Tag Archives: Roswell Ripley

Battery Glover: “This work is intended for five guns”

The subject for the second installment of “Fortifications around Charleston in Detail” is Battery Glover.  I discussed this battery last year when detailing the fortifications around Charleston as they existed in the spring of 1863.  So Battery Glover should be no stranger here.  However the battery is one of the more obscure in the defenses, having saw no substantial action during the war.

Name:  Originally referenced as “Lawton Battery.”  Renamed Battery Glover in November 4, 1862, under General Orders #88 (OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, Page 666).  A couple of secondary sources mention “Battery Styles” at this location.  But that designation is tenuous, in my opinion.

Named for:  There is no official notice on the naming of this fort.  The most likely is Colonel Thomas J. Glover, Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, who was killed at Second Manassas in late August 1862 (from what I understand, on Chinn Ridge).

Location: James Island, facing Charleston Harbor’s south channel.


Description: A battery fronting the inner portion of Charleston Harbor.  Four or five gun positions (the fifth may not have been completed).  Frontage of approximately 110 yards.  Height of parapet was about 10 feet above ground level.  Ditch in front of works roughly three feet deep.  Depth of works, including magazine, was 70 yards.  Internal dimensions of magazine approximately 75 by 25 feet.

Purpose: According to a circular from Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley, from December 1862, Battery Glover was part of the inner circle (or third) of fire designed to protect Charleston Harbor.  “Should any vessel succeed in passing the second circle of fire the third will be formed and put into action by the guns of White Point Battery and Battery Glover, with such guns of Forts Johnson and Ripley and Castle Pinckney as will bear.” (OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, Page 734).

Captain John Johnson’s map demonstrates how Battery Glover covered the Ashley River channel in conjunction with those other fortifications.


Established:  Prior to the fall of 1862.

Plans, photographs and other depictions:   There may be at least one wartime photograph of Battery Glover from the harbor, but I don’t have a copy to post. Federal engineers made detailed diagrams of the battery after the fall of Charleston, providing a plan of the battery:


The profile on section 1 showed three guns in position, with a fourth position left empty.  This matched Confederate descriptions of the armament in January 1865 (see below).


Section 2 profile demonstrated the ditch in front of the works and the height of the walls.


The central magazine extended well back of the gun platforms.


Armament:  Varied during the war:

  • March 3, 1863 – One rifled 32-pdr and three smoothbore 32-pdr guns, with an unmounted 8-inch shell gun.   Brigadier-General S.R. Gist wrote, “This work is intended for five guns, some of which are now in position, viz: One rifled 32-pounder and three smoothbore 32-pounders on barbette carriages; the fifth gun, an 8-inch shell gun (navy), is awaiting its carriage. This gun, not being intended for solid shot, would be more serviceable if placed in the front battery at Secessionville in lieu of the rifled 24-pounder now in that battery, and its position filled by a gun of long range and one capable of projecting heavy solid shot or bolts.”  (OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, page 605.).
  • August 1863 – The 8-inch shell gun went to Redoubt No. 1 on the James Island line (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Serial 47, page 256).  Orders passed down to prepare two 10-inch columbiad platforms in the battery (Ibid, page 286).
  • October 21, 1863 – armament reduced to three rifled 32-pdr guns (OR Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 148).    However, in a report on the defenses, “It is advisable to place a heavier armament in Battery Glover, when it can be obtained, and the present armament should then be sent to localities better suited for it” (Ibid, page 433).
  • May 25, 1864 – Inventory by Major George Upshur Mayo states the battery had two 42-pdr rifled, single banded guns, with 151 bolts, 100 shells, and 110 pounds of cannon powder (OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 505-9).
  • January 1865 – Three 8-inch columbiads (OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, page 1025).

Significant actions and activity:  The battery was not involved with any major actions, as the Federals never tested the inner defenses.  In May 1864, Mayo reported “This battery is not in order. The eccentrics of the carriages require adjusting. The magazines are good.”

Units assigned and commanders:  In March 1863, the battery had 75 personnel assigned.  In June 1863, Company G, 2nd South Carolina Volunteer (Heavy) Artillery garrisoned the fort (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 162).  Mayo’s report of May 25, 1864 indicated “Captain [John] D. Johnson commanding; Lieut. R.M. Anderson sick since May 8; Lieut W.D. Scarborough sick in camp about six weeks.”  These officers were part of Company E, Palmetto Battalion, South Carolina Artillery (3rd Battalion, Light Artillery).

Status today:  In the mid-1990s, I visited this site and noted a slight trace of remains.  But I don’t know if those are extant today.  The site is on private property.  I don’t know who the owner is now, and out of respect for that won’t  post the exact location here.

Mystery night balloons from Capers’ Island: An odd Confederate report

It’s Friday and I’m feeling in a lighter mood with respect to blogging.  So here’s a bit of a mystery from the Civil War records – a report from Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley, sent to General Beauregard’s headquarters in Charleston, one day shy of 150 years ago:

Mount Pleasant, January 25, 1864.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Jordan:

I have information that balloons have gone up for the last three nights from Capers’ Island; they have not gone up in the daytime. The object must have been to discover camp-fires. I have given directions to insure their seeing a number of them after to-night, and shall commence rocket practice. Shall also send a reconnoitering party in that direction.

R. S. Ripley,

Balloons?  Night balloons at that!

Capers’ Island is northeast of Sullivan’s Island, specifically between Long Island and Bull’s Island as part of the chain of barrier islands on the coast.


During the war, activity there was limited to patrols and soundings.  No record of any large Federal landings… or specific to this report, balloon operations.  In order for the Federals to operate a balloon there, the Army would need the Navy’s support and a whole lot of “stuff” landed on Capers’ Island (or some naval ship serving as balloon-carrier, which did exist at the time BTW).  More to the point, there’s no official records pointing to Federal balloon activity anywhere in the Department of the South in January 1864.

So if we rule out an Army balloon team operating on Capers’ Island, what did Ripley’s observers see?  If we can rule out Federal balloon activity, likewise we can dismiss Confederate balloons.   Perhaps observers were witnessing some natural phenomenon – temperature inversions, Venus or other planet from an unusual viewing angle, or “swamp gas.”  Or….


Should we be suspicious this report came from Roswell Ripley????

Another possibility to consider – Ripley might have exaggerated (I won’t say “fabricated” or “lied” unless other information comes to light) the observations to catch the attention of his commander.  The message carried a postscript, “Forward to Savannah if General Jordan is there.”  At the time General Beauregard was in Savannah.  He was partly there to inspect the defenses, as Federal activity was expected.  He was also there to consult with local commanders about a recent attempt at mutiny at one of the fortifications.  Coincidentally, there had been a threat of mutiny from the ranks in Ripley’s command on Sullivan’s Island.  Maybe Ripley wanted to shift his commander’s attention back to Charleston’s main defenses.

Setting aside the balloon question, this report offers some fodder for sidebar discussions.  Ripley indicated his troops were taking what we’d call today counter-intelligence measures – lighting up more campfires to confuse any Federal observer.  And secondly, he planed to “commence rocket practice.”  Both sides used signal rockets throughout the war.  These were generally pyrotechnic devices, or in plain speak – fireworks.  While I cannot rule out the notion Ripley would fire a rocket AT a balloon to shoot it down, more likely the “practice” was simply another measure to confuse enemy observers.

Ripley’s half dozen lines are the only mention of balloons operating on that sector of the South Carolina coast.  Official records are silent on any other activity, save routine patrols.  At any rate, if you see Charleston mentioned on some future History Channel program, you heard it here first.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, page 543.)

Just a minor bombardment, I guess, on Morris Island: December 28, 1863

From the Confederate journal of operations at Charleston for December 29, 1863:

About dark last evening [December 28], four large parties, supposed to be regiments of the enemy, were observed proceeding from Battery Wagner toward Cumming’s Point.  It is thought the object of this movement was to repair the damages done to their works by the recent storm.  General Ripley determined to interrupt their operations, and directed the batteries on Sullivan’s Island to open heavily, which they did at about 9 p.m.  The commanding officer at Fort Johnson having been notified, the batteries adjacent to that work also joined in the action.  About 45 mortar and 50 direct shells were thrown in half an hour, but the enemy did not reply.  Our practice is said to have been fair, the chief defect being the oft-repeated one of fuses.

This may simply be a case of my laziness and not tracing down a specific account from the Federal side to this incident.  Ninety-five heavy caliber shells rained down and not even so much as passing reference in a regimental history.  Had that occurred anywhere but Charleston, the Official Records would have five to ten pages of reports.  But on Morris Island, that was just another minor little bombardment.  The sort of thing happening on any given day.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 187.)