Monthly Archives: August 2009

James Rifles, Part II – The Type 1

As mentioned in the previous post on James rifled guns, historians of artillery have defined a “true” James rifle as having a 3.80-inch diameter bore.  Charles T. James preferred that caliber for his work.  While other larger and smaller projectiles were produced, it was the 3.80-inch that best identifies the type.

Why 3.80-inch?  That bore size is odd when considering the “standard” bore diameters in use during the muzzle loading days – 6-pdr was 3.67-inch; 9-pdr was 4.2-inch, 12-pdr was 4.62-inch.  The James standard fell somewhere between a 6-pdr and a 7-pdr (3.86-inch) bore size.  And the later was not much more than a gauge for sizing, certainly not used for any issued field piece.  The only lead I have is a citation indicating the caliber was chosen as it allowed the gun-makers to ream out damaged and worn 6-pdrs and apply the rifling.  Makes sense, but implies the Army had a program in place to re-utilize and refurbish old field pieces.

Following successful trials of rifled guns, the Army did order a portion of the existing field gun stocks converted.  Later day historians have labeled this the “James Rifle, Type 1.”  All Type 1s, except one, have 15-groove rifling, 3.80-inch bore, and were either converted from or cast as Model 1841 6-pdr bronze field guns.  An example of this conversion is a field piece on display at Manassas National Battlefield Park, the southernmost of the field guns opposite Henry House Hill.

Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun Rebored to James Rifle Type 1

Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun Bored to James Rifle

A date on the left trunnion indicates the piece was cast in 1845.  And on the left trunnion is the stamp of N.P. Ames, of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The registry number 176 and the inspector’s initials J.W.R. (John Wolfe Ripley) is on the muzzle.

Muzzle of #176

Muzzle of #176

And a closer examination of the bore shows fifteen lands and grooves.

Fifteen Grooves - Count 'em!

Fifteen Grooves - Count 'em!

Certainly positive proof that at least some of the existing field pieces were taken in hand and bored out for James 3.80-inch projectiles.  Based on the tally of 22 other similar survivors, a handful of the older production Model 1841 from Cyrus Alger and Ames were modified in this manner.   Several of those survivors were later, in the post-war, taken in hand by the War Department at Gettysburg for conversion to false Napoleons, making identification tricky for cannon hunters today!   Still figure of over 600 Model 1841 6-pdrs produced before 1861, and around 250 of those cataloged as survivors, to find only 23 means the conversion was not too common.

Slightly more common are series of James Type 1 rifles which were delivered as new production.  Both Ames and Miles Greenwood of Cincinnati, Ohio produced such after 1861.  Fittingly, on display at Manassas also, but on the north end of the Confederate gun line, is one of Greenwood’s James Type 1 rifles from their lot of 51 delivered.

Greenwood James Rifle Type 1, Registry #47

Greenwood James Rifle Type 1, Registry #47

Barely visible on the battered trunnions are the manufacturer’s “M. Greenwood” and “Cincinnati O.” circling the year of manufacture – 1861.  The same 15 groove rifling was applied.  And clear at the twelve o’clock position is the number “47.”

Muzzle of Greenwood James Type 1

Muzzle of Greenwood James Type 1

Of course when mentioning the James rifles, one must recognize that Shiloh National Battlefield Park has the largest collection.  The Ames James Type 1 below is one of seventeen examples there.

Ames James Type 1 at Shiloh

Ames James Type 1 at Shiloh

This particular piece stands in a line of guns representing Ross’s Battery at the Peach Orchard.  On the left trunnion, barely visible, is the year 1861.  Clearer on the right trunnion is the manufacturer’s stamp – Ames Co. // Founders // Chicopee, Mass. Yes, the firm’s name changed after the death of Nathan P. Ames in 1847.  Chicopee and Springfield are adjacent, so the change likely did not indicate the foundry moved, but rather the preference of the new owner James T. Ames with regard to his mailing address did.

And yet another of these James Type 1 “new production” stands outside the Antietam National Battlefield Park visitor center.  It was featured in a post by Mannie Gentile last year.

Greenwood James Type 1, Registry #69

Greenwood James Type 1, Registry #69

The tactical impact of these bronze rifles was arguably negligible.  At 4 degrees of elevation, a standard 6-pdr could fire a shell to 1200 yards and solid shot to 1500 yards.  Based on field reports from the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, the James Type 1 rifles could fire a shell to 1400 yards.  (And defying the definition of the “James System” the recorded range was using Schenkl and Hotchkiss shells, not the James type designed for the gun!)  But the rifle did offer more accuracy.  And of course there was the unsolved problem with bore erosion on the bronze guns.

Regardless , the James Type 1 saw wide service early in the war when both armies were short of gun tubes.  Even as late as Chickamauga, in 1863, Confederate reports of captured ordnance list nine James rifles, which based on the recorded weight some would logically be James Type 1.  In service  the weapon was referred to by many names to include 12-pdr, 13-pdr Rifle, and the confusing “6-pdr Bronze Gun Rifled on James System.”  Enough variation in the primary sources to drive a researcher to drink!

There are two oddities within the James Type 1 set accepted by historians.  Neither of two I can say I’ve seen first hand.  The first is an iron field gun, with the same 15 groove rifling and 3.80 bore.  This interesting piece is said to be in Newport, Rhode Island and is similar in form to several experimental smoothbores produced by Cyrus Alger in 1854.  The other is likely the one and only Confederate James, produced by Scates & Co. of Mobile, Alabama in 1861.   It was reported in Ridgefield, New Jersey.  And it conforms to the dimensions and form of the Federal bronze James Type 1, to include the Model 1841 exterior lines.

In conclusion, the James Rifle, Type 1 was a derivative type matching the new technology with existing gun forms.  The type served to transition the armies, using existing stockpiles and production tooling, until the more advanced designs using iron, with cleaner lines, and advanced construction techniques were available.  At a time when artillery pieces were desperately needed, these were at least serviceable options.


Aside from on site notes and links provided above, 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.

Muller, John.  A Treatise of Artillery.  Reprint of the 1780 edition.  Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1977.  (Used to reference the standard artillery bore sizes.)

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.

Fredericksburg – Slaughter Pen Farm

On the last weekend of July we managed a trip down to Fredericksburg to visit the Civil War Preservation Trust’s (CWPT) Slaughter Pen Farm.  For those not familiar with Fredericksburg, this section of the field was, as historian Frank O’Reilly is quick to point out, the critical sector of the battlefield on December 13, 1862.  While the fighting in front of Marye’s Heights has received the lion’s share of attention from historians, and veterans, the fighting that took place a few miles to the south was the only place the Federals had the opportunity to defeat the Confederates.  The narrative of events on the southern end of the battlefield had everything one desires in a good Civil War story line – personalities, critical errors, heroism, gallant charges, artillery duels…. all but a cavalry charge!

Sadly, the ground on the south end of the battlefield where this action took place was only partially preserved within the National Battlefield Park.  Much of the Confederate line, from Telegraph Hill to Prospect Hill, was preserved within the park.  Lee Drive loosely matches the old Military Road on which much of Jackson’s line stood.  However the ground where the Federal left formed, massed, advanced, and fought was not included in the park. While one could stand where General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson stood and contemplate the field, one could only visit the Federal side with permission from private property owners.

Perhaps the reasoning, as with other sites in the I-95 corridor in Virginia, that there was little chance the farmland would be transformed.  But over time, the area was transformed as housing subdivisions and commercial zones extended out from Fredericksburg.  In particular a small industrial site built first by Westinghouse in 1970, then later purchased by General Motors, stood where General George G. Meade’s division advanced in their assault on Prospect Hill.   (And that plant may close sometime in the near future.)

However, in 2005 when a tract of farmland adjacent to the GM plant was zone commercial and placed on the market, CWPT stepped up.  According to a marker on site, the price tag was $12 million.  With participation from other key allies, the Trust secured 208 acres of ground in 2006.  This effort stands as one of the most prominent preservation victories in the last five years.  As a result of the Trust’s efforts, our donations, and the support of many other organizations, now a visitor can take in the Federal side of the action.  And earlier this year the Trust added a set of markers to aid visitors.

The site is off US 17 (Tidewater Trail) south of Fredericksburg.  At present, the signage states one should contact the Trust (800-298-7878) before touring the field.

Entrance to the Slaughter Pen Farm

Entrance to the Slaughter Pen Farm

While there are several overview interpretive markers near the farm house, the “trailhead” itself is on the west side.   The first two stops highlight the advance of Meade’s Division.  While as mentioned above, the actual ground over which Meade’s men advance is largely developed, the markers pointed out a “Virginia ditch fence” of the type that impeded the advance.

Virginia Ditch Fence

Virginia Ditch Fence

And as seen in the photo, the corn was getting along.  While this hindered some of the orientation, it did serve to block off view of the nearby airport and much of the highway traffic.  Still I plan to revisit the site some time in the winter, if for nothing else to get a better feel for the ground and season in which the battle was fought.

Near where the trail makes an turn to the northwest, the third marker explains the impact of Confederate artillery on the advancing troops.  From that point, I found a good view to the southwest a to view Meade’s sector.

Looking Across the Field at Meade's Advance

Looking Across the Field at Meade's Advance

The buildings in the far distance are roughly where Meade’s Division passed.  The camera is about where Gibbon’s Division moved up to support.  Just looking at the gap here, one gets an impression for the limited support Meade’s assault received.

The trail then turns back southwest, and markers trace the advance of Gibbon’s Division.  The trail turns to parallel the railroad (wartime Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac).

The Wartime Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac RR

The Wartime Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac RR

The National Park Service ground borders the railroad on the other side.  Directly opposite this portion of the Slaughter Pen is the Bernard’s Cabins site (accessed via a trail off Lee Drive).  Here Gibbon’s men battled with Confederates of Scales’, Lane’s, and Thomas’ Brigades.

Section of Railroad in Front of Gibbon's Division

Section of Railroad in Front of Gibbon's Division

Pulling from my files, here is a view of the railroad looking from Bernard’s Cabins.

View From Bernard's Cabins

View From Bernard's Cabins

One of the last markers along the trail relates accounts of the Medal of Honor awardees from the fighting at the Slaughter Pen.  Five were awarded for actions in just this small section of the battlefield.

A Field of Honor

A Field of Honor

I’ve collected the markers under a Slaughter Pen Farm marker set (map) from HMDB.  But for “clean” views of the markers, the Trust has a virtual tour on their site.  This new collection also appears on the Fredericksburg battlefield by markers page.

Overall I found the Slaughter Pen Farm trail easy to navigate, with no challenging terrain.  The site is not developed to the extent that other sites are.  The entrance road is still unpaved, with parking areas around the post-war farm house.  The walking paths are primarily old farm lanes.  And I think this is a good thing, as opposed to asphalted roads and walking paths.  One might say the 20th century buildings can be removed, but I found them as nice reference points.  But several of the old farm lanes, including the entrance road, are traces of wartime lanes.  The markers say the trail is 1 3/4 mile long, and that visitors should plan for 90 minutes.  I walked the trail with my “staff” in just over an hour.

To close, I say the Slaughter Pen Farm is an excellent addition to any visit to Fredericksburg.  And a stop any student of the battle is advised to make.  And beyond the Civil War, the farm is an example of a preservation victory.  In light of the events occurring on the other end of Spotsylvania County, perhaps one can seek comfort here in what has been saved outside Fredericksburg.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of August 24

Twenty-nine new entries this week in the Civil War Category.  These represent Civil War sites and memorials in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Here’s the rundown:

– Adding to our General Meade collection is an entry this week for the General’s memorial in Washington, D.C.

– “Wonderful view… even if the battlefield is gone” – A state marker discussing the Battle of Allatoona stands at an overlook of the Allatoona Dam.  The marker’s entry is somewhat fitting considering the passing of Bill Scaife last week.

– Another marker near Cartersville, Georgia notes the site of the Etowah munitions and iron works, which were of course burned by Sherman’s men in May 1864.

– The career of Georgia war-time Governor Joseph E. Brown is detailed on a marker in Canton, Georgia.

– Jeff Davis County, Georgia, which was formed in 1905, was named in tribute to the Confederate President.  The marker describing the county history also offers a short description of Davis’ career.

– In Elberton, Georgia a Confederate Memorial, which carries the distinct styling of something produced within the last few decades, lists those who lost their lives in the service of the Confederacy hailing from Elbert County.

– Violence during the war was not just confined to the South.  A marker in Fairbanks, Indiana points out a incident which occurred on July 14, 1864.  Anti-war Democrat John Drake was killed by a unidentified Union soldier, while attending a community picnic.

– Speaking again of violence outside the battlefield, in the lead up to the Civil War in “Bleeding Kansas” in January 1858, anti-slavery factions who claimed they were deceived in an election, destroyed a ballot box in Mound City, Kansas.  Unfortunately, the simple wood marker does not offer more details on this incident.

– The Civil War Memorial, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania stands at the center of a circle of veterans’ graves.

– A marker in Columbia, South Carolina indicates the birthplace of Brig. Gen. Maxcy Gregg, who was mortally wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862.  A street in Columbia was named in Gregg’s honor.

– Also in Columbia, and added this week, is a marker indicting the site of the Palmetto Iron Works.  The factory modified flintlock muskets into percussion types, and later produced a series of small arms for the Confederacy.

– Another manufacturing site in South Carolina, this one in Batesburg – at the Pinarea Plantation stood a sawmill, flour mill, and rifle factory.  The rifle factory supplied weapons to the Confederacy.

– A marker discussing Church Quarter, in Doswell, Virginia relates an interesting story.  On July 16, 1862, as his men marched through, Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson stopped and asked for a drink of water.  When the woman living there discovered the identity of her guest, she preserved the cup Jackson used, handing it down to later generations as a memento of the incident.

Eleven entries for my Shiloh project this week.  Most of these are along the Pittsburg Landing Road, but commemorate units that did not see action at Shiloh.  I like to call this the “We were here too!” monuments.  Several cavalry units, including a group monument for the Illinois Cavalry, stand along the north side of the road.  However, also in that area is the impressive Iowa Memorial.  Notice the figure that appears to write the inscription. More to follow on Shiloh, as my project moves back out into the fields!

– Four additions for the Battlefield at Fredericksburg this week.  These are new park waysides replacing some of the older interpretive panels and markers:  Dead Horse Hill, Prospect Hill, Hamilton’s Crossing, and Mannsfield Plantation.  These are now included on the “Federal Breakthrough / Prospect Hill” section of the Fredericksburg by Markers page.

One final note, if you look at the blog roll to the right, you’ll notice an addition of “My Adventures in History.”  While not strictly Civil War, in terms of content, I’ve placed it in that category for now.  Don’t know why I have not stumbled across Rebecca’s blog before, but let me extend a belated welcome to a fellow History Channel addict!

Loudoun Sesquicentennial Kickoff

Lots of things happening in Loudoun County, Virginia with regard to the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  All told about eight to ten events locally as the observance starts.  Allow me to suggest three here.

On September 8, Chief Historian from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Dennis Frye, will speak at the monthly round table meeting (Balch Library @ 7:30 p.m.).  Topic is, of course, the John Brown raid.

Then on October 13, a treat indeed…. Ed Bearss speaks at the round table (location TBD but time is 7:30 p.m.).  Topic is something Mr. Bearss is well known for – the sinking and recovery of the U.S.S. Cairo.

And for the third pitch?  On the 17th, the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable and Thomas Balch Library host a book signing.  Details below:



10:00  A.M. – 4:30 P.M.



Kicking off the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the American Civil War, the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable and the Thomas Balch Library are proud to present a day with local Civil War authors on October 17, 2009. The event will begin at 10:00 a.m. at the library with a welcome by Civil War Roundtable president Bill Wilkin and will conclude at 4:30 p.m.

Authors from the Northern Virginia region will be selling and signing their books and speaking for 30 minutes each on their topics.  In addition, there will be a variety of historical displays and exhibits including Civil War maps, documents, and artifacts.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and Sons of Union Veterans also will have informational displays set up for the public.  Uniformed reenactors will be present to answer questions and assist visitors as they move between the Thomas Balch Library and the nearby Leesburg Presbyterian Church where author’s tables and book displays will be set up.

Featured Civil War authors will include Richard Crouch, David Frantum, Steven Meserve, Jim Morgan, and Calvin Zon.  Mapmaker Eugene Scheel, Circuit Court Clerk John Fishback, and artifact collectors John Creamer and John Wyrick are the featured exhibitors.

Admission is free.  Refreshments and food will be available for sale at the church.

Please join us for this special historical commemorative event in October.

Locations:              The Thomas Balch Library, 208 W. Market St., Leesburg VA.

The Leesburg Presbyterian Church, 207 W. Market St., Leesburg VA.

Schedule of speakers:

10:30-11:00, Richard Crouch

11:15-11:45, Stevan Meserve

11:45-1:15, Lunch, visit exhibits

1:30-2:00, Calvin Zon

2:15-2:45, Dave Frantum

3:00-3:30, Jim Morgan

For additional information, contact Mary Fishback at 703-737-7195 or

So if you are in the area, consider attending one or more of these events.  No better way to kick off the sesquicentennial!

James Rifles, Part 1

In my view, the James Rifle was an early war “fad” that came and past.  Much like a teen pop star’s popularity passes quickly, everyone wanted a James Rifle in 1861.  But by 1863, the fad had passed and the weapons were generally discarded in favor of Napoleons, Parrotts, or Ordnance Rifles.  And just as the later piece is erroneously called “Rodman” by many otherwise well versed historians, the James is often misidentified or incorrectly cited.  Part of the confusion within the contemporary accounts, and what precisely should be classified as a James Rifle.  On the other hand that there was not just “one” type of James Rifle.

The weapons are attributed to Charles Tillinghast James, of Rhode Island.  Born in 1805, James was a self-made man.  In spite of limited education, he rose to prominence in the milling industry, and served a term in the U.S. Senate (1851-57).  In the Rhode Island State Militia, he held the rank of Major General.  Apparently in that capacity, he became interested in the firearms industry, and with his background in machinery and design, began to experiment.  These experiments expanded to include cannon, and led to among others Patent Number 14,135, offering specifics for a new type of projectile.

Charles T James

Charles T James

The advancement cited in James’ patent was the use of “fibrous material” were others used soft metal.  Cannon projectiles, unlike musket balls, could not be formed of solid lead.  So to force a solid iron projectile to take to the rifling, contemporary designers often used a soft metal cup at the base of the projectile or a band of similar soft metal around the mid-section.  James felt the metal used would detach in the bore, or perhaps leave a residue behind, which would foul the rifling.  This he opted for, as stated in the patent, hemp to form a sabot around the base of the projectile.  The original patent used a mandrel to force the material outward to engage the rifling.  However, it appears later the mandrel was dispensed with.  Instead James projectiles had a tail section with ribs forming a “cage” of sorts.  Over this cage the “fibrous material” was fitted.  On firing the pressure would force gas into the cage, expanding the material around it, and thus engaging the rifling.

An example of an early pattern James Projectile is on display at the Shiloh NMP visitor center along with a Hotchkiss projectile for comparison:

Hotchkisss (left) and James (right) projectiles

Hotchkisss (left) and James (right) projectiles

Collectors and historians often call these James Pattern I projectiles.  There is not much to go on with regard to James’ experiments, as his notes have never surfaced.  But clearly he found hemp wanting as composition for his sabot.  While the example at Shiloh is missing the sabot, specimens found intact use lead with a greased canvas covering.  The problem was, when fired, the lead tended to break apart.  Shortly after leaving the muzzle, this lead became a danger to any friendly troops nearby.  (Yes, not unlike the danger encountered with modern day sabot rounds from tank main guns.)

So James further improved the design, resulting in the Pattern II.  The cage was dispensed with, and the ribs simply formed off the sides of the projectile body, without the ring at the base.  Tin was used to prevent the breakup of the lead.  However, this in turn brought back the original problem James encountered with rifled weapons – bore erosion!

James projectiles were designed for use on weapons with flat lands and grooves (as opposed to the slant-hook, notched, or other types of early rifling).  The projectiles were produced in calibers ranging from 6-pdr (3.76-inch) up to 42-pdr (7-inch).  Generally since the projectile weighed double the smoothbore of the same caliber, contemporary accounts become confusing when referencing such pieces.  A rifled 6-pdr became a 12-pdr or 13-pdr, for instance.  But through this all, James remained focused on developing the projectile, not the gun.

So to say any particular piece is a “Charles T. James rifled cannon” is technically in error.  Perhaps the best way to put things, these were rifled cannon that used the James system. In particular older iron siege guns ranging from 12-pdr to 42-pdr caliber were rifled in a form compatible with James’ projectiles, to provide useful service in the early stages of the war.  A collection of 24-, 32-, and 48-pdrs were present at the reduction of Fort Pulaski in April 1862.  The weapons impressed all observers at Fort Pulaski.  Chief Engineer Quincy Gilmore wrote in his report of the action,  “In regard to the James guns, the admirable manner in which the rifled motion is imparted to the projectile, the large mass of metal thrown, and the shape of the shot, seem to leave little to be desired in a breaching gun.”  But Gilmore was less impressed with the Parrott 30-pdrs on hand, complaining of a “wabbling motion in flight” and less penetration due to the lighter weight of shot.

Likely this was the high spot in the service life of those old iron guns.  More widely used (and encountered today among the survivors) were the various field guns, typically bronze, which used James projectiles.  But here also enters the issue of nomenclature.  Since James did not produce the guns himself, and since the guns could and did use projectiles of different designs over time, then what is the litmus test for a piece to be called a “James Rifle?”  Some historians have used the caliber as the discriminator.  James specifically designed a 3.80-inch diameter projectile, known commonly at the time as a 14-pdr, for field use.  Thus if there can be a simple specification that defines a “true” James rifle, perhaps the caliber is a proper one to settle upon.

That said, for future posts along this thread, I will explore the following categories within the range of James Field guns:

1.  “True” James Rifles, 3.80-inch or 14-pdr, bronze, cast to the Model 1841 Field Gun pattern, produced by at least four foundries

2.  “True” James Rifles, 3.80-inch or 14-pdr, bronze, cast to the Model 1861 Ordnance Department form, all produced by Ames of Massachusetts.

3.  “True” James Rifles, 3.80-inch or 14-pdr, iron/steel, cast generally like the Model 1861.

4.  Rifled 6-pdr Field Guns and similar types which, incorrectly or not, have been grouped with the James Rifles.

And as a reminder, in addition to these four types mentioned here, a fifth type likely designed to use the James system was the Rifled 12-pdr Napoleons, which were the subject of a previous post.

Bore of a 3.80-inch James Rifle

Bore of a 3.80-inch James Rifle


Aside from on site notes and links provided above, 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.

Atlanta Campaign Map-Maker Passes

A marker hunting buddy passed along some sad news today.  Bill Scaife, known for his books and maps on Georgia Civil War topics, passed on Monday.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran this piece:

Civil War historian Bill Scaife, 82, of Lake Allatoona, known for maps

Tifton native excelled at mapping battlefields; taught course on Army tactics at Emory

By Rick Badie

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

9:17 p.m. Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bill Scaife’s maps of Civil War battles were drawn with such intimate detail you could use them to pinpoint how, exactly, skirmishes unfolded. He’d take USGA topographic maps, then overlay them with information and facts of what transpired.

And because of that, enthusiasts could stand on a battlefield and relive history.

“He did great maps,” said Leon McElveen of Smryna, chairman of the Kennesaw Mountain Historical Association. “You could go to the battlefield, figure out where you were and understand the battle based on the way Bill drew maps.”

Through the years, the Tifton-born Eagle Scout immersed himself in Civil War history. He taught a course on army tactics and strategies at Emory University. He gave lectures and battlefield tours to interested groups. He held offices and honorary memberships in outfits devoted to Civil War education and history.

And he was prolific with a pen.

Among his 14 books are “The Georgia Brigade,” and “Allatoona Pass: A Needless Effusion of Blood.” His specialty, however, were the Atlanta battles. One book, “The Campaign for Atlanta,” won the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta’s 1995 best book award.

“Immeasurable” is how Bruce H. Stewart Jr., president of the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta, summed up Mr. Scaife as a historian, scholar and teacher.

“He was given our ‘member of distinction award,’ which only seven members have received in the 60 years of the organization,” Mr. Stewart said. “It’s given to those who have made [outstanding] contributions over a long period of time and Bill’s contributions were so varied.”

William R. “Bill” Scaife, 82, of Lake Allatoona, died Monday from complications of heart and kidney failure at Heartland Hospice in Cartersville. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Sunrise chapel at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs. Cremation of the South in Marietta is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Scaife did not major in history. He was a 1954 Georgia Tech graduate who earned degrees in architecture and engineering. He worked in the fields at different firms and as a consultant before retiring in 1983.

Mr. Scaife had always been a history buff but the World War II veteran’s passion really caught fire when he researched his grandfather, Dr. William R. Scaife, who had been a Civil War surgeon.

Through the years, he served as chairman of the Kennesaw Mountain Historical Association and president of the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta. Honorary memberships included, among others: the Etowah Valley Historical Society; the William J. Hardee Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans; and the Friends of Civil War Paulding County, Inc. He was a life-time member of the Atlanta Civil War Round Table.

In 1996, he and his wife, Ollie Coker Scaife, moved to the western shore of Lake Allatoona, where one of the most dramatic Civil War battles took place.

“He called it his holy ground,” his wife said. “The Battle of Allatoona Pass was fought here and the house that is across the street from our house was the hospital. He loved it here.”

Additional survivors include two daughters, Rita Slagle of Powder Springs and Sue Simmons of Ruston, La.; two stepchildren, Robin Lee Inman of Charleston, S.C. and David Ollie Lee, of Columbia, S.C.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Odds are if you’ve studied the Atlanta Campaign in any depth, you’ve used one of his maps, or at least a map derived from some of his work.  (An example of one is on the Battle of Brown’s Mill web site.)   I’ve only access his “The Campaign for Atlanta” in research libraries, and copies of it go for $250 or more.  Many of his works were published in spiral bound format.  Makes me wish some of his works were picked up and reprinted for greater distribution.

While I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Scaife in person, I feel as if over the years I’ve seen many of the battlefields through his eyes, by way of his maps.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of August 17

Time for the weekly look at activity with the Civil War category at Historical Marker DatabaseFifty-nine entries this week out of about 475 total entry submissions overall at HMDB this week – about one in eight.  Entries this week range from Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Here’s the summary:

–   Several state markers from Bartow County, Georgia this week.  One near Atco indicates the camp site of the Federal 23rd Corps on May 21-22, 1864 near Pettit Creek.  Another points out the location of a blockhouse built to defend the railroad line near Allatoona.  The site was lost when Allatoona Dam was built.  Lastly General Pierce Manning Butler Young has is own marker in Cartersville, discussing his military and political career.  Young is cited as the youngest major general of the war.

– Continuing chronologically with the Atlanta Campaign for this week’s entries, a pair of markers in Cobb County discuss Johnston’s Chattahoochee River Line and the crossing south of the river.  The later marker recounts the story of a Confederate pontoon bridge which drifted into Federal hands.

– Johnston’s Confederates fell back to a line south of the Chattahoochee on July 5-9, 1864, near another marker in Fulton County.  The Confederates remained in that vicinity while Federals sought a way around the defenses.  A portion of that line, manned by S.G. French’s Division,  is indicated by another marker entered this week.

– Continuing the Atlanta Campaign thread, further to the north, upstream on the Chattahoochee is a marker discussing the Federal moves to outflank the River Line starting on July 17.  Confederate forces shifted to meet this threat resulting in actions on July 19 and 20, the later known at the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

– Before leaving Georgia for this week’s markers, I must mention a pair of entries near the site of the Roswell Cotton Mills.  The mills, active producing wool and other cloth during the war, featured some of the first apartments in Georgia, housing a largely female workforce.  It was that workforce that Sherman sent north in order to ensure the mills were not reopened after the armies passed through.

– A couple of handsome war memorials from Kansas, depicting soldiers in a familiar pose.  The first is from Olathe and the second from Mound City.

– A state marker in Bourbon County, Kansas relates the pre-war, wartime, and post-war history of Fort Scott.

– The solitary Louisiana entry this week is a memorial relating the history of the Washington Artillery, standing in New Orleans.

Six entries this week from Kansas City, Missouri relate details of the battle of Westport, October 23, 1864.  Five of the six are stops along the driving tour of the battlefield.  We’ll have a consolidated “tour by markers” of this site in the near future.

– A Confederate memorial in New Jersey?  Yes, at Fort Mott State Park, recalling 2436 who died while held prisoner at Fort Delaware.  Nearby is a memorial to Federal soldiers who died while serving at Fort Delaware.  These are part of Finn’s Point National Cemetery.  A nearby marker also points out Pea Patch Island where remains of Fort Delaware stand today.

– From Fort Hamilton, New York is a marker discussing a rare early production Napoleon 12-pdr with handles.

– As a “capitol of secession,” Columbia, South Carolina received harsh treatment during Sherman’s march through the state in 1865, as mentioned on a marker there.

Elmwood Cemetery, in Memphis, Tennessee is the final resting place for 14 Confederate Generals.

– In Warm Springs, Virginia is Terrill Hill, home of the Terrill brothers – William and James.  Both reached the rank of Brigadier General in during the war.  William was killed leading a Federal brigade at the Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1862.  James was killed in action at Bethesda Church, May 30, 1864.

– A marker in New Kent County, Virginia indicates the site of a small action in the Peninsula Campaign.  On May 7, 1862, a force under Confederate General Gustavus Smith drove Federals under General William Franklin back from Confederate trains then retreating toward Richmond.

– A marker in Lancaster, Wisconsin points out the “First Civil War Monument” which was erected by public subscription started in September 1862.  The monument was dedicated on July 4, 1867.

– A giant sycamore tree in Wellsburg, West Virginia is a witness to much of the town’s history, including a muster of militia men responding to a raid by Confederate General Morgan in 1863.

– A marker in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia relates the battle of Dry Creek, fought between Confederate under Gen. Sam Jones and Federals under Gen. William Averell, on August 26-27, 1863.

– At nearby Lewisburg, forces under Confederate General Henry Heth and Federal General George Crook fought on May 23, 1862.  Crook won the battle.  In the aftermath, he refused to allow Confederate sympathizers to bury the dead, and instead buried them in a mass grave near a nearby church.  After the war the remains were interned in a new mass grave shaped like a cross.

– My main contribution this week was seventeen more entries to the Shiloh set.  These continue along Pittsburg Landing Road in front of the Visitor Center.  You’ll see, to no surprise, I put a lot of detail into the cannon photos.