Fort Wagner or Battery Wagner was a beachhead fortification on Morris Island, South Carolina, that covered the southern approach to Charleston Harbor.
It was the site of two American Civil War battles in the campaign known as Operations Against the Defenses of Charleston in 1863, and it is considered one of the toughest beachhead defenses constructed by the Confederate Army.
The First Battle of Fort Wagner, occurred on July 11, 1863. Only 12 Confederate soldiers were killed, as opposed to 339 losses for the U.S. side.
The Second Battle of Fort Wagner, a week later, is better known. It was the Union attack on July 18, 1863, led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first major American military units made up of black soldiers. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led the 54th Massachusetts on foot while they charged, and was killed in the assault.
The Confederates abandoned Fort Wagner on September 7, 1863, after resisting 60 days of shelling. The 54th Massachusetts played a crucial combat role, proving to skeptics that African American soldiers would fight bravely if given the chance.
The publicity of the battle of Fort Wagner led to further action for black U.S. troops in the Civil War, and it spurred additional recruitment that gave the Union Army a further numerical advantage in troops over the South.