The Defenses of James Island: May 1864 – Part 1, the East Lines

Earlier this season, I provided a summary from an inspection of Confederate defenses on Sullivan’s Island.  Balancing that is a report, also by Major George Upshur Mayo, on the defenses of James Island, posted 150 years ago today (May 25).  James Island remained a “hot spot” due to its proximity to Federal garrisons.  Compared to Sullivan’s Island, its batteries faced different threats – not ironclads, but Federal raiding parties and wooden gunboats.  The armament, thus, differed accordingly.  The report offers another snapshot in time of those defenses.


Summarizing Mayo’s report, by fortification (and with maps cropped to show each section in detail), first the east side of the line:


Battery Glover:  Captain J.D. Johnson commanded this battery. “This battery is not in order. The eccentrics of the carriages require adjusting. The magazines are good.” Mayo indicated the battery had two rifled and banded 42-pdr guns, with a total of 251 bolts and projectiles.

Battery Wampler: Mayo found the magazine unkempt and two 10-inch columbiads there out of order.  But the ammunition and implements passed inspection.

Battery Harleston: “… in good order and the magazines kept with remarkable neatness, but water begins to come through….”  Captain W.H. Peronneau commanded, though reported sick.  The battery contained three 10-inch columbiads, one 7-inch Brooke, and one rifled and banded 42-pdr.  The rifles had 130 bolts between them, but the cartridges were considered too heavy. Mayo suggested breaking those down to seven pound charges and thus creating 81 additional cartridges.

Fort Johnson: “… is in good order and very neatly policed about the guns and magazines.”  Captain A.S. Gaillard commanded Fort Johnson with a garrison of 3 officers, 63 men. The fort contained one rifled 10-inch columbiad, two smoothbore 10-inch columbiads, one 8-inch columbiad, two 30-pdr Parrotts (I believe formerly of the Siege Trains), and two iron 6-pdr field guns.  For the guns, the fort’s magazine had 109 10-inch bolts, 295 10-inch shot, 82 10-inch shells, 20 10-inch canister, 64 8-inch shot, and 9 8-inch shells.

Battery Simkins: Captain D.E. Dickson, 2nd South Carolina Artillery commanded this work.  At his disposal were 122 men (also garrisoning nearby works). While in good condition, one of the magazines in the battery was too low and useless due to flooding.  Mayo suggested more earth to protect this forward, exposed battery.  In addition he suggested more care for the guns to prevent corrosion.  The battery contained two 8-inch shell guns, one 6.4-inch Brooke rifle (being remounted after repairs), and three 10-inch mortars.

Headquarters Brooke Gun: An additional 6.4-inch Brooke armed a small work between Battery Simkins and Fort Johnson.

Battery Cheves:  Mayo found this battery in disarray.  The parapet, carriages, and gun mountings needed much attention.  The garrison, under Captain W.M. Hunter, complained of bad cartridges and fuses.  And their shells appeared to be misshapen in casting.  Three 8-inch columbiads in the battery had 192 shells, 49 canister, and 48 grapeshot.

New Mortar Battery: Near Battery Cheves, the Confederates were constructing a new mortar battery.  While incomplete, it would contain three 10-inch mortars.  301 shells were on hand.

Battery Haskell: “This battery is in fair condition only.” Mayo reported the magazine somewhat cluttered. Armament included one 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch siege howitzer, two 42-pdr carronades whose carriages did not perform well, and two iron 6-pdr field guns.  In addition, there was a 32-pdr rifled gun mounted on a ship carriage so as to fire at high elevation.  This was the “rifled mortar” experimented with earlier in the year.  Mayo rated it as “deficient.”  But the battery was generously stocked with rounds of all calibers.

Battery Tatom: Mayo found this battery in good order, but the magazine “not neatly kept.”  The work contained one 32-pdr smoothbore and three 24-pdr howitzers.  Recent changes to the battery’s armament left quantities of 12-pdr and 6-pdr projectiles, taking up space in the magazine.

Battery Ryan: This work contained a “left” and “right” wing.  On the left was a line with one 8-inch howitzer, one 32-pdr smoothbore, and one 24-pdr Austrian howitzer.  On the right were four 12-pdr howitzers.  Mayo considered this battery deficient.  Though amply garrisoned with four officers and 97 men, the magazine was not clean and the weapons out of order. Mayo felt Captain J.R. Bowden was not allocating all the means at his disposal.

Mayo did not mention Battery Reed, which had fallen into disuse at this time of the war.

Redoubt No. 1: Also manned by Bowden’s command, this work likewise failed inspection.  It contained one 8-inch shell gun and one 32-pdr smoothbore.

Redoubt No. 2:  One short 32-pdr naval gun in this work at the time.  It’s cartridges were overweight for the gun. Mayo suggested a swap with nearby batteries for the correct loadings.  Mayo did not inspect any of the other redoubts on the line, which indicates those, though maintained, were unarmed.

I will continue with Mayo’s report in Part 2, with a look at the western and northern defenses, as well as a review of the South Carolina Siege Train and field pieces on James Island at that time.

(Mayo’s report appears in OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 505-513.)




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