More photo analysis fun at Battery Wagner… or Fort Wagner… or Fort Strong

Yesterday I used this photo, with the tease there’s more in view than just the tents:


And I gave it the label “W2” for the key map:


The camera was on top of a traverse looking across the curtain wall of the fort, towards the sea.  You may have seen the photo a time or two before, as it has appeared in photographic histories and general histories where Wagner is mentioned.

Of course my eyes are first drawn to the guns:


Hard to positively identify the specific type of gun.  Definitely a naval pattern gun.  Likely a 32-pdr, although some 8-inch shell guns (often cited in Confederate reports) have a very similar external appearance.  There is nothing in view that would make a handy gauge to measure the projectile size, which might help identification.

And speaking of projectiles.  These don’t look like solid shot or shell:


There is a visible seam on some of them.


Yes, the Army did make 32-pdr canister rounds, if you are wondering.  Would have been ghastly stuff to fire across an open beach towards attacking infantry.

But some of the projectiles on the lower shelf give pause for detailed identification:


Is that the blunt end of a Confederate style rifled bolt?  Or is that the sabot used for canister in a chambered shell gun?

Perhaps the labels on boxes laid below the gun could help:


If we could read them with clarity.

The next furthest gun in view also appears to be a naval gun, but with a different style breeching jaw.


But with only half the breech showing above the traverse, this could be an army pattern.

Only the chase of the third, and last, gun in the line appears in view.


But notice the step ladder and other accessories in the walkway between the guns.

These works have sod covering throughout with wood reinforcement.  Gone are the sandbags and gabions of the siege lines.  The works are so well defined that cannonballs and stands of grape appear on the upper corners, as if to accentuate the lines:


This one is so well painted and polished, had there be a little better resolution, we could perhaps see the camera in a reflection.

Inside the fortification, there is a mix of wooden and canvas structures.  The two tents beside the gun line have horizontal “smokestacks”:


Odd.  I wouldn’t think those would vent well.

The tents are from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery.


Company M, to be exact.

Looking around the interior, a wooden structure on the right, inside the original Confederate sea-side bastion, appears to be a guard point.


In view in front of the tent is a tall mast or flagpole.  There are steps up that mast to a second tier, making it ship-like in appearance.  The entire mast is too tall for me to easily crop for display, but you can see it in the original photo clearly.  Lacking any ensign or flag, I suspect the mast was used for signaling the fleet.

Speaking of signaling, a telegraph pole is visible on the parapet wall:


A faint line leads down to a smaller pole:


And then lays across the ground:


The white structure on the parapet, above the wire, is a mystery to me. It could be a guard point.  Or could be something related to the observation party seen in the other photograph.

The line lays across the restored and well manicured bombproof built by the Confederates:


There’s a well worn trail from the ladder up the traverse.  And a platform path around the opening of the magazine.  The ladder appears in the observer photo (W3) also.

Earlier signal corps practice placed telegraph stations in bombproofs for protection.  So the line could have ran right down into that entrance in the center, or down a small shaft built into the traverse.

There is a set of tents which stand out suggesting “command” center.  Mostly because of the arrangement of trophies in front.


That’s the sort of thing you do around a post headquarters.  But I don’t see any telegraph poles or lines.  Perhaps the function was more administrative.  Or perhaps this was the “warm up” tent when very important people came up for a look at Fort Sumter.  “General, you may find our collection of rebel shells of interest….”

Looking beyond that set of tents, clearly the Federals added a new bastion to the old Confederate works.  This enclosed the covered way which lead to Battery Gregg (now Fort Putnam).  In that bastion is a field piece of some sort:


Notice also the planking used to protect the interior walls from shells skipped in from the west side of the fort.  Yes, the guns on James Island were still active, and could range Fort Wagner.

Looking to the left of that field piece, the rear of two Parrott gun carriages stick out from their positions:


Can’t see the guns, but the orientation of the carriages indicate these pointed at Fort Sumter.

There’s a structure, wooden perhaps, on the parapet in that sector.  A pole next to the structure alludes to some command and control purpose.


Not wishing to speculate, but that would have made an excellent observation point to judge the effects of fires on Fort Sumter. Though the lack of overhead cover would disturb most occupants.

But look up beyond that structure on the parapet.  What do you see?


No mistaking that profile.  A monitor in the main ship channel.

This is why I love these photos.  You never know what is really in view.  So many details to pick out of the mist.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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