“Inexperienced persons” and unexploded shells lead to casualties in wartime Charleston

The physical effects of the Christmas Day bombardment on Charleston were not completely contained by fighting fires.  In the aftermath, as there always is, unexploded ordnance remained a problem.   And those mis-firing shells proved to be deadly “hidden gifts” for Charlestonians to deal with.  Reporting on December 28, the Charleston Courier lead:

Shocking Accidents by the Explosion of Shells. –

On Sunday [December 27] two accidents of a calamitous nature occurred from the attempts of inexperienced persons to draw the charge from unexploded shells.  Mr. Francis Gillis, a very worthy man, foreman of the South Carolina Rail Road Blacksmiths Shops, residing in Nassau street, in attempting to remove the powder from an eight inch shell, with a piece of wire, ignited the fulminating substance, when the shell exploded with a dreadful effect, taking off his left leg and left arm, crushing his thigh and severely wounding him in the head.  He lingered in great agony until evening, when he expired.

Based on census records, Gillis was a 40-year-old immigrant from France, and as the article states, he was employed as a blacksmith.   He was survived by his wife Louisa, herself of German birth.

Gillis owned a wood house at 53 Nassau Street at the time. And it is important to note, that residence was well north of Calhoun Street, and thus far away from the “targeted zone” described by Major Henry Bryan.  A fact that suggests Gillis had moved the shell before attempting the work.

And that begs the next question – why was he working on the shell?  Well, as it was reported he attempted to remove the powder charge, perhaps Gillis was preparing the shell for some display.  At the same time, him being employed as a blacksmith, perhaps he was simply salvaging iron for re-use.  Regardless, the manner of handling should immediately cause modern EOD specialists to start speaking of cautionary tales.  A wire, scraping against interior metal surfaces, was likely to create a spark.  One has to wonder why Gillis was not flushing the shell with water.  Unless he was also attempting to preserve the powder for some other purpose.

The Courier continued with discussion of the other incident occurring that day:

About one o’clock Sunday afternoon another shell exploded from a similar cause.  Two men, one named Johnson and another, name unknown, were at work upon the shell with a coal chisel and hammer.  A policeman, who was standing near by, warned them of their danger, to whom, however, they paid no attention.  The policeman had not gone far before a loud report was heard, and the shrieks of the men calling for assistance.  Johnson’s right leg was taken completely off, besides sustaining several other injuries.  His companion had his right leg and arm both badly shattered.

A carriage was procured and the two unfortunate men conveyed to a hospital. Their condition is represented as very critical.  Considering the frequency of these accidents it is surprising that more caution is not observed.

Without more identifications, it is impossible to trace just who these two men were.  Though readers are at liberties to speculate on the nature of men who would take after a live shell with a hammer and chisel.

The Charleston Mercury, also reporting on December 28, gave the location as “at the corner of Church street and St. Michael’s Alley.”   That location was right in the middle of the targeted area, and actually laying between areas where fires were reported.  So the unidentified individuals were likely attempting a direct “on the field” recovery of the shell.

The Courier concluded with instructions for anyone encountering unexploded shells:

By order of the Commanding General, any person having in their possession an unexploded shell may have the charge drawn by sending it to the Arsenal.  We trust we shall not have to chronicle any more of these distressing occurrences.

In short, the Confederate authorities offered “de-militarizing” services.  And the wording is interesting.  Authorities were not seizing or otherwise taking possession of Federal shells found in Charleston.  They were simply offering (see the use of the verb – “may have”) to render the shell inert.  We know from descriptions of hotels, train stations, and other public places, that shells and other curios from the fighting were placed on prominent display.  These, of course, were framed in patriotic manners to serve warning to visitors while also urging contributions to the war effort.  Something Confederate authorities would not wish to stop.  And, by offering up the service, Confederate authorities also allowed those at the arsenal to gather and report items of technical nature about the Federal shells.

(Charleston Daily Courier, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 1 column 3; Charleston Mercury, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 2 column 1)

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Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – 2nd Regiment, US Regulars

The 2nd US Artillery’s wartime service was varied – in terms of theater assignments and duties performed.  The batteries served as horse artillery, field artillery, and garrison artillery.  They saw service in Virginia, the Western Theater, and the Gulf Coast.  For the third quarter of 1863, we find nine returns from the twelve batteries.  And two extra lines were thrown in under the regiment:

0233_1_Snip_2ndUS

Let us break down the service by battery:

  • Battery A – Reporting at Culpeper, Virginia as of October 31, 1863 with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  That location was valid for the end of September.  But, we know from the war’s chronology on Halloween of that year Battery A was in Fauquier County north of the Rappahannock, having returned from a brisk march on the Bristoe Campaign.  Lieutenant Robert Clarke (Battery M) replaced Lieutenant John H. Calef after Gettysburg.  The Battery remained with Second Brigade, Horse Artillery.
  • Battery B – With a report, as of December 1863, located at Stevensburg, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  I might could “sell” this location for the end of September 1863… or for December 1863.  But neither, I feel, tell the full story.  This was actually combined Batteries B and L (see below), assigned to First Brigade of the Horse Artillery, under Lieutenant Edward Heaton.
  • Battery C – New Orleans, Louisiana with four 12-pdr Napoleons (a reduction of two guns).  The battery was part of Nineteenth Corps (transferring from Fourth Division to Second Division as the corps reorganized). Lieutenant Theodore Bradley commanded at the start of the quarter.  But late in the summer Lieutenant John I. Rodgers returned from leave to resume command.
  • Battery D – At Warrenton, Virginia, according to a reporting date of November 1863, with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery D moved from Sixth Corps to the First Brigade, Horse Artillery at the end of the Gettysburg Campaign.  Lieutenant Edward D. Williston remained in command.
  • Battery E –  Nicholasville, Kentucky with four 20-pdr Parrott Rifles (vice six reported the previous quarter). This battery was part of the Second Division, Ninth Corps, which returned from Vicksburg.  After returning to Kentucky, the battery was assigned directly under the corps for reporting.  Lieutenant Samuel N. Benjamin remained in command, and also served as the Corps Chief of Artillery.
  • Battery F – Reporting from Memphis, Tennessee with two 6-pdr field guns and six 12-pdr Napoleons. The battery remained with the District of Memphis, of the Sixteenth Corps. Lieutenant Albert M. Murray replaced Lieutenant Charles Green  in command.
  • Battery G – Reporting at Germantown, Virginia (in Fauquier County) with four 12-pdr Napoleons (report dated January 1864).  We can move past inquiries about the location, and accuracy, to focus on the assignment.   After Gettysburg, the battery moved from Sixth Corps to Second Brigade, Horse Artillery.  Lieutenant John H. Bulter remained in command.
  • Battery H – “Infty. Stores” with a location of Fort Haggerty, Virginia.  This is out of order.  Battery H was, at this time, in Pensacola, Florida assigned to Fort Barrancas, Florida as garrison artillery. Not until the spring of 1864 would the battery move to the Eastern Theater, and even then to Baltimore.  Captain Frank H. Larned was in command.
  • Battery I – No report.  During the Gettysburg Campaign, the battery was assigned to the Second Brigade, Defenses of Baltimore, in the Eighth Corps or Middle Department.  Lieutenant James E. Wilson (a different James Wilson than that in Battery C, 1st Artillery at this time) commanded through much of the summer. But in early September, a newly promoted 1st Lieutenant Wilson was ordered to report to his original battery – Battery G – in Virginia.   Captain Thomas Gray replaced Wilson.
  • Battery K – No report.  The battery garrisoned Fort Pickens, Florida under Captain Harvey A. Allen.
  • Battery L – We see a description “with Battery B”, as discussed above.
  • Battery M – A reporting date of October 31, 1863 has this battery at Gainesville, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Considering the movements of the Bristoe Campaign, this might be accurate.  Assigned to First Brigade, Horse Artillery, Lieutenant Alexander C.M. Pennington commanded.

Keep in mind, when considering the regimental officers the service of Captains John C. Tidball and James M. Robertson.  Tidball had accepted command of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery and departed his position with the Second Brigade, Horse Artillery.  Robertson commanded the First Brigade, Horse Artillery.

Now as for those additional lines:

  • Adjutant, 2nd Artillery:  No location but a reporting date of October 4, 1863.
  • U.S. Corps of Cadets, West Point, New York: The annotation is “inf stores.” Not sure if this entry was placed at this point on the summary because of an affiliation with the 2nd Artillery, or if was simply entered on an open line.  Regardless, no cannon reported.  No equipment was reported on the forms under any columns for this line.  So we can wonder if this was simply an act by the clerks seeking an accounting.

We will return to these lines later in our discussion.

Turing to the smoothbore ammunition, the summary is clean:

0235_1_Snip_2ndUS

The figures match to the batteries reporting smoothbores:

  • Battery C: 26 shot, 135 shell, 160 case, and 68 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery D: 224 shot, 113 shell, 224 case, and 32 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F: 135 shot, 104 case, and 145 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 448 shot, 152 shell, 448 case, and 152 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons; 20 case and 17 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery G: 69 shot, 96 shell, 192 case, and 128 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

The only question is the presence of 12-pdr howitzer ammunition with Battery F.  But that battery was at the time serving in a garrison role.  And the accumulation of additional stores might thus be explained.

Moving to the rifled rounds, first we see Hotchkiss:

0235_2_Snip_2ndUS

Four batteries reporting:

  • Battery A:  300 percussion shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B & L:  95 canister and  290 percussion shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery E: 103 bullet shell for 20-pdr (3.67-inch) Parrott.
  • Battery M: 161 canister for 3-inch rifles.

On the next page, we see more projectiles for those 20-pdr Parrotts:

0236_1_Snip_2ndUS

But those are of three different makes:

  • Battery E: 50 Hotchkiss cannister, 150 Parrott shell, and 160 Schenkl shot for 20-pdr (3.67-inch) Parrott.

The last page of projectiles cover the other Schenkls:

0236_2_Snip_2ndUS

Two reporting:

  • Battery A: 70 case for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B & L: 554 shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 538 shell and 218 case for 3-inch rifles.

So we see a mix of Hotchkiss and Schenkl in the horse artillery batteries, probably to the dismay of General Henry Hunt.

Last, we look at the small arms reported:

0236_3_Snip_2ndUS

By battery:

  • Battery A: Eleven Army revolvers, fifty Navy revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and seventy-three horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B & L: Six Army revolvers, fifteen cavalry sabers, and one horse artillery saber.
  • Battery C: Eight Army revolvers and thirty-three horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Thirteen Army revolvers and one horse artillery saber.
  • Battery E: Fifty Army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirty-five Army revolvers, fourteen cavalry sabers, and forty-eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Twelve Army revolvers and thirteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: 112 Army revolvers, two Navy revolvers, and twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Adjutant, 2nd Artillery: Twenty-four cavalry sabers.

Looking beyond the armaments, let’s take a look at the other stores reported by the Adjutant.  Matching with the number of sabers reported, the Adjutant also had twenty-four saber belts, waist belts, and plates.  And, with full accounting for all government property, the adjutant had one “packing box” on hand.

I hope that packing box was put to good use!

Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – 1st Regiment, US Regulars

In our journey through the Summary Statements, we’ve arrived at the third quarter of 1863.  Readers well know the chronology of events for July, August, and September.  In some theaters, particularly the Eastern Theater and Trans-Mississippi, armies awaited the signal to resume campaigns.  In places such as Northern Georgia and the South Carolina coast, hard campaigning proceeded.  So we have the task of projecting the data into that time line, looking to correlate reports about cannon and shells to the actions.

For the quarter, there are a few changes to column headers.  Clearly the clerks in the Ordnance Department were adjusting to new “paradigms” with respect to ammunition usage.  But, ever watchful of the government’s expenditures, they opted to modify existing forms.

First in our queue is the 1st US Artillery and their twelve batteries:

0233_1_Snip_1stUS

Of those twelve, ten provided returns.  We see their service spanned from Louisiana, to the Carolina coastline, to Virginia:

  • Battery A – Reporting at New Orleans, Louisiana with two (down from four) 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch rifles.  Captain Edmund C. Bainbridge remained in command of this battery, and also served as division artillery chief.  Battery was assigned to First Division, Nineteenth Corps. Bainbridge, who was actually a 5th Artillery officer, was reassigned to duty in Tennessee in October.
  • Battery B – Reported on Morris Island, South Carolina with four 12-pdr field howitzers, and adding two 3-inch rifles.  Battery B was assigned to Tenth Corps, Department of the South.  By late September, the battery had moved to Folly Island.  Lieutenant Guy V. Henry held command of this battery.  But after a short detail as the Department’s Chief of Artillery, Henry transferred to command the 40th Massachusetts Infantry.  Henry’s designated replacement was Captain Samuel Elder.  However, that officer would not arrive until later in the fall.  Lieutenant Theodore K. Gibbs was ranking officer in the battery through the transition.
  • Battery C – At Fort Macon, North Carolina and serving as infantry.  Lieutenant Cornelius Hook held command of the battery, assigned to the Department of North Carolina. However, a detachment from Battery C, under Lieutenant James E. Wilson moved to South Carolina and served in the Tenth Corps.  They would man Battery Stevens during the First Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter.   Sergeant Michael Leahy, in that detachment, later received a commission and served in Battery B.
  • Battery D – Located at Beaufort, South Carolina with four 3-inch rifles. Lieutenant John S. Gibbs commanded the battery, assigned to General Saxton’s Division on Port Royal Island.
  • Battery E – Reporting at Centreville, Virginia with four 3-inch rifles.  With Captain Alanson Randol moved to command the 1st Regular Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, Lieutenant Egbert W. Olcott had command.  The battery was assigned to 2nd Brigade of Horse Artillery,  Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery F – At Camp Bisland, Bayou Teche, Louisiana with four (down from six) 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain Richard C. Duryea commanded.  This battery served Third Division, Nineteenth Corps.  Duryea is also listed as commanding the division’s artillery at this time. Lieutenant Hurdman P. Norris was the next ranking officer in the battery.
  • Battery G – No report.  Dyer’s has Battery G’s personnel serving with Battery E at this time.
  • Battery H – Reporting at Culpeper, Virginia with four (down from six) 12-pdr Napoleons. The battery remained under Lieutenant Philip D. Mason, in First Brigade, Artillery Reserve.
  • Battery I – No return.  But we are familiar with Lieutenant Frank S. French replaced Lieutenant George Woodruff, mortally wounded at Gettysburg, in command of this battery.  I believe they were reduced to four 12-pdr Napoleons, as they supported Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery K – Reporting at Warrenton, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.   Battery assigned to Second Brigade, Horse Artillery.  With Captain William Graham in command of that brigade, Lieutenant John Egan was senior officer.
  • Battery L – Reporting at a plantation, which is illegible to me, in Louisiana with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Frank E. Taylor replaced the Henry W. Closson, who’d been brevetted to Major.  After Port Hudson, the battery transferred to the Nineteenth Corps’ artillery reserve.
  • Battery M – At Beaufort, South Carolina with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain Loomis L. Langdon lead this battery,  assigned to the Tenth Corps.

With those particulars established, we turn to the ammunition reported.  Starting with the smoothbore projectiles:

0235_1_Snip_1stUS

The tallies match to the reported cannon on hand:

  • Battery A: 15 shot, 34 shell, 10 case, and 12 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery B: 240 shell, 280 case, and 112 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery F: 144 shot, 48 shell, 144 case, and 54 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H: 188 shot, 68 shell, 192 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery L: 106 shot, 38 shell, 182 case, and 40 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery M: 466 shot, 111 shell, 469 case, and 88 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

I’ve learned, through long reviews of the summaries, not to reach too far with speculations about the quantities of ammunition reported.  But we see the number of rounds for Battery A’s two Napoleons is but one chest.  On the other hand, Battery M had plenty.

Turning to the Hotchkiss projectiles next:

0235_2_Snip_1stUS

Here we have some explaining to do:

  • Battery A:  12 canister and 202 percussion shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 106 canister, 396 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 155 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery D: 46 canister, 110 percussion shell, 85 fuse shell, and 158 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery E: 60 canister, 90 percussion shell, and 340 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery K: 72 canister, 311 percussion shell, and 300 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery M:  12 canister, 12 percussion shell, 24 fuse shell, and 20 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

We see again Battery A was in short supply.  But the 3-inch rounds with Battery M, which had only Napoleons, stand out.  Battery M had a pair of Ordnance Rifles earlier in the year.  Couldn’t Battery M simply did not transfer this meager quantity of Hotchkiss rounds to Battery D (located on the other side of Beaufort)?  Probably some paperwork issue….

Before moving to the next page in the summary, let me call attention to a column header change:

Page 4 Header 1 0236

We see here the clerks erased a dividing line between the James and Parrott columns. They then put a new divider, two columns to the left.  And wrote in new column names:

  • 10-pdr Parrott Shot, 2.9 inch bore.
  • 20-pdr Parrott Shot 3.64 inch bore.

These replaced columns for James canister in calibers 3.80-inch and 4.62-inch, respectively.  We see the two columns to the left of those have hand written “canister,” but with no strike through of case shot.  These changes reflected the disfavor and declining use of James projectiles by the mid-point of the war.

And those columns are put to use for the 1st US (full page here):

0236_1A_Snip_1stUS

Two lines:

  • Battery L:  50 shot, 160 shell, 20 case, and 170 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery M: 40 case for 10-pdr Parrott.

Again, we see Battery M with rifled projectiles on hand.

The next page, for the Schenkl projectiles, also has some hand-written changes to the column header:

Page 4 Header 2 0236

In this case, we have six strike-through amendments as the clerks ensured the form remained current:

  • 6-pounder “Wiard” case, 2.6-inch bore.
  • 10-pdr “Parrott” case, 2.9-inch bore.
  • 3-inch wrought-iron gun case, 3-inch bore
  • 12-pdr “Wiard” or 20-pdr “Parrott” Case, 3.67-inch bore.
  • 6-pdr bronze rifled case, 3.67-inch bore.
  • 6-pdr “James” case, 3.80-inch bore.

These all replaced canister columns for their respective calibers.  This, I would submit, reflected the greater utility and use of case, vice canister.  At least for the bean counters in Washington, that is!

But those “referbished” columns were of no mind to the 1st Artillery:

0236_2_Snip_1stUS

Three entry lines, again Schenkl patent projectiles here:

  • Battery A: 52 shell for 3-inch rifles,
  • Battery E: 92 shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery K: 144 shell for 3-inch rifles.

Turning to the last columns, we see that header is a mess of hand-written changes:

0236_3_Snip_1stUS

But that is typical for the small arms columns:

  • Battery A: Nine Army revolvers and forty-four horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Ninty-six Army revolvers, nine cavalry sabers, and 130 horse artillery sabers!
  • Battery D: 121 Army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and 106 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Eight Navy revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Three Army revolvers, five Navy revolvers, forty cavalry sabers, and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Twenty-one Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery K: Fifteen Army revolvers, twenty-nine cavalry sabers, and fifty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: Four rifles (type not specified), forty-four Army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and 106 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: 103 Army revolvers, nine cavalry sabers, and ninety-five horse artillery sabers.

In previous returns, the batteries in South Carolina and Louisiana reported a substantial quantity of small arms.  And this could be explained by the additional duties taken on by artillerymen in those locations – patrolling and garrison duties.  Though I would point out, Battery M turned in 77 Springfield rifles reported in June.

We’ll look at the 2nd US Artillery next.

“A fire, supposed to be occasioned by the enemy’s shells”: Curious reporting about the Christmas Day bombardment

In a report dated January 1, 1864, Colonel Alfred Rhett, 1st South Carolina Artillery and commander of the 5th Military District of South Carolina (basically, the city of Charleston itself, minus the harbor and coast defenses), reported:

On the morning of the 25th [of December], at 12.30 a.m., the enemy commenced to shell the city, firing briskly.  This shelling continued up to 1 p.m. of the same date, the enemy having fired 150 shells, 134 of which struck the city and 16 fell short.

Those details, as we have seen, were echoed in other official reports and the newspaper accounts of the day.  Though, for clear attribution, I believe Rhett is the primary source here, with others, be they military or civilian, simply relying on his observations.

Rhett continued:

About 1.10 a.m. a fire, supposed to be occasioned by the enemy’s shells, broke out in a building on the north side of Broad street, near Church street.  This house, together with the one adjoining, were consumed.  The sparks ignited the house at south corner of Church street and Saint Michael’s alley. This house, three adjoining, and the cotton press in Church street were consumed.  The sparks also ignited a house in Tradd street, which fire was soon suppressed.

For reference, please keep in mind the map of Charleston, with the stars indicating locations of fires:

ChristmasBombardment_Bryan_Assesment

Rhett continued with mention of the reaction to those fires:

The regular members of the fire department were rather tardy in their attendance, owing to some mistake in ringing the bell, but on their appearance rendered good service.  I immediately ordered out 200 men, First Regiment State Troops…. The fire still gaining ground, a detachment from Company A, Lucas’ battalion… were ordered out.  These men promptly appeared and rendered material aid in suppressing the fire.  The correct range was gained by one gun of the enemy, which threw several shells in proximity to the engines and the fire.

Rhett went on to praise the fire companies and military troops responding to the fire.  And he closed by listing two civilians, one fireman, and four soldiers who were wounded as result of the bombardment and fire.

At 2 p.m. that Christmas Day (about an hour after the end of the bombardment), General P.G.T. Beauregard informed General Samuel Cooper, in Richmond by telegram:

Enemy’s firing on city last night was severe.  Several houses were destroyed by fire near corner of Broad and Church streets; only 1 person wounded.

Then the next day sending an amended, corrected report:

Six houses burned by fire of yesterday and 7 persons wounded by it and enemy’s firing on city.  He threw 150 shells, of which 19 fell short.

Notice here that Rhett (on January 1) said the fires were “supposedly” caused by the Federals.  Beauregard, in his telegrams to Richmond, didn’t say specifically the fires were due to the shelling.  But given the context of that communication medium, we can read between the lines and make the assumption Beauregard was identifying the source of the fires.

In contrast to the military correspondence, the newspapers disconnected the bombardment from the fires.  On December 28 both the Charleston Mercury and the Charleston Courier ran accounts of the bombardment.  And at the same time both papers ran accounts of the fire as a separate story.

First the Mercury‘s account, appearing on a separate column, well spaced, from news about the bombardment:

Extensive fire: At an early hour on Friday morning a fire broke out in the three story brick building on Broad street, next to the store of Messrs. Klinck & Wickenberg, and owned by that firm.  The premises had been occupied by Mr. A. J. Burks as a printing office, excepting the second story, which was used as an office by J.B. Campbell, Esq.  The fire soon spread to the next house east, owned by Dr. Joseph S. Inglesby, and occupied by Mr. B. Ford, as a shoe store, and the upper story as the law office of Messrs. Brown & Porter. Both these buildings were completely destroyed.  Soon afterward a fire was discovered at the corner of Church street and St. Michael’s Alley, and the five adjacent buildings, including the Charleston Cotton Press, owned by Mr. W. H. Walker, were speedily consumed.  The German Turner’s Hall in the rear, between Church and Meeting Streets, and the kitchen and outbuildings of the old Bathing House were also burned.  The house No. 43 Tradd street, owned by Mrs. Ann M. Brown, was badly damaged in the roof by the fire.

The loss by this fire is roughly estimated at $150,000….

The Mercury went on to say that four members of the fire companies and four members of the First Regiment State Troops were injured.

The Courier ran this story on column 2 of the front page (apart from the main story of the bombardment on column 1):

Large fire: At an early hour Friday morning, fire broke out in the three story brick building North side of Broad street near Church owned by and adjoining the large grocery of Messrs Klinck & Wickenberg & Co.  The premises, with the exception of the second story, was formerly occupied by Mr. A.J. Burks as a Printing establishment.  The second story was used by J.B. Campbell and J. Nathan, Esq’s., as Law offices.  The fire communicated to the adjoining building on the East, the lower story formerly kept by B. Ford as a boot and shoe story, and the upper stories as Law offices by Messrs. Brown & Porter and others.  The premises were owned by Dr. Jos. S. Inblesby.  Those two buildings were entirely consumed.

During the progress of this fire another was discovered at the Southwest corner of Church street and St. Michael’s alley, which destroyed a range of four very old buildings, beside the Charleston Cotton Press, the kitchen and outbuildings attached to the old bathing establishment on Church street, also the building occupied by the German Turner’s Association as a Hall situated in the area between Church and Meeting Streets, belonging to Mr. J. J. McLean.

The house of Mrs. Ann M. Brown, No. 43 Tradd street, sustained some damage by the shingles igniting and burning the roof.

The residence of Mr. A.J. Burks, No. 39 Tradd street, also took fire several times, but was extinguished without material damage.

A house on the North side of Tradd street, near Meeting, was also on fire, but was extinguished with trifling damage.

Perhaps the Courier‘s reporters were more diligent in their work?  Still we see the main details from the two newspaper accounts match, for the most part, with that of Rhett.  Particularly in regard to places and the major fires.  The minor fires, reported by the Courier, were certainly something a military observer would dismiss as unimportant.

The firm of Klinck & Wickenberg seem to have suffered the most loss in the fire – that of a three story building.  And I would be remiss if not mentioning that firm provided supplies to the Confederate army throughout the war.  As evidenced by this receipt:

Fold3_Page_23

Brandy, whiskey, sherry, and port wine?  No wonder the place caught fire so easily!

And I’m sure those were “medical supplies”… right.

All kidding aside, Klinck, Wickenberg & Co. also provided supplies purchased specifically for production of torpedoes.  Thus, if all the cards were laid face up on the table, I’m certain Major-General Quincy Gilmore would call it a legitimate target of war.

The main point I’d make here is that neither paper stated, as a fact, the fires were the result of Federal shells.  Both simply indicated the fires broke out.  No preface of “while the Yankees were shelling” or the like.  And I find that interesting.

However, there is a situational context.  Consider that anything printed in Charleston would end up across the picket lines in a few days, as part of the normal exchanges between soldiers.  So the newspapers, and Confederate authorities, had to be aware these stories provided valuable intelligence to the enemy.  That said, might the disassociation of the fires from the shelling be the result of “operational security” measures? As the Federals were using special incendiary shells, should the fires be directly linked to the bombardment that would impart a measure of conformation to pondering minds on Morris Island.

Before we go too far with that, I’d mention that just days later the newspapers ran a full listing of all important offices in Charleston.  That listing included addresses of General P.G.T. Beauregard’s headquarters along with most of his staff.  And with that, we might well dismiss any worry on the part of Confederate authorities that valuable information was disclosed in the newspapers!

Still an interesting play here with the manner of reporting.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 684-5 and Serial 47, pages 580-1; Charleston Daily Courier, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 1 column 4; Charleston Mercury, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 2 column 2)

Getting back to blogging!

Rather hectic last couple of weeks on my end between work and other commitments.  So blog writing was lower priority.  But have no fear, I shall return to regular blogging.

First up in my queue are follow up posts in regard to the Charleston Christmas Bombardment.  There’s just a lot of aspects to the actions on that day which serve to illustrate the nature of the war on the Charleston front.  If I were writing for a magazine article, there’s just enough “there” there to make a short article. But examination of the finer details fits better in the blogging format.  Blogging allows for exhaustive exploration, if nothing else.  And I believe everything should be explored completely… at least once.

I’ll also resume the summary statements, picking up with the third quarter (September) of 1863.  I plan to keep with the format, particularly documenting the administrative details for each battery.  That provides us much context which is absent in the raw numbers.

There are a couple of cannon stories in the publishing queue.  Just have to clean them up a bit and make sure all the links are proper.

Fortification Friday will resume as a regular feature.  I left that line of posts with a small cliff hanger.  And that needs to be resolved!

Furthermore, several preservation topics have come to the fore this winter. One of which involves this sort of thing:

Averasboro 1A 112

That’s a solar power site within the American Battlefield Protection Program defined study area for Averasboro.  Is this a sign of things coming to other battlefields?

Stay tuned… more posts are on the way!

 

Roads to Gettysburg – Seminar and Tour, July 24-29

Let’s look beyond the cold days of winter and start planning for those long, warm summer days!  The Chambersburg Civil War Seminars & Tours will host “Roads to Gettysburg,” July 24-29.  Six days of focused discussion and tours covering the early phases of the Gettysburg Campaign.   From their website:

We will follow the Blue and Gray on their roads to Gettysburg. Tour the decisive battle ground of Brandy Station, where J.E.B. Stuart and his horsemen battled the Yankees in the largest cavalry action in North America. Also touring the newly restored Second Winchester battlefield where Confederates opened the gates of the great Valley for the invasion of Pennsylvania. Bonus tours will include Aldie, Upperville, Middleburg, and Mosby’s Confederacy. Conference based in Chambersburg, Pa. 

– –

Featuring Eric Wittenberg, J.D. Petruzzi, Jerry Holsworth, Steve French, Jeffrey Wert, & others.

And I’m proud to say yours truly is among those involved.  On Friday, July 27, part of the evening sessions, my talk is “The Army of the Potomac on the March to the Potomac” and will cover the Federal advance through Loudoun County to include the crossing at Edwards Ferry.

If you have not attended the Chambersburg tours, I give them the highest endorsements.  Dollar for dollar, these are the best, in my opinion.  Managed by retired NPS historian Ted Alexander, these are offered in a way to match good, well researched presentations with plenty completing field time on tours.

And if that pitch hasn’t sold you… consider that Chambersburg’s Civil War Seminars & Tours has raised over $200,000 for preservation causes.  So by attending you are learning, while at the same time paying it forward so future generations will have the same opportunity.   So please consider attending this worthy event!

“The whole result has so far been utterly inadequate” : Assessing the bombardment of Charleston

The timing and weight of the Christmas Day bombardment caught Confederate authorities in Charleston off guard.  The city had been “under the guns” since the previous summer.  Though after the Swamp Angel initiated the bombardment, the number of Federal shots aimed at Charleston were small in number and little more than an annoyance.  Timed with the end of the Second Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter, December saw an up-tick in the frequency, and weight, of Federal fires into the city.  As mentioned before, this shift of emphasis on Charleston had much to do with the failure to achieve the objective of completely reducing Fort Sumter.  To some degree, yes, to assuage the sting of failure.  But as the weeks progressed into the new year, the shells hurled at Charleston were demonstrations and distractions to mask Federal movements toward Florida.

All told, Confederate observers counted 283 Federal shots reaching the city in December, the most of which (134) were grotesque Christmas Day presents.  The weight and temp increased through January, with 990 reaching the city.  And sustained through February, when Confederates tailed 964 shots into Charleston.  This bombardment would continue through the remainder of winter and into spring.  Federals maintained such pressure on Charleston through the summer.  By the fall of 1864, one might have set a watch based on the timing of Federal fires.  So this was not a temporary problem for the Confederates.

How does the military handle a problem?  Well, the officers in charge order an assessment.  The “stuckee” for that assessment was Major Henry Bryan, Assistant Inspector-General on General P.G.T. Beauregard’s staff.  On January 6, 1864, Bryan completed his report, covering the bombardments of the city up to that date.  As cited in the earlier post, Bryan first drew attention the impact on civilians and destruction of private property.  In aggregate, the cumulative damage (again from August to December) was:

The general result has been the injury of a large number of dwellings and stores, and many banks, public halls, churches, &c., by the percussion and explosion of the shells thrown; the burning of six buildings and a cotton press December 25, 1863, by a fire originating from the explosion of a shell, and the destruction of some medical stores, August 21,1863, by a shell bursting in the medical purveyor’s office and setting fire to it. It has further caused considerable social distress by obliging thousands of persons in the lower part of the city, in order to avoid danger, to leave their homes and close their hotels, and seek refuge in the upper portion of the city or in the interior of the State. This will expose valuable property to theft, and to injury from the elements.

Further down in the report, Bryan provided details of this damage:

The immediate damage from the shells cannot be considered large in proportion to the area within the enemy’s range. From Saint Michael’s steeple, which commands a full view, there is but a small appearance of destruction visible. By a rough inspection of the city yesterday with an intelligent local editor, who had already been taking accounts of the effects of the shelling, I learned that 126 buildings (including kitchens) had been struck by shells, about 85 being much injured and 41 only slightly. I presume that three-fourths of the houses struck can be repaired without pulling down any main wall; but a portion have rafters, joists, or corners very badly shattered–the South Carolina Hall (near Saint Michael’s Church), for instance, having been struck three times through the roof.

Keep in mind the area in view as also savaged by fires in December 1861.  (There is a well prepared map of that area on Low Country Walking Tour’s website.  Also, a good account from the Post and Courier, for further reading.  Point being, we have to consider other events in context here, particularly when reviewing photos from 1865.)

But how much did this shelling impact military operations?

The effect upon military operations here has been comparatively unimportant, and has occasioned no loss of matériel, excepting the medical stores, worth about $1,500. As a matter of prudence, all military headquarters, offices, and hospitals have been moved out of range to the upper portions of the city, the signal corps remaining at its post, which is out of the line of fire. As equally good buildings have been found in the upper part of the city for these offices, hospitals, &c., their removal cannot be considered an injury to the army. The movements of harbor transportation have been much inconvenienced, but not practically impeded by this bombardment.

So in Bryan’s analysis, the impact was inconsequential.  And keep in mind the Federal justification for calling downtown Charleston a legitimate target was based on the activities, which in this case Bryan was saying were least impacted.

In terms of casualties, Bryan noted those were few, but almost always civilian:

Five deaths have resulted from the bombardment, viz, Mrs. Hawthorne, No. 70 Church street, wounded by shell in right side, and died six weeks after; Miss Plane, corner Meeting and Market, left foot crushed by shell, and died in six days; Mr. William Knighton, corner Meeting and Market, right leg taken off, and died in four days; Mr. John Doscher, of German Fire Company, wounded at fire of December 25, and since died; Rebecca, slave of Mr. Lindsay, No. 5 Beaufain street, killed instantly by shell. At the fire of December 25, there were 1 fireman, 1 policeman, and 4 soldiers slightly wounded.

To this I will add a couple of civilian causalities due to mishandling of unexploded ordinance…. a fine story deserving full treatment in a follow up post.

In terms of the number of shots fired, Bryan noted that from August 21, 1863 to January 5, 1864, a total of 472 shots were fired at the city.  Setting aside 27 from the Swamp Angel in August and a handful in October, Bryan considered, “The regular bombardment may be said to have begun on November 17.”  Of the 472 shots fired, 28 were observed as “falling short.”  Of the remaining 444, Bryan could only account for 225:

  • Shells striking houses: 145
  • Shells striking yards: 19
  • Shells striking streets or in burned district (from the 1861 fire): 61

Just in the raw numbers, 127 houses “somewhat confirmed” were hit by 145 “known” shells.  Though keep in mind that Bryan admitted to gaps in the analysis. “There were certainly a considerable number which had struck in the burned district, and probably in deserted yards, of which I could get no account.”  This is where Lieutenant George Walker’s map, referenced by Bryan, would be of great help reconstructing what was known at the time.

Of course shells have a nasty habit of not performing as designed or intended.  Bryan cited observers who claimed 39% of the shells did not explode.  Not an insignificant number.  In part, that factors into Confederate evaluations – less explosions mean less damage.  But this also meant a lot of potential damage lay sitting and waiting in the rubble.

Bryan described the area most frequently struck (again mentioning Walker’s map):

It is nearly bounded north by Market street from East Bay to Meeting, down Meeting to Horlbeck’s alley, and along Horlbeck’s alley to King street; west by King street from Horlbeck’s alley to Tradd street; south by Tradd street from corner of King to Church street; down Church street to Longitude lane, and along that lane to East Bay, and east by East Bay street. Mr. [T. S.] Hale, the observer at Saint Michael’s, reports that “the enemy’s principal line of fire upon the city has been Saint Michael’s Church steeple, radiating to the northeastward as far as Saint Philip’s Church,” and generally limited westwardly in its range to Archdale street. “Since January 1 the enemy appears to have made Saint Philip’s Church steeple their line of fire, hence the shells striking higher up in the city.”

Again, I don’t know that Walker’s map has survived.  In lieu of that, allow me to offer this substitute:

ChristmasBombardment_Bryan_Assesment

Adapted from the 1855 Coleton’s map of Charleston, I’ve shaded, approximately, the “Burnt District” in dark grey.  The area cited by Bryan as “Frequently Struck” is in red.  And the location of reported Christmas Day fires is marked by yellow stars.  Note the call out to Saint Michael’s Church, which Confederates figured was the “aiming point” for the Federal gunners.

We might, from Bryan’s statements and the location of those fires, conclude the Federal shells fell mostly in the blocks bound by King, Queen, East Bay, and Tradd Streets.  From a technical standpoint, that’s a rather close shot disbursement, given the practice and equipment of the time.   Within that “Frequently Struck” area, only the relatively new battery with the large Blakely Gun was at risk.

And speaking of equipment, Bryan noted the Federals had shifted to 100-pdr Parrotts for this duty by the time of the Christmas bombardments.  Later the Federals would employ lighter caliber Parrotts and even Wiard guns on occasion.

In Bryan’s overall assessment, he drew this conclusion,

The whole result has so far been utterly inadequate to the labors and the boasts of the besieging forces.  That they should attempt to intimidate the people of Charleston into a surrender of their city is not to be wondered at; but having plainly seen that the destruction of property did not shake their determination, it is difficult to imagine what usage of civilization would justify them in continuing it.

Such reminds me of statements made in regard to bombing offensives during World War II.  And that in mind, I also find Bryan’s closing remark rings with some familiarity along those lines:

People are occasionally found living in the lower part of the city apparently indifferent to the danger of the enemy’s fire.

Londoners of 1940 might sympathize:

24-aldwych-underground-station-london-during-the-blitz-oct-8-1940-01october-8-1940-01

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46. pages 682-4.)