Monthly Archives: April 2012

Lines and Angles: Bomardment of Fort Jackson

Among the primary sources for the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip are several maps drafted to support naval operations. The maps themselves were products of the Coast Survey, working with Army surveys done before the war.  The products of the survey in turn were used for operational planning.  That provides what in my generation of warfighters we’d have called an “overlay,” alluding to days of clear acetate and grease pencil smudges that passed for operational graphics.

Those graphics, at the time of the operation, are a valuable tool for the commander to relate the orders.  A well drawn graphic rises above any ambiguities, perhaps due to misinterpretation of the written word, and places a THERE on the map.  For the historian, the things that are recorded on the map provide some insight into the thoughts, concerns, or preferences of the commander and his staff.

A copy of both the survey team’s draft and the finished copy are part of Fold3’s free Civil War map collection.  Here’s the final:

The caption on the map reads:

Reconnoissance of the Mississippi River below Forts Jackson and St. Philip made previous to the reduction by the U.S. Fleet under the command of Flag officer D.G. Farragut, U.S.N.  By the party under the direction of F.H. Gerdes, Asst. U.S. Coast Survey, A.D. Bache, Supdt.

NOTE – O1, O2, O3 &c. H1, H2, H3 &c are points established by triangulation.  A, B, C, D &c are points on the left bank and 1, 2, 3, 4 &c. points on the right bank of the River, established for placing the Gunboats and Mortarboats in position.  The position of the Mortar Flotilla on the first day of the bombardment, April 18th was as follows – 6 mortars on the left bank between C & J, distance to Fort Jackson 3900 to 4500 yards — 14 mortars on the right bank from 1 to 5; distance to Fort Jackson 2830 to 3490 yards.  On the 19th, the 2nd day of the bombardment, they were all on the right bank and 20 mortars were placed distant from Fort Jackson 3010 to 4100 yards.  They remained on the 3rd and 4th days nearly in the same position.  All the large armed steamers and Gunboats were placed from ¼ to 1 ¾ miles below the lowest mortar vessel.  On the first day the small steam sloops and the Gunboats went up to abreast of the Smokestack, where they engaged the forts and the enemy’s steamers.

Here’s a close up view of the left edge of the map, showing the location of the forts and marked positions for the bombarding boats.

A set of lines show the surveyors paid careful attention to the layout of the forts.  One line shows the “lower limit of casemate tier” of Fort Jackson’s down river facing battery.  Another set of lines indicates the “sector without casemate fire.”   The river facing bastion created a blind spot that guns within the casemates could not cover.  Of course, guns on the barbette tier could cover that angle.  But the mortars were supposed to make those positions untenable, if not dismounting the guns entirely.  Notice what lays within that uncovered angle.  Yes, the hulks and chains obstructing the river.  Go figure….

Another line indicates the upper limit of the casemate guns, reaching across to Fort St. Philip.  While the arc of coverage from that fort’s casemates is not depicted, simple extrapolation demonstrates the “cross fire” from the forts lay upstream of the obstructions.   So if the mortars could suppress the open barbette tier and the exterior water batteries, the casemate guns would have difficulty covering the channel.

The maps pertaining to the “battle of the forts” also includes a survey of damage done to Fort Jackson:

A close up view shows large sections, including two bastions and the central citadel, burned.  But the most serious damage was to the glacis facing downriver.  Not only did this open the moat and interior of the fort to flooding, it also exposed the casemate walls.

With the masonry exposed, the attackers could then begin battering work… in due time…. But as related yesterday, Admiral Farragut didn’t want to prosecute a formal siege.  He wanted to get up river to his assigned target.  The forts were just impediments to be bypassed if need be.  Damaged, flooded, and demoralized, the forts alone could not hold the West Gulf Blockading Squadron at bay.

The Mortar Schooners: Bombarding the Mississippi Forts

Continuing the discussion of 13-inch mortars in action, I’ve posted an article on the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial blog detailing the Navy’s mortar schooners used below New Orleans.   The piece complements a series of cross-posts between the CWN150 blog and the Civil War Monitor’s Front Line blog, all focused on the campaign to take New Orleans.  The posts thus far also include a look at how the sketch artists covered the action.

As I indicate in the post, the mortars failed to meet expectations.  That continued a trend seen at Fort Pulaski and at Island No. 10.  Were the mortars simply inadequate or defective?   I wouldn’t go that far.  A better way to put it – heavy mortars alone could not bring about the reduction of enemy works, but provided a valuable component to any besieging force.   And while the physical damage was not as extensive as predicted, perhaps the psychological effect made up for the shortfall.

The Sesquicentennial right on your phone!

Being a techie by trade, I’ve often lamented that we – that is the Civil War obsessed minority – don’t leverage the technology to better advantage. During a visit to Chickamauga in the 1990s, I probably “weirded out” my fellow stompers by predicting one day we’d walk the fields sans maps or guidebooks, equipped only with an electronic device. Nostradamus I am not. I was only offering the art of the possible at that time. The gap was not technology, but rather resources to cost. Software development was the prohibitive cost. At that time (circa 1998) there was limited demand for “handheld battlefields” and the software platforms were on the heavy side.

A decade and …well a half later, the software resource question changed. I’m able to run blog posts from my phone. Lightweight application platforms lowered the raw cost of development (oh, and a few other factors such as the evolution of a profession). And at the same time, the demand picked up.

Not us Civil War wonks crying for electronic maps, but rather organizations looking for new ways to reach an audience. I’ve mentioned Civil War Trust’s series of Battlefield Apps for smart phones before. That’s a great example were a preservation organization is reaching a broader audience – in short showcasing what it aims to save.

Another emerging “requirement” falls in line with the sesquicentennial activities. Tourism boards now seek better mediums than brochures. So little wonder state sesquicentennial committees turned to smart phone apps. Two that I’ve had the chance to review are from Tennessee and Virginia.

I found the Tennessee app full of goodies. The home page divides content into four categories.


The places section offers brief overviews, some well known fields and sites. Others less so.


Each entry also provides directions and nearby attractions. In true Web 2.0 fashion, the app offers the option to share the entry on Facebook. And…even to upload you photos to share.

The artifacts section offers some primary sources.


The people section introduces military, political and civilian personalities.


I snagged a screen shot of Clinton B. Fisk, but you will find pages on common soldiers, women, slaves, freedmen, and unionists.

And to complete the outreach, Tennessee’s app offers a list of events, also with the social media options mentioned above.

Virginia’s version is not so robust yet:


It offers a calendar, but lacks the story boards.

Tennessee may have set the early mark in regard to sesquicentennial apps, but from what I hear, Virginia is about to one up that!

Memphis Napoleons: 12-pdr field guns from Quinby & Robinson

In the spring of 1862 the Memphis based firm of Quinby & Robinson was on the way to become a major cannon manufacturer for the Confederacy.  The firm began casting guns for state and private orders in April 1861 and eventually delivered nearly eighty guns for Confederate requests.  Although they are best known for 6-pdr field guns and 12-pdr field howitzers, Quinby & Robinson was among the first sources of 12-pdr Napoleon guns in the Confederacy.

The first pair of Napoleons rolled out of the Poplar Avenue factory in February 1862.  Another half-dozen were still at the factory when the Federals won the naval battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862.  Confederate authorities managed to remove those guns and the foundry received credit for delivery.  Four of those six appear on a June 11 receipt.

The total weight of the four pieces, recorded as 4424 pounds, has the average weight per gun at 1106 pounds.  That’s a little low for a typical Napoleon of Federal manufacture.  But acceptable for the later Confederate types.  But I also wouldn’t rule out error, or a poorly calibrated cotton scale.

Two Quinby & Robinson guns survive today – both at Gettysburg.  Foundry number 37 is currently off the field waiting to be remounted for display.  It is a Confederate Type 2.  When it returns to public display I’ll provide a detailed examination.

The next foundry number in the sequence, number 38, represents Ross’s Battery along West Confederate Avenue.  This is the lone Type 3 gun known today.

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Quinby & Robinson Napoleon Number 38

The most obvious feature is the muzzle band.  This is very similar, though larger, to the muzzle band on 12-pdr field howitzers.

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Muzzle profile of Quinby & Robinson Napoleon number 38

The bore of this gun seems to call out with a story… one that probably involves canister fired at close range!

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Bore of Quinby & Robinson Napoleon

And a scar along the barrel might tell another story.  Perhaps from a handling accident… or perhaps from a glancing shot during the heat of battle?

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Scar on Quinby & Robinson Napoleon

The right trunnion still shows the vendor’s name and home city.

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Right Trunnion of Quinby & Robinson Napoleon

The left trunnion displays the year of manufacture – 1862.

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Left Trunnion of Quinby & Robinson Napoleon

Under the area where the rear sight once sat is a weight stamp – 1320.  This is rather high for even a Federal Napoleon.  Again, I’m left to speculate about some poorly calibrated scale or some error on the part of the man with the die.

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Weight stamp under sight mount

And while we are there, notice the three screw holes here.  This is inverse of that seen on Federal guns and on most Confederate weapons.

The cascabel of the Quinby & Robinson Napoleon is a robust knob (almost the size of a softball).

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Quinby & Robinson Napoleon - rear angle

This view also shows the length of the reinforce, before the gun tapers towards the muzzle.  The reinforce of number 38 is 15 inches, or about the same as standard Federal models.

Delivered at a desperate time for the Confederates in the west, number 38 likely went right to a field battery.  The scars and scraps allude to hard service.   Often times I’ve wondered if the gun, or one of its mates, is in the line-up of guns captured on Missionary Ridge in 1863.

Look hard at the ninth gun from this end....

But for now old number 38 is just a silent artifact of the war.  And a rare type at that.

Admiral Farragut honored at his birthplace (and an update on the missing monument)

In Farragut, Tennessee, they are proud of their namesake – David G. Farragut – on the 150th anniversary of the Admiral’s greatest victory. Jack Neely of the MetroPulse writes:

Farragut, the man, has gotten a lot more attention here just lately. The Town of Farragut, America’s biggest municipality named for the admiral (there’s at least one other, in Iowa), has erected an impressive, larger-than-life bronze statue high on a pedestal, right beside Town Hall. There are other Farragut statues around the country, very prominent ones in New York, Washington, and Boston, but this one’s the newest. His visage is stern, the flap on his coat suggesting a sea breeze. Surrounding it, stone markers telling his story in chapters, with a couple of genuine artifacts: the 32-pounder from the USS Independence, on which the teenage Farragut served just after the War of 1812, and a nine-inch Dahlgren cannon from Farragut’s own flagship, the Hartford.

The Town of Farragut has acquired most of the admiral’s personal papers. In Town Hall, the Farragut Museum houses an intimate exhibit about Farragut’s life: his telescopes, his cash box, his 1810 midshipman’s enlistment papers, his four-star admiral’s flag, his last will and testament, his personal shipboard desk.

This Saturday morning, the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission will unveil a Civil War Trail Marker at Admiral Farragut Park on Northshore Drive.

All the new attention is coming just as his presumed childhood home is being developed as an exclusive residential community. Last summer, Dewey’s big, stone Farragut birthplace monument vanished.

Last year we covered the missing monument on the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial blog. While the monument remains out of sight, at least there are discussions aimed at resolving the issues.

Picture of marker by Margot Kline of Knoxville, Tennessee, courtesy of


But setting that aside for a moment, I encourage you to read the full article from MetroPulse. Neely details over a century of “remembering” Farragut in the man’s birthplace. So many themes are there. Just a few decades removed from reconstruction, a town renamed to honor a southern unionist with a Hispanic background? Those interested in public memory will find the article a good read.

Paper for the Confederacy: Evans and Cogswell

I spend a lot of time in the Confederate Citizens Files, looking for leads on cannons.  A Fold3 subscription provides ready access, almost making a trip across town to the Archives superfluous.  Almost!

A recent walk through the Citizens Files brought me to this invoice dated May 20, 1861.

The invoice is for fifty copies of “Heavy Artillery.” The company sending the bill is Evans and Cogswell (formerly Walker, Evans, & Company), a South Carolina company touted as “stationers, printers, electrotypers, and engravers.” So I assume the $125 covered the printing and binding the manuals.  Certainly in May 1861 that particular course of instruction would be of value to the defenders of Charleston.  And this batch of books didn’t go to Major Schmuckatelli in the Confederate Army.  Those manuals were sold to Samuel Cooper, Adjutant General of the whole Confederate Army.

The company’s Charleston office is listed as near the intersection of Broad and East Bay Streets.  I’m not sure if the street addresses were renumbered after the war, but that should be in front of the Old Exchange:

The firm also had a Columbus, South Carolina office which is listed on some correspondence.  The owners were Benjamin Evans and Harvey Cogswell.  And they demanded payment every quarter for goods and services (so says their header on the invoice).  The company’s folder in the Citizens Files offers over a thousand entries (including cover sheets that sometimes offer tantalizing notes).

Evans and Cogswell did not limit their services to just printing manuals.  The firm provided stationary of all types, binding services, and just about anything involving paper.  The firm continued to supply the paper hungry bureaucracy well into the war.

This receipt, from October 1864, covered the printing of 250 copies of two different general orders.  Doesn’t say what headquarters those derived from, but they are #67 and #70.  Oh, and for $16, Evans and Cogswell pasted a map on a sheet of cloth.   Ordered on August 1st, the goods were marked received on October 19.

Another receipt from later that fall has the company delivering blank books and forms.

The total is two hundred blank books – fifty with a single quire and one-hundred and fifty with double quire – plus a quarter ream of printed forms (Form 15?  I’ll have to look that up.  Perhaps some of the stationary that Evans and Cogswell sold the Confederacy came back in the form of receipts or vouchers.)  All told the bill was for $1827.50.  That is of course in inflated Confederate dollars.  The quartermaster ordered the items in November, and the firm delivered them in mid-December.

Keep in mind these last two receipts were for goods delivered after the fall of Atlanta.  We are told, by way of the standard narrative from the big books on the Civil War, that the south was short of everything except Uncle Billy’s Bummers by the fall of 1864.  Well… that and apparently paper products.   And the transactions are detailed, clear, and precise.  Such stands in contrast to those who claim the Confederacy was too busy fighting and could not record stuff like the muster rolls of the “Negro Cooks Regiment.”

But consider those two hundred blank books from December 1864.  How many of those found their way into the hands of commanders and their staff officers?  And how many archival documents, now transcribed to the Official Records, began on the leaves of those books?

An army may fight with weapons and depend upon logistics to survive, but sooner or later someone has to do the paperwork.  There were firms like Evans and Cogswell to provide that paper for the Confederates.  Aren’t we at a point where a minutia detail study of the Confederacy’s paper is warranted?  Do we have a PhD candidate willing to take up this cause?

Napoleons in Gray: Confederate light 12-pdr Field Guns

Thus far most of my “Napoleonic” posts have focused on guns made for the Federal side of the war.  But as any student of the war knows, the Confederates made light 12-pdr field guns too.  So time I put descriptions of those guns in my posting queue.

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Leeds & Company "Type 2" Napoleon

Recall the Napoleon was the “new toy” in the field artillery batteries when the war broke out.  Of five 12-pdr Model 1857 Field Guns in service by July 1861, one – the prototype – was considered unserviceable and the other four were in Captain Henry Hunt’s Company M, 2nd US Artillery.  Of course the Confederates started the war with none.  Very early, artillerists on both sides recognized the advantage of the light 12-pdr.  Last summer I wrote of Brigadier General William Barry’s preference.  On the Confederate side, the preference shift came later during the 1862 campaign season. By December of that year, General Robert E. Lee cited the need to upgrade all smoothbore weapons in the Army of Northern Virginia to 12-pdr light field guns.

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Quinby & Robinson "Type 3" Napoleon

Confederate Napoleon production, although on a limited scale, preceded the demand.  J.R. Anderson (Tredegar) held a contract from the State of Georgia, issued in February 1861, which included twelve 12-pdr light field guns.  However, wartime demands likely overtook the completion of that contract.  To the west, foundries in New Orleans and Memphis both produced 12-pdr Napoleons prior to the fall of those river cities in the spring of 1862.  Only after the winter of 1862-3 did Confederate Napoleon production start in earnest, when production shifted to government run foundries and arsenals.  Overall production totals, estimated at over 500 examples, was less than half that of the Federal foundries.

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Confederate "Type 5" Napoleon from Macon Arsenal

In Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, the historians James C. Hazlett, Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks offered six categories to define the documented and surviving Confederate Napoleons:

  • Type 1 – early designs attributed to Tredegar.  Similar to the early Federal types with handles.  However with a 12-inch long reinforce, higher breech face (“more conical”), and bulbous muzzle swell.  The Type known only from a plan found in the National Archives, with no matching survivors.
  • Type 2 – early production from Leeds & Company and Quinby & Robinson.  These resemble standard Federal production patterns, with slightly different moldings at the muzzle and cascabel.
  • Type 3 – represented by a single surviving gun from Quinby & Robinson, lacking muzzle swell but with a chase ring.
  • Type 4 – Tredegar production from November 1862.  These survivors feature the breech face and 12-inch reinforce from the paper Type 1, but without the muzzle swell.
  • Type 5 – the most widely produced and what might be considered the “standard” Confederate design.  This type featured a 15 inch reinforce, elongated knob and neck cascabel, and a straight taper to the muzzle, with no swell.  Although each has detail variations, four government gun factories made this type along with Tredegar.
  • Type 6 – in the last year of the war Tredegar turned to cast iron when bronze came in short supply.  These feature a breech band and blended rimbases.

Tredegar produced just under half of the Confederate Napoleons, in both bronze and iron types.   And half of Tredegar’s deliveries were cast iron Type 6 guns.

Tredegar "Type 6" Iron Napoleon

Aside from the small quantity of Type 2 and 3 guns, an estimated 20, the remainder of the Confederate Napoleons came from the deep south government run facilities – the Government Foundry and Machine Works, Augusta Georgia; Macon Arsenal, Macon, Georgia; the Confederate States Arsenal, Columbus, Georgia; and the Charleston Arsenal, Charleston, South Carolina.  An estimated 270 came from those four facilities.

Charleston Arsenal "Type 5" Napoleon

With the various types and sources, the story of the Confederate Napoleon is good fodder for future posts.