After their Ironclad assault in April had been repulsed by massive bombardment from Charleston’s fortifications, the Union returned in July 1863, determined to reduce those fortifications. The primary obstacle, Fort Wagner, commanded the mouth of the harbour. Two attempted amphibious assaults, on 11 and 18 July, were repulsed with heavy Union casualties. The Union now subjected the Fort to relentless bombardment, both from the sea and from five batteries established on Morris Island. Meanwhile, two further assaults on 21 and 25 August were fought off, but advanced the Union ground troops to the vicinity of the Fort’s protective moat. Nearby Fort Sumter had been reduced to a ‘shapeless and harmless mass of ruin’ by 23 August. From 5 September, a continuous 36-hour bombardment killed 100 of the remaining defenders of Fort Wagner, preparatory to a final Union assault. The Fort’s Commander, Colonel Harrison, pre-empted the assault by ordering evacuation on the night of 7 September.
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