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Battle of Fort Wagner

Starting on July 10, 1863, Brigadier General Quincy Gillmore led the Union attack against the city of Charleston, South Carolina, by pushing back the Confederate forces on the southern end of Morris Island in Charleston Harbor. However, the Confederates still occupied Fort Wagner (also called Battery Wagner because of its arsenal of fourteen cannons) farther north on the island.

On July 18th, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, which was filled with African-American soldiers, led the assault up the narrow beach to Fort Wagner. Under a barrage of cannon and rifle fire, the 54th scaled the parapet into the fort and engaged in a bloody hand-to-hand struggle with the Confederate defenders. Reinforcements behind them were stalled by cannon fire on the beach, and the Union soldiers failed to capture the fort. Union casualties reached 1,515, with the 54th Massachusetts losing 42 percent of its ranks, while the Confederates lost only 174 men. Although the assault resulted in a tactical defeat, the 54th was widely acclaimed for its bravery, and the incident helped to encourage the further enlistment of African-American soldiers.

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