Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 20.djvu/173

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The Defence of Battery Wagner. 167

the i8th of July, 1863. The defence of Charleston harbor and of Fort Sumter, which commanded the channel approach to that city, is familiar to the civilized world. The memories of that heroic struggle have been preserved by history, and embalmed in story and in song ; and while incidental reference will be made to these defences during a long and memorable siege, my remarks will be confined chiefly to the military operations against Wagner on the i8th July. The almost unexampled magnitude of the war, involving during its four years of incessant strife an enormous sacrifice of men and material on both sides, tended to obscure and obliterate the details and incidents of any particular military event yet the heroic defence of this outpost battery located upon an isolated island, against the powerful military and naval forces which assailed it, " is worthy in itself of the dignity of a great epic " even in the drama which in its gigantic proportions required a continent for its theatre of action. History fails to furnish example more heroic, conflict more sangui- nary, tenacity and endurance more determined and courageous than were displayed in the defence of this historic little stronghold. From the time of its construction to the i8th July, 1863, it was known and designated as "Battery Wagner;" after that memorable day, the enemy called it " Fort Wagner." A brave and appreciative foe thus christened it in a baptism of blood, but that earlier name was known only to the heroic dead who fell defending it upon its ram- parts, and my unhallowed hand shall not disturb it. Twenty years and more have elapsed since that bloody day, but the lesson then enforced is as important as ever, and no richer inheritance of emprise and valor will ever be transmitted to posterity. In speaking of the defence of Charleston a prominent writer in " the French Journal of Military Science" states, that prodigies of talent, audacity, intrepi- dity and peserverance are exhibited in the attack as in the defence of this city which will assign to the siege of Charleston an excep- tional place in military annals. Viscount Wolseley, Adjutant-Gene- ral of the British army, in reviewing some of the military records of the war in the "North American Review" of November, 1889, uses the following language: "Were I bound to select out of all four volumes the set of papers which appears of most importance at the present moment not only from an American, but also from an Euro- pean point of view, I should certainly name those which describe the operations around Charleston." For the instruction of those who are unfamiliar with the topography of Charleston and surround-