Monthly Archives: January 2010

Burrr…..Gettysburg Day Trip Cut Short

My intentions today included a wide ranging trip to sites in and around Gettysburg.  Yes, I’ve visited, photographed, and entered the battlefield markers, monuments, and memorials in the main battle area.  However, a large portion of the wayside type markers in town await documentation.  I’ve held off entering the modern hospital markers (from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association).  And of several of the sites associated with the battle, particularly the smaller actions, have items which I need to post.

All that said, after looking at the weather predictions, last night I trimmed my itinerary to some easily reachable sites.  On the road before dawn, I reached the battlefield as the sun first broke out from the horizon.  Taking my usual route into the battlefield, I stopped near the Eisenhower Inn for some perspective regarding the proposed casino site.

Looking North along Emmitsburg Road

As I said, it was very early in the day!

J.D. Petruzzi and others have related the significance of this ground.  Merritt’s Cavalry Brigade staged here on July 3, as the far left flank of the Federal lines.   I shudder to think, should the casino go in, how quickly the spot in the photo above might become a gas station or fast food joint.

From that site, I drove up to Oak Hill and the Peace Memorial, mostly to photograph recently refurbished tablets at that location.  And I love to “take in” the battlefield in those early morning hours before large numbers of other visitors arrive.

First Day Battlefield from Oak Hill

First Day Battlefield from Oak Hill

From there, I enjoyed breakfast in town with fellow blogger Harry Smeltzer.  Good food and good conversation.   When out in town, I often wonder if the locals grow tired of us “Civil War nuts” in public venues conversing about all those odd topics….

We made a trip over to the visitor center, partly to browse for books, but also for me to show off my knowledge of field artillery!

Wiard 12-pdr Rifle

Harry had to press on homeward at that point.  But I planned to take in as many sites on my checklist before the bad weather arrived. Little did I know the snow was also on an accelerated schedule.    The snow came down furiously as I reached Fairfield.

Snow Arrives at Fairfield

After making my way along the back roads, taking my chances, I routed back to the highway and pointed home.  This storm came up from the south, so the further I got back to the Old Dominion and home, the worse things got.  And of course, being bull-headed on these things, I could not resist making a diversion or two, scouting for other markers.

Snow Covered Road in Maryland

A lesson which unfortunately I am re-acquainted with far too often for my taste…… Marker Hunting is a Fair Weather Sport!

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of January 25

A crop of thirty-seven new entries to the Civil War category at HMDB this week.  Our coverage spans the states of Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.  Here’s this weeks’ entries:

– After service in the Confederate Army, Mortimer H. Jordon opted to study medicine, becoming a doctor of note.  The Jordon home in Birmingham, Alabama is today a restored example of the neo-classical architectural style.

– Nearby, a state marker notes the history of the city of Mountain Brook.  The area thrived in 1863 with increased production at an iron furnace nearby.  Federals destroyed the furnace during the war.  However, iron production continued at the facility after the war.

– A state marker cites the Battle at Picacho in Arizona, on April 15, 1862, as the “westernmost battle of the Civil War.”  A detachment of ten Confederates held off the attacks of thirteen Federals from the 1st California Cavalry.   The Confederate stand held up a brigade sized Federal column then advancing into the territory.

– The Soldier’s Memorial in Bethel, Connecticut lists the names of fourteen members of the community who died in service during the war.

– A new NPS wayside in Washington, D.C. relates details of General U.S. Grant’s life and about the monument standing in front of the U.S. Capitol.

– According to legend related on a state marker in Apalachicola, Florida, at the start of the Civil War, the women met in the Raney House to sew a flag for the local Confederate troops.  At the end of the war, the county’s troops mustered out at the house.

– Several entries, mostly memorials, from Michigan this week.  A memorial in Lansing, Michigan commemorates the First Michigan Sharpshooters.  A G.A.R. Memorial stands in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Milford, Michigan.   The Pontiac, Michigan war memorial features a bronze soldier at rest.  The Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor features a memorial to the county’s war veterans.  The Oak Grove Cemetery war memorial in Chelsea stands between two 30-pdr Parrott Rifles.  But two fake cannon guard the River Rouge war memorial.

– Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan has memorials to Generals Alpheus Williams and Orlando Poe to complement the G.A.R. Memorial.  In downtown Detroit stands the impressive Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.

– Another entry in the tour of the Battle of Westport, in Kansas City, Missouri this week.  Stop thirteen notes the last stand of Shelby’s famous “Iron Brigade.”

– A memorial in Piqua, Ohio relates the battle honors of the 94th and 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  The regiments mustered in the field near the memorial in 1862 but served in opposite theaters through the war.

– Lt. James Washington Moore, of the Hampton Legion and 2nd South Carolina Cavalry maintained a house in Hampton, South Carolina.  After the war he served in the state legislature, and eventually rose to the rank of Major General in the state militia.

– More entries from Austin, Texas this week.  State markers relate activities of the wartime state legislature and newspapers.  Another of the state’s granite memorials notes the service of General William Steele, a New Yorker who resigned from the U.S. Army to join the 7th Texas Cavalry.  Steele later commanded cavalry in the Red River Campaign.

– A state marker in McKenney, Virginia notes the birthplace of Roger Atkinson Pryor, Confederate congressman and Brigadier General.

– After working through the Winchester National Cemetery memorials, this week I added those from the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery, Winchester, Virginia.

– A wayside marker in Vienna, Virginia notes the location of the first military action involving a train, fought in June 1861, along the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire (later Washington & Old Dominion) Railroad.

Two Years and 346 Posts

Two years ago I opened my blog.  I’m not much into fireworks or patting myself on the back, but 346 posts is a lot of writing!

Some time back, my pal Robert Moore coined the phrase “information compilation blog” to describe those which focused on a particular topic with the aim of consolidating a body of knowledge.  To a large degree, “To the Sound of the Guns” is a compilation of information on historical markers, battlefields, and artillery.

Regarding the later, I do like the moniker “The Marker Hunter” and it’s been a good introduction line when meeting folks.  But I also like those cannons.  And I’ve got piles of notes, from years of field research, to coalesce into some coherent format.  These guns have stories to tell, and time permitting, I’d love to give each one a turn!

However, more and more, analysis techniques from my day job leak into how I approach blogging.  Years ago I wrote on my professional blog (don’t look for it.  When I left that company, it died off) about the emerging “community of interest” (COI) approach to collaboration.  Defined, a COI is “a collaborative group of users that must exchange information in pursuit of its shared goals, interests, missions, or business processes and therefore must have shared vocabulary for the information exchanges.”  A long winded way of saying COI are groups of people who converse about a particular topic.  While there are formal COI, I have long argued that COI are best left informal and ad-hoc to best facilitate information exchange.

In some senses, “To the Sound of the Guns” is part, or element, of a COI.   If you look down the blog rolls to the far right, there is a vast array of Civil War (and some just history) related blogs covering the subject from just about every possible angle.  I read those blogs, mostly thanks to RSS, daily.  And judging from the referrals, many of those reading the other blogs venture this way too.  Beyond the blogs I enjoy a lively dialog by way of online comments and emails with folks I’ve met in this blogging endeavor.  I’ll occasionally venture onto message board forums, but have never really liked that venue to be honest.  We all chat about a common topic – the Civil War.

For me, blogging isn’t about the number of hits your site takes in.  Rather it is about how much information you can exchange with those in the community.   When composing each post, I start by considering how to present the information from my source materials in such a way that promotes input.  And all too often, I get that input.  By my estimates, particularly over the last year, there has been more input than output!

So at my two year mark, let me thank you who visit here, and in particular those who are active within this community of interest.


42-pdr Seacoast Gun Model 1831

Those who study Civil War artillery tend to focus on the weapons of the field armies, for obvious reasons.  However, the pre-war Army expended a great deal of effort and money toward the improvement of coastal defenses.   Many of the improvements to cannon construction – metal selection, casting techniques, exterior form – trace back to resolution of problems encountered with the heavy seacoast guns.  So when I run across these “monsters,” I give them more than a cursory examination.   Here is my log detailing two 42-pdr seacoast guns located at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post of McLean, Virginia.

Two 42-pdr Seacoast Guns at the VFW

At the time of construction, these two “twins” were among the heaviest weapons in the Army’s inventory.   Although the 42-pdr, or 7-inch, caliber existed in the Revolutionary War period, the type saw limited use in the American Army.  A domestically produced 42-pdr based on French patterns appeared in 1801.  However for some unrecorded reason, regulations issued in 1816 suspended use of both the 42-pdr and 32-pdr seacoast guns, leaving the 24-pdr as the heaviest type in the inventory.  The Navy, on the other hand, continued to issue 42-pdrs, with some 200 produced between 1817 and 1828 under the “Gradual Increase”   Perhaps in view of the Navy’s use, the Army first resurrected the 32-pdr in 1829, then the 42-pdr in revised instructions during 1831.

The 42-pdr Model of 1831 matched the lines of the smaller 32-pdr, just larger in scale.  The breech appeared as a flattened hemisphere, with a cascabel, or knob, and breeching loop.  Just in front of the breech sat a raised block of metal surrounding the vent, known as a lock piece.

Breech of Model 1831

The loop indicates the use of breeching tackle, common for a time between both Navy and Army carriages.

The reinforce, or rear half of the gun, formed a gradually decreasing cone, ending at a shoulder just in front of the trunnions.    Past the reinforce, the chase narrowed to a point about a foot from the muzzle, where the piece flared out in a muzzle swell.

Profile of the Model 1831

The muzzle featured a fillet and a cavetto.

Muzzle of Model 1831

The iron guns roughly weighed 8,380 pounds – certainly one of, if not the, heaviest weapon in the Army in 1831.

The Army mounted 42-pdrs in both barbette and casemate carriages.  Such arrangements meant these heavy guns could be employed at any tier of the masonry seacoast fortifications.  The 42-pdrs fired shot, shell, case, grapeshot and canister.  As the weapons were designed for anti-ship use, special rounds likely included chain shot.  And of course, the 42-pdr could fire “hot shot” when the tactical situation allowed. Regulations of 1850 or 1863 failed to detail any ballistic differences between the Model 1831 and later models.  Ranges for shot from those later models was 1955 yards.

Between 1836 and 1840, the Army received 167 of the 42-pdr Model 1831 from three foundries.  Bellona Foundry outside Richmond, Virginia produced 26; Columbia Foundry in Washington, D.C. delivered 77; and West Point Foundry cast 64.  Both examples in McLean came from Columbia Foundry, and were produced in 1836.

Left Trunnions - 1836

The right trunnions of both have the stamps “J.M.” over “C.F.” which stand for John Mason and Columbia Foundry, respectively.

Right Trunnions

The main difference between the pieces, from a stamping perspective, is the inspector’s initials.  James Wolfe Ripley inspected registry number 4, while George Douglas Ramsay inspected number 12.

Muzzle - J.W.R. // No. 4

Notice the “scoop” on the lower left of the muzzle.  This is a scar from a sample of metal removed for testing in the 1830s and 40s.

In 1839, based on a new set of Ordnance Regulations, all three vendors produced a “new pattern” where the reinforce extended an additional two inches, calling it Model 1839.  Later the Army further refined the design, specifying a first and second reinforce in order to strengthen the guns.  These were known as Model 1840, with yet another refinement noted as Model 1845.  But those are topics for another post.

Orders posted in February 1861 suppressed all 42-pdrs.  Yet with the coming of war, these weapons found a new lease on life. Since few war reports cite specific years of manufacture when discussing weapons, singling out a specific weapon as a Model 1831 is impossible.  However based on the locations of eight survivors, these older 42-pdrs saw some service.   Fort Barrancas, Florida has a Model 1831 which may have been part of the fort’s wartime complement.  Vicksburg National Military Park has two Model 1831s, one of which was recovered with the U.S.S. Cairo.  That particular piece was rifled, certainly by some Federal contract.  Such indicates some authority continued to value the 42-pdrs, even the older marks.


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

Birkhimer, William, Historical Sketch of the Organization, Administration, Material and Tactics of the Artillery, United States Army.  Washington:  James J. Chapman, 1884.  Particularly pages 274-8 discussing the evolution of the American systems of artillery.

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.

Tucker, Spencer.  Arming the Fleet:  U.S. Navy Ordnance in the Muzzle-Loading Era.  Annapolis, Maryland:  Naval Institute Press, 1989.

Manassas Treeline Restoration

As I looked back at through last year’s trip photos, I came across a good view of the 2nd Manassas Battlefield in the area southeast of the Brawner Farm.

View from Battery Heights - February 2009

Compare that view to one taken from nearly the same location in May 2007.

View from Battery Heights - May 2007

The treeline changes are the result of the Brawner Farm-Deep Cut landscape restoration project.

Informational Sign - Brawner Farm Landscape Project

Brawner Farm Landscape Restoration Project Sign

I consider this project a fine example of “the good fight” for battlefield preservation.  The project began during the tenure of Dr. Robert K. Sutton as Mansassas National Battlefield Park Superintendent.

I’ll have to make a stop again this spring for another view of the site and report.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of January 18

Solid work week with thirty-five new entries in the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database.  These come from Civil War related sites in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Here is the rundown:

– A war memorial in Bethlehem, Connecticut lists men from the community who fought in the Civil War and World War I.

– The Hillsborough County Confederate memorial in Tampa, Florida features a statue of a soldier marching to war on one side, and the soldier, head bowed, returning from war on the other.

– The Washington-Wilkes Museum in Washington, Georgia hosts many displays related to the Civil War, including pikes from John Brown’s Raid and Jefferson Davis’ field desk.

– A wayside marker in Louisville, Kentucky’s Cave Hill Cemetery relates the history of the 32nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry memorial.

– Two entries from Kansas City, Missouri this week.  The Forest Hill Confederate Memorial features a statue of a soldier carrying his arms at the ready.  Nearby, a marker for Mockbee Farm is stop fourteen on the tour of the Battle of Westport.

– The Vinton County Civil War Memorial in McArthur, Ohio has a statue depicting a soldier at rest.

– A marker in front of the Hope furnace ruins, outside Zaleski, Ohio relates the iron production of the nearby region in support of the Union war effort.

– A marker in Harveysburg, Ohio relates the history of the town and Harveysburg School.  Orindatus S.B. Wall, from the town, was the first regular commissioned African-American captain in the U.S. Army during the Civil War.

– Another new marker at Gettysburg, this one a Civil War Trails overview wayside at the south entrance to the park.

– A state marker in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania notes the furthest Confederate advance toward Harrisburg, when General Jenkins’ forces reached Oyster Point on June 28, 1863.  Three markers in nearby Lemoyne relate the other side of the story noting the location of Fort Couch, its outer breastworks, and Fort Washington, which defended the approaches to Harrisburg.

– Another state marker in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania relates the withdrawal of Jenkins’ command on June 28 from the Harrisburg approach and subsequent advance to Gettysburg.  The Confederate general made his headquarters in a house in town, where a memorial to the General stands.

– On the other end of the Confederate advance into Pennsylvania, a state marker indicates the passage of Gen. Jubal Early’s forces through Dover in York County.

– Another soldier at rest statue graces the Orangeburg, South Carolina Confederate memorial.

– Two entries from Austin, Texas this week.  A state marker relates the activities of the State Military Board, which gathered supplies to support the Confederacy.  A nearby marker relates the wartime service of John Hawkins Singleton in the Confederate army.

– Four more entries from downtown Richmond, Virginia.  A marker for the canal basin notes the mill which supplied the Confederacy with paper for currency.  A badly damaged marker indicates the site of Belle Isle Prison.   Two other markers discuss the evacuation of Richmond at the end of the war along with the fire started by retreating Confederates.

– More memorials from the Winchester National Cemetery this week:  12th Connecticut, 13th Connecticut, 18th Connecticut, 123rd Ohio, 8th Vermont, 6th Army Corps, and Pennsylvania State Memorials.

– New Civil War Trails markers in Amissville, Virginia this week.  A marker in town discusses the November 10, 1862 action at Corbin’s Crossroads, one of the closing actions in the Confederate withdrawal after Antietam.  A marker outside of town notes the location of former slave cabins, using those as a physical reminder of the plight of the slaves during the war.

– A Civil War Trails marker in Sperryville, Virginia relates the story of Sister Caroline, a slave living in the town during the Civil War.  She acquired many relics of the war to include a revolver, having witnessed the passage of the armies on several occasions.

– The Waushara County Civil War memorial in Hancock, Wisconsin, placed by the local G.A.R. chapter in 1908, incorporates a statue of a soldier at rest.

A Japanese Gun with American Civil War Connections

Among the varied set of trophies on display in Leutze Park in the Washington Navy Yard is an odd caliber Japanese seacoast gun.

Japanese 6.875-inch Seacoast Gun

The plaque in front of the trophy relates some of the story of this gun.  A landing party captured the Japanese gun during an action on September 5-6, 1864, while neutralizing batteries manned by anti-foreigner elements guarding the Shimonoseki Straits.  Historically speaking, the action was more important in Japanese history than American history.

The first time this particular gun probably fired upon the U.S. flag occurred in July 1863.  While the great campaigns in Pennsylvania and Mississippi came to a close, an American flagged steamer Pembroke came under fire from Japanese forces under the direction of the Prince of Nagato in the straits.  Upon hearing of this incident, commander of the sloop-of-war USS Wyoming, Commander David Stockton McDougal, proceeded to the scene.

USS Wyoming - Post War - From DANFS online

Launched in 1859, the Wyoming was named for the valley in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (the state by that name did not exist at the time).  The Wyoming displaced around 1,450 tons and reached 11 knots on trials.  She offered a formidable armament for her size with two XI-inch Dahlgren pivot guns and four 32-pdr broadside guns.

The Wyoming entered the straits on the morning of July 16, and a signal gun on the shore soon alerted the Prince’s forces.  McDougal sited six shore batteries on the north shore of the straits, with a bark, a steamer, and a sloop, all flying the Prince’s colors, anchored under those batteries.  Upon approach of the Wyoming, the Japanese forces opened fire.  McDougal directed his ship through the Japanese vessels.  After giving and receiving plenty of fire, the Wyoming turned south, briefly ran aground, then proceeded to run back through the straits.  In all, the action lasted roughly an hour.  McDougal reported disabling or sinking all three Japanese vessels, and causing damage to the shore batteries and on the town beyond due to overshots.  On the other hand, Japanese gunners had hulled the Wyoming 11 times, killed five and wounded six U.S. sailors.  The Wyoming expended 23 XI-inch and 32 32-pdr rounds in the engagement.  (A far more detailed account of the engagement appears on the Navy and Marine Corps Living History Association site.)

CDR McDougal's Map of the Action - Colors added for clarity

In the days following this action, French and Dutch warships further punished the forces at the straits.  The incident received some coverage in the U.S. newspapers, but no doubt distance and other pressing events that summer overshadowed the situation in Japan.  Summarizing the activity, McDougal stated, “…the punishment inflicted and in store for [the Prince of Nagato] will, I trust, teach him a lesson that will not be soon forgotten.” (From the report of Cdr McDougal, p. 393-4)

Future events proved McDougal’s assessment invalid.  Within a few months, the anti-foreign forces increased activity and by the first months of 1864 the Straits of Shimonoseki were closed.  Diplomatic efforts at first averted outright war, but eventually talks fell through.  In late August a force consisting of French, British, and Dutch warships, conveying 2,000 men, sailed for the straits.  Commander of the local U.S. naval forces, Captain Cicero Price, chartered the steamer Ta-Kiang and placed it under the command of Lieutenant Frederick Pearson.  Price transferred eighteen men and a 30-pdr Parrott Rifle to the chartered vessel.  As the token American contribution to the expedition, Pearson had orders to “…show the American flag….render any and every other aid in your power to promote the common object, such as towing boats, landing men, and receiving the wounded on board….”  (From the Report of Captain Price, p. 202)

The allied fleet arrived off Shimonoseki on September 5, 1864.  The next day, the Ta-Kiang landed allied troops and provided fire support.  All told, the Ta-Kiang fired eighteen rounds from the Parrott.  After the fighting ended, Pearson took on allied casualties for transport to shore hospitals. (From the Report of Lt. Pearson)

British Forces inside the Shimonoseki Batteries

A ceasefire accord struck shortly thereafter required the disarmament of the straits, and imposed a heavy indemnity upon the Japanese.  The indemnity later served as leverage against the Japanese government to open up trade with foreign powers.  The battle of Shimonoseki occurred against a backdrop of internal conflict in Japan.  Unfortunately I would only show my ignorance of Japanese history by attempting to place the battle in context of such.  My understanding extends little beyond an essay on the Meiji Restoration period.

Of course, the allies carted off many of the captured weapons as trophies.  Aside from the one on display at the Washington Navy Yard, a gun similar to those seen in the Felice Beato photo above sits outside Les Invalides, in Paris France.  The U.S. Navy trophy features an odd caliber – 6.875-inches.  This places the weight of shot between the 32- and 42-pdr calibers, and is listed by Navy sources as a 36-pdr.  The weapon also features very prominent sight bases on the breech and over the trunnions.  An open breeching loop suggests the weapon used some form of tackle to arrest recoil, perhaps indicating intended use on board ships.

This lone Japanese muzzle loading gun reminds us today about a set of obscure events in American history, occurring at a time of Civil War in both our country and that of Japan.  Certainly neither the actions of July 16, 1863 or September 6, 1864 are proximate causes of Pearl Harbor.  But such actions were among a series of events which contributed to the direction of contention between the two nations.

Once again, if only the guns could speak.


Sources Consulted:

Report of Commander McDougal, U.S. Navy, Commanding U.S.S. Wyoming, of the engagement between that vessel and the Japanese forces off Shimonoseki, July 23, 1863, Navy Official Records, Series I, Volume 2, pp. 393-9.   Attachments to the report include the surgeon’s report of casualties, details of the damage to the Wyoming, an extract from the ship’s log, and supplemental reports.

Report of Captain Price, U.S. Navy, Commanding U.S. ship Jamestown, regarding Japanese affairs, transmitting copy of orders given to Lieutenant Pearson, September, 8 1864, Navy Official Records, Series I, Volume 3, pp. 201-2.  [Cited as report of Capt. Price above]

Report of Captain Price, U.S. Navy, Commanding U.S. ship Jamestown, transmitting report of Lieutenant Pearson, U.S. Navy, commanding chartered steamer Ta-Kiang, regarding the action at Shimonoseki, Japan, September, 23 1864, Navy Official Records, Series I, Volume 3, pp. 202-4.  [Cited as report of Lt. Pearson above]

Canney, Donald L.  The Old Steam Navy, Volume One:  Frigates, Sloops, and Gunboats, 1815-1885.  Annapolis:  Naval Institute Press, 1990.  pp. 70-74.