Monthly Archives: September 2008

HMDB Update – 29 September

A bumper crop of Civil War markers this week, with eighty-two entered.  Here are some entries of note:

From upstate New York is a marker for Streetroad Cemetery highlighting the final resting place for several Union veterans.  The last veteran was interred in 1936.

Seems like at least once a week we get a monument or marker associated with Anderson’s Train Raid.  The monument is placed on the National Cemetery at Chattanooga.

Georgia markers include one for Catoosa Springs Confederate Hospital, the Battle of Griswoldville, and the Battle of Pine Knob.

From North Carolina, a state marker indicates the surrender of Gen. James Martin on May 6, 1864, in Waynesville.  Martin’s command was the last organized Confederate force in the state.

We had ten additions to the “Lee’s Retreat” series which mark the Appomattox Campaign.  Several markers in addition to that series help make the Appomattox Campaign one of the best interpreted Civil War tours.  With the artillery playing a back seat during the Campaign, I’m partial to following the cavalry operations.  Of which, one of my favorite actions occurred at High Bridge, where a Civil War Trails marker provides information.  Remember it was not the highest bridge, nor the longest bridge, just the highest long bridge….

My contributions this week continued with the Gettysburg area.  Most entries this week centered on West Confederate Avenue.  Perhaps a bit busy, but I felt the need to show examples of two different Confederate field howitzers near the tablet for Poague’s Howitzers.  At the tablet are examples of both Quinby & Robinson and Noble Brothers 12-pounder Field Howitzers.  Aside from the novelty factor, the placement of Poague’s Howitzers on the battlefield brings into question the effectiveness of “mixed batteries” and tactical employment of the artillery in general.  In this case, even in Major Poague’s own words, the howitzers were useless for the Confederate operations at Gettysburg.  Now if the Federals had obliged and attacked on July 4…… who knows?

However, proving that even a blind squirrel can occasionally find an acorn, I was most pleased with the photo I managed for the Sachs Covered Bridge.

Sachs Covered Bridge

Sachs Covered Bridge

Gettysburg Tablets Reference

As lamented a few weeks back, I was looking for a solid source for the various Gettysburg National Park  Commission tablets placed outside the battlefield proper (and in general a single definitive listing encompassing those on the field also). 

I had seen reprints of the Army Quartermaster report, but the previews made me balk at paying $11 for what appeared to be basic lists.  Also I’d referenced a few of the annual War Department reports I could find through Google book searches.  None seemed offer comprehensive listings. 

Digging deeper, I stumbled across Bob Myer’s site, and his MS Word document listing pretty much everything “known” there is to see.  But, me being me, I wanted to get the most upstream source I could find.  He cites Kathy Georg Harrison’s The Location of Monuments, Markers, and Tablets on Gettysburg Battlefield as one of his base sources when starting his survey.   Amazon said “one to three weeks.”  I wanted instant gratification, so for $5 I secured a copy at the Gettysburg Visitor Center bookstore. 

Harrison’s book is short and sweet.  The listings of items is right in line with the Army Quartermaster reports.  However, what I couldn’t tell from the previews of that report, was how detailed the listings were for “outside the park” tablets.  I found those definitively listed both in Harrison’s book and Myer’s web site (and assume the Quartermaster report had them also).  Harrison added columns indicating the date the item was placed or dedicated. 

Long story short, there are 11 “Itinerary Tablets” outside the main battlefield park.  I’m more “educated” on the subject.  And I saved at least $6, with some of my cash went to support the park.  (Oh, and no three weeks spent waiting on the postman.)

Give me a few good weather weekends, and I’ll have those Itinerary Tablets “captured” and posted to the database!

4.5 Inch Rifle

Or perhaps we can call this post – the Heavy Iron of the Heavy Artillery!

Hunting down markers in Pennsylvania recently I came across this fine specimen of 4.5 inch Siege Rifle, Pattern of 1861:

4.5 Inch Ordnance Rifle at Millersburg, PA

4.5 Inch Ordnance Rifle at Millersburg, PA

Often, when one runs across the 4.5 inch Rifles, they are upright as monuments or gate guards.  So I took the time to examine this piece closely.  The muzzle displayed standard Ordnance Department markings for post 1861 regulations:

Muzzle Markings

Muzzle Markings

The business end indicates this piece was produced in 1863 by Fort Pitt Foundry, in Pittsburgh, PA.  It weighed 3556 pounds when inspected by Charles Peoble Kingsbury (initials C.P.K.).  And it was assigned the registry number 67.  Note the well worn rifling, which is badly deteriorated further into the bore.

A socket for the rear sight is just over the breech.  The tapped mounting holes for the front post are over the right trunnion.

Breech and Sight Socket

Breech and Sight Socket

Front Sight Mount Point

Front Sight Mount Point

At first glance, the 4.5 inch appears to be simply a “big brother” to the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  Think again.  This “heavy” does not use the wrought iron construction of the 3-inch type.  All 4.5 inch Rifles were produced by Fort Pitt Foundry, and used a rather conventional solid cast technique.  However, the external similarity between the two “Ordnance” rifle calibers is not coincidental.  Both used the form desired by the department, which reduced all sharp angles and stress points down to only those where the trunnions met the rimbases.  Even the knob is gracefully blended into the breech.

Some sources erroneously attribute the 4.5-inch (and even the 3-inch) Rifles to Thomas J. Rodman, better known for his work on heavy seacoast guns.  These rifles did not use the core-barrel water cooling technique during production.  Thus the attribution to Rodman does not make much sense, unless someone can prove Rodman developed the “Ordnance” shape itself.

Another point about the 4.5-inch construction, and perhaps the weakest point of the weapon, regards the vent hole at the breech (in the photo above it has been filled in).  The 4.5-inch Rifles used no vent bushing (also called bouching).  Under the stress of firing, the cast iron tended to erode badly at the vent.  Parrott Rifles and other types used a copper (or other metal) vent bushing, screwed down the vent hole.  Some 4.5-inch Rifles were retrofitted with such bushing.  Still the largest criticism of the type regarded the endurance of the vent.

Operationally, the 4.5-inch Rifle was rated a “Siege Gun” and saw wide use in the fortifications circling Washington.  However, Batteries B and M, 1st Connecticut Artillery were part of the siege train for the Army of the Potomac from late 1862 onward.  Photographic evidence indicates one of these batteries was in place opposite Fredericksburg in the winter of 1862-3.

4.5-inch Rifles at Fredericksburg

During the Gettysburg Campaign, the batteries were part of the 2nd Volunteer Brigade of the Artillery Reserve.   Battery M, 1st Connecticut was somewhere between Westminster and Taneytown, MD during the battle, and later joined the main army during the standoff at Jones’ Crossroads during the retreat.  Several batteries were used for good effect at Petersburg, of course. However since these “siege guns” were about three times the weight of a 12-pounder Napoleon and four times the weight of the 3-inch Rifles, their usefulness was limited for a field army.

The 4.5-inch Rifle matched up with the 30-pounder Parrott Rifle (4.2-inch caliber).  The Parrott, even with a slightly smaller caliber, weighed about 800 pounds more.  The maximum range of both types were similar.  At ten degrees elevation the 4.5-rifle ranged to 3200 yards with a Dyer shell.  At least one first hand account from the Connecticut batteries state the 4.5-inch Rifles were more mobile in action than the heavy Parrotts.

Of 113 produced, there are 56 identified survivors.  The example from my photographs is located in downtown Millersburg, PA, pointed out over the Susquehanna.