On this week 150 years ago, Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren took command of the South Atlantic Squadron. Most of the U.S. Navy’s
monitors and the USS New Ironsides wooden-hulled broadside ironclad were at Charleston Harbor – the location also of the heaviest concentration of Confederate shore artillery under the command of General Pierre G.T. Beauregard. The Union commander was the inventor of the 11-inch and 15-inch Dahlgren guns on the monitors.
On the 10th, a combined plan of bombardment of the monitors and infantry assaults on the series of forts outlying the harbor was undertaken. The oppressive heat of that day caused more heatstroke casualties than did the fighting, though Dahlgren’s flagship – the Catskill – took 60 direct hits from Battery Wagner (called Fort Wagner by the Federals).
Over the next week, the vessels continued to pound Battery Wagner. On the 18th, a heaviest bombardment rained down on the fort to soften it for and infantry assault at dusk. This was led by the famous black regiment of the fame from the movie “Glory” – the 54th Massachusetts. They fought with extraordinary bravery, suffering losses by a ratio of 7-1. The combined Federal forces set in for a siege that lasted two months before the Confederates abandoned the forts on September 6th. The entire effort was a grueling one for all sides with much disease and deprivation in the oppressive heat and humidity.
Admiral Dahlgren would die (143 years ago tomorrow) on July 12, 1870 at age 60. His wife would later buy the tavern mountain house on the national turnpike at Turner’s Gap on South Mountain, naming it Dahlgren Manor. She had a gothic revival stone chapel built across the road in 1881. Of the Roman Catholic faith, it was consecrated as the Chapel of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was buried there in 1898.
The chapel today is under the administration of a historic district, and it is often used for weddings. It sits at a beautiful location near the South Mountain Inn (which I have written about HERE), and is but a few feet from the pathway of the Appalachian Trail.
I have done a total of three weddings in the chapel over my years in this community, including some church friends just two weeks ago. Here are some pictures from that occasion …