54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment : Battle of Fort Wagner

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54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Fort Wagner

Report of Col. Edward N. Hallowell, Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry.

November 7, 1863.
GEN.: In answer to your request that I furnish a report of the part taken by the
Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers in the late assault upon Fort Wagner, I have to state:

During the afternoon of the 18th of July last, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts
Volunteers, Col. R. G. Shaw commanding, landed upon Morris Island and reported at about 6 p. m. to Brig. Gen. G. C. Strong. Col. Shaw's command present consisted of a lieutenant-colonel of the field, a surgeon, adjutant and quartermaster of the staff, 8 captains, and 11 subaltern officers of the line and 600 enlisted men. Gen. Strong presented himself to the regiment and informed the men of the contemplated assault upon Fort Wagner and asked them if they would lead it. They answered in the affirmative. The regiment was then formed in column by wing, at a point upon the beach a short distance in the advance of the Beacon House. Col. R. G. Shaw commanded the right wing, and Lieut. Col. E. N. Hallowell the left. In this formation, as the dusk of the evening came on, the regiment advanced at quick time, leading the column; the enemy opened upon us a brisk fire; our peace now gradually increased till it became a run. Soon canister and musketry begun to tell upon us. With Col. Shaw leading, the assault was commenced. Exposed to the direct fire of canister and musketry, and, as the ramparts were mounted, to a like fire on our flanks, the havoc made in our ranks was very great. Upon leaving the ditch for the parapet, they obstinately contested with the bayonet our advance. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the men succeeded in driving the enemy from most of their guns, many following the enemy into the fort. It was here, upon the crest of the parapet, that Col. Shaw fell; here fell Capt.'s Russell and Simpkins; here also were most of the officers wounded. The colors of the regiment reached the crest, and were there fought for by the enemy; the State flag then torn from its staff, but the staff remains with us. Hand-grenades were now added to the missiles directed against the men.

The fight raged here for about an hour. When compelled to abandon the fort, the
men formed a line about 700 yards from the fort, under the command of Capt. Luis F. Emilio, the ninth captain in the line. The other captains were either killed or wounded.

The regiment then held the front until relieved by the Tenth Connecticut Regt. at
 about 2 a. m. of the 19th. The assault was made upon the south face of the fort. So many of the officers behaved with marked coolness and bravery, I cannot mention any above the others. It is due, however, to the following-named enlisted men that they be recorded above their fellows for special merit: Sergt. Robert J. Simmons, Company B; Sergt. William H. Carney, Company C; Corpl. Henry F. Peal, Company F; Private George Wilson, Company A.

The following is the list of casualties: Col. R. G. Shaw, killed; Lieut. Col. E. N.
 Hallowell, wounded; Adjt. G. W. James, wounded; Capt. S. Willard, wounded; Capt. C. J. Russell,* missing, supposed killed; Capt. W. H. Simpkins,* missing, supposed killed; Capt. George Pope, wounded; Capt. E. L. Jones, wounded; Capt. J. W. M. Appleton, wounded; Capt. O. E. Smith, wounded; First Lieut. R. H. L. Jewett, wounded; First Lieut. W. H. Homans, wounded; Second Lieut. C. E. Tucker, wounded; Second Lieut. J. A. Pratt, wounded.

Enlisted men--killed, 9; wounded, 147; missing, 100; total, 256.*

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Col., Cmdg. Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers.

Cmdg. U.S. Forces, Morris Island, S.C.

Source: Official Records, CHAP. XL. OPERATIONS ON MORRIS ISLAND, S.C. [Series I. Vol. 28. Part I, Reports. Serial No. 46.]

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