Looking at the Parallels on Morris Island from the Photographer’s lens

Yesterday I closed with this crop out of a larger photo:


That crop is from a photo, digitized in the Library of Congress Collection (Reproduction Number LC-DIG-cwpb-04722), captioned
Morris Island, South Carolina. First Parallel“:

We can fix the location from which the photographer was standing as near the Beacon House, looking north along Morris Island. As best I know, no specific date has been established for this photo. In the immediate foreground is a paths through the sea-grass and dunes. That should be the “old road” noted on Major Thomas Brooks’ map:


The road was cut by the line of the first parallel:


But follow that first path, and we see Battery Reynolds.


On the far right, near the beach, a group of men appear to have something in view that has their attention.


Stacks of mortar shells, but no mortars? Look between the magazines.


One mortar in the left most position. This may date the photo to a time during the bombardment when the mortars of Battery Reynolds displaced to the forward parallels.

To the left of Battery Reynolds is the Naval Battery. First the Whitworth section:


Then to the Parrott guns, which are unmistakably on naval carriages.


Looking to the left of the Naval Battery, the sections of the parallel matchs well to Colonel Edward Serrell’s diagram. One form stands out though:


One of the 8-inch mortars perhaps? Maybe in preparation for placement forward? At any rate, it is pointed the wrong direction to be involved with the siege from that position.

Looking out past the first parallel to the second parallel, I mentioned the surf battery yesterday. Look at the details of the crib-work, even in this long range photo.


And other details of the construction of that work appear to the left. I wonder if the object “hovering” in center frame of this crop is one of the monitors:


To the left of the surf battery is the silhouette of a big gun.


That should be Battery Brown. And the structure at the bottom of this crop looks like the incline palisading set between the first and second parallels.

Speaking of palisading, in front and to the left of Battery Brown is a row of of the obstacles. Given the arrangement and angles, these should be the row of palisading setup parallel to the beach in front of the second parallel.


The photos don’t provide enough details to make out the guns in Batteries Rosecrans and Meade. But the gun crews stand out.


Notice more palisading in front of those batteries. That is the line of vertical palisading placed behind the third parallel.

Battery Kearney is there in the photo, but lacking in details.


Of the many other items of note, I’d draw attention to a “pile of stuff” between the first and second parallels.


Morris Island became a messy place during the siege. This has all the look and feel of a refuse pile of boxes, boards, logs, and other detritus.

Looking far into the background, a series of rises in the dunes appear on the horizon. The location is right for this to be Battery Wagner. But with the haze, details are non-distinct.


Of all the photos of Morris Island taken by Haas & Peale, I find this particular image best captures the essence of the siege. Two and possibly three parallels along with what may be Battery Wagner and even a monitor off shore… All the elements in one grand view of the battlefield. A battlefield landscape that “once was” and cannot be again. The sea has erased what was there 150 years ago.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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