Monthly Archives: October 2010

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of October 11

This week we published forty-two new entries in the Civil War category of the Historical Marker Database.  These are located at Civil War related sites in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

– A marker and a plaque note the birthplace of Major John Pelham outside Anniston, Alabama.

– The First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Alabama served as a Confederate hospital during the war.

– A memorial in Ozark, Alabama honors the Dale County Confederate veterans of the war.

– Several entries from Montgomery, Alabama this week.  Confederate delegates organized the new government in the state capitol.   Jefferson Davis was inaugurated in the capitol building on February 18, 1861.  The inaugural parade passed down Dexter Street while “Dixie” played.  The tune itself was first played in the Montgomery Theater.  Davis returned to Montgomery in 1886 to lay the cornerstone for the state’s Confederate memorial.  Another memorial in the city honors John Allen Wyeth, soldier and surgeon.

– A memorial in Troy, Alabama honors Confederate veterans from Pike County.

– An interpretive marker near McCalla, Alabama discusses the Federal raid which destroyed the Tannehill Ironworks at the end of the war.

– A memorial near Serria Vista, Arizona notes five California volunteers listed as missing, presumed lost in Cochise County.

– On August 31, 1864, Federal troops moved past the Thames House to cut the last railroad into Atlanta, Georgia, thus forcing the city’s evacuation.

– Those troops were heading to the vicinity of Jonesboro, Georgia.  Two markers from this week’s set discuss actions there.  Hardee’s corps held a critical position until forced to withdraw in the evening of September 1, 1864.  S.D. Lee’s corps made a series of marches before finally countermarching to Lovejoy’s Station on September 3.

– Also in Jonesboro, Georgia, at the start of Sherman’s March to the Sea, Federal cavalry fought with Iverson’s Confederate division in November 1864.

– In West Point, Georgia Fort Tyler Cemetery contains the remains of 76 men (of both sides) who died in the siege of the fort in April 1865.  Confederate General Robert Tyler commanded the garrison and was among those who fell in the action.

– The Civil War memorial in Swampscott, Massachusetts lists men from the community who died in the war.

– A state marker in Mechanicsville, New York notes the final resting place of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth.

– A couple of markers in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina discuss Confederate seacoast defense innovations.  The H.L. Hunley operated in Cove Inlet during diving tests.  Off Hog Island, Confederates seeded torpedoes, or mines, to protect a harbor entrance channel.

– General N.B. Forrest captured 250 Federals at Kenton, Tennessee during his December 1862 raid.

– Another skirmish on that raid occurred on December 19, 1862, north of Jackson, Tennessee at Carroll Station.

– Speaking of Forrest, eleven entries discuss the fortifications and wartime actions, particularly the April 12, 1864 battle, at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.  Readers certainly recall the infamous massacre of U.S. Colored Troops at the fort.  Few realize that famous author Alex Haley grew up only miles away, making Henning, Tennessee a fine example of the crossroads of our history.

– Outside Warrenton, Virginia a recently repaired state marker discusses the Second Manassas Campaign.  The marker notes the Confederate moves over the Rappahannock River.

– A addition to the Cedar Creek battlefield in Middleton, Virginia.  The marker discusses the holding action at Middleton Cemetery during the battle.

– A marker in Falmouth, Virginia interprets a wartime photo of the 2nd US Sharpshooters, identifying the men and their weapons.  The marker stands outside the John O’Bannon House.

– A marker for Greenland Gap near Maysville, West Virginia notes actions there during the Jones-Imboden Raid of 1863.

Francis Pierpont and his wife are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Fairmont, West Virginia.  As governor of the “restored government of Virginia” Pierpont is known as the “Father of West Virginia.”

– Troops from both sides attended religious services in the Claysville Methodist Church, which stands in New Creek, West Virginia.

Charting a More Perfect Union

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) now offers many Civil War era maps, charts, and notes on-line as part of an exhibit titled “Charting a More Perfect Union.”  For those studying coastal and ravine operations in the war, these resources are a gold mine.

Established in 1807, US Coastal Survey, one of NOAA’s predecessors, had the responsibility of charting navigation routes and defining boundaries along the nation’s coast.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, the knowledge of the coastal waterways became an important planning factor for military operations – be they blockading or offensive landings.  NOAA’s Civil War site offers many primary documents to illustrate the Coastal Survey’s work during the war years.  Informational pages further interpret the the sources, including a short biography of Alexander Dallas Bache, superintendent of the Coastal Survey during the war years.

With this collection, NOAA offers both an organizational history with the valuable primary resources.  Not are the maps and charts presented for reference, but also the story behind the Survey’s operation and to some extent how the maps and charts were created.  Bache’s annual summary reports detail the Survey’s operations and activities.  This is an important angle to consider.  Often researchers will view a period map and assume the survey team derived the depiction after standing on or viewing the ground.  That is not always the case.  While “authentic” not all period maps are “accurate.” In the case of the Survey’s work, Bache explains where and when teams checked bouys, made soundings, and charted channels.

One fine point of order here, however.  Maps are not charts and charts are not maps.  Sort of look the same, both being depictions of the earth’s surface features.  NOAA has a very good explanation of the two tools.

NOAA’s search system is intuitive for anyone familiar with web-based search tools and well tagged.  Returns appear in easy to read arrays.  But pay attention to the “Year” column, as the returns do not automatically filter to just “Civil War” collections.  You may be looking at a more recent survey map than expected.

NOAA offers the historical maps within a Flash based viewer.   For download artifacts are in SID or JPG format.   I found the maps in the Flash viewer easy to navigate.  But the jump screen is in the way of those looking to use portions of the map as illustrations (like here on the blog).  The SID format offers the highest quality, but requires a browser plug-in (see LizardTech’s site).  The JPG format is easy for most to download and view, but of less quality.

Another consideration, while JPGs may be directly imbedded in most html based editors, SIDs cannot.  But the raw JPGs require additional editing and handling before really useful to illustrate a point (such as indicating where the wartime waterways ran in a particular area).

Savannah River Entrance 1851

Yes, in the “overview” this appears more a set of “dots” on the wall.  If you click on the image, depending on the zoom tools in your browser, the fine details appear.   On the lower left and right are navigation notes.   Lots of rich, fine details that I like to wade through!

8-inch Parrott Rifle, Part 1

The next larger Parrott rifle to discuss is the 8-inch model.  As related on the table presented before, the Army and Navy had different designations for the weapon (bottom of the third data column from the left).

The Army rated the gun based on the weight of the long projectile preferred for land use.  The Navy preferred a shorter, lighter projectile to achieve higher velocities at short range.  Hence the different “pounder” designation.  To avoid confusion, I prefer to use the identification based on the bore diameter – 8-inch Parrott.  Not only a nice round number, the 8-inch diameter matched to the 64-pdr smoothbore gauge (although Americans seldom used that designation).

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8-inch Parrott Rifle - Fort Moultrie, S.C.

If you have followed the discussion of smaller Parrotts, no surprises here.  The 8-inch Parrott used the same form, which generally followed the “ordnance shape.”

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Breech Band of 8-inch Parrott

The distinctive Parrott breech band was 34 inches long and 4 inches thick.  A socket for the rear sight was on the upper right of the breech.

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Right Trunnion - 8-inch Parrott

Trunnion dimensions on the 8-inch Parrott were similar to 10-inch Columbiads and Rodman guns (and for what it is worth the 10-inch Parrotts also).  Thus the 8-inch Parrott used similar carriages.  The right trunnion rimbase supported a  mount for a blade sight.

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Bore of 8-inch Parrott

Eleven groove rifling increased in pitch from zero at the breech out to 1-in-23 feet at the muzzle.

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Muzzle Markings on 8-inch Parrott

The Muzzle markings conformed to standard Ordnance Department practice.  In this case, working clockwise from the twelve o’clock around clockwise, this gun was produced in 1864; by West Point Foundry (W.P.F.); is an “8 IN” gun; inspected by Richard Mason Hill (R.H.M.); weighed 16,487 pounds; and is registry number 56.

Yes, the 8-inch Parrott weighed nearly three and a half tons more than the smaller 6.4-inch.

West Point Foundry produced 91 of the 8-inch Parrotts for the Army and 87 for the Navy between March 1862 and July 1865.   After 1863 orders specified the use of hollow casting and water cooling production techniques.   As with the 6.4-inch Parrotts, the Army used the 8-inch rifles in seacoast forts and for siege operations, particularly around Charleston.  The Navy used the 8-inch Parrotts on pivot mounts or in monitor turrets.

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8-inch Parrott at Fort Sumter

Of those produced, only eight Army examples survive today.  A battered registry number 58 sits on display at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.   Another is on display at Trenton, New Jersey.

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The Swamp Angel in Cadwalader Park, Trenton, N.J.

Missing its band, this gun is the most famous single artillery piece of the Civil War – the “Swamp Angel.”  In a later post I will detail that weapon’s employment outside Charleston.  Before that, let me first detail some other features and discuss the use of the 8-inch Parrotts.


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

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.