150 years ago: Colonel Serrell probing the marsh

Earlier this week I mentioned examinations aimed at place a battery in the marshes behind Morris Island in late July 1863.  Let me follow that up with details about how the engineers surveyed the marsh and what they found.  Colonel Edward Serrell, 1st New York Engineers, recorded those details in his journal of operations on Morris Island, incorporated into his official report.  The survey technique was simple and straight forward.  The team used 30 foot long, ¾-inch diameter iron rod:

The extreme edges of the swamps on the small creeks are hard, and frequently filled with oysters and oyster shells, but at a few feet from the water they become very soft, and within 10 or 12 feet the mud will not afford foothold for a man.

In these marshes, back from the harder edges of the creeks, the mud is from 18 to 23 feet deep, generally about 20 feet deep. It is so soft that the weight of the sounding iron will carry it down 8 or 10 feet, and a man can with one hand push it the remainder of the distance.

Down below the mud was hard packed sand.  Serrell went on to describe the surface features of the marsh:

On the mud there is a growth of very coarse grass, Spartina glabra and Uniola spicata, which is 4 or 5 feet high. It does not, however, form a sod, and the roots are not deep, but fine; they afford but little resistance to anything sinking through them. Extreme high water covers the surface of the mud.

Geologically the marsh is held to be sedimentary deposits of the very finest particles, brought down by the fresh-water streams, and are mostly vegetable. The blowing sands from the outer beaches, which are less recent in their formation, are sometimes mixed with the mud.

The resistance is increased by quantities of small shells, Auri-cola bidentata and Littorina irroratus, and occasionally muscles.

In other words, a lot of this stuff:

And this:

Crawling with these:

Hey, I like to touch all the bases… not just the cannon blasts and gleaming bayonets.  But you get the picture.

Serrell described the marsh mud in terms of its load bearing capacity:

A man’s foot, having a surface of from 30 to 35 inches, and sustaining a weight equal to 150 pounds, would sink into the mud 18 to 25 inches every step, and, if these were not made with some rapidity, much deeper. Two elements are involved here not in the other case; first, that of the motion of the foot, and, second, the suction of the mud against the leg, one tending to favor the penetration, the other retarding it; neither of these conditions applied where the load was static and rested on the surface.

Yes, things will sink into the mud. Which is not a good thing.  Furthermore, the mud’s consistency was that of jelly (Serrell’s word, mind you.)  Any movement sent vibrations out.  Men working on top of a plank would often send out vibrations over hundreds of feet across the surface.

But Serrell countered those issues with some practical observations:

In the case of a man attempting to walk, it was shown that, under the conditions he presented, something like a force of 500 or 550 pounds to the square foot could not be sustained by the marsh, but here there was the heavy weight of the body brought on the small point of the toe, or the side of the foot, or upon some other part of the sole of the shoe, in motion. If a battery was to be built, so long as the guns were not fired the forces would essentially be static, and the condition of rest become an important element in the calculation.

Reasoning a platform could be built on the marsh, Serrell then focused on the other problems – how to place such a platform on the marsh and how to deal with vibrations created when the gun fired.  We’ll look at that in the next installment on the Swamp Angel.

(Citation from Serrell’s report, OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 230-2.)

Battery Brown and a Burst Parrott on Morris Island

Another of the heavy batteries constructed early during the work on Morris Island was Battery Brown.  Like the advanced gun on Battery Hays, Battery Brown’s guns were sited to fire on Fort Sumter.  On July 26, 1863 “began, on the right of the second parallel, by order of the general commanding, the construction of Battery Brown, for two 8-inch Parrott Rifles, intended to be employed in the demolition of Sumter.”

In his journal, Major Thomas Brooks recorded Sergeant Walter Smith, New York Volunteer Engineers, supervised the construction.  Sergeant Smith completed the parapet and epaulement by July 28. This gave the battery an L-shaped appearance, with the epaulement providing flank defense from the Confederate batteries to the west.  Platforms to support the heavy guns and carriages took a little longer but were completed on August 1.

The map section below shows Battery Brown just left of center.

BatteriesRight2ndParallel

Battery Brown took advantage of the large bombproof to the left (west) of the position.  Numerous splinter-proof shelters lay around the right section of the parallel, several of which were used to load shells for the battery.  To the front a battery of 12-pdr field howitzers covered the ground in front of the second parallel, should the Confederates attempt a sortie.   A profile, along the line annotated a-a’ on the map, included the howitzer position along with Battery Brown.

BatteryBrownProfile

Notice the palisading to the front of the howitzer battery (on the right).   The profile includes one of the splinter-proofs, on the left.  The note in the center reads, “Anchoring of sand-bag revetment consisting of upright stakes connected by wire.”  Brooks indicated iron gabions filled with sandbags fixed the embrasures for the guns.

On August 2, Brooks reported the first 8-inch Parrott mounted.  The second came days later.  But the guns remained silent until mid-August, as the Federals stockpiled ammunition and waited completion of the other batteries.  The guns participated in the first great bombardment of Fort Sumter starting on August 17.  The distance from the guns to Fort Sumter was 3,560 yards.  The range to Battery Gregg was 2,170 yards.  And to Fort Wagner was 830 yards.

But this battery was ill-fated from the start.  During the bombardment, the platforms sank A gunner broke a gimlet off in the vent of one 8-inch Parrott, putting it out of action for three days.  A few days later, the same gun perhaps, burst at the vent, blowing out the breech and throwing the gun forward across the parapet.  The bursting likely occurred on either August 24 or 26 (although could have been September 5). The gun was on the left side of the battery.

This photograph abounds with details.  There are accouterments hung from the braces for sandbags.

BatteryBrown1A

Hey, a bullseye canteen!

Count the bolts in the upturned carriage.

BatteryBrown1B

And there is the “upright stakes connected by wire.”

BatteryBrown1C

Notice the wire runs under the horizontal beams, presumably connecting to stakes on the other side of the parapet.

But what confuses me a bit are these fellows in the background:

BatteryBrown1D

Would they be sitting out there while the Confederate sharpshooters were active from Battery Wagner?   Or was the photo taken after the fall of Battery Wagner?

Regardless, I’d like to see what they are looking at – be it activity in the siege lines, Confederate fortifications, or out in the channel.  Perhaps a panorama of the war at Charleston’s harbor entrance.  If the photographers knew about us, looking at these precious few photographs, 150 years later, would they have taken more photos, or selected different vistas?  Oh, if we could just go back in time with one little point-and-shoot!

(Base photograph used is part of the Library of Congress Collection, call number LC-B8156- 39 [P&P].)

The first heavy breaching gun on Morris Island: 8-inch Parrott Rifle at Battery Hays

On July 25, 1863, Major Thomas Brooks offered this entry in his journal of operations on Morris Island:

Saturday, July 25. – Completed on the left the first emplacement for a heavy breaching gun (8-inch Parrott rifle). This gun was mounted to-day, and first fired on Sumter August 12. It was served from a bomb-proof magazine built expressly for it. When afterward employed against Sumter, it was designated as constituting a part of Battery Hays. Lieutenant [Patrick] McGuire, assisted by Lieut. James Baxter, New York Volunteer Engineers, superintended this work.

Brooks also noted this position was the last work of his direction on the left breaching batteries. Lieutenant Peter S. Michie took up much of the work on the left as Brooks’ attention was on the parallels and the batteries on the main part of Morris Island. The left side breaching batteries extended across several sand ridges in the marshes behind Morris Island. The position offered a deflection angle off the line of sight from the other batteries inside the siege lines.

ApproachToWagnerLeftBatteries

Recall that Battery Hays was one of the original emplacements on Morris Island and was used in the bombardment on July 18. The battery included a left and right wing, with 20- and 30-pdr Parrotts.

BatteryHays_ORorke

The position of the 8-inch Parrott mentioned by Brooks is right of center in this cut of the map, where the creek snakes past. A roadway lead down the dune to the “Advanced Gun.” Here’s a close up view of that position.

BatteryHays8inA

The engineers provided a bomb-proof magazine behind the gun’s emplacement. The gun position was L-shaped, built upon a spit pushed out into the marsh. The engineers provided a profile of this position, with the line marked G-H on the map:

BatteryHays8inB

Would be nice to have a photograph of this position, don’t you think?

Wait… we do have a photograph…

In fact, we have two photographs…

These were taken by the team of Philip Haas and Washington Peale, who captured many scenes on Morris and Folly Island through the summer of 1863. Based on the angles of the view, the photographer must have stood either on the bombproof or just to the east of it. The tide is up and the marsh is full all around the position. The creeks meander through the tidal marsh. This is a great view of the landscape over which the armies fought, inch by inch, through the summer of 1863. As with so many of these wartime photos, the details seem to breathe life into a 150 year old moment in time.

At the time the photographers arrived, the gun was dismounted for movement elsewhere. Noticed just behind the gun is the pintle on which the carriage traversed. The carriage is gone but the gun remains up on blocks.

BatteryHays8inC1

How I wish the photographer had stopped to frame the muzzle of this gun. There are eight surviving 8-inch Parrotts today, two of which are in the Charleston area. Wishful thinking, but perhaps this gun is one of the two?

The fellow behind the gun seems happy to be there.

BatteryHays8inC2

On both sides of the gun are stacked projectiles. Looking to the stack on the right… are those about to fall into the marsh?

BatteryHays8inC3

The noses of these projectiles have no fuse plugs. The Federals used solid, blunt-nosed bolts against Fort Sumter to great effect against the bricks. No doubt these are what’s left of the lot issued to this gun.

Looking to the earthworks, on each side of the embrasure are gabions filled with sandbags.

BatteryHays8inC4

Other portions of the embrasure, probably including a mantlet or shield, are gone.

But speaking of sandbags, look at the crumbled corner to the left of the gun.

BatteryHays8inC5

These were stacked with a layer of wooden planks. It appears there was a bomb-proof built under those sandbags.

In other places the sandbags show sings of wear. This position had been “used” by the time the photographers showed up.

BatteryHays8inC6

My guess is Haas and Peale captured this scene in late September. Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore reported the bombardments of August had “used up” the 8-inch Parrotts on Morris Island. He borrowed three from the Navy in September. Gillmore then ordered the worn out 8-inch Parrotts removed. Those which were still serviceable joined fresh guns mounted at the former Battery Gregg. So this photograph may capture a worn out gun being removed.

The other reason I figure this photo was taken in late September is what is in the background. That’s Fort Sumter showing the effects of the Federal bombardment through August and September.

BatteryHays8inC7

The gorge wall and parts of the right face crumbled away. Not quite the obliteration seen in photos taken in 1865. Still an example of what the crews of the 8-inch Parrott had done with those blunt-nosed bolts.

To the right of Fort Sumter is what appears to be Battery Gregg. Perhaps just recently captured at the time the photograph was taken.

BatteryHays8inC8

And looking further to the right, Battery Wagner is among the dunes on Morris Island.

BatteryHays8inC9

Perhaps if you look really close into the misty background you can pick out houses and fortifications on Sullivan’s Island.

But look back at Fort Sumter and look really close at the parapet. That’s a flag flying over the fort.

BatteryHays8inC10

If my estimate of late September 1863 is correct, that’s a Confederate flag. This photo captures a scene across an active front. A moment in time across the battle lines? Perhaps.

A position on the marsh for a battery: An engineering challenge

If there is one aspect of the operations on Morris Island that gives the “Glory Charge” a contest in terms of recognition, it is the Swamp Angel.

Trenton 14 Aug 10 382

Before I go into the story of this famous gun, I must mention the engineering required to put the gun in position and, for a start, the story of the site selection for the battery.

After the first assault on Battery Wagner, Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore directed his engineers to determine if any locations in the marsh behind Morris Island might sustain a heavy gun battery. Gillmore was not asking for a position to fire on Charleston at that time. Rather he desired a position somewhere to the left of the siege lines which might offer a fresh angle on Fort Sumter.

The task went to Colonel Edward Serrell, First New York Engineers. On July 16 he went out into the marsh on foot, accompanied by Lieutenant Nathaniel Edwards, searching for any patch of high ground, relatively speaking, in the marsh. Later that day, Serrell forwarded his report (sent to Major Thomas Brooks, Assistant Engineer to Gillmore):

I have the honor to report that, agreeably to the orders of the general commanding the department, I made this morning, assisted by Lieut. N.M. Edwards, Volunteer Engineers, a reconnaissance across the marsh, from the batteries on our left to the creek between this island and Light-House Creek, a distance of about half a mile, bearing, from the southwesterly end of the.hard ground, a course by magnetic compass north 40° west, to a point from which the bearing to Fort Sumter is north 12 east, and to the old beacon light south 89° east. At this point there is a spot of hard ground a few inches above or below high-water mark, irregular, from 25 to 30 feet long, and 15 to 18 feet wide, the longer axis being perpendicular to the fire of Fort Sumter, or nearly so. Between this spot and the hard ground on which the batteries are now being built, the marsh may be crossed by infantry at low tide, with some difficulty. About one-third of the distance will bear a man, sinking in 1 or 2 inches, another third, 6 or 8 inches, the other third, somewhat deeper.

Again, notice the report focused on the angle at which fires would fall on Fort Sumter, not Charleston. The position Serrell examined online with the Left Breaching batteries (and a good bit back of where the Swamp Angel battery was later placed).

Serrell continued in the report to offer suggestions as to how to build a battery in the marsh:

A battery to be constructed at this point must be entirely made of sand-bags, with platforms grillaged.

I think a gun weighing not over 10,000 pounds can be drawn across the marsh on skids framed together to slip on the mud, similar to those used by General Bonaparte for crossing the Alps on the snow.

Two thousand three hundred men can carry filled sand-bags enough, in one night, to make the battery and cover the magazine, if they are well organized. Sixty more can carry the platform across and put it down, including the grillage. It will require about 400 or 450 more men to put the guns in position the next night.

The skid should have a bearing surface equal to 90 or 100 square feet.

One small creek, about 9 feet wide, will have to be crossed. Two or three logs put over it will be sufficient.

Thirty-five additional men can carry the magazine and put it up.

The work can be done better in daylight than dark, excepting that it may draw the fire of the enemy.

Yes, one cannot escape the references to Napoleon. If Serrell’s plan worked, the battery just “appear” within a day or two. But that was not to be. Instead, the engineers continued to examine locations in the marshes that would support heavy guns, given some engineering work. After a couple weeks of examinations, the engineers had mapped out several possible locations.

But Gillmore did not issue orders to build a battery until August 2nd (on or about). Serrell related:

The commanding general having ordered that the work should be made suitable for one 200-pounder Parrott rifled gun, and that it should be placed as near to the city of Charleston as practicable, on our side, however, of the stream next southeasterly from Light-House Creek, it became evident that whatever details of plan might be adopted, the general features of the localities being similar, the primary arrangement would remain constant, wherever the position might be finally determined upon.

The location Serrell selected was advanced far forward of the other Federal works (indicated below with an orange box):

MorrisIslandJuly28

From his own report, Serrell indicated several suitable sites were located, from which he selected the most convenient for the directed purpose. By that time, in early August, Gillmore had a different target in mind – the city of Charleston itself.

(Citation from Serrell’s report, OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 230-1.)

150 years ago: Reinforcements for Gillmore

F0llowing the failed assault against Battery Wagner on July 18, 1863, Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore made a request to Army Headquarters in Washington for “8,000 to 1000” troops. Gillmore hoped that success along the Mississippi might free up reinforcements for his efforts outside Charleston. After all a siege is manpower intensive. Major-General Henry Halleck responded to Gillmore’s request on this day (July 28), 150 years ago:

General: Your letters of the 21st instant are received, and cause much embarrassment. It was known when you proposed to resume the operations against Charleston that, in addition to the ordinary casualties of battle, sickness, &c., our armies would in the months of June, July, and August be reduced some 75,000 or 80,000 men. For this reason I had strongly opposed the undertaking of any new operations, and had refused to send any re-enforcements to your predecessor. You were distinctly informed that you could not have any additional troops, and it was only on the understanding that none would be required that I consented to your undertaking operations on Morris Island. Had it been supposed that you would require more troops, the operations would not have been attempted with my consent or that of the Secretary of War.

It would not be safe for me to give you more fully the present condition of our forces. Every man that we could possibly rake amid scrape together is in the field in face of the enemy. To withdraw troops from General Meade would endanger the safety of his army, and open the North to another raid. To take any troops from New York, Philadelphia, and the east, would be the giving up of the draft.

General Banks’ army is so reduced that he cannot recover the territory lost during the siege of Port Hudson without re-enforcements. He asks them from the north; but there is not a man to send him from here, and we are obliged to detach from General Grant’s army. Missouri was stripped to re-enforce Grant, and we are now obliged to send back these troops to oppose a column of 15,000 men under Price, who are now advancing toward the Missouri border. Moreover, Grant’s army is greatly reduced by sickness and casualties. By detaching more troops from him now, we should lose most of the fruits of his victories. Burnside and Rosecrans are hesitating to advance till they can be re-enforced, and I have no reenforcements to give them. General Dix reports that he must be re-enforced by 15,000 men to enable him to enforce the draft. And now, at this critical juncture, comes your urgent but unexpected application for 8,000 additional troops for Morris Island. It is, to say the least, seriously embarrassing. I deeply regret that its occupation was attempted until the draft had furnished more troops.

I have telegraphed to General Foster to send you every man he can spare from his department, and will send you drafted men as rapidly as we can get them. I cannot take troops from the Mississippi River without seriously interfering with operations of the greatest importance.

Why can you not employ negroes from the plantations as laborers in moving ordnance and matériel, and in digging trenches, throwing up batteries, &c., and thus save your men?

Draw from other posts in your department every man that can possibly be spared. I will do all I can for you, but you must not expect impossibilities.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. Halleck,
General-in-Chief.

Halleck’s response was well short of a rebuke. After all, Gillmore had taken the offensive. Halleck couldn’t find fault while at the same time suffering other subordinates who just couldn’t get started. But Halleck was compelled to send reinforcements to Gillmore. Mostly due to pressure from the Navy.

Major-General John Foster, commanding the Department of North Carolina, promptly responded to Halleck’s suggesting. Brigadier-General Edward Wild’s brigade, consisting of the 55th Massachusetts, 1st North Carolina Colored Infantry, and detachments from the 2nd and 3rd North Carolina Colored Infantry, started south to Folly Island. Wild’s brigade arrived around August 2nd. Concurrently, Foster sent two more brigades, both consisting of white volunteer regiments. So an infantry division, minus artillery, came from North Carolina.

Another division came from the Army of the Potomac, despite Halleck’s initial reservations. Brigadier-General George Gordon’s 1st Division, Eleventh Corps started movement from Warrenton Junction on August 1 and arrived at Folly island on August 14-15.

All told, these reinforcements amounted to about 9,750 men. Add to that total the 3rd US Colored Troops, assigned to Colonel James Montgomery’s brigade, which arrived from Philadelphia in the later half of August. So by the end of August, Gillmore received a little more than the requested 10,000. That brought the number of Federal troops on Folly and Morris Islands to nearly 23,000 men, up from around 12,300 reported at the end of July.

On the other side of the lines, at the end of July Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley reported 10,254 men ready for duty (out of 12,130 present) in the First Military District at Charleston. By August 31, 1863, Ripley’s command increased to 13,352 effectives, out of 16,336 present.

While not in numbers seen in the major theaters of operation, 150 years ago the fighting outside Charleston was drawing in men and resources.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, pages 29-30.)

“A small artificial island” – Battery Kearny on Morris Island

One of my goals, blogging about the operations on Morris Island, is to introduce each of the works, Federal and Confederate, at their “sesquicentennial” points of reference. Looking back 150 years ago on the night of July 26-27, 1863, Major Thomas Brooks mentioned in his journals, in addition to other improvements on the second parallel, that work began on Battery Kearny.

The construction of splinter-proof shelters for the protection of the guard of the trenches was begun this night in the second parallel, using frames that had been prepared to the rear during the day. A boom, which had been built at the lumberyard by Sergt. Samuel Clark, New York Volunteer Engineers, was floated down with the tide, and made fast across the creek on the extreme left of the second parallel, thus securing that flank from being turned by the enemy’s boats. An important topographical feature in the second parallel is a small artificial island, situated about 75 yards east from the creek, and 175 yards in advance of the right of the parallel. Upon this island, emplacements were built for one Requa battery and three Coehorn mortars, to be used against the enemy’s sharpshooters. The former also flanked the obstacle. This was afterward designated Battery Kearny. Our line was to-night located and worked to the creek, which limits its farther extension westward. The left third of this line follows an artificial dike.

Here’s a closeup showing the details of the completed second parallel.

SecondParallel

You’ll have to extract some from the finished product to reference the work Brooks mentioned was conducted on July 26-27. Two booms placed over the creek were similar to that placed adjacent to the first parallel.

boom

In this case, two extended from Morris Island across the creek behind Morris Island.

As for the artificial island, there is some indication this predated the Civil War. However it was a location considered by Confederate engineers for a battery prior to the Federal landings on July 10. Looking at the map above, an old road ran along the marsh onto the island. Federal engineers placed the parapet of the second parallel to the side of this road to allow some protection for movement up to Battery Kearny. In front of the new battery and parallel line was a system of wire entanglements. Brooks explained the construction of that obstacle, briefly, as Note 2 for his official report:

This obstacle was made by setting stout stakes, 3 ½ feet long, 2 feet in the ground and 7 feet apart, in quincunx order, and in three lines. Around the top of these stakes, at from 12 to 18 inches from the ground, in notches prepared to receive it, No. 12 wire was securely and tightly wound, and extended from one to the other.

But by July 29, Brooks reported high tides had eroded the entanglements. To fill in gaps, Colonel Edward Serrell, 1st New York Engineers fabricated abatis. But Confederate fire from Battery Wagner prevented proper placement of these obstacles. One set was depicted to the right of Battery Kearny. See the closer cropping of the siege line map:

BatteryKearny

On the left end of the parallel was a position for a Billinghurst-Requa battery gun, which Brooks always shortened to “Requa.” Another Requa position stood on the far right of the battery. In front of the battery was a set of inclined palisades, which connected with the abatis. This arrangement provided flank protection for the battery.

Behind the battery was a splinter-proof for protection of the men working the battery, supplies, and ammunition. A profile, drawn along the line f – f’ on the map above, shows the arrangements of splinter-proof, gun platform, parapet, and ditch of Battery Kearny.

BatteryKearnyProfile

As Brooks noted in his journal entry, the battery’s armament included three Coehorn mortars for use against the Confederate sharpshooters. The “telescopic Whitworths” were particularly annoying at this phase of siege operations (and I’ll address them in a separate post, they deserve!).

In addition to the Coehorns, one of the six 3.67-inch Wiard rifles of Battery F, Third New York Artillery, pointed at Battery Wagner. The angle depicted on the maps lead me to assume the gun covered the sea-face of the Confederate works, as the line of works would block any fire to the opposite side of Battery Wagner.

The main armament of Battery Kearny was three 30-pdr Parrotts. These used firing platforms directly in front of the splinter-proof and between the Wiard gun and right-side Requa positions. The Parrotts bore directly upon Battery Wagner.

For a couple of weeks, Battery Kearny was the most advanced point in the Federal system. Even after the third parallel opened on August 9, the closest rifled guns in action against Battery Wagner. The position on the “artificial island” provided a strong lodgement across the marsh from the Confederate strong point.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 276 and 304.)

Bad fuses and a burst Brooke Rifle: Confederate bombardment of Morris Island

By July 25, 1863, Confederate gunners had three heavy guns and two mortars ready to fire on Morris Island from James Island. Falling on the flanks of the Federal trenches, the fire from James Island had the potential to land severe damage Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore’s operations. Battery Simkins was the first of these to bear on the Federal siege lines.

JamesIslandImprovements

Captain John C. Mitchel, First South Carolina Artillery, directed the guns at Battery Simkins. At this stage of operations, the battery included two 10-inch Columbiads, one 6.4-inch Brook Rifle, and three 10-inch seacoast mortars. His journal entries from July 24-31 read:

July 24.–The double-banded Brooke rifle put in position.

July 25.–Opened fire on the enemy’s batteries, my battery consisting of two 10-inch columbiads, one Brooke rifle (6.40 caliber), and three mortars. Fired at intervals of fifteen minutes, to which enemy replied slowly. Toward evening the fire slackened, and about 7 o’clock it ceased. At 11 and 2 o’clock, same night, I fired salvos from all my guns and mortars, by special order, about 3 rounds from each piece.

July 26.–Reopened fire at daylight, firing at fifteen-minute intervals for each gun. At the second discharge of the Brooke gun, then under special charge of Lieut. C. C. Rush, it burst, killing I and wounding 3 cannoneers. It was loaded with 12 pounds of powder and a solid shot. The fire was continued with the other pieces.

July 27, 28.–Firing continued. The fuses burned badly, many never igniting, and those that did burning very irregularly.

July 29.–Firing continued. No regularity in the fuses. Would effect as much by throwing solid shot. An 8-inch columbiad mounted in place of the Brooke gun. Captain Stallings’ company relieved by Capt. B. E. Dickson’s company (E) Second South Carolina Artillery. Stallings’ company sent to Morris Island.

July 30.–Firing continued with same results. Fuses very bad–worthless. Enemy replying in the afternoon.

July 31.–Firing continued. Directed to right and left of Graham’s headquarters. Fuses no better.

The Brooke rifle lasted but two days in action. Contrary to what some later-day Brooke experts have contended, the Brooke Rifles experienced such failures. I’d submit the failure rate was no better than the Parrott Rifles on the other side of the line.

Bad fuses continued to impair Confederate artillery. In this case the target was engineers and fatigue details in the open. If allowed to continue their work, the engineers would have better cover, in some places overhead cover (oh, and put up some sandbags), which would make the workers at least more secure, if not immune, from artillery fire. But the faulty fuses and small number of guns so allocated limited the effcectivenes of the Confederate counter-siege bombardment.

On the other side of the line Major Thomas Brooks journal confirms the work details received fire from the James Island batteries:

Friday, July 24 …. Heavy firing from both sides to-day, which was continued by our mortars in the first parallel through the night.

Saturday, July 25 …. The enemy opened on our advanced works on the right this morning with columbiads and a Brooke rifle, from what was afterward known as Battery Simkins, on Shell Point, distant from the second parallel about 3,300 yards. This is the first fire we have received from James Island, and was particularly heavy to-day. (It afterward, with the fire of Sumter and Battery Gregg, continued day and night.) Our batteries reply by firing at Wagner, which does not respond. This James Island battery will be most annoying, because our works are not, and could not easily be, defiladed against it, either in profile or trace, on account of the form and scarcity of the ground on which we have to operate.

Brooks gave no notice in his journal to the Confederate fires from James Island through the rest of the month. On the other hand, Lieutenant Peter Michie, responsible for the construction of the Left Batteries on Morris Island, did find the James Island guns an inconvience:

The position [of the Left Batteries] being within range of the enemy’s batteries on James Island, ground was broken at night, a detail of 10 engineers and 100 men being employed for this purpose. A small detail of 10 engineers and 50 men were employed the next day, working as much as possible under cover, which, however, did not prevent the enemy from shelling them.

Perhaps if the Confederate fuses acted more reliably and more heavy guns been allocated to the task in the later part of July, the gunners on James Island might have disrupted the siege operations on Morris Island. I don’t think they could have lifted the siege entirely, however. But there’s a “what if” to consider. Had General P.G.T. Beauregard defeated the siege of Wagner and Sumter, would that rank with Seven Days or Chickamauga as a turn around of Confederate fortunes?

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, pages 275-6, 336 and 564-5.)