150 Years Ago: A minor little bombardment of Fort Sumter

From September 9 through September 27, 1863, the Federal batteries on Morris Island remained, relatively speaking, quiet.  But for an occasional ranging shot or short exchange of fire, the Federals focused on building and improving what was Battery Gregg into Fort Putnam.  The same might not be said for the lines between Major-General Quincy Gillmore and Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren.

Back in July, the plan had been to land on Morris Island, claim Battery Wagner by (short) siege, reduce Fort Sumter, then support the Navy as it forced its way into Charleston’s harbor.  When the early failures in July lead to a dual siege in August, Gillmore had leaned heavily on the Navy for support. Now with Morris Island in hand and Fort Sumter a shell of its former self, Gillmore was ready for the Navy to take up the lead.  But Dahlgren saw things differently.  Having operated for an extended time in the summer months practically engaged every day, the ironclads were in need of refit and crews in need of rest.  The lax days of September provided a much needed rest.  However, Dahlgren was not ready to put his ironclads back into the fray.  Writing to Gillmore on September 26, he wanted a Federal flag on Fort Sumter first:

With Sumter in our possession, the obstructions ranging from that work to Moultrie, whatever they are, would be removable with no great trouble and little risk, and I should advance upon the next series of defenses with the least possible expenditure of means, and with the iron-clads in the best condition.

May I ask, therefore, when your batteries may be able to operate on Sumter, and whether I may depend on your driving the enemy out of it? I shall be glad to contribute any cannon you may need to complete your works.

Gillmore saw this as a new requirement added by the Navy and also, understandably, misunderstood the meaning of “drive the enemy out.”  At length he responded to call into question any operation assaulting Fort Sumter, concluding:

I am myself willing to attempt the removal or destruction of the outer line of obstructions, rather than sacrifice men in carrying a work that possesses no power to harm an iron-clad fleet that has already repulsed one naval assault from small boats, that would be held with difficulty at the present time if we possessed it, and which must fall into our hands whenever the naval part of the programme before Charleston is carried out.

The following day, Dahlgren responded, stiffly, to clear up the matter.  It was the musketry fire from Fort Sumter, he feared, which might disrupt efforts to clear obstructions.  He had only suggested another bombardment of Fort Sumter.  “No assault is in question. If the cannon will not do it, the remainder will be on my hands, though I may say that even an assault was not so remote from your calculations at one time.”  In response, Gillmore related that several rifled guns were in place on Cumming’s Point and five of the heavy Parrotts remained in the Left Batteries ready to support the Navy.  “It now is my time,” Gillmore wrote, “to play a subordinate part, and all the means under my control are at your disposal for that purpose.”

While this dialog between senior Federal leaders took place, Gillmore had indeed began a fresh bombardment of Fort Sumter.  Major Stephen Elliot in command of the Confederate garrison offered this journal entry covering the activities of September 28:

I have the honor to report that at a quarter before 2 yesterday land batteries, distant 2 1/3 miles, opened a slow fire upon this work, directed mainly upon the southwest angle. One hundred shots were thrown, of which 48 struck, 16 fell short, 36 passed over. A negro was killed. The damage to the work is not considerable. A monitor came up apparently to observe the effect of the practice. This morning the fleet retains the position and numbers of yesterday.

Over the next few days, more Federal projectiles sailed over the waters towards Fort Sumter.  On the receiving end, Elliot recorded these results:

  • September 28: 100 rounds fired with 48 hits
  • September 29: 95 rounds fired with 34 hits
  • September 30: 68 rounds fired with 45 hits
  • October 1: 129 rounds fired with 75 hits
  • October 2: 74 rounds fired with 44 hits
  • October 3: 95 rounds fired with 78 hits
  • October 4: six rounds fired with no results recorded

At the same time, the Confederates gave as good as they got.  From the batteries on James Island and occasionally from Fort Moultrie, the rebel gunners fired a total upwards of 700 rounds through October 4.  At times the Confederate fire outnumbered that of the Federals.  The journal of operations kept at the Department headquarters in Charleston noted for October 4:

Three hundred and seventeen shots have been fired by our batteries (Sullivan’s Island, Simkins, Cheves, and Haskell) since 6 a.m. yesterday.  The enemy have fired in the same time 136 shots.

However mixed in with that count were a substantial number of mortar shells fired at Black Island where the Federals were building new gun positions.  From Battery Haskell a 10-inch mortar firing a 10 pound powder charge required 26.5 seconds (give or take) to explode a few hundred feet above the Federal battery.

With the tapering off of Federal fires on October 4, Elliot made a survey of the damage:

The effect of the week’s bombardment has been to cut the top of the gorge wall slightly in one or two places, to dig holes in the parade, and to extend the breach in the north wall, and to give give indications of future reaches possible at some remote period.

This brief action by the Federals became known as the “first minor bombardment” of Fort Sumter.  Instead of the 5,009 projectiles fired in the week of August 17-23, the Federals sent over just 567, by Confederate counts, in this “minor bombardment.”  Part of the reason for the anemic showing was the ongoing efforts to shift guns and build new works. But also factoring into operations at this time, Gillmore faced a long sick-call roll.  Department wide returns for the month of September closed with some 5,438 sick, out of a total present 28,831 troops present.  That’s nearly 19% across the Department.  On Morris Island alone, 2,246 were listed as sick, leaving only 8,734 present for duty.

Looking at the timing of Federal correspondence, I’ve always been inclined to see this bombardment as an effort by Gillmore to let Dahlgren know the Army was ready to resume operations.  A point of honor, perhaps.  So while the two combatants exchanged iron, the senior Federal leaders exchanged verbal barbs.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 26, pages 140, 626 and 627.; Serial 27, pages 97-8 and 100-1, and page 102 for Department of the South’s returns for September.)

150 years ago: Railroads west to Tennessee

If you read the monuments at Gettysburg for the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, specifically the battle honors of the regiments, you will notice a lot of western place-names listed along with the great eastern battlefields.  Most recall this is due to the transfer of the two corps in the fall of 1863 to reinforce the besieged Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga.  We often wave our hand over the map to explain this movement, but forget this was a herculean effort of strategic mobility.

Earlier in the season, the Confederates shifted part of General James Longstreet’s Corps to northern Georgia using some sixteen different railroad lines.  The first of those troops left the station in Orange, Virginia on September 8 or 9, 1863.  The lead elements of the force arrived in Georgia in time for the battle of Chickamauga.  But it is a misconception to say the movement was complete at that time.  Significant combat force remained on the trains or at the depots on September 20, and baggage would arrive only in the weeks following the battle.

Now it was time for the Federals to demonstrate their rail lines.  As reports from the battle trickled into Washington, President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and others debated the best way to reinforce Major-General William Rosecrans’ (for the moment) Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga.  On paper, Major-General Ambrose Burnside was close by at Knoxville.  But in reality the terrain did not allow for a rapid march, particularly where provisions were scarce and Confederate raiders were thick.  Likewise the movement of 20,000 troops from Vicksburg, Mississippi, under command of Major-General William T. Sherman, looked easy on paper but was not easily conducted on the ground.

The solution offered was to move two corps from the Army of the Potomac in Virginia out by rail to Tennessee.  Though some cautioned the movement would require over a month. But such estimates were largely based on pre-war experience.  Stanton and the railroad men felt the move could be done with much more speed, if properly organized.  Orders went out on September 24 to Major-General George Meade to release the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps for movement.

Initially, the Eleventh was to use Bristoe Station and Rappahannock Station.  But after organizing the rolling stock and coordinating troop movements, Major-General O.O. Howard loaded his troops at Manassas Junction (with artillery going on the trains at Alexandria).  The Twelfth loaded at Brandy Station.   And there was some counter-marching required in order to keep this movement of troops out of sight from the Confederate observers on Clark’s Mountain.

To reach Chattanooga, the troops started their journey on the Orange & Alexandria (O&A) at some of the war’s most important rail junctions.  The trains then would move, by way of Washington, to Baltimore and switch to the B&O for a westward leg. Reaching the Ohio River at Benwood, the troops were to ferry (later move by pontoon bridge) across to Bellaire, Ohio where they would board trains on the Central Ohio Railroad and make the run to Columbus, Ohio.  Next the troops would switch to the Indiana Central and move to Indianapolis.  There the plan called for another transfer onto the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis Railroad for a trip to Jeffersonville, Indiana.  Another ferry ride would put the troops in Louisville, Kentucky where they would take the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N).  In Nashville the troops would board trains for their last leg on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad (N&C).  The closest terminus would be Bridgeport, Alabama.  All told the troops would transit eight states, plus the District of Columbia, and cross four major rivers (the Ohio and the Potomac twice), in their journey of 1200 miles.

Leading this movement effort was a mix of civilian and military officials.  Stanton coordinated with John M. Garrett of the B&O, Samuel M. Felton of the Pennsylvania Railroad, H.J. Jewett of the Central Ohio, James Guthrie of the L&N, and several others with connecting rail lines.  And on the military side, Colonel Thomas Scott (who was more a War Department official with military rank) supervised the operation.  There was at times friction with Colonel William Innes, who supervised Rosecrans’ railroad department.  But Stanton’s directives brushed aside any disagreements.

While planning the move on September 23, Stanton forwarded inquiries to Brigadier-General Jeremiah T. Boyle in regards to the L&N:

Please ascertain and report to me immediately:
1. How many men can be transported by employing the whole rolling stock of the road from Louisville to Nashville, enumerating the number of cars of every description that could be employed?
2. How many hours it usually takes to make the trip from Nashville to Louisville, and at what rate of speed?
3. Is the road from Nashville to Chattanooga the same gauge as the road from Louisville to Nashville, so that cars can go direct from Louisville to Chattanooga, and what time does it take from Nashville to Chattanooga?
4. If the gauge of the roads is different, what is the supply of rolling stock on the  [Nashville] and Chattanooga road?

The following morning, Boyle responded that the L&N could transport 3,000 men a day, requiring sixteen hours to cover the 185 mile distance.  The L&N connected to the N&C in Nashville, but Boyle was unable to determine the rates for that last leg of the trip.  Military campaigns of the last eight months had used up and badly damaged the N&C, but with repairs, Boyle felt the lines could support 4,000 men.

Contrary to some statements you hear today, the Federal railroad lines were not uniform gauge.  An alternative route crossing the Ohio at Cincinnati and using the Covington & Lexington Railroad was considered.  However, the president of that line warned of the different gauge of track between Lexington and Louisville.  Later, the War Department would spend an estimated $38,000 to rectify this issue.  Another modification to the rail lines was the laying of connecting track in Indianapolis to allow cars to switch over, instead of having the troops disembark.

On September 25, the first troop cars passed through Washington as the first of nearly three days of nearly continual movement through the city.  Some 390 B&O railcars sent down the O&A allowed for rapid transition in Baltimore.  By September 28 the first troop trains reached Indianapolis.  A day later those lead elements prepared to recross the Ohio River into Kentucky at Louisville.  On September 30, four trains arrived in Nashville with the lead elements of the Eleventh Corps.  Within a few days, the bulk of the Eleventh Corps arrived at Bridgeport, where they looked over the Tennessee River at the broken bridge which prevented their transit to Chattanooga.

A few days later, the troop movement was complete with the two corps ready to assume operations in what would become the Chattanooga Campaign.  Historian Thomas Weber summarized the movement:

By October 3, the first regiments of the 11th Corps began arriving at their base camp 26 miles from Chattanooga.  October 6, the last regiment passed through Indianapolis, and by October 8, the troop movement was complete.  In 14 days, 23,000 men had moved 1,233 miles, an accomplishment not to be surpassed during the war …. The baggage of the two corps, including horses, wagons, ambulances, and commissary, moved west over the same route during the first two weeks of October…. Thus the complete transfer of men and equipment took only about three weeks, a time so far under the general estimate that it must have greatly surprised Halleck and Lincoln.

Indeed, the movement put two veteran corps in a place that left the Confederates concerned.  More than the bickering among generals, I would submit the rapid movement of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps contained the Confederate gains in September 1863.

And as a side note, this is perhaps the only post narrative that one might mention “Brandy Station” with “Louisville” and “Bridgeport.”  More than anything, this troop movement shows how interconnected the theaters of war really were.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 29, Part I, Serial 48, page 147; Thomas Weber, The Northern Railroads in the Civil War: 1861-1865, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1952, page 186.)

Reed’s Bridge preservation effort: Chickamauga 2013 almost complete!

With all the activity of late, I almost forgot to highlight a preservation effort by the Civil War Trust at Chickamauga.  The effort targets 109 acres around the site of Reed’s Bridge, where the battle’s first actions took place on September 18, 1863.  As the historical articles on the Trust’s site indicate, this was an important clash that framed one of the war’s great battles.  The action involved Federal cavalry under Colonel Robert Minty (the best cavalryman you’ve never heard of) and Confederate cavalry under Brigadier-General Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Among the units deployed was the Chicago Board of Trade Battery, which was one of the best horse artillery batteries of the war.  Some time back, Don wrote a nice post on the actions of the 4th US Cavalry in the fighting at Reed’s Bridge.

All good historical background and justification to preserve the site.  As the Trust’s site also notes, the veterans recognized the significance of Reed’s Bridge and wanted it in the park’s original boundaries.  That didn’t happen.  So now over 100 years after the formation of the park, we have an opportunity to re-address that shortfall.

In recent days the Trust has announced they have made significant progress towards preserving Reed’s Bridge. The original price tag was $1.4 million.  But as explained in Jim Lighthizer’s introduction to this effort, grants have set this up as a 10-to-1 donation match:

…thanks to a matching grant of $700,000 from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program, and wonderful grant from the Williams Family Foundation of Georgia, another generous grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, plus additional major gifts from other local organizations such as our friends at the Georgia Battlefields Association and a former member of our Board of Trustees…

… we already have $1,260,000 in matching funds lined up and ready to go – which gives us fully 90% of the total funds needed.

If you and I can raise the final 10% – just $140,000 – to leverage and unlock this tide of matching money, we will save the most important unprotected ground at the biggest and arguably one of the most important battlefields of the entire Civil War.

Now, the Trust is reporting they are only $23,000 short of their goal. Once again, the Trust is closing in on a significant preservation purchase.  I urge you to consider contributing to this worthy effort.

Fortification Friday: Permanent or Field Fortifications?

Some time back, a reader suggested that I post about the various terms used to describe fortifications.  Sounded like a good idea, so let me kick off this first “Fortification Friday.”

For starters what is a fortification in the context of the Civil War.  Well the dean of fortifications, as far as the American experience goes – Dennis Hart Mahan wrote in his 1856 Treatise on Field Fortifications:

All dispositions made to enable an armed force to resists, with advantage, the attack of one superior to it in numbers, below to the Art of Fortification.

This means used to strengthen a position, may either those presented by nature, as precipices, woods, rivers &c., or those formed by art, as shelters of earth, stone, wood, &c.

Interesting here that Mahan pins the use of fortifications to the side with inferior numbers.  Fortifications were combat multipliers, enabling a handful of men to represent a strength beyond their raw numbers.  But does this mean Fortress Roscrans (the largest enclosed fort built during the war) or the Defenses of Washington during much of the war, where the garrison technically outnumbered any potential adversary, were simply “outposts”?  Perhaps at the strategic measure, but those fortifications were designed to allow a small force posted at points around the perimeter to hold off a deliberate, focused attack by a larger enemy force.  Or a better way to put it – a guard force on the perimeter could hold the enemy advance until the full force of the garrison arrived.

In his writings, Mahan further broke down the art of fortification into two disciplines – permanent fortifications and temporary (field) fortifications:

If the artificial obstacles are of a durable character, and the position is to be permanently occupied, the works receive the name of Permanent Fortification; but when the position is to be occupied only for a short period, or during the operations of a campaign, perishable materials, as earth and wood, are mostly used, and the works are denominated Temporary or Field Fortifications.

Clearly Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie were permanent fortifications.  But Batteries Wagner, Gregg and those on Sullivan’s Island?  I’d argue those are in one sense permanent, since the intent was those works would defend Charleston for an indefinite period of time, despite the use of temporary materials.  In a revised version of Mahan’s original text on Permanent Fortifications, James Mercur introduced the permanent fortification:

The term permanent fortification is applied to those defenses which, constructed of materials of a durable nature, and designed for permanent occupancy by troops, receive such a degree of strength that an enemy will be forced to the operations either of a siege or a blockade to gain possession of them….

The object of such defenses is to secure the permanent military possession of those points, either on the frontiers or in the interior of a state, which must, at all times, have a well-defined bearing on the operations of a defensive or offensive war.

In that regard, Battery Wagner, Battery Gregg, and the additional batteries built on Sullivan’s Island were part of a system of permanent fortifications around Charleston defined to hold a coastal frontier.

Delineating the properties required of permanent fortifications, Mahan continued to list the conditions a defender must attain to properly setup these permanent defenses:

  1. Strength to resist open assault by ordinary means.
  2. Sustainable shelters to protect troops, armament, provisions, and magazines.
  3. Laid out so that all exterior points within range can be swept by cannon fire.
  4. Secure means of communication and movement of troops within the defenses.
  5. Configured to allow the defender to dispute any attempt to occupy, “every point both within and exterior to the defenses.”

In those measures, Battery Wagner was a failed, but flawed, permanent fortification.

But let’s go back to the force multiplier factor granted by fortifications.  Mahan considered the base element of the fortification, be that permanent or temporary, to be the intrenchment (I’ll stick to his spelling if for nothing else to annoy those pesky grammar-istas out there).  As he wrote in the 1856 Treatise:

The general appellation of Intrenchments is applied to all field works; and a position strengthened by them, is said to be Intrenched.

To enable troops to fight with advantage, the intrenchments should shelter them from the enemy’s fire; be an obstacle in themselves to the enemy’s progress; and afford the assailed the means of using their weapons with effect.  To satisfy these essential conditions, the component parts of every intrenchment should consist of a covering mass, or embankment, denominated the parapet, to intercept the enemy’s missiles, to enable the assailed to use their weapons with effect, and to present an obstacle to the enemy’s progress, and of a ditch, which, from its position and proximity to the parapet, subserves the double purpose of increasing the obstacle which the enemy must surmount before reaching the assailed, and of furnishing the earth to form the parapet.

So look at fortifications as the counter to both firepower and mobility.  A good Intrenchment would stop the enemy’s movement AND deflect his fires.  A fortification was the preventative applied against the enemy’s artillery. Or conversely, artillery was the direct solution to an intrenched enemy.  Keep that in mind when reading about the soldiers rapidly building field fortifications during actions from 1863 on.

As to the proper evaluation of a fortification’s value, in what we might consider doctrine today:

Intrenchments should be regarded only as accessories to the defense of a position. They are inert masses, which, consuming a portion of the enemy’s efforts, and detaining him in an exposed situation to the fire of the assailed, insure his defeat.

Let’s put emphasis on that last bit.  Mahan did not propose to his students (and you know who those were) that they stand their troops behind works to simply throw the enemy back.   No, he suggested an active defense.  The intrenchments were “accessories” that enabled the strong counter-punch.

Shades of some 20th century doctrine, perhaps?

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortification, New York: John Wiley, 1856, pages 1-2; and Mahan’s Permanent Fortifications, edited by James Mercur, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1888, pages 1-2.)

Photo foresics on a burst Parrott Rifle

While everyone else is combing through crowd photos looking for glimpses of Abraham Lincoln, I’ll stick to the photos of guns and beach sand.  Back a few years when discussing the big Parrott rifles from a technical and service history standpoint, I left open discussion about the type’s tendency to burst, looking for a good “150th” setting to discuss.  Well that time is now.  Major-General Quincy Gillmore, in a lengthy version of his official report published in 1865, noted that six 8-inch and seventeen 6.4-inch Parrotts burst during the summer and fall operations on Morris Island (not including the failed 10-inch Parrott from Battery Strong).

Consider this photo from the Haas & Peale collection, taken on Morris Island sometime in the summer of 1863:

burst_100 pound Parrott

This is a 100-pdr, or as I prefer 6.4-inch, Parrott rifle which burst along two lines – one across the barrel right at the trunnions and the other laterally back through the breech.  The gun broke into three major pieces, excluding the band, with the chase and two halves of the breech.  One of those three is either hidden from view or already discarded.  Looking closely, there is evidence of secondary cracks.


I’ve looked over the bore a time or two, but not seen any marks worth chasing down.


That’s unfortunate, as there are several listings of burst Parrotts on Morris Island which contain details for each particular piece by registry number.

Far more interesting than the undamaged muzzle is the breech.  With that portion of the gun cleaved in two by the explosive force, we can see some details of the weapon that we don’t normally get to view.


Notice the thickness of metal from the bottom of the bore back to the stub of the cascabel.  Yet, in comparison the walls around the top and bottom of the chamber are not as thick.


The rifling shows up clearly in the photo.  It starts a good distance from the bottom of the bore allowing for the seating of the charge.  The first few calibers of rifling are straight, conforming to Robert P. Parrott’s increasing-gain rifling pattern.

The band, or at least a portion of it, stands behind the gun.


Gillmore’s report included plates, recorded by Captain Alfred Mordecai, Jr., showing the bursting patterns of various Parrott rifles.  I’ve looked through them hoping to find a diagram that matches this gun.  But I’ve found at best an 80% match:


Gun with foundry number 736 burst after 514 rounds, firing a charge of 10 pounds and an 80 pound projectile.  The particulars around the breech are not a perfect match to the photo.  Then again, maybe Mordecai was a bit generous with the diagram.  But if this is a match, the gun in the photo was delivered to the Army sometime in December 1862.

In his report, Gillmore suggested there was a pattern among the burst Parrotts.  Sensing the reinforcing band was sufficiently strong, he pointed to defects in the cast iron of the gun barrel. On the other hand, I don’t see anything in the photos or diagram which would lead to a conclusion about casting defects.  The break, which actually is rather clean for a burst cast iron gun, is more indicative of a stress failure.  Then again, I have a degree in history and not physics.  However, to my point Gillmore reported an alarming number of premature shell explosions for these Parrotts.  And that is something the guns were not designed for.

Gillmore suggested the band could be extended a few calibers more in length, and be screwed onto the gun instead of slipped on.  In addition, he suggested that, “the gun be cast hollow, and rifled with a uniform twist, or a twist of uniform pressure against the bands.”   Not saying Gillmore’s suggestion carried all the weight, but all large caliber Parrott rifles received after 1863 were “to be cast hollow and cooled from the interior.” The screw-on reinforcing band and uniform rifling were not adopted, however.

Before bringing up the charts and tables to fully analyze the Parrott’s endurance, let me discuss the background and setting of the photo above.  In the background is a row of sling carts and siege limbers:


This could be about anywhere on the south half of Morris Island, where guns were staged before moving to the front.  But the presence of a steamer in the background argues this was the south end wharfs on Morris Island.


Given that location, this photo could date to about any time during the operations on Morris Island.  While the photographers might have simply thought this burst gun would make a good photo essay (and great for future historians to dissect in blog posts, I add with cynicism).  But I would also suggest this photo was taken at the request of the Army officers.

The Morris Island Campaign was the first prolonged combat operation using these big Parrotts.  The failure rates were, while not prohibitive, alarming.  Questions about the guns turned into accusations of some sort.  A photo of a failed gun could be worth the proverbial thousand words during such an exchange.

Photo credit: Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs, ID Number 71MSS918_027.tif

150 Years Ago: Skirmishing with Mosby at Rector’s Cross Roads

Studying the Civil War in Northern Virginia, a theme emerges shortly after the Gettysburg campaign.  Hardly a week would pass without some action involving Lieutenant-Colonel John S. Mosby.  The activities of that partisan ranger only slackened in the last few months of the war.  But even then, as the oft spoken quip alludes to, Mosby tied up many more Federal troops than he fielded.  One of those units which frequently saw action against Mosby and partisans operating in Northern Virginia was Major Henry Cole’s 1st Maryland Cavalry Battalion.

In late September 1863, Cole received orders to scout from Harpers Ferry (at that time in the new state of West Virginia) up the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester, Virginia then across the Blue Ridge to Loudoun County.  Cole had around 250 men with him on this scouting.  On September 21st, the Maryland troopers camped at Charlestown.  The following day they moved to Winchester and then to Berryville.  Then on September 24rd, Cole marched his men into Loudoun:

At daylight on the subsequent morning, I proceeded to Snickersville, via Snicker’s Gap. In the vicinity of Snickersville I came in contact with a few scattering bodies of White’s command; from thence I proceeded to Waterford and encamped for the night. At daylight on the subsequent day, I proceeded to Leesburg, via Snickersville and Leesburg pike. My advance guards charged into Leesburg, capturing one of White’s men; encamped for the night within a few miles of the town.

Leesburg was much less “sprawl” at that time, so charging into town meant a gallop past the court square where so much Civil War activity took place.  The next day, Cole lead his men into Loudoun Valley in search of Mosby.  Very quickly he was a ware that Mosby was also keeping track of the Marylanders. Very soon a sharp skirmish ensued:

On the morning of the 25th, I proceeded to Upperville, with the expectation of coming in contact with Mosby’s guerrillas. I was not disappointed in my expectations, for within a few miles of the town I espied Lieutenant-Colonel Mosby with his command, consisting of about 150 men, drawn up in line of battle on an eligible position awaiting my arrival. His skirmishers were well advanced to the front. As soon as I perceived his disposition, I threw out skirmishers to the front and right flank, and advanced my column under their cover.

Cole states he was “proceeding to Upperville,” but others involved mentioned the site of this skirmish at Rector’s Cross Roads (modern day Atoka). That section of the Little River Turnpike is among the most often skirmished over in Virginia.  And it is the location where Mosby’s rangers were formed earlier in the year.  After building up the skirmish, Cole pressed the issue:

When within about 1,000 yards of the enemy’s line I ordered a charge, when they broke and scattered in wild dismay. The result of the skirmish w.as a loss on the part of the enemy, 1 man killed and 8 prisoners, without experiencing any loss on my part. I also recaptured a man of the Nineteenth U.S. Infantry, recently captured by Mosby at Bull Run. I then encamped for the night near Upperville.

For what it is worth, Mosby did not mention this action in his summary report covering operations of August and September 1862.  In his history of Cole’s Cavalry, C. Armour Newcomer would recall the engagement at Upperville:

We had met Mosby upon his own ground, and considering that the command of Major Cole numbered only two hundred and fifty men when they left camp and had fought fully four hundred of the enemy at Rector’s Cross Roads, and got safely back to camp with only the loss of three killed, six wounded and seven taken prisoners.  Our forces had captured fifteen prisoners with their horses and arms and killed and wounded a number of the enemy, the number we were unable to know, and destroyed a tannery.  We considered that we had not gotten the worst in the raid….

This was not the first scrap between these two cavalry formations.  Nor would it be the last.  And of note here, Cole’s men confronted both Mosby’s Rangers and brushed Lieutenant-Colonel Elijah V. White’s 35th Virginia Cavalry earlier in the march. The “home-front” in northern Virginia was hardly a quiet sector of the war.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 29, Part II, Serial 48, pages 144-5; C. Armour Newcomer, Cole’s Cavalry, or, Three years in the Saddle in the Shenandoah Valley, Baltimore: Cushing & Company: 1895, pages 61-2.)

Need heavy guns on the Potomac: Seacoast defenses for Washington

Even after all direct threats to Washington, D.C. abated with the end of the Gettysburg Campaign, at least one man in the capital city saw the need to improve defenses.

On September 1, 1863, Brigadier-General John G. Barnard wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

The works of Rozier’s Bluff, and near Jones’ Point are nearly ready to receive guns–in fact they could have been mounted some time ago, had the guns and platforms been available. You are well aware that not only are the large seaport towns, like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia making strenuous exertions to increase their armament of improved guns, but even places of a (comparatively) secondary importance, like Portland, &c. If we have war with a maritime power (a possibility which incites all these preparations), the land defenses of Washington will prove unavailing unless also the access by water is prevented.

There is not now a gun mounted for the defense of the Potomac capable of having the slightest effect upon an iron-clad vessel. As it seems to devolve upon me to represent the necessities of Washington, I would recommend that among the guns which actually do become available, a fair proportion should be assigned to Washington.

The Ordnance Department is doing all that can be done to furnish guns. It has no voice, however, in their distribution, and as there are no Governors of States or commissions of citizens to advocate the needs of Washington, I feel called on to make this representation.

A few days later, Barnard would recommend the fortification on Rozier’s Bluff, on the Maryland side of the river, receive the name Fort Foote in honor of Rear-Admiral Andrew H. Foote, who died earlier in the year.  The battery near Jones’ Point was named Battery Rogers after Captain G.W. Roders, killed in action off Morris Island in August.

Not finished petitioning for heavy guns to defend the Potomac, 150 years ago yesterday (September 23), Barnard again called upon the secretary about matter:

By letter of the 1st instant. I represented the importance of speedily arming the two works built for the defense of the Potomac approach to Washington. At your request I mentioned the number or improved sea-coast guns which I thought should be immediately supplied, and I mentioned eight, in consideration of the great demand for guns at the different sea-ports.

This was an off-hand statement, and I have since reflected on the matter, and have come to the conclusion that since there is no armament in Fort Washington of any value whatever, and that these two works will constitute, just now, the real defenses of Washington against maritime attack, the full armament of these works (namely, three 15-inch guns and thirteen 200-pounders) should be furnished very speedily. In case of war with a maritime power, allied with the rebellion, the defense of Washington can hardly be considered second in importance to that of New York.

I have, therefore, to request that in your directions to the Ordnance Department it may be directed to furnish the last-mentioned number of guns as speedily as possible.

Conventional wisdom is that all chances of foreign recognition, and thus intervention of a maritime power in support of the Confederacy, faded with the repulse of Pickett’s Charge.  Yet, here Barnard cites it as if a imminent threat.  Eventually Barnard would get those guns:

Now was the threat of a “maritime power,” allied with the Confederacy, with ironclads on the Potomac much of a real threat in the summer of 1863?  Or was Barnard trying to perfect the defenses while he had leverage?

Consider the quantities of heavy guns received by the Army after Gettysburg:

  • 8-inch Rodman Guns, 123 delivered  from a total of 213 produced.
  • 10-inch Rodman Guns, 1270 of 1301 total produced.
  • 15-inch Rodman Guns, 313 out of 323 produced.
  • 10-inch Parrott Rifles, 40 out of 42 produced.
  • 8-inch Parrott Rifles, 69 out of 91 produced for the Army.
  • 6.4-inch Parrott Rifles, 98 out of 233 produced for the Army.

The tallies don’t count for experimental types or those delivered to the Navy but borrowed by the Army.  But the numbers do include those delivered after the war, on wartime contracts.

Could we make the case that the Army capitalized on the increased wartime spending in order to “get healthy” on what was still considered the primary mission?  That mission being coastal defense, of course.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 29, Part II, Serial 49, pages 149 and 226.)