“This leaves only one breaching gun… that can be used”: Report on The Third Major Bombardment

On August 1, 1864, Lieutenant-Colonel William Ames provided an update on the progress of the Third Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter, adding to his report covering the period up to July 22:

I have the honor to state that since my last report of July 22, the firing upon Fort Sumter has been continued. The fire from guns of Fort Putnam has been directed at a point on the gorge wall to the left of the old breach. The fire from Battery Chatfield has been directed at the center of the sea-wall. This change in the point against which the fire was directed was made in accordance with orders from department headquarters. The breach in gorge wall has been cut or combed off for about 7 feet. The sea-wall has been cut down for about 5 feet. The breach, however, is not yet practicable.

Basically, the gunners on Morris Island were “walking” their fires across the gorge wall of Fort Sumter.  And “walking” very slowly and methodically over the span of days.  But for all that work, there was no breach at that time.

Ames then reported on the status of the guns used in the operation, starting with two more disabled guns in the last three days:

On July 30, No. 4 gun, Fort Putnam (200-pounder Parrott), was disabled, a crack appearing on right upper quarter of gun and extending from under re-enforce to left trunnion. This gun has fired 573 rounds. August 1, No. 4 piece, Battery Chatfield (300-pounder), was disabled, about 24 inches of muzzle being blown off. This gun has fired 1,200 rounds. The carriage was not injured, so that the reserve 300-pounder can be at once mounted in its place. There are, with the exception of 30-pounder Parrotts, no reserve guns on hand at ordnance yard.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Major-General John Foster recognized the shortage of guns and had already inquired with Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren to secure replacements.  But Ames pointed out, the Army needed more than just guns:

The following are the breaching guns in works at the front that bear on Fort Sumter, viz:

Fort Putnam, one 200-pounder Parrott, serviceable; two 30-pounder Parrotts, no projectiles.

Battery Chatfield, one 200-pounder Parrott, vent closed; one 100-pounder Parrott, vent closed.

Columbiad battery, two 100-pounder columbiads; no projectiles.

This leaves only one breaching gun in works at front that can be used to-day on Fort Sumter.

Only one!  Foster’s bombardment could not be sustained with just one breaching gun.

Ames went on to include a detailed summary of the firing since the last report:

Since July 21 the following number of projectiles have been fired at Fort Sumter, viz:

  • From Fort Putnam:
    • 200-pounder shells – 497
    • 30-pounder shells – 854
  • Battery Chatfield:
    • 300-pounder shells – 362
    • 100-pounder shells – 353
  • Battery Barton, 10-inch mortar shells – 557
  • Battery Seymour, 10-inch mortar shells – 392
  • Columbiad battery, 10-inch columbiad shells – 266
  • 13-inch mortar battery, 13-inch mortar shells – 52
  • 300-pounder Parrott Shells -362
  • 200-pounder Parrott Shells – 479
  • 100-pounder Parrott Shells – 353
  • 30-pounder Parrott Shells – 854
  • 13-inch mortar shells – 52
  • 10-inch mortar shells – 949
  • 10-inch columbiad shells – 266

Total – 3,333

Notice the change with respect to the majority of the projectiles used. Where as during the first two weeks of the bombardment, the heavy Parrotts fired the majority of the rounds, by the last week of July that workload shifted to the lighter Parrotts and mortars.  The Federals were expending ammunition and guns at a barely sustainable rate.  Thus the weight of fires decreased over that time.  The rate of fire decreased from 16 ½ per hour to about 12 ½.  And the number of heavy shots decreased by about 25% over the weekly rate seen earlier in the month.

Brigadier-General Alexander Schimmelfennig added his endorsement to this report:

The firing into the city and the bombardment of Fort Sumter have been continued as ordered….

The enemy replies to our fire occasionally from his works on James and Sullivan’s Islands. The enemy’s fatigue parties still show themselves around Fort Johnson, Battery Simkins, and the works around Secessionville.

Somewhat hum-drum summary for what was a heavy and active bombardment of the fort where the war began some three years earlier.  In addition to his endorsement, Schemelfennig would called for “11 and 15 inch Dahlgren guns” from the Navy to supplement the Parrotts.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 207-8.)

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