Battery Weed and mortars against Battery Wagner

Today, let me look back behind the second parallel to some supporting batteries that were erected at the beginning of operations on Morris Island.  Recall that Battery Weed was among the original set of works established prior to the July 18, 1863 assault on Battery Wagner.  The five mortar battery stood just behind (south) of Battery Reynolds.


Recall Battery Reynolds contained a mix of mortars and guns at the time of the July 18 assault.  When Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore’s plans changed to that of simultaneous siege of Battery Wagner and Fort Sumter, was reduced to five 8-inch siege mortars.  Battery Weed retained its five 10-inch siege mortars.  The ranges from Batteries Reynolds and Weed to Battery Wagner were 1,335 yards and 1,460 yards, respectively.   While the 10-inch mortars could reach Battery Wagner, the 8-inch mortars were only able to cover the ground between the Federal lines and the Confederate works.  Neither, of course, could reach Fort Sumter.


Accordingly the mortars of Batteries Reynolds and Weed put their weight on the closer targets.  Later, as the parallels advanced, the mortars of these batteries went forward to positions closer to the Confederates.

And yes, we have photos of those batteries.  Here’s Battery Weed:

But full disclosure here, I find some discrepancies with this photo.  The engineering plan shows the battery layout with three mortars in the left gallery (closest to the camera) and two on the right.  Here there are two, and not much space for a third, in the left.  Perhaps Haas & Peale took this photo after mortars were relocated.  Or perhaps this is of another battery of mortars and was incorrectly labeled. But let me just stack that in the large pile of questions raised pending further analysis.

Speaking of analysis, time to look at that battery, what ever it may be, in detail.


Those are Model 1840 siege howitzers.  Notice the platform the mortar bed was setting upon.  That was an arrangement worked out by Major Thomas Brooks, and a deviation from the standard platform.  I’ve worked up a blog post to discuss that platform in more detail, and will publish tomorrow.

And again we see lots and lots of sandbags.

Look over those sandbags, and what do you see?


Yes, another pole with telegraph line.  Such lends credence to the location being behind the first parallel.

All the activity in the battery appeared to be on the right side.


Only one person is looking to the cameraman.  Everyone else is looking forward, even moving around while the cameraman exposed the plate.

And, yes that appears to be a mortar shell half buried in the sand.

Behind the battery should be a bombproof.


According to the engineer’s diagrams, the entrance should be in the scratched section of the photo.

Looking in front of the battery, if this is Battery Weed we should see parts of Battery Reynolds or the Naval Battery.


Not clear what is out there other than more sand dunes.  But there is another telegraph pole and you can make out the wire.

In the foreground, we can see that Morris Island was more or less like any barrier island today – sand with some sea grass.


Before leaving Battery Weed, let me mention one other mortar battery which Brooks built on Morris Island.  He received orders on July 19 to construct a seacoast mortar battery position near the Beacon House (center left of this cut of the map).


The position, with an epaulement to the left (west) side, had platforms for four 10-inch seacoast mortars.  If these were for the Model 1861 version of that caliber weapon, there were only eight ever cast so this would be half the entire lot.  There were a few more of the Model 1840 cast.  Seacoast mortars ranged further than siege mortars, out to around 4,000-4,400 yards.  From that position, these 10-inch seacoast mortars could range Fort Sumter.

Despite an estimated one thousand man hours spent on its construction, the Federals never mounted the 10-inch seacoast mortars.  But we do have a photo of the Beacon House which appears to show the works provided for these mortars in the background:

Yes, the much worse for the wear Beacon House.

The mortars from Battery Weed, like those elsewhere in the Federal siege lines, provided valuable high angle fire on Battery Wagner.  Without such, advancing the parallel lines would have been that much harder.

Base photographs from the Library of Congress collection, call numbers LC-B8156- 21 [P&P] and LC-B8156- 8 [P&P].

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

3 thoughts on “Battery Weed and mortars against Battery Wagner

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