“Swamp Angel” was the nickname given to a 16,500-pound rifled Parrott cannon with an eight-inch bore that briefly shelled the city of Charleston in August 1863. The massive gun was positioned near Morris Island in a sandbagged earthwork known as the Marsh Battery. The construction of the Marsh Battery, which virtually floated on the marsh, was considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of the war. The battery was completed by mid-August 1863, and by August 21 the Swamp Angel was mounted and ready to fire incendiary shells 7,900 yards into Charleston. Before the first shot was fired, the Union commander Quincy A. Gillmore demanded that the Confederates evacuate Morris Island and Fort Sumter or he would fire on the city. The request was refused, and early on the morning of August 22, directed by a compass reading on St. Michael’s steeple, the first shell was fired into Charleston. The shelling continued until daylight and then resumed on the evening of August 23, when the Swamp Angel exploded while firing its thirty-sixth round. The bombardment of the city would continue from other batteries and new guns mounted in the Marsh Battery throughout the war. Though only a few people were killed or injured by the shelling, it did force the civilian evacuation of Charleston south of Broad Street. The Swamp Angel’s damaged gun tube was later recovered and was mounted in Cadwallader Park in Trenton, New Jersey.

Johnson, John. The Defense of Charleston Harbor, Including Fort Sumter and the Adjacent Islands, 1863–1865. 1890. Reprint, Germantown, Tenn.: Guild Bindery Press, 1994.

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns. Bloomfield, Ont.: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War. 4th ed. Charleston, S.C.: Battery Press, 1984.

Wise, Stephen R. Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.

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Citation Information

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  • Article Title Swamp Angel
  • Author Stephen R. Wise
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/swamp-angel/
  • Access Date November 19, 2017
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date August 1, 2016
  • Date of Last Update November 21, 2016