CSS Pee Dee update: Two Brooke Rifles and a Dahlgren pulled out of the PeeDee River

News broke yesterday of the successful recovery of three Civil War cannon from the PeeDee River, all from the gunboat CSS Pee Dee.  In case you missed it, here’s a few of the reports:

South Strand News

The State (Columbia SC)

South Carolina Now

The Florence County museum offered a post and album of photos on their Facebook page.  The guns are 7-inch and 6.4-inch double banded Brooke rifles along with a IX-inch Dahlgren.  All these weapons are of historical significance and rare in their own right.  But the Dahlgren perhaps a little more so.  And one of the photos shows markings from the Dahlgren:


Registry number 513.  That should, if I’m reading my references correct, be from a lot produced by Fort Pitt Foundry.  But what makes this weapon of real interest is that some sources connect it to the USS Southfield, sunk at Plymouth, North Carolina on April 19, 1864.  The Confederates recovered the Southfield’s armament (which also included a 6.4-inch Parrott rifle which I believe was later used in the Cape Fear defenses).  So you might say this Dahlgren has a bit of a story to tell from both sides of the lines.

The articles tell us these guns already have a home:

After conservation, artifacts will be exhibited at the Florence County Veterans Administration building at the Florence National Cemetery.

A win-win, if you ask me.

Summary Statements from Ordnance Reports: The bureaucrats labor is our information gold mine

Working forward from last week’s introduction to Ordnance Reports, as mentioned the individual battery reports were consolidated by the Ordnance Department into summary statements.  While we don’t have a lot of ordnance reports to work from, we do have a fair number of these summary statements.  And these can tell us something about the batteries, their equipment, and general trends in the Federal artillery arm.  It’s information that comes in handy for certain lines of study.  Again, let me thank Brett Schulte for forwarding a copy of the the roll he acquired from the National Archives.

These summaries worked in the way you would imagine any bureaucratic bean-counting record-keeping process.  After receiving the ordnance returns for a given quarter, the Statistical Division of the Ordnance Department extracted the details for entries into a large ledger style book.  Each units’s data spanned across at least twelve pages.  The data from the returns was split into the following classes, considered “Part I” of the summary:

  • Class I: Cannon
  • Class II: Artillery carriages
  • Class III: Artillery implements and equipments
  • Class IV: Artillery projectiles unprepared for service
  • Class V: Artillery projectiles prepared for service
  • Class VI: Small arms
  • Class VII: Accouterments, implements, and equipments for small arms, and horse equipments for cavalry
  • Class VIII: Powder, ammunition for small arms and materials
  • Class IX: Parts or incomplete sets of any articles in Classes I-VIII
  • Class X: Miscellaneous

Following this was Part II, which included tools and materials… and was very lengthy and detailed.  Columns in section for Part II included hammers, punches, and pounds of horseshoe nails.  Yes indeed, the sort of detail that requires a staff of bean-counters three months to compile.  Suffice to say, these large sheets are difficult to demonstrate without straining eyes:


Not to downplay the need for opium for horses (Battery H, 1st US Artillery reported 16 ounces on hand as of December 31, 1862… if you need to know that little tidbit), the stuff most of us are interested in is under Part I, Class I – the cannons.  That class was further subdivided between serviceable and unserviceable cannons, which were even further subdivided by bore type, metal used, and pattern.  The columns included:

  • Bronze smoothbores – 6-pdr field guns, 12-pdr Napoleons, 12-pdr heavy field guns, 12-pdr mountain howitzers, 12-pdr field howitzers, 24-pdr field howitzers, and 32-pdr field howitzers.
  • Iron rifled guns – 3-inch Model 1861 (Ordnance) rifles, 10-pdr Parrotts, and 20-pdr Parrotts.
  • Steel rifled guns – 3-inch types, 6-pdr Wiard, and 12-pdr Wiard.
  • Bronze rifled guns – 6-pdr rifles (3.67-inch), 6-pdr “James” rifles (3.80-inch), and 12-pdr James (4.62-inch).
  • Miscellaneous types – Union repeating guns (Agar Coffee Mill Guns), Bilinghurst-Requa guns, and, written in at times, 4.5-inch siege rifles.

First point to make is that these summaries didn’t track the siege, garrison, or seacoast weapons.  I have not seen a reason for this in writing, but implied is that another mechanism existed to track those type of weapon.  In most cases, the heavy ordnance was issued not to a battery organization but to an installation – be that a fort, garrison, or armory.

Secondly, the field batteries were the place the bean-counters needed the most clarity when accounting for government equipment.  Unlike a fort’s assigned Rodman guns, the Napoleons of a given field battery moved around a lot, sometimes replaced with different weapons, cross leveled or consolidated with other batteries when organizational needs required, and, sometimes, lost in battle.  But that said, I haven’t seen any policy statements from the Ordnance Department as a reference to confirm my speculation.

So we have the header of the first page of the summary with the columns (mentioned above) for the serviceable cannons on hand at time of the report:


And even that section requires reading glasses.  But hopefully you get the gist of this. You see the summary groups the data by regiment.  In this case the 1st Regiment, US Artillery is tabulated by battery, being A through M (there was no J).  Furthermore, you see these were hand written so there are questions about entries.  Things like “is that a four or eleven?” and “is that Murfreesboro or Mumfordville?”   Also, the data needs to be bounced off other sources (such as the official records) for validation.  I’ve run into several issues, such as the annotation of “steel” 3-inch rifles where I know none were in use.

My challenge now is to display this information in a useful format for the web… on a blog post….  A form that 150 years ago would have been Jules Verne crazy talk to the bean-counters in the Statistical Department.

As a start, what I plan to do is post a snip for each regimental organization.  With that I’ll provide what my read is for each.  Then use the comments where questions may be answered and corrections noted.   If successful, then we have a start for a database depicting what batteries had what guns at certain times during the war.

More cold steel: “just so much he trusts to his sword, his morale will be raised”

Last week, I discussed the use of the cavalry’s melee weapons – the pistol and the saber.  (And I do apologize, as that post from last Monday was botched!  I’d not paid sufficient attention while editing, so have revised it with the correct quoted passages.) Writing almost fifty years after the Civil War and but a handful of years before Flanders Fields, Alonzo Gray contended the mounted arm, with sabers in hand, still had a place on the battlefield.  One of the sources Gray used to frame his conclusions were the words of Frederick Whittaker’s Volunteer Cavalry:

So far as the author’s observation goes, he never remembers an instance which the saber charge, resolutely pushed, failed to drive the pistols.  But the individual fancy of the colonel seemed to regulate the matter for his regiment. If he were an enthusiastic swordsman he always managed to infuse the same spirit into his men, and such men depended upon their sabers with just confidence. The saber is a weapon that requires constant practice to keep one’s hand in, and our cavalry officers as a class are entirely deficient in the practice.

In all the instances during the war in which the saber proved ineffective it may be safely asserted that it was owning to two things – want of fencing practice and blunt sabers.

In Whittaker’s view, the saber was one area in which the American mounted arm should have improved.  While lauding the performance of the American cavalry, to the point of alleging superiority over European powers in its application as a raiding force, Whittaker took a dim view of the results when limited to edged weapons.  He predicted:

Had one of our cavalry regiments been put on a level plain with no arms but sabres, opposed to like force of European heavy cavalry, especially cuirassiers, they would in all probability have been routed.

Why such a dire prediction?

The reason was that our men had little or no confidence with the sabre.  The reason of that again was that they were never taught to use it properly.  The ultimate reason of all – our system of sabre exercise, as laid down in the tactics, is radically bad, and our men never fenced together.

And Whittaker offered refinements and emphasis on drill as a remedy.  Such would install confidence in the weapon while ensuring leaders were well acquainted with the means to employ the weapon.

But there was one other aspect of the saber (or, as Whittaker preferred, sabre) which needed attention – the edge.

It is a strange fact, that after all that has been said and written about sharp sabres, by every one who has written on the subject of cavalry they still remain, in every service known, as blunt as ever….

Sabres are issued blunt enough to ride on to San Francisco.  The steel is hard.  Grindstones are not to be found. The soldiers lose confidence in the weapon, and prefer the revolver.

So Whittaker suggested that all new saber contracts carry the requirement that the weapon be “sharp enough to cut a sheet of paper, by striking the paper on the sword lightly….” Speaking from personal experience:

The writer has stood at a grindstone turned by steam, and tried to grind an Ames sabre for over an hour.  He can testify that it is hard, the hardest kind of work.  But if ground while soft in temper, at the factory, the hardening temper  subsequently received would leave them sharp still, and easily kept so.

To ensure that edge was maintained, each trooper should have a whetstone.  Whittaker felt such would go a long way to instill confidence:

Soldiers are fond and proud of good weapons, and take good care of them.  All men are apt to be vain of bodily strength and skill.  It gives a man a braver feeling to cut down an adversary than to shoot him, and by just so much he trusts to his sword, his morale will be raised.

Morale!  Morale!  Confidence in the weapons always translated to higher morale in the ranks.  And this greatly increased the impact of the weapon.

Now the moral effect of a charge is tremendous. The fierce charging yell, rising and swelling higher and higher till it overtops the sound of musketry, frightens more men than the bullets.  Very, very few troops will stand up against a charge unsupported by works; we might say none.  One side or the other is sure to give way, not from the force of weapons, but simply because they’re afraid.  And anything which encourages men to charge home doubles their morale, and morale is everything.

Whittaker’s conclusion was, as with Gray’s, that the saber’s value lay in the positive morale instilled within the ranks of those wielding the “three-foot razors” and in the shock effect on the enemy.

There are two perspectives we should take from Whittaker and Gray in regard to the saber.  Both men were writing about how the saber was used during the Civil War.  As such both provide context to the tactical actions the student of the war will study.  Yet, considering that both authors offered these “lessons” to be applied to what would be future conflicts (as of 1871 and 1910, respectively), we need to apply these as opinions of the time in regard to tactical employment.  We gain some perspective as to what the military mind thought at those places in time.

(Citations from Frederick Whittaker, Volunteer Cavalry: The Lessons of the Decade, New York: printed for the author, 1871, pages 5-7, 10-12.)

Fortification Friday: Curtains on a fort? Yes, there are faces, flanks and curtains!

Last week we moved to the horizontal plane and discussed the plan or, as I prefer, the trace of a field fortification.  A trace depicts advanced and retired parts, with salient or re-entering lines between the points of the fortification.

Another way to put this, the nature of a defense requires a fort to have intersecting lines, as opposed to a single line or a set of parallel lines.  That is because a defensive line should provide the defender a means to attack the assailing body’s flanks.  In order to generate the “combat multiplier,” the defensive arrangements had to offer something better than a face-to-face battle line.  Thus the need for these intersecting lines which enabled the defender to work on a flank or two.

In regard to these intersecting lines, classified as salient or re-entering, Mahan wrote:

When such a disposition is made, it is denominated by a flanked disposition; because the enemy’s flank is attained by the fire of the retired parts when he is advancing upon the salients.

Allow me to illustrate using one Mahan’s good old Figure 2 as a base:


You see how the dark blue line of fire from the retired part hits perfectly upon the side of the advance of the “bad guys.”  From there, Mahan introduced more terms to explain the role different lines played in the defense:

The advanced parts are denominated faces; the retired parts, which protect the faces, the flanks; the retired part connecting the flanks is the curtain.

So three new terms to illustrate here.  First the face: trace_Faces

You might notice the lines denominated as faces are exactly the same as those called out as advanced parts in the earlier discussion.  While that is not always the case, it is normal.  Advanced parts face the enemy… and thus are generally faces of the fortification.

Then the flank:


Again, we see some overlap in the terms used.  Flanks are one component of the retired parts, and are the same as re-entering lines.  But the term “flank” here is referring to the purpose, while re-entering is referring to the orientation.  Function and form, if I may.

And the curtain: Trace_Curtain

The curtain is a component of the retired parts, being between two flank lines.  One might dismiss the curtain as just a necessary connecting line of lesser importance.  But the curtain played a vital role to the defense, as it formed the base line on which the rest were oriented.  What’s behind the curtain?  The very thing which the fortification is designed to defend.  The salients and all those other lines are determined so as to prevent the “bad guys” from gaining any position in front of the curtain.  So when planning, it is the curtain which is set first.

Great, we have lots of lines.  What else? We are told in geometry class that intersecting lines create angles.  And in the Mahanian instruction, those angles have names:

An angle formed by two faces is denominated a salient angle; that formed by two retired parts a re-entering angle; and one made by a face and the opposite flank, an angle of defense.

And I’ll show those here.  First the salient angle:


The salient angle is of course not the blue lines, but rather the space bordered by those lines, on the interior of the works.

Now the re-entering angle: Trace_Reentering_Angle

While in the diagram the re-entering angle appears as obtuse, that was not always the case when applied to the field.  Also note that while the diagram shows generally complementing angles – salient and re-entering – that was not always the case when the plan was adapted to the reality of the ground.  But as a general rule, one looked to form complementing angles because that gave a better definition of the third angle mentioned – the angle of defense.

The angle of defense is perhaps the most important to consider. And we have two in the figure to consider:




Notice this angle is the only one of the three defined with a line departing from the fortification walls.  It defines the angle of fires that the defender can offer from the flank lines.  Thus the angle is the primary zone in which the defender can bring resistance to bear against the attacker – a crossfire between the face and the flank lines.  This depicts, on paper, the ability of the fortification to resist a particular line of advance.

So if the officer laying out the fort can predict the most likely line of advance the enemy might select, the fortification built in response should offer an angle, or angles, of defense that directly addresses that line.

But there is an opposite to the angle of defense.  That is the dead zone or dead angle.  And that, which the engineer would hope to diminish or mitigate, is the subject of the next Fortification Friday.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 4.)

The nuts-and-bolts history when studying the nuts-and-bolts OF history

This last weekend, we took the aide-de-camp to World War II Weekend at the Eisenhower Farm, Gettysburg.  As one might expect for a boy his age, the attraction was the soldier stuff on display. And a number of the displays were “hands on.”  At one of those tents, we stopped to examine some World War II era signal equipment operated by some living historians.


In front of the young man is a telephone switchboard.  For the demonstration, the crew had a couple of field telephones wired up.  They demonstrated the process involving hand-cranked phones, bells, flags, and patch cords. And this is rightfully defined as a process.  The operator had specific functions to perform in a sequence, lest the call be broken or otherwise disrupted.

Very early in my Army days, I trained on and operated similar switchboards (with marginally better “insides”).  So I was acquainted with the process.  One point the living historians placed emphasis on was the call termination.  When the conversation was over, they didn’t just hang up the phone.  Instead, the caller had to ring the switchboard again to let the operator know to close the connection… basically pull the patch cord out and return it to the stored position.

It was that point that the aide-de-camp looked confused.  In his experience, when you hang up the phone, the call is terminated.  Done.

But field telephones of World War II (and even many of the Army’s phones of the 1980s) didn’t “just hang up.”  The technology to “just hang up” required some development and refinement.  That said, few are the readers who will recall having to ask the operator to terminate a call at the switchboard (heck, few will actually recall having to reach a real, live operator to make a call!)   I had to pause and explain all this to the Aide.  He was very intrigued and noted the complication involved with making a simple phone call (paraphrasing here, of course).

So other than a quaint demonstration at some nostalgic event, what would that matter?   Well, to me this was another example of how the nuts-and-bolts fit into our greater understanding of history.  Technology has a way of abstracting people from our primitive past.  Consider….

There may be a future where these food replicators are all over the place.  And when that day comes, how far will the people be abstracted from the primitive?  Will they know and understand the supporting activities needed to put catfish on the plate?   Will they relate to the frustration of “the fish are not biting today” given that the nearest fishing hole is hundreds of light years away? Will they gladly accept the “clean the fish” chore as a necessity to obtaining the meal?  Will they have their own personal recipes for catfish?  I prefer mine breaded and fried with a side of hush puppies, please, Mr. Replicator.   And how would I know that as a favored preparation, verses the baked version that the computer spit out?  Answers depend upon how far the people have allowed the technology to remove them from the primitive.

And will the people of those times look back and wonder how any food shortages could have existed? Will they understand the great deal of effort required, in our time and even more so in “primitive” times of old, required just to obtain nourishment?  In essence, will they cast presumptions upon our times and our decisions because they don’t know first hand just how hard it is to catch, clean, and fry a catfish?

Likewise, do we, as we look at history, understand the effort required just to make a phone call on those primitive devices of 1944?  The idiosyncrasies of placing a call on the battlefield of 1944 has some value to the historian studying the time period.  One must understand the nature of that experience, at the nuts-and-bolts level in order to put in context the interactions made between participants of the events.

More to the point, we must understand the process… or protocol… of using a courier to send orders on the battlefield of 1863.  Battles and campaigns, and ultimately the course of a war, turned on how those couriers were used to convey information.  Ask Robert E. Lee or William Rosecrans about that.  It’s not enough to simply say “things were misunderstood.”  And beyond just battlefield activities, we might consider how public opinion was shaped in a time without Cable News Network and the immediacy of a 24-hour news cycle… you know when one had to wait until the morning paper… the LOCAL morning paper, that is, which might be carrying news from three day’s earlier.

We’ve got to work with the nuts-and-bolts of the process to understand the particulars as to why things occurred as they did.  That’s the nuts-and-bolts of history.

Cold steel or hot lead? Saber and revolver for the cavalry in close combat

NOTEThis post was badly edited upon first publication.  The error was due to cutting and pasting of portions for serialized postings.  I’ve revised the post to provide the desired sequencing of Gray’s conclusions instead of Whittaker’s, which were intended for the follow up post.  Sorry for the confusion caused by the clean up.

Going into combat, the infantryman had his musket and bayonet.  One weapon with two different modes of use.

The artilleryman had his cannon.  One weapon with several types of projectiles for different purposes.

But the cavalryman might, if he was properly equipped, go into battle with a carbine, a revolver, and a saber.  (Let’s not go crazy and mention the lances, however).

This array of weapons was due to the varying roles the cavalry was called upon to perform.  A carbine was preferred for picket duty or skirmishing.  But for up close fighting, the revolver and saber were preferred.  Though I would point out the commander’s preference tended to play into the selection of saber and revolver.

Each of these weapons (fine throw in the lance too) had a different set of drills. And by extension, each had a particular set of tactics that a commander might employ those drills against.  From the non-cavalryman’s view, I would argue this made the cavalry seem disorderly at some level.  Again, the infantry, with their one basic weapon, had a common set of drills.  How many ways can you load a cannon?  But the cavalry trooper had all those “schools” to learn about sabers, pistols, and carbines.  So some perceptions, well-founded or not, took hold:


Even today, you mention cavalry and images of gleaming sabers come to the mind’s eye.   After all, doesn’t everyone want to be on the horse at full gallop swinging that big edged weapon around?

But we read, in most discussions centered on tactics, that the saber was used less during the Civil War compared with earlier wars.  However, examining the source material we find the saber was still often employed in the melee.  In his study of Cavalry Tactics, Captain Alonzo Gray opened Chapter I with a discussion of the revolver and saber when used for close combat.  He took up the question as to when should each be used.  Quite number of the actions Gray called upon occurred on June 9, 1863 around Brandy Station, Virginia.

Gray starts with mention of Colonel Williams Wickham and actions near Stevensburg:

Colonel Wickham and a few of his men threw themselves into a field on the roadside, and by the fire of their pistols checked further pursuit.

I’m less inclined to call this a successful use of pistols in the close melee, as we know this occurred at a time after the 4th Virginia Cavalry broke, and which General Wade Hampton blamed the loss of his brother Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Hampton.  The Federals didn’t press this to advantage, so it’s hard to say the selection of the revolver made much difference.  And I’d argue that Wickham’s “stand” really was not much of a stand to begin with, being more of a fleeting rally.

Further into the discussion, Gray offered examples of individual combat between those armed with sabers and others armed with revolvers.  Staying at the Stevensburg sector:

Colonel [Frank] Hampton, while engaging one of the enemy with his saber, was shot through the body by another, and mortally wounded.

And one, from another sector of the battlefield that had immediate and important implications on the fight (and I’d argue also on the campaign which followed):

Perceiving his danger, Colonel [B.F.] Davis turned upon Allen with a cut of his saber, which [Lieutenant R.O.] Allen avoided by throwing himself on the side of his horse; at the same moment he fired and Colonel Davis fell.

In that instance, along Beverly’s Ford Road, the initiative slipped out of the hands of the Federals. All by way of a single pistol shot.

But back from the historical implications here, what does this say about the tactics, drill, and weapons employed?  Wryly, do we say “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight?”  Well it is not that clean a cut… if I may turn a pun.

Further along in the discussion, after turning to other actions on other battlefields, Gray cited instances where the saber’s shock effect was of great value in the melee.  Among those cited vignettes, Gray circles back to Brandy Station.  This time, we go to Fleetwood Hill with the attack of General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s brigade, singling out the 1st Maine Cavalry:

They outnumbered us three to one, but could not withstand the heavy saber blows of the sturdy men of Maine, who rode through them and over them, gained the hill, captured a battle-flag and many prisoners, among them the rebel General Stuart’s adjutant-general. From this moment the fight was one series of charges, every regiment of the brigade charging, rallying, and again charging until ordered to retire.

Granted, we must take Kilpatrick’s report with salt.  But in defense of Gray’s selection, the other quotes used for Brandy Station came from Major H.B. McClellan’s Life and Campaigns of Major General J.E.B. Stuart, written after the war.  I get the impression Gray was reaching for some account from what one can argue was the largest cavalry melee of the war, and came up with but Kilpatrick’s account to use for his point.  What we can agree upon, having access to a wider range of source materials than Gray had in 1910, is that the saber was used to good effect by both sides on Fleetwood Hill that day.  Indeed, both sides mounted saber charges and counter charges… with ultimately the victory going to the side that charged last.

At the end of his discussion of sabers and pistols, Gray concluded:

It will be seen from the next chapter that during the War of the Rebellion, the same as for centuries past, the saber was essentially a weapon for shock action. During the thick of the melee it was still to be preferred; but when the melee began to dissolve into individual combats the saber was or should have been exchanged for the revolver…. In the individual combat the revolver will be the winner in almost every case.  If the trooper is expert in its use, he has nothing to fear from an individual enemy armed with a saber.

In the end, Gray did not claim the saber was obsolete.  Rather that each weapon had a role and place… and should be retained.

Put this in context.  Those words were published in 1910, just years before the trenches of the Western Front with their barbed wire and machine guns.  Now we might wave that aside as backwards thinking at a time when technology had eclipsed the tactics of old.  Maybe cast a few jokes at Gray’s expense….

But, the cavalry and their sabers remained on the battlefield… and in some cases were employed with effect.

March 30, 1918.  Cited as the last saber charge of World War I, Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew’s C Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse “moved” the Germans at Moreuil Wood with their sabers.  They payed a steep price to blunt a German offensive.  Nobody, including Gray, ever said cavalry charges were cheap, bloodless affairs.

(Citations from Alonzo Gray, Cavalry Tactics, as Illustrated by the War of the Rebellion, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Cavalry Association, 1910, pages 16-22, 25.)

Fortification Friday: To a different dimension we go … for the plan, or trace of the works

Thus far in the discussion of principles of field fortification as taught by Mahan, I’ve focused on the components of the profile, and essentially the fortification as seen in the vertical plane.  But we know that fortifications exist in three dimensions.  So let us build that out further by considering the horizontal.  In Mahan’s own words:

The profile shows only the outline of the intrenchment in elevation, and by itself is not sufficient to point out the relative bearing of all the parts.  A plan, or trace, which exhibits the direction of the different lines of the parapet, &c., is, in conjunction with the profile requisite for this purpose.

Stealing a line… I love it when a plan comes together.

Fort Johnson

Or maybe…  remember these from 150 years and a couple more summers ago?


Yes, those are somewhat the antithesis of Mahan’s field fortifications, being the siege lines in the advance on Battery Wagner.  These were fortifications constructed by the attackers to shield from the assailing missiles fired by the defenders.  So the same rules applied.  Recall the profile lines are annotated in the drawing in the format “letter-letter+prime” – or o-o’ for example.  That’s how the plan or trace (which I prefer) worked along with the profile to provide a proper drawing of a three dimensional work.

The purpose of the trace is to demonstrate how the parts of the fortification work together in order to provide the defensive arrangements.  In that arrangement there were “parts” which provided that sum total of defense:

The plan of intrenchments, in general, should be so arranged as to procure a mutual defense of the parts. To effect this, certain parts are thrown forward toward the enemy, to receive his attack; they are denominated advanced parts; other portions, denominated retired parts, are withdrawn from the enemy, and protect by their fire the advanced parts.

Keep in mind that advanced parts and retired parts was not necessarily “front line” and “rear line” but rather described the orientation of the structures in relation to the enemy.  Let’s turn to Figure 2 from Plate 1 of Mahan’s Field Fortifications to illustrate.


Of that trace, these are advanced parts:


And these are retired parts:


Mahan continued with an explanation of the lines within those parts:

This arrangement naturally indicates that the general outline of the plan must present an angular system; some of the angular points, denominated salients, being toward the enemy, and others denominated re-enterings, toward the assailed.

So we have (some of) the salient lines:


And re-entering lines:


That’s the basics of a trace.  From here, we will take up the next lesson to consider, from that trace, the lines that become faces, flanks, and curtains.  We also need to consider the angles which become critical when assessed against the area covered by the defender’s guns.  All this builds up to the elaborate arrangements that use fancy words like redan, lunette, and redoubt.  Oh… and the star fort.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 3-4.)