Also known as “Battery Wagner”, was a Confederate built Coastal Fortification – located on Morris Island (South Carolina). Considered to be one of the strongest Coastal Forts in The Confederacy, it was named after Lt.-Col. Thomas Wagner (killed by an accidental shell explosion early in The War). Fort Wagner incorporated popular Horn Work styles (made effective in Europe). The Fort was some 250 yards by 191 yards in length. Wagner spread from “one side of the inlet, to The Atlantic Ocean”. Originally designed with an Ocean-fed Moat, when drained – this provided a deep (25 foot) Dry Moat System supported by sandy walls (impossible to mount or climb) and originally land mines and sharpened stakes.
Additionally, the Confederate Garrison used sharpened Abatis and free-standing wooden spikes (inset into the sand). This created an effective “anti-personal” trap. Fort Wagner's walls reached some 30 feet from the Moat defense and topped off with a platform battlement. Some 14 Columbiad 10-inch Heavy Cannon were positioned both landward and seaward. A sandbagging walled system was used “to fill gaps” in the interior fighting positions of the Fort (which featured very few buildings). Fort Wagner could boast 1,700 men garrisoned. By 1864, some 1,000 men called Wagner their “home". Wagner had always been a torn in the side of The Union Navy. Well built, subsequent attempts to “render” (destroy) Wagner were fruitless. The garrison was very good at quickly repairing most seaward (in-coming damage). The Union Army too, had tried land assault after assault, in attempts to “take” Wagner.
Each time. It was a complete failure (often resulting in 60 % casualties – or over half of the assaulting force killed outright). Still, The Army tried (often working in concert with Naval bombardments. On July 18, 1863 – a “final” attempt to take Fort Wagner occurred. This time the men of The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. One of the first all-Black Infantry Units in The Union Army since the inception of The Emancipation Proclamation – The Regiment number 1,100 strong when they stood in abreast formation on the South Carolina beach at sunset. Led by a White Officer (per Military Law at the time) – Colonel Robert Shaw and his men not only advanced some 240 yards under withering fire, but actually “breached” the walls and battlements to the South of The Fort (something never accomplished prior). Unfortunately, the extremely heavy losses JUST to get to the position were telling.
Unable to maintain momentum, The 54th had to fall back. Some 600 died in the assault and of wounds received. Shaw too was killed. He and his men were buried in a mass grave (by The Rebels). The Fort never fell into Union hands. It was abandoned by The Confederacy with the end of the War. Time and the harsh weather of The Atlantic Coast quickly reduced Fort Wagner to a state of nothingness. Even the mass grave of Colonel Shaw and his men were washed out to sea. Other than a plain Marker Plate telling of the battle, nothing remains.