Morris Island is an 840 acre (3.4 km²) uninhabited island in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, 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.
It was heavily fortified to defend the 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.
Morris Island is also the site of the Morris Island Light. Erosion has destroyed a great deal of the old fortifications on the island, including some parts of Fort Wagner. Plans to commercially develop the 125 acres (506,000 m²) of high ground on Morris Island as a luxury residential area resulted in several groups fighting to have the island declared a national historical park, or added to the Fort Sumter park.
Most recently, Charleston developer Harry Huffman, then the island's current owner, listed the island on eBay for $12.5 million. Huffman was in negotiations to sell the island to a consortium of preservation groups, but claimed to have listed the island to see what price might be offered. Charleston zoning regulations permit no more than 5 homes to be built on the island. Huffman had waged a number of battles with the local development agencies to change the zoning, but claimed to have grown tired of fighting and just wanted to sell. The island was last sold in the 1980s for $3 million.
On February 2, 2006, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a non-profit private land conservation organization, announced the purchase of Morris Island for $4.5 million. The island will now be preserved and protected from development.