Fortification Friday: The Forts of St. Louis

Most postings this week have centered on the 2nd Missouri Artillery and St. Louis.  So I figured to continue that theme here on Friday and look at the fortifications, mentioned in earlier posts, were that regiment served at the end of June 1863.

St. Louis was an important city for the Federal war effort.  It’s shipyards turned out steamboats and ironclads to ply the western waterways.  Factories produced equipment and materials, to include cannon.  An arsenal and barracks complex provided staging points for men and materials.  The riverways, railroads, and road infrastructure made St. Louis an important logistical center.  And of course, it was famously the “Gateway to the West.”

Looking beyond just pure military matters, St. Louis was important politically for the control of Missouri.  As the state’s most populous corner, the side which controlled St. Louis had much more sway, politically, over the rest of the state (a problem “rural” Missourians complain about even to this day).   Had Missouri swung from “disputed border state” over to a “Confederate state” early in the war, the rebels could directly threaten the Old Northwest states and those of the upper Mississippi Valley.  Not to say the prospects for such a turn were likely.  Rather just to say St. Louis was more important than just a place for factories, shipyards, docks, and warehouses.  It was also the key to holding Missouri in the Union.

That said, St. Louis had to be defended.  That’s where the 2nd Missouri Artillery and other units factored in.  The city was defended by a series of forts first laid out in 1861 and not completed… well… by some measure never fully completed.  To understand the layout, we have to think of the city as it was in 1861, rolling back the sprawl that is today.  At that time, the city’s western outskirts were along Grand Avenue.  So, generally speaking, the engineers laid out a defensive line along Grand Avenue, which swept back on the north and south ends to meet the river.   The only wartime depiction of this arrangement comes from a set of engineer diagrams:

StLouisPage1_Plat

Note the north seeking arrow points to the right. The diagram is not to scale, but does show in … shall we say schematic… the arrangements.  Lacking, of course, is the run of Grand Avenue.  While useful, this diagram is far from idea.  Some good work was done by Chris Naffzinger recently, correlating the fort locations to points in an 1870 Pictorial Survey (Compton & Dry).  My intention, last night when drafting this post, was to build upon that by using an 1870 street map of St. Louis to “go between” the engineers diagram and the pictorial survey map.  But that task is a bit more complex than first assess… and will have to wait.

But what I would like to do is walk through the forts and arrangements, looking at the particular features seen.  There were ten numbered forts along with six detached batteries, which used letters for designations.

Fort No. 1: Anchoring the left of the line and situated along Chippewa Avenue.

StLouisPage2_Fort1

Three bastions connected with curtains to form a neat triangle. Notice inside is a blockhouse, taking up most of the interior, with bunks for 190 men.  A traverse covers the entrance to the blockhouse.  And in that traverse is a powder magazine.  About 400 feet on each face. While the shape is not what we come to expect for a bastion fort, it complies with Mahan’s instructions.  One departure of note, if you look at the profile A-B given in the upper left.  The bastion had an open gallery covered by a stockade.  Armament was one IX-inch Dahlgren, one 32-pdr, and one 24-pdr.  All of which were mounted on center pintle barbette mountings. Battery B, 2nd Missouri was posted here in June 1863.

Fort No. 2: Located off Cherokee Avenue and also manned by Battery B in June 1863.

StLouisPage7_Fort2

Rectangular bastion fort with two IX-inch Dahlgrens, a 32-pdr, and a 24-pdr.  A cross-shaped blockhouse, with bunks for 150 men, in the interior.  A traverse covers the sallyport.  There are a couple of variations of this fort’s plan within the set. All show a rectangular bastion.  But the interior arrangement details differed.

Battery A:  This was a redoubt located between Forts No. 2 and 3.  It was off Arsenal Street. It appeared to have three gun positions.

Fort No. 3:  Maybe we call this a “half cross”?  The fort sat just south of Lynch Street.

StLouisPage9_Fort3

The main bastion faced west and featured a position for a IX-inch Dahglren (which may not have been placed).  Covering the flanks were a pair of 32-pdrs.  Then a set of supporting bastions covered the sides and rear, each with a platform for a field gun. A blockhouse for 96 men sat within the rear face, flanked by outlets.  Battery F lived here in June 1863.

Fort No. 4: Similar layout as Fort No. 3, but off Shenandoah Street.

StLouisPage12_Fort4

Similar armament and interior arrangements, but Fort No. 4 appears to be smaller along the faces.  Note the very detailed profile on the left.  Battery I occupied Fort No. 4 during June 1863.

Fort No. 5: Positioned on the north side of Lafayette Avenue, was another with triangular layout.

StLouisPage13_Fort5

No indication as to the intended armament.  An asymmetrical layout with blockhouse and traverse in the interior. Battery A was in Fort No. 5.

Battery B:  Placed on Chouteau Avenue, and well advanced, was a redan in arrangement.

Fort No. 6: A trapezoid shape bastion fort south of Clark Avenue and covering the railroad entering the city at that sector.

StLouisPage19_Fort6_7

The bastions were configured for two IX-inch Dahlgrens and two 32-pdr guns.  A blockhouse, that wrapped around a traverse, had 96 bunks.  Battery G manned Fort No. 6 in June 1863.

Battery C:  A simple battery placed on a rise adjacent to Fort No. 7, along Olive Street.  This appeared to be a three gun arrangement for field artillery.

Fort No. 7:  Shared a plan with Fort No. 6, but was advanced on Franklin Avenue (which we’ve discussed).  Battery E’s headquarters was in this fort in June.

Battery D: Located at the corner of the St. Charles Road and Grand Avenue.  This battery covered the cavalry remount depot.  Another three gun battery.

Fort No. 8: North of the St. Charles Road (Cass Avenue), this was an enclosed redan with two bastions:

StLouisPage20_Fort8

The one bastion (left side, and what would be the north end of the fort) was setup for a IX-inch.  The other bastion had a 32-pdr.  Arrangements included three platforms for field guns. The blockhouse, which was “w” shapped, could house 200 men.  Battery E also manned this fort in June 1863.

Fort No. 9:  With a similar layout as Fort No. 8, this covered Natural Bridge Road, which entered the city from the northwest.

StLouisPage24_Fort9

Fort No. 9 had two 32-pdrs in the bastions along with three platforms for field guns.  It boasted a fully formed caponiere.  The w-shaped blockhouse could house 200 men (two full companies according to the diagram). Two outlets were covered by two traverses, which contained magazines. Fort No. 9 was assigned to Battery C.

Battery E: On the opposite side of Natural Bridge Road, this two gun battery complemented Fort No. 9.

Fort No. 10: Located west of Bellfontain Avenue, this was another quadrilateral fort:

StLouisPage27_Fort10

The four bastions supported a IX-inch Dahglren, a 32-pdr, and two 24-pdrs.  The rectangular blockhouse had 40 bunks.  Battery H manned this fort in June 1863.

Battery F: A two gun position that complemented Fort No. 10.

And that was the right end of  the line, just a few blocks from the Mississippi River.  I’m not aware of any surviving remains of these forts.  Even by 1870 the city was moving west and taking over what had been open fields in 1863.  So what we have to work with, for history’s sake, are these engineers plans and maps.  And what we see in the plans is much of Mahan’s teachings directly applied.

 

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