The Huge Swamp Angel Bombards Charleston

The “Swamp Angel” – A Union 200-Pounder Parrott Gun.

August 22-23, 1863

The “Swamp Angel” was a Union 200-pounder Parrott Gun used on August 22-23, 1863, at Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina to shell nearby Charleston.

Quincy A. Gillmore

Quincy A. Gillmore

On April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired upon by the Confederate batteries located around the Charleston Harbor. Within thirty-four hours the fort had surrendered and a bloody Civil War was underway. From the moment of its surrender, the recapturing of Fort Sumter became one of the Union’s most important objectives. Nearly four years elapsed before Union forces were successful at retaking Fort Sumter.

By the summer of 1863, Fort Sumter had been bombarded by Federal artillery for two years, but the fort still stood and guarded Charleston. At the entrance to Charleston Harbor is Morris Island, and Union General Quincy A. Gillmore and his troops were stationed there. Gillmore wanted to construct a battery on Morris Island so he could bombard Charleston directly and force the city to surrender. Gillmore’s plan would bypass troublesome Fort Sumter and other forts in the Charleston Harbor.

A big gun with the range to reach Charleston would allow Gillmore to get to the meat of the matter… to force the rebel stronghold of Charleston to surrender. The Swamp Angel is what General Gillmore needed.

This Swamp Angel was huge. It was cast of iron at the West Point Foundry in New York, and it weighed 16,700 pounds. With an 8-inch bore, its barrel had an 11-foot bore depth. Even the construction of the battery and parapet needed for the Swamp Angel was impressive, merely getting this gun into place on the swampy, mushy, ground of Morris Island (with mud sometimes twenty-feet deep) in Charleston Harbor was a challenging engineering job. Construction of the battery and parapet began on August 2, and it included:

  • 13,000 sandbags weighing greater than 800 tons total
  • 123 pine timbers, 45-55 feet in length and 15-18 inches in diameter
  • 5,000 feet of 1-inch thick board
  • 9,500 feet of 3-inch thick planking
  • The spikes, nails, and iron required to hold it all together weighed 1,200 pounds
  • 75 fathoms (450 feet) of rope, 3 inches thick

All this would allow the Swamp Angel to use a 17-pound powder charge to fire a 200-pound projectile 7,900 yards into the heart of Charleston. To top it all off, the projectiles could be filled with an incendiary fluid called “Greek Fire” that would set Charleston ablaze. On August 17, the Swamp Angel arrived at Morris Island. An awesome weapon of war was about to go to work.

A Huge Monster Cannon

Gillmore sent a message on August 21, to General P. G. T. Beauregard demanding the evacuation of Confederate posts on Morris Island and Fort Sumter, or else shelling of Charleston would start. The Yankees had sighted the Swamp Angel in on the steeple of St. Michael’s Church. Beauregard gave no reply to Gillmore’s demands.

At 1:30 A.M. on August 22, the Swamp Angel belched and roared with its first shot at Charleston. Following the first shot, bells, whistles, and alarms from Charleston could be heard on Morris Island. Before daylight came, fifteen more shots rained down on Charleston from the Swamp Angel, twelve of these shots filled with Greek Fire.

Charleston was receiving the wrath of the Union in the form of horrible huge shells filled with fire, and shot from a huge monster of a cannon 7,900 yards away. On August 23, the Swamp Angel threw out twenty more shells onto Charleston. It looked like the Confederacy would lose Charleston to surrender as the Swamp Angel rained its hellish shells full of fire down on the city.

As the Swamp Angel fired its thirty-sixth shell on August 23, it did something cast-iron Parrott guns were known for, despite their distinctive wrought iron reinforcing bands placed around their breeches. On the thirty-sixth shot the Swamp Angel’s breech blew out and the gun’s barrel flew on top of the sandbag parapet.

Although it had suffered some damage and a few fires were set by the Swamp Angel, Charleston was now safe. The great Swamp Angel was dead. No further huge guns like the Swamp Angel were placed on the Union’s Morris Island battery.

The Swamp Angel

The Swamp Angel

The Swamp Angel

The Swamp Angel’s military career was over. The great gun was to be sold as scrap iron. However, instead of being used as scrap iron and physically lost to history, the citizens of Trenton, New Jersey bought the Swamp Angel and made it into a monument.

If you visit Trenton today, you will find the Swamp Angel at Perry and Clinton streets. Even if it could still fire and despite its might, the Civil War Swamp Angel could not reach Charleston from Trenton. People of Charleston, rest easy.

The Swamp Angel picture is courtesy of:

Learn More About Civil War Artillery…

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Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver

A Civil War Sidearm

1860 Colt Model Army Model

1860 Colt Model Army Model

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was a commonly used sidearm weapon in the Civil War. Cavalry, artillery, and infantry all used this revolver. It was a percussion weapon made by the Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Although varied pistols were used in the Civil War, the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was the official United States Army pistol.

Over 200,000 of the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolvers were manufactured from 1860 through 1873. From January 4, 1861 through November 10, 1863 the War Department furnished over 107,156 1860 Colt Model Army Revolvers. They became known as the New Model Army pistol and the previous 1848 version of the pistol was then called the Old Army Model.

A Revolver

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was a cap and ball revolver that fired a .44 caliber cartridge with a round lead ball or a conical projectile, from an eight-inch barrel using a six-shot revolving cylinder with hammer. A rammer in front of the cylinder was used to load the sidearm. When fired, a brass percussion cap struck the hammer igniting a 30 grain black powder charge. This pistol was made of iron or steel and had a bronze trigger guard and front strap. It weighed 44oz.

The revolver’s fixed sights were usually set at 75 to 100 yards at manufacture, this being the accuracy range of the gun. Sometimes, this pistol would be adapted with a rifle-like shoulder stock, in order to improve steadiness of aiming and accuracy at further distances. At firing, the projectiles of the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver achieved a muzzle velocity of approximately 750 feet per second.

Reliable And Popular

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was the most used pistol by Union troops in the Civil War, and regarded as very reliable. It was popular with all troops in the Civil War, but was a favorite weapon of officers, cavalrymen, and artillerymen. The Confederacy recognized the capability of the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver and produced its own knock-off version of the pistol.

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver’s main rival as a weapon of choice in the Civil War was the Remington Arms 1861 Remington .44 percussion revolver. The Remington looked very similar to the Colt, but it had a shorter barrel and the revolving cylinder of the Remington was enclosed.

Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver Demonstration


Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver From A Mosby Raider

Presented To A Union Cavalry Officer

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