Charles Carr and the “Swamp Angel”

Swamp Angel, ca.1907
Postcard from author’s collection
Charles Carr (1822-1877), proprietor of the Phoenix Iron Company, and a number of his employees who were Civil War veterans noticed that one of the scrap cannon slated for melting was the “Swamp Angel,” the long-range gun with which Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore and the soldiers under his command briefly shelled the city of Charleston, South Carolina.

As The Defense of Charleston, including Fort Sumter and the Adjacent Islands, 1863-1865 (Johnson 1890) tells the story, “The Swamp Angel, so called by the Union soldiers, was purchased, with a number of other condemned cannon at the close of the war by the late Charles Carr, founder, of Trenton, N.J. It lay at his foundry several years, and, being loth to melt such a historic relic, he united with a number of public-spirited citizens and took means for the preservation of the piece.”

Gillmore was tasked with taking Charleston in 1863. He determined that a long range gunnery was needed, but the nearest safe distance was five miles distant on Morris Island. Since the island was little more than a marsh, a battery was constructed in two parts. The parapet was built on piles driven into the marsh, a grillage bolted onto the pilings, and a layer of 800 tons of sand. Once the foundation was completed, the platform was built of a layer of marsh grass, canvas, and sand onto which was placed a plank deck.

The parapet and platform were not connected to each other in order to accommodate the recoil from the eight-ton gun and its four-ton carriage. This unique design resulted in a battery that essentially floated on the marsh and is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the war.

The Swamp Angel used 16-pound charges, 150-pound projectiles, and, at a maximum elevation of 35 degrees, was capable of reaching targets some 8,000 yards away. Once firing commenced, 35 shells struck Charleston, but the gun burst on its 36th charge.

Isaac Brougham drafted the memorial’s design. Unveiled in 1877, after Carr's death, it was located at the intersection of Clinton Avenue and Perry Street, but moved to Cadwalader Park in 1961 to commemorate the centennial of the start of the Civil War.

Carr is interred in Section B, Lot 286-287.

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