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.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of November 22

Additions to the Civil War category number forty-eight this week.  Entries from Georgia, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin:

– At Davidson, Georgia a state marker indicates parts of the Federal 14th Corps used Fenn’s Bridge on November 27, 1864.

– Another stop on the march through Georgia, General Sherman established his headquarters at the impressive Jones Plantation, near Millen, on December 1, 1864.

–  Near Woodland, Georgia, Wilson’s Raiders made their crossing of the Flint River at Double Bridges on April 18-19, 1865.

– A memorial near Hillsboro, New Mexico pays tribute to James McNally, who was wounded in battle of Valverde in 1862.  McNally was later awarded the Medal of Honor for actions as a scout post war.

– A marker near Deming, New Mexico relates the story of Cathay Williams, who was born a slave, served as a cook during the Civil War, and later posed as a man to serve in the post-war army.

– Markers around Las Cruces, New Mexico follow the battles of Mesilla and San Agustin Springs fought in July 1861.  Both victories by Lieutenant Colonel John Robert Baylor that led to the creation of the Confederate territory of Arizona.

– In Troy, New York, memorials stand near the graves of Generals John Ellis Wool and Joseph Bradford Carr.

– Three additions from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina discussing Civil War activities.  A state marker points out Confederate earthworks, portions of which remain today, which were part of the extensive defenses of Charleston.  The H.L. Hunley crew stayed at Ronkin’s Long Room on Ferry Street before their historic sortie.  The Whilden House on Bennett Street served as headquarters for the 54th Massachusetts after the fall of Charleston in February 1865.

– In Darlington, South Carolina, a state marker notes a failed attempt by Federals to ambush a train in March 1865.   Also in Darlington, Federals spared the home of Samuel Wilds, organizer of “Wild’s Rifles” (Company B, 21st South Carolina Infantry).  Dr. Peter Wilson, who lived at nearby Wilson Crossroads, served as a Confederate surgeon during the war.  Henry “Dad” Brown, a freed black, served in three wars, including time as the drummer in Confederate service.

– In nearby Springville, South Carolina lived John L. Hart, one of “Wild’s Rifles.”  Hart fell at Drewry’s Bluff in May 1864.

– Federals used the Jacob Kelley House near Hartsville, South Carolina on March 2-3, 1865 as they passed through the state.

– Organizer of a battalion of artillery, James J. Lucas lived in Japonica Hall, in Society Hill, South Carolina.

– A state marker near Florence, South Carolina notes the home of Moses Haynsworth, a Confederate veteran.

– After crossing the Pee Dee River in March 1865, Sherman’s Army spent time on a campsite near Wallace, South Carolina which had earlier been used by General Nathanael Greene during the Revolutionary War.

– Federals occupied the Jennings-Brown House and Magnolia in Bennettsville, South Carolina during their 1865 tour of the state.

– Some additions to the battlefield of Shiloh, Tennessee this week, with tablets for the 12th Michigan, 18th Missouri, and Shaver’s Brigade along with monuments for the 8th Iowa and 5th Ohio Light Artillery.

– A baker’s dozen additions to the Fort Donelson set.  This week’s batch includes the Texas monument on the battlefield.  More on the way next week.

– Another of the familiar red granite Texas monument is at Anthony, Texas near El Paso.   This monument notes the state’s men serving in the Arizona-New Mexico Campaign.

– A memorial in El Paso, Texas honors nine men who died in the war.  Seven of those named were employees of the Butterfield Stage Company and died while attempting to join Federal forces early in the war.  Two Confederate Colonels named on the memorial died while leading cavalry regiments during the war.

– Other entries in El Paso note the work of Major Simeon Hart and Captain James W. Magoffin who coordinated the movement of supplies and cotton across the Mexican border.

– A marker in Portsmouth, Virginia recalls the scuttling of the CSS Virginia at Craney Island in May 1862.

– A memorial in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin recalls “Old Abe,” the eagle who accompanied the 8th Wisconsin during the war.

– In Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Lovell GAR Post memorial stands in Green Ridge Cemetery.

Review: A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution

A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution, by Theodore P. Savas and J. David Dameron (New York: Savis Beatie, 2010. Paperback, 345 pages main text, 60 pages of preface and reference, 7 page appendix, 8 page index.  $19.95.

The writers of Battles of the American Revolution approached the Revolutionary War with the aim to catalog the battles of the war.  Unlike other familiar references, which break down the landmarks by states or alphabetically, Battles of the American Revolution presents the battles chronologically. The authors detail every major, and many minor, actions in the war providing what amounts to a standalone article for each.  And the authors did not restrict themselves to battles within the thirteen original colonies.  Ample space is allocated to the battles in Canada.  Naval actions in Europe and the Caribbean receive their due.  As do campaigns in the Mississippi valley, including Spanish operations.

Each of these battle articles begins with a header providing the basic facts: date, region, commanders, time of day, weather conditions, and description of opposing forces.  Those particulars set, the authors present the perspective of each side – operational and strategic objectives; situational awareness; issues and difficulties encountered; and general perception of the commanders.  In short, explaining what lead to the battle.  The authors spend a paragraph or two detailing the terrain on the field.  Then they offer a summary of the action, which varies with the size and complexity of the battle.  Often each battle article includes its own map illustrating the tactical operations.  Each article concludes with a notation of the casualties, summary of the outcome and impact of the battle, and suggestions for further reading.  The authors also offer a paragraph describing the battle site today, if there is anything worth stomping about for.  I found these articles well written and packed with detail considering the space.

In addition to these battle articles, the book offers about sixty pages of additional reference material.  The first few pages are dedicated to theater maps, portraits of principal leaders, and general overview.  However six pages are allocated to a discussion of the naval aspects of the war, including a list of vessels in the Continental Navy.

Furthermore, in this ample introductory section, the authors list the regiments in the British, American, French, and Spanish formations that saw action in the war.  This includes British regular, loyalist, Hessian, Continental line, militia, French and Spanish regiments.  The regimental entries briefly note campaign participation.  This reference section is most handy.  Consider that while most battlefield “stompers” might list the regiments of the famous “Iron” or “Stonewall” brigades by heart, few of those visiting a Revolutionary War battlefield will recall the battle honors of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers), 1st Rhode Island, 1st North Carolina, or the Maryland regiments.

This combination of reference material and battle articles makes the book rather useful out in the “field.”   Other Rev-War books in my field kit are well-worn and somewhat dated.  Symond’s Battlefield Atlas dates to the 1980s.  Boatner’s Landmarks of the American Revolution, originally published near the bicentennial, was last updated in the 1990s (and suffers from its share of hits and misses).  So Battles of the American Revolution is a welcome refresh in the category.

Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to “stomp” the Brandywine battlefield with this book in hand.  Enough space exists on that field for a visitor to make sense of the battle, and I found the map and narrative from the book an important reference on my visit.  I look forward to other trips, particularly revisiting the battlefields in the Carolinas, with this new reference offering additional perspectives.  The paperback fits well in a travel bag, and will not be dead-weight on the trail.  I recommend Battles of the American Revolution for those with an interest in that war or who are planning trips to the battlefields.

8-inch Parrott Rifles – Army Coast/River Defense Use

Having looked at the Navy’s use of 8-inch Parrotts, it is time I turned to the Army’s use of the type.   Like the Navy, the Army purchased these heavy Parrott rifles with Confederate ironclads and fortifications in mind.  Unlike the 6.4-inch Parrott, the Army did not employ the 8-inch in a “garrison” role to counter potential siege activity.

The anti-ship role in mind, the Army placed a few 8-inch Parrotts in the Washington defenses.   Wartime photographs show an 8-inch rifle next to a 15-inch Rodman smoothbore.

[Alexandria Va.  Battery Rodgers at Hunting Creek and the Potomac; 8-in. Parrott gun in foreground; a Rodman gun beyond] Date: c. 1860

Battery Rodgers - 8-inch Parrott and 15-inch Rodman

The view offers a good comparison of the types, and the two primary carriage types used.  This particular Parrott used a front pintle barbette carriage, while the Rodman used a center pivot.   Battery Rodgers included five 8-inch Parrotts.  Across the River at Fort Foote, two more 8-inch Parrotts, along with another 15-inch Rodman, sealed the river approaches to the capital. [Note 1]   A never called upon defense.


Another Army use of the 8-inch Parrott in the river defenses was at Plymouth, North Carolina.  With the threat of the CSS Albemarle operating on the Roanoke River, an 8-inch and a 6.4-inch Parrott.  However, neither gun could deal with the Confederate ram on April 19, 1864. [Note 2]    With the surrender of the garrison at Plymouth on April 20, Confederates came into possession of both heavy Parrotts.   As mentioned before, based on Federal reports, the 6.4-inch rifle went to Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  But the Confederate Navy received the 8-inch Parrott.  Federal reports mention a “200-pounder” rifle used in the Confederate defenses along the James River, specifically Howlett’s Battery.[Note 3]

Of course, the Army used the 8-inch Parrott in other defensive positions during the war.  But except the action at Plymouth, rarely (if ever) were these fired in anger.   Engineers requested 8-inch rifles to arm the forts along the Pacific coast during the war.  Although in May 1864, the chief engineer in the Department of the Pacific reiterated a request for heavy ordnance including “200-pounder Parrotts” for San Francisco and the Columbia River.[Note 4]

The 8-inch rifle remained on the Army’s inventory well into the post war era.  Two examples displayed today in the Charleston, South Carolina area, along with two at Fort Gaines, Alabama, likely owe their survival to use at those forts after the war.

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 277

Muzzle of 8-inch Parrott No. 58 at Fort Sumter

Even counting the post-war service, the 8-inch rifles used to defend America’s shores was a mundane service life at best.  From the standpoint of a Civil War historian, those used in siege operations against Richmond and Charleston offer the more interesting stories.  I shall turn to those stories in future installments.



1. Benjamin Franklin Cooling III and Walton H. Owen II, Mr. Lincoln’s Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2010) pp. 52-54, 244-245.

2. OR, Series I, Volume 33, Serial 60.  See correspondence from Major General John Peck, dated March 20, 1864, p. 707.  Report of General Peck on the Battle of Plymouth, dated April 25, 1864, p. 293.  Report of Brigadier General Henry Wessells, dated April 17, 1864, p. 298.

3.  OR, Series I, Volume 36, Serial 69, Confederate War Department Special Orders No. 132, p. 879.  OR. Series I, Volume 40, Part 3, Serial 82, Report dated July 5, 1864, p. 21.  Naval OR, Series I, Volume 14, Report of Commander Colhoun, U.S.S. Saugus, dated December 6, 1864, p. 146.

4.  OR, Series I, Volume 50, Part II, Serial 106, Correspondence from General Richard Delafield dated May 26, 1865, p. 1242.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of November 15

New entries from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  All told 45 additions:

– More entries from Selma, Alabama this week detailing that city’s history with mention of Civil War events.  The Smitherman Building was used for Masonic functions until impressed as a hospital by Confederates.  Senators and Confederate generals Edmund Pettus and John Tyler Morgan hailed from Selma.  The two were buried in Live Oak Cemetery, were William Hardee and Catesby ap Roger Jones are also buried.

– Volunteers from Pinson, Alabama went to war as the Jefferson Warriors.  The nearby Mount Pinson Ironworks provided horseshoes to the Confederate army.

– Most in Athens, Alabama voted for Douglas in the 1860 election.  Federals first occupied the town in May 1862, destroying many of the buildings.

– Federal troops established Fort Bowie, Arizona in 1862 to protect supply lines.  Later the fort became a staging area for troops operating against the Apache.

– On November 27, 1864, some of Sherman’s troops marching through Georgia neared the cross roads near modern day Grange, Georgia.  There they rounded up all the local horses and mules, drafted usable animals, and killed the rest.

– From Baxter Springs, Kansas, more markers this week covering the battle of Baxter Springs, considered a massacre in some accounts.   At nearby Fort Blair, Federals successfully fended off Quantrill’s attack.  Bodies from the massacre were buried nearby initially, until relocated to a national cemetery post-war.

– A marker in Lawrence, Kansas notes the location where abolitionist John Speer established a farm during the continuous pre-war years.

– A state marker near New Concord, Kentucky notes the location of Fort Heiman, initially built by Confederates to aid the defense of the Tennessee River opposite Fort Henry.  The site is now a unit in the Fort Donelson National Battlefield.

– A memorial in South Berwick, Maine honors that locality’s war veterans.

– The soldier’s memorial fountain in Poughkeepsie, New York was dedicated to those who fell in the war.

– A Civil War Trails marker in Durham, North Carolina notes the American Tobacco Company has its origin in the days at the end of the Civil War.

– Another Gettysburg hospital marker this week – the Hummelbaugh Farm.

– Near Appleton, Tennessee, a Civil War Trails marker notes the fighting withdrawal of the Army of Tennessee over the Tennessee River in the aftermath of Hood’s failed 1864 campaign.

– Confederates used Camp Smartt, outside McMinnville, Tennessee as a staging and training post.

– Fourteen additions round out the Stones River Battlefield, which now has it’s “Battlefield by Markers” page.

Four entries to start my set for Fort Donelson, Tennessee.   More to come in the weeks ahead.

– A Civil War Trails marker near Chesapeake, Virginia discusses the wartime activity along Dismal Swamp Canal.

– A new marker near Woodbridge, Virginia discusses the December 1862 cavalry movements around Selecman’s (or Snyder’s) Ford.

– A marker in Princeton, West Virginia introduces the battle of Pigeon’s Roost, fought May 17, 1862.  The McNutt House in Princeton is the only surviving ante-bellum home in the community.

– A memorial in Wyocena, Wisconsin honors men from the community killed in the war who lay in unknown graves.