Fortification Friday: Wheeler vs. Mahan, comparing barbettes

Last week, I compared Junius B. Wheeler’s post-war field fortification instructions to the pre-war writings of Dennis H. Mahan, specific to the classes of interior arrangements.  The take away there was Wheeler giving the classification more thought and refinement, which no doubt was based on wartime experience.  More of that experience worked into Wheeler’s instructions as the lesson went into specifics about each class.

The first of those classes was on the parapet.  Mahan, of course, narrowed the definition to just that of the batteries.  Wheeler, on the other hand, asked the cadets to consider all type of firepower used in defense of the works:

Defense. – The work may be defended by musketry alone, or it may be defended by artillery combined with musketry.

The arrangements of the parapet for musketry are completed when the banquette and the revetment of the interior slope are finished.

The work, in this condition, does not admit of the use of artillery.  Some additional arrangements must be provided, if artillery is to be employed. The fire of artillery is either over the parapet or through it…..

And with that, Wheeler’s path merged back with that of Mahan leading into the discussion of barbette and embrasure batteries.  Last August when discussion the construction of barbettes, I briefly compared Wheeler’s instructions with Mahan’s.  Wheeler opted for a “least common denominator” planning factors.  Otherwise, the process was generally the same.  I would say that Wheeler’s instructions are easier for me (schooled in the 20th century) to follow. But that’s always a subjective measure.  Still, to be direct with the comparison, here are Mahan’s planning factors, for field guns:

  • Mound of earth 2 feet 9 inches high.
  • Spacing along parapet – 16 ½ to 18 feet of length.
  • Depth of 24 feet (atop the tread of the banquette).
  • Ramp behind the mound at least 10 feet wide, sloped at 1:6 ratio.

And here are Wheeler’s (again for field guns):

  • Mound of earth 2 feet 9 inches high (which Wheeler said was optional)
  • Spacing along parapet – 16 ½ to 18 feet of length.
  • Mound depth of 20 feet (this could include a platform built just for the cannon).
  • Mound width of 10 to 15 feet (again, this could be the platform built for the cannon)
  • Ramp behind the mound at least 9 feet wide, sloped at 1:6 ratio.

Wheeler offered this illustration to support the instructions:

WheelerFig36

I’m not too concerned with the variation in the dimensions.  If we really need a “culprit” to point towards, I would mention that Mahan was writing at a time when Alfred Mordecai had just introduced revised carriages for field artillery.  But we would be quibbling over the difference in inches within the “instructed” dimensions for something being built out in the field where general measurements would be the rule.  I think Wheeler was just giving us a least common denominator response.

However, since Wheeler gives us a detailed diagram, let us give his instructions a close look.  He set the major line A-B as the interior crest of the parapet.  Eleven inches back of that is line a-b (lower case), where the mound (platform for me) touched the parapet.  The width of the mound’s surface was then set across the line a-b, which is specified as 15 feet in the diagram.  From there perpendiculars extend back twenty feet (a-c and b-d).  That gives us a fifteen by twenty foot surface of the mound (again, I prefer to call this the platform) on which the gun can be worked, allowing for recoil.  From there, Wheeler specified the earth set on the natural slope to support what I call the platform.

As for the ramp, the setup remained the same, though one foot narrower, as that prescribed by Mahan.  Note that Wheeler left the rest of the banquette as configured for musketry, meaning shallow depth.

What we don’t see described here is a battery configured with several guns in barbette along the parapet.  While that could be done, if the need arose, Wheeler agreed with Mahan that barbettes were more likely to be used on the salients.  However, while Mahan gave us very detailed instructions for the construction of such barbettes, Wheeler made short work of this.  After describing the need (and particulars of) the pan-coupé, he waved his hand through the rest:

The construction of the plan differs from the one described only in the form of the supper surface.  In this case, the upper surface is pentagonal in form, care being taken to make it large enough to allow the gun to be fired over the faces of the salient, as well as along the capital.

He even recycled Mahan’s diagram:

WheelerFig37

From there, Wheeler simply added that more guns could be added along the sides of the salient… avoiding the lengthy instructions given by Mahan in that regard.   Sort of leaves me thinking Wheeler didn’t like barbettes.

Well the alternative, as we have seen, for guns in barbette are those firing through embasures.  We’ll discuss Wheeler’s notions about those next week.

(Citations from Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 115-20.)

 

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Independent and other Illinois Batteries

Some batteries seemed to have more names than guns assigned.  For Illinois batteries falling outside the regimental affiliations, that was the case.  For the second quarter, 1863, below the entries for the two regiments, we find several lines which require formal introductions:

0177_1_Snip_ILL_misc

With the first line, we see “Third Artillery.”  But from there things fall into disorder.  We find the 14th Illinois Cavalry reporting some mountain howitzers on hand.  Then five batteries identified by commander or sponsor.  Lastly, the 51st Illinois Infantry reported a couple 6-pdrs.  So pardon the lengthy explanations (or wild guesses!) to follow.

  • Battery A, Third Artillery:  We same the same identification for the fourth quarter, 1862, but noted this battery was most often cited as the Springfield Light Artillery, or Vaughn’s Battery (after Captain Thomas F. Vaughn).  The latter was used for the first quarter, 1862.   As mentioned in those earlier posts, the designation of a third regiment is a mystery to me.  But we can match the other details to this battery’s service.  Reporting six 3.80-inch James Rifles, the battery, part of the garrison of Memphis, Tennessee, was split into sections at this time, one at Germantown and another at Collierville.
  • I read this as “Col. 14th Cav?. Stores in charge“:  Presuming I transcribe that correctly, this indicates Colonel Horace Capron’s 14th Illinois Cavalry had four 12-pdr mountain howitzers on hand.  At the time of reporting, the regiment was in the First Brigade, Third Division, Twenty-third Corps, Army of the Ohio, reporting at Tompkinsville, Kentucky.  The regimental history provides some insight into this “howitzer battery,” along with accounts of use.  The section was under command of Lieutenant Henry Clay Connelly.  The battery, and regiment, would be involved with pursuit of Morgan in July.

HCConnelly

  • Stokes’s Battery:  This is the Chicago Board of Trade Independent Battery Light Artillery, commanded by Captain James H. Stokes.  If I am reading the faded ink correctly, the battery reported from Manchester, Tennessee, with four 6-pdr field guns, one 6-pdr (3.67-inch) rifle, and two 3.80-inch James rifles.  The battery was part of the Second Cavalry Division, Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Cumberland.
  • Mercantile Battery:  At Vicksburg, Mississippi with three 6-pdr field guns and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Under Captain Patrick H. White, this battery was assigned to Tenth Division, Thirteenth Corps.
  • Cogswell’s Battery: Reporting at Nashville, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  The location probably reflects the July 1864 receipt date.  In June 1863 the battery was at Vicksburg as part of the First Division, Sixteenth Corps. Lieutenant Henry G. Eddy remained in command.
  • Henshaw’s Battery: Indicated at Loudon, Tennessee with four 6-pdr field guns and three 3.80-inch James Rifles.  The location is valid for a later reporting date.  In June 1863 Captain Edward C. Henshaw’s battery was part of the Third Division, Twenty-third Corps, Army of the Ohio, operating in Kentucky.
  • Bridges’ Battery:  At Manchester, Tennessee with two 6-pdr field guns, two 12-pdr field howitzers, and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain Lyman Bridges commanded the battery, which supported the Pioneer Brigade, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Lieut 51st Infy“:  Reporting two 6-pdr field guns.  I leave a large, bold question mark over this one.  If I am correct with the identification, the regiment was assigned to Third Brigade, Third Division, Twentieth Corps at the time of report. This puts them in the middle of the Tullahoma Campaign.

Missing from this list is the Elgin Battery and Colvin’s Independent Battery, which were also operating in Kentucky at this time.  With those omissions, coupled with the question mark on the last line entry, leads me to call this the messiest summary section presented thus far.

But let us press on to the ammunition.  Starting with the smoothbore:

0179_1_Snip_ILL_misc

Lots of smoothbores:

  • Springfield Battery: 72 shell, 28 case, and 56 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.  Recall the battery reported similar quantities on hand even back in December, with no weapons in that caliber on hand.
  • 14th Cavalry: 108 shell, 576 case, and 108 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • Stokes’ Battery: 334 shot, 302 case, and 259 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • Mercantile Battery: 305 shot, 340 case, and 61 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 102 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.  With that last entry, we have another mismatch of ammunition.
  • Henshaw’s Battery: 369 shot, 375 case, and 84 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • Bridges’ Battery: 195 shot, 266 case, and 122 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 100 shot, 250 case, and 50 canister for 12-pdr field guns; 50 shell and 350 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.  Yet another line with mismatched ammunition reported.
  • 51st Infantry: 70 shot, 84 case, and 42 canister for 6-pdr field guns.

While we can wave off the Springfield Battery’s howitzer ammunition pointing to previous reports, the issues with the Mercantile and Bridge’s battery leave questions.

To the rifled ammunition starting with Hotchkiss:

0179_2_Snip_ILL_misc

And another question:

  • Springfield Battery: 48 shot, 73 percussion shell,  and 30 canister for 6-pdr, 2.6-inch bore; 63 bullet shell for 3.80-inch rifles.  Only the latter would work for the battery’s reported rifles.
  • Stokes’ Battery: 17 shot and 80 percussion shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Mercantile Battery: 42 canister, 105 percussion shell, 93 fuse shell, and 160 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Henshaw’s Battery: 63 percussion shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Bridges’ Battery: 84 canister, 65 percussion shell, 250 fuse shell, and 105(?) bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Perhaps the entries for the Springfield Battery were transcription errors.  Perhaps.

Moving to the next page, let’s trim the view have a good look at the numbers:

0180_1A_Snip_ILL_misc

Let’s break this down by type for clarity, starting with the left over Hotchkiss columns:

  • Springfield Battery: 77 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Stokes’ Battery: 40 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

Those are “clean”.  So on to the James-patent projectiles:

  • Springfield Battery: 350 shot, 480 shell, and 30 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Stokes’ Battery: 33 shot and 72 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Cogswell’s Battery: 31 shot, 407 shell, and 47 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

That allows us to move to the last page of rifled projectiles.  We find three entries:

0180_2_Snip_ILL_misc

One of those for Schenkl:

  • Stokes’ Battery: 292 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

And then over to the Tatham’s columns:

  • Springfield Battery: 36 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Cogswell’s Battery: 149 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

So, if you served in the Springfield Battery and canister was ordered, one might find three different varieties in the limber chest.

We might presume, given all the questions and remarks above, the small arms section would be a real mess.  Not so.  Relatively tame:

0180_3_Snip_ILL_misc

Not to disappoint, we have some entries at least deserving a remark or two:

  • Springfield Battery:  Ten horse artillery sabers.
  • Stokes’ Battery: 135 Army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and 26(?) horse artillery sabers.
  • Mercantile Battery: Four horse artillery sabers.
  • Cogswell’s Battery: Two Army revolvers and two cavalry sabers.
  • Henshaw’s Battery: Thirty (?) Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Bridges’ Battery: Ten Army revolvers, fifteen cavalry sabers, and ten horse artillery sabers.
  • 51st Infantry:  Two Army revolves and two horse artillery sabers.

Somewhat understandable the Board of Trade Battery (Stokes’) assigned to the cavalry would have a lot of small arms. We find the Mercantile Battery, serving at Vicksburg, with just four sabers.  Cogswell’s was little better with a pair of pistols and a pair of sabers.  But, speaking against my presumptive identity, we have small arms reported for the last line.  Normally we wouldn’t see that carried (ref. the 14th Cavalry line on the same sheet).  But whoever had those 6-pdrs also had matching revolvers and sabers.

The Folwell letters, June 22, 1863: “Still at Edwards Ferry”

For Monday, June 22, 1863, Captain William W. Folwell offered a short entry:

Monday [June 22], 8 A.M.

Still at Edwards Ferry.  Beautiful morning.  All quiet.  We shall probably move or rather make our camp this morning across the canal on to a pleasant hill-side. [Lieutenant James L.] Robbins goes to Washington to-day, I presume. He will attend to sending up our baggage and Co. books.  He will send up an express box with “goodies” from home. We could live very well up here if we could get bread. The natives around here scarcely use it, but make all kinds of short cakes and biscuit, which to me are an abomination.  We hope to have a mail within two or three days. Oh, I am so stupid.

Unclear to me if the last sentence was in reference to some missed opportunity with the mail, or a general self-deprecating remark.  Something lost to time.

Very little here of the war situation.  Just an uneventful day in an eventful campaign.  When that occurs, the focus is, as we see in the entry, upon things such as mail and food.  As a Loudoun County resident, I can take some pride that the “abominable” short cakes and biscuits which Folwell referenced were on the Maryland-side.  You know, over in Montgomery County.

Adding some that broader context here, June 22 saw an attempted ambush of Major John S. Mosby’s command.  Then later in the day came orders for the engineers to place a bridge over Goose Creek near the mouth.  The engineers were also to look into blazing a path from the Eleventh Corps camps (near where modern Dulles Toll Road crosses Goose Creek) down to Edwards Ferry.  And in addition, elements from the First Corps constructed a bridge over Goose Creek at the Alexandria-Leesburg Turnpike.  We’d call these tasks part of the “mobility” function of combat engineers.  In other words, making it easier to move friendly troops.  Specific to the situation on June 22, the bridges and blazed path would allow movement of the First and Eleventh Corps to reinforce the Twelfth Corps then in Leesburg.  Furthermore, as events would later dictate, would allow the movement of the army to Edwards Ferry and thence across the Potomac.  Those mobility corridors, built by the engineers and other detailed troops, would save the army hours of marching time in the days which followed.

Something that gets overlooked when we focus on valuable minutes on the battlefield of Gettysburg is that hours were saved, spent, and, at times, wasted on the roads from the Rappahannock to Adams County… by both sides.

(Citations from William Watts Fowell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 415 (pages 421 of scanned copy))