Continue along with me in this “virtual” walk… back in time… to Fort Johnson as it appeared in the spring of 1865. We move now to the second photo of the set:
I’ve given this photo the label of “FJ2” on the diagram below, so that we know the perspective from which we are looking:
Please note the photo we are using here is not a scan from the original glass plate. Rather it is a scan from a mounted print. Still that affords detail worthy of discussion.
The “star” of this photo is a 7-inch Brooke Rifle.
Throughout my sesquicentennial narrative covering Charleston’s siege, I’ve written about the 7-inch Brookes. These featured prominently in the Confederate defense of Charleston, particularly against the Federal ironclads. Brookes of this caliber did substantial damage to the ill-fated, ill-designed USS Keokuk. This particular example in place at Fort Johnson at the end of the war was a double-banded, as opposed to the single-band seen early in the production run or the triple-band version used on Sullivan’s Island. The 7-inch Brooke at Fort Johnson was one of six at Charleston through the winter of 1865.
Looking at the gun and carriage in detail, we see, like the 10-inch columbiads, the Confederates used axes to damage the carriage:
While this could be repaired, the damage at least ensured the Federals could not make immediate use of the big rifle. We can’t see any details of the vent. But I’d assume that was jammed. I’ve often wondered why the Confederates did not do more to disable the weapons. But we an be thankful they did not blow up the guns, magazines, and forts. Not only did that save lives at the time, but left a lot of artifacts behind for our viewing.
The relatively intact carriage allows us to peruse other details. Notice the trunnions and trunnion plate:
This was a standard 10-inch columbiad carriage, but used an adapter with the trunnion plate for the smaller trunnion of the Brooke. Notice no cap square on the seacoast carriage. Notice also the square nuts for the ties. Those on the trunnion plate do not have washers. But the transverse tie (below the trunnion, facing us) has a washer-like fitting.
Shifting back to the breech, we see a good profile of the Brooke with bands and blade cascabel:
At the top of the breech is the rear sight base with brackets and fittings:
The Brooke casabel was pierced for an elevating screw. Such was standard outfit for naval mountings. On land, the seacoast carriage was not easily adapted for use of the elevating screw. So we see in the photo an anachronistic throwback:
Yes, a quoin wedged in there under the breech.
As for the forward sights, the sight base over the trunnions is bare:
There is another sight base on the muzzle:
Also note the tampion in the muzzle. Again, I’m amazed that the Confederates would leave the weapon’s accouterments in place.
Beyond the Brooke is the last gun position in Fort Johnson and an 8-inch siege howitzer. Even with the lower resolution of this scan, we can see one of the posts in the line between Battery Simkins and Fort Sumter.
Also within range of this resolution are the details of the turf making up the fort’s walls:
Bricks or cut sod?
The crown of this portion of the wall is already showing harm from neglect and wear:
And beyond Fort Johnson, we have another glimpse of Fort Sumter:
The resolution does not provide many details. Perhaps the masted vessel seen to the right of the fort in FJ1 had moved on by the time the photographer snapped FJ2.
Before leaving this photo, let me mention the “star” of this photo as a possible survivor. The Charleston Museum’s archives include a photo of what may be the same Brooke Rifle (or at least a similar one) being excavated at the fort. That photo is undated, but likely from the first quarter of the 20th century. The gun in the photo was later placed in “The Battery” at White Point:
I’d give it about 90% odds that the Brooke in the wartime photo is the same pictured being excavated and thus is the same on display today. As if you didn’t have enough reasons to visit Charleston’s Battery, there’s a chance to connect with a wartime artifact with a story to tell.
Next up, we’ll “walk” a bit further down the line to the last gun position at Fort Johnson.