The Defenses of James Island: May 1864 – Part 2, the West and North Lines

Continuing from Part 1, looking at the May 1864 condition of the Confederate works on James Island, as reported by Major George Upshur Mayo, I turn now to the west side of the island:


While the works on the east side protected the harbor and fronted Federal batteries on Morris Island, those on the west side defended approaches through the marshes and the Stono River.  Armament of these works reflected the different missions.  Most of these works were part of the “new lines” formed along the Old Cross-Roads Line from the previous year.


On the left of the Confederate line (right on the map), a series of works around Secessionville anchored this line.  These included Fort Lamar and other bastions built over the first half of the war, and tested by the Federals in 1862.  Lieutenant-Colonel Welsman Brown commanded that part of the line.  Companies B and K, 2nd South Carolina Artillery manned these works, under Captain J.W. Lancaster and Captain H.C. Culbreath, respectively – a total of eight officers and 164 men.  Armament included three 8-inch shell guns, three 32-pdr rifles, five 32-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr rifles, one 24-pdr smoothbore, one 18-pdr smoothbore, one 24-pdr howitzer, and two iron 6-pdr field guns.  In the magazines were nearly 1370 projectiles, not counting a substantial quantity of canister and grapeshot.  But this was deemed insufficient, and Brown complained his requisitions went unanswered. Mayo noted an unequal number of cartridges and projectiles.  Furthermore, many of the projectiles were corroding, for the lack of protective lacquer coatings.

New Lines:  “Generally in fair order; the guns being all in serviceable condition, but these and the carriages, as well as the projectiles, require paint and lacquer.”  Ammunition chests in the works were defective, allowing corrosion and weathering of rounds.  And the parapets required sodding.  Several companies from the 2nd South Carolina Artillery manned the line.  Working in numerical order (left to right on the map), these works were:

  • No. 1 – Lieutenant George P. Bush, with a detachment from Company G.  Armed with one 8-inch siege howitzer, two 24-pdr smoothbore guns, two 12-pdr smoothbore guns, and one 12-pdr rifle.
  • No. 2 – Captain G.W. Stallings, with the remainder of Company G.  3 officers and 125 men.  One 8-inch shell gun, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, two 32-pdr smoothbores, and one 24-pdr smoothbore.
  • No. 3 – Captain J.B. Humbert, commanding Company I, with 4 officers and 99 men.  One 8-inch siege howitzer, two 24-pdr smoothbores, and three 18-pdr smoothbores.
  • No. 4 – Lieutenant B.M. Shuler, commanding Company F, with 95 men.  One 8-inch seacoast howitzer, two 32-pdr smoothbores, and two 24-pdr smoothbores.
  • No. 5 – Captain W. H. Kennedy, commanding Company H, with 3 officers and 80 men.  Two 24-pdr smoothbores, one 12-pdr smoothbores, and one Austrian 24-pdr howitzer.

This line supported a series of picket posts, which I’ve mentioned but not examined in detail, which extended into the marshes and islands south of James Island.  Mayo did not consider those pickets in his report.

Battery Pringle:  “… in very good order in every respect….” except for some replacement fittings required for a couple of carriages.  Three officers and 71 men manned the heaviest weapons on the west end of the line.  To cover the Stono River, Battery Pringle had one 10-inch columbiad, one 8-inch columbiad, two 8-inch shell guns, two 42-pdr rifles, and two 32-pdr rifles.  The magazines included 90 10-inch shot, 143 10-inch shells, 98 8-inch shot, 167 8-inch shells, 119 42-pdr conical shot, 59 42-pdr bolts, 44 42-pdr shells, 269 32-pdr bolts, 39 32-pdr conical shot, and 60 32-pdr conical shells.  Battery Pringle had over 8600 pounds of powder, loose or in cartridges.

Battery Tynes:  “… cannot be considered in good order and safe….” The primary defect was insufficient protection for the magazine.  Lieutenant J.D. Ford, though on detached service, commanded a garrison of three officers and 58 men. The armament consisted of one 8-inch columbiad, one 42-pdr rifle, and three 32-pdr rifle.  One additional 32-pdr rifle awaited mounting.  The magazines included 74 8-inch shells, 155 8-inch solid shot, 199 42-pdr bolts, 36 42-pdr shells, 28 32-pdr shells, 39 32-pdr conical shot, and 344 32-pdr bolts along with 5275 pounds of powder in cartridge bags.

By May 1864, the works on the north end of James Island were of lesser importance to the overall defense.  Armament and manning reflected that shift of priority.


Fort Pemberton:  Lieutenant W.S. Richardson commanded three officers and 48 men.  Armament was but two 32-pdr rifles and two 32-pdr smoothbores.  The garrison needed new implements and a replacement carriage.  But Mayo was unable to visit the magazine, because “the ordnance sergeant in charge had the keys at Fort Sumter.”  Clearly nobody at Fort Pemberton was expecting an attack.  Mayo did not mention any artillery mounted in the works behind Fort Pemberton or the status of those works.

In addition to the garrisons and artillery in the works, James Island’s defenders had three mobile batteries:

  • Chatham (Georgia) Light Artillery – Captain John F. Wheaton.  Four Napoleons, three officers and 104 men present for duty.  One carriage needed repairs.  And the battery’s horses were worn down from recent service in Florida.
  • Company A, 1st South Carolina Artillery – Captain F.D. Blake.  Four Napoleons, three officers and 87 men present for duty.  Likewise the battery’s horses were in poor condition.
  • Company B, South Carolina Siege Train – Captain S.P. Smith.  Two 8-inch siege howitzers, four officers and 39 men present for duty.  Their horses were in fair condition.

Mayo recommended rotating replacement batteries to James Island, allowing the light batteries to recruit and replace their horses.

Mayo offered one additional comment, reflecting the general situation on James Island:

In consequence of the excessive fatigue, attendant upon the unusually severe picket and other duty, to which the troops on James Island have for days past been subjected, some of the commands having been up for three or four nights consecutively, I did not cause them to appear upon parade or drill. Many of the commands could not parade more than one-third or one-fourth of their effective strength. They are all old troops and are disciplined and drilled in heavy and light artillery, and the camp police very fair, invariably under the circumstances named.

While the Charleston theater saw no major operations of the level seen in Virginia and Georgia during the spring of 1864, the cumulative effects of what amounted to a ten month campaign took a toll on the men.  Since the previous July with the Federal attack on Morris Island, scarcely a day passed without some firing, skirmishing, or shelling.   There was always something happening around Charleston.

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


Edwin Burt: From Savannah to the Wilderness

The May 11, 1864 edition of the Daily Eastern Argus, of Portland, Maine ran this list of casualties from the state’s regiments as reported by that time in the Overland Campaign:

Daily Eastern Argus_May11_1864_Burt

The 3rd Maine Infantry was part of Brigadier-General J.H. Hobart Ward’s brigade, of Major-General David Birney’s division, in the Second Corps.   On May 6, 1864, the 3rd Maine was part of the Federal line rolled up by a flank attack directed by Confederate General James Longstreet.  Like most of the Federal regiments, the 3rd Maine was unable to turn facing in the confusion and tangled woods, so they fell back.  The regiment, as did others, rallied near the intersection of Brock Road and the Plank Road. There they fought for possession of the earthworks along the Brock Road.

Wilderness 150 063

In “Maine at Gettysburg” the Maine Gettysburg Commission noted, “The regiment made and repelled several charges during this memorable battle, and its men won fresh laurels by their courage and steadiness under the furious attacks of the enemy.”

Somewhere in the fighting, Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin Burt fell while leading the men.  I suspect his body was originally buried just down the Plank Road where a cemetery was established after the battle.  Later his remains were removed to the Federicksburg National Cemetery – Grave plot 3953.

Fredericksburg 19 Feb 11 050

Before the war, Burt had been an Ordnance Sergeant. Readers may recall that in January 1861 Burt, alone among military officials in the state of Georgia, refused to surrender his responsibilities until given orders to do so.  (And you might also be interested in the background work done by Robert Moore on Edwin Burt.)  Burt experienced the Civil War at the fore from the very start.  Eleven months from the end, it came to an abrupt end.

This Memorial Day, let us consider these 150 year old reverberations.