Prioritization of work at Charleston: Third and forth points from Beauregard’s Board

Picking up from the previous posts, having determined the department had not received the proper amount of guns, the board turned to its third point of consideration:

What additional ordnance, if any, and description may be necessary to complete the armament of works constructed, under construction, or ordered to defend the approaches to Charleston, and including Sullivan’s and Morris Islands, as well as Saint Andrew’s and Christ Church Parishes.

This line of inquiry was a corollary to the previous two. Earlier the board identified the need for sixty-one 10-inch columbiads, or equivalent. And to this requirement, the department received twenty-one since June 1862. With respect to the third point on the agenda, the board was to consider, should those guns arrive, which of the fortifications had priority of delivery. The board’s consideration began with a particularly obvious draw:

Such defenses of the water approaches to Charleston as have been ordered and constructed could, in the opinion of the beard, be sufficiently armed by the guns required for could they be obtained; and as those completed are not yet fully furnished, and are in position to command every water approach, the board would not deem it advisable to call for more artillery of very heavy caliber until the requisitions made can be filled.

Or in other words, they had plenty of empty positions. They needed to fill those first. But among the various fortifications, the board offered suggestions for improvements:

Certain points it would appear, however, would be benefited by additions, but these could be drawn from those guns already required for. Battery Bee is deficient by four 10-inch columbiads, Fort Moultrie might well have two or more; Castle Pinckney should also be strengthened by the addition of two 10-inch guns or one 10-inch and one Brooke gun.

As more guns arrived, the priority remained for the forts and batteries on Sullivan’s Island and then to the inner harbor. The board continued on to suggest additional long range, but movable guns for Battery Marshall at the north end of Sullivan’s Island. The suggested armament was two rifled 24-pdrs or 30-pdr Parrott rifles.

SullivansIslandApril1863

And the board also wanted to place similar long range guns at the south end of Morris Island to cover Light-House Inlet and Folly Island’s beach. Furthermore, the board wanted two rifled 42-pdrs or 10-inch columbiads added to Battery Wagner (which at this time had one 32-pdr rifle, one 24-pdr rifle, and two 32-pdr smoothbores), in order to strengthen the coverage of the ship channel.

MorrisIslandDefMar1863

The board also considered the outer, land-facing defenses of Charleston. Instead of increasing the fixed armament of the fortifications in Christ Church and Saint Andrew’s Parishes, the board wanted to increase the mobile siege train:

This, at present consisting of eight 8-inch siege howitzers and four rifled 12-pounders, should be increased as much as possible with guns of similar caliber. How far it would be necessary to increase it would of course depend on the nature of the attack, but the beard are of the opinion that it would not be too much to double the number of the howitzers and to add eight rifled guns, say four 12-pounder rifles and four 30-pounder Parrotts, with full equipments.

The prioritization of gun emplacement set, the board then turned to the forth point of discussion:

What works, if any, are essential for the defense of Charleston, in addition to those already constructed, under construction, or ordered.

First the board wanted to improve the works around Fort Johnson and improve Castle Pinckney’s armament. To further improve the defenses of the inner harbor, the board wanted more works built at White Point. (And I am due to post a “walk through” of the inner harbor defenses… working on it for later this week.)

But looking beyond the inner harbor, the board turned to a point made by Brigadier-General S.R. Gist in his earlier report:

That the enemy be, if possible, expelled from Stono River, and that strong works, armed with guns drawn from Fort Pemberton, be reerected on Cole’s Island. Should this be impracticable the board believe that as soon as labor, either of troops or negroes or both, can be procured a strong work should be erected at Grimball’s, on James Island, and a short line of defense from Secessionville to Grimball’s be taken up with an outpost at Legaré’s Landing.

This made good military sense. Far easier to defend James Island and the southern approaches to Charleston from the barrier islands. The line of defense would be shorter and require fewer troops. But without the resources to push the Federals off Folly Island, the Confederates had to settle for strengthening James Island.

JamesIslandDef2

One additional point made at that time addressed Fort Pemberton:

The board are unanimously of opinion that the present location of Fort Pemberton is a mistake, and that it gives an enemy, if he chooses, an opportunity of landing and commencing his regular approaches toward the interior defenses of James Island at his leisure and with comparative security.

This remark bears against the concept of defense adopted in early 1862, and in some ways exposes the flaws of that that arrangement. The plan which Generals Robert E. Lee and John Pemberton felt sufficient was now not in favor for 1863.

Overall the board’s priorities might be summed up as – more guns for the harbor entrance and more forts for the inner harbor and James Island. In the next installment on this thread, I’ll look to the fifth point – how many troops were needed at Charleston.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 829-833.)