Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part V: Looking across the fort from the east… and maybe a Rebel Ram?

Our next stop on this look at Fort Johnson, as it was in 1865, takes a few steps around that 10-inch Rifled Columbiad and looks back at the face of the works from the east side:

FJ4_02434a

I’ve labeled the location where this photo was taken as FJ4 in the diagram below:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation1

You can see from the two green lines extending from the octagon, FJ4 offers a different perspective of the fort.   The view is slightly elevated.  Based on the perspective of the 10-inch Rifled Columbiad, the camera must have been over, or at least adjacent to, the 8-inch siege howitzer seen in FJ3.

As with many of these photos, there were duplicates made as part of a stereo view.  The Library of Congress has both digitized.  Here’s the second of the set, which is somewhat worse for the wear in some ways… yet more detailed in others:

FJ4_02433u

There’s our old friend in the foreground.

FJ4_1

One detail that stands out better in this view is the finish of the metal:

FJ4_2

The cannon is in sharp focus, so what do we make of the scruffy looking finish here?  I think we are seeing brush lines from a coat of paint or lacquer applied to the metal.  We may also be seeing tarnish or rust over that finish.

Oh, and earlier I mentioned the missing truck wheels… well while snipping from the photo last night, I noticed for the first time….

FJ4_3

So after removing the trucks, the Confederates laid them in the gun pit?  Or was this the first step as the Federals dismounted the gun for movement?  I’m still thinking the former.  The Federals never moved this weapon from Fort Johnson.  So why bother pulling off the truck wheels?  A small puzzle of the sort that prompts me to keep looking at these photos… hopefully you share that foible.

The negative is a bit damaged, but we can still see the details of the barrel placed beside the cannon:

FJ4_4

Implements, such as this maneuvering bar, remain in place about the columbiad:

FJ4_5

Looking behind at the walls of Fort Johnson, this view, more than the others, gives away the construction technique used for the earthworks:

FJ4_6

Perhaps that is because this particular face was oriented towards the harbor mouth and thus caught more of the weather.

Looking down that line, this is the view that causes hearts to flutter over on the blackpowder artillery forum:

FJ4_7

A Brooke Rifle, two Confederate columbiads, and three mortars. Wouldn’t you like to have those in your back yard?

And this guy “owned” them as of April 1865:

FJ4_8

No sack coat.  Just his shirt, suspenders, trousers, and brogans.  Sleeves rolled up.  Must have been warm that spring day.

Looking beyond our friend at the Brooke, there is a team of horses and a sling cart.

FJ4_9a

Keep in mind the location of that sling cart.  It shows up in other photos.  I’d speculate that the sling cart was most recently employed to move one of the mortars now laying at the waterfront.

FJ4_15

These have the distinctive profile of the 10-inch Seacoast Mortar, Model 1840.   No weapons of that type were in Fort Johnson when the Confederates left Charleston.  However, Battery Simkins, just southeast, had three.  So these could be the three mortars from Battery Simkins, which were very, very active against the Federals on Morris Island during the siege of Charleston.

To the right of the mortars are a couple of large beams.

FJ4_10

These show up in the perspective of FJ5, which I’ll look at next.  So these are important placemarks in the photo. Otherwise, it is a stack of wood… very large pieces of wood.

But let’s look beyond those mortars and wood beams to see what is in Charleston Harbor:

FJ4_11a

No vessels waiting in the “roads.” But there is what appears to be a smoke stack and debris.  So what is that?

When the Confederates left Charelston, a number of vessels were scuttled or left derelict.  Three ironclads were scuttled in the direct vicinity of Fort Johnson – CSS Palmetto State, CSS Charleston, and CSS Chicora.   Of the three, the Chicora lay closest to Fort Johnson’s wharf and jetty.   Describing that wreck, Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren wrote, “The Chicora alone is visible in any part, and that only a few inches of the casemate at low water.”  I think it is safe to assume that if the casemate was barely at water level, the smokestack was above water.  The Coast Survey team did not annotate the location of the Confederate ironclads on their survey of the harbor.  So we cannot put a name on that wreck, at least to satisfy my standards.  But the smokstack is in the right place to be the remains of the Chicora.

Looking beyond that interesting wreckage, we see the distant shoreline.

FJ4_12

This should be parts of Charleston proper and the inner harbor.  But the lens did not capture many details.  At some points on the horizon, we can just make out buildings and piers:

FJ4_13

But as you can tell from the small size of this cropped area, the digitized copy degrades to pixels as we zoom down further.   Disappointing, as that would be another interesting study.

Let me close out this stop by returning to our friend at the Brooke:

FJ4_14

This gentleman posed like this for at least a couple of moments, knowing his image would be captured on glass plate.  He knew that the photographer was recording him, standing in front of those Confederate guns, as a small testament to the triumph of Federal arms in the Civil War.  This isn’t a stiff, parade-ground pose.  His body is relaxed.  As mentioned above, his dress is very casual, more so that of one on a work detail than a guard or escort.   He has one hand tucked in the waist, and the other as a prop against the Brooke.

But I sense something stern about his facial expression.  Maybe it is the thought of hefting all those heavy mortars, as he marks time until the return home.  Or maybe he just wanted his “war face” preserved to impress those viewing his pose 150 years later.

2 thoughts on “Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part V: Looking across the fort from the east… and maybe a Rebel Ram?

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