End of year summary from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery

Last day of the year, so time for a little summary roll-up of the activities at Charleston, South Carolina for 1863.  The regimental history of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery offered just such a roll-up, focused on material and labor expended:

In the siege operations in 1863, the returns showed that we expended twenty-four Parrott guns.  We also expended 46,175 sand-bags; about 500 wattle gabions; fifty iron gabions; seven sap-rollers filled with facines; three sap-rollers filled with cotton; 12,382 feet of boards and planks.  The saps approaching Fort Wagner, if in a straight line, would have exceeded a mile.  They were four feet wide and two feet deep.  Three-fourths of the work was executed in the night, and nine-tenths of it under fire of artillery and sharp-shooters.  The sap-rollers – nine feet long and four feet in diameter, weighing about 2,000 pounds – were moved about six inches at a time.  About one-half of the work was performed by colored troops.  About 200 men were engaged at a time; reliefs were frequent.  The more exposed work continued about fifty days, and we lost 150 men.

The regimental history did not provide  the number of projectiles fired.  I’d estimate that count, including Army and Navy gunfire fired at all targets around Charleston, would exceed 26,000 rounds.   Most of that firing occurred during the second major bombardment.  A significant portion of that total was fired from heavy caliber weapons.  Note also the character of the labor… and who performed the work.  And for all that expenditure of material and muscle, the advance towards Charleston had only gained one barrier island and silenced, but not destroyed, a single fortification.

Students of the Civil War will point out a similar summary might have been recorded for operations outside Petersburg and Richmond, or outside Atlanta, at the end of 1864.  Was the nature of warfare changing?  Or were certain features of warfare enhanced?

(Citation from Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, page 207.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “End of year summary from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery

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