Daily Observations from the Civil War is another “must subscribe to” blog I recommend. The “writing” on that blog pulls from several contemporary sources, offering daily views of the war as things occurred 150 years ago. One of the sources has been Conrad Wise Chapman – not his writings, but his series of paintings depicting scenes around Charleston, South Carolina. I’m no art historian-type. So you won’t find me writing about the style points or brush strokes here. But what I do find fascinating is how Chapman and other Confederate artists were able to capture such vivid scenes. I’ve written about the Federal photographers and offered analysis of the scenes they captured on glass plate. Likewise, we should consider Chapman and his cohorts as the other half of the “dueling artists” at Charleston – Federal photographers vs. Confederate painters if you will.
These serve an additional purpose, reminding me of the need to offer posts focused on the details of each fortification around Charleston. That said, let’s take this painting for a starting point:
Daily Observations records the name of this painting as “Battery Haskel, March 4, 1864.” Chapman offered a brief description, “This battery was placed very far out and therefore occupied a more than ordinarily dangerous position, attendant with much risk.” (And by the way, the Museum of the Confederacy offers a very high resolution photo of this painting, as part of the online exhibit of Chapman’s paintings.) Battery Haskell (and I’ll deal with the miss-matching of the name below) sat at the left end of a line of works fronting Light House Creek, and directed towards Morris Island:
Notice that long line of works to the background left of Chapman’s painting. Although Battery Cheves filled the gap between Haskell and Battery Simkins, the extent of the marsh left Haskell exposed on a hot corner, so to speak. Between mid-August 1863 and April 1864 the battery was frequently mentioned as either engaging Federal batteries on Morris Island, receiving fire from Morris Island, or both. No surprise then Battery Haskell has shown up in many posts of late.
With a mind to establishing a standard practice for discussing these fortifications like Battery Haskell, allow me to proceed with a raw listing of the battery’s particulars:
Name: Battery Haskell, sometimes incorrectly Haskall (mostly on Federal maps) or Haskel (seen on the original version of the map above, and Chapman’s title). I’m guilty of this myself!
Named for: Captain Charles Thomson Haskell, Jr., 1st South Carolina Infantry. Charles died while leading troops in defense of Morris Island on July 10, 1863 (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 370). His brother, Captain William Thomson Haskell, died just days earlier at Gettysburg. Headquarters, Department of South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, Special Orders No. 162, issued on August 21, 1863 designated “Work at Legare’s, as Battery Haskell” (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 299).
Location: James Island, overlooking Lighthouse Creek, near Legare’s Plantation.
Description: An open (to the rear) earthwork battery. Front face of approximately 110 yards. Parapet around 16 feet high and 20 feet thick (see diagram below). Twelve positions for guns. A detached work for two mortars.
Purpose: Originally built to oppose the Federal siege batteries on Morris Island. Also to target Black Island and Lighthouse Inlet.
Established: Work began in late July 1863. By July 26, the battery was ready for “four mortars and eleven siege guns; also one chamber ready to receive the platform (columbiad)” (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 232).
Plans, photographs and other depictions: Aside from Chapman’s painting above, Federal engineers made detailed surveys of the work after Charleston fell in February 1865. Though named “Haskall,” the plans showed a work very similar to that captured in the painting. Haskell was open to the rear with a large epaulment on the left side. A central magazine served the main guns.
Profiles show two guns mounted at the time of the survey, though embrasures for six to eight guns existed. Three traverses lay inside the battery’s inside firing platform (see Sectional Profile 1). Two bombproofs appeared in the profile diagrams. In addition to the main magazine, the left flank epaulment contained a bombproof.
A ditch ran across the front of the work, covered by a meager counter-scarp. This is also seen in the Capman painting.
Armament: Based on reports and inventories, the armament evolved over time:
- September 25, 1863: “One sea-coast howitzer, 8-inch siege-carriage, one 4-inch Blakely, one of the James bronzed field pieces, captured at Shiloh, one 20-pounder Parrott, one smooth 24-pounder, two 4.62-inch, one 24-pounder double-banded rifle, and two mortars, 10-inch; in all, ten pieces.” (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, page 377)
- Changes proposed October 20, 1863: One 4-inch Blakely, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, one 8-inch columbiad (as shell gun), one 20-pdr Parrott, one 24-pdr rifled and double-banded gun, one 24-pdr smoothbore, two 42-pdr carronades, and two 10-inch mortars. (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 433) See post about the changes made that month to other works on James Island.
- May 3, 1864: One 8-inch columbiad, one 24-pdr rifled and double banded, one 24-pdr smoothbore, two 42-pdr carronades, and two 10-inch seacoast mortars. (OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 67, page 466)
- January 1865: One 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, two 42-pdr carronades, one 32-pdr rifled and banded (mounted as mortar), and two 6-pdr field guns. (OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, pages 1024-6)
Units assigned and commanders: During the summer months of 1863, Major John V. Glover, of the 25th South Carolina Infantry, commanded Battery Haskell. Companies of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer (Heavy) Artillery provided cannoneers for the fort.
Significant actions and activity: As mentioned above, almost daily actions during the siege of Charleston from August 1863 to February 1865.
The loss of Battery Wagner in September 1863 prompted some improvements to Battery Haskell in anticipation of Federal batteries advancing to the north end of Morris Island. Those included strengthened parapet and bombproof, along with traverses specifically to protect from former Batteries Wagner and Gregg, which became Federal Forts Strong and Putnam (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 350). Inspections in late September found the magazine in poor condition (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 377). Heavy rains also rendered the gun platforms unsuitable until repairs and improvements made.
General P.G.T. Beauregard considered firing phosphorus shells from Battery Haskell, before that idea was abandoned for lack of lucrative targets (OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, page 504).
Abandoned when Confederates evacuated Charleston on February 17, 1865.
Status today: Portions of Battery Haskell remain today and are protected by the South Carolina Battlegrounds Preservation Trust. A South Carolina state marker provides interpretation. My friend, the late Mike Stroud, provided photos for that marker entry:
Along with a view across the marsh:
Photos courtesy HMDB, Mike Stroud, January 6, 2011.