Monthly Archives: July 2011

Barry and the Artillery Organization of the AOP: Part 4, Battery Compositions

Continuing with a look at the initial organization of the artillery supporting the Army of the Potomac.  Last post in this set, I examined the types of guns William Barry preferred.  I’ll turn now to the third point in regard to artillery organization for the army.

Although in his August 1861 plan, Barry did not set a target for the number of guns issued to each battery, in September 1862 his report detailed such:

That each field battery should, if practicable, be composed of six guns, and none to be less than four guns, and in all cases the guns of each battery should be of uniform caliber. (OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, p. 67)

Here Barry made a departure from the Instructions for Field Artillery.  That manual actually specified three types of batteries:

  • 12-pdr Batteries with four 12-pdr (heavy) guns and either two 24-pdr or two 32-pdr howitzers.
  • 12-pdr (Light) Batteries with six 12-pdr “Napoleons.”
  • 6-pdr Batteries with four 6-pdr guns and two 12-pdr howitzers.

The manual worked from an authorization of six guns, with extension to eight allowed.  While the manual didn’t directly address rifled guns, those were issued in lieu of 6-pdrs for the light batteries.

I would give Barry the benefit of the doubt with regard to the battery compositions.  He’d seen the artillery in action at Manassas with a varied lot of guns.

Limiting batteries to a maximum of six guns per battery, offered many benefits both tactically and logistically.  Eight guns, with limbers, caissons, horses, and crews, required a lot of space on the battlefield.  The size of a battery thus made it an inciting target for the enemy.  When avoiding shots over the heads of friendly troops (which is often inevitable), the battery might also present a weak spot to infantry attack. Two or four less guns in the battery (assuming the remainder of those guns were grouped in another battery) presented a smaller footprint without sacrificing firepower.

Logistically, it was difficult enough to keep the ammunition chests of six guns full, much less eight.  Reducing to sizes of four to six eased some of the burden bore at the battery level.  Although arguably at the Army level 300 guns is 300 guns, logistically speaking, regardless of the battery size.  Still this reduced the number of considerations a battery commander or divisional chief of artillery had to juggle.

As for the uniformity of gun caliber, as seen from the previous post, Barry wanted that across the entire Army of the Potomac.  But only by mid-1863 did the army reach a proper level of gun caliber uniformity, with a predominance of  12-pdr Napoleons, 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, and 10-pdr Parrotts.


Barry and the Artillery Organization of the AOP: Part 3, Types of Guns

Continuing with a look at the initial organization of the artillery supporting the Army of the Potomac.  Last post in this set, I examined the desired ratio of guns to infantry.  In August 1861, General William Barry offered a very convoluted description of the types of guns he wanted for the Army of the Potomac:

… Three pieces to 1,000 men – two-thirds guns of which one-fourth are 12-pounders, three-fourths are 6-pounders, and of each which one-half are rifled; one-third howitzers, of which one-eighth are 32-pounders, one-eighth are 24-pounders, and three-fourths are 12-pounders, the whole distributed as follows:

For the infantry, two pieces to 1,000 men – light 12-pounders, Parrott 10-pounders, James 13-pounders, or 6-pounder guns and 12-pounder howitzers, assembled in mounted batteries.

For the cavalry, two pieces to 1,000 men – one-half 6-pounder guns horse artillery and mounted batteries and one-half 12-pounder mounted batteries.

For the reserve, one piece to 1,000 men – one-half 6-pounder horse artillery and mounted batteries and one-half 12-pounder mounted batteries. (OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, p. 580)

This is indeed hard to follow.  If we consider (looking forward to a later post) the allocation of four batteries per infantry division, the target composition was one battery of 12-pdr Napoleons, two batteries with either 6-pdr guns or Parrotts, and one battery of 12-pdr howitzers.  I would also point out that when Barry used the term “mounted” he referred to horse drawn artillery with the crews marching alongside, but not “horse” artillery where the crew rode with the guns.

The ratio of cannon types falls in line with the Instructions for Field Artillery.  That manual called for a mix of artillery split with three-quarters being guns and one-quarter being howitzers.  A quarter of the guns were supposed to be 12-pdrs, with the remainder 6-pdrs (with no provision for rifles in the 1861 manual).  Of the howitzers, likewise a quarter were supposed to be heavy 24- or 32-pdrs, while the remainder were 12-pdr.

But in September 1862 Barry made a different recommendation:

That the proportion of artillery should be restricted to the system of the U.S. Ordnance Department, and of Parrott and the smooth bore (with the exception of a few howitzers for special service) to be exclusively the 12-pounder gun of the model of 1857, variously called the “gun howitzer,” the “light 12-pounder,” or the “Napoleon.” (OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, p. 67)

Clearly by the close of the Peninsula Campaign, Barry had found the 6-pdr guns useless.  And not soon after September, the howitzers “for special service” dropped from the army’s artillery lineup as the 24- and 32-pdrs departed for the fortifications.  A few 12-pdr howitzers remained in the Army of the Potomac, right up to Gettysburg.  But these were the small minority against the large numbers of 12-pdr Napoleons.

Examination of the artillery batteries used through 1862 show that while the artillerists preferred Napoleons and iron rifled guns (Parrotts and Ordnance rifles), they made due with less desirable weapons.  Recalling my notes on Federal cannon production, during the months Barry was chief of artillery for the Army of the Potomac, gun production surged.  From the third quarter of 1861 to the first quarter of 1863, combined output of Napoleons, Parrott 10-pdrs, and 3-inch Ordnance Rifles remained above 100.  The peak was the first quarter of 1862 with 82 Napoleons, 44 Parrotts, and 211 3-inch rifles delivered – the highest quarterly total for field guns in the war.

So with the need realized, Federal gun-makers responded.

Barry and the Artillery Organization of the AOP: Part 2, Ratio of Guns

Discussing the initial organization of the artillery within the Army of the Potomac, I offered an overview of the plan proposed by General William Barry, and approved by General George McClellan.  Again, there are some detail differences between Barry’s reports of August 1861 and September 1862.  One of those, although small, appears in the first detailed point provided by Barry – the ratio of artillery pieces to troops.

In August 1861, Barry feared the poor discipline of the volunteer infantry force. Thus he recommended, “…the artillery, to give them confidence and steadiness, is arranged upon the basis of three pieces to 1,000 men.”  He later predicted that ratio might drop by half as the troops gain in experience.  Thus the number of guns Barry desired for the army at Washington, D.C. was initially around six-hundred, but was willing to lower that figure to three-hundred to support a 200,000-man army.  (OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, p. 580)

But in September 1862, Barry would write, “That the proportion of artillery should be in the ratio of at least two and a half pieces to 1,000 men, to be expanded if possible to three pieces to 1,000 men.” (OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, p. 67)

For comparison, the Instruction for Field Artillery (which recall Barry was a co-author) offered:

The proportion of field artillery to other arms varies generally between the limits of 1 and 4 pieces to 1,000 men, according to the force of the army, the character of the troops of which it is composed, the force and character of the enemy, the nature of the country which is to be the theater of the war, and the character and object of the war. Similar considerations must regulate the selection of the kinds of ordnance, and the proportions of the different kinds.  (Instruction for Field Artillery, 1864 edition, page 3)

I conclude Barry was practicing exactly what he preached with regard to the ratios.  But honestly, I’ve always scratched my head at Barry’s offered ratios.  Based on a 3-to-1,000 ratio, a six-hundred gun artillery park would support a 600,000 man army!  McClellan’s dream!

However that number does seem more to scale if Barry was discussing the proposed number of guns for the entire army, and not just the Army of the Potomac.  I’ve never attempted to estimate the number of guns the Federals needed in the fall of 1861.  I would offer that by my figuring the whole Federal army needed around 950 guns by the fall of 1862 for the major armies, and at least a hundred more by the summer of 1863.   So perhaps 600 guns would be a good start.

Barry’s 1862 report offed some interesting figures comparing the artillery with the Army of the Potomac up to that point.  In July 1861 the “new” Army of the Potomac had thirty guns in nine batteries (imperfectly-equipped batteries as Barry notes).  In March 1862, Barry put the numbers at 520 guns in 92 batteries around Washington.  The Army of the Potomac moved to Fort Monroe in April with 299 guns in 52 batteries.  That increased to 343 guns in 60 batteries by the Seven Days in late June.

Consider that in September 1862 the Federal fought Antietam with 293 guns in 57 batteries (30 guns in another seven batteries were in the area but not engaged), supporting 75,000 troops – a four guns to 1,000 men ratio.   And in July 1863, when many would say the Army of the Potomac was at its peak of efficiency, training, and experience, it fought Gettysburg with 372 guns in 67 batteries, supporting 70,000 troops – over five guns for every 1,000 men.

My conclusion, based on the raw numbers deployed in the later battles, is that Barry’s ratio of three guns per 1,000 “green” troops was too low.

The Artilleryman – Summer 2011 Issue

The summer issue of the Artilleryman magazine arrived in the mail today.   Lots of Civil War scoped articles and information:

  • A report on a 32-pdr British naval gun (identified as a Blakely) recovered from the CSS Alabama and now on display at the H.L. Hunley exhibit in Charleston.
  • Report from the N-SSA’s 123rd National Competition held on May 20-22 this year.  Five cannon and mortar matches pitted forty-nine canon crews and forty-two mortar crews competed.
  • Submitted by my friend Clark “Bud” Hall, three reports from artillerists at the battle of Brandy Station.  Reports from 1st Lieutenant Albert Vincent, Battery B and L, 2nd US Artillery; 1st Lieutenant Samuel Elder, Battery E, 4th US Artillery; and Captain James Robertson, 1st Brigade of the Horse Artillery.
  • Report of the Stephens Light Artillery/Knapps Battery reenactors who field an original Wiard rifle and replica field howitzer.
  • Photo of an original Tredegar 10-pdr Parrott participating in the Fort Sumter sesquicentennial.
  • Gun safety – detailed examination of an accident from the 1970s involving a bronze James rife.  Not just for cannon shooters here.  The article takes into account the composition and bore surface of the gun.  Interesting insight into safe service of the piece.
  • A comparison of Federal and Confederate enlisted men’s duties and uniforms.

Outside of the Civil War scope were a couple of articles of note:

  • Review of artillery appearing at an English medieval festival and a separate military event.  While mostly recreations of ancient artillery, a few Civil War replicas were on hand.  Always interesting to see how “our” war is depicted over there.
  • A trip report of a visit to a historic French Brittany fortification with focus on a 24-pdr gun of the Napoleonic era and a hot shot furnace (or cannon-ball kiln).

Two book reviews in this issue.  The Art of Gunnery (1647) Together with a Treatise of Artificiall Fireworks (1647) by Nathanial Nye is a reprint of a 17th century technical work.  Iowa Civil War Cannons by Dennis C. Bresson provides details of the guns which guard the state’s memorials, courtyards, and cemeteries (sort of wish all states had such guide books). Not reviewed, but mentioned, a hard copy edition of A Treatise on Coast-Defense: Based on the Experience Gained by Offices of the Corps of Engineers in the Army of the Confederate States, by Viktor Ernst Karl Rudolf von Scheliha is now in print (and sure to be a favorite title for charades!).  The editor’s page from Kathryn Jorgensen notes several artillery related news from the past months.

Barry and the Artillery Organization of the AOP: Part 1, Overview

Following the disaster at First Manassas, the Federal Army of Northeastern Virginia fell back to the Washington defenses.  There the army underwent transitions at several levels as the summer burned on.  Three-month regiments cycled out as three-year regiments arrived.  The colors passed to a new commander – George B. McClellan.  And the formation received the name “Army of the Potomac” (AoP).  But this being a blog about artillery and such, let me focus on the transformation of that arm during the initial organization of the AOP.

General William F. Barry

Having served briefly as General Irvin McDowell’s chief of artillery, Major (promoted to Brigadier General in late August) William Farquhar Barry continued service in that capacity for McClellan.  Barry’s resume fit the job.  Before the war, he was among a group of artillery officers pressing for reforms to ordnance and tactics.  Barry co-authored, with Henry Hunt and William French, the Instructions for Field Artillery.  Published as the war began, the manual became THE reference for training the artillery arm as the army expanded.  At the time McClellan took command, Barry was busy establishing an artillery camp of instruction, Camp Berry, outside Washington in Bladensburg, Maryland.  While ultimately, Henry Hunt is the man most often associated with the AoP’s artillery, it was Barry who forged the weapon.

On August 23, 1861, Barry provided his thoughts on the organization of artillery to General McClellan.  He led the report setting the goal:

To insure success, it is of vital importance that the Army of the Potomac should have an overwhelming force of field artillery. (OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, p. 579).

I would submit the vision expressed in that sentence would provide the AoP the means to dominate battles, win campaigns and eventually prevail over the Army of Northern Virginia.   As the report continued, Barry provided a detailed plan for the Army’s artillery organization.

Barry recommended a ratio of three pieces of artillery per 1000 men.  Barry called for a mix of two-thirds guns and one-third howitzers.  Of the guns, Barry wanted 12-pdrs making up one-quarter of the total, with 6-pdrs and rifles constituting the remainder.  Barry wanted mostly 12-pdr howitzers with one-quarter the total comprised of the 24- and 32-pdr howitzers. For infantry support Barry called for light 12-pdrs (Napoleons), 10-pdr Parrotts, James rifles,  6-pdr field guns, and 12-pdr howitzers.  Supporting the cavalry, Barry sought a mix of 6-pdr guns and 12-pdr howitzers.  Lastly, Barry asked for an artillery reserve of 6- and 12-pdr batteries.

While forming the Army of the Potomac, Barry recommended a force upwards of 600 guns.  But he noted as the troops gained experience that number should be reduced to 300 guns to support 200,000 men.  The artillery needed 7000 men and 5000 horses.

Barry’s report covered the manning of Washington’s defenses, then consisting of 78 guns, with another fifty more planned.  The defenses required 1,100 men, which Barry wanted to draw from the volunteers.  He felt all the regular artillery troops should be pressed into the army’s field artillery formations.

Later, Barry improved his “vision” somewhat relating the perfection of the artillery organization in a September 1862 report covering his tenure as the chief of artillery:

  1. A desired ratio of artillery at least 2 1/2 pieces per 1000 men, expanded to three if enough guns were available.
  2. A ratio of one-third rifled and two-thirds smoothbore.  Those guns restricted to the standard ordnance patterns and Parrott designs.   The 12-pdr Model 1857 “Napoleon” was the only desired smoothbore, with the exception of a few howitzers for special service.
  3. Each battery consisting of six guns, although a strength of four accepted.  These guns were uniform caliber.
  4. The field batteries grouped at the divisional level, with four per division.  One regular battery per division also furnished the division’s chief of artillery.  When combined into corps, half the division’s artillery went to the corps reserve.
  5. The army retaining a 100 gun artillery reserve consisting of light batteries, heavy guns, and, until the cavalry was fully organized, all the horse batteries.
  6. On campaign, the army should have 400 rounds per gun.
  7. The army would maintain a 50 gun siege train.
  8. Training and instruction given by the regular army officers using the established instructions.
  9. The Army chief of artillery would inspect all batteries to ensure quality of drill, service, order, and discipline.

On the surface, the differing details between Barry’s August 1861 report and his September 1862 report seem trivial.  But I’d like to explore the details as they do indicate some changes in preferences of artillery.  I’ll serialize those in separate posts, as each deserves focus.

(And with a vacation planned for next week, this will allow me to stage a batch of small posts to cover gaps!)

On to… Wilson’s Creek?

I must admit, from my envious position here within a short drive from many of the Civil War’s major battlefields, my appreciation of what’s happening sequicentennial-wise out in the west and far-west is lacking.  And for the next major 150th event, that’s where eyes should turn.

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield has a short listing of events scheduled for the 150th.  Aside from an anniversary ceremony on August 10, I don’t see any specific events at the park.  However, the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation hosts a 150th reenactment nearby.  A co-sponsor (from what it looks to me), the Missouri Civil War Sesquicentennial committee offers more historical background on their web site.

And since I have your attention on Wilson’s Creek, let me also point out the battlefield foundation continues to work towards a solution for the “General Sweeney Museum.”  A starting point towards a solution, the foundation advocates retaining the collection at Wilson’s Creek for display through the sesquicentennial, and at the same time expanding the facilities to accommodate more of the collection.   (Ahem…. artifacts…. preservation… identity….)

Speaking of which, I probably will work up a few posts over the next weeks about the campaign and battle – particularly about this painting:

"Wilson's Creek" - N.C. Wyeth

A powerful painting that I must say made a grand impression on at least one young mind.

Interesting Comparison: Markers in Nashville and Franklin

Two articles from the Nashville Ledger distracted me briefly from all this talk about Manassas.

The first bemoaned the lack of awareness about Nashville, Tennessee Civil War sites.  When asked, those interviewed cited Murfreesboro or Franklin as the closest Civil War related site. The writer identified part of the problem:

A large part of the problem in encouraging Civil War tourism is that there are no massive, wide-open sites to explore, as there are at Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro and at Historic Franklin’s sites.

However there is a great lack of awareness in Nashville about the city’s Civil War sites:

[Fort] Negley had 10,329 visitors in 2010, up more than a thousand from the year before. By comparison, Stones River Battlefield in Murfreesboro attracts more that 200,000 a year.

The article continues to note several other important sites related to the 1864 battle of Nashville, hospitals, and other wartime activities.  The part that stood out in my reading was the lack of markers or other interpretation.

On the other hand, the successful interpretation for the Civil War sites at Franklin, Tennessee is a contrast:

The most recent figures available show tourism is responsible for $264.5 million in travel-related spending annually in Williamson County. It also accounts for 2,425 jobs and an annual payroll of $48 million.

However authorities were quick to point out not all those visitors and dollars are directly Civil War related tourism.  But the point they make is Civil War tourists are an important segment of that total.

And some of that success is attributed to markers:

“Williamson County has the first marker in the state, placed on the square. We currently have 14. We have more trail markers than any county in the state.”

The county leveraged the Civil War Trails system to help raise awareness and market their sites.

And no, I am not a paid spokesperson for Civil War Trails…. I’m just happy to see new markers that I can put in HMDB!