Portrait of David Hunter

After the Confederate victory at the Battle of Secessionville, Union Major General David Hunter relieved Brigadier General Henry Benham of his command for disobeying his June 10 “make no attempt to advance on Charleston” until Hunter returned to James Island with reinforcements. [Wikimedia Commons]

Battle of Secessionville Facts

June 16, 1862

Facts about the Battle of Secessionville fought on June 16, 1862, on James Island near Charleston, South Carolina.

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Date:

  • June 16, 1862

Location:

  • James Island near Charleston, South Carolina

Union forces engaged:

  • North District, Department of the South

Confederate forces engaged:

  • 2nd Military District of South Carolina
  • Tower Battery/Fort Lamar Garrison

Principal Union commanders:

  • Major General David Hunter
  • Brigadier General Henry Washington Benham

Principal Confederate commanders:

  • General John C. Pemberton
  • Brigadier General Nathan George “Shanks” Evans,
  • Colonel Thomas G. Lamar

Number of Union soldiers engaged:

  • Roughly 6,500

Number of Confederate soldiers engaged:

  • Roughly 750

Union casualties:

  • 689 (107 killed)

Confederate casualties:

  • 207 (52 killed)

Result:

  • Confederate victory

Significance:

  • On March 15, 1862, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 26 announcing the creation of the Department of the South commanded by Major General David Hunter.
  • Major General David Hunter placed Brigadier General Henry Washington Benham in charge of the Northern District of the Department of the South on March 21, 1862.
  • In early May 1862, Major General David Hunter prepared to mount an overland assault against Charleston.
  • From his headquarters at Hilton Head Island, Hunter assembled a 6,300-man expeditionary unit to strike Charleston. Under the overall command of General Benham, Hunter’s force comprised Brigadier General Horatio G. Wright’s division (3100 men), and Brigadier General Henry Benham’s division (3200 men).
  • In June 1862, Major General David Hunter’s expeditionary force landed and established a foothold on James Island.
  • On June 10, 1862, Major General David Hunter returned to Hilton Head Island to gather reinforcements for his advance against Charleston.
  • On June 10, 1862, Major General David Hunter instructed Brigadier General Henry Benham to “make no attempt to advance on Charleston or to attack Fort Johnson until largely re-enforced or until you received specific instructions from these headquarters to that effect.”
  • On June 16, 1862, Brigadier General Henry Benham advised Major General David Hunter that it was “indispensable that we should destroy or capture the fort and floating battery of the enemy at Secessionville.”
  • On June 16, 1862, Brigadier General Henry Benham launched a “reconnaissance in force” against Fort Lamar near Secessionville, South Carolina.
  • On June 16, 1862, roughly 750 Confederates commanded by Colonel Thomas G. Lamar repulsed three attacks by roughly 6,500 federal soldiers commanded by Brigadier General Henry Benham.
  • The Battle of Secessionville ended at about 9 a.m. on June 16, 1862.
  • Had federal forces captured Fort Lamar they might have flanked Charleston’s harbor defenses, occupied the city, and cut the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, severing a vital supply line to Confederate troops in the East.
  • On June 27, 1862, Major General David Hunter ordered his troops to evacuate James Island.
  • By July 7, 1862, all federal troops had departed James Island.
  • The failed Union assault on James Island was the only federal attempt to seize Charleston by land during the war.
  • After the Confederate victory at the Battle of Secessionville, Major General David Hunter relieved Brigadier General Henry Benham of his command for disobeying his June 10 “make no attempt to advance on Charleston” until Hunter returned to James Island with reinforcements.
  • On August 7, 1862, General-in-Chief Henry Halleck and Secretary of War Edwin W. Stanton revoked Henry Benham’s appointment as a brigadier general in the volunteer army.
  • On January 3, 1863, President Lincoln asked the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt to review Brigadier General Henry Benham’s appeal of his demotion.
  • On January 26, 1863, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt reported to President Lincoln that “General Benham should not be condemned as incapable or unfaithful, precipitately or without a hearing. His restoration is respectfully recommended.”
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Battle of Secessionville Facts
  • Coverage June 16, 1862
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 12, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 4, 2021
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