Outstanding Day at Antietam!

Early this morning a made the weather check.  Looked like a rain day for the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.  But what do the weathermen know?

It was an OUTSTANDING day to be on the trails.  Temperatures remained moderate.  Cool, not cold.  And barely a few sprinkles of rain all day.

At my first steps out of the car, I was met with a layering of clouds, coupled with natures equivalent of back lighting.  Here’s a view of the Sunken Road from the Visitor Center this morning:

Start of the Day
Start of the Day

The view from the 20th New York Monument was equally impressive with the lighting.

Morning Overcast at the 20th New York Monument
Morning Overcast at the 20th New York Monument

Ranger Mannie Gentlie was kind enough to snap a photo of our trail group.

Trail Group
Trail Group

Down front you see our National Park Service Ranger guides – Kieth Snyder, Brian Baracz, and John Hoptak.  I’ve conversed with John through his 48th Pennsylvania blog, and it was good to finally meet him in person.

Here’s Mannie, working up a set of photos:

Mannie Far Afield
Mannie in the Field

The morning half of trail day was spent, logically, on the northern section of the field where most of the morning fighting occurred.  At several locations we stood on the actual ground where the events were being described occurred 147 years earlier… to nearly the minute.  Normally I’d break down the trip, stop by stop.  But first off, there were by my count twelve stops.  Second off, mark it on your calendar for next year, as you should really experience the tour in person.

The “theme” topic offered this year during the Ranger presentations was the Medal of Honor awards from the battle.  At each stop, we were offered the stories behind those awards.

The afternoon half covered the southern part of the field, mostly the V and IX Corps sectors.  The terrain on that part of the battlefield is more strenuous on the hiker, but worth the time.  Most visitors doing the “drive by” end up passing up several interesting points in route to the Burnside Bridge.  One of those stops I suggest is the Final Attack trail.

Final Attack Trail - Artillery Ridge Stop
Final Attack Trail - Artillery Ridge Stop

Everyone recalls the arrival of A.P. Hill.  Few recount that drama of that event was in response to the advance of Burnside’s IX Corps across the valley beyond the trees in the photo above.  As John Hoptak pointed out at the stop, this was the only point on the field that any corps commander aligned and advanced an entire command with a coordinated plan.  And the attack nearly succeeded.  “Hard Luck” Burnside.

Another advantage to these anniversary hikes at Antietam is one often gets to see places that are normally off limits.  This year Mr. and Mrs. King, owners of the Stone Mill along the modern Burnside Bridge Road, allowed our group to visit the mill.

Stone Mill
Stone Mill

The creek that feeds the mill forms a draw with high ground north and south.  In the afternoon, around 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., elements of Jenkins’ Confederate Brigade held the ground around the mill.  To the north was Garnett’s Brigade, in and near what is today the National Cemetery.  To the south were Drayton’s and Kemper’s Brigades holding the high ground where the Zouaves Monument now stands.  Into the draw, parts of Wilcox’s Federal Division advance as part of Burnside’s general assault.  With the mill standing a few hundred yards from Sharpsburg and the Harpers Ferry Road, this was certainly important ground.

The original Burnside Bridge Road, or more accurately the Rohrbach Road, actually passed beside the mill.  A trace of that road exists today, passing between the mill and the miller’s house.  The portion seen here is the paved driveway.  Just past the trees, the road trace is unpaved and continues for about fifty feet.

Original Road Trace
Original Road Trace

From the mill site, our hike traced back up to the National Cemetery for a closing.  There our guides reminded us not only of the magnitude of the battle, and the impact on the course of the war, but also two important current events.  Today an unknown soldier, who’s remains were found last year in the cornfield, was properly laid to rest in Saratoga National Cemetery, New York.   Such serves as a link for us to the events which occurred 147 years ago.

Second, also today President Obama awarded, posthumously, Sergeant Jared Monti the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan in 2006.  Rather fitting on a day we remember for so much valor, heroism, and bravery at a battle 147-years ago, that we also honor one who demonstrated those same qualities during more recent events.

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September 17

As I prepare for a Antietam anniversary visit to hit the trails, one of my thoughts is toward the quirk of fate that brought the two armies together on September 17.   Consider for a moment some important September 17ths in American history:

September 17, 1630 – the city of Boston was founded by the Puritans.  One of their number, John Winthrop, is known for the famous “City upon a Hill” sermon (given at a later date of course).

September 17, 1787 – the U.S. Constitution is presented for ratification, with the preamble mentioning the desire to “form a more perfect union.”

September 17, 1814 – Francis Scott Key completed what became the Star Spangled Banner.

September 17, 1862 – The battle of Antietam – the field I will walk today – was fought, leading to the Emancipation Proclamation among other things.

September 17, 1944 – American and British paratroopers land in Holland in an unsuccessful operation to, in addition to freeing that nation from occupation, bring a war against fascism to a close.

September 17, 1983 – Vanessa Williams, an African-American, is crowned Miss America.

I leave it to the reader to draw connections and opinions, and keep mine offline.  But it is interesting how events often intersect in time.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of September 14

The HMDB Civil War category at grew by thirty this week.  Marker hunters were moderately busy this week.  Entries for Civil War related sites in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  Here’s the rundown:

– The train depot in Stevenson, Alabama saw a remarkable amount of activity.  The marker states after a skirmish, the Federals occupied the town and used the station as a depot.  A refugee camp stood nearby.

– Similarly, the Memphis & Charleston RR depot in Huntsville, Alabama was occupied in April 1862 and also used as a depot.

– The town of Cheshire, Connecticut offers several memorial displays.  An obelisk memorial features plaques with the names of those who served in the Civil War.    Most of the names are repeated on a memorial across the street along with veterans from other wars.  A short distance away in the Medal of Honor Plaza is a memorial mentioning Sergeant Eri D. Woodbury, member of the 1st Vermont Cavalry, who earned the Medal of Honor for actions at Cedar Creek, Virginia in October 1864.

– Wolcott, Connecticut features a memorial to the town’s Civil War soldiers, donated by Leverett Dwight Kenea, a citizen of the town and investor of note.

– Two more state markers in Atlanta, Georgia detail the movements of the 4th Army Corps into position around Peachtree Creek in July 1864.  One discusses the Corps movement past Buckhead on July 18-19, 1864.  Another indicates Stanley’s and Wood’s Division sectors on July 20-22.  Interpreting the other side of the line, another marker indicates the position held by Stevenson’s Division on July 18-22.  All more indications that your host needs to group these markers into a virtual tour of the Atlanta battlefields!

– A Confederate memorial in the middle of Jeff Davis County, Georgia features a bust of the Confederate President.  In addition the inscriptions indicate the units raised locally.  The memorial looks to be a late 20th century addition sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

– The “Folly” in Columbus, Georgia is an octagonal house in the historic section of the town.  The Folly was built for Alfred Iverson, father of the Confederate General Alfred Iverson, Jr.

– In the far west, an interpretive wayside in Middleton, Idaho relates some details of the Ward Massacre (also see the nearby markers).  The text indicates as the Civil War began, protective garrisons around the Oregon Trail were retracted.  However, when gold was found nearby, Fort Boise was established for protection.  After all, that gold was needed to finance a war!

– An interpretive marker at West Point, New York relates details of a 150-pdr Armstrong gun captured from the Confederates at Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  I’ll likely cover that weapon in more detail in a separate post later.

– The Montgomery County, Ohio Civil War Memorial Hall features inscriptions listing the major actions local veterans served in.  Another memorial nearby lists the County’s Medal of Honor awards.

– A state marker in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania cites the birthplace of General John W. Geary.

Nine entries on the Shiloh project this week.  These entries stand along the Hamburg Road, south of the Peach Orchard and Wheat Field (yes Shiloh has some of those too!).  The set includes tablets from both the first and second day’s fighting, illustrating one challenge to interpreting the field.

– A marker in Bay City, Texas relates military activity along the Texas coast.  Federal attempts to occupy the port of Matagorda were unsuccessful, thwarted by geography and lack of supplies.  But the Confederates managed to score a victory capturing a ship of the blockade fleet on December 30, 1863.

– A state marker in Mechanicsville, Virginia indicates the grave of firebrand Edmund Ruffin.

That’s the rundown this week.  While my fellow marker hunters were busy, I had a “non-marker” week of sorts.  On Sunday I attended an event sponsored by the Brandy Station Foundation at Berry Hill Farm.  In addition to finally meeting Eric Whittenberg, and chatting a bit more with Bud Hall, I was introduced to Christopher Stowe.  Great event, great company and great setting!

Berry Hill Farm
Berry Hill Farm

Bud pointed out a portion of the entrance to the farm follows the old Fredericksburg Plank Road.

Trace of the Fredericksburg Plank Road
Trace of the Fredericksburg Plank Road

Imagine on June 9, 1863, a column of Federal cavalry rapidly moving down this road toward Brandy Station, on their way to a place called Fleetwood Hill.  Or later in the fall of that year, column after column of the Army of the Potomac passing as they marched into position around the Station.

Just another example why I love to get off the main roads and *see* these places.

Young’s Island Ford

Preface:  Before advancing too far into the discussion of Young’s Island Ford, I would like to express my thanks to Nancy Anwyll, of the Bull Run Civil War Round Table, for her assistance with my research.  I would still be fighting the underbrush along the Potomac without her advice!

Young’s Island Ford is one of several crossing points of the Potomac River in the vicinity of Leesburg, Virginia.  Unfortunately, the placename has long become obsolete and the historical record leaves a less than precise description of the location.  The crossing point was used in two major campaigns, and for countless routine crossings.  While no major combat activity occurred there, this locality is a candidate for an “on the back roads” article or perhaps even an interpretive marker.

Young’s Island Ford was among those evaluated by General Henry Slocum, commanding the Federal XII Corps, during the Gettysburg Campaign (see Edwards Ferry time lines).  In a dispatch to General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, on June 24, 1863, Slocum wrote:

I have all the fords within 10 miles of Edwards Ferry examined.  Young’s Island Ford, 3 miles below Edwards Ferry, is the best one, and can be crossed with trains.  White’s Ford, 2 miles above Edwards, is next in point of practicability, but is very difficult, and I would not dare to attempt crossing a train at night.  The river is quite high. [Note 1]

Slocum’s distance references likely were a bit off.  If he were referring to river distances, Edwards Ferry is near mile 31 on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, while Whites Ford is near mile 39.    So given the deviation offered by Slocum’s figures for White’s Ford, Young’s Island Ford could be anywhere up to 12 miles below Edwards Ferry!  Still within some degree of rational estimation, Young’s Island was downstream from Edwards Ferry and must not have been far from the mouth of Broad Run (on the Virginia Side).  Despite the passage of Stahel’s Cavalry Division at the ford, no other concrete description of the point is offered during the dispatches of the Gettysburg campaign.

A better description of Young’s Island was made by General Horatio Wright, commanding the Federal VI Corps, in July 1864.  In a dispatch to Army Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Wright updated the status of his pursuit of Confederate General Jubal Early’s command following the July raid on Washington.  Writing from Poolesville, Maryland, he noted:

I have put the force here in motion for Leesburg, crossing at White’s Ford, and have instructed General Ord to move as rapidly as practicable to the same point, crossing at Young’s Island, about one and a half miles below Edwards Ferry…. [Note 2]

Wright, with the mention of the same three crossing points as Slocum, offered a different location for Young’s Island Ford relative to Edwards Ferry.   His movement orders correspond with itineraries from Captain Andrew Cowan’s 1st New York Independent Battery and the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  Cowan reports placing his guns to cover a crossing of the Cavalry at the ford on July 15. [Note 3]  Major William H. Fry of the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry reported:

July 15, crossed the Potomac at Young’s Island Ferry. [emphasis mine] Upon rising the crest of the hill we were saluted with a few shells from a battery near the mouth of Goose Creek. Encamped on Young’s Island. [Note 4]

From these three different 1864 citations are several points to consider.  First, the Ford site was closer to Edwards Ferry than described by Slocum.  Second, because Cowan did not mention any engagement, it is likely the mouth of Goose Creek at Edwards Ferry was just out of range of his guns.  My records show Cowan’s Battery was equipped with 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Thus the Maryland side of the crossing point was at least a mile from the Virginia side of Edwards Ferry.  Lastly, Fry indicates the crossing was a ferry site.

Opting Wright’s location as a better figure, and keeping in mind the crossing point may have operated as a ferry, the next source to consult is contemporary maps.  The “McDowell Map” of 1861 does not even indicate the location of Young’s Island, much less a crossing point.  Another map from the period is Jedediah Hotchkiss’ map of Loudoun County, created sometime in the 1860s.

Hotchkiss Map Section
Hotchkiss Map Section

Hotchkiss indicates several islands in the river, but no names or crossing point.

In fact, the only contemporary map which even mentions Young’s Island as a place name are Maps #988 and #989 from a set of U.S. Coastal Survey maps in the University of Alabama collection.  The two map sheets clearly indicate Young’s Island as the largest, and the first, downstream from Edwards Ferry.  Today this island is noted as Selden Island.  Map #988 covers the Potomac River from Whites Ferry to Young’s Ford.  Below is a section of that map showing Edwards Ferry just left of center, and Young’s Island on the right.

White's Ferry to Young's Island
Edward's Ferry to Young's Island

Closer inspection shows a dashed line from the island to the Maryland shore.  A stray mark on the map conveniently points to the line in the center of this cut from the map (look hard it is very faint but dead center):

Close View of the Island
Close View of the Island

The line somewhat reinforces the idea a ferry operated along that section of the river, as alluded to in Major Fry’s report.  Granted, there still could have been two different crossing points (as the case with White’s Ford and White’s Ferry).  But at a minimum the Coastal Survey maps lock down the location of Young’s Island.  Loudoun historian and map-maker Eugene Scheel indicated a more exact location for the ford on his maps of the area, and it correlates to the Coastal Survey map.

Selden Island today is owned by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (part of the Janelia Farm Campus), but is rented out as a sod farm.  In the past it has been the subject of archeological excavations focused on pre-colonial Native American occupations.  But while the island itself is posted today, part of the Potomac Heritage Trail skirts the Virginia side of the Potomac through the area, at least offering a glimpse of potential crossing points.

Not indicated on the Coastal Survey map but drawn on Sheel’s map is a road leading off the Leesburg Turnpike (modern Va. Highway 7) to the Island.  Today that road is gated, but a pull off allows a view of what may be a wartime lane (located here).

Road to Young's Island
Road to Young's Island

The closest trailhead on the Potomac Heritage Trail is on the other end of this road, closer to the Island.  From the Leesburg Turnpike, turn onto Smith Circle (CR 823) and follow that road to Island Avenue and turn left.  After a short distance, turn left again onto Potomac Drive.  At the end of Potomac Drive, park to the side of the turnabout.  At the trail head is an access gate onto the road seen above.

Trailhead
Trailhead

After passing through the gate, the trail turns right and parallels the road.  At the north end of the road is a single span bridge to the Island.  The distance is just under 100 yards.

Bridge to Young's Island
Bridge to Young's Island

The trail passes near the bridge abutments, where what may be an old road bed drops to the river channel.

Possible Crossing Point to the Island
Possible Crossing Point to the Island

I cannot say for sure if this is the actual wartime crossing point to the island without more investigations on the far side.  Since that is off limits presently, I’ll save that story for another day, perhaps.  At some point, to further validate the location of Young’s Island Ford, or Ferry, I will eventually tromp down along the Maryland side looking for old paths or other traces.

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Notes:

  1. Dispatch from Slocum to Hooker, June 24, 1863. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 286.
  2. Dispatch from Wright to Army HQ, 7 a.m., July 14, 1864. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 70, p. 268.  This same dispatch is repeated on Serial 71, p. 350.
  3. Report of Capt. Andrew Cowan, First New York Battery, of operations July 11-30.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 70, p. 280-1.
  4. Report of Maj. William H. Fry, Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Provisional Cavalry Regiment, of operations July 9-23.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 70, p. 248-250.

James Rifles, Part V – Rifled 6-pdr Cannon

This last section on the James field guns includes weapons that retained the standard 6-pounder bore size, 3.67-inch, but were rifled.  And there is no real standard as to rifling pattern or external shape.  I label these “tentatively” or in some cases “incorrectly identified” as James Rifles.  Other than having the capability of firing a James type projectile, these weapons cannot be definitively traced to anything Charles T. James worked on.  Some were likely experimental conversions used for testing.  Others were modifications of existing stocks for service issue.  And some were new production. If nothing else, because these guns were bronze weapons introduced around the same time as the true James rifles, there is some similarity to their story and classification.

Of those which were pressed into service (early war in particular), contemporary designations span from “6-pdr Rifled” to “12-pdr Rifle” to “James Rifles.”  Personally I try to avoid contradiction and confusion on the subject.  As such I propose these weapons are best called “6-pdr Field Guns, Rifled,” or Rifled 6-pdr for short.  This attributes the bore size, regardless of rifling pattern. Unless some new documentary evidence comes to light, in my opinion these should not be called true James Rifles.

Those disclaimers noted, the Rifled 6-pdr fit into three broad categories for identification:

– Guns cast to standard patterns prior to the Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun which were rifled.

– Non-standard 6-pdr types which were rifled either for testing or potentially for service.

– Model 1841 6-pdr Field Guns which were rifled or ordered as rifled guns, and of course retained the 3.67-inch bore (and thus are not James Type 1).

And within those three categories, there are variations in rifling.

Of the first category, only two have ever been identified, both from Ames Manufacturing of Massachusetts and both reported in private hands – a Model 1835 with the registry number 23 and a Model 1840 with registry number 70.  The Model 1835 was recorded with 20 groove flat rifling, but reported observations of the Model 1840 example used an odd form of rifling.  Instead of evenly spaced lands and grooves, the Model 1840 example is said to have 20 narrow and 4 broad grooves.  Some historians have considered this an example of “Atwater” rifling, which was an experimental system based on some flawed assumptions about projectile behavior.   It would be easy to assume both were machined as part of early rifled cannon experiments.  But with both guns out of public view for further scrutiny, and a complete lack of pedigree documentation, nothing can be confirmed.

Four 6-pdrs, from a non-standard pattern, are on display at Shiloh National Military Park.  These I affectionately call “Alger Eagles” and have covered in detail in another post.  The ten groove rifling hints there is some connection to the other rifled 6-pdrs, at least in terms of technical application.  As with the older models mentioned above, a lack of documentation leaves the story of these weapons speculative.  In addition to not being “true” James rifles, these may have been purely experimental.  Other rifled cannon using the 3.67-inch bore size but not the Model 1841 pattern were produced by Parrott, Sawyer, Wiard, and Delafield.  But these are pattern designs which fall outside of the discussion of James Rifles.

Perhaps a little less speculative, and certainly more accessible, are several Model 1841 pattern 6-pdr Field Guns which were either pulled from stocks and rifled or ordered from the manufacturer with rifling.  From a distance, these look exactly like James Type 1.  One must closely examine the bore to note variations in rifling and bore size (which is why I carry a tape measure in my day pack!).  The difference between the two types is rather small – by draft measure 0.13-inch.  So that standard is difficult to apply in the field.  More precise is to count the number of grooves. All James Type 1 have 15 grooves.  However the 6-pdr rifles varied between 6 and 10 grooves.  Four different manufacturers produced Rifled 6-pdrs – Cyrus Alger of Massachusetts, Ames Manufacturing, Miles Greenwood of Cincinnati, and William D. Marshall of St. Louis.  Of twenty-nine surviving cataloged examples, seventeen are on display at Shiloh.

One of the remainder is at Gettysburg, the sole example on an “Eastern” battlefield, and has been altered to a False Napoleon (at the Peach Orchard if my notes are correct).  Including that “False Napoleon,” eleven of the survivors were produced by Alger.  All have ten groove rifling.  Two examples stand on the line of artillery near the Shiloh visitor center.    Registry number 831, produced in 1861 by Alger, represents Dresser’s Battery (Battery D, 2nd Illinois Lt. Arty.)  A quick look at the muzzle confirms the number and the rifling.

Rifled 6-pdr, Registry Number 831
Rifled 6-pdr, Registry Number 831

In profile the piece looks no different than a standard smoothbore Model 1841, save the rear sight arrangement.

Rifled 6-pdr at Dresser's Battery
Rifled 6-pdr at Dresser's Battery

Offering an excellent comparison, the other gun representing the battery at this location is a James Type 1, 3.80-inch Rifle.

James Type 1, Greewood Registry No. 108
James Type 1, Greenwood Registry No. 108

With the similarity in form, one must examine the bore for a positive identification.

Another Rifled 6-pdr stands next to the tablet for Stone’s Battery (Battery K, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.) further west on Grant’s last line at Shiloh.

Rifled 6-pdr Registry No. 1107
Rifled 6-pdr Registry No. 1107

The registry number (1107) and weight (887 lbs.) are clear in this view, thanks to some powder mix applied by an unknown (or unknowing?) cannon hunter.  Other markings confirm Alger production in 1861.  On the muzzle, the front sight post is protected by a shroud.  Few other field pieces have this.  It appears to be iron, and is slotted into cuts on the muzzle lip.  Hard to say if this was an official modification, one done for experimentation, or a field modification.   As both these Alger weapons were produced in 1861, but retained the same registry number sequence as smoothbore weapons, likely these were pulled from  production batches and rifled.  Five other Alger weapons, identified only through ordnance records, were ordered and produced as rifled guns, receiving registry numbers from a new sequence.

However, three Rifled 6-pdrs from Ames were more likely smoothbore weapons pulled from service stocks and rifled.  And keeping with the “tour” all three stand along Grant’s last line at Shiloh today.

Rifled 6-pdr, Ames Reg. No. 436
Rifled 6-pdr, Ames Reg. No. 436

Somewhat difficult to make out the last digit, but this pieces carries the registry number 436.  It stands in Mann’s Battery (Battery C, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.) along with two James Type 2 rifles.  As with the Alger guns mentioned above, this piece features 10 groove rifling.  Tracing the registry number, it matches to a production batch cast in 1853 and inspected by Louis A. de Barth Walbach. Upon inspection of the breech ring, some of the history of the piece is revealed:

Inscription on Breech Ring
Inscription on Breech Ring

The inscription reads “Rifled by C. Alger & Co. // Boston, Mass.”  Pretty good indication this weapon was taken in hand for rifling well after production, although the date of the processing is not indicated.  A piece at nearby Welker’s Battery (Battery H, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.), registry number 431, carries a similar inscription.

But not all of the Ames rifled 6-pdrs have 10 groove rifling.  A few steps away at the position for Schwartz’s Battery (Battery E, 2nd Illinois Lt. Arty.) on Grant’s line is an example with eight groove rifling.

Ames Reg. No. 433 with 8 Grooves
Ames Reg. No. 433 with 8 Grooves

Other than the number of grooves, this piece differs little from the two mentioned above, even originating from the same production lot.  Another Ames weapon on display at Chickamauga-Chattanooga Battlefield Park has six groove rifling.  Clearly these were modifications of existing weapons.  However, a “clean” set of six weapons are listed in the acceptance sheets for Ames which indicate at some point in 1861, the factory reset the registry number sequence, perhaps indicating weapons produced as rifles from the start of casting.  All six survive today and are on display in the National Parks.  Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the one example at Shiloh.  These six weapons used 10 groove rifling.

Also produced as rifled 6-pdrs from the start were a batch of six produced by Marshall & Company of St. Louis.  One of these at Shiloh represents the initial Day 2 position for Terrill’s Battery (Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery) (Recall the same battery is represented by James Type 3 at the second position).

Marshall Rifled 6-pdr Reg. No. 35
Marshall Rifled 6-pdr Reg. No. 35

Marshall’s guns, ordered in September 1861 and delivered by May 1862, featured seven groove rifling.  Also from the “Western” foundries, Miles Greenwood’s factory in Cincinnati produced a batch of rifled 6-pdrs, but these used eight or nine groove rifling.  Two other vendors, who’s weapons have not been located among survivors, contracted to produce rifled 6-pdrs early in the war.  G.H. Penfield, of Illinois, contracted to produce enough weapons to fill fourteen batteries, but only delivered twelve guns.  And A.J. Richardson (location unknown) is credited with one piece.

Of course, as alluded to in the opening for this (long) post, the story of the Rifled 6-pdr is incomplete at best.  Some of these weapons were clearly intended to fill experimental roles.  Yet, others were apparently produced with clear intentions of field service.  Tactically, as with the James Type 1, very little benefit was gained in range or capability over the smoothbore weapons.  And with the mass production of better iron rifles, these pieces were superfluous to the Union Army’s needs.   And there is scan mention of the pieces in Confederate service.   The question arises then if ANY of these weapons saw active service.  Parker Hills makes a convincing argument for the weapons use at the 1863 Battle of Raymond, in an article posted to the Friends of Raymond website.

In summary, no these weapons were not “true” James rifles.  Nor do they fit within even a loose definition of a single “type” given the variation in form, rifling, and manufacture.  Some of these were undoubtedly experimental steps along an evolutionary path, which quite well have led to the James rifles and other contemporary weapons.  As such, they warrant a cursory examination.

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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.

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 September 7

Thirty-one entries this week in the Civil War category.  These represent Civil War related sites in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

– The Scottsboro, Alabama Railroad Depot was an important stop on the railway artery through Northern Alabama.  In January 1864 two regiments of US Colored Troops defended the depot against Confederates under Brig. Gen. H.B. Lyon.  While I know scarcely little of the action, I do recall the town is connected to a Civil Rights incident some 70 years after the war, also involving the railroad.

– In Guntersville, Alabama, a marker notes a ravine used by the townspeople to shelter from a Federal bombardment of the town in July 1862.

– The original Pickens County Courthouse was burned by Federal troops in April 1865.  The second was also burned, apparently not completely,  in 1876.  Local lore has it the face of the person accused of starting the fire was imprinted in one of the windows, by lightning, as he watched a mob gathering outside.  The photos show something, but I leave it to the readers to make a call.

– A  Georgia state marker added this week  from Atlanta details the delayed movements of Federal General D.S. Stanley’s Division between the forks of Peachtree Creek, leading up to the battle there on July 20, 1864.  Chronologically speaking, this marker fits before state markers indicating the movement of the division and where it filled a gap in the Federal lines.

– I note the Montgomery County, Georgia Confederate memorial here mostly because of the quotations inscribed.  The main memorial was erected in 1997, and a tablet with 146 names added later.

– A plaque on the side of the Dearborn County Courthouse lists the six county residents awarded the Medal of Honor during the war.

– Another “silent sentinel” Civil War Memorial, this one from Fort Scott, Kansas.  The memorial was paid by public subscription and sponsored by the William H. Lytle G.A.R Post.  A 30-pdr Parrott rifle complements the statue.   And isn’t that the same soldier posing on the Maple Hill Cemetery Memorial in Kansas City, Kansas?

– No specific date is offered, but a marker near Monterey, Kentucky states steamboat Captain Samuel Sanders braved Confederate fire to supply the town during the war.

– A plaque in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine indicates the house where Admiral David Farragut passed.

– Mentioned earlier this week, a memorial in Lothian, Maryland to Benjamin Welch Owens was HMDB’s 20,000 entry.  Owen’s service in the 1st Maryland (CS) Artillery is also detailed on a nearby Civil War Trails marker.  The text on both entries singles out Owen’s actions at Stephenson’s Depot outside Winchester, Virginia during the Gettysburg Campaign.

– Lexington County, South Carolina’s Confederate veterans are remembered by a memorial on the old County Courthouse grounds in Lexington.  Nearby a state marker indicates forces under General W. T. Sherman burned the St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church during the last year of the war.

– A marker on the grounds of Arlington Cemetery, in Virginia, discusses the occupation of Arlington House and the damage brought by the war.  Also at Arlington this week is an entry for the General Philip Kearney memorial, with the general striking a brave equestrian pose.

– A couple of John Wilkes Booth related markers this week from Caroline County, Virginia.  The assassin sought refuge in Port Royal after crossing the Potomac and was later killed at the Garret Farm two miles outside of town.

– The King George County, Virginia Confederate Memorial offers a simple passage – Imperishable as granite be their fame, Let history honour and record their deeds.

– Outside of Orange, Virginia is Oakley, the home of Judson Browning, officer of the Orange County Rangers (later part of the 6th Virginia Cavalry if I recall correctly), and also foil for the works of George W. Bagby.  However, the house is better known as the site of one of Virginia’s worse railroad disasters, occurring when a trestle gave way in 1888.  Among those killed were two Confederate veterans.  The injured included General James Longstreet.

Oak Grove, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, saw the passing of Presidents and later that of Federal Cavalry on a raid in May 1863.

– The first U.S. Navy officer killed in the Civil War was hit by fire from a Confederate battery at Mathias Point, near Dalhgren, Virginia, on June 27, 1861.  As the marker near that point indicates, the battery was built by Confederate General Daniel Ruggles, who is more famous for massing artillery on the first day of battle at Shiloh, in April of the following year.

– And working off that Shiloh lead in, eight additions to the list of markers, tablets, and monuments at the battlefield this week.  Entries this week are somewhat scattered about as I work through some of the side stops from my last visit.

In closing, I’d like to recognize all the marker contributors at HMDB who have helped to push the entry numbers over 20,000.  Three years ago when I started on the site, I had know idea how things would take off.  We have a lot of history on the site, but a lot more left out there in the field to catalong!

James Rifles, Part IV – The Type 3

The previously mentioned “True James Rifles,” Type 1 and Type 2 shared, beyond a common bore size, bronze construction.  Both types also saw active service during the first half of the war.  However, such was not the case with the Type 3 (again a designation imposed by historians to classify the type, but not a contemporary nomenclature).   The James Rifle Type 3 was constructed of cast steel (although the lack of weathering may indicate the use of wrought iron) and was only an experimental type as far as can be determined.

The authors of “Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War” point out the Type 3 is tied to an experimental batch of guns indicated on a purchase order of February 15, 1863.  The order called for six bronze 14-pdr rifles, six bronze rifled Napoleons, and six cast steel rifles from Ames Manufacturing Company.  The six 14-pdrs were probably the last batch of James Type 2, Series 4 produced.  The six rifled Napoleons have been discussed in another blog post.  That leaves the six weapons described as cast steel.  Collectively the six weighed 5,581 pounds, or a shade over 930 pounds each.  No other details are known from the documentary evidence.

With no leads, historians have never definitively identified examples of this type.   But speculation has centered on three weapons on display at Shiloh National Military Park.  Two of the three represent Terrill’s Battery (Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery) just south of the Sunken Road line, at a second day fighting position.

Terrill's Battery Position
Terrill's Battery Position (Second Day, 2nd Position)

Neither weapon has any markings to note.  But the form is the familiar Ordnance Shape of 1861.  The form, fittings, and rifling all indicate these weapons are James Rifles.

James Type 3 Profile
James Type 3 Profile

Yes, these feature a unique trunnion band instead of the conventional rimbase attachment.  This type of mounting, while uncommon among American guns, was used on Blakely, Whitworth, and Armstrong guns imported from England during the war.  In most cases, the trunnion band was used where the gun tube was produced with a composite construction, particularly early steel weapons.  The presence of the trunnion band caused many historians to identify these pieces on display at Shiloh as Blakely Rifles (Warren Ripley tentatively labeled it the Blakely Type 8 in his tally).

Trunnion Band on James Type 3
Trunnion Band on James Type 3

Blakely guns often used hook-slant rifling.  However where the English gun-maker used flat lands and grooves, Blakely preferred seven grooves.

Seven Groove Blakely Rifling
Seven Groove Blakely Rifling

These two guns have ten flat lands and grooves, very much like that used on the Type 3, Series 2,3,4 Bronze James Rifles.  My measurements indicate the bore is about 3.78-inches between the lands (raised portion), clearly putting the projectile size in line with the preferred “true James” types.

Bore of James Type 3
Bore of James Type 3

At the breech are the familiar slot and retaining screw socket for a James tangent sight. However, no front sight arrangement is apparent.

Sight Mounts for James Type 3
Sight Mounts for James Type 3

Perhaps the sight sockets are the best evidence for these pieces’ identification as James Rifles.  However the profile of the breech also indicates some commonality in form with the James Type 2.

James Type 3 Breech Profile
James Type 3 Breech Profile

The knob and neck form match closely that used on the bronze pieces from Ames Manufacturing.  The logical presumption is these were all Ames products using either the same set of molds or lathe patterns.

I’d stress the lathe pattern presumption a bit.  The guns on display at Terrill’s Battery have the same level of weathering seen on the familiar 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Such implies the weapon was produced with a wrought iron technique (and then turned down on the lathe).  At the same time, one would expect “cast steel” as indicated on the invoice cited above would not stand up to 100 plus years of exposure outdoors at Shiloh.  Thus these weapons might be cast iron, cast steel, or wrought iron.  Presumably the trunnion band was of different construction and slipped on while hot and “sweated” on.  The only way to tell for sure would be destructive testing, which I would not recommend.

Thus the look at the “True James” Rifles ends with a speculative footnote.  The preponderance of physical evidence shows the weapons flanking Terrill’s tablet at Shiloh are indeed James Rifles, showing lines in common with contemporary Ames products.  However with no summary of the testing or notations, the assumption must be these types offered no advantage over existing 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, 10-pdr Parrott Rifles or 20-pdr Parrott Rifles (whose caliber the James Rifles is closest in size).

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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.