Namesake of Battery Wagner

Posted By : manager

Posted : August 19, 2020

Battery Wagner, on Morris Island, earned eternal fame for its heroic resistance against Union forces in the summer of 1863. It stopped two heavy assaults and endured 59 days of terrible shelling from land and sea before Confederate forces were forced to abandon the position.  Few, however, know of Lt. Col. Thomas M. Wagner (1825-1862) for whom it was named.

Wagner was a native Charlestonian, a former state senator, and a railroad executive. He entered state service as a Lieutenant in the 1st SC Artillery Battalion in 1860 and was promoted to Captain April 1861. That fall he was appointed Major and commanding officer of the battalion. He served as commander of Fort Moultrie as well as Fort Sumter at different periods.

In March 1862, the Battalion was increased to a Regiment and Wagner was appointed as its Lt. Colonel. His duties were greatly expanded the following June when named Chief of Ordnance in the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. Additionally, he received orders to erect a battery at Cummings Point on the northern tip of Morris Island. Wagner’s planning and supervision resulted in a superbly placed and well-designed emplacement.

However, while at Fort Moultrie in July 1862, Wagner was killed in a tragic accident and was buried in the St. Michaels Church Cemetery. Shortly afterward, another recently finished battery on Morris Island was named Battery Wagner in his honor. In early 1863, the Cummings Point position was named Battery Gregg in honor of South Carolina’s General Maxcy Gregg who fell at Fredericksburg.

Wagner’s reputation remained strong after his death. Following the defeat of the Union ironclads in April 1863, Wagner’s work in strengthening defenses of Fort Moultrie and Battery Gregg was cited for their ability to withstand shelling from the enemy’s huge naval guns without great harm.


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