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.