“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.)

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