Monthly Archives: November 2009

Guns of the CSS Georgia

I lamented the use of fuzzy 35mm photos to support the post regarding Confederate 24-pdr Howitzers earlier this month, in particular that of the 24-pdr Howitzer recovered from the CSS Georgia.    Well good friend and fellow marker hunter Mike Stroud, of Bluffton, South Carolina, made a trip to Fort Jackson, outside Savannah recently and offered a few photos.

Confederate 24-pdr Howitzer - Fort Jackson

Again, this weapon matches to an unmarked weapon reported on the CSS Georgia, produced by Savannah founder Alvin N. Miller.  The weapon is currently mounted on a naval-style truck carriage.   Mounted over the forward spar deck, the weapon was likely only useful for close quarters combat.

Trunnions of the Howitzer

Trunnions of the Howitzer

The howitzer’s form includes a step just in front of the trunnions.  Rather typical for the time period, the simple cylindrical rimbases connect the trunnions to the tube.

Muzzle of Howitzer

Muzzle of Howitzer

The muzzle shows signs of damage.

The CSS Georgia had a rather uneventful history.  Built with funding from the Ladies Gunboat Association, she was launched in May 1862.  On paper the CSS Georgia was a major component of the Savannah River Squadron.  The ship boasted the capability of ten guns – four on each broadside and one each for and aft.  In reality, the ironclad was underpowered and little more than a floating battery.  With railroad rail iron instead of the intended rolled iron plate, the ship was too heavy for its weak machinery.  As result, only four heavy guns, the 24-pdr seen here, and a 6-pdr were mounted.  First hand accounts indicated the ship was rather leaky with a low freeboard.  Little wonder, when scuttled on December 20, 1864, the CSS Georgia quickly disappeared into the Savannah River.

Corps of Engineer surveys documented the location of the wreck site as early as 1866.  Other than one attempted salvage in the 1860s, the wreck lay ignored, but marked, for over 100 years.  In 1979 an accurate survey of the site was completed.  Additional surveys in the 1980s and 2003 have mapped much of the ship’s remaining superstructure and debris field.   In addition to the 24-pdr, underwater archeologists have recovered one other cannon from the CSS Georgia – a 32-pdr Navy Gun, rifled and banded.

32-pdr Gun Rifled and Banded from the CSS Georgia

Note the breeching loop on the breech instead of the knob found on most field pieces.  The right side trunnion is badly battered.  But the left side bears the initials of the inspecting officer.

Inspector Initials - CWS

These correspond to Charles W. Skinner, Navy inspector who worked the position in 1852 (only) checking ordinance at Cyrus Alger of Boston, Bellona Foundry (Virginia), and Tredegar Foundry (Virginia).  Secondary sources state this weapon is registry number 714, produced in 1852 by Bellona.  It’s recorded weight was 58-2-00.  Well under the “hundred weight” system this is 6552 pounds (58 * 112 plus 2 * 28, with the zeros indicating no remainders).

Confederates took this particular piece in hand for rifling early in the war, adding a reinforcing band to compensate for the added pressures.

Muzzle of the 32-pdr

The bore of the 32-pdr shows just a hint of rifling.  Likely the lands and groves suffered corrosion due to 100 plus years in the brackish Savannah River.

In addition to the guns, divers have recovered ordnance and various fittings.  According to the surveys, three other guns lay in the river at the wreck site – a 6-pdr cannon, an VIII-inch Navy Shellgun, and another banded 32-pdr Rifle.  Any one of which would be interesting exhibits at the Fort if recovered.   The detailed sonar mappings of the wreck  indicate significant portions of the casemates lay in the mud also.  Perhaps one day the remains of the CSS Georgia can be raised and examined in more detail.

Again, thanks go out to Mike Stroud who contributed these photos.

White’s Ford Park Update

As mentioned in earlier postings, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority identified a tract of land north of Leesburg for development into a park named for Civil War partisan ranger and local businessman Lt. Col. Elijah “Liege” White at the site of White’s Ford.  Plans call for a 275-acre addition to NVRPA which will include a home once occupied by White, in addition to river side tracts where the actual ford was located.  But the nearby residents are now expressing concern over the park’s creation, voicing them during a November 19 meeting:

Neighbors Worry About Potomac River Park Plans
By Erika Jacobson Moore

While a park can be established within current zoning rules on land north of Leesburg along the Potomac River specific plans for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s White’s Ford Park are raising concerns for many residents who live along the rural roads in the area.

During its public hearing Thursday, the Planning Commission heard comment on the commission permit to approve the park use and the special exception application to allow for a boat rental facility and launch into the Potomac River, and many residents living along Limestone School Road and Hibler Road, where the park would be located, said they were worried about the impacts such a use would have on their properties and quality of life.

One of the main concerns brought forward by residents was the ability of the two two-lane roads to handle the increased traffic the park would bring. County staff members have recommended the addition of a right-turn lane from Rt. 15 onto Limestone School Road, a condition neither NVRPA nor the residents feel is proper.

“[Hibler] Road is not designed for the traffic this will bring,” resident Andrea Bendo said. “Anyone can purchase a season pass, received a gate key and come and go as they please.”

Many of the residents pointed to the traffic on their roads during Temple Hall Farm’s Corn Maize event in the fall as evidence another park would only bring additional issues.

“There is a real issue with traffic safety, but the rural character will be negatively impacted with the improvements needed, a Catch-22 that is shown through the proposed high-intensity uses,” Taylorstown resident Patrick Ryan said.

Many of the residents expressed concerns with the use of motorboats on the Potomac River, even with the limitation that prohibits any boats with more than 10 horsepower. Colleen Gillis Snow, the attorney representing NVRPA, said the authority envisions at least 60 percent of the boats to be non-motorized.

“I would not object to canoe rental and concessions, but I am here to object to the ruining of our beautiful Potomac River with motorboats,” resident Betsey Brown, a former representative of the Catoctin District on the Board of Supervisors, said. “The Potomac River is one of Loudoun’s most important natural assets. Please preserve it.”

NVRPA presented county staff with an assessment by the Williamsburg Environmental Group that showed, with five motorized boat launches anticipated per day during peak usage times, the potential for streambank degradation is minimal.

Residents were also concerned about a part of the application that is not before the commission: proposed campgrounds. The campgrounds would only be considered by the Board of Supervisors because it only requires a minor special exception application. But for many of those at Thursday’s hearing, the campgrounds are a major concern.

“While we understand the proposed park is meant to operate and normal waking hours, who is there to stop the late-night partying and drinking around the campfire?” Mike Miller, president of the White’s Ford Neighborhood Association, asked.

Another resident noted that “camping, bass fishing and beer drinking go hand in hand” and another was concerned about the disposal of beer cans along the rural roads as campers leave the site.

“This is not the place to put this kind of park,” Doug Scott, who lives outside the area, but came to give his opinion as a former campground owner. “I have a lot of great experiences, but I also have a lot of not so great experiences. It’s about the ability to manage the people who come to the park. To think that you can control the atmosphere in this campground and not allow people to drink is na•ve at best. This kind of atmosphere invites that kind of behavior.”

If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the minor special exception would allow for the development of a maximum of 10 cabins. As proposed, camping would cost $30 per day, for a maximum of 14 days consecutively, Snow said.

Many of those present, even those requesting denial of the application as proposed were in favor of a park at the location.

“We have the opportunity have a park run by a responsible manager,” William Wilken, a history teacher at Stone Bridge High School, who noted he was not representing the school, said. Wilken urged the commission to work to create a middle ground between NVRPA and neighboring residents. “Find a way to get this beautiful piece of property into stewardship for my students and their children and grandchildren.”

“I hope you can figure out a way to make this work. Loudoun County has very little public land,” Bill Niedringhaus said. “I’d like to hear some ‘can do’ talk. I think we can figure out a way to deal with some of the legitimate issues here. If we don’t find a way to get a [multi]-hundred acre park the chance won’t come again.”

Before the commission voted to send the application to committee for further discussion, Snow encouraged residents to continue working with the NVRPA to find the best solution and while no dates have been set, Snow said the authority is still committed to working with the residents.

“We’re serious. We think that it’s an important enough mission for NVRPA not to just throw up our hands and walk away,” she said. “But with that in mind, the interests of the residents are also important enough to continue to work on this.”

From my perspective, I agree that something should be done with regard to traffic flow off US 15 to the proposed park.  The nearby Temple Hill Farm park, while excellent in concept and presentation, strains the ingress routes during the busy fall season.  Temple Hill Farm park is located on Limestone School Road (CR 661), which also would support the proposed White’s Ford park on Hibler Road (CR 656).  Often the turnoff requires traffic control officers posted on US 15, adding more congestion to an already heavily traveled corridor.  Certainly something must be done to ease the impact on traffic.

Maybe it is not this simple, but Loudoun is having difficulty finding “projects” to apply approximately $1.5 million in stimulus funding.  I figure a turn lane on US 15 at the intersection is a “shovel ready” type project.  Gotta hurry though, we only have two more weeks to apply for the funds!

I would note that NVRPA has a long track record of engaging “friends of…” groups in the area to help protect the parks.  Such might allay fears regarding the upkeep and appearance of the park in years to come.

The good note, as mentioned at the end of the article, parties are looking for ways to make this park happen.  There is nothing here that good planning (and a little bit of funding) cannot overcome.

Third Winchester – Seivers and Locks Fords on the Opequon

Last weekend the staff and I rode out through Clarke County for a day trip.  A friend offered an itinerary highlighting sites related to the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, specifically the battles of Berryville and Third Winchester.   Two points we chose to highlight were Seivers and Locks Fords on the Opequon, where Federal Cavalry crossed during the battle of Third Winchester on September 19, 1864.

On that day in 1864 the main body of Sheridan’s Army crossed at the Winchester-Berryville Turnpike, and advanced westward toward Winchester through the Berryville Canyon.  But, tasked with interdicting the Confederate line of march north of Winchester, the 1st Division of Cavalry under Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt crossed 2-3 miles downstream from the Turnpike over two fords.   Merritt split his force with Devin’s 2nd Brigade and Lowell’s 3rd (or Reserve, I’ve read both in the primary sources) Brigade to cross at Seiver’s Ford;  Custer’s 1st Brigade of the Division crossed at Locks Ford further downstream.  Confederates contested both crossing points, delaying the Federal Cavalry in occupying a decisive flanking position.  While the main Federal force remained locked in an infantry fight just east of Winchester, the 1st Cavalry Division fought with a pesky Confederate rear guard.  Only in the afternoon, joined with Averill’s 2nd Cavalry Division, did Merritt’s Division mass on the Confederate flanks to deliver a crushing assault.

A War Department map commissioned in the 1870s marked Seivers Ford clearly, but Locks Ford lay outside the study area.

Detail from the War Department Map (North seeking arrow pointing right)

The “Old Charlestown Road” leading to Leetown (just outside of the detail, to the top) crosses the Opequon at “Ridgeway Ford or Seivers Crossing.”  Today the road is numbered CR 761, and crosses the river over a one lane bridge at the ford site.

Bridge at Seivers Ford from the West

The high ground and the mouth of a creek just upstream (left) of the bridge help pinpoint the location.  Based on the War Department map, McCausland’s cavalry held the ground on the far side.

Looking from the opposite bank:

Looking East at the Bridge

Note the ground on the eastern side does not afford the attacker much cover.  According to Gen. Merritt’s report on the battle, the 2nd Massachusetts and 5th US Cavalry made the crossing dismounted, followed by a mounted charge by the 2nd US Cavalry.  The 2nd US then advanced on Confederates defending along a railroad cut. [Note 1]  Although not indicated on the War Department map, the bed of the railroad mentioned was likely close to the modern line which runs about 300 yards north of the crossing point.

Downstream from the Bridge

The Opequon resembles other intermediate watercourses of the lower Valley at this point – a narrow flood plain with a step off the banks and shallow but rocky bottom.  Creeks such as this always seem to accumulate deadfall along the banks.

The War Department map indicates a building near the ford point, labeled “D. Clevenger.”   An older Federal style house stands in that general area today.

House Overlooking Seivers Ford

Custer’s crossing point, Locks Ford, does not appear on the War Department map.  Custer, in his official report, stated his command advanced from Summit Point (now West Virginia) some five miles to reach the Opequon at the ford.  [Note 2]  Secondary sources indicate Custer used Brucetown Road, matching to the location modern CR 672 crosses the creek.


Brucetown Road Bridge over Opequon


This view looks from the east at the narrow 1917 concrete bridge over the creek.  At this particular point, the creek passes between a low ridge line on the right (east) bank, and a set of high ridges on the left.  Confederate defenders had the advantage in terrain, as seen looking from the bridge to the ground on the west side.


High Ground to the West of Bridge


I am told there are remains of Confederate rifle pits on the high ground overlooking the bridge (private property).  If so this further confirms the site.

The ground on the west side, much as at Seivers Ford upstream, exhibits a narrow flood plain.


West Bank of the Creek at Locks Ford


In high water, of course, this low ground is easily inundated.  And there is the deadfall.


Looking Upstream from the Bridge


To me, that deadfall offers the most formidable natural impediment to mounted crossing, forcing the attacker to use cleared fording sites or risk losing many animals.

Further in regard to the crossing points, I was struck with the similarity between these sites and those on Antietam Creek in Maryland.  Indeed, the Opequon and Antietam somewhat mirror each other, on opposite sides of the Potomac River, with very similar courses – just in different Cardinal directions!  But of course the Antietam featured several stone bridges, while the Opequon offered mostly fording points.

Touring these sites, I fell into the battlefield stomper’s gaze, imagining the troopers attempting to file through the creek to the far side.  So in closing, allow me to recall Merritt’s description of the morning action:

The rich crimson of that fine autumnal morning was fading away into the broad light of day when the booming guns on the left gave sign that the attack was being made by our infantry.  The glorious old First Division was never in better condition. Officers and men, as they saw the sun appear bright and glorious above the horizon, felt a consciousness of renewed strength, a presentiment of fresh glory to be added that day to their already unfading laurels.  The felt like men who were willing to do and die; that they were not deceived the history of the day proves. [Note 3]

Sort of makes you want to rig up a McClellan right now and splash out across the creek, doesn’t it?



1.  Report of Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt, U.S. Army, Commanding First Cavalry Division, October 12, 1864.  OR, Series I, Volume 43, Serial 90, p. 443.

2. Report of Brig. Gen. George A. Custer, U.S. Army, Commanding First Brigade, of Operations September 19.  dated September 28, 1864.  OR, Series I, Volume 43, Serial 90, p. 454.

3.  Merritt, pp. 443-4.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of November 23

Twenty-one new entries this week in the Historical Marker Database, Civil War category.  These entries stand at Civil War related sites in Alabama, Georgia, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Here is the rundown:

– A marker at the Jonathan Bass House in Leeds, Alabama relates the story of Jonathan, who left the farm to enlist in the Confederate Army in 1861.  He married in December 1865 and completed a rather interesting home.

– Hillsboro, Georgia is the birthplace of Benjamin Harvey Hill, staunch supporter of the Confederacy.  During the war, Sherman’s Right Wing crossed the Ocmulgee River near the town of Hillsboro.

– State markers near Gray in Jones County, Georgia offer details of the town of Blountsville’s  history.   Sherman’s Right Wing also passed through the town.  The town suffered heavily during the war and disappeared before the end of the century.

– Federal officers spared the the Masonic Temple in Saundersville, Georgia when other public buildings in the town were burned in 1864.  Another marker in town advances the claim that Washington County enlisted more men for the Confederacy than any other county in Georgia.

– We have limited information and only one photo of a state marker near Santa Fe, New Mexico which discusses the place-name Cononcito.  Conocito was the point where the Santa Fe Trail enters Glorietta Pass, and was the site of fighting in the Mexican-American War (1846) and the Civil War (1862).

–   A small plaque on the back of the Pawling, New York war memorial honors the Civil War veterans.  The main plaque on the marker lists the city’s World War I veterans.

– A marker in Brewster, New York relates the Borden Condensed Milk Company supplied products to the Federal army during the Civil War.

– A state marker in Jackson, Ohio discusses John Wesley Powell and Morgan’s Raid.  Powell was a Jackson resident in his childhood.  He lost an arm at Shiloh, but is famous for exploring the Grand Canyon despite of that handicap.   Morgan passed through the town on July 16, 1863 during his famous raid.

– According to a state marker in Winchester, Tennessee, Franklin County voted to secede from the state in February 1861, even asking Alabama for annexation.  This “mini-secession” ended when the state of Tennessee seceded from the Union.  A case of ardent anti-Unionism?

– During the War, Union troops camped around Blenheim, a family farm now within the bounds of the City of Fairfax, Virginia.

– Three markers around Richmond, Virginia this week.  Joseph Bryan Park served as a gathering place for militia, including during the suppression of Gabriel’s Rebellion in 1800, and as a camp site for Confederate troops.   Both sides used the Emmanuel Church at Brook Hill as a hospital.  The church’s cemetery includes a memorial listing 85 Confederate dead.   Edward J. Warren, a farmer in Henrico County, enlisted as a private in the 34th Virginia.  Warren was captured during the war, and by 1880 his property was sold to become Belmont, an estate later transformed into a country club.

– Several more markers from Beverly, West Virginia this week.  Federal troops destroyed both the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches during the war, for use in nearby encampments.  The Gum Hart House served as a hospital during the war.  The Bushrod Crawford House served as General McClellan’s headquarters during his stay in Beverly, with a line run to the telegraph office in the nearby Adam Crawford House.  According to the marker at the later house, a Union telegraph operator, so enamored with one of the family’s daughters, switched sides to serve in the Confederacy in order to win the hand of Harriet Crawford.  Now that is beyond just an infatuation!


Use of the 32-pdr Field Howitzer

Even with a limited production run ending in 1857, the Model 1844 32-pdr Field Howitzers saw service in the war, and were actually issued to the Federal field armies.

The writers of Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War linked the 32-pdr Field Howitzer currently on display at Petersburg to Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery.

24-pdr (left) and 32-pdr Field Howitzers – Petersburg NBP

The 32-pdr on the rails has the registry number “12” from Ames Manufacturing, and also bears the inspectors initials -LABW for Louis A. de Barth Walbach.  The authors of the above mentioned work, citing records from Rock Island Arsenal, identified registry number 12 from Ames as the issued to Battery H, and seeing service at the battles of Shiloh, Murphreesboro, and Chickamauga.

32-pdr Field Howitzer Muzzle – Petersburg

Readers may recall I’ve often mentioned Battery H, 5th US Artillery with regard to the Shiloh Battlefield (first and second positions indicated by War Department tablets).  In his report on the battle of Shiloh, Brigadier General William Nelson, commanding the Army of the Ohio’s Fourth Division, identified the battery, commanded by Captain William Terrill, armed with “four 12-pounder brass guns and two 10-pounder Parrott guns,” adding “It was handled superbly”  (OR, Series I, Volume 10, Serial 10, p. 325).   In his official report, Captain Terrill specifically mentioned the employment of Napoleon guns, but nothing about howitzers (Ibid., pp. 321-3).   And, to add more weight here, in his report of the ammunition expenditure during the battle, Captain J. H. Gilman, inspector of artillery for the Army of the Ohio, tallied the ammunition used by Terrill’s battery, setting the total at 242 rounds – 76 from the Parrott guns and 166 from “his light 12 pounders” (Ibid., p. 301).

After action reports from the battle of Murphreesboro stated that Battery H, 5th US Artillery, then under the command of Lieutenant Francis Guenther, was similarly armed with Parrotts and Napoleons (OR, Series I, Volume 20, Serial 29, p. 238).  Later, in an ordnance report dated June 30, 1863, the battery’s armament is listed again as Parrotts and Napoleons (OR, Series I, Volume 23, Serial 35, p. 967).   Clearly the battery did not go into action at Shiloh (or at later battles) with 32-pdr howitzers.  I would offer that Battery H was among those formed early in the war as the regulars expanded.  As such, the battery may have received 32-pdr howitzers initially, before re-equipping with handier pieces by April 1862.

Better documented is Battery D, 1st New York Artillery Battalion (later becoming the 32nd Independent Battery) , which served the Army of the Potomac.  The battery served, under the command of Captain Edward Grimm, with the rest of the 1st Battalion, as part of the Third Brigade of the Artillery Reserve during the Peninsula Campaign (1862), and with six 32-pdr howitzers.  Both Henry Hunt (then a Colonel commanding the reserve) and Major Albert Arndt (commanding the 1st NY Battalion, and the 3rd Brigade of the reserve) mentioned Grimm’s battery in their official reports.  While not conspicuous, the 32-pdrs were mentioned several times, particularly with regard to Malvern Hill (OR, Series I, Volume 11, Serial 13, pp 236-241, 264-5).

At some point later that summer, command of the battery shifted to Captain Charles Kusserow but Battery D retained the 32-pdrs.  Although placed under the V Corps, along with the rest of the 1st NY Battalion, no returns indicate the battery saw action in the 2nd Manassas.  However, as the Army of the Potomac reacted to the invasion of Maryland, the 32-pdrs rolled north towards Sharpsburg, Maryland.  On September 17, 1862, Kusserow’s Battery deployed on a ridge line east of the Middle Bridge, just north of the Boonesboro Pike.

Tablets on Boonesboro Pike

The ridge is in the background, behind the War Department tablets in the photo above.  In this position, the 32-pdrs certainly commanded the approaches to the bridge, and could thwart any Confederate counter attack in the sector.  But with a range of only 1500 yards, the gunners could not support offensive actions up the road.

Battery D’s Position at Antietam

On this cut from the War Department maps, I’ve indicated the battery’s position with a blue box.  The two blue lines, measured to 1500 yards, indicate the range of the 32-pdrs from that position.  The howitzers fell just short of Confederate positions on the Sunken Road and skirmishers along the Boonesboro Pike.  The 32-pdrs may have offered significant firepower if sent forward, but one must question how easily that could be accomplished.  If Captain Tidball advanced Battery A, 2nd US Artillery with 3-inch Ordnance Rifles by hand into position, how well could 32-pdrs at twice the weight, pulled by eight horses each, have moved closer to the enemy?

By the time of Fredericksburg (December 1862) the battery received six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Battery D continued to serve with the Army of the Potomac through June 1863, as part of the Artillery Reserve.   However by the time of the Chancellorsville Campaign, the battery was then re-designated the 32nd New York Light Artillery (OR, Series I, Volume 25, Serial 39, p. 247).  The battery served the rest of the war in the XXII and VIII Corps, notably around Harpers Ferry.

Burnside reported two 32-pdr howitzers during operations on the North Carolina Outer Banks (OR, Series I, Volume 9, Serial 9, p. 369).  Likely those 32-pdrs were still in use in the theater and served at the siege of Washington, N.C. in March-April 1863 (OR, Series I, Volume 18, Serial 26, p. 251).  And in far away New Mexico, Brigadier General Edward Canby forwarded on battery equipped with four 12-pdr Field Guns and two 32-pdr Field Howitzers to New Mexico in June 1862 (OR, Series I, Volume 9, Serial 9, p. 679).

After 1862, the Federals moved most of the 32-pdrs to the fortifications.  Battery Garesche, of the Alexandria line of fortifications outside Washington, D.C, received two 32-pdrs.  One, and possibly a second, armed the fortifications on the east side of the Anacostia River.

Based on Official Records, the Confederates used the 32-pdr howitzers in fortifications also.  Details related of some fortifications, such as Fort Donelson in Tennessee or Fort Walker defending Port Royal Sound in South Carolina, mention “32-pdr howitzers” but these may also be references to carronade-type weapons of the same caliber.  Although not explicitly mentioned in the weapons mounted in the defense of Island No. 10, Confederate reports state 32-pdr howitzer ammunition was on hand, carried as a separate line item from munitions for 32-pdr guns (OR, Series I, Volume 8, Serial 8, p. 183).   A Major J. Kellersburg, engineer operating in Texas, reported placing “two brass 32-pounder howitzers” in a battery along the Sabine River in October 1862 (OR, Series I, Volume 15, Serial 21, p. 834).   At least two 32-pdr howitzers were used in the Charleston, South Carolina defenses, although these are hard to trace due to references to 32-pdr carronades as howitzers in some accounts.

Strictly speaking for the year 1862, sixteen (and possibly up to nineteen) of the 32-pdrs can be identified within the Official Records.  Certainly impressive considering only twenty-five of the weapons were produced!

The 32-pdr howitzers served right up to the end of the war.  During the siege of Petersburg, the 1st Connecticut Artillery employed two 32-pdrs at Battery Pruyn, along with a 24-pdr howitzers, a 20-pdr Parrott, and two 30-pdr Parrotts.   The three howitzers were later moved forward to an advanced redoubt named Dutton.  The Confederates assaulted the position on June 2, 1864.  Colonel Henry L. Abbott, of the 1st Connecticut Artillery reported:

After driving in the picket-lines on June 2 the Twenty-second South Carolina Regiment, Colonel Dantzler, made a determined assault upon this redoubt.  It was repulsed with severe loss by canister fire, the colonel himself being among the killed, of who 17 were counted.  So demoralized was his command that a lieutenant and 22 enlisted men surrendered to the garrison rather than attempt to retreat under the fire. (OR, Series I, Volume 36, Serial 68, p. 193)

So while the range limited the weapons’ effectiveness at battlefields such as Antietam, the weight of shot and canister made the 32-pdr devastating in the close confines of the trenches.

The 32-pdr Field Howitzer Model 1844

As big and ponderous as the 24-pdr Field Howitzers were, the Army issued and used an even larger howitzer during the Civil War – the 32-pdr Field Howitzer Model 1844.   The 32-pdr fired the largest caliber projectile, in terms of bore diameter, available in regular field service at the time.  The chart below compares the principle field and siege howitzer types used in the war.

The impressive features of the 32-pdr were the range and shell weight.  But its weight was 600 pounds more than the 24-pdr (and only about 650-700 pounds shy of the siege howitzers).   As mentioned in the post regarding the mobility of artillery, the 32-pdrs Howitzer on its carriage, with limber, chest, and equipment weighed 4,575 pounds.  The caisson for this big howitzer weighed 3,811 pounds.  Thus the 32-pdr Howitzer required sixteen horses to haul itself and ready ammunition into battle.   According to the Ordinance Manual of 1849 (page 11), the 32-pdr Field Howitzer used the same carriage as the 12-pdr Field Gun.

The Army developed the 32-pdr in the early 1840s for use in some heavy field batteries in lieu of 24-pdr howitzers.  These heavy batteries used four 12-pdr field guns (heavy, not the Napoleon) with two of the howitzers, either 32- or 24-pounder.   Authorized in 1843, the Army considered the 32-pdr a “shell-gun” (see page 283 of The Historical Sketch of the Organization, Administration, Material, and Tactics of the Artillery, published in 1884).

The term “shell-gun” implied the weapon fit in the class with naval guns designed to fire shells, instead of solid shot, at low angles.  Such employment seems unlikely, as the shot tables for the 32-pdr demonstrated ballistics in line with traditional howitzers.  The Army Ordnance Manuals cite several weapons of similar caliber in the tables listing foreign weapons.  Perhaps instead of operating in a rather unorthodox manner, for land service, the 32-pdr was simply the U.S. Army’s design to compete with heavy howitzers in the European armies.

The Ordnance Manual of 1862 designated this weapon with the model year 1844, noting the same general arrangement and adornment as the patterns of 1841. The howitzer tube featured, much like its smaller cousins, muzzle, chase, and base rings, with no muzzle swell.  The first reinforce ended with a step just forward of the trunnions.  As with the 24-pdr Howitzer, a pair of handles or dolphins adorned the area over the trunnions.  But the most distinctive feature was a small reinforce, four inches wide, between the trunnions and base ring, positioned over the lip of the chamber.

A 32-pdr Model 1844 lays, rather conveniently for comparison, next to a 24-pdr Field Howitzer Model 1841 in the artillery display at Petersburg National Battlefield.

24-pdr (left) and 32-pdr Field Howitzers - Petersburg NBP

Aside from the small reinforce band and the greater bulk, the 32-pdr had one internal difference.  The larger howitzer featured a 4.62 inch diameter, 7 inch deep chamber – the same diameter as the 24-pdr howitzer, only deeper.

Cyrus Alger and Ames Manufacturing produced, collectively, 25 of the 32-pdr howitzers between 1847 and 1857.  Both manufacturers conformed to existing styles for handles, with a half-octagon cross-section.  On Alger’s castings, a rectangular pad attached the handles to the tube.  Ames used a half-octagon pad instead.

Ames Half-Octagon Trunnion Attachment Pads

With limited production, all antebellum, the Army issued the 32-pdr as “limited standard.”  But even as late as 1877, the Army retained and required inventory of stocks and stores supporting the 32-pdr Field Howitzer.

During the Civil War, The Army shunted the 32-pdr, much like the 24-pdr howitzer, largely replacing the weapons with handier 12-pdr Light “Napoleon” Field Guns and light rifled guns.  But the 32-pdr howitzer saw active service in field armies, both east and west, appearing on at least a couple important battlefields.  Both Federal and Confederate armies used the type in fortifications and siege lines up to the end of the war.  I will look at the service history of the type in my next post on this topic.

But for now let me point to a “demo” of the 32-pdr Field Howitzer in action:

Looks like rounds on target!


Aside from on site notes, inline citations, 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 November 16

New entries in the Civil War category at HMDB this week cover just about every corner of the Civil War.  Pinpoints for this week’s fifty-four additions include sites in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.   Here are the highlights of this “bumper crop”:

-A state marker in Blountsville, Alabama indicates where General N.B. Forrest captured the trains of Col. A.B. Streight, during the later’s ill-fated raid of April-May, 1863.

– Another Alabama state marker, this one in Birmingham, relates the activities of General James Wilson’s March 1865 raid, which met with more success than the 1863 attempt.

– According to a marker in Patagonia, New Mexico, the Mowry Mine there provided lead to the Confederacy at some point during the war.

– Our Georgia markers jump around a bit.  First off, Bacon County was named in honor of Augustus O. Bacon, a local politician and officer in the 9th Georgia Infantry.

– An addition to the collection of monuments and markers at Chickamauga this week – the 22nd Michigan’s monument on Snodgrass Hill.

– A state marker in Monticello, Georgia offers details of the Stoneman Raid of July 1864.

– A state marker in Atlanta relates details of the Battle of Utoy Creek.

– Other entries this week mark the course of Sherman’s march to the sea.  In Sparta, Georgia, a ruse by a local Confederate officer successfully deterred the Federals.  Instead, the Federals moved toward nearby Sandersville.

– A state marker in Warthen, Georgia indicates a spot where Confederate President Jefferson Davis rested on his flight from Richmond.

– Three Confederate memorials from Georgia this week.  The Butts County memorial in Jackson features the statue of a soldier at attention.  The soldier atop Douglas, Georgia’s Coffee County memorial is at rest.  And the figure on the Waycross Confederate Memorial has his musket shouldered.

– The figure on the Westfield, Massachusetts memorial has his musket, with bayonet attached, cradled.

– A state marker in Carthage, Missouri relates some details of the July 5, 1861 battle in the town, the second major engagement in the Civil War.  The town was also burned by southern guerrillas in 1864.

– A state marker in New Mexico stands at the site of Fort Craig.  Troops from the fort were involved in the Federal defeat at nearby Valverde in 1862.   Another New Mexico entry this week mentions fighting on April 15, 1862 near Peralta.

– An unidentified cannon tops a memorial in Katonah, New York.  Most of the men listed on the memorial served in the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.

– A Civil War Trails marker in Newburg, Maryland orients visitors to the route taken by John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln Assassination.

– Nearly a dozen entries this week cover the Fayetteville Arsenal in North Carolina.  The Arsenal was created in 1838.  It was seized and used by the Confederates during the Civil War.  On March 11-12, 1865, the 1st Michigan Engineers, acting on orders handed down from General Sherman to Colonel Orlando Poe, destroyed the Arsenal.  Another marker in Fayetteville details skirmishing between Confederate cavalry and the Federal advance.

– Several Civil War related entries from Cincinnati, Ohio this week.  Details of the life and career of Salmon P. Chase, the wartime Secretary of the Treasury, are offered on a two-sided state marker.  Another dual-sided marker offers details of the Black Brigade of Cincinnati.  The unit was formed in reaction to rebuffs and poor treatment of the African-Americans of the city during the war.  Another state marker mentions the Sultana disaster, mentioning the loss of returning Ohio veterans.  Lastly, the Cincinnati based firm of Proctor & Gamble grew substantially making candles and soap for wartime contracts.

– The Williamsburg County Confederate memorial in Kingstree, South Carolina features a soldier in a “rest” position.

– A state marker from Morrison, Tennessee discusses a skirmish in Guest Hollow between Gen. N.B. Forrest’s command and a Federal garrison on August 29, 1862.

– Two memorials from Arlington Cemetery this week:  one is the Civil War Unknowns memorial and the other the McClellan Gate.

– A new Civil War Trails marker for the Ogg Farm adds to our Trevilian Station Battlefield set.  And a state marker added this week from nearby Louisa mentions both the Trevilian Station fighting in June 1864 and earlier Federal raids in May 1863.

Linda posted the 8th Vermont Memorial from the Cedar Creek Battlefield this week, completing our set for that field.

– An interpretive marker in Glen Allen, Virginia relates the story of John Cossons, “a successful soldier, explorer, historical writer, and landowner” who served as a scout during the war.

Five more entries this week add to the collection of markers along the Richmond, Virginia riverfront.

Eight entries in Beverly, West Virginia relate Civil War activities in that crossroads town (with more to follow next week).