Fortification Friday: “Manner of Throwing up a Work” Part 1

How many times have you read or heard that expression?  Yes, throwing up works.  As if some powerful entity stands in front of the lines and with some hand motion moves the earth into the nice geometrical alignment that forms the precisely planned fortification.  That’s not how it works when making works.  Nay, someone has to use the shovel to pile that dirt up to the desired heights and contours.

That said, have you ever tried to pile earth up to a specific height and shape?  How’d that play out?  One might just start digging, then go back and measure the progress.  Of course that would lead to a lot of re-work and adjustments.  A better approach would be to have some stake or mark in place that sets the extents of the dirt pile and the desired height.  Sort of a “practical” approach to the dirt piling, if you will, by marking and setting the particulars on the ground.

Mahan detailed just such a practical approach under the chapter title “Manner of Throwing Up a Work.”:

The foregoing chapters contain all that is requisite to determine the plan and relief of field works under all circumstances of variety of ground. To follow a natural order, the next steps will be to describe the manner of laying the work out on the field, which is termed profiling; the distribution of the workmen to excavate the ditch, and form the parapet; and the precautions to be observed in the construction.

So three steps here in the actual construction – project the plan onto the ground, divvy up the labor, and address particulars in the construction.  We’ll look specifically at that first part in this post.  For all the paper, ink, and brain-cycles spent developing the “plan” – tenants of which we’ve discussed at length in earlier posts – nothing matters until the works are actually constructed to the specifications.  A perfect plan can be undone by someone shorting a half-foot on the height of the parapet or making a narrow banquette.  So these particulars must be precisely related to the men working with the shovels.  This is how that is done:

Poles having been planted at the angles of the work, and the height of the interior crest marked on them, a line is traced on the ground, with a pick, showing the direction of the interior crests.

My lack of artistic talent aside, that would look something like this:


We have the stakes, in green, at the angles of the desired work – in this case a simple lunette.  A red hash mark indicates the desired height of the interior crest.  And a dark blue line, nicely showing the faces and flanks required, represents the line traced by the pick.  Those in place, the next step:

At suitable distances, say from twenty to thirty yards apart, cords are stretched between two stout pickets, in a direction perpendicular to the line marked out by the pick; these cords should be exactly horizontal. A stout picket is driven firmly into the ground, where the cord crosses the pick-line, and a slip of pine, on which the height of the interior crest is marked, is nailed to the picket.

Which would look something like this:


For clarity I’ve only depicted the work on one face here.  We have the perpendicular cords in yellow.  At the intersection of the cords and the pick-line, there are green pickets with the desired red hash marks for the height of the interior crest.  That accomplished, we continue:

The thickness of the parapet is measured on the cord, and a picket driven into the ground to mark the point.  The base of the interior slope, and the tread of the banquette, are set off in a similar manner; and a slip of deal is nailed to each of the pickets.

So we add more pickets….


Note, I’m adding an additional line that Mahan did not mention.  The interior blue line depicts a measure back along the cord for placement of the second set of pickets.  If I were doing this on the ground, I’d have a second pick-line as sort of a “measure twice” validation.  But regardless of how it is determined, we have a second row of pickets (green, again) with a hash mark for the desired height of the banquette tread.

The height of the interior crest, and the tread of the banquette, are easily ascertained, from the position of the cord, and the interior crest; these points having been marked on their respective slips, the outline of the parapet is shown by connecting them by other slips, which are nailed to the uprights; the banquette slope, and exterior slope, will be determined by a similar process.

That results in this, Figure 18 from Plate II in Mahan’s Treatise:


We’d see a structure like this placed along every one of the yellow cord lines of my diagram.  With one of these placed about every 20 to 30 yards, there’s a standing reference for those piling the dirt.

From the profiles thus formed perpendicular to the interior crests, the oblique profiles at the angles can readily be set up, by a process which will suggest itself without explanation.

Honestly, I do wish Mahan elaborated more on the obliques at the angles.  But the manner that comes to mind is simply “smoothing” and adjusting the points where the two lines meet to form the angle. Basically, a beveled “cut” to each side where they join.  Sort of getting a giant miter box out, I’m at a loss to display that here.

Having completed the profiling, the foot of the banquette, and that of the exterior slope, are marked out with the pick, and also the crests of the scarp and counterscarp. All the arrangements preparatory to commencing the excavation are now complete.

Yes, what he said… and start digging…. Well, we’ll wait until next week to start that, OK?

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 32-33.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Ohio Independent Batteries, Part 2

Let us continue with the Ohio independent batteries and review the second half of their fourth quarter, 1862 summaries:


Again, we see some batteries skipped in the order.  In this case the 13th and 14th. Of the   six reporting, two have returns not posted until 1864.   In addition, just to say we’ve had a complete look, there were some batteries, beyond the 20th, which deserve mention.

  • 11th Battery: No report.  Was part of the Seventh Division, Left Wing, Thirteenth Corps and camped around Germantown, Tennessee, outside Memphis.  Captain Frank C. Sands commanding.  UPDATE:  Phil Spaugy has a great post up about the 11th Battery in action at Iuka.  He passed along a source indicating the battery had two 3.67-inch rifles, two 6-pdr field guns, and two 12-pdr field howitzers at Iuka in September 1862.
  • 12th Battery: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain Aaron C. Johnson commanded this battery assigned to the Eleventh corps.
  • 13th Battery: Not listed.  Losing all its guns at Shiloh, this battery ceased to exist after April 1862.
  • 14th Battery: Not listed.  The battery part of the District of Jackson (though at Lynnville, Tennessee), Thirteenth Corps at this time, under Lieutenant Homer H. Stull.
  • 15th Battery: Tallahachie, Mississippi with four 6-pdr field guns.  The 15th was involved with Grant’s Northern Mississippi , as part of the Fourth Division, Right Wing, Thirteenth Corps.  Captain Edward Spear, Jr. commanded.
  • 16th Battery: No location given, but with two 6-pdr field guns and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Lieutenant Russell Twist commanded this battery at Helena, assigned to District of Eastern Arkansas, in the Department of Missouri.  But the battery was soon to be pulled into the Vicksburg Campaign.
  • 17th Battery: No report.  Captain Ambrose A. Blount commanded this battery.  Blount’s battery was among the unattached artillery supporting Sherman’s failed attempt at Chickasaw Bayou that December.
  • 18th Battery: Nashville, Tennessee with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The location may be valid for March 1863, as received in Washington.  However, at the close of 1862, Captain Charles Aleshire’s battery had just arrived in Lousiville, Kentucky, as part of Second Division, Army of Kentucky.
  • 19th Battery: Knoxville, Tennessee with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The 19th, under Captain Joseph C. Shield, was also in Second Division, Army of Kentucky, but moving towards Frankfort at the close of 1862.  The Knoxville location was valid for February 1864, when the return was posted to Washington.
  • 20th Battery: Nashville, Tennessee with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 3-inch Ordnance rifles.  The 20th, under Captain Edward Grosskopff (formerly of the 10th Ohio Independent Battery), arrived a few days late to participate in the Battle of Stones River.  They were, at that time, not assigned to a field formation.
  • 21st Battery, 22nd Battery, and 24th Battery:  Not organized until later in 1863.
  • 23rd Battery: Not listed. Mustered in 1861, this battery was attached to 2nd Kentucky Infantry.  It became the 1st Kentucky Independent Light Battery.
  • 25th Battery: Not listed.  Formed as the 3rd Battery Kansas Artillery, this battery was re-designated as the 25th Ohio Independent Light Battery in February 1863.
  • 26th Battery: Not listed.  This battery was actually Company F, 32nd Ohio Infantry, detached for artillery service.  It was among those units surrendered at Harpers Ferry on September 15, 1862 (thus no report).  Upon receiving their exchange, the battery resumed duty as infantry in Company F.  This began a curious story where by Captain Theobold D. Yost’s men were sometimes a battery and other times infantry.  Only in December 1863 was the 26th permanently established.

So I figure we should have entries for nine batteries, but only six have reports tallied.  We work with what is there.

And we will work first wit the smoothbore ammunition:


Four batteries reporting quantities:

  • 15th Battery: For 6-pdr field guns – 412 shot, 256 case, and 164 canister.
  • 16th Battery: For 6-pdr field guns – 210 shot, 167 case, and 98 canister.
  • 19th Battery: For 12-pdr Napoleons – 96 shot, 358 shell, 306 case, and 222 canister.
  • 20th Battery: For 12-pdr Napoleons – 150 shot, 50 shell, 150 case, and 50 canister.

For rifled ammunition, starting with Hotchkiss-type:


Again, four batteries to consider:

  • 12th Battery:  350(or 250?) fuse shell and 730 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 16th Battery:  340 shot and 340 fuse shell for 3.80-inch James Rifles.
  • 18th Battery:  144 canister, 225 percussion shell, 530 fuse shell, and 480 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 20th Battery: 100 canister, 160 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 375 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Just one entry to consider for the next page:


12th Battery reported 125 3-inch Dyer’s canister.

Then a couple of entries on the next page:


12th Battery also had 125 3-inch Schenkl shells.  16th Battery had 136(?) of Tatham’s canister for their 3.80-inch rifles.

Lastly, the small arms reported:


By battery:

  • 15th Battery: Eight cavalry sabers.
  • 16th Battery: Thirty Navy revolvers and eighty-eight cavalry sabers.
  • 18th Battery:  Thirty Army revolvers, twelve cavalry sabers, and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • 19th Battery: Thirty Navy revolvers and twelve cavalry sabers.
  • 20th Battery: Thirty Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.

So of those reporting, only the 12th Battery indicated no small arms on hand. Somehow I think that an omission of some sort.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Ohio Independent Batteries, Part 1

We saw last week that the 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment’s batteries were pulling duty, as of the end of 1862, with two armies – the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Cumberland.  In contrast, the independent batteries saw more varied service from the standpoint of assignment as of that point on the timeline.  During the war, there were twenty-six designated independent batteries from Ohio, along with a few National Guard batteries brought on active duty for short duration (falling outside our survey of the moment), according to Dyer’s Compendium.  The summary for fourth quarter, 1862 offered reports for some of the first twenty of those:


To avoid a flurry of “Too long, didn’t read” remarks, let us focus on the first half of those.  So looking closely at the 1st through 10th Ohio Independent Light Batteries, we have this snip to work with:


Of these, the clerks skipped the 3rd and 8th Batteries.  However, of those listed, only the 1st’s details are absent.  And all but two of those reporting had the paperwork in Washington by the end of 1863.  With those, we have:

  • 1st Ohio Independent Battery: No return. Captain James R. McMullin commanded this battery, supporting the Kanawha Division, then in (what is today) West Virginia. Earlier in the fall, the battery fought at South Mountain with six James Rifles. However it is likely the battery re-equipped with 3-inch Ordnance Rifles shortly afterward.
  • 2nd Ohio Independent Battery: At Helena, Arkansas with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain Newton J. Smith commanded this battery, which was assigned to the District of Eastern Arkansas at the time.
  • 3rd Ohio Independent Battery: Not listed. Was part of Third Division, Right Wing, Thirteenth Corps, at Memphis in December 1862.  Captain William S. Williams commanding.
  • 4th Ohio Independent Battery:  At Greenville, Mississippi with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain Louis Hoffmann’s battery was also with General Frederick Steele’s force at Helena in December 1862.  The battery was involved with an expedition to Greenville in April 1863, when the report was filed.
  • 5th Ohio Independent Battery:  At Holly Springs, Mississippi with two 6-pdr field guns, two 12-pdr field howitzers, and two 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Assigned to the Fourth Division, Right Wing, Thirteenth Corps (soon to be in the Seventeenth Corps).  Commanded by Lieutenant Anthony B. Burton.
  • 6th  Ohio Independent Battery: I interpret the location to say “Thomas’s East Line.”  And I think that refers to the battery’s location at Chattanooga, Tennessee for the September 1863 reporting date.  Feel free to look that over so we might get it right.  The battery reported two 6-pdr field guns and four 10-pdr Parrotts. As of December 31, 1862, the battery was in the field at Stones River supporting First Division, Left Wing, Fourteenth Corps.  Captain Cullen Bradley commanded the battery, which suffered the loss of two killed, two wounded, and one captured in the battle.  Bradley reported firing 500 rounds.
  • 7th  Ohio Independent Battery: Tallahatchie, Mississippi with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Also assigned to Fourth Division, Right Wing, Thirteenth Corps.  Commanded by Captain Silas A. Burnap.
  • 8th  Ohio Independent Battery: Not listed. This battery was part of Sherman’s force at Chickasaw Bayou, commanded by Lieutenant  James F. Putnam.
  • 9th  Ohio Independent Battery: Tullahoma, Tennessee with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Another case where the location (and possibly other particulars) refer to the battery’s state at the time of the report’s receipt in Washington.  As of December 1862, the battery was commanded by Captain Harrison B. York and was part of the Third Division, Army of Kentucky. It would soon join the Army of the Cumberland, as part of the Reserve Corps.
  • 10th  Ohio Independent Battery: Young’s Point, Louisiana with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  The location may be valid for a reporting date later in 1863.  In December 1862, this battery was under Captain Hamilton B. White and in Sixth Division, Left Wing, Thirteenth Corps, among those operating in Northern Mississippi.

So we see varied service – batteries in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas (and later Louisiana also).

For smoothbore ammunition, here is the appropriate section:


By battery, they reported:

  • 2nd Battery:  All for 12-pdr field howitzer – 41 shell, 113 case, and 77 canister.
  • 4th Battery:  For their 12-pdr field howitzers – 162 shell, 105 case, and 92 canister.
  • 5th Battery:  For 6-pdr field guns – 40 shot, 267 case, and 93 canister.  For the 12-pdr field howitzers – 57 shell and 82 canister.  There is an entry for 147 12-pdr Napoleon spherical case, but I would guess this was a transcription error, and should be under the 12-pdr field howitzer case column.
  • 6th Battery:  For 6-pdr field guns – 175 shot and 72 canister.
  • 9th Battery: For 12-pdr Napoleons – 84 shot, 289 shells, 484 case, and 310 canister.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, starting with the Hotchkiss type:


All of these were for the reported James Rifles, 3.80-inch caliber:

  • 2nd Battery:  100 shot, 127 percussion shell, and 190 fuse shell.
  • 4th Battery: 169 shot and 106(?) percussion shell
  • 7th Battery: 40 shot.
  • 10th Battery:  39 shot and 71 fuse shell.

Moving over to the next set of columns, we see one more entry for Hotckhiss, along with James and Parrott types:


Note to self:  In the future try to split these sections up a bit to make them easier to read and flow better….Let me break these down by type:

Hotchkiss, continued:

  • 10th Battery:  389 Hotchkiss-type canister for 3.80-inch James Rifles.


  • 2nd Battery:  100 James-patent shot for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 4th Battery: 304 James-patent shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 5th Battery:   55 shot, 150 shell, and 95 canister in James-patent for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 7th Battery: 100 James-patent 3.80-inch canister.


  • 6th Battery: 310 shell, 217 case, and 80 canister Parrott projectiles for 10-pdr rifles.

The last page of the rifled projectiles lists Schenkl’s and Tatman’s:


Schenkl, all 3.80-inch James Rifle caliber:

  • 7th Battery: 340 shells.
  • 10th Battery: 176 shells.

Tatham’s, all 3.80-inch James Rifle caliber:

  • 2nd Battery: 144 canister.
  • 4th Battery: 90 canister.
  • 7th Battery:  80 canister.

Just an off-the-cuff observation, but these Ohio batteries had quite a quantity of canister of all types.

Finally the small arms:


No long arms, not a lot of pistols, but a fair allocation of edged weapons:

  • 2nd Battery: Three Army revolvers and twelve cavalry sabers.
  • 4th Battery: Forty cavalry sabers and six horse artillery sabers.
  • 5th Battery: Seven Navy revolvers and fifty-six cavalry sabers.
  • 6th Battery: Fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 7th Battery: Eleven Army revolvers and seven horse artillery sabers.
  • 9th Battery: Thirteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 10th Battery: Five Army revolvers and twelve cavalry sabers.

That’s the first half of the Ohio Independent Batteries.  Should have the second half of that section posted in the next few days.

Fortification Friday: Applying Mahan’s “relief” on a real fort

For the last several weeks, I’ve discussed Mahan’s guidance for modifying the plan of a fortification to take into account terrain relief.  Specifically, Mahan’s lessons focused on situations where high ground dominating the fortification was, by necessity, left open to the enemy.  We’ve looked at how terrain relief creates flaws in the defense and then how to address those issues by defining the height of parapets and traverses.  And we’ve considered Mahan’s guidance to avoid extreme solutions.  As alluded to at the close of last Friday’s post, the value of this knowledge is not that we might go out an build our own fortifications today (you see, the Wright Brother’s invention sorta throws this question of relief into a whole new discussion).  Rather that we can use Mahan’s teachings to assess, to a degree, the earthworks that have survived to our times.  In short, this is a key to unlocking a primary source – the actual ground over which the battles were fought.

A couple weeks back, after the Civil War Seminar, I made a side trip to visit the Staunton River Bridge battlefield.  This bridge was a key objective o the Wilson-Kautz Raid of June 1864.  A successful Confederate defense, using the works we will examine, on June 25, saved the bridge and ensured the Richmond & Danville Railroad remained open.  The Historic Staunton River Foundation has a short description of the battle, if you are unfamiliar with this action.  And I would also encourage you to visit this site, if you have not already… just a short drive from several other destinations that are likely on your bucket list.

Well before the Wilson-Kautz Raid, Confederate leaders recognized the need to defend the bridge.  They constructed a fine bastion fort atop bluffs on the right bank of the Staunton River next to the bridge.  This overlooked a broad flood plain on the opposite bank and directly covered access to the bridge.  The works still stand today, described in the National Historic Register application as among the most well preserved in Virginia (and that is saying a lot, given the number of earthworks in the state).  The state park includes the fort:

2016 Feb 7 Staunton River Bridge 026

Some supporting works:

2016 Feb 07 Staunton River bridge 047

The ground over which the Federals had to advance on the bridge:

2016 Feb 7 Staunton River Bridge 099

And the bridge itself:

2016 Feb 7 Staunton River Bridge 073

A magnificent structure if you are, like me, fascinated with things built in the days where iron and wood were state-of-the-art.

You see some shots of the battle-space that we need to consider.  But to go all “Mahan” on this battlefield, we need to look at this from the maps and use tools which are a bit more analytical than simple photos might offer.  The first step is to review a topographical map of the area.  Google Maps offers a handy, accessible version for our purposes:


A “map recon” demonstrates some high ground which might be used by an attacker to defeat the fort at the bridge:


The fort is annotated with a red box in the center.  I’ve drawn a circle, approximately 1000 yards, to indicate the planning range cited by Mahan.  And there are five red stars, numbered 1 to 5 in order of danger, placed on prominent ground for our consideration.  The fort shows at 400 feet above sea level elevation, to be specific – 398 feet.  Four of the other five points are just above the 400 foot elevation line.

Oh… and if we want to unleash the power of Google Maps, we might even flip this into a 3D mode and consider that perspective…


Certainly more tools than were around in 1864, when they were instructed to use poles and cords to figure out these matters.  But then again, in 1864 the Confederates were working in a situation where they did not need worry about trespassing signs or where spades of dirt could be turned.  They were “hands on” while we are more “hypothetical”.

Let me describe the five points in a bit more detail:

  • Point 1 -About 1270 yards from the fort, at 411 feet above sea level.
  • Point 2 – 1880 yards, so just over a mile.  Elevation of 405 feet.
  • Point 3 – 2500 yards, or about a mile and a half.  Elevation at 437 feet.
  • Point 4 – 1230 yards and elevation of 396 feet.
  • Point 5 – 1581 yards and elevation of 418 feet.

Of these five, #4 and #5 are on the west side of the river.  I’ve included them here for some potential follow up analysis.  The only way these might have factored is in some “what if?” late-war scenario involving Sheridan or Stoneman.

Of the other three, all are outside the 1,000 yard range which concerned Mahan.  However, Mahan’s writings were before rifled artillery.  We know the most likely adversary for the Confederates in this case was the Federal cavalry.  And when those troopers went raiding, they were often accompanied by horse artillery armed with 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  At ten degrees elevation, those could put a shell to 2788 yards distance.  So points #1, #2, and #3 are places the Federals could use to bombard the fort.  Point #1, being closest, presented the most risk.  So let us take a closer look at Point #1.

As it is on private property now days, our “look” is largely more of a map recon.  But we know the range and difference in elevation.  Using Pythagoras’s old trick, we apply the distance (1270 yards = 3810 feet) and the difference in elevation (13 feet) to find the straight line distance (the old “c” or hypotenuse) is only longer by some negligible fraction. So… ?  Well if you use the formulas from high school geometry to find the size of the angles, we find the angle off the horizon for an observer in the fort looking at point #1 is but 0.54°.


Aside from getting bonus points for some practical application of geometry, we have an important measure here.  That half degree would translate to the place on which the post would be marked by an observer calculating the needed height of the parapet.  Sure, we are only talking about inches here.  But that is a measure used in 1864 that we cannot gather using their “hands on” methods today, due to trees and the no trespassing signs.  And that measure tells us the parapets of the fort needed to provide about 6½ feet of height over the tread of the parapet:

2016 Feb 7 Staunton River Bridge 041

And here’s the resultant profile, given allowances for time and erosion:

2016 Feb 7 Staunton River Bridge 037

I say time and erosion, because despite the impressive height of the wall might be, from the interior that height is lacking…..

2016 Feb 7 Staunton River Bridge 055

That’s an artillery platform in the center of view, offering but a small two foot tall parapet today.  And maybe three to four feet tall on the sections away from the platform. I would not advocate moving a single shovel of dirt to “restore” these works. Instead, I would suggest that we must consider the specification height required here when viewing the works as standing today.  Likewise, we need to consider additional structures atop the parapet, such as headlogs and pickets.

Likewise, the measure we derived above answers another question the engineer might have considered in 1864:  Does this fort need a traverse?  Given the assessment for Point #1, the answer is “no.”  But we have to, as Mahan suggested, consider all possible points of threat.  There are traverses included at other places in these works, but not in the main bastion enclosure.

One more interesting aspect that I should mention with regard to Point #1 and analysis with our modern tool set is the line of sight profile.  There are several tools out there on the web. I’ll offer a result from Google Map Developers:


Notice the intervening terrain here.  We see the river at the base of the bluff (on the left).  Then the low ground of the river bottom.  About halfway across that open field, we see a stream cutting through.  Then the rise of ground up to Point #1.  Elevation scale for the graph is in meters, so adjust values accordingly.

This is the sort of analysis I try to do for any Civil War earthwork visited.  While in most cases this does not produce any information that contradicts standing interpretation, such analysis does provide a level of detail I think is needed to fully understand these things at the tactical level.

Plus… I get to use neat tools!

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment

The state of Ohio put about 320,000 men in uniform.  While the majority served as infantry, Ohio provided a substantial number of artillerists for the Federal war effort.  These were organized in four regiments and over thirty independent batteries.  Two of those regiments were heavy artillery, and thus fall out of the scope of survey here.  The three-month 1st Ohio Light Artillery Militia saw active service early in the war. But those batteries were mustered out by July 1861 (though we might trace the origins of the later 1st Ohio Light Artillery to those militia batteries).  Four un-numbered independent batteries were raised, but had mustered out by the fall of 1862.  Such leaves us with just the 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment and about twenty independent batteries to consider for the fourth quarter, 1862 summary.

The state’s section begins with the 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment.  Many of this regiment was in action at Stones River, supporting the Army of the Cumberland, on December 31, 1862.  Other batteries were with the Army of the Potomac on the Rappahannock.  Each installment, I have to resist the urge to provide more details about the battery and service. And these storied Ohio batteries are tempting.  Some day I’ll have to take up posting battery histories and “forgotten artillerists.”  Until then, let us all urge Phil Spaugy to discuss his Buckeye Artillerists when he gets to blogging:


We see six reports from twelve batteries.  And only two of those reporting were received by the end of 1863… so we must keep that in mind when discussing the particulars.

  • Battery A: At Murfreesboro, Tennessee with two 6-pdr field guns.  Assigned to First Brigade, Second Division, Right Wing, Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland.  With Captain Wilbur Goodspeed under arrest at the time, Lieutenant Edmond Belding led this battery in action at Stones River.  In the battle, Battery A lost 73 horses, one man killed, and twenty-three captured.  Three of the battery’s guns were captured and one disabled.  The battery’s post-war history mentions receiving 12-pdr howitzers after the battle
  • Battery B: No report.  Was assigned to Second Division, Left Wing, Fourteenth Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, under Captain William E. Standart.  His battery fired 1,610 rounds during the battle of Stones River.  At one point in the battle, the battery was down to just 86 rounds.  He reported three men killed, 13 wounded, and three captured, and the loss of 21 horses.The battery had a battery wagon disabled, but no guns lost or disabled.
  • Battery C: No location given.  Two 6-pdr field guns and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. This battery supported Third Division, Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps, which was not engaged at Stones River.  Captain Daniel K. Southwick commanded this battery.
  • Battery D: No report.  Most of this battery was captured at Munfordsville, Kentucky on September 17, 1862.  One section, under Lieutenant Nathaniel M. Newell, was assigned to the Cavalry Division, Fourteenth Corps.  Newell’s men were actively employed during the Stones River Campaign.
  • Battery E: No report. Another battery in action at Stones River that December.  Captain Warren P. Edgarton’s Battery E served with the Second Brigade, Second Division, Right Wing, Fourteenth Corps (beside Battery A, mentioned above).   December 31st was not a good day for the battery, with casualties numbering ten killed, seven wounded, and twenty-two captured.  Along with 75 horses, the battery lost six guns and other equipment.  So a blank entry for this battery may not be far off.
  • Battery F: At Decatur, Alabama with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. This battery supported Second Division, Left Wing, Fourteenth Corps. So they were at Stones River in December 1862, not Decatur (another discrepancy which may be due to the late return receipt  – August 1864). When Captain Daniel T. Cockerill fell wounded, Lieutenant Norval Osburn assumed command in the afternoon of December 30.  The battery fired 1,080 rounds in the battle.
  • Battery G: No report.  Lieutenant Alexander Marshall’s battery assigned to Second Division, Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps, at Stones River.  The battery fired 553 rounds but lost four guns in the battle. In the evening of December 31, 1862, Marshall reported one 12-pdr howitzer and a 6-pdr Wiard, with fifty and eighty rounds, respectively.
  • Battery H: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Lieutenant George Norton commanded this battery in the absence of Captain James F. Huntington.  The battery supported Third Division, Third Corps, Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg.  In his official report, Norton indicated the battery “expended 650 rounds of ammunition, chiefly percussion shell… and now has 1,300 rounds of ammunition on hand.”  We shall see….
  • Battery I: No report for Captain Hubert Dilger’s battery.  Their six 12-pdr Napoleons were part of Third Division, Eleventh Corps.
  • Battery K: No report.  Commanded by Captain William L. De Beck, this battery supported First Division, Eleventh Corps.  I believe they were armed with 12-pdr Napoleons at this time.
  • Battery L:  At Henry House, Virginia (?).  Six 12-pdr Napoleons. Under Lieutenant Frederick Dorries, this battery supported Second Division, Fifth Corps.
  • Battery M: No location given.  One 12-pdr field howitzer and two 3.67-inch Rifles. At Stones River supporting Second Brigade, Second Division, Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps.  Captain Frederick Schultz commanded this battery. The battery fired 750 rounds and lost one gun in the battle.

Contrast the equipment issued to the batteries with respect to the theater of operation.  Eastern Theater receiving the “top cut” as it were.

For smoothbore ammunition, the batteries reported:


Three “Stones River” batteries and one “Fredericksburg” battery for us to consider:

  • Battery A: 95 shot, 155 case, and 160 canister for their 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery C: 121 shot, 195 case, and 172 canister for their 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery L: 312 shot, 12 shell, 39(?) case, and 136 canister for 12-pdr guns.
  • Battery M:  8 shell, 31 case, and 17 canister for their 12-pdr howitzers.

Keep in mind the number of guns reported by each battery.  The sum quantities above fed a total of nine guns between the four batteries.

Hotchkiss patent projectiles for the rifled guns up next:


Just three lines to consider, but the columns tallied deserve some thought.  And keep in mind the full column declaration here – these are Hotchkiss patent projectiles made for a particular, sometimes proprietary, caliber as indicated:

  • Battery C: 102 shot and 379 shell for  6-pdr / 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery H: 754 3-inch bullet shell.
  • Battery M: 45 shot and 100 fuse shell for 12-pdr  / 3.67-inch Wiard.

Battery C’s quantities match the reported weapons, in this case two sections of James rifles.  Battery H, of course, had Ordnance Rifles.  But Battery M?  If the first page of the summary is correct, the battery fired projectiles for Wiard rifles from their bronze, rifled 6-pdrs.  The caliber fits, on paper.  On the other hand, I tend to think this another problem where the “form” did not fit reality.  We see no columns for just plain 3.67-inch Hotchkiss projectiles.  All Hotchkiss in that caliber have the Wiard label.  Yet we know that caliber was not exclusive to Wiard.  In short, I think that column title to be less precise than we might presume.

But wait… more Hotchkiss on the seldom used carry over columns on the next page, along with a lone entry for James Patent projectiles:


Battery C had 61 James-type shells for their James rifles.  Battery M reported 30 canister in 12-pdr / 3.76-inch.

The last entries for rifle projectile covered Schenkl patents:


Battery C again, with 115 Schenkl shells for 6-pdr / 3.80-inch James. Notice how that battery seemed to get the products of several inventors.

Battery H reported 450 shell and 96 canister for their 3-inch rifles.  And since Norton provided a total quantity on hand in his official report, let’s check his numbers:

754 Hotchkiss case + 450 Schenkl shell + 96 Schenkl canister = 1,300 rounds

Just what Norton reported.  I like balanced ledger! A belated, 153 year-old thumbs-up for  Lieutenant Norton’s report.

Now to close out this post, let us turn to the funnies… I mean the small arms:


  • Battery A: Three Navy revolvers and two cavalry sabers.
  • Battery F: Seven Army revolvers and 29 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Twenty Army revolvers and 48 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: Ten Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.

Thus concludes the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, working at the time on the banks of two heavily contested rivers in separate theaters of war.  Next we will look at the independent batteries from Ohio.


Fortification Friday: Closing notes about relief of fortifications

Building upon the instructions for constructing the relief and defilement of open fortifications, Mahan’s lesson plan then turned to address the same factors within enclosed fortifications:

The cases of defilement here examined, are those of works open at the gorge; the same principles, and similar methods, would be applied to enclosed works.  After the plan of the work has been regulated, the arrangement of the traverses next demands the attention; the only rule that can be laid down is, to place them in the most favorable position to intercept the reverse and enfilading fire of the enemy; and if there should be a choice with respect to several positions, to select the one which will give the lowest traverse.

With the open work considered in earlier instructions, there was but one set of angles to consider in the plan.  But with an enclosed work, such as a bastion fort, there would be four or more sets.  Each set, if considered alone, might demand its own elevated parapet or traverse.  Mahan urged the engineer to simplify that where possible to reduce the space taken up by those expanded structures.  Otherwise, the same rules, to define the planes of direct and reverse defilement applied.

That said, Mahan closed the discussion about the relief of works with three paragraphs which clarified, somewhat, the earlier instructions.  The first of which sounded much like a “throw away”…

The difficulty of defilement, owing to the great relief that may be required for the parapets, the labor of erecting the traverses, and the room which they occupy within the work, which is frequently wanted for the defense, restricts its application mostly to enclosed works, which are to remain occupied during some time, and whose position, from some point to be defended, cannot be shifted.

I interpret this to mean the engineer should consider the situation, particularly the mission of the force employed, before embarking on a great plan for relief.  If the expectation was to defend the point for a short period of time, then the labor of building larger parapets and traverses was not economical. Particularly where the terrain might require extensive defilement thrown up to provide the “textbook” defense.  Of course, one may counter this by saying any work worth defending for a moment is worth defending for a month.  Many a flawed work was started under the assumption, valid at the time, of temporary need.


If it is not even probable that a commanding eminence will be occupied by the enemy, nevertheless should the defense be not impaired, it will be better to place the work beyond the cannon range of the eminence.

This seems to redress the preceding paragraph, and get us back to the “common sense” rules.  Unless the situation required such – as in the key point to defend required a work within range of the eminence – then place the works out of range from any fires from the high ground.  Such would alleviate the need for those fat parapets and traverses.  If only the real world worked that simply?

Finally, where such structures could not be avoided, Mahan urged the engineer not to become carried away:

The irregularity of the profile of the parapet, caused by defilement, will occasion a correspondent irregularity in that of the ditch.  Where the parapet is highest, the ditch will require to be the widest and deepest; for, in order to avoid the removal of the earth to considerable distances, it is best that the earth for each portion of the parapet should be taken from the ditch in front of it.  No other rule can be laid down in this case, than to keep the dimensions of the ditch within the prescribed limits; and, if this will not admit of its counterscarp being well defended, to raise a glacis in front of it, subject to the fire of the work.

Ah… remember the optional glacis?  By artificially raising the ground in front of the ditch, the engineer could resolve defects caused by tall parapets.  Of course, that also meant more work with more dirt being moved.

My closing comment on relief, is that defilement was much a process of risk management.  We’ve discussed at length the process of defining the height of the parapet and particulars of the traverse.  And we are also asked to balance the particulars of those structures against the effort needed. So if called upon to build a fortification in a position where high ground dominated, my first steps would be determining the likelihood an adversary might use that high ground (or perhaps just portions of it) against the works to be built. And from there, prioritize the work oriented on the most likely and risky options.

The reality is none of us will be building Civil War fortifications these days.  However, the lessons which Mahan laid out in the text are still valuable tools for our use.  These allow us to, in some ways, reverse engineer the works that survive so as to better interpret the history.  In that way, the surviving earthworks become a primary source for our consultation and consideration.  We just need to understand the dynamics behind the construction.  And I’m spinning up the supporting illustrations for just such an exercise of reverse engineering – taking into mind these notions of relief and defilement, considering parapets and traverses.  I’ll work that up for next week.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 30-31.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – New York Independent Batteries, Part 2

Earlier this week, I started on the long list of New York Independent Light Artillery Batteries, from the fourth quarter (December), 1862 summaries.  This second part of the list presents a lot more gaps to fill and questions to answer:


Notice this set of batteries, between the 15th and 32nd, is not complete.  So that’s one gap to address.  And we have only six returns logged in by the clerks, two of which were not posted until 1864.  We pick up with the 15th Independent Battery:

  • 15th Battery:  At Fredericksburg, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  The 15th was a re-designation of Battery A, 2nd New York Light Artillery Battalion (recall the 14th was a similar flip of Battery B of the same battalion).  The battery was assigned to the Artillery Reserve, under (temporary command of) Lieutenant Andrew R. McMahon but was not engaged during the battle of Fredericksburg. Captain Patrick Hart would assume command in February.
  • 16th Battery: In Washington, D.C. with six 10-pdr Parrott Rifles. Originally Dickinson’s Light Artillery, this battery was under Lieutenant Milo W. Locke and posted to the Artillery Camp of Instruction.
  • 17th Battery: Minor’s Hill, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Organized as the Orleans Battery in August 1862. Captain George T. Anthony’s battery was part of Abercrombie’s Division, defending Washington.
  • 18th Battery: No report.  The “Black Horse Artillery” or “Billinghurst Battery” as in William Billinghurst and his proto-machine gun. Captain Albert Mack commanded this battery, which was in route to New Orleans in December 1862 to become part of the Department of the Gulf.  Reports indicate the battery was issued some of the Billinghurst-Requa guns.  However, a report from late January 1863 indicates the battery had six 20-pdr Parrotts.
  • 19th Battery: In Washington, D.C. with six 12-pdr Napoleons.   Posted to the Camp of Instruction under Captain William H. Stahl.
  • 20th Battery: No report. Captain  B. Franklin Ryer’s battery was still getting organized in December 1862 and would serve at Fort Schuyler, New York.
  • 21st Battery: No report. In December 1862 this battery was heading to New Orleans, under Captain  James Barnes.  The battery would be part of the garrison of that city.
  • 22nd Battery: Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain John D. Numan commanded this short-lived light battery.  By February the battery became Company M, 9th New York Heavy Artillery.
  • 23rd Battery: Washington, North Carolina with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. And another long story that needs its own post!  This was originally Battery A, New York Rocket Battaion, which was sent to North Carolina in April 1862.  The re-designation was not official until later in 1863.  And obviously by December 1862 the rockets were replaced by conventional artillery.  Captain Alfred Ransom was in charge.
  • 24th Battery: No report. And this was Battery B of the Rocket Battalion.  Also serving in North Carolina, this battery was under Captain J. E. Lee.  And we might also assume the battery had, or was, exchanging rockets for muzzleloading artillery.
  • 25th Battery: No report.  The 25th was also heading to New Orleans in December 1862.  But this hard-luck battery lost most of its horses when the transport Sparkling Sea wrecked off Florida on January 9, 1863.  Captain John A. Grow commanded.

Not listed on this return are the 26th, 27th, and 28th Batteries.  Let us fill in the blanks:

  • 26th Battery: Captain George W. Fox’s battery had worse luck than the 25th, and wrecked twice before arriving in New Orleans in late January.
  • 27th Battery: Under Captain John B. Eaton, this brand-new battery was just arriving in Washington, D.C. at years’ end.
  • 28th Battery: Also just mustering in at the end of the year.  Captain Cyprian H. Millard had command during this period and the battery assigned to Fort Schuyler, New York.

As for the 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd Batteries, recall those four were, respectively, Batteries A, B, C, and D of the 1st New York Light Artillery.  New York would have four more numbered independent batteries, on paper at least.  But those are for consideration outside the reporting period.

With the administrative details out of the way, and hopefully some gaps in the summary explained, let us look to the ammunition reported.  First the smoothbore projectiles:


Three batteries with 12-pdr Napoleons:

  • 17th Battery: 292 shot, 112 shell, 236 case, and 168 canister.
  • 19th Battery: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister.
  • 22nd Battery:  288 shot, 96 shell, 228 case, and 96 canister.

Of note, all three batteries were in or around Washington at the time.  So one might expect the ordnance supplies to be well dressed and orderly.

For Hotchkiss pattern rifled projectiles:


Two batteries for consideration:

  • 15th Battery: 365 percussion shell and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • 23rd Battery: 336 shot, 50 canister, 60 percussion shell, 50 fuse shell, and 80 bullet shell for their 3-inch rifles. I like the assortment offered.

Next, entries for Dyer’s and Parrott’s patent projectiles:


The 15th Battery reported 120 Dyer canister for their 3-inch rifles.  The 16th Battery had 479 shell, 600 case, and 135 canister of Parrott pattern for their 10-pdr rifles from the same manufacturer.

None of the batteries reported Schenkl pattern projectiles:


And that brings us to the small arms:


By battery:

  • 15th Battery: 18 Navy revolvers and 19 cavalry sabers.
  • 16th Battery: 14 Army revolvers and 21 horse artillery sabers.
  • 17th Battery: 30(?) Army revolvers and 20 horse artillery sabers.
  • 19th Battery: 20 Army revolvers and 50 horse artillery sabers.
  • 22nd Battery: 18 Army revolvers and 20 horse artillery sabers.
  • 23rd Battery: 60 Army revolves and 75 cavalry sabers.

The eighteen New York batteries mentioned in today’s post we see varied service histories and several associated with the more exotic weapons from the Civil War.  This is yet another point I wish the summaries were more complete. Perhaps then we might track down more details of the service history of these lesser-known weapons.