Monthly Archives: January 2011

Wilson’s Creek: “Sweeney Museum” Closure Delayed

News from Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Missouri:

Civil War Anniversary Delays Museum Closing

What could have been a stand-off over the Civil War Museum at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield has ended in a truce.

A plan by the National Parks Service to close the museum on Route Z and store its collection in an underground vault near Kansas City prompted protests by the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation.

Conflict was averted late last week when the NPS regional director Ernie Quintano announced nothing will done until after the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek is commemorated in August.

The museum, purchased by the park service in 2005, will be emptied and converted to park staff use but the museum’s collection will stay at the battlefield — at least for now.

Foundation president Steve Ross said he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, at least to a point….

(…. Go to the article for more, or also see the article on Ozark First.com)

For many years, any visit to Wilson’s Creek has included a stop at the Sweeny Museum.  Last summer, I visited with my son in tow, and the stop became a highlight of an event filled day.

Tom Sweeney created the museum in the early 1990s, naming it after his ancestor General Thomas Sweeney who fought in the Mexican and Civil Wars.  He collected artifacts of the war, with special focus on the Trans-Mississippi.  The set is the largest single display of its kind related to that theater of the war.

The museum is, as the article says, part of the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, being purchased in 2005 with congressional funds  – around $4.5 million at the time.  The park service renamed the museum to simply “The Wilson’s Creek Civil War Museum” and made some small changes to the displays (improvements in my opinion).

While I would agree that the building is not the best place to keep the collection at this point, I would rather see the collection remain on display.  It is just too rich a resource to have locked away in a vault.  The compromise – storing the artifacts at the battlefield and displaying a portion – still removes many interesting and important items from the average visitor.  But, as the article points out at the end, funding is a problem.

On a positive note, nobody is suggesting a liquidation of the collection or disbursement of the artifacts to other venues.  All options thus far presented, including the initial plan from the park service, keeps the museum collection intact.

Perhaps with the focus on Wilson’s Creek in this sesquicentennial year, other options will emerge.  For those interested in further details or ways to get involved, I would recommend contacting the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation.

Cross-Post Listings

You might notice a new navigation menu on the top bar for “Cross-Posts.”  Those pages offer links out to other blogs and sites where I’ve posted materials which are not directly “part” of this blog.  In part this is a way for me to organize the “collection” for handy reference.  But I also want to make sure referrals are set for those who have allowed me the privilege of a turn at the keyboard under their URLs.

I like the idea of focusing a blog onto a specific topic.  Many blogs out there cover current events or other wide range subjects.  I prefer to stay within the confines of the Civil War subject area.  And even at that, with my efforts directed toward a few select aspects of the story – cannons, battlefields, tactics, and the public interpretation (historical markers mainly of course). I’ll throw in posts about upcoming events or Civil War news from time to time, especially with the sesquicentennial running.

Not that I don’t have a desire to discuss the broader Civil War topics, mind you.  Just that I find many of those topics crowded and polarized.  Robert allows me to discuss some of those broader topics, and a bit on “Southernism” on his blog from time to time.  I’ve got more ideas running around for future posts.  I hope to pin down my thoughts about “the plurality of the South” at some point for his review.

But I’m motivated to study, and therefore post, about the weapons of war and how those weapons are used.  You might call it a hold over from my first profession.  But the interest pre-dates that experience.  I’ve heard the topic called “weapon history” or “weapon-ology.”  Regardless, taking into consideration Civil War era weapons calls for knowledge of the evolution of weapons systems through all epochs of history.

Where my thoughts about “weapon-ology” lie within the scope of the Civil War, I’ll post things here.  Or over on the Naval Sesquicentennial blog if they involve the ships and things that float!  But where the “weapon-onlogy” factors into more modern discussions, I’ll send it out to XBrad’s blog.

In short – cross-posting, its a chance to work outside my defined lane.  And I also hope, a contribution to the content on my fellow bloggers’ sites in the process.

Noble Brothers 12-pdr Field Howitzers

Back when I summarized Confederate 12-pounder field howitzer production, I mentioned Noble Brothers & Company from Rome, Georgia.  As noted in a post a few weeks back, Noble Brothers produced a handful of cast iron 12-pdr howitzers (of which two examples might be the only survivors).  The firm also produced, according to records, five bronze 12-pdr field howitzers.  Of four cataloged survivors, two sit today along Confederate Avenue at Gettysburg, representing Poague’s Howitzers.

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Poague's Howitzers

Poague’s Howitzers does not reference a normal tactical formation, but rather the temporary grouping of 12-pdr howitzers from several batteries at Gettysburg.  Since the howitzers lacked the range to offer support for Confederate offensive maneuvers, Poague’s Battalion, supporting Pender’s Division in Hill’s Corps, detached howitzers from several batteries to serve as a reserve.  These cannon provided little to the battle, but traces of the lunettes built for the howitzers remain on the field to this day.

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Noble Brothers 12-pdr Bronze Howitzer - The "September 1862" Piece

As mentioned before, the Noble Brothers’ 12-pdr howitzers were about an inch shorter than the regulation Federal Model 1841.  The Noble howitzers were also lighter as a result.

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Muzzle of Noble Brothers Howitzer

Externally, one easy distinguishing feature is the size of the chase band.  Compared to the regulation Model 1841 howitzer, Noble Brothers featured a wider chase ring and a thicker muzzle ring about a quarter-inch back from the muzzle face.  Noble Brothers also dispensed with the fillets around the muzzle ring. Note the differences between the muzzle profile above and that of a regulation Model 1841 below  – an Ames produced example, also representing Poague’s Howitzers.

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Model 1841 12-pdr Muzzle

But be warned, Quinby & Robinson, of Memphis, Tennessee, also produced howitzers with somewhat similar muzzle variations.  One of their makes is also among “Poague’s Howitzers” today.

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Breech of Noble Brothers Howitzer

On the breech, the Georgia-based foundry used a thicker fillet for the knob, similar to that seen on the iron howitzers.  Unlike the tentatively attributed iron model, the knob of the bronze howitzers lack the flat face.  Otherwise Noble Brothers conformed to the standards set for standard 12-pdr howitzers.

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Right Trunnion Markings

Markings on the right trunnion confirm the origin of the howitzers – “Noble Brothers & Co.”  and “Rome GA.”

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Left Trunnion with Date

On the left trunnion, Noble Brothers stamped the month and year of manufacture.  In this case December 1862.  The other Noble Brothers howitzer at the display shows September of the same year.

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The "December 1862" Noble Brothers Howitzer

While fitting to have Confederate manufactured howitzers displayed where Grey-clad artillery-men occupied the field of battle, likely the Noble Brothers’ pieces saw service in the western theater.  A report from Captain O.T. Gibbes, ordnance officer for the Army of Tennessee, noted one “12-pounder bronze howitzer, with carriage and limber, Rome, Ga., Noble & Bro., 1862.” in his tally of stores captured at the battle of Chickamauga (OR, Series I, Volume 30, Part II, Serial 51, page 41).  This implies that Federals had captured the piece in earlier actions, and gave up the howitzer in the September 1863 battle.  Potentially an interesting story, should sources ever emerge offering a paper trail of the howitzer and positive identification.

The Noble Brothers (there were six at the foundry) themselves also offer a potentially interesting story.  The facility delivered a respectable 58 field pieces between April 1861 and October 1862 for Confederate contracts.  However, the facility ceased making cannon in the fall of 1862.  The brothers had several disputes with Confederate ordnance officials.  That, along with some unionist sentiment among the brothers, contributed to a reluctance on the part of Confederate officials to issue more contracts.  In 1863 the Confederate government confiscated some of the company’s equipment.  After the war, the Nobles rebuilt and prospered again.

So two rare field pieces produced by an interesting vendor from the state of Georgia.  If only those cannon could talk!

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

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

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.