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Civil War Trust

Official Report from General William Booth Taliaferro, C.S.A.

Report from Battery Wagner, July 18, 1863
From the Official Records, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 418 - 419

William B. Taliaferro
William B. Taliaferro
The Infantry, excepting the Charleston Battalion, and the artillery, excepting the gun detachments, were placed, shortly After the shelling commenced, under cover of the bomb-proofs. The first-named battalion, with a heroic intrepidity never surpassed, animated by the splendid example of their field officers (Lieutenant-Colonel Gailllard and Major David Ramsay), had no protection except such as the parapet afforded them, yet maintained their position without flinching during the entire day. The 10-inch gun was fired at intervals of ten to fifteen minutes against the iron-clads and the heavy guns on the land face whenever the working parties or cannoneers of the enemy showed themselves within range. The mortar, in charge of Captain Tatom, was fired every half hour.

The casualties during the day of the bombardment did not exceed 8 killed and 20 wounded.

About 2 o'clock, the flag halyards were cut and the Confederate flag blown over into the fort. Instantly, Major Ramsey, Charleston Battalion, Lieutenant (William E.) Readick, Sixty-third Georgia (Artillery); Sergeant Shelton and Private Flynn (Charleston Battallion) sprang forward and replaced it on the ramparts, while at the same time Captain R. H. Barnwell, dashed out, seized a battle-flag, and erected it by the side of the garrison flag. This flag was subsequently shot away an replaced by Private Gaillard, Charleston Battallion.

As night approached, the increased severity of the bombardment plainly indicated that an assault would be made, and orders were issued to the commands to prepare to man the ramparts. At 7:45 O'clock the lines of the enemy were seen advancing and the bombardment slackened to an occasional shell from the ships and the land batteries. As the enemy advanced, they were met by a shower of grape and cannister from our guns and a terrible fire of musketry from the Charleston Battallion and the 51st. North Carolina. These two commands gallantly maintained their positions and drove the enemy back quickly from their front, with immense slaughter.

In the meantime, on the left of the work, the Thirty-first North Carolina could not be induced to occupy their position and ingloriously deserted the ramparts, when, no resistance being offered at this point, the advance of the enemy, pushing forward, entered the ditch and ascended the work at the extreme left salient of the land face, and occupied it. I and once directed Lt. Col. Gaillard to keep up a severe enfilading fire to his left, and directed the field pieces on the left of the fort outside of the sally port to direct their fire to the right, so as to sweep the ditch and exterior slope of that part of the work thus occupied, and thus, at the same time, prevented the enemy from being supported at that point, and cut off all hope of his escape. The main body of the enemy, after a brief attempt to pass over the field of fire of our artillery and the shells of Fort Sumter and must have suffered heavily as long as they were within range of our guns.

Colonel Harris of the Engineers, to whose skill I am much indebted, and whose coolness and gallantry were most conspicuous during the previous day, placed a howitzer on the right of the fort, outside the beach, and cooperated with the guns on the left.

Thinking it advisable to dislodge the enemy at once, before they had time to communicate their temporary success, I called for volunteers to dislodge them. This call was promptly met by Major (J. H.) McDonald, 51st. North Carolina Troops, and by Captain Ryan, Charleston Battallion. I selected Captain Ryan's company and directed them to charge the enemy in the salient. This work they advance to with great spirit, but, unfortunately, Captain Ryan was killed at the moment of the advance, and his men hesitated and the opportunity was lost. Whenever the enemy showed themselves, a fierce fire was kept up upon them by the Fifty-first North Carolina and, and after considerable injury thus inflicted, a party of the Thirty-second Georgia Regiment having been sent along the parapet to the left and on the top of the magazine to approach their rear, they surrendered. In front of the Fort, the scene of carnage is indescribable. The repulse was overwhelming, and the loss to the enemy could not have been less than 2,000 in killed, wounded and prisoners- perhaps much more.

Out loss I estimate at 50 killed and 150 wounded, but will forward an exact return.

The assailants consisted of troops from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio and New York, and the 54th. Massachusetts (Negro) Regiment under Col.[R. G.], Shaw who was killed, under the command of Brigadier-General Strong. The supports were commanded by Brigadier General Terry. I will hereafter make a supplementary report and give such details as may be required. This report has never been located. .

As to the damage done to the work and guns, I have the honor to refer you to the reports of the engineer officer and chief of artillery, which will be forwarded. I will remark this: While the injury done to the work is considerable, it is much less than could have been expected, and the damage to the guns, it is hoped, may be repaired in a short time.

In conclusion, while I feel it is my duty to mention the disgraceful conduct of the Thirty-first North Carolina Troops, I am proud to bear testimony to the efficiency and gallantry of the other troops. General McKethan's regiment, Fifty-first North Carolina troops, redeemed the reputation of the Thirty-first regiment. They gallantly sought their position under a heavy shelling, and maintained it during the action. Col McKethan, Lieutenant-colonel [C.R.] Hobson and major McDonald are the field officers of this regiment and deserve special mention.

The Charleston Battallion distinguished themselves not only by their gallantry, but by their discipline and cool performance of duty, and obedience to orders under the excitement and confusion always incident to a night attack.

Lieutenant Col. Gaillard and the brave Major Ramsey, who, I regret to say, was severely wounded, deserve the highest expression . . .

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