You might recall a couple of 8-inch guns from St. Augustine from earlier in the Confederate Columbiad thread.
The muzzle stamp very clearly identifies this gun as registry number 29.
But you may recall that I took exception to the plaque at the base of the gun mount.
As I said at the time, with a production year of 1861, the gun was certainly not in St. Augustine before the Civil War. Indeed, Federal reports indicate that prior to Florida’s secession the only 8-inch weapons at Fort Marion were old seacoast howitzers, not “proper” columbiads.
But what about during the Civil War? Did the Confederates send this gun, and it’s mate, to St. Augustine? If so, there should some notation of 8-inch Columbiads. Unfortunately, the records of Bellona Foundry are incomplete at best. But there is one invoice dated October 20, 1861 that mentions registry number 29.
The bill records four 8-inch Columbiads numbering 29, 30, 31 and 32 shipped to three different locations on October 21 (see the remarks on the right side). Notations mid-way down indicate, “by direction of Lieut. Col. Gorgas Chief of Ordnance,” the destinations of those four guns:
- One to General John Magruder at Yorktown, Virginia.
- One to General Richard Gatlin at Fort Macon, North Carolina.
- Two to the commander of defenses at Cedar Key, Florida.
Unfortunately the records do not indicate which gun went where. But each of these localities were the site of military action in the winter and spring of 1862. The USS Hatteras raided Cedar Key on January 16. Fort Macon fell to General Ambrose Burnside in April. Yorktown fell after a long, but somewhat cumbersome, siege in early May.
There’s a lot of room for speculation regarding these guns. Photographs from Yorktown show guns very similar to Bellona #29 in the Confederate works.
But look close. Those are wooden carriages. Recall that #29 has short trunnions used on iron carriages. The nearest columbiad in the photo has long trunnions. We might debate the shadows on the trunnions of the second gun, however. As for Fort Macon and Cedar Keys, I have no specific returns of those defenses to work from. So my speculation on those points must end there.
A Federal naval force from the USS Walbash, under Captain C. R. P. Rogers, landed at St. Augustine on March 11. In his report, Rogers stated the Fort Marion contained three 32-pdr guns and two 8-inch seacoast howitzers, along with “a number of very old guns….” (Report of Captain Rodgers, Naval ORs, Series I, Volume 12, page 595-7). Such would exclude presence of the 8-inch Columbiads from the Bellona invoice.
Given the invoice and Captain Rogers’ report, the presence of Bellona #29 as part of the Confederate defenses of St. Augustine is unlikely. And the same can be said for #27 on the other side of the Plaza de la Constitución. The weight of evidence points to the capture of these two guns, perhaps early in 1862. If so, these guns may have arrived in St. Augustine during the war years when Fort Marion was used as a depot. Just as likely the guns arrived after the war for use in memorials. But the documentation rules out active use of the Confederate Columbiads at Fort Marion.
So should someone change the plaques? I say no. Let’s keep this bit of trivia between us as some “insider” factoid. No need to pull the rug from underneath the quaint, nostalgic, undocumented story about these columbiads.