tv The Civil War 1862 Battle of Secessionville CSPAN November 17, 2019 9:55am-10:46am EST
>> [indiscernible] apolloh the entire film, 12, pinpoint for science, sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on real america. past herer nation's on american history tv. next on the civil war, dan welch discusses the 1862 full of secession bill. a union attempt to wrestle control. meantlling this area access to charleston, south carolina. an indispensable cassette or -- indispensable confederate port city. he is the co-author of the last road north, a guide through the gettysburg campaign, 1863. this was part of the emerging
civil war symposium. >> it is my honor to present our next speaker, who currently serves as a primary and secondary educator with the public school district in northeast ohio. previously, he was the education programs coordinator for the gettysburg foundation. he continues to serve as a park ranger at gettysburg military park. he received his bachelor of arts from youngstown state university where he studied instrumental music education, particularly in the french horn. i understand that pretty much means learning how to play on the up beat for anything that sousa has composed. laughter] he solicits all of the news and notes for the emerging civil war newsletter. that certainly is a tasking,
thankless job. as much as we love to write about history, we do not like to write and email a whole lot in response. sorry for not providing anything for the july newsletter. dan is a great guy. welcomer pleasure to him here to the stage. dan welsh. [applause] >> good afternoon everyone. when we think about civil war charleston, we think about the hotbed of the secessionist movement. we think about the earliest or about wagoner and the assault of the 54th massachusetts. since zell washington was not available today we are going to be talking about an aspect of civil war charleston that his --
that has been forgotten, the battle of succession smell. there have been several operations in the area of charleston harbor, polasky, you may need of the other seacoast islands in november of 1861. during this time, frances dupont had pushed confederate defenders. pushed confederate defenders aside. thomas w sherman would take hilton head island. despite these early successes with federal operations in the area, washington, d.c. became impatient with a campaign that thomas sherman had been taking. thus, they would later replace him with david hunter in april of 1862. general hunter, upon his appointment, would bring henry bend in with him. a brigadier general to this near -- this new theater of operations. by the time, the battle that she
was 48 years old. a west point graduate. he had graduated first in his class. he had joined the corps of engineers upon graduation from west point. became a skilled officer in coastal defenses. distinctiond with in the mexican-american war. he was wounded in action at one of us to. -- boy not vista. >> i want to give you an idea of who henry was. war, manyrican civil did not hold such highest team for his early pre-civil war resume. was involved, who in these active operations in the vicinity of charleston "an ass."lled him [laughter] further, he describes them as in
unfit tond utterly command. the tenant william thompson -- i believe general rosecrans was not far from wrong when he charged general brennan with cowardice. no one trusts him f. we take charles top, it will not be his fault. this is rather bitter. but it is a shame to put such men in command. his signal officer, lieutenant taft, would describe benham as a coward. this assessment will further foreshadow the events of 1862. despite these observations, within two weeks upon their arrival to the theater, generals hunter and benham had reduced. hunter would turn his attention to charleston, given benham the job that had previously been worked on by general stevens and sherman during sherman's
ten neuter theater. this is when strategy was still focusing on cities, much like the drive against richmond and now the drive against charleston. there had already been plans in place, but upon benham's arrival, he decided he would like to plan his own campaign, and he's going dismiss all of those earlier proposals, including the ones that stevens had worked on. benham instead proposes amassing a federal division under brigadier general wright halfway between hilton head and charleston have, them cross johns island and march to the river opposite james island. meanwhile, stevens' division on port royal island would embark on a fleet of transports. there they would combine with general wright and attack the james island defenses. general benham believed it would only take a matter of days after that for the fall of those defenses to get to charleston harbor. but the time table that generals hunter and benham envisioned for this campaign would radically change, as they learned new intelligence about the confederate numbers and
strength in the area. it was from a escaped slave. he had stolen a confederate ship and would later share his knowledge of the local con fed race defenses with hunter. thus hunter would give benham the ok to begin executing his plan of operations in the area. as the federal chain against charleston began in 1862, the relationships in the theater was strained at best. the previous commander in the department of south carolina and georgia, perhaps someone you've heard of before here in virginia, robert e. lee, had left months earlier for richmond. he is since been replaced by john c. pemberton. he clashed with the south carolina governor and the mayor of charleston, but also his chief subordinate officer, pictured there on the screen. ripley was unable to get along with let alone work with
pemberton, and gain petitioning in earnest to be transferred out of the district and eventually the request would be granted. to replace ripley, pemberton would rise through the ranks. the hero of first manassas. as all of these shifting of officers would occur, letters began pouring in to richmond to lead, president jefferson davis requesting someone, anyone, to replace john w. pemberton. a former united states and later confederate congressman wrote a letter to robert e. lee begging him to replace pemberton as he "does not possess the confidence of his officers, his troops, or the people of charleston." in the meantime, however, pemberton would order the abandonment of local defensive works. he would even recommend the abandoning of fort sumter and fort maltrey in charleston harbor, fulfilling an earlier design of strategy that robert e. lee had laid out before leaving for richmond.
but this suggestion of abandoning charleston, abandoning fort sumter, abandoning fort maltrey was the last straw for confederate officials in south carolina, including governor pickens, who blew his top upon hearing this. and pickens would now join a whole chorus of those begging richmond for a new department commander. in the department of south carolina and georgia, those officers and men that were in the ranks, those that were stationed in the trenches, those that were manning the gurnings as they say, performing quite well, they were working together to strengthen these defensive positions, including a fort known as tower battery. now, as the campaign would begin, general benham's plan would go into whacks the invasion of james island began in the early hours of june 2, 1862. general wright's division would begin their move to seabrook island, and then to the causeway to johns island.
what is supposed to be a day-long movement per general benham's instructions would take wright's men days as the high heat, rain turning the roads to mud and additional storms would slow their progress. finally on june 5, three days later, nearing 8:00 a.m., the lead elements of the division reached their assigned division. a member of the third rhode island heavy ar hill at this would recall the march during this period. he said, "our little army was floundered. i saw the hardiest in my command proud, self-reliant officers men, sit down and cry like children while they cut off their shoes and then dragged themselves along to shelter." as wright's men were struggling to get to their assigned destination per benham's plan, stevens' division had been on the east bank of the river for three days, when wright's troops finally began to arrive. stevens' division had landed on une 2 at a cross over to
legere island. of their new camp in the area of operations, james c. stevenson of the pennsylvania volunteer infantry, also known as the round heads, wrote this, he said, "the island was low and marshy, nearly covered with vines, brush, and timber. it was with difficulty we could find enough dry ground to sleep on. countless long-nosed mosquitos bled us day and night." william todd of the new york volunteer infantry also recalled the new environment, when he wrote, "we found ourselves in the most unpleasant and uncomfortable camp we had ever occupied. it was surrounded by swaumps rising from the saturated ground was thick enough to cut with a knife." how sour and moldy everything about our tents smelled. could imagine the conditions of setting up this new camp against this back drop in this environment. the following day, however, stevens' men would push out from the new camp.
as they did so, the loss of three confederate guns during a retreat of the previous day by brigadier general jist would bring these units into combat. states' rights were determined to ror these guns that had gotten stuck in, as the locals called, it fluff mud. he would order four companies of the 24th south carolina under the command of colonel ellison capers to get the job done. capers decided to engage the people in the area before recovering them. as the two sides began to collide, the firing would become general, and capers' forces would engage men from the pennsylvania 79th new york, and the 28th massachusetts, later of irish brigade fame. they would break the skirmish line, capture 20 men of the 100th pennsylvania, first soldiers to be captured in the campaign. but not long after this engagement started, federal naval guns in the river would
open up, and it would drive capers' force into the nearby woods. he failed in his plan to get the abandoned guns. he didn't rescue any of them. as a confederates pulled out members of the 79th new york would push forward and retrieve two out of the three abandoned pieces. following this skirmish, stevens' men would spend the next few days consolidating their defenses and organizing their regiments. pressure on james island and the confederate defenses there were building. as the pressure was mounting, and stevens and wright's division were spreading out from camps, the army of the potomac under the command of george b. mcclellan had continued to move up the peninsula, applying pressure on richmond. with mclogical clan's army moving daily closer to richmond, the confederate president jefferson davis would send out numerous calls across the many theaters of this conflict, begging for
reinforcements of those that were not currently under imminent threat of attack. on june 5, richmond would contact pemberton and ask for more troops from pemberton's forces in south carolina and georgia. pemberton would send troops, then stationed in savannah, georgia, under al
demander lawton to richmond. during this campaign, a departure of a confederate officer would cause yet another shifting to soldiers to new commands in the face of the enemy. the brigadier general william duncan smith would officially take command of the confederate defenses on james island on june 6, making his headquarters at the village of secessionville. one of the questions when i talk about secessionville is how did this place gets its name? the name of secessionville is rooted in very deep mythology and legend. secessionville was originally known as riversville, and the exact reason as to why the name was changed is still a mystery. but historians can make several
conjectures. one of the conjectures is that the town of secessionville became known as such as planters of the -- planter class would secede in the summertime to this small village. another story goes that two youths in the
area seceded from their elders and would establish a residence in the area and name it secessionville. but most historians will point towards the abortive 1851-1852 secessionist movement as why riversville became secessionville. as duncan smith became commanding officer of the james island defenses, placing his headquarters in secessionville, he would quickly implement a new force and a new tactic in the department, a new tactic and force that he would call "advanced forces," which would be a you're night move or shift to any areas along the defensive line quickly. he would also implement three con rd bases for the
defense of james island. now, over the coming weeks, as smith is working on strengthening the defenses on james island, through june 6 to june 10, plantation along the river became the focus of a growing unit of defensive line and the confederate probes of it. throughout june 6 and june 7, isaac stevens' men left the safety of this sandogs would perform a reconnaissance northward toward the very western edge of james island at the plantation, and a second recon sauns of the left and center of the rebel line itself in the area on june 8. meanwhile, horatio wright's men had begun exploring plantation, and on june 8, they had gotten a toe hold there and began to transfer their division into that property the following day on june 9. by nightfall on the the 9th, they had an occupied and armed camp. as the arrival of zpeevepbs wright's men and their growing position on june 6, 7, 8, and 9
continued, and command of a fort just opposite the federal camps known as tower battery, officers there were monitoring the development of these federal operations. the officer in charge of the day was a man by the name of colonel thomas lamar. he had developed into an aggressive leader despite a lack of military education by 1862. he had been born to a prominent plantation family from edgefield, south carolina, and he was a planter himself until he was elected to the state general assembly in 1860, where he was a strong supporter of the secessionist movement. when the war broke own, lamar would receive an appointment to serve as a staff officer on the governor of south carolina staff, but he very quickly found himself bored. and he petitioned for a field command, which he would finally get, and he would rise through the ranks following his shift in assignment.
they saw the soldiers begin to structure their camp on june 9, ordered guns inside the battery to open fire. he started throwing shell at the federal camps. would lawyer would keep his guns firing hour after hour after hour after nearly 24 hours until pemberton, hearing this going down from tower battery would send an order to lamar to stop firing. conserve your ammunition. lamar ignores the order and decides to not order them to stop firing, just slacken their rate of fire. the following day on june 10, pemberton, perhaps inspired by lamar's aggressive action on james island, would order general william smith and command of the defenses to probe a new union line and defense perimeter that had been established. the recon sauns would be given to colonel johnson in command of the advanced forces, or those mobile forces. as the first south carolina 47th georgia and 4th louisiana pushed toward the northwest
defensive line of horatio wright's position, companies of the 45th p.a., and 97th pennsylvania would push outside of their defenses and engage colonel johnson's command. he yelled above the growing din of the battle, here are the federal sons of bitches, now then, boys, give them hell, and the battle would begin. the confederate recon sauns, which turned into two separate general attacks, were quickly decimated with combined federal naval infantry and artillery. firing into the advancing confederate lines, it would break johnson's determination to continue the recon sauns. he would later report to general smith that the operation had failed, not only had it failed, but it failed to gain any valuable information n these new union positions. by june 10, he's now preparing to leave james island.
the department commander is deciding to head back to his headquarters at hilton head, noteding, "matters affecting the safety of the command and other portions of the department called for his presence." what hunter doesn't say in those official words is that what was demanding his presence was his wife, who was quite bored at headquarters in hilton head and was looking for something other to do. so hunter is employing to make his way back to headquarters at hilton head. before he leaves, he's going to send two different directives to benham with specific orders in writing on june 10 and june 11 of what benham could do and could not do while hunting was gone at hilton head. here's what he instructed him to do in writing, and these words are important in understanding the outcome, "you will make no attempt to advance on charleston or to attack fort johnson until largely reinforced or until you receive specific instructions to that
effect. you will, however, provide for a secure and entrenched encampment where your front can be covered by the fire of our gun boats from the river on the left and the creek from the river on the right." in essence, benham is not allowed to make any sort of offensive action, but he is allowed to provide for the defense of wright and stevens' divisions that are in camp on james island. remember those description of benham that stevens made, imbecile, not fit to command? benham, upon receiving these orders from hunter, will ignore them in the coming days. he believes that a quick movement towards tower battery could be successful with minimum casualties. it would then allow those men to push forward, attack fort johnson, and could bring charleston within their grasp just in a day's time. i will make this decision on june 15, and by this time, colonel lamar's guns at tower
battery had been hitting near the federal camps at the plantation. since hunter said benham had to protect these camps, he felt an attack was within his orders. he ordered his command to get ready, and he called his subordinates together for a council of war. the council would be a meeting of intense disagreement. general steven and wright expressed reservation about the the plan. but benham order it had done anyway. following the council stevens would go back to his tent and write his wife and say this, "we are now attempting an enterprise for which our force is entirely inadequate." the want of a property commander is fearful. we shall try to prevent any disaster occurring. this is all i can say at present." the foreshadowing of stevens' words on omnipresent. benham will tell his officers that the attack is necessary to capture or destroy tower battery, and the floating battery next to it, and it is
of his opinion there's no alternative since those bat riis covered their men's camps. furthermore, these positions were lost, the eventual movement on fort johnson and harleston would be impossible. his assault outlined objectives for both divisions under his command. stevens' division is to throw two brigades directly at the front, a direct frontal assault toward a prepared position. and this guy in the core of engineers before the american civil war. this says supposed to be done with bayonets, weapons unload, and to be done during the predawn darkness. colonel william's brigade is to attack with unloaded weapons to rely on the movement and bayonet. two companies of the 8th michigan would be labeled the for lorne hope, and they are to lead the assault that morning. another brigade was to mirror the movement of the division. 3,000 men in all, stevens'
division would be used in the frontal assault. meanwhile, wright's division would be to support stevens' men from the north, and benham believed his forces would be at charleston harbor by sun up on june 16. confederate forces in the area had been strengthening their positions on james island. during a june 14 tour of james island defenses by colonel johnson, the commander of the advanced forces, he felt the only prepared position that was strong enough to repel an attack was colonel lamar's tower battery. the men had significantly increased the strength of their position. tower battery included the , llowing, seven 24-pound guns it rose to nine feet above the surface of seven foot ditch in front and a 16-foot span from the bottom of the ditch to the top. additionally, there was one approach to the fort.
bovet flanks were impassable swamps, and the approach to the front narrowed to just 200 yards wide in the very front of tower battery. the field on the approach to the fort had been trance versed by ditches and hedges 500 yards from the fort and 1,000 yards from the front of the fort. one historian described tower battery this way, "the foferts uniquely built in a rough shape of the letter m with marshes on each side. nine cannon defended the fort, and one in the center flanked on either side with a 24-pounder rifled gun, a 24-pound smooth board, an 18-pounder. another battery to the north, lamar had an additional two 24-pounders, although they were there for the moment without their gun crews. within a two-hour march, the confederate high school a reserve of infantry numbering some 2,000 men who could be drawn on for support. in regards to the tower itself, one federal observer noted on their first look of the tower
june 8, "it is a still ton one built, nearly built not unlike a new york fire observatory in construction, almost, if not quite 200 feet high." on june 14, federal naval bat riis traded shots with tower battery. it was a contest that would last the next 24 hours. no n between trading shots with the federal forces, lamar's men continued to build and strengthen their battery. this work would lead colonel lamar to order his men to fire more deliberately and slow the rate of fire. the men continued to work until 3:00 a.m. on the morning of june 16. exhausted, lamar finally let his men sleep in their battery nd sleep without sidearms. lamar stayed awake waiting for the 22nd south carolina, and still not arrival, he would drift off to sleet. sentry sounded
the alarm of the approaching attack. 2:00 a.m. on june 16, general stevens got his column in motion. colonel of the 8th michigan will command the first brigade, which included the 8th michigan, 28th massachusetts, and 7th connecticut. colonel ledger would command the 2nd brigade, which included his regiment, the 100th pennsylvania, the 79th new york, and the 46th new york. captain rockwell would command four guns. and in all, stevens' division had 154 officers 2,806 men to participate in the frontal assault. generals wright and stevens are still strongly opposed to the attack on the early morning of june 16. rockwell, in command of the battery that's supposed to support the men, asked stevens at this moment, general, may ski what the plan of battle. stevens replied, damn it, sir there, isn't any plan. you will fire when you get a
chance and be careful not to hit any of our own men. at 4:00 a.m. the first brigade arrived just west of the river's horse. only 2 s,000 yards from tower bat r. as they arrived at this location, shots rang out from four startled confederate pickets, which of which were made sandror two run down. he selected for horn hope, two companies of the 8th michigan, would leave the advance and move through an opening in the second into a cotton feesmed as men deployed, stevens ordered a halt, which lasted no more than 15 minutes. following the halt, the for lorne hope advanced, making it over the second hedge without any confederate fire from the fort. when they let out a cheer, the tower battery opened. decimating the center of the 8th michigan line with canister fire. in the fort, colonel lamar turned to his largers piece, an eight-inch colombian and order it had to fire.
lamar would write in his report, when i arrived at the battery, i found the enemy 700 yards in line of battle and advancing on me at the double quick. i ordered the column i can't to be loaded, which order was promptly obeyed, and in the meantime, fired upon the advancing line from the 24-pounder. as lamar cited it, the commander of the 24-pounder fired his gun, the first blast of artillery from the fort. lamar quickly finished and pulled the land yard, the second shot of decimating the approaching 8th michiganders. early this the devastating artillery fire, he said every discharge would pass through the ranks of our brave boys, and they would mow them down like grass. but with dogged persistence, they closed ranks and pushed on with the federal yell. colonel lamar would explain in his report why exactly he decided to cite the first piece himself. he said my reason for pointing the columbia at myself was to fire at the center of the line
and thereby break it. in order to cause confusion and delay so that i might get my infantry into position preaving to reaching the lifpblese the shot had the desired effect. they immediately flanked to the right and left. i ordered the columbia to be loaded with canister, which was promptly done. as lamar supervisorsed the first shorkt he stayed awake and final 8 arrived. he would also order up the first and 9th south carolina battalions from their camps near secessionville as the battle had begun. within a matter of minutes, the firing the first shots, colonel lamar saw federals on top, firing down into the fort, sending his men reeling. it had only been five minutes since the second shot till federal forces were inside the wall of tower bat ritual the first federal that is made it to the top were the companies of the th michigan and the men of the for lorne hope. they had found a walkway along the southern flank and used it to go along the 10 foot high
wall. their first folly had decimated the 24 pounder and they charged down, fighting hand to hand. one remembered the discharge of sidearms and musketry, groans f the wounded and dying. sergeant william todd said "inside the court was filled with riflemen of the enemy. they would stick their heads over the parapet, fire, drawback and reload. quit number of our men were wounded." another battalion arrived and charged at the battery, relieving the beleaguered left. meanwhile, they would align the battalion and launch an assault forward the 8th michigan as well. the night south carolina battalion of the first confederate troops to reinforce lamar's position. now outnumbered, they would retreat out of the fort and go
over the battery wall. it would settle into a shooting match, just feet apart. others in the federal rank struggle to get to the parapet. benjamin piece of the eighth michigan remembered " it was so steep no one could climate without help. it would have been impossible for twice the number to scale the fort." the seventh connecticut, 20th massachusetts had received heavy confederate fire. the eighth michigan had moved so quickly, and left the seventh connecticut far behind. upon their arrival, their commanding officer, would order the seventh connecticut to charge. because of the lack of reconnaissance, he did not see the telescoping nature of the peninsula. as his unit moved to the left, his path disappeared.
the men sunk into the local mud of a hidden marsh. they would lose precious time to reform the unit. when the final -- when they were finally ready to attack, 20th massachusetts slammed into them for -- from the rear. it was too much to the men from connecticut. they broke. as the seventh connecticut looked to reach toward tower battery, some of the men of the eighth michigan had managed to get on the northern confederate flank, firing at john bellinger's gun crews. they have taken a number -- had taken a number of casualties. it was only and one brother to continue the work. lieutenant colonel of the south carolina battalion stormed in. as he reached the wall, he was it with fire, a lot of it.
casualties mounted quickly. they spread out and engaged the attacking force. southern support had arrived at the right place, just at the right time. those men of the eighth michigan had clung to the parapet and started to fall back through the marsh. colonel holly of the seventh connecticut tried to support the michiganders by heading to the south to align the parallel. as the remnants of the seventh connecticut reached the southern most line, another massive federals slammed into them, setting them into further disarray. these were soldiers of the 79th new york. one haven't recalled" we hurried past them and our eagerness to arrive at the fort and assist our storming party. it had only taken the wires battery to repulse the first thrust by stevens' division. when news of the situation reached the eighth michigan at the parapet in the news reached general stevens, he turned to david morrison and orchid -- ordered them forward. " before he reached the open
ground, we got the order to double s-- whip. we did. messages came begging to hasten to the release of the eighth michigan. two supporting regiments had failed him and the eighth were being cut to pieces." as they charged toward tower battery, a private in the 79th new york remembered that there was a perfect cloud of grapeshot. t was firing toward the center of the line, splitting the flanks to the left and right. it did not slow the momentum of the highlanders. they pushed forward, stripping up remnants of the asian michigan -- eighth michigan. they slammed into the battalion of the walls. lieutenant colonel morrison jumped to the top of the parapet and empty his pistol. it inspired other highlanders
to do the same. he said it was a wall of steel, flashing in the race of the morning sun. the enemy sending a terrible fire of shell and grape canister into the ranks. the mentor mowed down with a hail of lead and iron. moving on to the middle of the fort, some of them into a hand to hand fight. the 79th new york did not hold the parapet too long. confederate fire swept them from the top. the highlanders fell back before morrison ordered a second thrust, producing the same results. as morrison reeled from a head wound during the second thrust, a private in the ranks recalled," i never saw our boys fight with such determination." during the exchange with the 9th new york, the man of the battalion that the rifles did not work. there officer scooped up
weapons and ammunition, trying to swap them out as the defense continued. as elite units of the second brigade stormed over the ground, the first connecticut light artillery opened on the fort with its 12 pound howitzers. the hundredth pennsylvania would utilize the covering fire to get across the field. now they were at its front. colonel leisure, who had went ahead was with elements of the 100th pen has advanced when the fort opened upon them. he said the storm of missiles leapt out with tongues of fire, darkening the air with project tiles with which they had been crammed to the muzzle. the ground was strewn with round heads dying, dead and wounded and all sorts of mangled, horrid forms. seeing the decimation of his old unit, a few remnants of the eighth michigan and 79th new
york, the colonel recognize the attack was over. he was not the only one that realized this. the lieutenant said they could not get in the fort when they got to it. general stevens, who had been watching the battle sent orders to have his orders reform after seeing the force scattered and disappeared. fear and panic in the ranks, he ordered for all of his units to fall back to the hedge line at 500 yards from the tower battery. most of the men retreated -- are or rallied on their colors, while some soldiers remained on the parapet. while he works to bring the attacking force to the hedge line, he found the 46th new york already there. he finally saw horatio rights brigade advancing.
not everyone had. as william todd and another scotsman of the 79th new york recalled, another sound was heard from the direction once they expected the column to appear. third attack against tower battery failed. the battle was not 45 minutes old. horatio wright had waited to launch his own attack. he had had a long day as they had been up and at their position since 3:00 a.m. leading the assault will be two units. -- would be two units. where the time they got into position, chaos was raining in front of tower battery. -- reigning in front of tower battery. it was not to be. as the men from new hampshire were struggling against a new confederate line, a line of defensive works, the men from the third rhode island could see the third new hampshire retreating.
the confederate engagement at this moment of the context was unequal. it raged for some time. confederate casualties were mounting quickly. lamar had been wounded in the neck. he handed off command and he handed command to colonel thomas wegner. -- wegner. -- wagner. as more reinforcements arrived at these positions, the assaults of both stevens' division and rights -- wright's division looked more futile than ever. as they reached this line, they saw the third new hampshire retreating. they too, would begin to fall back. the fight is nearing its onclusion. by the time the reinforcements would engage, the colonel had gotten his line together. he would order out of sharpshooters to pick off confederate gunners while he waited -- while he awaited further orders.
a messenger from general stevens told the other that he was ready to renew the assault but needed more from general wright. he described him as a " badly frightened officer, on his horse surrounded by his staff, half a mile away from danger. he said that benham declined the eight and ordered general stevens to retreat. orderlies worked with -- would arry out those orders. when the general received the order, he wrote, "oh god, forgive me the bitterness engendered by the disappointment of that hour. as soldiers were being pulled off the field, particularly that of his brigade, one would remember, you never saw a lot of men walk so slow and every little bit they would stop and
look back. the fight had been intense. first connecticut light artillery had fired over 500 rounds of a munition alone. as the units pass back in retreat by the way of the river's house, union soldiers would set the house on fire. what was the cost of the battle? confederate officers organized and sent squads over the wall o the fort together quitman, to gather equipment, supplies, and prisoners. they began to drag corpses to the common pit in front of the forts while wounded men were taken back to secessionville. one officer was surprised to find that most of the federals had been shot in the head, showing that our troops fired too high. benjamin shepard of the utah battalion would write his mother, " the scene after the battle is worse than all. i saw men lying in all kinds of postures. some shooting their guns, some loading, and some as if they
were praying." writing of the day of june 16, and this incredible cost of nearly 700 men of the 4,500 federals involved in the fight, william lost would say that it was a hard, memorable, cruel day. it was memorable for folly and wickedness. memorable for the wanton sacrifice of human life to gratify the silly vanity of one man. they would open up field hospitals. as the field hospitals were attempting to confront a new battle, a battle for survival, fallout from these federal decisions and decisions of henry benham began. the reports that would begin to stream in would come under benham's watchful eye as they tried to recast this assault as recon sauns in force.
as word of the failure of the assault reached david hunt other hilton head, the recriminations would mount quickly for benham. hunt we're summon benham to his headquarters. he would recite the orders that he had gave him on the 10th. benham would go off into this defense of his orders and actions. hunter would listen patiently. when he was done, he would be placed under arrest and ship to ew york. isaac stevens, horatio wright and many men in the rank began to criticize benham. not only in their official reports, but in newspapers across new york. he and stevens would have an ongoing dispute about the folly of the assault and its failure. it would reach a zenith. until washington insiders would tell isaac stevens to let it
go, that washington, d.c. sided with his opinion and the only outcome and folly of the orders of benham. stevens would let it go and just several weeks later would be killed at chantilly. insiders were right. abraham lincoln would strip benham of his brigadier general commission. it wouldn't be until 1863 that he would have his rank restored and be placed in charge of the engineers in the army of the potomac. the assault on tower battery and the battle of secessionville, hunter and benham completely underestimated the difficulties of seizing charleston. this is no more apparent than the fact that one of the crown jewels of the south was not captured until 1865 via a combination of naval and ground forces. the attack was doomed to failure due to the many geographic barriers and the strength of the confederate fortifications. naval support due to the time of the attack on the amount of daylight. with the retreat from james island, the real real chance to
capture charleston was gone, and the large amounts of ground that had been bloodlessly captured by the federals was now back in confederate hands. the whole affair during his reflection, the colonel would write his daughter, a more miserably received plan of storming an enemy stronghold was never conceived. why dwell on the sickening details of a day in a useless letter? it was made useless in the first place by the incompetency of the planer of the attack. when the skill and bravery of this army redeemed his blunder, made useless again by the untimely order of fallback, it must be done over again. i have more nicely the next time." i want to thank our historians, mark malloy, who has a book on trenton and princeton. make sure you talk to him if you haven't picked it up. he was kind enough this past spring to head to charleston. i have not been to secession ville in several years, and
goat me some updated photographs that you're seeing as we close out the program today. much like the battle of secessionville, it has largely been forgotten. development and expand has taken over. ost of it has changed. many features of the 1862 battlefield have changed. the confederates would strengthen these works in the days, weeks and months after the 1862 battle. if you know where to look, you can find the importance of the battle and campaign of secessionville in the forgotten door to charleston. thank you. [applause] >> time for one question. >> dan, you mentioned that if you go to charleston, you can visit secessionville.
you've been there yourself. what would you recommend to keep in mind if you're going there? >> a couple of things to keep in mind, you're going to want to take some sort of map with you. a map that edward alexander has created, that you saw in your program. it shows modern-day and historical overlay features of that. it is disoriented on all the different islands that are in the area. you want to take a guy with guide with you as well. bug spray. the federal soldiers in june of 1862 were not wrong about the environment down there. as long as you take a guide with you, there's a wonderful little park that you can park your car. there's a walking trail. it's not a very long trail. it's usually stocked with some flyers that will talk a little bit more about what remains there today. about where the actions occurred on this trail. >> for being made out of sand, pretty impressive.
>> several monuments that are placed throughout the 20th century. there are no monuments earlier than that marking it today. you had one question behind you there. >> i was wondering, the taking of charleston, was it more important from a militarily or cultural perspective? >> when we are still targeting cities, it is not the confederate capital, but many blame charleston as starting the whole mess in december of 1860 and the outspoken secessionist movement before that. the capture of charleston would have been a crippling psychological impact to the confederate effort. [applause] [captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> this is american history tv
on c-span3, where each weekend we feature 48 hours of programs exploring our nation's past. >> campaign 2020, watch our live coverage of the presidential candidates on the campaign trail and make up your own mind. c-spancampaign 2020, your unfiltered view of politics. >> booker t. washington was born into slavery in 1856. he's best known as the