Monthly Archives: April 2010

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of April 26

This week we have additions from Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  In all, 37  new entries for the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database.

- The Torrington, Connecticut Soldiers Memorial features a standard soldier at rest statue.  But the Winsted, Connecticut Soldier’s Memorial is a large tower with a color bearer at the top.

- General George McClellan offers a bold equestrian pose on his memorial in Washington, D.C.

- A marker in Kennesaw, Georgia explains the local name “Big Shanty” and notes that Federal drew supplies from the railroad there in June 1864.

- Two markers in Marietta, Georgia associated with the battle of Kennesaw Mountain.  One marker notes the position from which Logan’s Fifteenth Army Corps assaulted the Confederate lines on June 27, 1864.    Another notes the line of assault for five brigades from the Fourth and Fourteenth Army Corps.

- A marker in Atlanta, Georgia note the location used by General O.O. Howard on July 5-10, 1864 as his corps confronted the Chattahoochee Line.  The Fourth Corps’ occupied the area around Vining’s Station.

- Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston is featured in a bold pose on a memorial in Dalton, Georgia.

- A marker in Louisville, Kentucky notes the location of the Galt House.  In September 1862, General J.C. Davis assassinated General William Nelson there.  In March 1864, Generals Grant and Sherman met there to plan strategy for that year’s summer campaigns.

- A marker in Flemingsburg, Kentucky stands in front of the home of James J. Andrews, leader of the Federal raiders in the Great Locomotive Chase.

- William S. Ashe, resident of Ashton, North Carolina, managed the Confederate railroad system during the war.

- A soldier with arms at the ready stands atop the Butler County Civil War Memorial in Middletown, Ohio.  The memorial is guarded by a 100-pdr Parrott Rifle.

- The first shot of the Civil War was a signal shot from a mortar positioned at Fort Johnston, on James Island, South Carolina.  The entry includes photos of the remains of the fort.

- A marker in Nashville, Tennessee indicates the site of Fort Negley, part of the Federal defenses of the city.  Firing guns from the fort, Federals opened their assaults of December 15, 1864, during the Battle of Nashville.

- The Confederate cemetery in San Antonio, Texas is the final resting place for many notable persons in the state’s rich history.

- A marker in Mason, Texas stands at the site of Fort Mason.  Before the Civil War the Second U.S. Cavalry garrisoned the fort with officers such as Albert Sidney Johnston, George H. Thomas,  Earl Van Dorn and Robert E. Lee.

- Several entries from Richmond, Virginia this week.  A memorial commemorates the spot near the Manchester Court House where the Manchester Elliot Grays mustered into service.  Also in the Manchester district, a marker indicates the location of old slave docks along the James.   A kiosk marker further discusses the docks, as well as the CSS Virginia’s service.  A sidewalk marker along the Richmond Canal Walk describes Tredegar Iron Works.  Two markers indicate the house occupied by Matthew Fontaine Maury during the war, mentioning his work on underwater torpedoes in particular.

- A wayside marker in Gloucester Point, Virginia tells us the first shots of the Civil War fired in Virginia occurred on May 3, 1861 at the point when a Federal ship attempted passage up-river.

- A marker and a monument in Matthews, Virginia commemorate “Captain Sally” Tompkins.  She founded Robertson Hospital in Richmond.   Tompkins is buried in a nearby cemetery.   Matthews also boasts a Confederate Memorial.

- Also in Matthews County, but in near the community of Moon, Virginia was Fitchett’s Warf, site of a shipyard.  The yard was burned by Federals during the war.  Another state marker notes the location of New Point Comfort Lighthouse, which was left dark during the Civil War.

- The now vanished town of Diuguidsville, Virginia prospered prior to the War due to the James River traffic, then declined post-war.  In 1865, the townspeople burned a bridge over the river when Sheridan moved through.

- A memorial on the grounds of the “new” Appomattox Court House lists the units formed within Appomattox County.  The memorial stands beside the county’s Confederate memorial.

- A new NPS wayside marker added to the collection detailing the Battle of Appomattox Station, April 8, 1865.  I’m looking for a replacement for the “washed out” photos taken on my recent trip.

- Several additions to the Appomattox Court House related set this week.  An old NPS marker notes the location of “Lee’s Apple Tree” where he rested on April 9, 1865.  Another marker directs our attention to Sears Lane, used by Grant on his way to meet Lee at the McLean house.  Within the park, but not directly associated with the surrender is the home of Joel Walker Sweeney, who made the banjo popular.  Joel’s brother Sam provided entertainment for General J.E.B. Stuart during the war.  Further afield is a county line marker boasting Appomattox’s role in the final campaign of the war.

The Cyrus Alger Napoleon

Generally speaking, the Federal 12-pdr Napoleons, or to be correct the 12-pdr Light Field Guns Pattern of 1857, Modified, were cast to a very consistent form.  I’ve discussed the first “unmodified” Napoleon.  Some of the early production models featured handles.  And there is the variation with hause seat and base plate pads, specifically for Henry Hooper and Miles Greenwood (Eagle Foundry) production.  Otherwise, save six rifled Napoleons and the lone wrought iron experiments, all Federal Napoleons look very much the same…

…Until you look at them close up.

Each foundry had slight differences with markings.  Some, such as the large font used on the Greenwood guns, are easy to pick out.  Other marking differences require some careful examination.  Consider this Napoleon, cast by Cyrus Alger & Company of Boston, Massachusetts, standing guard at the “new” courthouse at Appomattox.

Napoleon Muzzle - Alger No. 98

The registry number, foundry, and weight are barely visible after all these years out in the open with birds taking liberties.  At the nine-o’clock position is the registry number “98.”  At the top is “C.A. & Co.”  On the right at the three-o’clock is the weapon weight of 1,219 pounds.  Difficult to make out are the inspectors initials “T.J.R.” for Thomas J. Rodman and the date of 1862.

Let’s say those muzzle markings, as often happens, were too badly eroded to read.  The next place to look is the right side rimbase.

Foundry Number 1133

As required by Federal regulations, the foundry stamped a control number – independent of the registry number – on the right rimbase.  This was to aid in tracking casting sequence.   Presumably, foundry numbers (or as I often call them “rimbase numbers”) were issued to rejected castings that, having failed inspection, did not receive registry numbers.   Quite often, the foundry number survives as the location is among the most protected surfaces of the gun.  However, with the position of the top strap over the trunnion often prevents easy reading (or photographs).

Another place to look is the acceptance mark, or the “U.S.” over the trunnions.

Acceptance Mark - Alger

Cyrus Alger’s stamp was a rather simple font, just a bit over a half-inch high.  Other Napoleons used other fonts and sizes.  For example this Revere Copper Napoleon (registry number 41) at Antietam:

Revere Acceptance Mark

In some cases, the only identification one can offer for a Napoleon is that of the manufacturer, based on these “U.S.” acceptance marks.

But for Alger guns, there is one more mark to look for.  Might be a long shot, given weathering, but something only seen on Alger Napoleons.

Alger Reinforce Lines

See the faint line running around the gun tube, just at the point the taper begins?  Alger castings feature lines on both ends of the reinforce. Here’s a view of the rear reinforce line on an Alger Napoleon (registry number 39) outside the Antietam Visitor Center.

Rear Reinforce Mark

You can just make it out in front of the hause seat pad.  These don’t always survive time and the elements.  Likely these lines were used to confirm the reinforce dimensions during acceptance inspections.  Why similar lines don’t exist for other manufactures?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Perhaps just Alger providing some aid to the inspecting officer, whom they worked closely with over the years – Major Thomas J. Rodman.

In summary, yes all Napoleons look the same from a distance.   But up close those made by Cyrus Alger had some unique marks.  Now not a single variation noted here offered a single point of consideration from a tactical perspective.  But if you really want to get to know these artifacts, particularly if you think the gun has a story to tell, take a close look at the markings.

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Aside from on site notes, sources consulted for this post were:

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.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

Gunades

A direct relative of the carronade was the the gunade (or gunnade in some contemporary accounts).  The history of the gunade is not documented to the degree of the carronade.  And to be fair, the term “gunade” took on a broader definition over time, further confusing any formal definition from a historical standpoint.  The name is noted by some as a cross between “gun” and “carronade” alluding to the “gunade” as a mix of qualities from both types.  For purposes of discussion here, I will restrict scope to carronade-like naval artillery which featured trunnions instead of underloops.

Much as carronades, gunades spawned from requirements for light-weight, easily handled weapons to arm merchant ships.  All indications are the gunade evolved from the carronade, or at least in parallel.  As noted above, the major distinguishing feature on gunades was the trunnions.

Why trunnions?  Generally trunnions offer better angles for sighting, depression, and elevation.  And the weapon, sited on its mount, stood shorter.  (The later point I derive from one source, an article in The Canadian Monthly and National Review, titled “The Royal Navy,” dated 1878. And while it makes perfect sense, is not documented in pre-Civil War instructions, so I consider it “secondary” pending other discoveries.)   Some gunades apparently used quoins for elevation, while others used an elevating screw through the knob like the carronades.   Sketches of gunade mountings show a sled with high “cheeks” supporting the trunnions.

Regardless of the reason for trunnions, gunades appeared on merchant ships and saw limited military use.  Accounts note gunades in 6-, 12-, 18-, 24-, and 32-pdr sizes.  But most common were the lighter models.   Nothing close to a standardized form appeared.  And very little, either markings or written records, indicate who produced gunades.  Most appear to be of English origin, however Denmark and Sweeden produced gunades.  There is some indication of American manufacture.   And as with carronades, all known gunades are iron.

Two of these “unknown” gunades is are on display at the Fort Leslie J. McNair, in Washington, D.C.

Gunade at Fort McNair

This example, and its companion, are basically 12-pdr class.  Notice the form very similar to the carronade shown in my previous post.  The trunnions are low mounted, below the bore centerline.  I cannot speak definitively about the caliber, as the bore of one is very rusty and the other is plugged.

Bore of Gunade

Notice the lip, or pan, at the muzzle, very much like the carronade discussed earlier.

Ring and Open Knob

This particular piece featured a ring over the knob for breeching tackle, and a flat knob, with a hole for an elevating screw.

"Plugged" Gunade at Ft. McNair

Second Gunade at Ft. McNair

These gunades feature sighting brackets over the trunnions and just short of the muzzle.

Other surviving gunades are displayed in the West Point collection and at Fort Ticonderoga, both in New York.  None conform to any single standard form.

The U.S. Navy acquired many gunades around the time of the War of 1812.  Given the shortage of proper, military-specification ordnance, no doubt naval officers issued what they could lay their hands on.   Gunades found their way onto frigates and other warships, placed on the upper works, mounted as field pieces for landing parties, or as boat guns.   But like the the carronades, by the 1840s, the Navy had placed its gunades in storage, opting for more modern weapons to fill those roles.

To my knowledge, neither side used gunades in the Civil War.  As such, the main interest for those studying artillery of the Civil War era is the evolutionary step the gunade represented in naval ordnance.  When John Dahlgren began designing his boat howitzer system in the late 1840s, he considered and reviewed both carronades and gunades, among other weapons.  Since both types had seen service as boat armament, and possessed some useful qualities, Dahlgren had a proper starting point.

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Chapelle, Howard I.  The History of the American Sailing Navy:  The Ships and Their Development.  New York:  Konecky & Konecky, 1949.

Tucker, Spencer.  Arming the Fleet:  U.S. Navy Ordnance in the Muzzle-Loading Era.  Annapolis, Maryland:  Naval Institute Press, 1989.