Wounded on Morris Island, South Carolina, 1863
For this story, I decided to first present the story that Grandpa Lyle remembered being told as a young boy and then to copy what Grandpa Minor had said in his diary. The copy of his diary that I have was typed/transcribed/abstracted by, I think, his granddaughter Alberta Minor Flint. I only have the typed version and have never seen the original, so I don’t know whether this is a true transcription or how much it might have been condensed or abstracted. I wish I knew where the original is.
Background: my great great grandfather, Charles E. Minor served from 1861-1865 mostly in Company G of the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In June 1863 he returned to the Regiment, having been detached since August 1862 on a recruiting tour.
Story as told by Grandpa Lyle:
At one time he was stationed on Folly Island, which was a sand dune. It was nothing more or less than a sand spit within firing distance of Fort Wagner. And they had to go in at night. In the day time, they were within firing range of Fort Wagner. And they had to go in by raft and by boat at night to land and take all their provisions and everything they needed in, to this island. And they built a sand bag fortification, filled sand bags up and built it and then they got some field, what they called field pieces — artillery — that would fire on Fort Wagner and for a period he was in command of a group. And at night they would watch for the flash of a gun over there and he would — firing with his pistol — he had a hand gun — and they would fire at the flash, hoping that it would hit somebody. Well somebody at the fort saw his flash and, first thing he knew, a rifle ball came to him. It went through the calf of one leg and the knee cap of the other. He made his way back to the field dispensary, the tent where they took care of them and he said, “My knee cap’s in terrible pain here.” And the man said, “Well, you’re loosing a lot of blood in the other leg.” The calf of the one leg had been completely pierced, but the pain in the knee cap was so intense that he was not aware that he had been pierced by the bullet in his other leg. Following that he was removed from the island and sent to the hospital there. I don’t know where that was.
But anyway, he had been in the hospital. His leg had, was infected, and they had given him what treatment they could. Doctor looked at him and says, “No way. Can’t save that leg.” Said, “We’ll have to take it off tomorrow.” So the next day, in comes the doctor with two assistants and a board. They were going to strap him down to the board and saw the leg off. And there was a bucket of water on a three legged stool right by the side of the head of the bed. My grandfather raised up and he grabbed that stool, tipped the water over toward the doctor, and he raised the stool up over his head, and he said, “You touch me and somebody’s going to get hurt.” And the doctor told his men to walk away and leave him alone. The result was that eventually the leg healed and never had to have his leg amputated. But in those days they did what was the quickest thing. So many men ended up with a peg leg following the Civil War. Amputation was a thing that could save the life.
From Grandpa Minor’s Diary:
Thursday 11th [June 11, 1863] – Took a boat about 4 p.m. yesterday but didn’t get under way till 1 o’clock this morning, and reached Folly Island about 6 a.m. Found the regt. encamped about 5 miles from the landing.
Folly Island is about 7 miles long and its greatest width 1 mile. The only vegetation is Pine and Palmetto with a little coarse grass – almost a barren waste. The 67th has a fine camp on the south side of the Island facing the ocean. Warm weather but a fine sea breeze. Sharks, alligators, and serpents we found in considerable numbers.
Met with a warm reception by both officers and men. Am glad to once more be with the regt. Am agreeably surprised to find things so pleasant. The regt. is small but has gained in skill and appearance since I last saw them.
<snip>between then and July 4th the federal soldiers were building batteries on the end of Folly Island in preparation for attacking Morris Island.
July 4 – batteries almost ready on the point. The intention was to attack today but we are not quite ready.
July 10, 1863 – This morning at 5 o’clock the ball was opened by our batteries and in less than one hour we had all of the east part of Morris Island, guns, tents, and some prisoners.
July 11 – Saturday – More troops crossed over today and preparations are on foot to dislodge the rebs from Fort Wagner, the only point they now hold on the island. The loss so far has been slight.
July 18 – Saturday – During the past week strong batteries have been erected facing Wagner and at 10 a.m. today they opened fire on the Fort. At 2 p.m. the fleet moved up and joined their fire with the Batteries on shore. They kept up a terrific fire until dark, when the infantry were ordered to charge on teh works. During the day our Co. and Co. C were on picket within 600 yards of the Fort.
July 18 – Saturday – Under this terrible fire from both sides. As we advanced to the charge we were raked by grape and cannister, cutting us up dreadfully, but the greatest slaughter was at the ditch and ascending the Parapet. We reached the Fort and help most of it for an hour and a half, but not being reinforced. were obliged to fall back.
Our regiment lost over half their men. Co.G. lost 13 wounded and 3 killed.
I received four scratches all slight, left hand, left shoulder, right arm, and a ball through my right ear. All doing well.
July 24, 1863 – At daylight our fleet and shore batteries opened a heavy fire on the forts. There was a detachment of two Capt. and four Sergts. sent home for drafts to fill up the regiment. Hope they may succeed.
Aug. 26 – Brigade on picket at the front. About 7 a.m. I was wounded by a sharp-shooter through both legs, no bones broken.
Sept. 7, 1863 – Our troops took possession of Fort Wagner and Gregg this morning after nearly two months siege.
Sept. 20 – Dressed for the first time since wounded. Can walk a little.
Oct. 1 – Left hospital.
Disclaimer: I know very little about the Civil War beyond what I remember from my early schooling, but I’m starting to do some reading to find out about it. I believe that this description by Grandpa Minor is of the assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston harbor that was the basis of the story in the film Glory. If I am right, Grandpa Minor’s regiment, the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was in the charge that was led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African-American men (aside from the officers).