Monthly Archives: May 2009

Edwards Ferry – Orientation

I’m jumping the gun on June a bit now.  Taking to  mind the need to consolidate the remainder of my “Gettysburg notes” from the marker project, and some timing with other events, my focus this month on the blog will be toward two distinct topics.  One of course the “markers and monuments.”  At the same time I’ve got some site notes from various points in Loudoun, Fairfax, Clarke, and Frederick Counties which I’ve needed prodding to post.   I’ll start out with a series of posts looking at Edwards Ferry, where the Army of the Potomac crossed into Maryland in late June, 1863.  Of course as a bonus, that site featured prominently in the Battle of Balls Bluff, making this site a “two for one” visit.

A few years back (2006 or 2007) Loudoun County, Virginia opened the Elizabeth Mills Riverfront Park.  The park fronts portions of the Potomac River and Goose Creek, as a strip of river bottom land next to the Lansdowne Resort & Golf Club.  Several sites of note within the narrow boundaries of the park include Elizabeth Mills (also known as Kephart Mill), Kephart Bridge Ruins, two locks for the Goose Creek Canal, and a river lock for that canal.  But for those with Civil War interests, the important landmark is at the mouth of Goose Creek – the site of the Edwards Ferry river crossing.

The Mouth of Goose Creek

The Mouth of Goose Creek

There are two entrances to the trail in the park, both inside Lansdowne, and both reached from Belmont Ridge Road from Leesburg Pike (Virginia 7).  The Elizabeth Mills parking area is at the end of Squirrel Ridge Place.  The Kephart Bridge parking area is off Riverpoint Drive.  Both sites are about equidistant, no more than 1500 yards from the mouth of Goose Creek, but the trail from Kephart Bridge passes several ruins of the old Goose Creek Canal.  The only obstacles on the trail are the occasional deadfall and the occasional washout or two.  Otherwise, the trail is a walk along the river banks.

As mentioned above, this is a site which has layers upon layers of history.  While the main natural feature is of course the confluence, the important man made feature is the Goose Creek Canal.   As this canal was in place at the time of the Civil War, allow me to elaborate a bit on its history.  This canal was one of many such projects in Virginia, born with the notion to link the inland valleys rich with agricultural products to the markets over the fall line.  After the completion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on the Maryland side of the Potomac, a river lock was built to allow light boat traffic to pass from Goose Creek, down the C&O Canal, to Washington, D.C.

In 1849, the Little River and Goose Creek Navigation Company began construction on a canal along Goose Creek and the Little River (its tributary).  The aim was to allow passage of canal barges as far upstream as Loudoun Vallie – Aldie, Oatlands, and mills along the Snickersville Turnpike.  The first step in this canal project was a river lock and a canal lock at the mouth of Goose Creek.  Next was a set of double locks at Kephart’s Mill.  The last set of dams and locks were complete by 1854.

Goose Creek Canal Lock

Goose Creek Canal Lock

Problem was, Goose Creek was not a reliable for navigation.  Looking at the upper reaches of Goose Creek, even near the Leesburg Turnpike (site of a Confederate Battery and “Burnt Bridge” during the Civil War), rarely is there enough depth in the channel to allow anything larger than a canoe.  Yet, the project was completed. The canal ditch, locks, and dams stood at the time of the Civil War. Part of this canal is shown on the “McDowell Map” of 1862.

Section of McDowell Map showing Edwards Ferry

Section of McDowell Map showing Edwards Ferry

However, the map does not appear to accurately scale, nor does it show the full course of the canal.  But clearly shown is the road infrastructure of the time.

Edwards Ferry Road (mentioned also on several Leesburg Defenses posts earlier this year) passed from Leesburg to the west, crossing Cattail Branch, then descending the bluffs on the north bank of Goose Creek to the confluence.    Visible in this snapshot of the map, on the lower left,  is part of the Leesburg Turnpike.  The pike linked Leesburg with Alexandria (and is today Virgina Highway 7), crossing Goose Creek little over a mile and a half upstream from the mouth.

The other road of note runs nearly through the middle of the snapshot, connecting Edwards Ferry Road with the Pike.  This was called “California Road” by some accounts.  The reference here is to mining operations active along this section of Goose Creek.  Note the annotations “Iron Ore” and “Copper.”   Gold was also mined here, but certainly not enough make a significant operation.  Likely the reference to “California” was some joke upon the mine owner.  Regardless, the California Road crossed Goose Creek at Kephart’s Mill at a bridge by the same name.  This bridge, whose stone abutments still stand, was burned in 1862.

Remains of Kephart Bridge

Remains of Kephart Bridge

On the Maryland side of the Potomac, a road runs up from the old ferry point, across the canal lock then forks.  The left, or north, fork leads to Poolsville.  The right, or south, fork parallells the river eventually leading to Washington, D.C.

A look at the site today presents a far different view:

Google Earth Image of the Site Today

Google Earth Image of the Site Today

I’ve indicated in red the structures that stand today for reference – Kephart Mills (locks and bridge), the lock at the mouth of the Goose, the C&O lock, and C&O River Lock.  Otherwise, much of the road structure now lays below golf courses and residential streets.

So looking at both a period map and the satellite image today, clearly there’s a challenge to properly interpret the site.  What I will present in follow on posts are my notes regarding the Army of the Potomac crossing in 1863 and a bit about related history of the site.

And you may note, I’ve tagged this post as a “Need Marker” entry.  Yes, there are no historical or interpretive markers on site!

Linda’s Battlefield Trips

Linda Walcroft over at “The View from Squirrel Ridge” has posted several dispatches from a recent trip to the Richmond-Petersburg area viewing sites related to the Siege of Petersburg.   As usual Linda backs up her observations with plenty of quality photographs.  This recent trip is another battlefield walk with Dr. Charles P. Poland, of Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus.  Previous trips are also documented on her Civil War Field Trips page.

If you are not familiar with Linda’s work, she covers a wide range of topics on her blog.  But another attraction for me are the photos of the flora and fauna of the Shenandoah Valley.  Her posts often remind me there’s more to this world than just military history.  She’s also a contributor at HMDB. In addition to her own entries, she has “cleaned up” several markers with better photos and more accurate locations.

So if you are interested in the Petersburg battlefields, particularly a perspective on how the sites look today, I’d recommend checking Linda’s recent posts.  Or if you like seasonal photos of “The Valley,” you may want to add her site to your RSS feed list.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of May 25

Post Memorial Day weekend update.  Just over forty new entries this week with representative markers and monuments from Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Here’s the rundown:

– A Georgia state marker in Ringgold points toward the Chickamauga battlefield, nine miles away.

– New entries add to the markers covering the initial actions in the Atlanta Campaign.  A marker in Rocky Face points out the Confederates mounted a defense there on two occasions – February 1864 and later on May 8-9, 1864 – both times the attacks included the Federal 14th Corps.   Four in Gordon County discuss the actions around Calhoun, Georgia in May 16-18, 1864.  Then another marker entry from Marietta discusses Federal attempts to cross the Chattahoochie in July 1864.

– One Georgia entry prompted a lot of editorial discussion among the board of HMDB.  The Eternal Flame of the Confederacy is technically indoors.  But the entry was accepted as it was outside at one point and it’s new location is partly to provide a safer area for visitors to view the artifact.  The flame itself was part commemoration by the United Confederate Veterans, but also in honor of the festivities surrounding the premiere of  “Gone with the Wind.”  There’s a lot of “Civil War Memory” tied up in this one!

– Three entries from around Cumberland, Maryland expand the coverage of Civil War events in western Maryland.  Two of these, a state marker and a Civil War Trails wayside, discuss actions at Folick’s Mill on August 1, 1864, where Federals ambushed McCausland’s raiders returning from Chambersburg.  The third marker, in town, indicates the location of a Civil War hospital.

– I mentioned on Sunday, two restored itinerary tablets from Emmitsburg, Maryland – July 1 and July 4.

– A marker from Milton, North Carolina indicates the location of Woodside House, where General Stephen Ramseur recovered from wounds in 1863, and where he married his cousin, Ellen Richmond.

– Outside Eaton, Ohio is another noteworthy Civil War veterans memorial.  This one was commissioned by William Ortt to honor his comrades.

– More markers from the town of Gettysburg.   These are mostly Main Street Gettysburg markers, but included are  two Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association markers at the site of Camp Letterman.  I am grateful to the folks at Gettysburg Daily for the use of their photos, as those markers currently are marked with graffiti.

– We all know the war started in Charleston, South Carolina.  A plaque on Market Street in the city indicates the site of the old Institute Hall, where the Ordinance of Secession was signed, officially marking the break.

– In nearby Mount Pleasant, South Carolina a National Park Service wayside discusses the impressive array of artillery pieces at Fort Moultrie.   Some of the heavy guns on display there are one-of-a-kind types.

– A few steps away is a state marker referencing the CS H.L. Hunley.  The marker’s text includes a list of the submarine’s final crew.

– LaGrange, Tennessee saw a lot of wartime activity.  It was occupied by Federal forces for most of the war.  For a while, General Sherman hung his hat at nearby Woodlawn.  And, anyone who has watch the movie “The Horse Soldiers” will recall, Colonel Grierson started his famous raid into Mississippi in the town.

– A Tennessee state marker just south of the Shiloh battlefield provides a brief overview of the battle.  Not in the Civil War category, but of interest to those who study the history of the battlefields, another state marker close to Shiloh discusses Civilian Conservation Corps Camp 2425 MP-3, which worked at the park in the 1930s.

– In the small town of Pocahontas, Tennessee a state marker highlights the Battle of Davis Bridge, October 5, 1862.  The action was fought as the Confederates withdrew from a failed assault on Corinth, Mississippi.  The actual battlefield is well south of the main road, but somewhat preserved in a local park.

– A relatively small action in Moscow, Tennessee in October 1863 was a hallmark of sorts.  During the battle, the 2nd West Tennessee Infantry, an African-American regiment raised in the Memphis area, acquitted itself well, receiving accolades from General Stephen A. Hurlbut.

– Four markers added to the Fredericksburg sets.  Three of these were featured on a recent “Naked Archaeologist” site tour – Confederate Earthworks, The Gallant Pelham, and the Winter Line – at Pelham’s Crossing.  The fourth, a bit further out, indicates the location of  Jackson’s Headquarters through the winter of 1862-63.

– A Civil War Trails marker in Milford, Virginia discusses some of the lesser known actions as Grant continued to probe around the Confederate flanks after the battle of Spotsylvania during the Overland Campaign of 1864.

– Another Civil War Trails marker in Meherrin, Virginia discusses activity related to the Wilson-Kautz raid of 1864.

– One addition to the Ball’s Bluff battlefield collection, which I must have overlooked before.  This marker discusses the changes to the field since the battle, and efforts to restore it to the wartime appearance.

With summer finally upon us, expect to see more of the interesting markers “discovered” by our corespondents on the many Civil War battlefields.    And while out on your own battlefield stompings, if you happen upon a marker we’ve missed, by all means consider adding it to the Historical Marker Database.

Memorials and Memorial Day

As I relax on this Memorial Day, as I like to do on such holidays, my thoughts are reflective and focused on those who gave their lives in defense of a concept we call liberty.  Some of my reflection is personal, relating to heroes that I have known who died in defense of our country.  Other thoughts span through those whom I am only acquainted with by way of books.  Perhaps my ideas about military service are somewhat bias due to my own service, but I still feel, in the context of the way America practices such,  military service to be the most virtuous of any profession.   I cannot present a stronger example of the dignity and virtue of the profession than the names on the memorials around our nation.

On Saturday while returning from a funeral, I stopped and spent some time at the Pennsylvania Military Museum and 28th Infantry Division Shrine.  The 28th Division, considered the Army’s oldest, was and still is primarily a National Guard formation.  As such, it is an anomaly of sorts when considered in perspective of World War II and more recent American military history.

Most of the readers of this blog are well familiar with the “volunteer” system which existed at the time of the Civil War.  In essence, it was a wartime expansion of the state militia systems, under which regiments were organized locally and mustered into Federal (or Confederate) service.  For well over 150 years that system was considered sound enough for the needs of the United States.  When ever the nation went to war, calls went out through the land for volunteers – with companies formed in towns and neighborhoods then consolidated to form regiments.  Leaders were elected or appointed by state authorities.  In the end, a unit with a sense of local identity marched off to war.

One result of this local identity is the rather common “town square” memorials.  Often with rather impressive artwork, these memorials were dedicated to the local veterans.   One might say an unofficial standard exists for the Civil War memorials, requiring a soldier standing with musket along with a listing of those from the community who died in service.  The memorials stood to preserve memory in one way or another.

Memorials of this type of course are not unique to the Civil War.  Along the eastern seaboard are memorials to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans, but mostly those were placed well after the wartime generation was gone.  The Civil War memorials were placed by comrades to those fallen men.  The same can be said for the World War I memorials.  “Doughboy” Statues stand across America as reminders of our nation’s contributions to the “War to End All Wars.”

However, taken as a group, the “town center” World War II memorials tend to offer less from the artistic standpoint.  The sentiment is there, but very few offer impressive statues.  Often these are incorporated with displays outside a Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion hall.  Many cultural historians have noted this shift in the memorials, and offered suggestions.  My personal belief is that under the mobilization system of World War II, that “localization” of the unit was watered down.  Yes, there were units like the 28th Infantry that marched off to war as mobilized National Guardsmen.  But the replacement system, reorganizations from the square to triangle division, and other factors changed the character of the unit by the end of the war.  So by 1945, as the soldiers returned, there was no longer a sense of community involvement as with the previous wars.  (I would add that the “greatest generation,” with much modesty, has been more active with national level with memorials, museums, monuments, and static displays of military equipment. )

In the conflicts our nation has fought since 1945, our fighting formations were largely built around skeleton active duty “regular” units.  I recall that in Korea some National Guard divisions were deployed, but by the time they entered combat, the officers and staff were largely transferred into the formations from other active duty posts.  Guard units were shuffled around with volunteer and draftees added to their rosters.  There were a lot of valid reasons for this practice, not the least of which were criticisms of politically connected leader appointments in the guard.  Regardless of the reasons, one effect was to remove that sense of “localization.”  Veterans of the Korean War, who lived side by side in the community, might never have seen each other during the war.

In my generation, that sense of localization was completely gone.  Even with National Guard and Reserve augmentees, the conflicts were so short in duration that units rarely had the time to cement that bond.  Most units in action were active duty formations, in which we simply had more attachment to the base deployed from than to any home town.  We served, but we didn’t form those community wide bonds of the veterans like other generations.  Heck, I served on a couple of deployments with a fellow bloger listed on my blogroll to the right.  Yet had he and I not swapped some war stories, we’d have never recalled our common service!

However, that sense of localization among the veterans might come back in the near future.  Three factors, in my opinion, may revive it.  First, somewhat counter-intuitive in a way, is the geographical distribution of those who have served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  Two years ago a news item pointed out several major US cities had not experienced a war death.  That is a good statistic, if you are a soldier from those cities, of course.  But underlying that statistic, the news item further expanded – there were several US localities that could not claim a single service member in arms.  In our all-volunteer service, geographically speaking there are some localities where individuals answer the call in larger numbers than average.

A second factor is the extensive use of the National Guard and Reserves in the current wars for extended periods of time.  Several units have rotated through the combat zone multiple times now, each tour lasting a year or more.  As such, those units return with that “localization” experienced by their predecessors in the Civil War and World War I.  An example of that stands at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s Fallen Warrior Memorial.

Lastly, and I must say perhaps I am not as involved here as I should be, there is a sense of awareness and purposefulness among returning veterans that the nation has not seen for many decades.  Case and point, just look at the number and nature of the MilBloggers out there today.  These folks don’t want the nation to forget!

Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part, but I do believe that there will soon be new additions to the town centers around the country.  Likewise, as the veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Vietnam made impacts in the course of our nation, I honestly believe the current generation will also.

Gettysburg Campaign Itinerary Tablets

A subset within the War Department tablets erected to orient visitors to the Gettysburg Campaign are the Itinerary tablets.  These tablets were placed around 1901 to provide a general overview of the campaign, and their text briefly recounts the movements, skirmishes, and battles fought during the campaign. Within this subset, I break the tablets into three groups:   the Army of the Potomac tablets placed in several Maryland and Pennsylvania towns, the Army of the Potomac tablets on East Cemetery Ridge, and the Army of Northern Virginia tablets on West Confederate Avenue.    Allow me to address these in reverse order.

The Army of Northern Virginia tablets cover the time span from June 26 t0 July 5, 1863 – ten all told.   The narrative follows the last of the Confederate infantry crossing at Williamsport; the wide ranging columns around Franklin, Cumberland, York and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania; then the concentration of forces toward Gettysburg; and finally the withdrawal from the field.   If the reader browses the tablets off the link above, note the text strictly covers the arrival of the divisions to the field.  The itinerary tablets are just that, and are mostly concerned with the movement time line.  For the details of the battle, the visitor must go to the respective unit tablets on the field.  As was the standard for all tablets at Gettysburg, these were placed to allow the carriage or car bound visitor to read, pulled to the side.

The Confederate Itinerary Tablets on Confederate Avenue

The Confederate Itinerary Tablets on Confederate Avenue

I have seen mentioned that these tablets were restored around 2007.  Certainly these are sharp looking compared to some of the weathered brigade tablets elsewhere on the field.  The location, just south of the Schultz Woods,is a logical spot to pause when starting the tour down Seminary Ridge.  As such I wonder what that early Twentieth-century traffic looked like.

A matching set of itinerary tablets, placed on East Cemetery Hill,  similarly detailed the movements of the Army of the Potomac.  The tablets were originally placed in 1901, standing along Baltimore Pike opposite the National Cemetery entrance, facing the road.  The tablets were removed at some point, and restored in 2008 – but facing away from the road.  Safety of course, as nobody in their right mind would wish to risk their life parked along the road there today!

Army of the Potomac Itinerary Tablets East Cemetery Hill

Army of the Potomac Itinerary Tablets East Cemetery Hill

As with the ANV tablets, these detail how the AOP’s corps and divisions arrived at the battlefield.  But unlike the Confederate narrative, these start on June 29 and cover the initial movements in pursuit out to July 7, 1863 – nine tablets total.  The text narratives allow the reader to chart the Army as it worked north through Frederick County, Maryland into Pennsylvania.  The last three tablets follow the Army as it worked south and west toward the retreating Confederates, ending as the Cavalry has moved toward a town named “Boonsborough” in Maryland.  Yes, sometimes the spellings have evolved with time.

I’ve saved the most elusive, and most often overlooked, War Department tablets for last.  The Battlefield Commission placed seventeen (by my count) tablets far afield at key points in the march through Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Personally I see this as a forward thinking idea for 1901.  It dated similar efforts by the State of Pennsylvania and more recently the Civil War Trails system.

Through the efforts of several contributors at HMDB, we’ve cataloged many of these.  Here’s the list of the tablets (with links to the HMDB entries where applicable):

  • Uniontown, Maryland – June 29   (Update:  Located and entered)
  • Middleburg, Maryland – June 29 (Update:  Located and entered)
  • Westminster, Maryland – June 29 and July 3
  • Taneytown, Maryland – June 30 and July 1
  • Manchester, Maryland – June 30 and July 3
  • Emmitsburg, Maryland – July 1 and July 4
  • Hanover, Pennsylvania – June 30 and July 1
  • Two Taverns, Pennsylvania – July 1 and July 7
  • Hunterstown, Pennsylvania – July 2
  • Littlestown, Pennsylvania – July 5
  • Fairfield, Pennsylvania – July 6

Yes, eleven thirteen of seventeen are documented.  Because these tablets were well outside of the park, no doubt they suffered a bit over time from wear and damage.  Of those six four missing from HMDB, no doubt some are just not physically in place anymore.

But some authority, I assume the National Park Service, who would have received the easements that the tablets stand on, has repaired and replaced some of these “far afield” itinerary tablets.  The Hanover tablets were listed as missing in 1985, but are in place today in the town center.

As I drove through Emmitsburg on the way home yesterday, I took a side trip to check on the spot where two “stalks” stood last year.

"Stalks" for Itinerary Tablets in Emmitsburg

"Stalks" for Itinerary Tablets in Emmitsburg 2008

I found the tablets restored.  Although these face the road, as with the traditional placement, one should park at the Post Office or nearby parking lots and walk behind the guard rail to read these tablets.  South Seton Avenue is rather busy most of the time.

Restored Emmitsburg Tablets

Restored Emmitsburg Tablets

Looking at the back of the tablets, there’s sort of a “Frankenstein” patch job apparent, attesting to the wear, tear, and damage seen by the metal plates.

Repairs to the Tablet

Repairs to the Tablet

A weld ridge runs down the tablet.   Three metal strips, fixed with screws, brace tablet.  The screws are well masked on the front, covered with paint, placed between the lines of text.  But the crease left by a break is noticeable.

Emmitsburg July 4 Tablet

Emmitsburg July 4 Tablet

The “stalks” themselves were rather well designed in my opinion.  In cross section, the stalk forms an “X” with reinforced center, presumably extending a few feet below the ground.  The base plate at the ground is rounded, to reduce any uprooting.  But where it attaches to the tablet, a simple pad slides between two ridges.

Stalk Attached to Tablet

Stalk Attached to Tablet

Simple, but it works.  Probably more than you ever wanted to know about the tablets… but I thought I’d mention it.

These thirty-six tablets, placed at the turn of the last century, differed from the other tablets at Gettysburg.  Instead of detailing the flow of battle and casualties, the itinerary tablets discussed how the units got to the battlefield.

Gettysburg Project Update

With all the monuments, markers, and tablets in the Historical Marker Database, the less glamorous work continues.   After all the site visits, early morning walks on the battlefield, and long trail walks, now its down to setting the relations and setting up the links.

I completed some of that today with the “By Locations” page.  The only bit not dressed out completely are the markers and monuments in town.

Next up is the a listing by order of battle.  And the ultimate goal is a full listing that allows a reader to follow the campaign by way of the markers from Virginia all the way to Gettysburg and back.

The Copse of Trees seen from the Bliss Farm Site

The Copse of Trees seen from the Bliss Farm Site

The “False Napoleon”

A trip recently to the Wilderness Battlefield offered an opportunity to examine a Civil War artillery piece with a post-war history.  Those who have studied the artillery know them as “False Napoleons.”

The story is rather bland for those interested in gallant charges and great cannonades, but interesting to those of us who like to listen to the story those guns tell – by way of their markings, scratches, and alterations.  As even a casual student of artillery knows that by mid-war the 12-pounder Napoleon became the predominant smoothbore gun in both armies.  Only in the side show theaters or under emergency situations did the 6-pdr Field Guns continue to see service after 1864.

So the 6-pdrs were gradually retired early, eventually to gather dust in the armories of the post-war Army.  Then in the 1890s as the first battlefield parks were established, the old 6-pdrs were called out of storage to serve as displays representing the wartime batteries.  For most of the  battlefields, the 6-pdr could at least “pass muster” under review of the returning veterans, as the type saw some service during the actions there.   But at Gettysburg there was only one 6-pdr on the field during the battle.   This allotment of guns to that battlefield didn’t stand to pass review of the trained eye.

The War Department did what it could, and attempted to sew a silk purse from the sow’s ear.  About 1895, the Gettysburg National Park Commission opted to make modifications to the 6-pdrs they had on hand, disguising them as 12-pdr Napoleons.  This “surgery” required the removal of external adornments, enlarging of the bore (for a short length), and general “smoothing” of the profile.  I’ll go into the particulars more below.  While to my knowledge no definitive total exists for those pieces modified, based on tallies of survivors today, at least twenty-nine pieces received these alterations.  Most were Model 1841, but included in the batch were a Model 1838, several 3.8-inch James Rifles originally cast in the Model 1841 form, two Leeds & Co. Confederate 6-pdrs, and one example which likely was cast by John Clark of New Orleans.  Please refer to a recent Gettysburg Daily article featuring Licensed Battlefield Guide George Newton for additional background on these guns.

9 May 09 008

Field of View from Shelton's Guns

Of course years later when Gettysburg shared some of their fine artillery collection with the new battlefield parks, the example in my photo above was sent to Virginia.  I’m not certain that Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania was the first stop for the old, altered gun, but that’s where she came to be.  Today it represents the position occupied by a section of Battery D, 1st New York Light Artillery (commanded by Lieutenant William Shelton) during the first day of the Wilderness.  The section advanced to support Warren’s ill-fated attack on Ewell’s line across Saunders Field.  However, those Napoleons (real 12-pounders of course) were unable to support the infantry, and was soon caught up in the Confederate counterattack.  As one can easily see from the photo above, the guns were not in a particularly good position.  Eventually two different Confederate brigades fought themselves for the right to claim the guns as trophies.

The guns at the National Parks move around a bit.  Last year the gun was positioned near the Hazel Grove site, at Chancellorsville, representing a Confederate battery.  I’m told the gun will move again.  It stands on the opposite side of Virginia 20 from the exhibit shelter, and too many visitors are braving traffic to see the piece (where they should be safe, proceed to stop 2 of the tour and walk down).  Guess sometimes you must sacrifice historical accuracy for safety.

False Napoleon at Hazel Grove

False Napoleon at Hazel Grove

This particular piece was produced by Miles Greenwood & Co, of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1861, a bit of information confirmed from a look at the trunnion cap.

Trunion Cap

Trunnion Cap

The registry number is barely visible on the muzzle, which also shows the effect of the machining.  The number appears under the biological trace smear…o.k. it’s under the bird dropping!  (smile and wave…)

View of Muzzle

View of Muzzle

Compare this muzzle to that of an unaltered Greenwood Model 1841 6-pdr (smoothbore) at Manassas:

Unaltered Muzzle of #11 Model 1841 at Manassas

Unaltered Muzzle of #11 Model 1841 at Manassas

So some of the muzzle features remained.  The cavetto below the muzzle swell certainly remained.  But of course the bore is much larger on the altered piece.  And before going too far, full disclosure, #77 at the Wilderness was rifled to the James system.

Bore of the False Napoleon

Bore of the False Napoleon

As produced, this “Model 1841” had a 3.8 inch rifled bore, with 15 lands and grooves, instead of the 3.67 inch smoothbore of the regulation piece.  This technically made #77 a James Rifle, Type 1 under the Hazlett/Olmstead classification system (see references below).   So this piece had an interesting design history even before the 1890s.  But our focus for this article is the enlarging of the bore, seen here.  This forms what some observers incorrectly called a “flash cup,” referring to a Naval ordnance practice for pre-war guns.  In this case, the bore was simply enlarged for about twelve inches to deceive the casual observer.  This view also presents a nice study of the James rifling, down to the projectile seat.  The wasp’s nest is a safety reminder:  don’t ever assume the piece is unguarded today.

Looking around the rest of the piece, starting at the breech, the weight marking survived the alteration as seen here with “873” under the knob:

Breech of the False Napoleon

Breech of the False Napoleon

The base ring, which by regulation diagrams was 1.5 inches wide, raised a quarter inch above the reinforce, and  10.3 inches in diameter, was machined off.

Base Ring Machined Off

Base Ring Machined Off

The machine lines passing over the vent are either traces of the equipment which passed over during the process; or evidence that a little of the metal was removed over that area to further “smooth” the appearance.  The neck of the knob and the fillet where it joins the breech was machined smooth.  Also looking at the breech end, we see more evidence of the gun’s “James rifle” past.

Sight Holes

Sight Holes

The James sight dropped down the hole seen here behind the vent.  The small hole on the breech face allowed a retaining screw to lock the sight down.

Further toward the muzzle, the shoulder of the piece’s reinforce was machined smooth.

Machined Reinforce Shoulder

Machined Reinforce Shoulder

And only a “ghost” the astragal of the chase ring remains:

Chase Ring Ghost

Chase Ring Ghost

Overall the effect is a gun which kind-of, sort-of, maybe can pass as a Napoleon if one does not get too close.

But when placed beside other pieces, even from a distance, the “False Napoleon” stands out.  I see these guns as a mixed blessing.  In one regard, it is disappointing to see such artifacts altered from their wartime appearance simply for what I’d consider superficial reasons.  On the other hand, the alteration activity is part of the rich administrative history of Gettysburg the National Park.  As such, by examining and interpreting the alterations, those long silent guns are speaking to us today.


Aside from on site notes, sources consulted for this post were:

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.

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

Smith, Timothy B.  The Golden Age of Battlefield Preservation:  The Decade of the 1890s and the Establishment of America’s First Five Military Parks, Knoxville, Tenn.:   The University of Tennessee Press, 2008.