Monthly Archives: November 2010

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of November 29

A lot of additions this week, but weighted towards a few battlefields – Shiloh, Fort Donelson, Chattanooga, and Pilot Knob.  Ninety-six new entries from Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. (Yes, Virginia, there is no Virginia this week.)

– Confederate Captain Catesby ap Roger Jones lived in the Mabry-Jones Home in Selma, Alabama after the war.

– The Stamford, Connecticut veterans memorial lists the area’s World War I veterans but mentions the Civil War campaigns that members of the community served in.

– Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan twice burned the Bacon Creek Bridge outside Bonnieville, Kentucky.  The first action, in December 1861, brought the raider to prominence.

– A marker in Alexandria, Louisiana notes the city served as the Confederate Trans-Mississippi headquarters in 1863.  During a brief Federal occupation in May that year, troops burned several buildings including the library.  After the war, a grant from Andrew Carnegie helped rebuild the facility.

Five entries provide partial coverage of the battle of Pilot Knob.  Fought in September 1864, this southeast Missouri battle centered on control of Fort Davidson a Federal outpost in the Ozark Mountains.

La Mesilla, located in modern-day Las Cruces, New Mexico, served as capital of the Confederate territory of Arizona.

– A marker in Society Hill, South Carolina notes the home of Caleb Coker, local industrialist and civic leader who served as a Confederate officer during the war.

– Three entries from the Chattanooga, Tennessee battlefield – The 121st Ohio Infantry, 124th Ohio Infantry, and the marker for the right flank of Wood’s Division on the charge up Missionary Ridge.  All located in the Ohio Reservation.

Fifty-eight additions to our collection covering the Shiloh battlefield.  Most of these entries are from the Sunken Road-Hornet’s Nest sector and along Cavalry Road in the park.  More from Shiloh next week.

Fifteen additions to the Fort Donelson set this week.  Look for the completed tour by markers next week.

El Paso, Texas holds the honor as the area occupied longest by Federal forces during the Civil War.  The marker does not detail the occupation, but presumably references the early war activities in the state.

– Several entries from Milwaukee, Wisconsin this week.  A memorial in Wood National Cemetery honors the veterans buried there.  The Milwaukee Soldiers Home was one of three original facilities established for disabled veterans of the war.  Other entries from the city include a memorial to Abraham Lincoln and a plaque recalling the Gettysburg Address.

Cross Posting: Tactical Radios – Past, Present, Future

Over the last few days, I’ve taken a bit of a break from Civil War topics.  A recent news article inspired me to dive into a subject near and dear to my Army experience – tactical communications.  Not the kind of stuff that fits in with a Civil War blog.  You folks would be bored, and I’d wander far off topic.

XBradTC (translation for those 19th century minds – former M2 Bradley track commander) over at Bring the Heat was kind enough to offer space for a series of posts.  I plan to trace the evolution of the US Army’s tactical radio equipment and doctrine from World War II up to the present.  If you are interested, please check them out.  The first went live today.  Next up is a look at the World War II radios and combat networks.

UPDATE:  Part two covers World War II radios.

Part three covers post-Korean War and early Cold War.

Part four looks at the transition to solid-state radios before the Vietnam War.

Part five discusses the AN/PRC-25 backpack radio in detail.

Part six looks at tactical communications in Vietnam.

Part seven discusses the pressures and requirements on communications systems after Vietnam.

Part eight introduces the SINCGARS digital radios of the 1990s with a look at the first two generations of that system.

Part nine concludes the discussion of SINCGARS with emphasis on the data networks the later generations of that system would support.

Part ten is my observations of 70 years of tactical radio evolution and some thoughts about the future.

8-inch Parrott Rifles – Siege of Yorktown

The first combat use of the 8-inch Parrott Rifle came during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862.   When Major General George B. McClellan encountered Confederate defenses around Yorktown, he called upon his artillerists and engineers to breach those lines with a formal siege.   Among the weapons deployed were two 8-inch Parrott rifles.  In this operation the big Parrott rifles actually served two purposes – drive off enemy shipping and reduce the fortifications.

Yorktown Siege Battery No. 1 with 6.4-inch and 8-inch Parrotts

Located near the Farinholt House, at the junction of Wormley’s Creek and the York River, Battery No. 1 initially contained five 6.4-inch (cited as 100-pdrs in the records) and one 8-inch Parrott (cited as a 200-pdr).   Work began on the siege batteries in mid-April 1862.   The battery, as depicted in the wartime sketch above, used front pintle barbette iron carriages.   In the center of view of the photo below, in front of the mortars, soldiers lounged on four such carriages.

View of Yorktown, Virginia. May 1862

Depot and Landing - Yorktown - May 1862

Work details completed the battery well before the guns arrived.   On April 28, Brigadier General John Barnard, chief engineer, ordered the layout of the battery extended to allow mounting a second 8-inch rifle.   Brigadier General William Barry, chief of artillery, reported the first 8-inch rifle mounted on April 29.   Major Alexander Doull, 2nd New York Artillery and ordnance officer for the siege train, oversaw the mounting of the 8-inch Parrott.  Crews moved the big gun to the battery by boat, then rolled it on a skid up to the position.  However, neither Barry or Barnard mentioned mounting the second 8-inch rifle.  Likely the second of these big rifles was not in place before the Confederates evacuated Yorktown.

Yorktown Siege Lines (Click to Enlarge. Note Battery No. 1 in the lower right center)

From Battery No. 1, the range to the Confederate batteries was 3,800 yards.  Range to Yorktown was 4,000 yards.  The wharf at Yorktown was 4,800 yards distant.  And Gloucester Point across the York River was 5,000 yards from Battery No. 1.  Thus the heavy Parrotts occupied a position to best take advantage of their great range.

The lone 8-inch rifle along with five 6.4-inch Parrotts in Battery No. 1 opened fire on April 30 against Confederate supply vessels at the Yorktown wharves.  In the action, the 8-inch fired five bolts.  Although limited in number the effect was to drive off the ships.  Barry wrote, “Battery No. 1 gives us complete control of the enemy’s water batteries, wharves, and Gloucester.”   Over the next two days, the big Parrotts continued to fire on Confederate shipping, although fog reduced their effectiveness.  On May 3, the crews of the big Parrotts turned their attention to the Confederate bastions and water battery.   The guns were ready the following day, but the Confederates had evacuated during the night.

Battery No. 1 showing five of the Parrotts

A stereo-view of from the opposite end of this line appears in another photo in the Library of Congress collection.

Barry praised the 6.4- and 8-inch Parrotts in his report.  “The ease with which the 100 and 200-pounders of this battery were worked, the extraordinary accuracy of their fire, and the since-ascertained effects produced upon the enemy by it force upon me the conviction that the fire of the guns of similar caliber and power in the other batteries at much shorter ranges, combined with the cross vertical of the 13 and 10-inch sea-coast mortars, would have compelled the enemy to surrender or abandon his works within twelve hours.

However Major Doull noted that the wrought-iron carriages used could not sustain extended firing at high angles.  He felt the best option was the use of a low carriage as designed by Robert Parrott himself for the gun.   As ordnance officer, Doull also noted the siege batteries required over 17,000 projectiles and powder – all told 726 wagon loads.  Such was just a small part of the massive logistic “tail” required to support a siege operation during the Civil War.

With regard to the guns themselves, consider Captain Stephen Vincent Benet placed the order for the first 8-inch Parrott on March 24, 1862.  Robert Parrott himself proofed the first of the type on April 5.   Records indicate Parrott proofed the second of the type on May 7, although it was credited on April 24.  If such tallies are correct, then the 8-inch rifle used at Battery No. 1 was registry number 1.  And likely the second 8-inch intended for the battery did not arrive until the siege had ended.

Barry’s observations, taken with the experience at Fort Pulaski (April 10-11), promoted the notion that the big rifled guns could effectively and quickly reduce fortifications.  But later events would prove the assessment of the rifles a bit inflated.  The failed reduction of Fort Sumter from 1863 through 1864 demonstrated the limitations of rifled artillery in the black-powder, muzzle-loading era.



From the Official Records, Series I, Volume 2, Part 1, Serial 12:

Report of Brig. Gen. John G. Barnard, U.S. Army, Chief Engineer Army of the Potomac, of operations during the siege.  May 6, 1862.  Pages 316-337.

Reports of Brig. Gen. William F. Barry, U.S. Army, Chief of Artillery Army of the Potomac, of the siege.  May 5, 1862.  Pages 338-350.

Report of Maj. Alexander Doull, Second New York Artillery, Ordnance Officer of Siege Train, of the siege.  Pages 354-358.

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.  Appendix C122, page 241, provides details of the 8-inch Parrott order, proof, and credit dates.