoped at that point 150 years ago in the Civil War.