Photo Analysis: The east side of Fort Putnam

In a couple of earlier posts, I used this photo as a reference for Fort Putnam:

And as mentioned earlier, this photo compares favorably to a painting by Conrad Wise Chapman.  But the real treasure of this photo lies in the details the lens captured.  I suspect the photographer took this photo when the Federals were busy converting the works from Battery Gregg into Fort Putnam.  It is among the Haas & Peale collection, which helps with dating the photo to the fall of 1863.  I’ll offer further evidence for that case in the course of discussing the details of the photo.

Let me start on the right side of the works in view.  There were a couple of Parrott rifles on siege carriages in position here.


Based on shadows and reflected light, these appear to face northward toward Fort Sumter and Sullivan’s Island.  Looking closer, my take is there is a 20-pdr Parrott closer to the camera and a 30-pdr Parrott behind.  These are two 30-pdr Parrotts on siege carriages (see comment below).


If my dating of the photo is correct, a later photograph shows this battery cleaned up a bit and ready for action:

The gun crew appeared to know they were being “captured for posterity” here.


With the distance, nothing such as hat brass or other insignia stand out, save the chevrons of the NCO on the right.

The howitzer platform is not so clean as in the later photo.  But an observer posted there appeared to consider the Confederate fortifications in the distance:


In the foreground, behind the Parrotts, are limbers of some sort. Though these don’t stand out as standard type siege limbers:


There were a few boards running lengthwise between the axles here.  So I wonder if these were used to move lumber up to the work details.  And speaking of work details, these fellows appeared to be on break:


Just sitting in the sand, waiting for the call back to work, maybe?

A dapper looking fellow stands on the mound above them.


Notice the ventilation pipes extending up from the old bombproof, constructed by Confederates but then employed by Federals.

To the left of the work crew is another gun.  But this one lay on the berm.


The long trunnions and other external forms help identify this gun as a Confederate columbiad.  Several of these were turned against their former owners starting in the fall of 1863.  This columbiad was likely removed to make room for a Parrott rifle, for which a carriage stands in place above. And there is a second Confederate columbiad in view:


Just barely, that is.  Just the breech, but enough to see the mushroom cascabel.  The view of these two columbiads and the Parrott carriage shows two of the positions used to fire on both Charleston and Fort Sumter:


This compares favorably to a photo taken later:

The Parrott was in place by the time of the later photograph, but one of the Confederate columbiads remained in place on the left.  Note the large stacks of Parrott shells on the right of that later photo.  The “start” of that stack is seen in the earlier photo:


Another detail that helps “date” the photo are all the sandbags:


These are neatly stacked, by veterans of those long days of the summer siege no doubt.  The sandbags indicate the Federals were just starting the improvements when the photo was taken. Later photos show these covered with sod to prevent erosion and cut down on the wind blown sand.  Hard to tell with the shading, but it appears the workers have added sod to the lower half of this wall.  Or perhaps just stacked sandbags over what the Confederates left for them.

More sandbags around a bombproof entrance to the left of the columbiads.  Notice the implements laid in the sand above the bombproof.


Also in this view are three poles.  Looking close there are fine lines (hard to display without over pixelation in the screen capture) of telegraph wires.

Other than the circumstantial evidence of the sandbags and state of work, there’s nothing to pinpoint the date of the photo with accuracy.  There are no unit designations or signs to aid.  There are a few marks on the barrels laying about the works.  Several appeared to have a stencil featuring a crossed something:


Perhaps a stylized anchor and crossed hammer?

Another barrel head (center of view below) has some letters.  But nothing that makes a connection.


Those barrels are among large piles of materials and debris that laid about the rear of the works (which had been the “front” for the Confederates).


The boards are sharpened and likely part of the pallisades going up around the fort.  But some of the piles are nothing short of trash, likely put to good use in campfires later.


The palisade trace around the fort covers the rear, front, and presumably the other side of the fort.  At the far right of the photo, there’s a good profile showing the angle of the palisade to good effect.


And just above the palisades in view?  That’s a Confederate work on James Island.  Battery Simkins.


To the left of Battery Simkins is a Confederate observation and signal tower.  I’ll leave you to determine if that’s an observer standing atop the platform.  Maybe this is one of the rare wartime photos showing both Federal and Confederate in the same view?


To the right of Battery Simkins, some of the outer works of Fort Johnson come into view.


With those distant landmarks in view, I submit my thoughts about the location this photo was taken (E1) and the angle of view:


Looking back on Morris Island, the beach sand of the foreground show the tracks of wheels, indicating heavy traffic as the Federals worked on the captured works.


A few patches of grass.  But not much else than beach sand.

And if you look to the lower left, we find another observer…


Ah, the pesky flies of Morris Island.