Improvements to James Island Defenses through October 1863

With the fall of Battery Wagner in early September 1863, the Confederate defenses of Charleston lost the buffer in front of James Island.  During the long campaign for Morris Island, new batteries appeared on the east end of James Island to oppose the Federal siege lines.  Those were soon supplemented with improvements to the defensive lines in the interior of the island.

The improvements were part of a redistribution of heavy guns, as Fort Sumter’s guns were moved to new locations starting in August.  While James Island received fourteen of the fort’s guns, the changes were not confined to additions.  Confederate authorities moved guns about, adjusting to the new threats from a Federal bastion on Morris Island.

Major General J.F. Gilmer

Days after the fall of Battery Wagner, a board of officers, lead by Major-General Jeremy F. Gilmer, convened to determine the best arrangements to defend James Island.  This board delivered its recommendations on September 14.  Over the weeks that followed, the engineer staff and ordnance officers made modifications to that base report.  But the basic scheme of improvement was retained.

JamesIslandImprovements

The board recommenced heavier armament on the old Cross-Roads Line, which they called the “New Lines”.  Fort Lamar anchored the left of this line. To the right, the Confederates were already working on Battery Pringle along the Stono River:

James Island New Line

Battery Pringle had two 32-pdr rifled guns in place at the time of that report. The board asked to move one 10-inch Columbiad, one 8-inch Columbiad, and a 42-pdr rifled gun from Fort Pemberton to upgrade Battery Pringle.  The upgrade also included two 8-inch shell guns and at least one more rifled gun.  This placed the forward defense of the Stono River at a point directly overlooking Grimball’s Landing.  Backing Battery Pringle was another new work at Dill’s Plantation built for five heavy guns.  That later work was named Battery Tynes in October and received two 42-pdr rifles, two 32-pdr rifles, and an 8-inch columbiad.

To the east of Battery Pringle, along the old line, were five new batteries.  The recommended armament was:

  • Battery No. 1 – two 24-pdrs, one 12-pdr rifle, two 12-pdr smoothbore siege guns.
  • Battery No. 2 – two 32-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr smoothbores, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer.
  • Battery No. 3 – two 24-pdr smoothbores, one 18-pdr rifle, two 18-pdr smoothbores.
  • Battery No. 4 – two 32-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr smoothbores, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer.
  • Battery No. 5 (added after the September 14 report) – two 24-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr howitzers.

On the east end, Fort Lamar retained four 8-inch naval shell guns, four 32-pdr navy smoothbores, one 32-pdr rifle, two 32-pdr army smoothbores, two 24-pdr rifled guns, a 32-pdr howitzer, and a 10-inch mortar.  Lamar would lose one 8-inch shell gun, one 32-pdr rifle, a 32-pdr navy gun, and a 18-pdr smoothbore gun with the redistribution.   And its 24-pdr guns were earmarked for banding when replacements could be found.

To the north, the line of works running in an arch behind Fort Pemberton.  Fort Pemberton itself retained two 32-pdr rifles, three 32-pdr smoothbores, one 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, and a 24-pdr howitzer.

JamesIslandWestLinesMap

But the West Lines, with thirteen numbered positions, would lose several guns to reinforce the “New Lines” to the front.  In September the armament inventory of the West Lines was:

  • Battery No. 1 – two 18-pdr smoothbores
  • Battery No. 2 – two 24-pdr Austrian howitzers
  • Battery No. 3 – one 24-pdr smoothbore gun
  • Battery No. 4 – one 32-pdr smoothbore gun, one 24-pdr smoothbore (damaged)
  • Battery No. 5 – one 12-pdr smoothbore siege gun.
  • Battery No. 6 – one 24-pdr smoothbore gun
  • Battery No. 7 – one 24-pdr Austrian howizter
  • Battery No. 8 – two 6-pdr iron guns
  • Battery No. 9 – one 12-pdr smoothbore siege gun
  • Battery No. 10 – one 12-pdr smoothbore siege gun
  • Battery No. 11 – one 24-pdr smoothbore gun
  • Battery No. 12 – one 32-pdr naval gun
  • Battery No. 13 – one 24-pdr smoothbore gun

As annotated in this sketch, several of those battery positions went vacant:

James Island West Lines

Left behind were several Austrian 24-pdr howitzers, positioned provide short range coverage of the important road network across James Island.  These were not the heavy, standard U.S. howitzers and were not suitable for field operations due to shorter range and slightly larger bore.  But these could fill in around Charleston for point defense.

Pitzer Woods 12 Apr 08 104
Austrian Howitzers at Gettysburg Today

On the other side of James Island was the East Line protecting the landward approaches to Fort Johnson and the heavy guns facing Morris Island.

JamesIslandEastLinesMap

The East James Island line ran from Battery Ryan up to James Creek (which joined Newtown Cut).  The line included six redoubts (with approximate locations numbered above) and six redans, from left to right of that line:

  • Redoubt N0. 1 – one 32-pdr smoothbore
  • Redoubt No. 2 –  two 32-pdr smoothbore, one 24-pdr smoothbore
  • Redoubt No. 3 – one 24-pdr smoothbore
  • Redan No. 1 – one 24-pdr smoothbore
  • Redoubt No. 4 – one 24-pdr smoothbore, one 18-pdr smoothbore
  • Redan No. 2 – one 24-pdr smoothbore
  • Redoubt No. 5 – one 24-pdr smothbore, one 18-pdr smoothbore
  • Redan No. 3 – one 32-pdr smoothbore
  • Redoubt No. 6 – one 24-pdr smoothbore
  • Redan No. 4 – one 24-pdr smoothbore
  • Redan No. 5 – one 32-pdr gun, one 24-pdr smoothbore, one 12-pdr rifle, one 12-pdr smoothbore
  • Redan No. 6 – one 8-inch seacoast howitzer

In the transition, Redoubt No. 1 would receive one 8-inch shell gun, a 30-pdr Parrott, and a 24-pdr rifled gun.  Redoubts No. 4 and 5 would lose their 18-pdr guns.  Redans No. 5 and 6 would be disarmed completely with their guns going to the New Lines.  A rough sketch of the line recorded these changes:

James Island East Lines

In addition to all these changes to the defensive lines across James Island, the line of batteries from Secessionville to Fort Johnson, along with those facing the harbor, received improvements:

  • Battery behind Secessionville – 30-pdr Parrott (replacing 24-pdr rifle) and two 32-pdr smoothbores
  • Battery Reed – two 24-pdr smoothbores
  • Battery Ryan – two 8-inch siege howitzers, two 24-pdr rifles, 24-pdr Austrian howitzers, two 12-pdr James rifles (to be reamed out to 18-pdr smoothbores)
  • Battery Tatom – two 4.62-inch rifles, two 8-inch howitzers; plans to add two 8-inch shell guns.
  • Battery Haskell – one 4-inch Blakely, one 8-inch Columbiad, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, two 20-pdr Parrotts, one 24-pdr rifle, one 24-pdr smoothbore, one 4.62-inch rifle, two 10-inch seacoast mortars, and two 42-pdr carronades
  • Battery Cheves – reduced to three 8-inch columbiads
  • Brooke Gun Battery (south of Fort Johnson) – one 8-inch shell gun
  • Battery Simkins – one 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch shell gun, and three 10-inch seacoast mortars (losing one 6.4-inch Brooke rifle)
  • Fort Johnson – one 8-inch rifled and banded columbiad, three 10-inch columbiads
  • Tower Battery (to west of Fort Johnson) – one 7-inch and one 6.4-inch Brooke rifles, three 10-inch columbiads planned
  • Battery Wampler – two 10 inch columbiads
  • Battery Glover – three 32-pdr rifles

These arrangements reflected the perceived threats from the barrier islands then in the hands of Federal forces.  Lines now bristled with cannon to prevent advances from the Stono River landings into James Island’s interior. Heavy guns faced Morris Island and the harbor interior.  This reallocation of guns barred any attempt to turn James Island by siege.  And any monitors that ran the gauntlet at the harbor’s mouth would face a heavier ring of fire in Charleston’s inner harbor.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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