HMDB Update – 29 September

A bumper crop of Civil War markers this week, with eighty-two entered.  Here are some entries of note:

From upstate New York is a marker for Streetroad Cemetery highlighting the final resting place for several Union veterans.  The last veteran was interred in 1936.

Seems like at least once a week we get a monument or marker associated with Anderson’s Train Raid.  The monument is placed on the National Cemetery at Chattanooga.

Georgia markers include one for Catoosa Springs Confederate Hospital, the Battle of Griswoldville, and the Battle of Pine Knob.

From North Carolina, a state marker indicates the surrender of Gen. James Martin on May 6, 1864, in Waynesville.  Martin’s command was the last organized Confederate force in the state.

We had ten additions to the “Lee’s Retreat” series which mark the Appomattox Campaign.  Several markers in addition to that series help make the Appomattox Campaign one of the best interpreted Civil War tours.  With the artillery playing a back seat during the Campaign, I’m partial to following the cavalry operations.  Of which, one of my favorite actions occurred at High Bridge, where a Civil War Trails marker provides information.  Remember it was not the highest bridge, nor the longest bridge, just the highest long bridge….

My contributions this week continued with the Gettysburg area.  Most entries this week centered on West Confederate Avenue.  Perhaps a bit busy, but I felt the need to show examples of two different Confederate field howitzers near the tablet for Poague’s Howitzers.  At the tablet are examples of both Quinby & Robinson and Noble Brothers 12-pounder Field Howitzers.  Aside from the novelty factor, the placement of Poague’s Howitzers on the battlefield brings into question the effectiveness of “mixed batteries” and tactical employment of the artillery in general.  In this case, even in Major Poague’s own words, the howitzers were useless for the Confederate operations at Gettysburg.  Now if the Federals had obliged and attacked on July 4…… who knows?

However, proving that even a blind squirrel can occasionally find an acorn, I was most pleased with the photo I managed for the Sachs Covered Bridge.

Sachs Covered Bridge
Sachs Covered Bridge

Gettysburg Tablets Reference

As lamented a few weeks back, I was looking for a solid source for the various Gettysburg National Park  Commission tablets placed outside the battlefield proper (and in general a single definitive listing encompassing those on the field also). 

I had seen reprints of the Army Quartermaster report, but the previews made me balk at paying $11 for what appeared to be basic lists.  Also I’d referenced a few of the annual War Department reports I could find through Google book searches.  None seemed offer comprehensive listings. 

Digging deeper, I stumbled across Bob Myer’s site, and his MS Word document listing pretty much everything “known” there is to see.  But, me being me, I wanted to get the most upstream source I could find.  He cites Kathy Georg Harrison’s The Location of Monuments, Markers, and Tablets on Gettysburg Battlefield as one of his base sources when starting his survey.   Amazon said “one to three weeks.”  I wanted instant gratification, so for $5 I secured a copy at the Gettysburg Visitor Center bookstore. 

Harrison’s book is short and sweet.  The listings of items is right in line with the Army Quartermaster reports.  However, what I couldn’t tell from the previews of that report, was how detailed the listings were for “outside the park” tablets.  I found those definitively listed both in Harrison’s book and Myer’s web site (and assume the Quartermaster report had them also).  Harrison added columns indicating the date the item was placed or dedicated. 

Long story short, there are 11 “Itinerary Tablets” outside the main battlefield park.  I’m more “educated” on the subject.  And I saved at least $6, with some of my cash went to support the park.  (Oh, and no three weeks spent waiting on the postman.)

Give me a few good weather weekends, and I’ll have those Itinerary Tablets “captured” and posted to the database!

4.5 Inch Rifle

Or perhaps we can call this post – the Heavy Iron of the Heavy Artillery!

Hunting down markers in Pennsylvania recently I came across this fine specimen of 4.5 inch Siege Rifle, Pattern of 1861:

4.5 Inch Ordnance Rifle at Millersburg, PA
4.5 Inch Ordnance Rifle at Millersburg, PA

Often, when one runs across the 4.5 inch Rifles, they are upright as monuments or gate guards.  So I took the time to examine this piece closely.  The muzzle displayed standard Ordnance Department markings for post 1861 regulations:

Muzzle Markings
Muzzle Markings

The business end indicates this piece was produced in 1863 by Fort Pitt Foundry, in Pittsburgh, PA.  It weighed 3556 pounds when inspected by Charles Peoble Kingsbury (initials C.P.K.).  And it was assigned the registry number 67.  Note the well worn rifling, which is badly deteriorated further into the bore.

A socket for the rear sight is just over the breech.  The tapped mounting holes for the front post are over the right trunnion.

Breech and Sight Socket
Breech and Sight Socket
Front Sight Mount Point
Front Sight Mount Point

At first glance, the 4.5 inch appears to be simply a “big brother” to the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  Think again.  This “heavy” does not use the wrought iron construction of the 3-inch type.  All 4.5 inch Rifles were produced by Fort Pitt Foundry, and used a rather conventional solid cast technique.  However, the external similarity between the two “Ordnance” rifle calibers is not coincidental.  Both used the form desired by the department, which reduced all sharp angles and stress points down to only those where the trunnions met the rimbases.  Even the knob is gracefully blended into the breech.

Some sources erroneously attribute the 4.5-inch (and even the 3-inch) Rifles to Thomas J. Rodman, better known for his work on heavy seacoast guns.  These rifles did not use the core-barrel water cooling technique during production.  Thus the attribution to Rodman does not make much sense, unless someone can prove Rodman developed the “Ordnance” shape itself.

Another point about the 4.5-inch construction, and perhaps the weakest point of the weapon, regards the vent hole at the breech (in the photo above it has been filled in).  The 4.5-inch Rifles used no vent bushing (also called bouching).  Under the stress of firing, the cast iron tended to erode badly at the vent.  Parrott Rifles and other types used a copper (or other metal) vent bushing, screwed down the vent hole.  Some 4.5-inch Rifles were retrofitted with such bushing.  Still the largest criticism of the type regarded the endurance of the vent.

Operationally, the 4.5-inch Rifle was rated a “Siege Gun” and saw wide use in the fortifications circling Washington.  However, Batteries B and M, 1st Connecticut Artillery were part of the siege train for the Army of the Potomac from late 1862 onward.  Photographic evidence indicates one of these batteries was in place opposite Fredericksburg in the winter of 1862-3.

4.5-inch Rifles at Fredericksburg

During the Gettysburg Campaign, the batteries were part of the 2nd Volunteer Brigade of the Artillery Reserve.   Battery M, 1st Connecticut was somewhere between Westminster and Taneytown, MD during the battle, and later joined the main army during the standoff at Jones’ Crossroads during the retreat.  Several batteries were used for good effect at Petersburg, of course. However since these “siege guns” were about three times the weight of a 12-pounder Napoleon and four times the weight of the 3-inch Rifles, their usefulness was limited for a field army.

The 4.5-inch Rifle matched up with the 30-pounder Parrott Rifle (4.2-inch caliber).  The Parrott, even with a slightly smaller caliber, weighed about 800 pounds more.  The maximum range of both types were similar.  At ten degrees elevation the 4.5-rifle ranged to 3200 yards with a Dyer shell.  At least one first hand account from the Connecticut batteries state the 4.5-inch Rifles were more mobile in action than the heavy Parrotts.

Of 113 produced, there are 56 identified survivors.  The example from my photographs is located in downtown Millersburg, PA, pointed out over the Susquehanna.

HMDB Updates – 22 September

This week, forty-nine markers related to the Civil War added to the system.  The state-by-state breakdown is a bit less exotic this week – Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  Some of note:

– We have a nice set of markers covering the Battle of Resaca.  Unlike most states, even Virginia, the Georgia state marker program delves often into battlefield interpretation.  We’ve seen that around Atlanta, and in this example around Resaca.

– The home of John McIntosh Kell.  Kell served an interesting career both in the U.S. and C.S. Navy.  His Civil War service included command of the CSS Savannah and Richmond, which bookended his service on the cruisers CSS Alabama and Sumter.

– Those who follow the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg will note the inclusion of the Cunningham’s Crossroads Civil War Trail marker.  The marker details the advance to Gettysburg, but the wayside is mentioned in the tour included with One Continuous Fight.

Twenty-two of this week’s entries are from Gettysburg.  All along West Confederate Avenue, within and just south of McMillan Woods.  Another indicator I should start the grouping relations and flesh out a “Gettysburg Marker” page similar to that done for Antietam.

Abbeville, South Carolina can claim to be the birthplace of the Confederacy, since the first secession meeting was held there on November 22, 1860.

– I’ve always felt the Bermuda Hundred Campaign received far less attention than deserved.  It presented, in my opinion, the best hope for Grant to capture Richmond before the siege of Petersburg set in.  The campaign has received little attention from historians compared to the Overland Campaign, but at least the state of Virginia gives it a marker.

– Lastly, here’s a marker from Dillsburg, PA discussing General J.E.B. Stuart’s ride to Gettysburg.  Shame on J.E.B. for “vandalizing” the post office!  You just know the rebel cavalier netted at least a dozen Sears & Roebuck catalogs.

A final note, I am rather proud that Civil War Preservation Trust had linked content on HMDB on several of their preservation efforts pages.  The latest effort is focused on the ground fought over during the First Battle of Deep Bottom, July 28, 1864.  The level of detail offered within the new CWPT effort pages is, as I’ve mentioned before, impressive.  With maps, primary and secondary sources linked off a well layed out page, these preservation effort pages not only bring attention to the cause of saving the battlefield, but serve as an platform to enlighten.  I’m just honored that HMDB marker entries can be mentioned along side those resources.

HMDB Updates – 15 September

This week some sixty-seven Civil War related markers added to the database.  Here’s some of the highlights:

– From the “Ghost Town” of Volcano,  California, a marker discussing actions taken to secure the gold supplies which supported the war effort.  Read the storyline – the “Volcano Blues” smuggled “Old Abe” into town to intimidate those who might consider rebellion.  “Old Abe” being a 6-pounder Model 1835.

– A marker at Fort McAllister, Georgia points to the remains of the CSS Nashville.  The sinking of the ship effectively shut the coastal waterways of Georgia to blockade runners.

– Further inland in Georgia, a marker stands outside the Cook and Brothers Armory.  The factory produced 30,000 weapons for the Confederacy, according to the marker.  AND it was not touched by Uncle Billy in his tour of the Peach State.  Imagine that!

– On the other hand, Sherman did visit Scarboro, Georgia to wreck the railroads in December 1864.  Oddly, the marker was removed by the State during highway maintenance.  At some point in the 1990s the marker was placed on a “swing” out by the road.

– A great set of photos accompanying the Western & Atlanta Railroad Tunnel marker from Tunnel Hill, Georgia.

– From North Carolina’s Outer Banks comes a group of markers covering the 1861-62 Barrier Islands Campaigns and the sinking of the U.S.S. Monitor in December 1862.

– Union Mills, in Fairfax County, Virginia, is today sandwiched between residential areas, but was part of the defensive line for the Confederate Army following the First Manassas.

– Three markers detail little known actions in West Virginia.  These markers are from the Blue and Gray Trail.

– A completed set covering CWPT’s First Day of Chancellorsville Battlefield.  (list) (map)

– And finally, some 22 items entered in the long list of Gettysburg markers, tablets and monuments.  These completed the XI Corps sector at Barlow’s Knoll and a few in General Hill’s sector in the McMillan Woods.

Spotsylvania Markers

At last with some free time I managed to work out all the proper related sets and group the Spotsylvania Battlefield’s markers.  As with the Wilderness, Spotsylvania has a rather simple group of interpretive markers along with a small group of memorials.  The interpretive markers are from at least four different distinct series:

– What I was calling the Department of Interior type, but have since learned are Happel panels, named for the historian who wrote the text.  (Example of a Happel Panel.) 

– The standard “tilted table” type placed by the Park Service. 

– An older metal, single post, knee high type.  Which are seen only along the foot trails, and only encountered at Spotsylvania. 

– A newer, brown colored, single post, knee high type.  Also only seen on the foot trails, but is the same type used at other units of the battlefield.

– Lastly those used in the Exhibit Shelter at Tour Stop One.

All told there are about sixty markers or monuments.  I opted to group these generally as defined by the Park Service driving tour stops, as opposed to chronologically.   Some of the stops are merged:

Tour Stop One – Exhibit Shelter, Sedgwick’s Death, Spindle House, and Warren’s Line.  (List) (Map)

Tour Stop Two – Upton’s Assault.  (List) (Map)

Tour Stop Three – The Bloody Angle.  (List) (Map)

Tour Stops Four and Five – Harrison and McCoull Houses, and Lee’s Last Line.  (List) (Map)

Tour Stops Six and Seven – East Face of the Salient, Heth’s Salient, and Burnside’s Line.  (List) (Map)

Stops around Spostylania Court House. (List) (Map)

Harris Farm (List) (Map)

I would highlight two areas outside of the battlefield where major actions occurred.  Harris Farm is the subject of a previous post.  Additionally, a short drive south of the battlefield, along Block House Bridge Road, is the site where Heth and Hancock fought on May 10, 1864.  That action was cited in one sentence of a Happel Panel and illustrated on a map panel, near the Sedgwick Monument.   

Overall I found the battlefield easy to traverse with little traffic, even at the high point of tourist season.  It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Gettysburg, for instance.  For those like me, who like their battlefields on foot, it is possible to park at Stop one or three and easily slog it around the entire battlefield as a day hike.  The only part of the field I found completely off the paths was Heth’s earthworks from the later stages.  The rest of the works and areas of note are along well marked trails.   I am still impressed with the extent of the preserved earthworks between the Wilderness and Spotsylvania.

HMDB Updates – 8 September

Well 87 markers this week.  Mostly between Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Pennsylvania.  Here’s a few of note:

  • This entry from Harpers Ferry points out the location of John Brown’s Fort.
  • As a bookend of sorts, of the African-American involvement in the Civil War fighting, is the Battle of Boykin’s Mill.  Fought at the very end of the war as an action in Potter’s Raid, the combatants included the Confederate “Orphan Brigade” of Kentuckians, fighting against a regiment of US Colored Troops and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, among other units.  Killed in the action was Lieutenant E. L. Stevens, the last Union officer to fall during the war.
  • Many of the Georgia markers this week reference the Atlanta Campaign –  Rocky Face, Dug Gap, Dalton, Resaca, and one where I got to use my lame old 35mm photos from the old days – Cartersville.
  • A fine collection of Civil War Trails markers from around Newport News, Virginia which detail the opening stages of the Peninsula Campaign.  We even have Lieut. George Custer taking balloon rides and engineering covered ways for the Sharpshooters.   Who knew Custer was so good with the spade?
  • Finally, my slow but steady progress on Gettysburg.  Entries this week covered portions of Benner’s Hill, Coster Avenue, and the XI Corps First Day battlefield.  I’m inclined to nominate this tablet for Greene’s Battery as the most “off the beaten path” for the week, if not for the month.   And the “fun” marker for the week was the First Brigade, Second Division, XI Corps, which included the Coster Avenue Mural.

Beyond the Civil War, we had quite a number of Revolutionary War Markers entered also.  One of our editors from New Jersey worked in this set from Yorktown.  And we have this group from South Carolina detailing the activities at Old Ninety Six.

And I would be remiss without mentioning that HMDB officially went over 10,000 entries this week.  Lot of hard work from many contributors and editors is represented there.