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.


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.


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.


Hey, a bullseye canteen!

Count the bolts in the upturned carriage.


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


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:


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].)


10 thoughts on “Battery Brown and a Burst Parrott on Morris Island

  1. That last picture has to be after Ft Wagner fell. I cannot conceive of anyone sitting out so casually with the rebs still in Ft Wagner.

    • But there are indications that the Federals employed two guns in the battery for the final bombardment of Wagner. Perhaps photographed during a truce?

  2. a truce is a possibility. No soldier who wants to live long would be sitting there like that unless it was a truce or the rebs were gone.

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