Daily Archives: 6 January 2013

150 Years Ago: Guns, ammunition, harnesses, and wagons to replace losses at Stones River

Some days ago, I offered the composition of the artillery in the Federal Army of the Cumberland going into the Battle of Stones River.  Always good to offer a “before” and “after” comparison.  And again I turn to the report of Colonel James Barnett, the army’s chief of artillery.  (Most of the figures that follow are from the table accompanying his report, reproduced here.)

Barnett accounted for the men engaged at the close of his report, “The whole number of men engaged in servicing the batteries was 86 commissioned officers and 2,760 non-commissioned officers and privates.”  Of this force the casualties from three days of battle were 63 killed, 204 wounded, and 106 captured or missing.  Roughly, the artillery arm suffered a 13% casualty rate across the board.  As might be surmised from a simple examination of the battle, the batteries supporting the Right Wing (Major General Alexander McCook) suffered the most casualties.

Of course batteries consisted of three major “components” – men, horses, and guns.  Yesterday I mentioned the quartermaster’s report detailing the loss of horses and mules.  Lieutenant Colonel John W. Taylor indicated the loss of 555 artillery horses.  There are several line item discrepancies between that report and that of Barnett, who indicated the artillery lost 569 killed, 60 wounded (and likely later destroyed), and 59 missing horses.  In other words, 133 more horse casualties than Taylor reported.  Because horses require harnesses, Barnett listed the loss of 119 harnesses of all types.  (And if you are counting, Taylor reported the army lost 1,540 overall.)

Next the guns… Barnett recorded the loss of 28 guns, with one disabled.  In particular, two batteries lost six guns apiece – Battery E, 1st Ohio and Battery C, 1st Illinois.  Losses, again as one would expect, were heaviest on the right side of the line where the Confederate attacks of December 31st fell.  Indeed, lost or disabled guns came from batteries supporting the three divisions of the Right Wing and Negly’s (Second) Division of the Center.  (The report of Lieutenant Alexander Marshall, Battery G, 1st Ohio, which supported Negly’s division, offers a notable study in the retreat of a battery caught in an impossible tactical situation.)  Overall, the Army of the Cumberland lost over 20% (yes, one-fifth) of its guns in battle.

Barnett did not delineate the number of lost limbers or caissons.  The army did lose three battery wagons and five forges, with one of each reported disabled.  These losses were slightly offset with the capture of six guns, three caissons, three forges, and two battery wagons.

The last statistic to mention from Barnett’s report is the number of rounds  expended – 20,307.  That translates to an average of 148 rounds per gun.

As the numbers indicate, the artillery arm was in bad need of resupply and refit after the battle. Correspondence between Major General William Rosecrans and Washington bears this out, with requests for artillery ammunition, harnesses, horses, and guns.  One request, made by Rosecrans to General-in-Chief Major General Henry Halleck on January 4, 1863, stands out in reference to the guns:

I require, to replace batteries lost in battle in the cedar thickets eighteen 12-pounder light field guns, twelve 3-inch rifled guns or Parrott, six 24-pounder howitzers, with harnesses, forge, and battery wagons complete.  We must have them wit hall possible dispatch.  Can you send us a couple of new batteries? There was one ready in Cleveland.

General Horatio Wright, commanding the Department of the Ohio, indicated the next day he’d ordered forward two replacement batteries.

The types of cannons requested by Rosecrans is at the same time expected and yet somewhat odd.  I doubt anyone, then or now, would wonder about the request for more Napoleons, 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, or Parrotts.  But 24-pdr howitzers?  Well the big howitzers filled a tactical niche the army required.  Battery M, 4th US Artillery received two of the 24-pdr howitzers during the refit period.

The new guns requested in January were but the first of many that the Army of the Cumberland received prior to the next major campaign.  By the type of its next major battle, at a creek named Chickamauga in September 1863, the army would have many more 3-inch rifles, 10-pdr Parrotts, and Napoleons.  But it would keep significant number of 6-pdr field guns, 12-pdr howitzers, and bronze James rifles.  But that is a subject best left for a post down the road a bit.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 20, Part I, Serial 29, pages 241-2 and Part II, Serial 30, pages 297-8.)