Another Such Engagement Would Not Be Desirable: The 62nd Ohio and Battery Wagner

    The story of the 62nd Ohio in the assault on Fort Wagner is one rarely told; as a matter of fact, the regiment could be known as one of Ohio’s “silent” regiments. Despite serving nearly four years and witnessing combat everywhere in the eastern theater from First Kernstown all the way to Appomattox, correspondence and accounts from this regiment are rather scarce. Throughout the war, the 62nd Ohio served alongside the 67th Ohio, a regiment who more than made up for the 62nd’s silence by being incredibly prolific with their writings.

          In the assault on Wagner, the 62nd Ohio sustained its highest losses of the war losing 19 officers and 156 enlisted men killed, wounded, or missing, including its commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Clemens F. Steele and Adjutant Daniel C. Liggett. This represented 175 men out of the 320 who took part in the assault, a casualty rate of nearly 55%. Casualties among the officers amounted to 85%, only three officers escaping unharmed. The entire command structure of the regiment was knocked out: Lieutenant Colonel Steele was struck in the thigh and was discharged a few months later; Major William Edwards was struck in the thigh and would die as a prisoner of war in late August. Adjutant Liggett would have his leg amputated and die of his wound about a week after the battle while in a hospital at Beaufort.

Positioned near the rear of the Federal assault column, the 62nd Ohio charged into the fort over the carnage inflicted by the first waves including the men of the 54th Massachusetts. “The rear division of the 7th New Hampshire and a portion of the 100th New York, massed together, crossed the ditch, and essayed to get a footing from one point while the 62nd and 67th Ohio made an assault on another,” one reporter noted. “One corner of the fort only was occupied by the National forces and that was swept by grape and canister and exposed to musketry. The troops looked back, saw they were alone, and began to falter. No relief came and, sad and disappointed, they fell back and left the field with their dead and wounded in the hands of the enemy.”

The 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was raised in Belmont, Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum, and Noble counties of southeastern Ohio in the fall of 1861 and entered service at Camp Goddard in Zanesville under the command of Colonel Francis B. Pond. The regiment departed the state for the western Virginia in January 1862 and served under General James Shields’ division through Jackson’s Valley campaign. After the battle of Port Republic, the 62nd Ohio was sent as reinforcements to General McClellan’s army then encamped at Harrison’s Landing and arrived in time to take part in the July 4th engagement at that place.

In August, the regiment departed Harrison’s Landing and was sent to Suffolk, Virginia where it was stationed for several months, engaging in multiple reconnaissance’s in the region. At the beginning of the year, the regiment was put on transports and moved first to Beaufort, North Carolina, and eventually to St. Helena Island on the South Carolina coast and from there, it moved to Morris Island where it took part in the assault and siege of Fort Wagner.

The following accounts written by several soldiers in the 62nd Ohio provide some insight into what they experienced during that fateful charge on Battery Wagner in July 1863.


The extensive list of battle honors on this late war set of regimental colors belonging to the 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry consists of many lesser known engagements as the regiment spent much of the water in "backwater" assignments. In the spring of 1864, it was assigned to the Army of the James and fought in the Bermuda Hundred and subsequently in the siege of Petersburg. The veterans of the regiment took a great deal of pride in their key role in the taking of Fort Gregg in April 1865 and were present for the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. 

“Fort Wagner, or Wagner’s nine-gun battery as the Rebels call it, is situated on the south side of Charleston harbor about one mile below or south of Fort Sumter. It is strongly fortified. The Rebels say it is impregnable and I have about come to that conclusion myself. Surely the engineer who constructed it was the master of his profession. Inside the parapet are breastworks running zigzag through the fort. Rebel infantry was posted behind these and small guns placed on the corner of this line of works at right angles, firing grape and canister, which proved so destructive to our men as they ascended the parapet.”

~ Orderly Sergeant James C. Morrison, Co. B

          “Yesterday at noon the navy commenced the bombardment of Fort Sumter and the surrounding forts. A furious battle raged until near sundown when the infantry was ordered to charge the enemy’s works. Shocking indeed was the result; 21 men killed and wounded from our Company B. Our brigadier general fell close by my side.”

~ First Lieutenant Daniel W. Welsh, Co. B

The 62nd Ohio was the second regiment in the second assault column just ahead of their sister regiment the 67th Ohio. The two regiments would serve the entire war together and after its end, the 62nd was consolidated into the 67th for the final few months of occupation duty in Virginia. Both Ohio regiments sustained more than 50% casualties during the attack on Battery Wagner. 

          “We fought one of the most desperate battles yesterday evening that ever occurred. We charged on Fort Wagner, took it, and held it for an hour but were not reinforced and we were obliged to retreat. Our loss is very heavy: Company A went into the fight with 41 men and came out only with 19. There are a great many missing. I did not receive a scratch although I have two musket ball holes through my coat: one near the shoulder on my arm and the other under my right arm a few inches below the seam of my coat. The shot and shell flew thick and fast. I was a little scared at first, but that passed away and I never felt more calm and cool in my life. I do not know whether I killed any Rebels or not, but I can say that I tried to kill a few.”

~ Private William L. Adamson, Co. A

          “The Rebels threw hand grenades among our men after we had taken possession of one side of the fort which killed and wounded many. There was a wide deep ditch running from the harbor around the fort to the inlet at almost right angles. There were guns in position near the mouth of this ditch and on the northwest corner of the fort that commanded each side with a crossfire at the narrow passage where our men were compelled to cross the ditch. As the water was so deep, we could ford it only in two or three places and here our men suffered most from the crossfire of the enemy with grape and canister. Many that were wounded fell over in the ditch and were drowned, unable to help themselves, others wading and swimming over them. There was no berm on the side of the fort and our men had to climb up as best they could, helping each other. Two guns that were not silenced on the north side of the parapet threw destruction into our ranks as we descended the glacis and many brave soldiers were left there to sleep in death.”

~ Orderly Sergeant James C. Morrison, Co. B

“The most shocking thing I saw or felt was just as I was about to mount the parapet, a poor wounded soldier implored my aid to assist him out of the ditch. I took him by the arm but at the same instant, a shell struck him on the head, killing him instantly and stunning me out of my senses. When consciousness returned, I found our regiment over the parapet and I hastened to rejoin my command. My company went into the fight with 34 men and came out with 15. Our troops are not discouraged although this is our second repulse. I cannot say that another such engagement such as we had last evening would not be desirable.”

~ First Lieutenant Daniel W. Welsh, Co. B

Colonel Francis B. Pond, 62nd O.V.I.
Absent on leave during the assault

          “We advanced in line of battle under a terrific artillery fire from all the forts in shooting distance. A shell exploded near me, knocking down eight men, three of whom were killed and two seriously wounded. My face was slightly burned. I followed the regiment through a storm of grape and canister so thick I have often wondered how I escaped alive, or indeed, how many of the regiment escaped. We went into the fight with 20 officers and 300 men, losing 19 officers and 156 men killed and wounded.”

~ Private William F. Outland, Co. E

          “I write this in bed but I am still in good spirits and as happy as a man could be under the circumstances, only a little weak from the loss of blood. My wound in the head is about two inches long but not serious. I went into the battle with 42 men and had 23 killed, wounded and missing. Many of our wounded will die. As yet none of our dead have been brought in; a flag of truce has gone asking that favor, but I fear it will not be granted.”

~ Captain John W. Pinkerton, Co. A

          “The reason we were cut up so was we charged the fort and held it for an hour when the Rebels made a flank movement and told us not to fire as they belonged to the 100th New York and we knew that regiment was there. Thus, they charged right up and fired on us and when we saw they were Rebels, we fired and then drove them back. The reformed and charged with a yell, but we met them firm and drove them back three times. Our colors were planted and every color guard was killed or wounded by the color sergeant held the flag until we were ordered to retreat. The flag is riddled to ribbons. I did not know whether I ever would escape unhurt or not. I can’t see how it was.”

~ Private William L. Adamson, Co. A

          “Our field colors were kept in front until ordered to fall back and was sufficiently ventilated with bullets, grape, and canister holes to make a mosquito bar. Our regiment was one of the last to leave the fort and I assure you that it was with reluctance that our brave boys were compelled to retire from their hard-fought position on the parapets of Fort Wagner. To prove the assertion that we met with a warm reception at Wagner’s battery on the 18th of July, you only have to look at our list of casualties. We are in good spirits, however, and think Charleston will soon be ours.”

~ Orderly Sergeant James C. Morrison, Co. B



Letter from Orderly Sergeant James C. Morrison, Co. B, 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Morgan County Herald (Ohio), August 14, 1863, pg. 2

Article from Private William F. Outland, Co. E, 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, National Tribune, May 18, 1899, pg. 3

Letter from Private William L. Adamson, Co. A, 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Zanesville Daily Courier (Ohio), August 1, 1863, pg. 2

Letter from First Lieutenant Daniel W. Welsh, Co. B, 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Morgan County Herald (Ohio), July 31, 1863, pg. 3

Letter from Captain John W. Pinkerton, Co. A, 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Morgan County Herald (Ohio), July 31, 1863, pg. 3




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