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In 1862, Confederate Colonel Lewis Hatch selected a site on the Secessionville peninsula to construct a defensive battery. Though first criticized as too remote, Hatch selected the narrowest point of the peninsula, about 125 yards wide, flanked by marsh on both sides. The battery was first referred to as the Tower Battery for the tall observation and signal tower constructed there. Though eventually armed with 13 guns, the battery was initially armed with 5 guns in June 1862. Colonel Thomas Lamar supervised the construction of the battery and commanded the troops.


On June 2, 1862, Union troops landed at Grimball Plantation on the Stono River. Lamar was frantically attempting to complete the construction of the Tower Battery. On June 16, Union troops attacked the Tower Battery with far superior numbers.  The Union army quickly found themselves in a bottleneck facing the battery, and under fire from the battery’s five guns. During the battle, Lamar received a serious neck wound and had to turn over the command to Lt. Colonel P. C. Gaillard. After three assaults on the Tower Battery over a 2 ½ hour battle, Union Brigadier General Henry Benham ordered a general retreat. Known as the Battle of Secessionville, the Union troops were soundly defeated with casualties four times higher than the Confederates. By July 8, the Union army vacated James Island and returned to Port Royal.

The Battery was renamed Fort Lamar in honor of Colonel Lamar. West of the battery is a mass unmarked grave of 341 Union soldiers, most from the 79th New York Highlanders Regiment and the 8th Michigan Regiment killed at the Battle of Secessionville.


By 1864, a long defensive line, known as the Secessionville Water Batteries, connected to Fort Lamar and extended to the eastern end of the Secessionville peninsula. It included a large bombproof and magazine and extensive Confederate camp. In February 1865 it was armed with five heavy cannon: One rifled gun and four smoothbores. Throughout 1864, Fort Lamar and the Water Batteries traded fire with Union batteries on Long Island.


Fort Lamar was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 as part of the Secessionville Historic District. Most of the remains of Fort Lamar are now part of the South Carolina Heritage Trust and maintained by the Fort Lamar Stewardship Committee. A one-acre tract in the footprint of Fort Lamar was conveyed to the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust.