appearance of the negro in the Union army
altered the state of affairs very much.
The policy of the general Government was
changed, and the one question which Mr.
Lincoln had tried to avoid became the
question of the war. General
Butler, first at Fortress Monroe and
then at New Orleans, had defined the status
of the slave, "contraband " and then
"soldiers," in advance of the Emancipation
Proclamation. General Hunter,
in command at the South, as stated in a
previous chapter, had taken an early
opportunity to strike the rebellion in its
most vital part, by arming negroes in his
Department, after declaring them free.
Notwithstanding the President revoked Hunter's
order, a considerable force was organized
and equipped as early as December, 1862; in
fact a. regiment of blacks was under arms
when the President issued the Emancipation
Proclamation. This regiment, the 1st
South Carolina, was in command of Colonel
T. W. Higginson, who with a portion of
his command ascended the St. Mary's river on
transports, visited Florida and Georgia, and
had several engagements with the enemy.
After an absence of ten or more days, the
expedition returned to South Carolina
without the loss of a man.
Had there been but one army in the field, and the
fighting confined to one locality, the
Phalanx would have been mobilized, but as
there were several armies it was distributed
among the several forces, and its conduct in
battle, camp, march and bivouac, was spoken
of by the commanders of the various armies
in terms which any class of soldiers, of any
race, might well be proud of.
General Grant, on the 24th of July,
following the capture of Vicksburg, wrote to
"The negro troops are easier to preserve
discipline among than are our white troops,
and I doubt not will prove equally good for
garrison duty. All that have been
tried have fought bravely."
This was six days after the unsurpassed bravery of the
54th Regiment Massachusetts
Volunteers—representing the North in the
black Phalanx—had planted its blood stained
banner on the ramparts of Fort Wagner.
the Southern negroes, who, up to this time,
had reddened the waters of the Mississippi.
It was the freedman's blood
that had moistened the soil, and if
ignorance could be so intrepid still greater
daring might be expected on the part
of the more intelligent men of the race.
The assault on Fort "Wagner, July 18, 1803, was one of
the most heroic of the whole four years'
war. A very
graphic account of the entire movement is
given in the following article:
"At daylight, on the morning of the 12th
of July a strong column of our troops
advanced swiftly to the attack of Fort
Wagner. The rebels were well prepared,
and swept with their guns every foot of the
approach; to the fort, but our soldiers
pressed on, and gained a foothold on the
parapet; but, not being supported by other
troops, nor aided by the guns of the fleet,
which quietly looked on, they were forced to
retreat, leaving many of their comrades in
the hands of the enemy.
"It is the opinion of many that if the fleet had moved
up at the same time, and raked the fort with
their guns, our troops would have succeeded
in taking it; but the naval captains said in
their defence that they knew nothing of the
movement, and would have gladly assisted in
the attack had they been notified.
"This, unfortunately, was not the only instance of a
want of harmony or co-operation between the
land and naval forces operating against
Charleston. Had they been under the
control of one mind, the sacrifice of life
in the siege of Forts Wagner and Sumter
would have been far less. We will not
assume to say which side was at fault, but
by far the greater majority lay the blame
upon the naval officers. Warfare
kindles up the latent germs of jealousy in
the human breast, and the late rebellion
furnished many cruel examples of its
effects, both among the rebels and among the
patriots. We have had the misfortune
them in more than one
campaign, and upon more than one bloody and
"By the failure of this attack, it was evident that the
guns of Wagner must lie silenced before a
successful assault with infantry could be
made; and, in order to accomplish this, a
siege of greater or less duration was
required. Therefore earthworks were
immediately thrown up at the distance of
about a thousand yards from the fort, and
the guns and mortars from Folly Island
brought over to be placed in position.
"This Morris Island is nothing but a narrow bed of
sand, about three miles in length, with a
breadth variable from a few hundred yards to
a few feet. Along the central portion
of the lower end a ridge of white sand hills
appear, washed on one side by the tidal
waves, and sloping on the other into broad
marshes, more than two miles in width, and
intersected by numerous deep creeks.
Upon the extreme northern end, Battery
Gregg, which the rebels used in reducing
Fort Sumter in 1861, had been strengthened,
and mounted with five heavy guns, which
threw their shot more than half way down the
island. A few hundred yards farther
down the island, and at its narrowest
portion, a strong fort had been erected, and
armed with seventeen guns and mortars.
This was the famous Fort Wagner; and, as its
cannon prevented any farther progress up the
island, it was necessary to reduce it before
our forces could approach nearer to Fort
" It was thought by our engineers that a continuous
bombardment of a few days by our siege
batteries and the fleet might dismount the
rebel cannon, and demoralize the garrison,
so that our brave boys, by a sudden rush,
might gain possession of the works.
Accordingly our seige train was brought over
from Folly Island, and a parallel commenced
about a thousand yards from Wagner.
Our men worked with such energy that nearly
thirty cannon and mortars were in position
on the 17th of July. On the 18th of
July the bombardment commenced. The
land batteries poured a tempest of shot into
the south side of Wagner, while the fleet
moved up to within short range, and battered
the east side with their great guns. In the
mean time the rebels were not silent, but
gallantly stood to their guns, returning
shot for shot with great precision.
But, after a few hours, their fire
slackened; gun after gun be came silent, as
the men were disabled, and, when the clock
struck four in the afternoon, Wagner no
longer responded to the furious cannonade
the Federal forces. Even the men had taken
shelter beneath the bomb-proofs, and no sign
of life was visible about the grim and
"Many of our officers were now so elated with the
apparent result of demolition, that they
urged General Gillmore to
allow? them to assault the fort as soon as
it became dark. General
Gillmore yielded to the solicitations of
the officers, but very reluctantly, for he
was not convinced that the proper time had
arrived; but the order was finally given for
attack to take place just after dark.
Fatal error as to time, for our troops in
the daytime would have been successful,
since they would not
have collided with each other; they could
have seen their foes, and the arena of
combat, and the fleet could have assisted
them with their guns, and prevented the
landing of the re-enforcements from
" It was a beautiful and calm evening when the troops
who were to form the assaulting column moved
out on to the broad and smooth beach left by
the receding tide.
"The last rays of the setting sun illumined the grim
walls and shattered mounds of Wagner with a
flood of crimson light, too soon, alas!
to be deeper dyed with the red blood of
"Our men halted, and formed their ranks upon the beach,
a mile and more away from the deadly breach.
Quietly they stood leaning upon their guns,
and awaiting the signal of attack.
There stood, side by side, the hunter of the
far West, the farmer of the North, the stout
lumber man from the forests of Maine, and
the black Phalanx Massachusetts had armed
and sent to the field.
"In this hour of peril there was no jealousy, no
contention. The black Phalanx were to
lead the forlorn hope. And they were
proud of their position, and conscious of
its danger. Although we had seen many
of the famous regiments of the English,
French, and Austrian armies, we were never
more impressed with the fury and majesty of
war than when we looked upon the solid mass
of the thousand black men, as they stood,
like giant statues of marble, upon the
snow-white sands of the beach, waiting the
order to advance. And little did we
think, as we gazed with admiration upon that
splendid column of four thousand brave men,
that ere an hour had passed, half of them
would be swept away, maimed or crushed in
the gathering whirlwind of death! Time
passed quickly, and twilight was fast
deepening into the darkness of night, when
the signal was given. Onward moved the
chosen and ill-fated band, making the earth
tremble under the heavy and monotonous tread
of the dense mass of thousands of men.
Wagner lay black and grim in the distance,
and silent. Not a glimmer of light was
seen. Not a gun replied to the bombs
which our mortars still constantly hurled
into the fort. Not a shot was returned
to the terrific volleys of the giant frigate
Ironsides, whose shells, ever and anon,
plunged into the earth works, illuminating
their recesses for an instant in the glare
of their explosion, but revealing no signs
"Were the rebels all dead? Had they fled from the
pitiless storm which our batteries had
poured down upon them for so many hours?
Where were they?
"Down deep beneath the sand heaps were excavated great
caverns, whose floors were level with the
tide, and whose roofs were formed of huge
trunks of trees laid in double rows.
Still above these massive beams sand was
heaped so deeply that even our enormous
shells could not penetrate the roofs, though
they fell from the skies above. In
these dark subterranean retreats two
thousand men lay hid, like panthers in a
swamp, waiting to leap forth in fury upon
"The signal given, our forces advanced rapidly towards
[Pg. 253] - BLANK
AT FORT WAGNER
Desperate charge of the 54th Mass., Vols.,
in the assault on Fort Wagner, July 1__,
while our mortars in the rear tossed their
bombs over their heads. The
Fifty-fourth Massachusetts [Phalanx
Regiment] led the attack, supported by the
6th Conn., 48th N. Y., 3rd N. H., 76th Penn.
and the 9th Maine Regiments. Onward
swept the immense mass of men, swiftly and
silently, in the dark shadows of night.
Not a flash of light was seen in the
distance! No sentinel hoarsely
challenged the approaching foe! All
was still save the footsteps of the
soldiers, which sounded like the roar of the
distant surf, as it beats upon the
"Ah, what is this! The silent and shattered walls of
Wagner all at once burst forth into a
blinding sheet of vivid light, as though
they had suddenly been transformed by some
magic power into the living, seething crater
of a volcano! Down came the whirlwind
of destruction along the beach with the
swiftness of lightning! How fearfully
the hissing shot, the shrieking bombs, the
whistling bars of iron, and the whispering
bullet struck and crushed through the dense
masses of our brave menuever shall forget
the terrible sound of that awful blast of
death, which swept down, shattered or dead,
a thousand of our men. Not a shot had
missed its aim. Every bolt of steel,
every globe of iron and lead, tasted of
" 'Forward! ' shouted the undaunted Putnam, as the
column wavered and staggered like a giant
stricken with death.
" ' Steady, my boys! ' murmured the brave leader,
General Strong, as cannon-shot
dashed him, maimed and bleeding, into the
"In a moment the column recovered itself, like a
gallant ship at seawhen buried for an
instant under an immense wave.
"The ditch is reached; a thousand men leap into it,
clamber up the shattered ramparts, and
grapple with the foe, which yields and falls
back to the rear of the fort. Our men
swarm over the walls, bayoneting the
desperate rebel cannoneers. Hurrah!
the fort is ours!
"But now came another blinding blast from concealed
guns in the rear of the fort, and our men
went down by scores. Now the rebels
rally, and, re-enforced by thousands of the
chivalry, who have landed on the beach under
cover of darkness, unmolested by the guns of
the fleet. They hurl themselves with
fury upon the remnant of our brave band.
The struggle is terrific. Our supports
hurry up to the aid of their comrades, but
as they reach the ramparts they fire a
volley which strikes down many of our men.
Fatal mistake! Our men rally once
more; but, in spite of an heroic resistance,
they are forced back again to the edge of
the ditch. Here the brave Shaw, with
scores of his black warriers, went down,
fighting desperately. Here Putnam met
his death wound, while cheering and urging
on the overpowered Phalanx men.
"What fighting, and what fearful carnage! Hand to
hand, breast to breast! Here, on this
little strip of land, scarce bigger than the
human hand, dense masses of men struggled
with fury in the darkness; and so fierce was
the contest that the sands were reddened and
soaked with human gore.
"But resistance was vain. The assailants were
forced back again to
the beach, and the rebels trained their
recovered cannon anew upon the retreating
"What a fearful night was that, as we gathered up our
wounded heroes, and bore them to a place of
shelter! And what a mournful
morning, as the sun rose with his clear
beams, and revealed our terrible losses!
What a rich harvest Death had gathered to
himself during the short struggle!
Nearly two thousand of our men had fallen.
More than six hundred of our brave boys lay
dead on the ramparts of the fatal fort, in
its broad ditch, and along the beach at its
base. A flag of truce party went out
to bury our dead, but General
Beauregard they found had already buried
them, where they fell, in broad, deep
the young and gallant commander of the 54th
Regiment, was formerly a member of the
famous 7th N. Y. Regiment. He was of
high, social and influential standing, and
in his death won destruction. The
confederates added to his fame and glory,
though unintentionally, by burying him with
his soldiers, or as a confederate Major
expressed the information, when a request
for the Colonel's body was made, "we have
buried him with his niggers! "
A poet has immortalized the occurrence and the gallant
buried him with his niggers!'
Together they fought and died.
There wan room for them all where
they laid him.
(The grave was deep and wide).
For his beauty and youth and valor,
Their patience and love and pain;
And at the last together
They shall be found again.
'They buried him with his niggers!'
Earth holds no prouder grave;
There in not a mausoleum
In the world beyond the wave.
That a nobler tale has hallowed,
Or a purer glory crowned.
Than the nameless trench where they
The brave so faithful found.
buried him with his niggers I'
A wide grave should it be:
They buried more in that shallow
Than human eye could see.
Aye, all the shames and sorrows
Of more than a hundred years
Lie under the weight of that
Despite those cruel sneers.
They buried him with his niggers!'
But the glorious souls set free
Are lending the van of the army
That fights for liberty.
Brothers in death, in glory
The same palm branches bear;
And the crown is as bright o'er the
As over the golden hair.
with a band of brothers
Who for him would fain have died;
Buried with the gallant fellows
Who fell fighting by his side;
Buried with the men God gave him.
Those whom he was sent to save;
Buried with the martyr heroes.
He has found an honored grave.
Buried where his dust so precious
Makes the soil a hallowed spot;
Buried where by Christian patriot.
He shall never be forgot.
in the ground accursed.
Which man's fettered feet have trod;
Buried where his voice still
Appealing for the slave to God;
Fare thee well, thou noble warrior.
Who in youthful beauty went
On a high and holy mission,
By the God of battles sent.
Chosen of him. 'elect and precious,'
Well didst thou fulfil thy part;
When thy country 'counts her
She shall wear thee on her heart."
The heroic courage displayed by the gallant Phalanx at
the assault upon Fort Wagner was not
surpassed by the Old Guard at Moscow.
gives this confederate account of the
fight, which is especially interesting as it
shows the condition of affairs inside the
"On the night of the 14th the
monster iron-plated frigate New Iron sides,
crossed the bar and added her formidable and
ponderous battery to those destined for the
great effort of reducing the sullen
earthwork which barred the Federal advance.
There were now five monitors, the Ironsides
and a fleet of gunboats and monster hulks
grouped together and only waiting the signal
to unite with the land batteries when the
engineers should pronounce them ready to
form a cordon of flame around the devoted
work. The Confederates were prepared
for the ordeal. For for fear that
communications with the city and the
mainland, which was had by steamboat at
night to Cummings' Point should be
interrupted, rations and ordnance stores had
been accumulated, but there was trouble
about water. Some was sent from
Charleston and wells had been dug in the
sand inside and outside the fort, but it was
not good. Sand bags had been provided
and trenching tools supplied sufficient for
any supposed requirement.
"The excitement of the enemy in front after the 10th
was manifest to the Confederates and
announced an 'impending crisis.' It
became evident that some extraordinary
movement was at hand. The Federal
forces on James Island had been attacked on
the morning of the 16th by General
Hagood and caused to retire, Hagood
occupying the abandoned positions, and on
the 17th the enemy's troops were transferred
to Little Folly and Morris Islands. It
has been stated that the key to the signals
employed by the Federals was in possession
of General Taliaferro at this
time, and he was thus made acquainted with
the intended movement and put upon his
guard. That is a mistake. He had
no such direct information, although it is
true that afterwards the key was discovered
and the signals interpreted with as much
ease as by the Federals themselves.
The 18th of July was the day determined upon
by the Federal commanders for the grand
attempt which, if successful, would level
the arrogant fortress and confuse it by the
mighty power of their giant artillery with
the general mass of surrounding sand hills,
annihilate its garrison or drive them into
the relentless ocean, or else consign them
to the misery of hostile prisons.
"The day broke beautifully, a gentle breeze slightly
agitated the balmy atmosphere, and with
rippling dimples beautified the bosom of
the placid sea. All nature was serene
and the profoundest peace held dominion over
all the elements. The sun, rising with
the early splendors of his midsummer glory,
burnished with golden tints the awakening
ocean, and flashed his reflected light back
from the spires of the beleag-
midst of thousands of their white
comrades-in-arms, to whom they nightly
repeated the story of the late terrible
struggle. The solemn sentry pacing the
ramparts of Fort Wagner night and day, his
bayonet glittering in the rays of the sun or
in the moonlight, seemed to be guarding the
sepulchre of Col. Shaw and
those who fell beside him within the walls
of that gory fort, and who were buried where
they fell. Only those who have lived
in such a camp can appreciate the stories of
hair-breadth escapes from hand-to-hand
The repose lasted until January, when an important
movement took place for the permanent
occupation of Florida. The following
account, written by the author of this book,
was published in " The Journal," of Toledo,
"The twentieth day of
February, 1864, was one of the most
disastrous to the Federal arms, and to the
administration of President
Lincoln, in the annals of the war for
the union. Through private advice
Mr. Lincoln had received
information which led him to believe that
the people in the State of Florida, a large
number of them, at least, were ready and
anxious to identify the State with the cause
of the Union, and he readily approved of the
Federal forces occupying the State, then
almost deserted by the rebels. Gen.
Gillmore, commanding the Department
of the South had a large force before
Charleston, S. C, which had been engaged in
the capture of Fort Wagner and the
bombardment of the city of Charleston, and
the reduction of Sumter.
"These objects being accomplished, the army having
rested several months, Gen.
Gillmore asked for leave to undertake
such expeditions within his Department as he
might think proper. About the middle
of December, 1861, the War Department
granted him his request, and immediately he
began making preparations for an expedition,
collecting transports, commissary stores,
drilling troops, etc., etc.
"About the 1st of January, 1864, General
Gillmore wrote to the
General-in-Chief, Halleck, that he was
about to occupy the west bank of St. Johns
river, with the view (1st) to open an outlet
to cotton, lumber, etc., (2d) to destroy one
of the enemy's sources of supplies, (3d) to
give the negroes opportunity of enlisting in
the army, (4th) to inaugurate measures for
the speedy restoration of Florida to the
"In accordance with instructions from President
Lincoln received through the
assistant Adjutant General, Major J. H.
Hay, who would accompany the expedition,
on the 5th of February the troops began to
embark under the immediate command of
General Truman Seymour, on
board of twenty steamers and eight
schooners, consisting of the following
regiments, numbering in all six thousand
troops, and under convoy
of the gunboat Norwich:
"40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry, Col. Guy V.
"7th Connecticut, Col. J. R. Hawley.
Hampshire, Col. Abbott.
"47th, 48th and
115th New York, Col. Barton's
"The Phalanx regiments were: 8th Pennsylvania, Col.
Fribley; 1st North Carolina, Lt.-Col.
Reed; 54th Massachusetts, Col.
Hallowell; 2d South Carolina, Col. Beecher;
55th Massachusetts, Col. Hartwell, with
three batteries of white troops, Hamilton's,
Elder's and Langdon's. Excepting the
two last named regiments, this force landed
at Jacksonville on the 7th of February, and
pushed on, following the 40th Massachusetts
Mounted Infantry, which captured by a bold
dash Camp Finnigan, about seven miles from
Jacksonville, with its equipage, eight
pieces of artillery, and a number of
prisoners. On the 10th, the whole
force had reached Baldwin, a railroad
station twenty miles west of Jacksonville.
There the army encamped, except Col.
Henry's force, which continued its
advance towards Tallahassee, driving a small
force of Gen. Finnegan's
command before him. This was at the
time all the rebel force in east Florida.
On the 18th Gen. Seymour,
induced by the successful advance of Col.
Henry, lead his troops from Baldwin with ten
days' rations in their haversacks, and
started for the Suwanee river, about a
hundred and thirty miles from Baldwin
station, leaving the 2d South Carolina and
the 55th Massachusetts Phalanx regiments to
follow. After a fatiguing march the
column, numbering about six thousand,
reached Barbour's Station, on the Florida
Central Railroad, twenty miles from Baldwin.
Here the command halted and bivouaced, the
night of the 19th, in the woods bordering
upon a wooded ravine running off towards the
river from the railroad track.
"It is now nineteen years ago, and I write
from memory of a night long to be
remembered. Around many a Grand Army
Camp-fire in the last fifteen years this
bivouac has been made the topic of an
evening's talk. It was attended with no
particular hardship. The weather was
such as is met with in these latitudes, not
cold, not hot, and though a thick vapory
cloud hid the full round moon from early
eventide until the last regiment filed into
the woods, yet there was a halo of light
that brightened the white, sandy earth and
gave to the moss-laden limbs of the huge
pines which stood sentry-like on the
roadside the appearance of a New England
grove on a frosty night, with a shelled road
leading through it.
"It was well in the night when the two Phalanx regiments
filed out of the road into the woods,
bringing up the rear of the army, and took
shelter under the trees from the falling
dew. Amid the appalling stillness that
reigned throughout the encampment, except
the tramp of feet and an occasional
whickering of a battery horse, no sound
broke the deep silence. Commands were
given in an undertone and whispered along
the long lines of weary troops that lay
among the trees and the underbrush of the
pine forest. Each soldier lay with his
musket beside him, ready to
spring to his feet and in
line for battle, for none knew the moment
the enemy, like a tiger, would pounce upon
them. It was a night of intense
anxiety, shrouded in mystery as to what
to-morrow would bring. The white and
black soldier in one common bed lay in
battle panoply, dream mg their common dreams
of home and loved ones.
"Here lay the heroic 54th picturing to themselves the
memorable nights of July 17 and 18, their
bivouac on the beach and their capture of
Fort Wagner and the« terrible fate of their
comrades. They were all veteran troops save
the 8th Pennsylvania, which upon many hard
fought fields had covered themselves with
gallant honor in defense of their country's
cause, from Malvern Hill to Morris Island.
It was in the gray of the next morning that Gen.
Seymour's order aroused the command.
The men partook of a hastily prepared cup of
coffee and meat and hard-tack from their
haversacks. At sunrise the troops took
up the line of march, following the railroad
for Lake City. Col. Henry,
with the 40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry
and Major Stevens' independent
battalion of Massachusetts cavalry, led the
column. About half-past one o'clock
they reached a point where the country road
crossed the railroad, about two miles east
of Olustee, and six miles west of Sanderson,
a station through which the troops passed
about half-bast eleven o'clock. As the head
of the column reached the crossing the rebel
pickets fired and fell back upon a line of
skirmishers, pursued by Col. Henry's
command. The enemy's main force was
supposed to be some miles distant from this
place, consequently General Seymour had not
taken the precaution to protect his flanks,
though marching through an enemy's country.
Consequently he found his troops flanked on
"Col. Henry drove the skirmishers back
upon their main forces, which were strongly
posted between two swamps. The
position was admirably chosen their
right rested upon a low, slight earthwork,
protected by rifle-pits, their center was
defended by an impassable swamp, and on
their left was a cavalry force drawn up on a
small elevation behind the shelter of a
grove of pines. Their camp was
intersected by the rail road, on which was
placed a battery capable of operating
against the center and left of the advancing
column, while a rifle gun, mounted on a
railroad flat, pointed down the road in
"Gen. Seymour, in order to attack this
strongly fortified position, had necessarily
to place his troops between the two swamps,
one in his front, the other in the rear.
The Federal cavalry, following up the
skirmishers, had attacked the rebel right
and were driven back, but were met by the
7th New Hampshire, 7th Connecticut, a
regiment of the black Phalanx (8th
Pennsylvania), and Elder's battery of four
and Hamilton's of six pieces. This
force was hurled against the rebel right
with such impetuosity that the batteries
were within one hundred yards of the rebel
line of battle before they knew it.
However, they took position, and supported
by the Phalanx regiment, opened a vigorous
fire upon the rebel earthworks. The
Phalanx regiment advanced within twenty or
CHARGE OF THE PHALANX.
[Pg. 272] - BLANK
[Pg. 275] - BLANK
PHALANX RIVER PICKETS DEFENDING THEMSELVES
Federal picket boat near Fernandina, Fla.,
attached by Confederate sharpshooters
stationed in the trees on the banks.
[Pg. 285] - BLANK
[Pg. 286] - CHAPTER VIII. -
THE ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND