Monthly Archives: September 2011

Emerging Civil War

Here’s another blog to add to your daily feeds – Emerging Civil War.

Emerging Civil War is a team blog with over a dozen authors involved.  The team has been working only a couple of months now, but have posted some impressive articles.  All are good reads, but some of my favorites thus far:

And there is the excellent photography which adds spice to the writing, much of which is contributed by Caity Stuart.

So don’t wait… head over there now and add their blog to your RSS feed list.  Won’t cost you a dime.  And you won’t be disappointed!

Difficult Run Made More Difficult

Earlier this month we here in DC area were hit by what felt like a week of heavy rains.  The remains of Tropical Storm Lee merged in with other storm systems.  Parts of Northern Virginia were under flash flood alerts for what seemed like a solid week.  Floods washed out several roads.  And some bridges are still closed for repairs.

At the time (while unfortunately stuck in traffic), I thought of several Civil War connections.  Often we read in wartime accounts were heavy rains made creeks impassable.  Well here’s a graphic depiction of impassable:

My friend Jim Lewis passed this video along.  The location is along the Washington & Old Dominion Rail Trail Park just east of Hunter Mill Road where the old railroad line crossed Difficult Run.

Here’s a photo of the bridge in normal (fall) weather conditions.

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Difficult Run Trail Bridge

Normally Difficult Run is a placid stream.

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Difficult Run at the W&OD Crossing

That is the same power line tower seen at about the 0:30 second mark in the video.  As you can see, the freshet forced the creek well past its banks.

The Washington Post’s weather gang posted a detailed early analysis of that week’s weather on September 9th.  The writers cited 11.97 inches of rain that week (September 5-9) in nearby Reston, Virginia.  While this “storm” was not noteworthy in the larger historical sense, I find the breakdown of the events offered in the report rather useful.  With my historian’s robe on, the analysis offers insight into what was behind those dispatch reports citing “heavy rains” and “impassable streams.” I’ve written a bit on this before regarding the creeks and the Potomac River (here and here).

Bringing the Civil War context to the front center, this particular section of the Washington & Old Dominion saw considerable activity during the war.  Just a short distance east from Difficult Run is the site where Mosby’s Rangers executed Reverend John B. Read in October 1864.  Troops on the march during 1862 and 1863, heading for the great battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, stopped to drink from Difficult Run…  but Difficult Run was not as difficult to cross when they marched through as it was on September 8, 2011.

Fine Craftsmanship Butchered: Revere Copper 6-pdr Field Gun

Some time back I detailed the 12-pdr “Napoleon guns” produced by Revere Copper during the war.  While those 12-pdrs at Malvern Hill look dirty from exposure, the guns themselves are good examples of the work done by a firm with a long history of metalworking.  In addition to those 443 Napoleon guns, Revere also produced a handful of 6-pdr Model 1841 Field Guns.  A Federal order placed in November 1861 called for two guns.  The company received credit for these in February 1862 as registry numbers 1 and 2.

Today registry number 1 sits at Gettysburg representing Dow’s 6th Maine Battery in a position in McGilvery’s Line along modern Hancock Avenue.

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Revere 6-pdr Model 1841

Sadly, in the 1890s the Gettysburg Battlefield Commission had the Revere gun modified to resemble a 12-pdr Napoleon.  Like other “False Napoleons” this 6-pdr had external features trimmed down to present a smooth line, although the gun stands out visually being 7 inches shorter than a real Napoleon.

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Breech of Revere Gun

The process trimmed off the base ring and rounded the contours of the breech.  However the neck of the knob retains a narrow fillet, unlike some “pho-poleon” conversions.  The reinforce step just past the trunnions was smoothed down. The chase ring also disappeared under the cutting tools.   The muzzle moldings remained.  A sharp eye notes some slight differences between the moldings on the Revere gun and those of other Model 1841 guns.  But this could of course be due to the alterations.

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Muzzle of Revere Gun

Conforming with standards established in 1861, Revere placed their markings on the muzzle face.

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Muzzle Marks on Revere Gun

Likely the tool used to enlarge the front of the bore to the 12-pdr size obliterated part of the markings.  This should read “Revere Copper Co. // 1861 // 853 lbs. // J.P.F. // No. 1″, including the initials of inspector Joseph P. Farley.

The gun at Gettysburg is the lone survivor of the pair produced by Revere for Federal orders.  The possibility exists that Revere offered similar guns to private or militia organizations. But no records, and more importantly no guns, survive to tell that story.  At roughly the same time Revere setup production of the two 6-pdrs, the firm started production of the 12-pdr Napoleons.  The Farley inspected Revere’s 6-pdrs and initial batches of 12-pdrs at about the same time.  Revere continued production of 12-pdrs through April 1864.

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Revere Gun in Profile

Yes, I would love to have this example of fine Revere craftsmanship intact so as to better compare the gun to contemporary 6-pdrs.  Certainly would like to confirm or reject the notion that Revere used a unique muzzle molding.  But the lone survivor from Revere was butchered a bit so as keep up appearances on the battlefield.