On June 16, 1862, Confederate forces defeated Union troops in the Battle of Secessionville' (or the First Battle of James Island) preventing the Union's only attempt to capture Charleston, South Carolina, by land during the American Civil War.
In early June 1862, UnionMaj. Gen. David Hunter transported the Union divisions of Brig. Gens. Horatio G. Wright and Isaac I. Stevens, under the immediate direction of Brig. Gen. Henry Benham, to James Island, where they entrenched at Grimball's Landing near the southern flank of the Confederate defenses. Benham landed 6,500 men from the 3rd New Hampshire, 8th Michigan, 7th Connecticut, 28th Massachusetts, and 79th New York "Highlanders" on the southeastern end of James Island, and marched toward Charleston. However, Confederate Brig. Gen. Nathan "Shanks" Evans, who commanded fewer than half that number of Confederate forces, made up of troops from South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, met the Northern troops at a fort at Secessionville commanded by Colonel T. G. Lamar and routed them. Secessionville was a small summer village formerly called Riversville but renamed in the early 1860s.
The Union suffered 683 casualties (107 dead), compared to 204 (52 dead) by the Confederates. Although the battle was minor, it served as a powerful propaganda victory, increasing morale, particularly in Charleston, and offsetting recent Confederate losses in the Western Theater.
Although the numbers involved were small, the stakes were high. Benham had acted against orders in attempting to take James Island, and he was subject to a court martial after the loss. The Union continued its attempt to starve and attack Charleston for the rest of the war. Had they they succeeded in taking "Fort Lamar" at Secessionville, they could have controlled the harbor.
Two other battles were also known as the "Battle of James Island":
This article incorporates public domain material from the National Park Service document "".