Monthly Archives: July 2010

Yankee Cannon Production Figures

Some time back I complied a spreadsheet to break-out the pace of Federal cannon production.  It was not a perfectly scientific survey, as I worked off the date of credit on published ordnance returns.  As published sources offer slightly different numbers, I opted to work strictly from those offered in the appendices in The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon, by Edwin Olmstead, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker.  The authors of that work proved a full listing of both heavy and field weapons.

Keep in mind that a gun was generally only “credited” after it had undergone proofing and received acceptance marks.  While not in every single case a consistent reference point, the crediting date is at least a benchmark for metrics.

Consider this subset of data, focused on the three main weapons (the “big three”) used by the Federal armies – 10-pdr Parrotts, 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, and 12-pdr Napoleon Guns.

Federal Field Gun Production

I’ve broken down the “credited” numbers by quarter, for each type, looking at the war years (1861-65).  Several points to ponder.

First, based off the credit dates, Parrott production peaked early and then tapered off to nothing by mid-war.  When production of the 3-inch model started, production figures are practically a “bell curve,” and peaked again at the end of 1864.

The credit numbers for the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles likely are skewed.  With such a high figure credited at the end of 1861 and start of 1862, I wonder if these were production batches held up waiting acceptance trials.  Perhaps the Ordnance Department was not quite sure about wrought iron and held up the official credits.

Credits of the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles slacked in the middle of 1863.  Did the Confederate invasion have any influence on this?  Perhaps contradicting this premise, production again slacked at the end of 1864.  But note the last credits for the rifles came well after Appomattox.

Napoleon credits had two distinct surges.  Numbers reached three figures across 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters of 1862.  After falling off through 1863, credits reached record numbers in the last quarter of that year and remained high in the first quarter of 1864.  While one might like to correlate those numbers to the pace of the war, nothing conclusively matches up.

Napoleon production ceased entirely after the middle of 1864.  Did the army have plenty of Napoleons at that point?

I’d added a column to indicate the quarterly totals for the “big three.”  The raw credit numbers show an early war surge, with that late war “bulge” clearly influenced by Napoleon deliveries over the winter of 1863-4.  And high production of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles in the 2nd quarter of 1864 kept those numbers to three figures.

The furthest right column increments the quarterly figures to show the total number of the “big three” credited and, by assumption, delivered, by that time in the war.  For instance, by the 2rd quarter of 1862, the Ordnance Department had credited 912 of the “big three.”  During the fighting in September 1862, the Federals brought 323 cannons of all types on the Maryland Campaign.  Assuming the 24 batteries in the field at Perryville, Kentucky had six guns each, that added 144 cannons.  Hard to tally complete numbers for the forces along the Mississippi, but I’d guess roughly another 24 or 25 field batteries, and add 160 or so more cannons.  For the three main areas of operation, the Federals needed about 920 to 925 cannons.

So in theory, if the logistic system functioned responsively, and issue was conducted with a minimal amount of bureaucracy, ALL batteries in the field during the important battles of August-October that year would have Parrotts, Ordnance Rifles, or Napoleons.  Of course, that assumes a lot of good effort from the supply system.  It also leaves out the substantial quantities of cannons lost to the Confederates, and thus pointed back at the Federals on those same fields.

Production numbers and the supply system caught up to demand by 1863.  As any student of Gettysburg knows, all but a handful of Federal batteries used the “big three” during that battle.  However, the Army of the Cumberland hauled quite a number of old 6-pdr guns and 12-pdr howitzers into North Georgia later that summer.  Tallies for batteries at Vicksburg and Port Hudson are somewhat skewed due to the use of heavy weapons for siege operations there.

I’d advance the notion that the Federal army needed no more than 1300 field pieces to fill its wartime needs.  By the end of 1862, the northern factories had produced enough “new” weapons to meet that need.  Due to attrition, battlefield losses, and other factors production lines remained open.  But regardless, the Yankee war machine produced enough field cannons to arm its army and for good measure, the opposing side!

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Summer Book Acquisitions

One advantage of a mid-summer birthday is I always have “gift money” to spend around this time.  Always nice to get more “stuff” in the middle of the year to balance out Christmas!   As practice for, the last … oh… I’d say fifteen years, this time my gift money went toward books.

During the winter, I had exhausted my “pack along” books while jumping between metro stops.  So my purchases were influenced by a requirement for smaller paperbacks that would fit in the leftover space in my computer pack.  Thus several offerings from The History Press’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Series caught my attention:

The Battle of Franklin:  When the Devil Had Full Possession of the Earth, by James R. Knight.

The Battle of Brandy Station: North America’s Largest Cavalry Battle, by Eric J. Wittenberg.

The Civil War at Perryville: Battling for the Bluegrass, by Christopher L. Kolakowski.

The Union is Dissolved! Charleston and Fort Sumter in the Civil War, by Douglas W. Bostick.

These four join Rick Simmons’ Defending South Carolina’s Coast, Michael Coker’s The Battle of Port Royal, and Daniel Crooks’ Lee in the Low Country from the series, which I purchased around Christmas this year.  I was quite pleased with the coverage of lesser known topic areas, which are particularly suited to my tastes. The Sesquicentennial Series format fits my “requirement” rather well.  The books are paperbacks, about 8 1/2 by 6 inches, and between 125 and 200 pages.  And the cost per book is below a couple of sawbucks.

As with any series with an array of authors contributing, content and styles vary between the offerings.  Several of the titles lack annotations, with the authors preferring to provide many block quotes, with mention to the source in the text.  But this seems more writing style than publisher preference.  While I have not read it through, Wittenberg’s book on Brandy Station is well documented and supported by detailed maps, as his readers have grown to expect.

But not all my purchases came from that publisher.  Working off several recommendations, I picked up The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 – Volume 1: South Mountain, by Ezra Carmen – the first of a two-volume set edited and annotated by Tom Clemens.  I also have Joseph Pierro’s edited version of the same work, and had used it heavily when working on the Antietam markers some time back.  I’m tempted to lay the two side-by-side for full effect.  From just a cursory read,  I am more appreciative of the notations provided by Clemens.  His publisher, Savas Beatie, opted to use footnotes, thankfully.  Endnotes would probably force the reader to stress the binding, continually looking back and forth!

I am less impressed with So You Think You Know Gettysburg? by James and Suzanne Gindelsperger.  Perhaps, given the other references I have on the shelf, my bar is a bit high with respect to Gettysburg field guides.  This book would be useful for the average stomper.  But I was looking for a reference to add further details to the Gettysburg marker entries, and unfortunately this guide offers little more beyond that of the other references I have.

On the other hand, I am extremely pleased with A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution, by Theodore Savas and J. David Dameron.  As  an “equal opportunity” battlefield stomper, my Revolutionary War field guides are well worn and dated.  For some time Mark Boatner’s Landmarks of the American Revolution (1992), and Craig Symond’s Battlefield Atlas (1986) have filled the role.  Both are good works, but their limits are more apparent every year.  After thirty minutes of reading Savas and Dameron’s guide, I knew I’d found a replacement.  Well organized and supported with plenty of maps, this book is worth double the list price, in my opinion.

As I’ve been exploring more of the old Revolutionary War topics over the last few months (a trip through South Carolina does that for me), I picked up another book in that topic area – With Zeal and with Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783, by Matthew H. Spring.  This work promises a deep look into the way the British Army operated and fought during the war.

Lastly, to satisfy my interests in World War II topics, I picked up a copy of Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, by Steven Zaloga.  No, Civil War fans, this is not about Uncle Billy’s march to Berlin!  Rather a proper examination of the design, refinement, use and misuse of the M4 Sherman tank by the U.S. Army during World War II.  I always like fresh views of supposedly “well mapped” topics.  Zaloga tackles many of our notions of the ineffectiveness of the M4, and American armor in general, during that war.  Perhaps down the line I’ll write-up a full review, offering my two cents on the subject.

That’s why I like having a birthday in July – lots of new “stuff” to brag about!

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HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of July 26

We entered, processed, and published twenty-nine markers in the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database this week.  New entries come from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Here’s the list:

–  A plaque on the Gorgas Library, University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, honors a group of students and local youths who joined the Confederate army in 1864 as Shockly’s Escort Company of Cavalry.

– Outside Jacksonville, Florida a monument stands at the site of Yellow Bluff Fort, a Confederate defense covering Saint Johns River, placed there under orders of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

– North of there, outside Fernandina Beach is Fort Clinch, a third-system masonry fort which was repaired and reconstructed in the 1930s.   At the outbreak of war, Confederates used the military road when seizing the fort.  Union forces also used the road when they reoccupied the fort.

– Union soldiers stayed briefly in the Causey-Maxham House in Austell, Georgia.

– In nearby Marietta, Georgia the Dickson House suffered battle damage from a June 15, 1864 action, and later served as Gen. Hooker’s headquarters.  Around that same time, Gen. O.O. Howard maintained his headquarters at the Wallis House.

– Rounding out the markers from Cobb County Georgia, a state marker near Smyrna references the Hargrove House, which served as headquarters for Gen. Edward McCook’s Cavalry Division.

– Two markers in Roswell, Georgia discuss Union crossings of the Chattahoochie River in mid-July.  Troopers from Garrard’s Cavalry Division, followed by Newton’s Division (Fourth Corps) crossed at Shallow Ford under opposition on July 9-10, 1864.  The Sixteenth Corps followed on the 10th.  The Fifteenth Corps crossed on bridges on the 15th. And finally the remainder of McPherson’s Army completed the crossing on the 17th.

– A state marker in Augusta, Georgia discusses the Confederate Powder Works which supplied the southern forces throughout the war.

– Suches, Georgia was home to Joseph E. Brown, wartime governor of the state.

– A memorial in Hillsdale, Michigan honors those who died in the Sultana disaster.  The 16th Michigan, formed in Hillsdale, lost 75 men when the steamboat sank.

– The reverse side of a marker in Detroit, Michigan notes the service of soldiers from the city’s Jewish community during the war.

– The Passaic County Soldiers and Sailors memorial in Paterson, New Jersey lists war dead from the county.

– The Kovner-Bobys Homestead also known as the Merriman House in Corpus Cristi, Texas was impressed as a hospital during the Civil War.

Camp Ford, outside Tyler, Texas, was a stockade prison.

– A dedication marker in Fredericksburg, Virginia records the creation of Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park, created by Act of Congress in 1927.

– An interpretive marker on the north side of the Rappahannock, near Fredericksburg, notes the 1862-63 winter camp for Birney’s Division, named Camp Pitcher.

Phoebus, Virginia, on the landward side of Fort Monroe, saw considerable traffic, both military and slaves seeking freedom, during the war.

– A Fairfax County marker in Annandale, Virginia discusses a Confederate cavalry raid on a 45th New York position in December 1861.

– Soldiers who passed Virginia’s Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County sounded more like tourists than combatants.   Their comments are related on a Civil War Trails marker at the site.

– The Circle Tour marker for the Battle of Front Royal (May 23, 1862) was recently restored and placed on Guard Hill.  It is now part of the Front Royal tour by Markers.

– A Civil War Trails marker outside Romney, West Virginia discusses a patrol led by Lew Wallace into the town on June 13, 1861, resulting in a brief skirmish.

– Another Civil War Trails marker near Baker, West Virginia notes that a Union column led by General John C. Fremont camped nearby during the Valley Campaign of 1862.  The marker includes a rather terse set of dispatches between President Lincoln and Fremont.

– The Presbyterian Church in Moorefield, West Virginia suffered during the war, perhaps since its members expressed pro-Confederate sentiment.

– A memorial in front of the Tucker County Courthouse in Parsons, West Virginia adds to the set of Corrick’s Ford markers.

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Newtown Battlefield

Back on Memorial day, while visiting the Elmira, New York area, I made a side trip to the Newtown Battlefield State park.  While I’m situated right in the middle of the Eastern Theater of the Civil War, rarely do I get to stomp around on a Revolutionary War battlefield.  So I took full advantage.

The Battle of Newtown, fought on August 29, 1779, was the most important engagement of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign.  Among the Revolutionary War’s largest military efforts, that campaign aimed to remove the threat of Tory and British-allied Native Americans.  Newtown was the largest battle (and for the most part the only true battle) in the campaign.   Space prevents me from discussing the campaign in detail, but I would recommend the interactive maps from the Sullivan-Clinton website for a quick scan.

General John Sullivan left Fort Sullivan (present day Athens, Pennsylvania) on August  26 with around 3,500 men.   His plan was to follow the Chemung River north into the heart of Iroquois territory in the Finger Lakes district.  Tories, commanded by Colonel John Butler, and British-allied Iroquois, led by Joseph Brant,  planned to ambush the Continentals at a wide bend in the river, just north of the present day New York-Pennsylvania state line.  All told around 1,200 Tories, Native Americans, and British regulars manned the line.  The Tory-Iroquois position was formidable, using breastworks and natural features.   A nearby mountain towered over the entire position, and was manned by a group of observers.

Newtown BF Pano

View of Chemung Valley from Newtown Battlefield Park

Although the Tory-Iroquois camouflaged the works, Sullivan’s scouts detected the position thus preventing the trap from springing.  Sullivan drew up a hasty and rather complex plan to deal with the entrenched enemy.  While one force, including light cannon, would confront the breastworks, he detached two brigades to flank the position by moving over the mountain.  Recognizing this move, the Tories and Iroquois attempted to retreat.  However, they ran into the Continentals now moving down the mountain.  In the ensuing fight, the Continentals defeated a determined counter-attack.  Poor timing and communications with his subordinates prevented Sullivan from inflicting a total defeat on his enemy.

But the victory opened up the Chemung Valley and gave Sullivan a clear path ahead.  Casualties on both sides were light, likely under 100 total.  While without a complete victory, Sullivan was free to move forward into the heart of Iroquois lands.  By destroying the settlements, Sullivan drove the Iroquois to the protection of British forts along the great lakes.  The British had to provide supplies and aid to their Iroquois allies, further draining resources.  Beyond the Revolution, many of the Continentals who participated in the campaign later returned to lay claim to the fertile lands they had seen.  This was, perhaps, the longest reaching effect of the victory at Newtown – promoting the westward expansion of American settlements at the expense of the Six Nations.

Today, somewhat remarkably given the passage of time, parts of the battlefield are preserved and well-marked with interpretive signs.  Along present day Onieda Road are markers indicating important points in Sullivan’s advance.  The breastworks held by the Tory-Iroquois force have vanished with time, but the position may be traced by markers.

Atop the mountain where the forces clashed is the Newtown Battlefield State Park, which doubles as an interpretive and living history center.  Prominent in the park is a tall obelisk memorial.

Newtown BF 30 May 10 143

Newtown Battlefield Monument

Battlefield stompers will likely move straight for the overlook deck, from which I took the panoramic view (above).

Newtown BF 30 May 10 150

Newtown Battlefield Overlook

However, the exact spot where the two forces collided on the mountain is lost to time.  While likely on the down hill slopes, the location has never been pinpointed.

My visit occurred at a time when the park gate was closed as part of state-wide budget cuts.  When I arrived, several locals were enjoying a stroll up the hill.  They indicated that while the gate was closed, one could walk up the hill.  So instead of driving up the park road to the summit, I had to walk about a mile and a half up hill.  The weather had not turned unbearably hot, so I took the walk in stride, experiencing more of the hillside than I suspect most visitors do.

I’m somewhat concerned that the site is not more accessible due to the budget constraints.  I read in one of the local papers that the closure caught several tour groups by surprise, with busloads of folks disappointed.  Hopefully the issues will get worked out in the future.   But in consolation, consider that most of the outlying battle related sites are along public roads, with plenty of markers.

For those with an interest, I’ve created a “tour by markers” (map) for the battlefield on the Historical Marker Database.

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Brandy Station Preservation Effort

Many of you have already received the latest letter from the Civil War Preservation Trust regarding Brandy Station.  If not, please take some time to look at the Trust’s Brandy Station 2010 page.

At first glance, I know many will respond, “But they’ve already *saved* Brandy Station, haven’t they?”   Well I would say that while significant, and outright impressive given the circumstances, acquisitions have been made there is still much work to do at Brandy Station.  Cavalry battlefields, which Brandy Station is one of largest, are wide-ranging affairs.  The act of maneuvering large bodies of horse soldiers consumes space.  And to properly study those maneuvers, understand the tactical considerations, and consider the magnitude of the events, preserving just the spot where sabers crossed is not enough.

The two parcels of land targeted by this latest were sites of maneuvers and also some of the bitterest fighting on June 9, 1863.  But beyond that 1863 battle, the Brandy Station witnessed activity throughout the war.  You cannot drop a tin cup without it landing on the footfall of some soldier, north or south, on the campaign trail.

There is one aspect of the 2010 preservation effort that may raise eyebrows.  The Trust is not asking for money to buy land.  Not directly at least.  In this case the donations go toward securing easements on the property.   At first that sounds like a Pyrrhic victory at best.   But first consider that for $67,000, which is a very low price for real estate in that section of Virginia, future development is locked out.  And yes, development is a threat at that location.  The US 15/29 corridor is among the most attractive and fastest growing in the country.

Another way to look at the easement approach is considering the history of battlefield preservation.  Recall during the “Golden Age” of preservation, when the veterans themselves were active to secure the five original National Military Parks, one method chosen was the “Antietam Plan.”  At Antietam, the War Department (proponent for the parks at the time), opted to purchase easements and right-of-ways to facilitate passage of visiting officers and other visitors.  Of course, that is why Antietam’s memorials and markers are “stripped” along the park roads.  Perhaps by intent, or perhaps inadvertently, later generations were able to add larger tracts of land to complete the park we see today.

In the 1890s authorities saw need for single lane roads to facilitate passage throughout the battlefield.  They didn’t consider cell towers, condos, strip malls, and office complexes.  In 2010, we now must consider those things.  Today we talk about line of sight and viewsheds.  Perhaps we could buy all the land around the James Madison Highway to preserve the line of sight, but that would cost far too much and in the end, likely create more friction than the preservation community would like.  On the other hand, historical easements offer a lower cost alternative for battlefield preservation where outright land purchase is not an option.

Please visit the Trust’s web site and consider donating to the Brandy Station 2010 effort.

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HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of July 19

Light work week in the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database this week. Only sixteen additions, ranging from Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin:

– Eighteen California volunteers and one USCT soldier are buried in the old Fort Lowell Cemetery, now on the grounds of Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

– A simple G.A.R. memorial stands in Tombstone, Arizona.

– A veterans memorial in Avon, Connecticut lists, by name, the veterans from the area, including a rather long list of those who served in the Civil War.

– The Bristol, Connecticut Civil War Memorial lists those from the community who died in the war, including the date and place of death.

– Burlington, Connecticut lists it’s Civil War veterans on a memorial shared with the World War I veterans.

– Continuing with the tour of Hartford County, Connecticut by memorials, the Farmington Veterans Memorial, incorporating a set of columns, lists the community’s Civil War veterans.

– The nearby Unionville, Connecticut Civil War Memorial breaks with the trend.  Although three statues guard the statue, no names are listed.

– A state marker at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia notes adjustments to the Confederate line made on June 19, 1864.

– The Georgia Railroad and Banking Company has never failed to pay a dividend, save for 1865.  In that year the railroad carried 100,000 Confederates home after the surrenders in the east, according to the state marker in Augusta, Georgia.

– The Tarver-Maynard House in Washington, Georgia was the college boarding home of Alexander Stephens, later Vice-President of the Confederacy.  Also in Washington,  Holly Court hosted the Davis family during their flight at the close of the war.  (One of these days I’ll collect all the “Davis’ flight” markers for presentation.  The interpretation by markers alone is very confusing, and at times contradictory!)

– The Civil War memorial in Hackettstown, New Jersey was rededicated in 2001 with a stirring poem added.

– In Athens, Pennsylvania, a statue in a rather dramatic pose tops the community’s veterans memorial.

– Curing the war over fifty Confederate soldiers were buried in the Colored Cemetery in Liberty Town, a section of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

– The old Circle Tour marker has been restored at Kernstown, Virginia.

– A stone in Madison, Wisconsin notes the location of the Harvey Hospital, later the Soldiers’ Orphans Home.

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Up Close: 8-inch Model 1861 Siege Howitzer

On the way home yesterday I happened through College Park, Maryland.  As I drove through the University of Maryland Campus, I remembered two Civil War era cannon posted outside Reckord Armory.  So I detoured onto campus to examine the artifacts up close.

College Park 227

8-inch Howitzer - Reckord Armory

These are 8-inch Model 1861 Siege Howitzers detailed in an earlier post.   The howitzer on the left side of the entrance was produced by Cyrus Alger & Company, of Boston, Massachusetts in 1864.  It weighed 2,549 pounds when inspected by Richard Mason Hill (initials R.M.H.) and granted registry number 46.

College Park 237

Cyrus Alger - Registry Number 46

On the right side is registry number 83 from the same manufacturer.  Also received in 1864, it weighed 2,551 pounds.

College Park 231

Cyrus Alger - Registry Number 83

The profile of the guns demonstrates, perhaps to extreme, the 1861 “ordnance department” shape.

College Park 239

Profile of the Model 1861 Siege Howitzer

Perhaps a cut down, fattened version of the familiar 3-inch Ordnance Rifle?    These cannon tubes appear very simple and even whimsical in some ways.  But the shape and form are just one aspect which made this weapon effective in its day.   Every surface presents a curving, smooth line, save the muzzle face, trunnion caps, and rimbases.   The lines were not just for aesthetics, but rather reduced the stress points and potential for casting flaws.

College Park 235

Rimbase and "Scar"

The Model 1861 howitzer featured a chamber improvement over the previous Model 1841 of the same caliber.  Instead of the sub-caliber cylindrical chamber, the Model 1861 used a hemispherical chamber.   As the howitzers have collected quite a bit of debris (and are in need of cleaning), I won’t bore you with a photo of trash this time!

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Breech of Howitzer

Externally the breech of the Model 1861 kept the smooth lines, and ended with a “door knob” profile cascabel.  Sufficiently thick, the neck provided support for tackle when the howitzer was being handled onto a carriage.

College Park 232

Acceptance Mark - "U.S."

Paint over the rimbases has covered the foundry number, if they remain at all.  Besides the muzzle stamps, the only other marking is the “U.S.” acceptance mark over the trunnions.

The third major design change for the Model 1861, not apparent from an external examination, was the use of water-cooled, hollow-casting techniques.  The combination of form, chamber, and construction gave the Model 1861 great strength for its size.  Yet, these were still too heavy for common field use.  The type filled an important niche in the siege batteries used at Petersburg.  However, the two howitzers pictured here were produced late in the production run.  If records are correct, these examples were accepted for issue in the winter months of 1864-5.

Perhaps the howitzers at Reckord Armory offer only a mundane service history.  But they do provide a chance to examine the “ordnance department” shape of 1861 up close.

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

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

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

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