Battery Wagner: The fortification that held out for seven weeks

I’ve mentioned Battery Wagner too many times since July. Now let me formally “introduce” this important work, which 150 years ago was among the most important pieces of real estate in the country. I’ve “touched up” this section of Major Thomas Brooks map to remove the Federal siege lines, the torpedoes, and other annotations.


Brooks made the basic plan of the works during the siege, then proofed it after the capture of the Confederate bastion. While not a textbook layout, the battery met its designed purpose by extending from the beach to Vincent’s Creek. The battery blocked any land approach to Battery Gregg. Battery Wagner featured two irregular bastions – one on the beach side and one on the creek side – with a curtain between and a gorge wall behind.

Looking at the work in detail, allow me to use the profile lines provided by Brooks, called out in green on the overlay below.


Most of the profile lines were drawn along the bombproof of the sea-side bastion. But let me start on the gorge wall. Line A-B shows the profile as used on most of battery’s back wall.


You might think the steps were there to help troops up and over the rear parapet. This was more so to arrest erosion and damage from Federal fires. But regardless of good construction, this side of the wall suffered heavily during the bombardment.

On the side facing Vincent’s Creek, line G-H demonstrates that wall was designed to provide a parapet for infantry.


This wall on the west side also suffered a great deal of damage, due mostly to the fact that the ironclads were able to easily hit it in reverse.

To the front of the battery, line C-D depicted the profile of the front curtain wall, including gun galleries, traverses, ditch, and palisading.


Surprisingly the front wall suffered less damage than those behind. If you look at the profile, one reason stands out clear. The glacis in front of the ditch stood nearly as high as the parapet on the curtain wall.

Brooks sketched the bombproof complex on the sea-facing side from several angles. This structure survived a withering bombardment for over a month. So you might say his attention was warranted.


The main bombproof, along line E-F, was constructed of timber framing with over 10 feet of sand on top.

Further into the complex, lines K-L and M-N show bombproof magazines built into the traverses on that side.


Line R-S ran through the main bombproof, one of the traverses between the gun positions, and across the ditch to the glacis in front of that side.


Line O-P depicts the elevation of five feet above the floor of the bombproof.

A similar profile, on line T-U, shows the bombproof complex further to the right, showing the depth of the gun deck for comparison.


Sure, Battery Wagner had formidable walls and a good trace. But the depth of protection around the bombproofs were just as important during the siege. Even at the end of the siege, the bombproofs stood mostly intact. While continued bombardments would have eventually broken through, for the time of the siege that structure provided haven to the battery’s garrison.

Much of what we know about Battery Wagner’s layout comes from Brooks’ notes and maps, and from a handful of photos taken after the Federals occupied and converted the fortification. The sea washed away walls that artillery could not blast away.

Next let me discuss and assess the battery’s armament.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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