|San Francisco Civil War Round Table Meeting
21st May 2009
The meeting was called to order at sevenish and President Gary Yee welcomed a number of
first-time guests, including Art Buckley's dentist. We hope to see all these visitors again at future
Gary brought up the topic of incorporating the organization for tax and inemnity reasons. It was
agreed that further discussion and understanding of the pros and cons were needed.
A proposal was made to have a guest speaker for the December meeting instead of the usual raffle.
The proposal was carried nem con.
All present were reminded that the election of officers will take place at the June 18th meeting and
that nominations for the five positions will be taken right up to polling time.
Unfortunately, our scheduled speaker, Jack Mather, was unable to make it. He had planned to talk
on the myth and reality of Sherman's campaign in Georgia. At the last moment, Gary Yee saved the
day by preparing, in just two days, an excellent presentation on the Siege of Battery Wagner.
In July 1863 Union forces were determined to take Charleston. First they had to take Fort Sumter
which blocked the entrance to Charleston harbor. Sumter was protected by Battery Wagner, on
Morris Island, and so, on July 18th, an attempt was made to take Battery Wagner.
The initial assault was led by the 54th Massachusetts regiment, a black regiment led by Colonel
Robert Gould Shaw. Although they reached the walls of the battery, the 54th were driven back,
losing 281 of the 600 men involved, including Col. Shaw.
The Union commanders then began a long siege, with bombardment from land and sea. Classical
trenches were dug in an ever-closing network approaching the battery's defences. Skilled
Confederate sharp shooters made life difficult and dangerous for the sappers and artillery men.
The siege dragged on for fifty-eight days under constant heavy bombardment until finally, in
September, the Confederates abandoned the battery at night and the Federal troops gingerly entered
a deserted, stinking shell.
The presentation was followed by a lively discussion on siege warfare, black combatants, and the
apparent desire of the Union to take Charleston in revenge for the firing on Fort Sumter in 1861.