A couple more 6.4-inch Parrotts: Battery Stevens

Continuing the discussion of the “Left Breaching Batteries” on Morris Island during the summer of 1863, we turn to the left of Battery Reno:

BatteriesRenoStevensStrong

For practical purposes, Battery Stevens was simply two more guns in the same line.  The battery contained two 6.4-inch (100-pdr) Parrott Rifles.  The profile and facilities matched those of Battery Reno.  A bombproof built into the left side epaulement stored ammunition for the guns.  Listed ranges from Battery Stevens to the Confederate fortifications were the same as for Battery Reno: 4,320 yards to Fort Sumter; 2,950 yards to Battery Gregg; and 1,860 yards to Battery Wagner.

First Lieutenant James Wilson from Battery C, 1st US Artillery commanded the battery.  In addition to a detachment from Wilson’s Battery C, troops from the 7th Connecticut Infantry manned Battery Stevens.

Thanks to the efforts of Haas & Peale, there is a photograph showing what Battery Stevens looked like.

Two_100_pound_Parrotts_Battery_Stevens

The road, or should we say path, entered the battery from the left.  The water in the foreground was part of the marsh behind the dune.  The Battery Stevens side of the line looked a bit more cluttered than that of Battery Reno.

BatteryStevens1A

But at least the debris was outside a beam marking the rear of the battery.

BatteryStevens1B

Stumps?

Behind those stumps, ammunition crates were at least stacked in a fairly orderly fashion.

BatteryStevens1H

With all the men standing on the parapet, we can say this photo was taken after the fall of Battery Wagner.  But the two 6.4-inch Parrotts remained in battery.  The gun on the left appears ready to fire.  Perhaps part of the pose, the crew had the lanyard run.  But I doubt the rest of the crew would stand that close to a gun about to fire (what with the frequency of burst Parrotts).

BatteryStevens1C

The right side gun is not at the ready position.

BatteryStevens1D

And you have to like the backwards kepi. Perhaps he was playing catcher on the ball team?

But what is in his hand?

BatteryStevens1E

A gunner’s quadrant?

Other crew-members appear less engaged with the work of the day.

BatteryStevens1G

Beside them is a third Parrott.

BatteryStevens1F

This one is up on blocks, were one fellow found it a convenient backrest.

Photo credit: Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs.

6.4-inch and 8-inch Parrotts against Fort Sumter from Battery Reno

Moving forward with the examination of the “Left Batteries” on Morris Island, the guns to the left of Battery Hays were in a series of named works.

ApproachToWagnerLeftBatteries

These were Batteries Reno, Stevens, and Strong, seen here in a closer crop from the map above:

BatteriesRenoStevensStrong

Lieutenant Peter Michie directed the construction of these works, starting after the during the last week of July. From his official report:

On the 27th of July, I was ordered by [Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore] to construct what were afterward known as the “left breaching batteries against Fort Sumter.” Their site was a sand ridge, and general direction making an angle of about 35 degrees with the gorge of Fort Sumter, and distant about 4,200 yards from that work. ….

On the 27th of July, the interior crest of a sunken battery for five 100-pounder Parrott guns was laid out, with arrangements for one magazine to hold 200 rounds per gun, and a traverse 12 feet thick on top, between each gun and the one adjacent….

The work progressed well, despite harassing fire from James Island. By July 31, Michie reported the interior revetments were complete. But by August 8, the armament of these batteries changed to one 8-inch (200-pounder) Parrott and four 6.4-inch (100-pounder) Parrotts. And by August 12, Michie had to find a place in the line for a 10-inch (300-pounder) Parrott, the largest on Morris Island. These big Parrotts were arranged as such:

  • Battery Reno – one 8-inch Parrott and two 6.4-inch Parrotts
  • Battery Stevens – two 6.4-inch Parrotts
  • Battery Strong – one 10-inch Parrott

Michie provided a wealth of detail in his report about the layout of these works:

The batteries (except that of the 300-pounder) were full sunken. The line of each interior crest made an angle varying from 30 degrees to 37 degrees with the gorge of Fort Sumter, depending upon the nature of the ridge at the different points. The width of each gun battery was 18 feet, the traverse between being 12 feet thick at top. The interior revetments were of sand-bags laid in the usual manner of headers and stretchers, and extended below the gun platform.

While originally the batteries could only point at Fort Sumter, later the traverse increased to allow fires on James Island, Fort Johnson, Battery Gregg, and Battery Wagner. At first Michie tried rawhide over the embrasures, but with little success. In the end, he settled for gabions filled with sandbags:

The method of anchoring them was to lay a piece of 6-inch by 8-inch timber parallel to the cheek, and some 3 to 4 feet back, having two stout anchoring stakes 6 feet long driven on the inner side. Each gabion, besides being well picketed to the fascine upon which it rested, was tied to this timber by No. 10 wire, stoutly enough to withstand the blast, and yet to give way if struck by a shot, without destroying the entire embrasure.

Regarding the exterior slopes of the batteries, the only preparation was a coating of marsh mud. A layer of two inches dried into a hard crust. This reduced the sand blowing through the battery. The map of the left batteries included a profile of Battery Reno, along the line C-D:

BatteryRenoProfile

Michie described two bombproof magazines built for Batteries Reno and Stevens:

There were two magazines, one between Nos. 2 and 3, for the service of the two right pieces, and one on the left of No. 5, for the service of the remaining three guns. The former was 10 feet by 10 feet by 6 feet high in the clear, with a filling room 4 feet by 5 feet by 6 feet high; the latter was 10 feet by 15 feet by 6 feet high, with one return gallery 4 feet by 6 feet high. The magazine frames were of 4-inch by 6-inch stuff, placed 2 feet 6 inches apart, and covered with 3-inch plank and 8 feet of sand on the line of least resistance, and for sheeting 1-inch, 1 1/4-inch or 2-inch plank was used as could be procured.

Focusing for this post on Battery Reno, the three big Parrotts there came under the command of Captain Augustus W. Colwell, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. Company H, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery and a detachment of infantry manned the guns (Brigadier-General John Turner states the 178th New York was posted there, but that regiment was still in the Washington, D.C. garrison at the time.)

The range to Fort Sumter from Battery Reno was 4,320 yards. Later as the traverse increased, the range to Battery Gregg was 2,950 yards; and to Battery Wagner was 1,860 yards. All well within the maximum range of the big Parrotts.

One of Haas & Peale’s photos recorded the layout of Battery Reno. Let me again turn to the Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs for the view of Battery Reno:

Captain_Colwell_two_100_pound_and_one_200_pound_Parrotts_left_batteries

Not one of the best of the set, but at least a photograph to work with. The photo confirms the 8-inch Parrott was in the middle, to the right of the magazine. On the left of the magazine, somewhat hard to see, is one of the 6.4-inch Parrotts. The other is in plain sight on the right.

Notice the construction of the works, with sandbags, barrels filled with sand, and the gabions in the embrasures. The magazine, “between Nos. 2 and 3” according to Michie’s report, matches the provided description.

In the next installment, I’ll turn to Battery Stevens and then to Battery Strong.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 336-38.)