Monthly Archives: July 2009

John Cark and Company Field Howitzers

As mentioned on the weekly marker updates, I’m currently working on the War Department tablets and monuments found along the Ruggles’ Batteries trail at Shiloh National Military Park.  Shiloh offers one of the most diverse collections of Civil War era artillery found today.  The weapons representing Ruggles’ Batteries is in my opinion the showcase of that collection.  Two of the pieces at Shiloh are 12-pdr Field Howitzers produced by John Clark & Company of New Orleans, Louisiana.

12-pdr John Clark Field Howitzer at Shiloh

12-pdr John Clark Field Howitzer at Shiloh

Before the war, John Clark owned a foundry at the intersection of Race and Tchoupitoulas Streets in what is today the Lower Garden District, close to the Mississippi River.  At the outbreak of war, Clark announced his firm could produce bronze field pieces for interested parties.  From June 1861 to the fall of New Orleans to the Federals in April 1862 the firm produced over 100 cannons.  Most of these were for private contracts.  Many of these went to the artillery batteries from New Orleans.   For the most part, the foundry produced two types – 6-pounder Field Guns and 12-pounder Field Howitzers.  Orders by the Confederate government for Armstrong pattern guns were unfilled when the city fell.

John Clark. // Maker. // N.O.

John Clark. // Maker. // N.O.

Clark’s pattern deviated from that of the standard 12-pdr Field Howitzer (Model of 1841) somewhat.  To the casual observer, the most apparent is a bulbous muzzle swell, instead of the straight muzzles of the regulation weapons.

Clark Howitzer Muzzle Swell and Chase Astragal

Clark Howitzer Muzzle Swell and Chase Astragal

The swell is more pronounced than that of a 12-pdr Napoleon (of the same caliber).  Note also the over sized chase astragal, which replaces the plain chase ring of the regulation howitzer.  The moldings on the muzzle face are also distinctive, not conforming to the Ordnance department designs.  And as seen in the photo below, the knob joins the base of the howitzer with a shallow curve, with barely any fillet.

Knob of Howitzer at Manassas NBP

Knob of Howitzer at Manassas NBP

And the pieces are definitely howitzers, with a chamber, as seen around the debris in this photo:

Bore of a Clark Howitzer at Shiloh

Bore of a Clark Howitzer at Shiloh

All examples have defects, indications of poor casting, and general roughly handled surfaces.  This is likely due to the inexperience with bronze gun casting at the Clark foundry.

In my travels over this last year, I’ve encountered five examples of the Clark howitzers.  Two are at Shiloh.  The first (pictured in the first photo above) is on exhibit next to the 5th Company of the Louisiana Washington Artillery tablet.  The piece is paired with another 12-pdr Howitzer of Confederate origin, this one produced by S. Wolff & Company, also of New Orleans (and a story for another day).

CS Howitzers - Wolff on the left, Clark on the Right

CS Howitzers - Wolff on the left, Clark on the Right

The 5th Company was formed after the first four companies of the Louisiana Washington Artillery departed for Virginia early in the war.  The 5th served the war in the Western Theater.   With both howitzers produced in New Orleans prior to the fall of the city in 1862, there are some good odds that one or both tubes were present at Shiloh during the battle.  And there is the possibility the pieces were actually employed near the spot they now occupy during the battle.

About 300 feet away at the tablet for Stanford’s Mississippi Battery is another Clark howitzer.

Clark Howitzer at Stanford's Battery Position

Clark Howitzer at Stanford's Battery Position

Stanford’s was another long serving battery in the Western Theater, seeing action in all the major battles up to Nashville in 1864.

Moving to Virginia, a single Clark howitzer at Petersburg NBP stands on the remains of Confederate Battery No. 6, just south of the park visitor center.

Clark Howitzer at Petersburg

Clark Howitzer at Petersburg

I am unaware of any specific unit this cannon represents.   Likely it is simply an efficient use of one of the park’s quite diverse set of artillery, to depict a Confederate position.

Lastly, at Manassas NBP two Clark howitzers stand in the line of bronze cannon representing the Confederate artillery in their position opposite the Henry House on the First Manassas battlefield.  The first stands near the “…Like a Stone Wall” wayside on the Henry Hill walking trail.  The closest unit marker is one reciting various batteries assembled at that point in the battle.

Clark Howitzer at Manassas (one of two)

Clark Howitzer at Manassas (one of two)

The other howitzer stands near the Louisiana Washington Artillery Battalion marker, which means it represents in part the first four companies of the Washington Artillery.

Clark Howitzer at Manassas - Washington Artillery

Clark Howitzer at Manassas - Washington Artillery

As with those tubes at Shiloh, is it possible that this particular piece saw action at Manassas?  Well according to Harry’s Confederate order of battle, the 1st Company of the Washington Artillery brought four 12-pdrs to the battle.  But with nothing in the way of markings on either piece at Manassas, we’d be asking silent guns to speak out loud again.

So five examples of the Clark howitzers – a little something for enthusiasts from both Eastern and Western Theaters!

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Sources consulted:

Daniel, Larry J., and Riley W. Gunter.  Confederate Cannon Foundries.  Union City, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1977

Daniel, Larry J.  Cannoneers in Gray: The Field Artillery of the Army of Tennessee, 1961-1865. University of Alabama Press, 1984.

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of 20 July

Another good summer time batch of Civil War entries this week at Historical Marker Database, with over fifty additions.  These represent Civil War related sites in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Here’s some of the high points:

- Three markers interpret the site of Fort DeRussy (a Park Service “billboard“, a newer wayside, and an older metal plaque)  in the Washington Defenses.

- Twelve more markers this week covering the Dallas, New Hope Church, and Pickett’s Mill battles in Paulding County, Georgia.  Shortly I will collect these into a related set for the battlefield by markers displays.

- Eight markers to add with those from last week from Hagerstown, Maryland.  Topics on these markers include John Brown’s raid, buildings used as hospitals after the battle of Antietam, the Battle of Hagerstown during the Gettysburg retreat, the ransom of Hagerstown in 1864, and town politics prior to and during the war.  Hagerstown plans to add at least five more markers in this series associated with Civil War sites in the town.

- A marker in Monroe, Michigan complements a memorial to General George A. Custer.    The memorial was dedicated by President Taft in 1910.

- Four Civil War related memorials from Mansfield, Ohio this week.  In addition to the Richland County War Memorial and the Richland County Medal of Honor Memorial, the town boasts memorials to the Sultana disaster.  A memorial on the Public Square lists casualties of the disaster from the county, by unit.  A mile and a half away in Central Park is a memorial to those from the 102nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry who died when the steamboat blew up.

- A marker in Wahlalla, South Carolina details the life of General John A. Wagener.  Wagener organized German immigrants in the state, served a term as mayor of Charleston, and commanded the German Artillery during the war.

- I’ve begun adding some of the markers and tablets from my trip to Shiloh in the spring, starting with those at the Ruggles’ Batteries tour stop.

-Ten markers added this week by Bernie Fisher, our Richmond area contributing-editor, cover the North Anna Battlefield walking trail.  These ten complement the existing set of markers covering the North Anna phase of the Overland Campaign.

- From Mechanicsville, Virginia a marker indicates the site of Rutland, a house used by General J.E.B. Stuart as a headquarters in July 1862.  The house originally stood 800 yards southeast of the present location, but was moved by a developer in 2007 to ensure preservation of the structure.  Also relocated, and now in front of the house, are remains from an unmarked African-American cemetery.  Most of the graves dated to the post-war period.

- A West Virginia state marker indicates the remains of Gauley Bridge, site of a small action in 1861.  The bridge stood at the junction of the New and Gauley Rivers (which then form the Kanawha River).  Piers of the wartime bridge stand near the opposite shore.

- Four markers this week interpret the battle of Carnifex Ferry, in Nicholas County, West Virginia.  The battle, fought on September 10, 1861, helped secure West Virginia for the Union.  The Henry Patterson house is one battlefield landmark intepreted by the markers.

A good sampling of marker entries this week.  Our coverage of the Dallas Line in Georigia is nearly complete.  Hopefully by the end of the summer, we’ll have a respectible collection representing the Shiloh battlefield also.

Manassas Anniversary Weekend

This weekend, the Manassas National Battlefield Park held their annual observance of the anniversary of the First Manassas or Bull Run (if you prefer).  These are always good events for my young aide-de-camp, with  demonstrations and displays to attract the attention of a young little boy.  An added blessing this year, and I cannot recall a summer as this one, are the mild temperatures.   Almost early June weather in the middle of July!  So if a “bad day” walking a Civil War battlefield is better than a “great day” at work, then what would a GREAT DAY on the battlefield be like????

Our first stop of the day was the Stone Bridge.  My aide loves to get a good look at bridges, and of course is fascinated by any body of water.

The Stone Bridge

The Stone Bridge from the East Bank

Like many battlefield “wanderers”, I’m somewhat inspired by William Frassanito, and look for “then and now” comparisons.  The Stone Bridge received some attention over the last few years for the wear and tear due to exposure and weathering.  Of course the current Stone Bridge is itself a “repair” of the bridge destroyed in March 1862.

Ruins of Stone Bridge 1862

This photo taken 1962 included in the Historic American Building Survey shows the south facing side of the bridge:

1962 View of South Face of Bridge

1962 View of South Face of Bridge

The south face today looks very much as it did in during the Centennial years:

South Face of Bridge Today

South Face of Bridge Today

Beyond the bridge, one of our objectives was the recently repaired walkway over the low ground west of the bridge.  The causeway was repaired over the last two seasons by volunteers.  Work was ongoing as recently as this last May when Harry Smeltzer and I stomped around the battlefield.

Repaired Walkway West of the Stone Bridge

Repaired Walkway West of the Stone Bridge

The trail offers many opportunities to examine the flora and fauna of Northern Virginia up close.  And some of the fauna are … well… just as interested in us people as we are of them!

Four Legged Residents of Manassas

Mother and "Bambi" Enjoy Manassas

Our next stop was the Stone House.  For the Anniversary weekend, the upper floor was open for viewing.  Since the rooms upstairs are not furnished, many visitors bypass the climb up.  Personally I consider the Stone House to be the Manassas answer to the observation towers at Antietam or Gettysburg.  From the upstairs windows one can take in Buck Hill and Henry House Hill.

Buck Hill through the Stone House Windows

Buck Hill through the Stone House Windows

The antique style window panes add that “rustic” feel to the view.  But of course, I should have stopped to “do the windows.”  The view to the south is equally impressive, but one must time traffic to avoid a photo cluttered with “modernisms.”

Henry House and Hill from Stone House

Henry House and Hill from Stone House

From the Stone House, we made a short walk up Buck Hill.  Much of the landscape restoration is complete now, with recent additions of wood rail fencing.

Matthews Hill from Buck Hill

Matthews Hill from Buck Hill

And with the living historians in full force at the Henry House, the tentage present offered a “glimpse of the past.”

Stone and Henry Houses from Buck Hill

Stone and Henry Houses from Buck Hill

Our last stop on the 1st Manassas Battlefield was the Visitor Center.  My aide is always interested in the cannon, and insisted on a walk to the Confederate artillery line east of the Henry House.

Confederate Artillery

Confederate Artillery

If you follow my marker entries, you’ll notice I have a fondness for the “gunner’s view” of the battlefield.

Gunner's View of the Henry House

Gunner's View of the Henry House

After chatting with several living historians and park rangers, my aide announced it was time for a picnic.  While many visitors to the battlefield prefer to forage into the sprawl of Manassas, we opted to visit the park’s picnic area off Groveton Road.  This section of the battlefield was “saved” from development in what was called the Third Battle of Manassas.  I find it a rather quiet spot for a break, with several sites nearby related to the 2nd Manassas.

Now to answer my earlier question, “What is a GREAT DAY on the battlefield be like?”  Well on the ride home, my aide announced, “this was the best day trip E-V-E-R!”

Even if it rains every weekend past Labor Day this year, with that note, I’ve got to call this summer campaign season a success.   I think my son has a memory to cherish in later years.