Tag Archives: Parrott Rifles

Photo Analysis: The east side of Fort Putnam

In a couple of earlier posts, I used this photo as a reference for Fort Putnam:

And as mentioned earlier, this photo compares favorably to a painting by Conrad Wise Chapman.  But the real treasure of this photo lies in the details the lens captured.  I suspect the photographer took this photo when the Federals were busy converting the works from Battery Gregg into Fort Putnam.  It is among the Haas & Peale collection, which helps with dating the photo to the fall of 1863.  I’ll offer further evidence for that case in the course of discussing the details of the photo.

Let me start on the right side of the works in view.  There were a couple of Parrott rifles on siege carriages in position here.


Based on shadows and reflected light, these appear to face northward toward Fort Sumter and Sullivan’s Island.  Looking closer, my take is there is a 20-pdr Parrott closer to the camera and a 30-pdr Parrott behind.  These are two 30-pdr Parrotts on siege carriages (see comment below).


If my dating of the photo is correct, a later photograph shows this battery cleaned up a bit and ready for action:

The gun crew appeared to know they were being “captured for posterity” here.


With the distance, nothing such as hat brass or other insignia stand out, save the chevrons of the NCO on the right.

The howitzer platform is not so clean as in the later photo.  But an observer posted there appeared to consider the Confederate fortifications in the distance:


In the foreground, behind the Parrotts, are limbers of some sort. Though these don’t stand out as standard type siege limbers:


There were a few boards running lengthwise between the axles here.  So I wonder if these were used to move lumber up to the work details.  And speaking of work details, these fellows appeared to be on break:


Just sitting in the sand, waiting for the call back to work, maybe?

A dapper looking fellow stands on the mound above them.


Notice the ventilation pipes extending up from the old bombproof, constructed by Confederates but then employed by Federals.

To the left of the work crew is another gun.  But this one lay on the berm.


The long trunnions and other external forms help identify this gun as a Confederate columbiad.  Several of these were turned against their former owners starting in the fall of 1863.  This columbiad was likely removed to make room for a Parrott rifle, for which a carriage stands in place above. And there is a second Confederate columbiad in view:


Just barely, that is.  Just the breech, but enough to see the mushroom cascabel.  The view of these two columbiads and the Parrott carriage shows two of the positions used to fire on both Charleston and Fort Sumter:


This compares favorably to a photo taken later:

The Parrott was in place by the time of the later photograph, but one of the Confederate columbiads remained in place on the left.  Note the large stacks of Parrott shells on the right of that later photo.  The “start” of that stack is seen in the earlier photo:


Another detail that helps “date” the photo are all the sandbags:


These are neatly stacked, by veterans of those long days of the summer siege no doubt.  The sandbags indicate the Federals were just starting the improvements when the photo was taken. Later photos show these covered with sod to prevent erosion and cut down on the wind blown sand.  Hard to tell with the shading, but it appears the workers have added sod to the lower half of this wall.  Or perhaps just stacked sandbags over what the Confederates left for them.

More sandbags around a bombproof entrance to the left of the columbiads.  Notice the implements laid in the sand above the bombproof.


Also in this view are three poles.  Looking close there are fine lines (hard to display without over pixelation in the screen capture) of telegraph wires.

Other than the circumstantial evidence of the sandbags and state of work, there’s nothing to pinpoint the date of the photo with accuracy.  There are no unit designations or signs to aid.  There are a few marks on the barrels laying about the works.  Several appeared to have a stencil featuring a crossed something:


Perhaps a stylized anchor and crossed hammer?

Another barrel head (center of view below) has some letters.  But nothing that makes a connection.


Those barrels are among large piles of materials and debris that laid about the rear of the works (which had been the “front” for the Confederates).


The boards are sharpened and likely part of the pallisades going up around the fort.  But some of the piles are nothing short of trash, likely put to good use in campfires later.


The palisade trace around the fort covers the rear, front, and presumably the other side of the fort.  At the far right of the photo, there’s a good profile showing the angle of the palisade to good effect.


And just above the palisades in view?  That’s a Confederate work on James Island.  Battery Simkins.


To the left of Battery Simkins is a Confederate observation and signal tower.  I’ll leave you to determine if that’s an observer standing atop the platform.  Maybe this is one of the rare wartime photos showing both Federal and Confederate in the same view?


To the right of Battery Simkins, some of the outer works of Fort Johnson come into view.


With those distant landmarks in view, I submit my thoughts about the location this photo was taken (E1) and the angle of view:


Looking back on Morris Island, the beach sand of the foreground show the tracks of wheels, indicating heavy traffic as the Federals worked on the captured works.


A few patches of grass.  But not much else than beach sand.

And if you look to the lower left, we find another observer…


Ah, the pesky flies of Morris Island.

6.4-inch and 8-inch Parrotts against Fort Sumter from Battery Reno

Moving forward with the examination of the “Left Batteries” on Morris Island, the guns to the left of Battery Hays were in a series of named works.


These were Batteries Reno, Stevens, and Strong, seen here in a closer crop from the map above:


Lieutenant Peter Michie directed the construction of these works, starting after the during the last week of July. From his official report:

On the 27th of July, I was ordered by [Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore] to construct what were afterward known as the “left breaching batteries against Fort Sumter.” Their site was a sand ridge, and general direction making an angle of about 35 degrees with the gorge of Fort Sumter, and distant about 4,200 yards from that work. ….

On the 27th of July, the interior crest of a sunken battery for five 100-pounder Parrott guns was laid out, with arrangements for one magazine to hold 200 rounds per gun, and a traverse 12 feet thick on top, between each gun and the one adjacent….

The work progressed well, despite harassing fire from James Island. By July 31, Michie reported the interior revetments were complete. But by August 8, the armament of these batteries changed to one 8-inch (200-pounder) Parrott and four 6.4-inch (100-pounder) Parrotts. And by August 12, Michie had to find a place in the line for a 10-inch (300-pounder) Parrott, the largest on Morris Island. These big Parrotts were arranged as such:

  • Battery Reno – one 8-inch Parrott and two 6.4-inch Parrotts
  • Battery Stevens – two 6.4-inch Parrotts
  • Battery Strong – one 10-inch Parrott

Michie provided a wealth of detail in his report about the layout of these works:

The batteries (except that of the 300-pounder) were full sunken. The line of each interior crest made an angle varying from 30 degrees to 37 degrees with the gorge of Fort Sumter, depending upon the nature of the ridge at the different points. The width of each gun battery was 18 feet, the traverse between being 12 feet thick at top. The interior revetments were of sand-bags laid in the usual manner of headers and stretchers, and extended below the gun platform.

While originally the batteries could only point at Fort Sumter, later the traverse increased to allow fires on James Island, Fort Johnson, Battery Gregg, and Battery Wagner. At first Michie tried rawhide over the embrasures, but with little success. In the end, he settled for gabions filled with sandbags:

The method of anchoring them was to lay a piece of 6-inch by 8-inch timber parallel to the cheek, and some 3 to 4 feet back, having two stout anchoring stakes 6 feet long driven on the inner side. Each gabion, besides being well picketed to the fascine upon which it rested, was tied to this timber by No. 10 wire, stoutly enough to withstand the blast, and yet to give way if struck by a shot, without destroying the entire embrasure.

Regarding the exterior slopes of the batteries, the only preparation was a coating of marsh mud. A layer of two inches dried into a hard crust. This reduced the sand blowing through the battery. The map of the left batteries included a profile of Battery Reno, along the line C-D:


Michie described two bombproof magazines built for Batteries Reno and Stevens:

There were two magazines, one between Nos. 2 and 3, for the service of the two right pieces, and one on the left of No. 5, for the service of the remaining three guns. The former was 10 feet by 10 feet by 6 feet high in the clear, with a filling room 4 feet by 5 feet by 6 feet high; the latter was 10 feet by 15 feet by 6 feet high, with one return gallery 4 feet by 6 feet high. The magazine frames were of 4-inch by 6-inch stuff, placed 2 feet 6 inches apart, and covered with 3-inch plank and 8 feet of sand on the line of least resistance, and for sheeting 1-inch, 1 1/4-inch or 2-inch plank was used as could be procured.

Focusing for this post on Battery Reno, the three big Parrotts there came under the command of Captain Augustus W. Colwell, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. Company H, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery and a detachment of infantry manned the guns (Brigadier-General John Turner states the 178th New York was posted there, but that regiment was still in the Washington, D.C. garrison at the time.)

The range to Fort Sumter from Battery Reno was 4,320 yards. Later as the traverse increased, the range to Battery Gregg was 2,950 yards; and to Battery Wagner was 1,860 yards. All well within the maximum range of the big Parrotts.

One of Haas & Peale’s photos recorded the layout of Battery Reno. Let me again turn to the Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs for the view of Battery Reno:


Not one of the best of the set, but at least a photograph to work with. The photo confirms the 8-inch Parrott was in the middle, to the right of the magazine. On the left of the magazine, somewhat hard to see, is one of the 6.4-inch Parrotts. The other is in plain sight on the right.

Notice the construction of the works, with sandbags, barrels filled with sand, and the gabions in the embrasures. The magazine, “between Nos. 2 and 3″ according to Michie’s report, matches the provided description.

In the next installment, I’ll turn to Battery Stevens and then to Battery Strong.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 336-38.)

A 10pdr Parrott Rifle from Macon? Well maybe

A couple years back when discussing the Regarded Parrott rifles, I mentioned Macon Arsenal as another source for Confederate Parrotts.  As I said then, I’ve never seen a “confirmed” Macon 10-pdr.  But every visit to Chancellorsville I give one particular gun extra scrutiny hoping it might give away some clues.

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10-pdr Parrott Rifle, possibly from Macon Arsenal

Recall Macon Arsenal was among the facilities built by the Confederate government during the war.  In that case, the nucleus of the arsenal was a rented shop.  Although Macon’s biggest production runs were 12-pdr Napoleons, the cannon foundry produced at least a dozen 10-pdr Parrotts.  Of that lot, the registry of surviving guns lists two that are around today.  One is in private hands.  The other is tentatively identified as the gun pictured above.

The Parrott rifle in question appears a closer match to early Federal 10-pdrs (2.9-inch) than the Tredegar guns.  There is a noticeable “step” in front of the trunnions, much like early Federal guns.

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Step in front of the trunnions

Notice the casting seams running dorsally down the gun.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is often seen on Confederate guns where the foundry kept machining to a minimum.

The rimbases are squared, as was the fashion with both early Federal and Tredegar Parrotts.

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Trunnions and rimbases

The trunnions themselves are badly weathered.

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Trunnion face

There’s little hope gathering markings off those trunnion faces.  Nor from the breech face.

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Breech face

Damage flattened the underside of the knob.  Certainly something to be expected from a century and a half of handling.

The band exhibits lateral lines, suggesting but welding as was done with the Tredegar Parrotts.

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Profile of the Band and Breech

However, the band is shorter than those seen on Tredegar Parrotts, by nearly two inches.  There’s no bevel at the front of the band.   However there is a raised section at the front of the band, which seems to indicate the surface under the band is likewise raised.

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Raised section under the band

The muzzle has a swell, again not unlike Federal Parrotts.

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Muzzle profile

Of course early Tredegar Parrotts had similar muzzle swells.

But what about the muzzle face?  Any markings that might suggest the origin of this piece?

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Muzzle face

I’ve looked this muzzle face over in different lighting conditions, always looking for traces or hints of stamps or markings.  The most I’ve ever seen clearly is a “2″ at the top of the muzzle face.

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Number 2 on muzzle face

That photo was taken in the early morning light, with the dew providing moisture to highlight the dents, dings, and number.

Notice also the three groove rifling.  That rifling extends into the bore but is worn down.

The best I can offer is that “2″ is similar in font and size to that used on Macon 12-pdr Napoleons.  For example number 28 at Gettysburg.

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Close up of “No. 28″ stamp on Macon Napoleon

Of course, all that might prove is that a couple of foundries used the same type of dies when stamping the guns.

Several factors, particularly the lack of machining, point to a Confederate origin.  The “2″ is the only other clue there.  Much smaller than those seen on Federal Parrotts.  Still, pending a readable marking or some paper trail on the gun, I’ll still say “maybe” from Macon.