Sawyer guns and mortars at the Crow’s Nest… and that interesting work detail

Recording activities for June 25, 1864, Brigadier-General Godfrey Weitzel, Chief Engineer for the Army of the James, wrote:

June 25, batteries were laid out for one 6-inch Sawyer gun and two 10-inch mortars on the Crow’s Nest, right bank of James River, about 1,500 yards below the right of our line, and for one 100-pounder Parrott and two 10-inch mortars at the Curtis house.  From this time until the end of the month the works above alluded to have been under construction, constant labor being expended upon them, and no effort spared to make them perfect.

The Crow’s Nest was also the location of a signal tower on the right end of the Bermuda Hundred Line (another tower on the left end, overlooking the Appomattox and constructed with a mind to view Petersburg is sometimes cited as a (or the) Crow’s Nest.  But I think that a misidentification).

Weitzel mentioned several placenames which show on the maps depicting the Federal lines across Bermuda Hundred – particularly the Curtis House.  On this map, dated June 15, 1864, the location of the Sawyer gun battery is likely near (if not the same) as that noted as the “Water Battery.”


The Sawyer guns are fodder for a follow up post.  A rare heavy rifled gun, these saw limited service during the siege.  And the battery carried the gun’s name later in the siege.


The location would become rather busy later in the long siege of Richmond-Petersburg.  The bend of the James just opposite Battery Sawyer offered Federal engineers an opportunity to bypass Confederate batteries, and thus the Dutch Gap project.


But that was further down the road when Weitzel was at work in late June 1864.  He mentions “constant labor” but does not specifically mention who was at work.  However, I can’t help but wonder back to a wartime photograph of a detail building a mortar battery in that sector.

I’ve mentioned it before, when discussing the mortars.  I don’t know the date of the photo, and suspect it dates to sometime later in the summer of 1864.  But please forgive me taking blogger’s license by posting it today.  Yes, big 10-inch seacoast mortars.  But it is the workers who attract my attention the most.  Particularly from this view:


There’s a lot to consider from those facial expressions captured 150 years ago.

(Weitzel’s report appears in OR, Series I, Volume 40, Part I, Serial 80, pages 675-679.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “Sawyer guns and mortars at the Crow’s Nest… and that interesting work detail

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