HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of December 28

A short holiday work week in the Civil War category with only 23 entries.  These represent Civil War related topics at sites in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  Here is the rollup:

– A detachment of Wilson’s Raiders burned a Confederate storehouse in Trussville, Alabama at the very end of the war.

– A memorial in Stratford, Connecticut lists those from the locality who were buried in cemeteries in the south.  The list of names include some who volunteered for New York regiments and others in the 30th Connecticut, a “colored” regiment.

– Two state markers from Washington, Georgia this week, both referencing properties in town.  Dr. Louis Alexander Dugas, who in town, volunteered to work in the military hospital system in Georgia during the war.  Jefferson Davis’ family spent several days at Holly Court in April 1864, awaiting the Confederate President.

– A marker near Crestwood, Kentucky notes the grave of film-maker D.W. Griffith.  Griffith brought the Civil War to the silver screen with Birth of a Nation in 1915.  His father served the Confederacy as a Colonel.

– A plaque in Goshen, New York notes the contributions of Anna Dickinson, a leader in the abolitionist movement during the war.

– The courthouse bell in Ashland, Ohio rang for Lee’s surrender, in observance of Lincoln’s death, and later notifying the town of the end of the Spanish-American and World War I.  Nearby is a memorial, placed by Jonas Freer, and a 6-pdr field gun attached to its limber.

– A state marker in Sandusky, Ohio notes McPherson Cemetery is named for General James B. McPherson.  The marker also lists other notables buried in the cemetery.

– A state marker in Shelbyville, Tennessee notes the Confederate cemetery in town.  The men were mostly casualties of fighting at Liberty and Guy’s Gaps, along with some from Forrest’s command.

– When the Army of Tennessee camped along the Duck River line in 1863, General William Hardee headquartered at Beechwood near Wartrace, Tennessee.

– Several entries from around Austin, Texas this week.  Keeping somewhat with a time line, let me start with a marker discussing the Texas Secession Convention in January to March 1861.   Nearby another state marker relates activities of the state Adjutants General in support of the war effort.  Another marker discusses Unionist leader and reconstruction Governor Edmund Jackson Davis. Also near the state capitol is a marker to Ira H. Evans, a Federal officer from Vermont and Congressional Medal of Honor winner.  After post-war service in the Army, Evans settled in Texas and was involved with politics and civic affairs.

– Buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Johann Groos, the Texas Land Commissioner, was among those who served the state militia during the war.  David Edmiston, buried in the Joseph J. Manor Cemetery in nearby Webberville, Texas, served in the Confederate Army.  Also near Austin is the site of Anderson’s Mill, which provided powder for the state and Confederate troops (Thomas Anderson was a Pennsylvania native).

– Two Napoleon guns protect the Albemarle Confederate Memorial in Charlottsville, Virginia.

– A state marker for Newtown, Virgina notes a small action involving General Pickett’s Division fought just before the unit moved north as part of the Gettysburg Campaign.

– The King William County Confederate Memorial features a soldier at rest.

– A marker near Williamsburg, Virginia notes an action fought on May 5, 1862 in which then Lieutenant George Custer led a detachment across Cub Dam Creek.

– The 14th New Hampshire memorial in Winchester National Cemetery lists the regiment’s members who fell in the Third Winchester.  I had trouble reading the inscriptions, so would appreciate any clarifications.

That’s it for a short week.  Next week in addition to the normal rundown, I’ll look at year-end statistics.

Confederate 12-pdr Field Howitzers – Part 2, Iron Types

Under the pressures of war and shortage of resources, Confederate gun-makers often turned to cast iron instead of bronze.  Even though production shifted away from the 12-pdr Howitzers by mid-war, Southern foundries delivered a fair number of the type cast in iron.  As mentioned in the previous post on Confederate 12-pdr Howitzers, I arbitrarily group surviving examples of these iron howitzers into two groups – those that resemble the Model 1841 form to some degree and those with smooth lines resembling the Model 1861 forms.

Of the former group, perhaps the best known representative is a howitzer of unknown origin located at Antietam.  The weapon is presumed Confederate, and represents Brockenbrough’s Baltimore Battery in the West Woods.

12-pdr Iron Howitzer of Unknown Manufacture

The piece is just over 60 inches long including the knob, or about an inch and a half longer than the regulation bronze Model 1841.  Parts of the form, particularly the muzzle and chase, recall the Federal pattern.  However, this piece lacks a step between the reinforce and chase, normally seen just in front of the trunnions.  The base ring around the breech is significantly larger than the bronze type, measuring a full 12-inches in diameter.  The knob is flattened at the back and is attached to the breech with a substantial fillet.

Muzzle of Unknown 12-pdr FH

Muzzle damage breaks up the otherwise well-defined form.  But most of the front sight survived handling and time.  The overall form implies the foundry used some elements of the Model 1841 pattern.  However, the addition of two inches of thickness at the breech may indicate the need to compensate for the fragile nature of cast iron.

In contrast, cast iron 12-pdr howitzers from Tredegar in Richmond present cleaner lines, indicating either some knowledge of stress lines or a need to simplify the casting molds.  The example below is one of a pair representing Confederate positions at Petersburg, near the Massachusetts memorial.

12-pdr Iron FH from Tredegar

From a distance, these resemble squat Ordnance Rifles, but the thickness of the barrel give away their caliber.  Around the breech is a distinct reinforce, with a carefully blended step down to the barrel.  Even the neck of the knob presents a sweeping line without any fillet.  Weight of the Tredegar iron howitzers varied between 830 to 950 pounds, easily 50 to 170 pounds more than a standard bronze type of the caliber.  Even with the extra metal, the howitzers experienced some failures.  All told Tredegar delivered around 25 of these howitzers.

Of the Western foundries, T.M. Brennan of Nashville, Tennessee provided eighteen 12-pdr cast iron howitzers before the city fell to the advancing Union army after the fall of Fort Donelson.  The piece below stands between Ketchm’s Alabama Battery and the Washington Artillery on Ruggles’ Line at Shiloh.

12-pdr Brennan FH

As with the Tredegar piece, the Brennan offers a smooth form, much resembling the Federal Model 1861 profile.  The muzzle swell is the main difference on the Brennan.  The howitzer is just over 58 inches long overall.

Other vendors producing iron 12-pdr howitzers for the Confederacy included Quinby & Robinson of Memphis, Tennessee (identified by one survivor) and  Noble Brothers of Rome, Georgia (also with one surviving example).  Some source indicate Bellona Foundry outside Richmond produced some 12-pdr field howitzers during the war, if so those likely were cast iron also.  But production of both cast iron and bronze 12-pdr howitzers ceased at the end of 1862 with directives to focus production on 12-pdr Napoleon-type guns and 10-pdr Parrotts. (see OR, Series 1, Volume 21, Serial 31, p. 1047.)

Before closing  I should mention a few other Confederate foundries where evidence indicates at least some activity associated with 12-pdr howitzers:

– A.B. Reading & Brothers of Vicksburg, Mississippi produced two bronze examples, one of which was recaptured from the Federals at Chickamauga (see Report of Capt. O.T. Gribbs, C.S. Artillery, Ordnance Officer, OR, Series 1, Volume 30, Serial 51, p. 40-43).

– Skates & Co. of Mobile, Alabama delivered one bronze 12-pdr in December 1861.

– Ellis & Moore of Nashville, Tennessee may have delivered two iron 12-pdr howitzers for the State of Tennessee in May 1861.

– Deane & Son of Lynchburg, Virginia received a contract to produce forty 12-pdr howitzers in the summer of 1861.  Likely none were delivered.

– Webster, Thomas, & Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee contracted for the State of Tennessee to deliver a battery of guns including two 12-pdr howitzers.

– J.R. Young & Company, using the Madison Iron Foundry near Huntsville, Alabama, worked to deliver batches of iron field artillery, which likely included some 12-pdr howitzers.  However production was slow and no deliveries are documented.

In summary, the Confederates out of necessity made wide use of the 12-pdr field howitzer.  Where quantities acquired from Federal sources fell short, limited production batches attempted to arm the rebel artillerists.   I would put the total number delivered as around 150 tubes all told.  While most came from Tredegar in both bronze and cast iron, sources ranged as far west as the major Mississippi River ports.  However, many of these production facilities fell to the advancing Federals by the end of 1862.  Those that didn’t were ordered to shift to production of better types.


Aside from on site notes, links, and citations provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Daniel, Larry J., and Riley W. Gunter.  Confederate Cannon Foundries.  Union City, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1977

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

Howitzers for Christmas!

Yes, a couple of howitzers for your Christmas!   These artifacts sit today at the Washington Navy Yard.

8-inch Siege Howitzer Model 1841

I like to “stay on target,” so allow me to relate a Christmas connection regarding these cannon, in lieu of a traditional holiday greeting.

Slightly Damaged 8-inch Howitzer

The Navy acquired these two pieces as trophies following an action on Christmas Day, 1863, outside Charleston, South Carolina at the town, now mostly a placename, of Legareville.

In 1863, General P.G.T. Beauregard, commanding the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (but primarily preoccupied with the defenses of Charleston), instructed his subordinates to set up ambushes of Federal gunboats patrolling the inlets and tidewaters along the coast. Particularly annoying to the Confederates were the gunboats operating in the Stono River near Charleston.[1]  As winter approached, a detachment of Brig. Gen. George Gordon’s Federal Division landed at Legareville to dismantle buildings for construction materials to be used on nearby Morris Island.  The Navy covered the Federal infantry with a gunboat anchored in the river’s main channel for support.[2]

Confederate Brigadier General Henry Wise, commanding the Sixth Military District put an elaborate ambush plan in motion.  The Confederates sent a force constituted of two 30-pdr Parrott rifles and four 8-inch Siege Howitzers pulled from the Charleston siege train, a field artillery battery, 460 men from the 26th and 56th Virginia Infantry, and a small force of cavalry, all under the command of Colonel P.R. Page of the 26th Virginia.[3]  The plan called for a set of concealed batteries overlooking the marshes southwest of Legareville.  The Parrotts and howitzers would disable or drive off the gunboat.  That accomplished, the infantry supported by the field battery would storm Legareville and capture the Federal force.[4]   The Confederates completed the battery positions and maneuvered the forces into place on Christmas Eve night, 1863.

Legareville Area of Operations

The gunboat USS Marblehead had duties off Legareville that Christmas morning.  The Marblehead was a 700 ton, two masted steam gunboat, mounting two XI-inch Dahlgren guns, two 24-pdr smoothbore guns, and one 20-pdr rifle (likely a Parrott).  Lieutenant-Commander Richard W. Meade, Jr., commanded the Marblehead.

USS Marblehead (US Naval Historical Center)

Downriver, where the Kiawah River joins the Stono, the USS Pawnee stood by in support.  At 1,558 tons, the Pawnee was provisioned for eight IX-inch Dahlgens, one 100-pdr Parrott Rifle, one 50-pdr Dahlgren Rifle, and two 12-pdr boat howitzers.[5]  Commander George Balch commanded the Pawnee.

USS Pawnee (US Naval Historical Center)
USS Pawnee (US Naval Historical Center)

Further downstream stood the 200 ton mortar schooner C.P. Williams, armed with one 15-inch Mortar, two 32-pdr guns, one 20-pdr Parrott, and two 24-pdr howitzers.[6]  Acting Master S. N. Freeman skippered the mortar schooner.  These three vessels fell under the overall command of Commander Balch.

At around 6 a.m. that Christmas morning, the Confederate heavy guns began firing on the Marblehead.   The gunboat immediately went into action, but at a reduced pace to to a leaky boiler.[7]   In spite of this handicap, the gunboat remained on station, preventing any movement of the Confederate infantry.  Meanwhile, the Pawnee and C.P. Williams moved up.  By 6:35 a.m., Balch brought the Pawnee up the Kiawah River in position to enfilade the Confederate batteries.  Around 7 the mortar schooner joined in.  With the weight of eighteen heavy guns, the Confederate position soon became untenable.  By 7:30, the Confederates withdrew from the battery positions.[8]

General Wise reported the loss of one artillerist killed and five wounded.  The loss of eight horses along with damage to equipment meant two of the 8-inch howitzers remained behind.[9]  Col. Page felt the failure was largely due to inaccurate artillery fire, stating the Marblehead “…was never touched by the artillery.”[10]  General Beauregard echoed this sentiment in his short summary of the action, “Expedition to destroy two gunboats in the Stono yesterday failed through bad firing of our batteries.”[11]

Disputing that assessment, Lt. Cdr. Meade detailed damage to his vessel noting, “she has 12 shot in the hull (1 between wind and water); 18 shot struck in the upper works and aloft. We have one 30-pounder shell which lodged in the steerage and did not explode, showing that the rebels had something heavier than mere field pieces.”[12]  Three of the Marblehead‘s crew were killed and four wounded.[13]  So clearly some of the Rebel rounds found a target.

The Federal infantry at Legareville advanced up a causeway in pursuit of the Confederates, and found the two abandoned howitzers.  Lacking horses or other means of getting the weapons over the marshes, the infantry spiked the howitzers and destroyed the carriages.[14]  On the 28th, Lt. Cdr. Meade lead a landing party to the battery locations, navigating up the creeks.  Meade found the removal by water easier, bringing off the howitzers.  He reported these to be “…8-inch seacoast howitzers, weighing 2,650 pounds each, and throw a shot of 69.5 pounds weight.”   He also noted one of the pieces was loaded, and extraction of the round revealed “… a cylinro-conical projectile (with soft metal base), weighing 100 pounds….”  Meade saved the round for the Bureau of Ordnance’s examination.[15]

Meade’s reference to “seacoast howitzers” likely was a miss-identification of the Army weapon.  The weight given complies with that of the 8-inch Siege Howitzer Model 1841.  Two Army models of 8-inch seacoast howitzers weighed between 5,740 and 8,517 pounds.  Further support for the siege howitzer identification is a photograph showing just such a weapon on board the Pawnee, but on a Navy style truck carriage.

8-inch Howitzer on USS Pawnee

After the war, the two howitzers became part of the U.S. Navy Yard’s collection of trophies.  If these pieces could talk, they might relate only a minor action in the larger scope of the war.  But that Christmas in 1863 was far from peaceful.

Happy Holidays to you all, and let us pray our future is filled with peaceful Christmases.



1.  Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984. pp.50-1.

2.  Report of Brig. Gen. George H. Gordon, U.S. Army, commanding division, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 28, Serial 46, pp. 747-8.  Gordon mentions the 74th Pennsylvania Infantry in pursuit of the Confederates in the Christmas Day action, but is not specific with regard to the Legareville detachment’s composition.

3. Manigualt, Edward.   Siege Train:  The Journal of a Confederate Artilleryman in the Defense of Charleston, edited by Warren Ripley.  University of South Carolina Press, 1996. p. 101.

4.  Report of Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise, C.S. Army, commanding Sixth Military District, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 28, Serial 46, p. 750.

5.  Canney, Donald L.  The Old Steam Navy, Volume One: Frigates, Sloops, and Gunboats, 1815-1885.  Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1990.  p. 86.

6.  Based on report of ammunition expended, enclosure to Report of Acting Master Freeman, U.S. Navy, commanding U.S. Schooner C.P. Williams, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series I, Volume 15, p. 194.

7.  Report of Lieut-Commander Meade, U.S. Navy, commanding U.S.S. Marblehead, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series I, Volume 15, p. 190.

8.  Report of Commander Balch, U.S. Navy, commanding U.S.S. Pawnee, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series I, Volume 15, p. 189.

9.  Report of Gen. Wise, Army OR, p. 750.

10.  Report of Col. P.R. Page, Twenty-sixth Virginia Infantry, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 28, Serial 46, p. 750.

11.  Report of General G.T. Beauregard, C.S. Army commanding Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida,  Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 28, Serial 46, p. 749.

12.  Report of Lieut-Commander Meade, U.S. Navy, transmitting list of damages sustained by the U.S.S. Marblehead, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series I, Volume 15, p. 192.

13.  Report of Assistant Surgeon Kidder, of the U.S.S. Marblehead, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series I, Volume 15, p. 191.

14.  Report of Gen. Gordon, Army OR, pp. 748-9.

15.  Report of Lieut-Commander Meade, U.S. Navy, regarding the removal of the guns, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series I, Volume 15, p. 194-6.  The weight of the gun was corrected in an addendum to the report.

Confederate 12-pdr Field Howitzers – Part 1, Bronze Types

While the Confederates made widespread use of any Federal 12-pdr field howitzers which came their way, several manufacturers in the South produced weapons in the class during the war.  The southern 12-pdr howitzers fit into four basic categories:

– Bronze copies of the Federal Model 1841 design, with minor deviations.  Likely Confederates chose the pattern due to simple form which eased issues when dealing with new and inexperienced gun-founders.

– Bronze types with major deviations from the Model 1841 form.

– Iron types borrowing from the Model 1841 form.

– Iron types with a clean appearance, usually with some form of reinforce over the breech.

I’ll look first at the bronze types in an overview in this post, later covering the iron types in part two.  I intend to offer detailed looks at each manufacturer and sub-type at some point in the future.

The first category is perhaps best represented by pieces produced by the Tredegar Foundry in Richmond.  In 1861-2 the foundry delivered over forty bronze field howitzer closely matching the Federal Model 1841 in size, form, and details.  One of these Tredegar bronze 12-pdr field howitzers was on display at the old Gettysburg Visitor Center on the artillery wall.   Two other Tredegar 12-pdrs help represent Trigg’s and Swett’s Batteries along Ruggles’ Line at Shiloh.  Both of these Shiloh pieces have a slot and what appears to be the weathered ghost of a sight bracket on the breech.  Otherwise the weapons conform to the Model 1841 pattern.

12-pdr Tredegar Howitzer at Trigg's Battery

Other Confederate manufacturers who copied the Model 1841 include Leeds & Co. of New Orleans; Quinby & Robinson of Memphis, Tennessee; the Washington Foundry in Richmond; Noble Brothers of Rome, Georgia; and Columbus Iron Works in Columbus, Georgia.    Two of the nine 12-pdrs produced by Leeds before New Orleans fell are cataloged as survivors.  One of which was last reported at Fredericksburg.

The Memphis foundry of Quinby & Robinson cast 42 howitzers (twelve of which were completed by other vendors after the fall of the city).  Two of these represent Bankhead’s Battery at Shiloh along Ruggles’ Line.  (Others may be seen at Gettysburg)

12-pdr Q&R Howitzers at Bankhead's Battery

Washington Foundry, Owned by W.J. Hubbard and better known for pre-war casting of bronze statues of George Washington, produced a handful of howitzers.  Hubbard sent the pieces to the firm of Sampson & Pae for finishing.  One of these rare weapons represents Rutledge’s Battery at Shiloh.  (Another is at Gettysburg)

12-pdr Washington Howitzer

The Noble Brothers howitzers are about an inch shorter than standard Model 1841.  Otherwise from a distance, these are easily mistaken for the Federal type. Receipts indicate the brothers delivered five bronze howitzers along with nine more iron types.  Two of the bronze pieces are on display at Gettysburg representing Poague’s Howitzers (along with another example from Quinby & Robinson).

12-pdr from Noble Brothers at Gettysburg

Columbus Iron Works produced at least one 12-pdr Howitzer, conforming to the Model 1841 pattern.  The weapon used metal donated by the citizens of Columbus, and bore the name “Ladies Defender.”  After capture at Shiloh, the piece ended up as a war trophy in Chicago.  Eventually the weapon was returned and is now on display in Columbus.

Prior to instructions to limit production to 12-pdr Napoleons and Parrott Rifles, Macon Arsenal had plans to produce 12-pdr Field Howitzers.  No survivors today exhibit the foundry’s stamps.  Likely any produced were later melted for Napoleon production.

Representing the second type, John Clark & Company of New Orleans delivered a number of 12-pdr Howitzers featuring a muzzle swell.  I covered these types in detail in another post.

Another New Orleans vendor, Samuel Wolff, produced three 12-pdr howitzers which also differed from the standard Model 1841 pattern.  Wolff’s howitzers feature a recess over the breech, making the piece resemble a smaller version of the 24-pdr Howitzer.  The only known survivor represents the Washington Artillery at Shiloh, along side one of the Clark 12-pdrs.

12-pdr Wolff Howitzer

Among the bronze 12-pdr Howitzers in the parks and at town memorials, a fair number of pieces defy proper identification due to a lack of markings.  Most conform to the Model 1841 form.  The absence of even a single stamp required by Federal regulations somewhat implies a Confederate origin, though obviously such cannot be confirmed. One example is an unmarked howitzer along Ruggles’ Line at Shiloh representing Swett’s Battery along side the Tredegar howitzer mentioned above.  Aside from the slightly larger fillet at the knob, the piece matches well to the battery mate.  However the patina of the unknown piece is noticeably darker.  Tradition attributes this to the melting of bells to produce guns, but may also indicate Southern foundries were adding traces of iron or lead to the bronze mix.

12-pdr Howitzer of Unknown Origin

Another piece with an unknown origin falls into the second category of bronze howitzers.  A battery mate to the Washington Foundry howitzer at Rutledge’s Battery mentioned above, the odd howitzer features a trunnion band and a rather large breech ring.

Another 12-pdr of Unknown Origin

Perhaps this weapon came from a foundry using very rough diagrams, or maybe a casting which used forms related to other bronze implements.  But this cannon is not speaking.  Only a weight stamp of “799” appears above the knob.

In summary, at the onset of the war with the Confederacy desperate for weapons of any type, officials and gun-makers often turned to the Model 1841 12-pdr Field Howitzer pattern as a conservative option.  Foundries throughout the South turned out  a respectable number of the weapons.  Today many of the survivors stand on the National Parks representing battery positions, often side by side with regulation Federal types.  Battlefield stompers should pay careful attention to markings and subtle differences in the form.


Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Daniel, Larry J., and Riley W. Gunter.  Confederate Cannon Foundries.  Union City, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1977

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of December 21

A light week with only twenty-one entries in the Civil War category, from sites in Alabama, Georgia, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

– Two markers from Ohatchee, Alabama discuss details of a June 14, 1864 raid by Federals.  Confederates under General James Clanton confronted Federal raiders, under Major General Lovell H. Rousseau (misspelled on the marker),  moving towards Montgomery.   After crossing at Ten Islands Ford, a detachment from the main Federal force destroyed the nearby Janney Furnace.

– Yet another Georgia state marker discussing Stoneman’s July 1864 Raid.  An entry this week highlights the movements through Jones County.

– Adding to an entry from last week discussing the main Confederate hospital in Barnesville, Georgia, an entry this week lists the other hospitals in the city.

– A marker in Forsyth, Georgia details the activities of the Georgia Militia on November 15-16, 1864, attempting to delay the Federals in the opening stages of the March to the Sea.

– A trio of Civil War related markers from Washington, Georgia this week.  Perhaps the town’s most famous resident was Robert Toombs, Senator, Confederate Secretary of State, and later Brigadier General.   John Archibald Campbell, the Confederate Assistant Secretary of War, lived in Washington before the war.  Jefferson Davis passed through Washington on May 4, 1865 in his attempt to escape the Federals at the end of the war.

– The 143rd New York mustered at Camp Holley, near Monticello, New York.  The regiment initially served in the defenses around Washington, but later transferred to the Western Theater and participated in the Atlanta Campaign, March to the Sea, and the Carolinas Campaigns.

– Polson Cemetery near Dodge, Oklahoma features a memorial to Stand Watie, Cherokee and Confederate Brigadier General.

– A marker in Nashville, Tennessee notes the location of Peach Orchard Hill, where General S.D. Lee’s Confederates held against Federal assaults on December 16, 1864, during the Battle of Nashville.  Today the site is a residential neighborhood.

– Three Civil War related markers from Austin, Texas this week.  The state capitol saw a flurry of activity after the secession convention in 1861.  Munitions and other industries sprang up during the war, but an influx of visitors and refugees also brought disease.  Many of the state’s legislators actually camped outside of town, unable to afford hotel rates!  One city resident, Major William M. Walton, served with the 21st Texas Cavalry and later became a noted criminal defense attorney.  But another marker in Austin notes the service of many Texans in the Union Army, notably the 1st Texas Volunteer Cavalry, but also the many “galvanized Yankees.”

– Two new markers added to our Battle of Fredericksburg set.  One is an overview marker at the visitor center.  The other, near the Inns House, describes the limited cover provided to the Federals advancing toward Marye’s Heights.

– A plaque on the Leeds Episcopal Church in Markham, Virgina notes the Confederate officers who worshiped there.  Among those noted is General Turner Ashby.

– The Bethlehem Baptist Church in Henrico, Virginia served as an aid station during the war.  The original structure burned after the war and was rebuilt in the 1870s.  Another marker near Richmond notes Skipwith Academy, formed by Grey Skipwith, a former Confederate midshipman, was founded on a Civil War era parade ground.

– A memorial in Gordonsville, Virginia honors those Federal and Confederate who died passing through the important receiving hospital centered around the Exchange Hotel.

– Somewhat belatedly, I entered the marker for the McLaws Trail at Chancellorsville this week.  The entry features photos at each tour stop along the trail.

“Surge” on Malvern Hill

This week the Civil War Preservation Trust announced a short deadline effort aimed to preserve 178 acres at the location of the Carter Farm on the Malvern Hill battlefield outside Richmond.  Confederate infantry of Barksdale’s and G.T. Anderson’s Brigades staged on that ground prior to advancing into fire of Federal artillery on July 1, 1862.  Confederate artillery also deployed on the property during the battle.  So while not in the heart of the battlefield, the ground offers a location from which to appreciate both the line of march taken by the soldiers into the main battle, and the viewpoint of the Confederate commanders observing the battle.

I would offer one other point regarding the 178 acres.  Consider the last two decades or so of acquisitions by the Trust and other like minded preservation groups in eastern Henrico County.  In 1990, the National Park Service maintained a small plot off Carter’s Mill Road from which the entire battle of Malvern Hill was interpreted.  Although the end point to the Richmond Battlefield’s tour of the Seven Day’s Battles, limitations of space gave the visitor very little to work from.  From 1994 onward, preservationists acquired property or established easements.  Now entering a new decade, a swath of land set aside as “battlefield” complements the NPS land.  This progression continues in the spirit of Douglas S. Freeman and others, who first called attention to the Richmond battlefields in the 1920s.

In the words of historian Bobby Krick:Because of the preservation successes there, Malvern Hill battlefield has become the most visitor friendly battlefield in this part of Virginia.  And unlike most of the other Richmond-area battlefields, Malvern Hill has sweeping vistas that make understanding and appreciating the ground somewhat easier.

According to the Trust, the overall price tag is two million and the deadline is December 31.  However, with matches from the Virginia Legacy Fund, the federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program, and the landowner (!), the shortfall is $545,300.  Still sounds like a tall order for a couple of weeks.  But the Trust is courting a major donation partner to come through with much of that shortfall.  If such comes to fruition, the Trust would only need $45,000 more to secure the property.   Running down the numbers, such means a dollar forwarded to the Trust for this “surge” matches to $46 of other sources.  A $254 donation then translates into the preservation of an entire acre of ground!

Mr. Lincoln’s Forts

For many years I my library included a well worn copy of Mr. Lincoln’s Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington (White Mane Publishing Company, 1988) by Benjamin Franklin Cooling III and Walton H. Owen II.   This 256-page work offered the best “field guide” to the fortifications around the District, Fairfax and Alexandria Counties in Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince Georges County in Maryland.   This work filled a void in the body of knowledge by offering a fort by fort description, coupled with a suggested driving route.  The one complaint I had regarding the work was the binding – my copy fell apart four years back, eventually migrating into a three ring binder for safekeeping.  Allow me to skirt around a direct discussion of the publisher but say in my non-expert opinion that the glue was not up to the test.  For a “field guide” binding durability and flexibility is paramount.

I was delighted to hear through the blogs a new edition of the book had rolled off the presses.   This edition is published by Scarecrow Press, and offers about 50 more content pages.  The binding is certainly stouter, as the book can lay open on my desk without creasing the comb.  Time will tell if it is up to the tests of field duty.  The page layout and format reduces white space, so in addition to just fifty more pages, the pages have more content than before.

Like the old edition, the new opens with a forward by historian Edwin C. Bearss.  After acknowledgments, an introduction provides the reader an update on the state of the Washington defenses.  Three other prefaces invite the user to help with further research, explain what visitors will see at the fort sites, and offer an administrative note about maps.  The later promises to offer GPS coordinates for the forts in later editions.  (I would offer up our historical marker series, the Defenses of Washington, for those who’d like to use marker related GPS data.)

The chapters offered in the new edition are the same as that of the old.  Chapter one is a well documented orientation to the defenses.  Chapter two is a reprint from General John G. Barnard’s A Report on the Defenses of Washington to the Corps of Engineers, providing the technical aspects of the fortifications.  Chapters three through six discuss the specific forts, broken out into geographic sections – south of the Potomac, north of the Potomac, east of the Anacostia, and the river forts.  Appendices include a short biography of General Barnard, ordnance statistics, engineer glossary, essay on communications, reprint of regulations for care of earthworks, and (added in this edition) selected engineering drawings.

The heart of the book, what will interest most of the “battlefield stompers” is those last four chapters.  An entry for a fort starts with location information, generally describing the driving route from the previous fort, but often giving street addresses.  The next paragraph describes any visible remains and mentions interpretive markers on site.  The description section relates details of the fort’s history, construction, purpose, and armament.  The notes/anecdotes section provides any background information, collected stories, and often a list of units which garrisoned the fortification.  Included throughout is an outstanding set of photographs, engineering plans, and other illustrations.

The directions are impeccable, and get my whole approval.  I spend many of my work day dodging traffic around some of the same neighborhoods and find the routes logical and easy to follow.  However as each chapter assumes a start to finish tour, visitors isolating a single fort might be confused picking up directions in the middle.  I would advise, even if you are familiar with the area, a map check before you tour.  And during a tour the use of a quality street map and/or GPS.

Surprisingly, I noted very few changes to the visible remains paragraphs.  One case that stands out is Fort Lyon in Alexandria, Virginia.  There, property owners have cut backyard access through the old fort traces.  In 1988 only one such cut existed, but sadly the authors note several such in place today.

While to some degree the lack of significant changes noted about the remains does bode well for preservation, there are threats.  The authors note the pending deactivation of Walter Reed Hospital, important ground for interpreting the attack on Fort Stevens.  Several forts, particularly Forts Totten and DuPont, suffer from bike traffic which damages and erodes the remains.  Some of the changes reflected include administrative changes, as property moved to city or county parks.  But the authors note a threat to Fort Ethan Allen where misguided managers modified a park as part of a multi-use plan (a $400,000 dog park!).   I found the discussion of recent history regarding Fort Marcy rather balanced, adding “the event is an interesting study in what happens to a Civil War site when it becomes a high-profile crime scene.”

My only point of criticism is the identification of some artillery pieces.   The authors of Mr. Lincoln’s Forts tend to mix the proper identification of the 4.5-inch Siege Rifle with the non-standard, and erroneous nomenclature of 4.5-inch Rodman.   The ordnance statistics in the appendix even identifies the weapon as a “Rodman.”  While period reports sometimes used the name “Rodman” for this type of gun, I feel perpetuating the error can confuse readers.   And adding to the confusion, the appendix in question proposes the “Rodman” might actually be a 4.62-inch rifle Model 1862, noting Warren Ripley’s Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War.   In his book, Ripley correctly identifies the 4.5-inch Siege Rifle as a Federal type, without the Rodman name.  However Ripley notes the 4.62-inch Siege Rifle as a limited production Confederate model.  But these are minor points, that only an artillery aficionado such as my self would pick out, which do not detract from the overall work.

Overall I must rate Mr. Lincoln’s Forts as a must have for anyone interested in the eastern theater and Civil War fortifications.  At $34, a softbound copy is within reach of most budgets.  The guide will sit well on the shelf as a reference book.  And at the same time should accompany any who wish to visit the forts in person.  I have already carried my copy out on two excursions.  Doubtless it will see more in the near future.  Just hope the binding holds up this time!