Batteries Rosecrans and Meade: 100-pdr breaching batteries on the second parallel

On July 28, 1863, Major Thomas Brooks received orders to place five 6.4-inch, or 100-pdr, Parrotts in positions to bombard Fort Sumter:

About 10 p.m. I received at the front, through Lieut. Henry M. Bragg, aide-de-camp, an order from the general commanding, “to make my arrangements for five 100-pounder Parrott rifles in the second parallel.” At this time some work had been done with a view to putting these guns in position on the left. I had recommended that they be changed to the right, and expected the order.

Brooks split the five guns into two batteries, named after the commanders of the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Potomac. Battery Rosecrans received three of the big Parrotts. Battery Meade received two. Having received the order that evening, by midnight Brooks had the first shovel fulls of sand moving. The arrangement had the batteries en échelon on the second parallel, as seen on the map snip below:


The following night, Brooks laid out a bomb-proof magazine in the left epaulement of Battery Rosecrans, to service all the 100-pdrs. Battery Meade included a splinter-proof shelter in its left epaulement. To the rear of the batteries, a road passed to Battery Kearny and the left of the parallel. A portion of the parallel ran to the front of Rosecrans-Meade, anchored with 12-pdr Napoleons mounted on each end.

By August 1, the platforms were in place for both batteries. Over the next week, engineers and fatigue details completed the remainder of the works, mostly at night. Later in August, the engineers fabricated metal embrasure linings to better protect the guns and crew. Meanwhile, Brigadier-General John Turner, chief of artillery, directed the placement of the big Parrotts. Battery Rosecrans stood 3,500 yards from Fort Sumter; 2,100 yards from Battery Gregg; and 830 yards from Battery Wagner. From Battery Meade it was 3,475 yards to Sumter; 2,085 to Gregg; and 820 to Wagner.

Company M, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery manned Battery Rosecrans, with Captain Joseph Comstock commanding. Detachments from the 3rd Rhode Island also manned Battery Meade under Lieutenant Henry Holbrook. Lieutenant Albert E. Greene ascended to command upon Holbrook’s death during operations. The Rhode Islanders had a detail of infantry in support for security and general maintenance of the works.

Do we have photographs? Yes.

There is a view of Battery Meade, which unfortunately I’ve not been able to locate in a reproducible format. But the Library of Congress has this view of Battery Rosecrans in the digitized web collection:

A cluttered place where some serious work was done. That gives us a lot to take in. First off, look at this mess!


Shells and solid bolts laying about in the sand among shipping crates. Some would later blame the failures of shells and the bursting of guns to sand on the projectiles and in the bores. Something to keep in mind. But, seriously, these guys are at the beach, so how do you propose to keep the sand out of things?

Notice the flat nosed bolts. Shells have fuse holes (a few have plugs). There was a brass sabot at the base of these projectiles. Look close and you can see the rim. Often the artillery crew would hack that rim back at the sides of the projectile. This would allow the bands to take to the grooves easier. That does not appear to have been done here.

A few of the boxes have legible markings. A box on the left is from a New York arsenal, but I cannot make out the rest.


On the parapet we see again, yes, sandbags and gabions. But no iron embrasures seen.


This photo captures the crew of the battery for a moment in time. An officer with his Hardee hat strikes a pose. Captain Comstock perhaps, with is sword?


But look at the fellow beside him. What’s that he working on? That’s a budge barrel.


Most often used with heavy artillery, the budge barrel was a container for loaded cartridges. Crews loaded the cartridge in a bombproof or other facility, placed them in the budge barrel. The crew then carried the budge barrel to the battery. The barrel had a leather hood over the top, with a draw string and lid to protect the cartridges from rain or stray embers. This soldier appears to be removing the a cartridge – a linen bag with powder – for the next firing.

Looking to the crew on the right, we movement, which indicates the photographer was working on an “action” shot here. Look at the different hats and shirts. Not a uniform crew.


In the foreground we see another dirty Parrott shell (see the fuse plug). But behind the men is an open carriage. You can just make out what appears to be part of a burst gun between the carriage cheeks.

And on the other side of the photo, there’s a bit of debris that looks like a burst shell.


Perhaps one of the premature explosions that plagued the Parrott rifles on Morris Island?

All those busting Parrotts and Confederate fire would be enough to drive a man to drink…


Yes, lots of activity in Battery Rosecrans the day this photo was taken.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

11 thoughts on “Batteries Rosecrans and Meade: 100-pdr breaching batteries on the second parallel

  1. Excellent post and description of what is going on in the image. A question: Am I correct in assuming that a “bolt” was a solid-shot shell? I recently came across a grave in central S.C. that said the individual in question died after a “bolt passed through his head.” I wasn’t certain if that was a generic term for any piece of metal, or something more specific, as you appear to indicate above.

    1. Yes, a “bolt” was the term used (generally) for solid shot fired from a rifled cannon. The term “cannon ball” just didn’t work for those, as you might imagine.

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