July 18 1863
Report of Major Lewis Butler, 67th Ohio Infantry, of second assault on Battery Wagner, July 18.
HDQRS. 67th Regiment OHIO VOL. INFANTY, Hilton Head, S. C., February 2, 1864
GENERAL:Â Agreeable to your request I have the honor to report that on the evening of July 18, 1863, in the charge on Wagner, my regiment, the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, went into the charge third in line of Putnam’s brigade in the following order, in deployed column: First, 7th New Hampshire; second, 100th New York; third, 67th Ohio;Â fourth, 62nd Ohio, Lieutenant Colonel Steele;Â our brigade preceded by Strong’s brigade. For some reason unknown to me our brigade was halted near the beacon-house, and Strong’s brigade allowed to proceed on toward the fort.
After remaining some twenty minutes we were ordered forward under a most galling fire. When about the fifth parallel our columns were very much disturbed by stragglers from Strong’s brigade and the breaking of the 100th New York. It was here that we met the 3rd New Hampshire and 9th Maine moving back by the flank. Upon arriving near the glacis the balance of Strong’s brigade were lying down. Upon our brigade coming up they arose and the final assault was made. Of the number gained the fort from each regiment, I am not able to say, but this I will state, that the only regiments that showed anything approaching an organization at this time were the 48th New York, 6th Connecticut, 7th New Hampshire, 67th and 62nd Ohio. A few men of the 54th Massachusetts (colored) and a few of the 100th New York were in the fort, but upon calling for the officers none reported to me do me from either of those regiments. I believe that in all there were not more than between 400 and 500 men in the fort from both brigades.
Upon my reaching the parapet of the fort, seeing the confusion, I ordered the firing to cease. Called for Colonel Putnam. Getting no response, I called for Colonel Dandy. No response from him. I immediately reconnoitered our position. Finding that we had driven them from the south bastion and a portion of the sea front, and finding the force so disorganized that it was impossible to make a farther advance into the fort, I immediately distributed the force at my command so as to hold what we had already gained. After making this disposition of the men I again renewed my calls for other field officers, and at this time Colonel Putnam came upon the parapet. I learned from him that he had been outside the ditch, endeavoring to keep the men from going to the rear. I asked the colonel what he was going to do. He replied that he did not know what to do. Question: "Is Stevenson’s brigade coming to our support?" He replied that he did not know. Question by him: "What do you think best? My reply was: "We cannot advance any farther with what force we have in its present disorganized state, and that I deemed it insufficient under any circumstances. That the best we could do was to hold our position until we got reinforcements, and that with the help of another brigade we could take the fort or at least hold it until we got our dead and wounded off, and that we had better send for reinforcements".
Question by him: "Have you got a trusty lieutenant that you can send to the rear?" I replied that I had, and called Lieutenant Rodney J. Hathaway. No reply. I then called LieutenantÂ John C. Cochrane, who commanded Company K of the 67th Ohio. Told him to go to the rear and say to the general that we held a portion of the fort, and if he would send Stevenson’s brigade that we could take the fort, or at least hold it until our dead and wounded were taken from the field. This conversation took place between us on top of the parapet, both standing erect.
As Lieutenant Cochrane went out of the Fort I was watching to see him cross the ditch, which was enfiladed by the guns on the sea bastion, and while he was in the ditch Colonel Putnam turned to me and remarked, "Major, we had better get out of this," and fell dead with the last word on his lips. I called his adjutant and Lieutenant Cate, his aide, who were in the fort, to carry him off. As they were approaching him Lieutenant Cate also fell, and the adjutant, after examining him, left the fort. The fight was now raging severe. There was yet a hand to-hand contest at the entrance to the bastion from the main body of the fort.
I then called a council of the officers in the fort, not wishing to hazard anything further without their co-operation. All agreed to hold out until we could hear from the rear. After waiting twice the length of time which I knew it would require to move Stevenson’s brigade to our support, at about 10:30 o’clock, observing that the rebels were being re-enforced and we making preparations for a sally upon both flanks, I gave the order to retire. Ordering Captain Coan, of the 48th New York, to go down into the bastion and get all of the men that were able to get out without disturbing those who were engaged with the enemy, he soon reported to me that all had left that would leave or could leave. I then went around the fort, relieved the men engaged, a few at a time, so that the rebels did not know when we did leave. To this course I attribute our getting away at all.
Now for personalities. Among the most prominent officers in the fort that night who did their duty in a cool, deliberate manner, were Captain Coan, now major-of the 48th New York;Â Captain Klein, now major of 6th Connecticut;Â Captain Taylor and Captain Kahler, of the 62nd Ohio. Of those prominent in the fort of my own officers every one that was wounded went into the fort, and as readily obeyed commands as on parade. These were Captain Lewis C. Hunt, Captain Alfred P. Girty, Lieutenants Cochrane, Hathaway, Kief, Bell, Ward, and Briggs. There might have been other officers in the fort, but those whom I have mentioned were officers who came under my personal notice.
The report that the 54th Massachusetts (colored) did more that any other regiment upon that occasion is, in my opinion, a base fabrication. That they were in the fort as an organization I positively deny. I found but few of them in the fort and none that appeared to be under the control of any officer of the regiment. There were in that regiment, as every other, individual instances of personal courage that deserve credit, but as a regiment I claim that a great deal more is awarded it than was its just due. The officers whom I have specified, the men of the organization to which they belong, were the men who were in the fort and did all that possible for men to do under the circumstances.
Â The 3rd New Hampshire and 9th Maine Regiments had no men in the fort that I know of; the 100th New York had but very few. About the time that we were entering the fort CaptainÂ John B. Chapman, of our regiment, who was wounded and going to the rear, saw Colonel Dandy just above the battery inquiring for his regiment, and was informed by him that he would find it in the rear. My firm belief is that there were more men in the fort from the two Ohio regiments than from any others. I do not say this through any partiality for the Ohio boys, but perhaps from the fact that I was known to the officers and men of those regiments and they more readily obeyed my commands. Great credit is due Captain Coan, of the 48th New York, and Captain Klein, of the 6th Connecticut. They appeared to be the only officers of their regiments in the fort who were laboring to rally their men, standing firm themselves at exposed points.
In conclusion let me say that the repulse we suffered was entirely owing to our not being promptly sustained, and the consequence the numerous loss of life and expenditure of money which had to be incurred to regain the position which we had gained at so fearful a loss of life, and might have been held at a light expense to what it eventually cost. In this report I have not attempted to give anything a coloring which did not belong to it, but as nearly as possible give you a plain statement of facts which came under my notice. Of the scenes of carnage, of the determined valor of the troops, I need not speak, but the fact that they gained the fort amid the darkness of the night and under as withering a fire as any troops were ever exposed, and held it near three hours against fearful odds, speaks a volume for the personal courage of the men which cannot be written.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Commanding U. S. Forces, Hilton Head.Â Â