Letter from the “Flagship Philadelphia” Charleston Harbor, July 22nd  1864 – Daniel Spangler Describes the Hand to Hand Combat of the Black Troops (54th  Mass.) in their Famous Assault on Fort Wagner (As Shown in the Movie Glory)

“Our troops were mostly ‘Negroes’ and it is said fought with the most determined bravery, their battle cry was ‘Remember Fort Pillow,’… The Blacks fought them with clubbed muskets & drove them out again.”

This eight-page letter was written on board the Flagship Philadelphia by one of its crew members, Daniel M. Spangler, from Charleston Harbor on July 22nd, 1864. Spangler’s letter mentions the famous assaults on Battery Wagner starting with the July 2nd movement of his ship, The Philadelphia, and “two Monitors, two Gunboats & two Mortar vessels” on the Stono River. After steaming up the river several miles they commenced bombarding the rebel Batteries that line the river, At the same time we had about 5,000 land forces cooperating with us in our efforts to take James Island — which is the key to Charleston – Although our land forces succeeded in getting a good foothold on the Island and drove the enemy from some of their earth works, but in the course of five or six days the rebels were so strongly reinforced and made such desperate charges on our lines (on shore) that we were obliged to evacuate on the 10th inst… Our troops were mostly “Negroes” and it is said fought with the most determined bravery, their battle cry was “Remember Fort Pillow,” and I understand privately that they followed the example set them by the rebels at Fort Pillow, and the consequence was that a number of the enemy on James Island who bit the dust can be charged to the Fort Pillow account.

Although we had the best of the fight — as long as we occupied the Island —yet it was necessary for us to evacuate when we did, for the rebels were before us in greatly superior numbers, strongly fortified & daily increasing in strength. On the last night of our occupation they made two or three fierce assaults on our slender earth works & on the last charge succeeded in entering our works & the Blacks then fought them with clubbed muskets & drove them out again.

Our loss in this last assault was stated at 200 & the Rebel loss 400. While we were thus operating on Stono River another part of our land & Naval forces attempted to capture “Fort Johnson” — the key of James Island & consequently of Charleston — and from what I can learn our forces gained temporary possession of the Fort; but through some misunderstanding in regard to orders, the small number of our men who had gained possession of the Fort were not reinforced in time & thus we lost it again. So saith rumors! But the affair is kept private around here at least. I neglected to say that our operation on Stono River were mainly intended to withdraw the attention of the Rebels from Fort Johnson. We succeeded admirably in deceiving them as to our real intentions.

Spangler is writing to his friend Jacob H. Schriver. Both men had served previously in the 166th  PA Infantry. Spangler had re-enlisted in the Navy and in the rest of this letter encourages Schriver to do so as well. Spangler also sends his regrets that Schriver could not obtain the remains of his brother Daniel who was killed in May of 64. The letter is in excellent condition and comes with the original postally used envelope.

#L522PA.7-22-64 – Price $595