Monthly Archives: April 2010

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of April 26

This week we have additions from Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  In all, 37  new entries for the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database.

– The Torrington, Connecticut Soldiers Memorial features a standard soldier at rest statue.  But the Winsted, Connecticut Soldier’s Memorial is a large tower with a color bearer at the top.

– General George McClellan offers a bold equestrian pose on his memorial in Washington, D.C.

– A marker in Kennesaw, Georgia explains the local name “Big Shanty” and notes that Federal drew supplies from the railroad there in June 1864.

– Two markers in Marietta, Georgia associated with the battle of Kennesaw Mountain.  One marker notes the position from which Logan’s Fifteenth Army Corps assaulted the Confederate lines on June 27, 1864.    Another notes the line of assault for five brigades from the Fourth and Fourteenth Army Corps.

– A marker in Atlanta, Georgia note the location used by General O.O. Howard on July 5-10, 1864 as his corps confronted the Chattahoochee Line.  The Fourth Corps’ occupied the area around Vining’s Station.

– Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston is featured in a bold pose on a memorial in Dalton, Georgia.

– A marker in Louisville, Kentucky notes the location of the Galt House.  In September 1862, General J.C. Davis assassinated General William Nelson there.  In March 1864, Generals Grant and Sherman met there to plan strategy for that year’s summer campaigns.

– A marker in Flemingsburg, Kentucky stands in front of the home of James J. Andrews, leader of the Federal raiders in the Great Locomotive Chase.

William S. Ashe, resident of Ashton, North Carolina, managed the Confederate railroad system during the war.

– A soldier with arms at the ready stands atop the Butler County Civil War Memorial in Middletown, Ohio.  The memorial is guarded by a 100-pdr Parrott Rifle.

– The first shot of the Civil War was a signal shot from a mortar positioned at Fort Johnston, on James Island, South Carolina.  The entry includes photos of the remains of the fort.

– A marker in Nashville, Tennessee indicates the site of Fort Negley, part of the Federal defenses of the city.  Firing guns from the fort, Federals opened their assaults of December 15, 1864, during the Battle of Nashville.

– The Confederate cemetery in San Antonio, Texas is the final resting place for many notable persons in the state’s rich history.

– A marker in Mason, Texas stands at the site of Fort Mason.  Before the Civil War the Second U.S. Cavalry garrisoned the fort with officers such as Albert Sidney Johnston, George H. Thomas,  Earl Van Dorn and Robert E. Lee.

– Several entries from Richmond, Virginia this week.  A memorial commemorates the spot near the Manchester Court House where the Manchester Elliot Grays mustered into service.  Also in the Manchester district, a marker indicates the location of old slave docks along the James.   A kiosk marker further discusses the docks, as well as the CSS Virginia’s service.  A sidewalk marker along the Richmond Canal Walk describes Tredegar Iron Works.  Two markers indicate the house occupied by Matthew Fontaine Maury during the war, mentioning his work on underwater torpedoes in particular.

– A wayside marker in Gloucester Point, Virginia tells us the first shots of the Civil War fired in Virginia occurred on May 3, 1861 at the point when a Federal ship attempted passage up-river.

– A marker and a monument in Matthews, Virginia commemorate “Captain Sally” Tompkins.  She founded Robertson Hospital in Richmond.   Tompkins is buried in a nearby cemetery.   Matthews also boasts a Confederate Memorial.

– Also in Matthews County, but in near the community of Moon, Virginia was Fitchett’s Warf, site of a shipyard.  The yard was burned by Federals during the war.  Another state marker notes the location of New Point Comfort Lighthouse, which was left dark during the Civil War.

– The now vanished town of Diuguidsville, Virginia prospered prior to the War due to the James River traffic, then declined post-war.  In 1865, the townspeople burned a bridge over the river when Sheridan moved through.

– A memorial on the grounds of the “new” Appomattox Court House lists the units formed within Appomattox County.  The memorial stands beside the county’s Confederate memorial.

– A new NPS wayside marker added to the collection detailing the Battle of Appomattox Station, April 8, 1865.  I’m looking for a replacement for the “washed out” photos taken on my recent trip.

– Several additions to the Appomattox Court House related set this week.  An old NPS marker notes the location of “Lee’s Apple Tree” where he rested on April 9, 1865.  Another marker directs our attention to Sears Lane, used by Grant on his way to meet Lee at the McLean house.  Within the park, but not directly associated with the surrender is the home of Joel Walker Sweeney, who made the banjo popular.  Joel’s brother Sam provided entertainment for General J.E.B. Stuart during the war.  Further afield is a county line marker boasting Appomattox’s role in the final campaign of the war.

The Cyrus Alger Napoleon

Generally speaking, the Federal 12-pdr Napoleons, or to be correct the 12-pdr Light Field Guns Pattern of 1857, Modified, were cast to a very consistent form.  I’ve discussed the first “unmodified” Napoleon.  Some of the early production models featured handles.  And there is the variation with hause seat and base plate pads, specifically for Henry Hooper and Miles Greenwood (Eagle Foundry) production.  Otherwise, save six rifled Napoleons and the lone wrought iron experiments, all Federal Napoleons look very much the same…

…Until you look at them close up.

Each foundry had slight differences with markings.  Some, such as the large font used on the Greenwood guns, are easy to pick out.  Other marking differences require some careful examination.  Consider this Napoleon, cast by Cyrus Alger & Company of Boston, Massachusetts, standing guard at the “new” courthouse at Appomattox.

Napoleon Muzzle - Alger No. 98

The registry number, foundry, and weight are barely visible after all these years out in the open with birds taking liberties.  At the nine-o’clock position is the registry number “98.”  At the top is “C.A. & Co.”  On the right at the three-o’clock is the weapon weight of 1,219 pounds.  Difficult to make out are the inspectors initials “T.J.R.” for Thomas J. Rodman and the date of 1862.

Let’s say those muzzle markings, as often happens, were too badly eroded to read.  The next place to look is the right side rimbase.

Foundry Number 1133

As required by Federal regulations, the foundry stamped a control number – independent of the registry number – on the right rimbase.  This was to aid in tracking casting sequence.   Presumably, foundry numbers (or as I often call them “rimbase numbers”) were issued to rejected castings that, having failed inspection, did not receive registry numbers.   Quite often, the foundry number survives as the location is among the most protected surfaces of the gun.  However, with the position of the top strap over the trunnion often prevents easy reading (or photographs).

Another place to look is the acceptance mark, or the “U.S.” over the trunnions.

Acceptance Mark - Alger

Cyrus Alger’s stamp was a rather simple font, just a bit over a half-inch high.  Other Napoleons used other fonts and sizes.  For example this Revere Copper Napoleon (registry number 41) at Antietam:

Revere Acceptance Mark

In some cases, the only identification one can offer for a Napoleon is that of the manufacturer, based on these “U.S.” acceptance marks.

But for Alger guns, there is one more mark to look for.  Might be a long shot, given weathering, but something only seen on Alger Napoleons.

Alger Reinforce Lines

See the faint line running around the gun tube, just at the point the taper begins?  Alger castings feature lines on both ends of the reinforce. Here’s a view of the rear reinforce line on an Alger Napoleon (registry number 39) outside the Antietam Visitor Center.

Rear Reinforce Mark

You can just make it out in front of the hause seat pad.  These don’t always survive time and the elements.  Likely these lines were used to confirm the reinforce dimensions during acceptance inspections.  Why similar lines don’t exist for other manufactures?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Perhaps just Alger providing some aid to the inspecting officer, whom they worked closely with over the years – Major Thomas J. Rodman.

In summary, yes all Napoleons look the same from a distance.   But up close those made by Cyrus Alger had some unique marks.  Now not a single variation noted here offered a single point of consideration from a tactical perspective.  But if you really want to get to know these artifacts, particularly if you think the gun has a story to tell, take a close look at the markings.


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

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

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


A direct relative of the carronade was the the gunade (or gunnade in some contemporary accounts).  The history of the gunade is not documented to the degree of the carronade.  And to be fair, the term “gunade” took on a broader definition over time, further confusing any formal definition from a historical standpoint.  The name is noted by some as a cross between “gun” and “carronade” alluding to the “gunade” as a mix of qualities from both types.  For purposes of discussion here, I will restrict scope to carronade-like naval artillery which featured trunnions instead of underloops.

Much as carronades, gunades spawned from requirements for light-weight, easily handled weapons to arm merchant ships.  All indications are the gunade evolved from the carronade, or at least in parallel.  As noted above, the major distinguishing feature on gunades was the trunnions.

Why trunnions?  Generally trunnions offer better angles for sighting, depression, and elevation.  And the weapon, sited on its mount, stood shorter.  (The later point I derive from one source, an article in The Canadian Monthly and National Review, titled “The Royal Navy,” dated 1878. And while it makes perfect sense, is not documented in pre-Civil War instructions, so I consider it “secondary” pending other discoveries.)   Some gunades apparently used quoins for elevation, while others used an elevating screw through the knob like the carronades.   Sketches of gunade mountings show a sled with high “cheeks” supporting the trunnions.

Regardless of the reason for trunnions, gunades appeared on merchant ships and saw limited military use.  Accounts note gunades in 6-, 12-, 18-, 24-, and 32-pdr sizes.  But most common were the lighter models.   Nothing close to a standardized form appeared.  And very little, either markings or written records, indicate who produced gunades.  Most appear to be of English origin, however Denmark and Sweeden produced gunades.  There is some indication of American manufacture.   And as with carronades, all known gunades are iron.

Two of these “unknown” gunades is are on display at the Fort Leslie J. McNair, in Washington, D.C.

Gunade at Fort McNair

This example, and its companion, are basically 12-pdr class.  Notice the form very similar to the carronade shown in my previous post.  The trunnions are low mounted, below the bore centerline.  I cannot speak definitively about the caliber, as the bore of one is very rusty and the other is plugged.

Bore of Gunade

Notice the lip, or pan, at the muzzle, very much like the carronade discussed earlier.

Ring and Open Knob

This particular piece featured a ring over the knob for breeching tackle, and a flat knob, with a hole for an elevating screw.

"Plugged" Gunade at Ft. McNair

Second Gunade at Ft. McNair

These gunades feature sighting brackets over the trunnions and just short of the muzzle.

Other surviving gunades are displayed in the West Point collection and at Fort Ticonderoga, both in New York.  None conform to any single standard form.

The U.S. Navy acquired many gunades around the time of the War of 1812.  Given the shortage of proper, military-specification ordnance, no doubt naval officers issued what they could lay their hands on.   Gunades found their way onto frigates and other warships, placed on the upper works, mounted as field pieces for landing parties, or as boat guns.   But like the the carronades, by the 1840s, the Navy had placed its gunades in storage, opting for more modern weapons to fill those roles.

To my knowledge, neither side used gunades in the Civil War.  As such, the main interest for those studying artillery of the Civil War era is the evolutionary step the gunade represented in naval ordnance.  When John Dahlgren began designing his boat howitzer system in the late 1840s, he considered and reviewed both carronades and gunades, among other weapons.  Since both types had seen service as boat armament, and possessed some useful qualities, Dahlgren had a proper starting point.


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

Chapelle, Howard I.  The History of the American Sailing Navy:  The Ships and Their Development.  New York:  Konecky & Konecky, 1949.

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


I have mentioned carronades on the blog, while discussing the flank howitzer design history.  While this class of naval ordnance saw no action afloat during the Civil War, carronades saw service in the fortifications, including some in the interior waterways.   However, the carronade’s wartime service was minimal.  What makes the carronade of interest, from the perspective of Civil War study, is how the weapon system evolved and what follow on weapons it spawned.

During the American Revolution, British merchantmen evolved requirements for light weapons, requiring a small crew, capable of fending off privateers.  The Carron Company, a Scottish gun-founder, offered a solution which came to be named after the maker – the Carronade.  Simple in concept, the carronade used a smaller powder charge than similar caliber long guns, generally fired at a higher angle, in order to loft solid shot into the hull and deck of the target ship.

Carronade (12-pdr?) at the Naval Museum

What made the carronade a fearsome weapon was the ballistic trajectory, which match very much that of a howitzer.  But keep in mind, the carronade fired solid shot, grape-shot, and canister, but typically not shells.  When crashing down upon a the deck or side of a wooden vessel, the shot produced a jagged hole with much splintering.  For this reason, the weapon gained the alternative name “smasher” in the Royal Navy.

Other advantages stemmed from the low powder charge, roughly a third that of similar caliber guns.  Less powder per shot correlated to smaller stores requirement (and more space for paying cargo on a merchant ship).  And less powder meant lower bore pressures in the cannon, allowing carronades to be much lighter, easily a third to a quarter that of the guns of the same caliber.  Lighter cannon required less crew to operate.  All of these attributes were of course attractive to captains of cargo vessels going into hostile seas.  And for pure military applications, the carronades fit well on the lighter upper decks of warships.

Aside from being smaller, lighter than contemporary guns, carronades had distinctive external features.  The entire weapon rested upon a loop on the underside, called an underloop.  This reduced deckspace requirements, but was actually designed to allow handier elevation and traverse controls.  Typically carronades had threaded holes through the knob to engage an elevation screw.  For a standard mounting the carronade sat upon a sled, similar to that seen in the photo above.  The sled rode upon a bed with a pivot point either below the loop or at the front of the bed.   This mounting and elevation system afforded a bit more control than normally associated with naval guns of the 18th- or early 19th-centuries.  (Wikipedia commons has a good diagram of this: Carronade mounting)

Breech Profile of Carronade

Being both shorter and firing at a lower velocity, carronades had far less windage than contemporary guns.  Such compensated somewhat for “wondering” in the ballistic arc.   But reduced windage also required care in handling shot.  Most carronades have an oversize lip or pan at the end of the bore, to ease loading.  This lip also served to catch embers or unburnt powder, an issue with shorter bore weapons.

Rim at Muzzle of Carronade

One other point concerning carronades produced in the early 1800s were the very clean lines, compared to the contemporary guns.  While retaining rings at the base, reinforce, and chase, Carron (and others who followed) dispensed with additional adornments.  Instead of a muzzle swell, most carronades actually necked down beyond the chase ring.  Perhaps this was done as an expediency for the original non-military customers, again to reduce the metal used in casting.  Regardless the form inspired later naval gun designs.

By the War of 1812, both the Royal Navy and US Navy issued carronades to all classes of ships.  Space (and topic) does not permit me to detail the specifics of service, but suffice to say carronades played significant roles in many of the great naval battles of that war.   The U.S. Navy issued 12-, 24-, 32-, and 42-pdr carronades during the period.  Although 68-pdr carronades existed in the inventory, none were issued for use.   Both navies used carronades on vessels ranging from ships-of-the-line and frigates down to sloops and bomb ketches.  And the carronade appeared on ship’s boats and launches (a point I will return to shortly).

At their point of greatest success, the disadvantages of the carronade came center stage.  In close quarters actions, carronades were very effective.  But at longer ranges the weapons were useless.  The loss of the U.S.S. Essex is often attributed to the tactical disadvantage of carronades.  After the War of 1812, improvements to guns, gunpowder, and metallurgy exacerbated the carronade’s shortcoming.  By the 1840s, the U.S. Navy landed its carronades, opting for a mixture of standard guns and shell guns for its ships.

Many of the carronades remained in naval armories when the Civil War broke out.  As evidenced by reports, quite a number of the Confederates found use for these carronades in coastal batteries, serving as flank defense or covering narrow channels.  As late as January 1865, Fort Fisher, North Carolina, included six 32-pdr carronades within its armament (Tally of captured ordnance, OR, Series I, Volume 46, Part I, Serial 95, page 167).

The carronade’s influence on weapon design factored into the Civil War more than its meager numbers employed.  As an evolutionary step in naval ordnance, some historians make the case that carronades influenced the development of columbiads and shellguns.  I would caution that the columbiad’s design history is somewhat speculative.   As for shellguns, no less authority than Admiral John Dahlgren lamented that while the carronade possessed idea features for firing shells, the type was not developed in that direction (see Dahlgren, Shells and Shell-Guns, p. 13)   As a lightweight weapon for use on smaller vessels, be those merchants or ship’s boats, the carronade was the predecessor of the Civil War era boat armament.   When John Dahlgren designed his system of boat howitzers, he used the underloop, elevation screw, and sled mount as used on the carronades.

But before I work my way up to discuss the boat howitzers, however, I also intend to look at the carronade’s sibling – the rare gunade.


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

Chapelle, Howard I.  The History of the American Sailing Navy:  The Ships and Their Development.  New York:  Konecky & Konecky, 1949.

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

Would the Owner of this Marker Please Stand Up?

Cross Keys Marker (curtsey of HMDB, J.J. Pratts photographer)

The other day we received a query about a marker at the Cross Keys Battlefield from a gentleman identifying himself as the owner of the property on which the marker stands.  It reads:

Can you possibly help me?? I am trying to find who actually owns this marker.

To date; I can not find who actually owns…

The marker is presently on my private property and believe this is the third relocation… The marker was relocated there approx 2000 (?) due to Soil Type and where the marker was placed, the marker is settling resulting in ponding which makes for unsafe conditions for visitation as well as the potential damage due to freeze–thraw and/or heaving. We would like to correct this situation, but do not dare without contact and a letter of approval by owner…

We have had No Luck in finding Ownership of the marker.  Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated!

I’ve edited out the individual’s contact information for privacy at this point, but can supply to parties who might answer questions about ownership.  If you have any information on the marker, its ownership, or wish to assist, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

My fellow Marker Hunter Bernie Fisher, who has researched the “Freeman Markers,” did some background research on this marker.  While in the style of the Richmond area Freeman markers, the Cross Keys and similar markers placed outside the Richmond area were placed through cooperative efforts of the Battlefield Markers Association (Western Division), Daughters of the Confederacy, United Confederate Veterans, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Memorial Association, starting in the 1920s.  So while looking like “Freeman Markers” these are not legitimately of that series.  That’s why at HMDB we identify the Battlefield Markers Association’s work separate from the Freeman Markers.   They might look similar, but have different origins.

But who owns them now?

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) identifies this as a privately erected and maintained marker, not managed under the same rules as the Virginia highway marker system (the silver and black mono-pole type).  While in some cases, the markers have come under the jurisdiction of the state, that is not a general rule.  Just because the marker stands next to the highway does not mean it belongs to VDOT.

I’m certain in the long run one of several organizations will step forward to aid in any maintenance required.  But again, if anyone wishes to reach the gentleman making the inquiry, I would be happy to facilitate.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of April 19

This week twenty new additions to the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database to discuss.  Good weather offers opportunities to get out and “hunt” markers, but translates into less fingers-on-keyboard time.  But I won’t complain too much!  This week we have entries from Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia:

– Three markers in Jacksonville, Alabama this week’s crop.  General P.G.T. Beauregard maintained a headquarters in the town while coordinating support for General Hood’s failed Middle Tennessee Campaign of 1864.    Thomas A. Walker, politician and general in the state militia, hailed from the town.  But the town is famous for another resident – Major John Pelham.

– Three memorials from Connecticut this week.  The Barkhamstead, Connecticut Soldiers Memorial lists, and this is a long one, the city’s veterans from many wars.  New Hartford, Connecticut boasts a memorial listing Civil War veterans by unit.  And I swear the same soldier is standing on top of the Winchester, Connecticut Soldiers Memorial.

– Two state markers from Marietta, Georgia.  One indicates the location of the battle lines on June 22-27, 1864, as the armies faced off along the Kennesaw Line.  Another points out the burial site of Confederates killed in a September 1863 train accident.

Old Mt. Zion Church, outside Atlanta, Georgia, stood witness to skirmishing during the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

– A memorial in Pontiac, Illinois honors the Livingston County war veterans.  And is that the same soldier from Connecticut?  Maybe the “model” got around, as we see another, in this week’s entries, from the Oglevie G.A.R. memorial in Columbus Grove, Ohio.

– Schultz’s Battery saw action from Shiloh to Atlanta, and is honored with a memorial in Sidney, Ohio.

Battery Cheves, on James Island, South Carolina, defended the approaches to Charleston during the war.  It was armed with 8-inch Columbiads.

– A marker in Columbia, South Carolina notes the location of a wayside hospital founded in 1862 for Confederate soldiers returning from the front lines.  The marker states 75,000 soldiers received aid at the hospital before it closed in February 1865.

– A marker outside Minor Hill, Tennessee notes the last action of Hood’s Middle Tennessee Campaign fought in the state, occurring the day after Christmas, 1864.

– A memorial in Pulaski, Tennessee honors the “boy hero of the Confederacy” – Sam Davis.

– A state marker in Milam, Texas indicates the town was a supply center for the Confederacy during the war.

– A stone in Richmond, Virginia notes the site of the Crenshaw residence, where General J.E. Johnston was nursed to health after the battle of Seven Pines.

– Two markers, one a Civil War Trails wayside and the other in the state park system, discuss the High Bridge outside Farmville, Virginia.  As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this is a newly opened section of the High Bridge State Park.  I will detail later in a trip report.

Camping Along the James

My aide and I spend this last weekend in the field.  After an early Saturday morning stop at Brandy Station, to assist the start of a battlefield tour, we worked our way through the back roads, and history, of Madison, Albemarle, and Nelson Counties in central Virginia.  That evening we camped out at James River State Park, in Buckingham County.  James River is a relatively new unit in the Virginia State Park system.  Established in 1999, the park boasts 1500 acres including three miles of James River front.  And as one can see from the maps, it is in the middle of nowhere!

I’m a seasoned camper.  But the aide is new to “roughing it.”  So I was a bit concerned about the first camp-out of the season.  We found the campsites well arranged, with plenty of space but enough trees to provide a privacy screen.   And other facilities exceeded expectations.  For a nominal fee, we secured ample firewood for camp cooking and entertainment.  Overall I must rate the camping experience as outstanding. The park offers many miles of trails.

Although none of the sites are of interest from a Civil War perspective (that I know of), the trails offer the opportunity to take in the lush central Virginia landscape, with terrain varied from rolling hills to river-bottom land.   The highlight of our hikes was a stroll along the James, as the aide asked questions.  Unfortunately, I left the camera at camp, otherwise I’d offer some views of the river from the park.

We had a busy Saturday evening.  The park hosted an astronomy sky watch, where the aide was able to view Venus, Mars, and Saturn.  Of course he came back bubbling with more questions than I could answer!  Afterward we settled into our camp chairs and enjoyed roasted marshmallows.

Sunday we toured Appomattox, Sailor’s Creek, Farmville, and several other sites related to Lee’s Retreat.  Certainly many marker entries and material for more blog entries over the next few weeks.  Particularly our last stop of the weekend – High Bridge:

High Bridge

The High Bridge Trail State park, established in December 2006 after a land donation from Norfolk Southern Railroad, features 34 miles of the old railroad right-of-way.  About sixteen miles are open now for foot, bike, and horse traffic.  The “crown jewel” of the park is of course the High Bridge just outside Farmville.  The south end of the bridge, where action occurred on April 6, 1865, is still inaccessible.  But one can appreciate the structure from the north end.

Best of all, the aide has announced a desire for similar forays into the “wild” where he plans more nights taking in the planets and stars, and a few melted marshmallows!