Seventeenth Annual Appomattox CH / Longwood U. Civil War Seminar

This year’s Civil War Seminar, hosted by Appomattox Court House National Historic Park and Longwood University is on Saturday, February 6, 2016.  As in the past few years, the place to be is Jarman Auditorium on the Longwood University campus, Farmville, Virginia.

This year’s focus is “After Appomattox.”  Speakers and schedule are:

  • 8:30 AM – Doors open.
  • 9:00 AM – Introduction by Dr. David Coles.
  • 9:10 AM – Ernie Price – Marching out of Formation: Confederates Going Home after Appomattox.
  • 10:15 AM – Patrick Schroeder – Appomattox: After the Surrender to 1865.
  • 11:15 AM – Rick Hatcher – Return to Fort Sumter.
  • 12:30 PM – Lunch.
  • 1:45 PM – Frank O’Reilly – Uneasy Alliance: Brokering Peace with Grant and Lee.
  • 2:45 PM – Eric Wittenberg – Wade Hampton and Joshua Chamberlain: Parallel Lives Well Lived.

So we see the seminar organizers are keeping somewhat with their sesquicentennial themes, and building upon the outstanding 2015 seminar (and what a grand three-day event that was!).  Though returning to the one-day format.

The cost is right in your range…. Free!

More details on the event website (here).  Hope to see you there.  If not, I’ll be doing my regular tweeting from the event… so join me virtually if you cannot attend in person.

Fortification Friday: Marking “Planes of Direct Defilement” on the Parapets

No doubt some readers are still battling with snow this Friday, with large berms of the white stuff piled high.  I’ve considered taking advantage of this to build our own little fortification with relief, Mahanian style.   But I must admit, despite encouragement… and bribery… I’ve yet to enlist my aide-de-camp to pose with a picket post in order to properly establish our fortification.  It is difficult enough just to get the aide to shovel the snow in the first place.  Seems it is much more fun to simply sled down the berm and assail neighborhood compatriots with snowballs.  Nobody wants to build up some intricate snow-works.  So, alas, readers will not have a depiction of relief in snow.

This week we will continue with Mahan’s lesson on building the relief of works. Thus far we’ve considered the need for relief in the works, defined defilement of the works,  and then begun planning the extents of that defilement.  Recall that by this point, the engineer has the basic idea of where he should place the traverse… as in this diagram:


Next the engineer needed to focus on the points e and e’ (again keep in mind the upper-case, lower-case distinctions here).  That brings us back to Figure 16 and the trace of the works:


Working on that plane, Mahan called for the engineer to address another set of planes… the planes of direct defilement.

Poles (Fig. 16) are planted at the points A B C, &c., and one at the point F, where the lines of the capital and gorge intersect.  On the pole F, a point is marked three feet above the ground and a point is likewise marked on the pole at C, which should be one foot six inches higher than that on F; that is, if the ground between the two poles be level, the point on C will be four feet six inches above the ground. Two stout pickets may next be planted between F and C, and a cord, or a straight edge, be fastened to them, so as to be in the same line as the points marked on the poles.

So let me dress up this figure to highlight what Mahan was referring to:


The blue lines are the posts at F and C.  The green are the two posts Mahan required on the line between F and C.  And the thin yellow line is the cord run between all four posts.  Due to the size and limitations of my graphical arts skills, I am not accurately demonstrating the height of the marks on those posts.  Keep in mind the desired marks for F (three feet) and C (four and a half, plus the height of the parapet).

These poles and cord in place, the engineer had a base line for further definition:

Observers are then placed at the poles A and B; and another places himself behind the cord [between F and C] so as to bring the posts O, A, and B, in the field of vision with it; then shifting the position of the eye until the cord is brought tangent to the highest point on O, he directs the observers at A and B, to mark on the respective poles the points where the plane of vision intersects them.  This operation will determine the rampant plane for one half of the work A B C F, and that for the other half will be determined by a similar process.  If the distance of five feet be set off on each pole above the points thus determined, these points will fix the position of the interior crests.

Looking at the diagram, let me attempt to illustrate this effort:


The poles at A and B are orange lines.  The line of observation, from the cord to O is in red.  Then we have the adjustments on B with the red arrows on that line.   With marks on the poles at A and B set, and a line (presumably another cord) between those posts, we set the height required for the parapet, specifically the interior crest in order to provide protection to the defenders.  The same could be repeated for D and E and set the height required on that side.  But there’s a catch here:

It is obvious that the interior crest of the part A B C is not the same plane as that of the part C D E.  These two planes are denominated planes of direct defilement.

Thus it may be that the interior crest on one side is higher than the other.  The engineer needed to “reconcile” or, simply ease the difference where the two planes come into contact on the parapet… that being at point C.  Thus there is an irregularity in the height of the parapet, which Mahan would address at a later point. But readers should keep this “conundrum” in mind as we go forward.

The poles, cords, and marks indicated here allowed the engineer to specify how much earth needed to be piled to make the parapet effective.  The verbiage used here is indicative of the desired effect – to intercept fires from the distant, high ground.  Thus we have “planes of direct defilement” here.  Next we need to look at the other side of this… that being the “planes of reverse defilement” and the details of the traverse.

Now, I ask, are you getting the feel for how complicated “pile it higher” really is?

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 27-8.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 3rd New York Light Artillery Regiment

So what is next with New York?  2nd Regiment of Artillery?  Well, for the fourth quarter, 1862 summary statement, the focus was on field artillery equipment.  And the 2nd New York Artillery Regiment was a “Heavy” assigned to the Washington Defenses. The 2nd was brought out to the field in the spring of 1864, with a lot of other heavies, to be used as infantry.  So another story for another day.

That brings us to the 3rd Regiment of Artillery from New York, the next “light” formation.  Unlike the 1st Regiment, which was all in Virginia, the 3rd Regiment’s service was in North Carolina at this stage of the war. Briefly, the 3rd New York Artillery was originally the 19th New York Infantry.  Reorganized in December 1861, the regiment contained Batteries A through K and M.  In March 1862, those eleven batteries, commanded by Colonel James H. Ledlie (who would go on to infamy for actions later in the war), went to North Carolina to be part of Burnside’s operations.  The batteries did not see a lot of action through the summer and into the fall, and were mostly deployed around New Berne.   As part of a general reorganization of the Department of North Carolina, the 3rd New York and the other artillery batteries were organized into a brigade under Ledlie, as part of the Eighteenth Corps.  Major Henry M. Stone assumed command of the regiment at that time.  Some of the batteries were involved with Major-General John Foster’s Goldsborough campaign in December 1862.  But the main duty of these batteries was garrisoning the post of New Berne.

That brings us to the regiment’s section of the summary:


Note the clerks only noted five received returns.  For brevity, with the exception of Battery L (which I’ll explain) were in the Artillery Brigade, Eighteenth Corps, Department of North Carolina.  And all, save Battery L, were reported at New Berne except where noted:

  • Battery A: No return.
  • Battery B: No location listed, but reporting six 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C: No return.
  • Battery D: No return.
  • Battery E: New Berne, armed with two 24-pdr and two 32-pdr field howitzers.  Yes, the big ones!
  • Battery F: No return.
  • Battery G: No return.  Reported on duty at New Berne and Washington, North Carolina.
  • Battery H: New Berne with six 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery I: New Berne reporting four 20-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery K: New Berne with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Battery L: No return.  This battery was a “special case” detailed in the next paragraph.
  • Battery M: No return.


The linage of Battery L deserves special mention.  Captain Terrence J. Kennedy was authorized to recruit a battery sometime in 1861.  This was designated the 1st Independent New York Light Artillery.  However, somewhere along the way Kennedy’s battery was linked to the 3rd Regiment, on some books at least, as Battery L.  Kennedy’s 1st New York served through the war with the independent battery designation, never serving as a 3rd regiment formation.  However, in March 1865, the 24th New York Independent Battery, formerly Battery B, New York Rocket Battalion, was re-designated Battery L, 3rd New York.  Thus we have a confusing story of three different batteries, one of which was only a paper designation.  Bottom line, there was no Battery L, 3rd Artillery in December 1862.

Moving on to the ammunition sections, first we have the smoothbores:


Notice here the 24-pdr and 32-pdr columns that I usually omit for clarity:

  • Battery B: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery E: 144 shell, 96 case, and 24 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers; 74 shell, 140 case, and 48 canister for 32-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery H: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery K: 15 case for 24-pdr field howitzer.

Why Battery K would have 24-pdr howitzer ammunition?  I only have speculative leads for now.  Those obviously would not fit in the Ordnance Rifles. Battery K had what I’d consider meager quantities of the right size ammunition on hand:


Battery K reported 184 canister, 107 fuse shell, and 132 bullet shell of the Hotchkiss patent for 3-inch rifles.

For it’s 20-pdr Parrotts Battery I reported 289 shell and 48 canister, all of Parrott’s patent type:


The 3rd New York did not report any quantities of Dyer’s, James’, or Schenkl’s patent projectiles on hand for the reporting period.

As for small arms on hand:


By battery:

  • Battery B: 23 Army revolvers and 23 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: 19 Army revolvers, one cavalry saber, and 31 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: 17 Navy revolvers and 50(?) horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery I: Nine Army revolvers and six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: 26 Army revolvers, two cavalry sabers, and 52 horse artillery sabers.

Circling back to to my “complaint” that the returns and summaries as inconsistent, I offer the 3rd New York Artillery as yet another example.  All of these batteries (save the non-existent Battery L) were in one place and under one command structure.  Yet the reporting was more miss than hit.  I could understand lax attitude across the board. But in this case within a field organization, some were recorded while others were not.  It implies to me that the returns were complied by battery and submitted by battery, as opposed to being consolidated by field or administrative (regimental) staff.

Maybe the omissions were due to the fault of the clerks?  Again, one would presume the entire 3rd Regiment, as they were co-located, would submit one package of returns.  So where omission occur, logically wouldn’t we see whole regiments missing?  Maybe one or two batteries?  But certainly not six out of eleven as we see here.  In short, it sort of defies the logic in most intra-office protocols.

All we can say for sure is there are a lot of empty cells in the book.