Morris Island Light is a lighthouse on Morris Island in South Carolina. The light stands on the southern side of the entrance to Charleston Harbor, north of the City of Folly Beach.
The lighthouse is unusual in that it now stands several hundred feet offshore. When constructed in 1876 the light was approximately 1,200 feet from the water’s edge. However, the construction in 1889 of the jetties which protect the shipping lanes leading to Charleston Harbor altered ocean currents, resulting in the rapid erosion of Morris Island and the destruction of many structures and historical sites. By 1938 the shoreline had reached the lighthouse, forcing its automation as it was no longer safe or practical to keep it manned. In 1962 the Morris Island Light was decommissioned and replaced by the new Charleston Light, located on Sullivan’s Island at the north end of the harbor.
Morris Island is an 840 acre uninhabited island in Charleston Harbor, accessible only by boat. The island lies in the outer reaches of the harbor and was thus a strategic location in the American Civil War.
Morris Island was heavily fortified to defend Charleston harbor, with the fortifications centered on Fort Wagner. It was the scene of heavy fighting during the Union Army’s campaign to capture Charleston, and is perhaps best known today as the scene of the ill-fated assault by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an African-American regiment. The regiment and this assault, where it suffered over 50% casualties, was immortalized in the film Glory.
After the Confederates abandoned Morris Island in 1863, the Union occupied it and transferred 520 Confederate officers from Fort Delaware to Morris Island. They were used as Human Shields in an attempt to silence the Confederate artillery at Fort Sumter and soon became known in the South as the Immortal Six Hundred. This was done by the Union when it was learned that the Confederacy had a similar number of human shields in Charleston to deter Union ships from firing on the city. Land Erosion has destroyed a great deal of the old fortifications on the island, including some parts of Fort Wagner.
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