Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Rhode Island’s Light Batteries

Despite being a small state, Rhode Island offered significant contributions to the Federal war effort during the Civil War.  In terms of artillery, the state provided a regiment of light batteries, three heavy artillery regiments, and a few non-regimented batteries.  The latter were mustered by mid-1862 and thus fall outside the scope of our review of the Ordnance Department’s summaries.  Of the heavy regiments, one battery was outfitted as a light battery.  And that battery – Company C, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery – served in South Carolina and will be familiar to readers.   Given those particulars, we have nine batteries to consider for the fourth quarter, 1862 summaries:

0075_Snip_Dec62_RI_1

From the top, we start with the eight batteries of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery.  All but these of these were serving in the Army of the Potomac at the time:

  • Battery A: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain William A. Arnold commanded this battery supporting Second Division, Second Corps.
  • Battery B: No return. Battery was also assigned to Second Division, Second Corps.  It was under the charge of Captain  John G. Hazard. This storied battery had six 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C: No return.  Assigned to First Division, Fifth Corps, Captain Richard Waterman commanded this battery.  They had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles on hand during the battle of Fredericksburg.
  • Battery D: At Newport News, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery was actually at Falmouth at the end of 1862.  Newport News is the location of the battery in March 1863, when the return was received in Washington.  Captain  William W. Buckley commanded this battery assigned to Second Division, Ninth Corps.
  • Battery E: At Falmouth with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain Pardon S. Jastram’s battery supported First Division, Third Corps.
  • Battery F: At New Berne, North Carolina with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain James Belger commanded this battery, which was assigned to the newly-formed Eighteenth Corps at the time.
  • Battery G: No return. Charles Owen’s battery was part of Third Division, Second Corps, then at Falmouth.  However, Lieutenant Crawford Allen is listed as the commander at the end of the year.The battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at Fredericksburg, firing 230 rounds.  More on those later.
  • Battery H: At Fairfax Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Assigned to Casey’s Division from the Defenses of Washington.  Captain Jeffrey Hazard commanded this battery.

Several spaces below is the lone entry for the Third Artillery’s Company C.  Referring back to Denison’s history of the regiment, he records for February 23, 1863 (as close a point I can find relative to the end of 1862):

The position of the regiment at this time were as follows: The head-quarters, with eight companies, within the entrenchments on Hilton Head, two of which were in Fort Welles; two companies – one heavy (A) and one light (C) – at Beaufort, A in Battery Stevens; one company (L) in the fort at Bay Point; one company (G) in Fort Pulaski.

This was, of course, well before the operations of 1863 on Morris Island and other points outside Charleston which would involve the 3rd Rhode Island.  But we see specifically that Company C was organized as light artillery.  For them we see:

  • Company C: At Hilton Head, South Carolina with two 24-pdr field howitzers and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  I think Captain Charles R. Brayton was in command of the company at this time.

The company was, of course, assigned to the Tenth Corps (a relatively new designation at the time).  And we know them to be actually act Beaufort, thanks to Denison’s account.  While we can take the battery’s reported armament as accurate, keep in mind the battery’s assigned weapons, as did all in the Department of the South, varied.  Furthermore, some of the other batteries in the 3rd Rhode Island would operate field weapons later in 1863.  Also keep in mind the batteries in the theater would man some interesting “weapons”… to say the least:

00749a

Moving forward to the ammunition columns, allow me to refer to that heavy company as “Company C”, to differentiate from the light batteries.  There was no report from Battery C, so we have some room to avoid redundancy.

For smoothbore ammunition:

0077_Snip_Dec62_RI_1

We have three batteries reporting quantities:

  • Battery E:  288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F: 120 shell, 151 case, and 18 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company C:  175 shell, 90 case, and 80 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.

So we don’t have quantities for batteries B and D which we know had Napoleons on hand.

For rifled projectiles, starting with Hotchkiss patents:

0077_Snip_Dec62_RI_2

Only one line to work with here:

  • Battery A:  110 percussion shell, 450 fuse shell, and 434 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Moving over to the next page, consider the Dyer’s and Parrott’s patent projectiles:

0079_Snip_Dec62_RI_1

From the Dyer’s columns only one battery reported quantities:

  • Battery H:  720 shrapnel for 3-inch rifle.

In terms of Parrott projectiles:

  • Battery F: 175 shell, 75 case, and 54 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Company C: 240 shell, 189 case, and 60 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

Lastly, we turn to the Schenkl projectiles:

0079_Snip_Dec62_RI_2

Just one to consider:

  • Battery H:  360 shell and 120 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Before we move on to the small arms, consider what we are missing here.  Batteries C and G, with 3-inch rifles, did not have a filed return.  But let’s not allow them to remain silent due to that administrative issue.  Both commanders filed reports from the Battle of Fredericksburg, and both offered comments on their guns and ammunition.  Captain Owen, of Battery G, wrote:

During the five days, I expended about 230 rounds of ammunition.  The Hotchkiss shell and case shot is the only variety upon which I can rely.  The Dyer ammunition generally misses the groove, and the Hotchkiss percussion bursts in the piece.

Captain Waterman, of Battery C, went further in his report to discuss the guns and packing material:

It may be proper to state that, from the experience of the last nine days, as well as from ten months’ active service with the 3-inch gun, I consider it inferior at ranges of from 900 to 1,500 yards to the 10-pdr Parrott gun.

The Schenkl percussion and the Hotchkiss fuse shells worked to entire satisfaction.

The ordnance ammunition with metallic packing failed in almost every instance to ignite the fuse, and I consider it worthless when explosion constitutes the chief value of the projectile.  As solid shot, the ordnance shrapnel was serviceable in the cannonade of Fredericksburg.

A couple of opinions to weigh on the scales.

On to the small arms:

0079_Snip_Dec62_RI_3

By battery:

  • Battery A: Twenty-four Army revolvers and thirty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Twelve Navy revolvers and eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Fourteen Navy revolvers.
  • Battery F: 104 Navy revolvers and nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Twenty Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Company C: Fifty Navy revolvers, 120 cavalry sabers, and one horse artillery saber.

The pattern seen here was for batteries operating in the side theaters to have more small arms.  Given the service of both and detailed duties, that follows logically.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s