The Folwell letters, June 19, 1863: “Farewell to my visions of clean shirts and stockings.”

In the previous installment, we followed Captain William W. Folwell as he, Company I of the 50th New York Engineers, and pontoon equipment barged up the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal on June 18, 1863, heading for Nolan’s Ferry.  At times, Folwell’s narrative seemed dreamy, somewhat distant from the war.  Yet at other parts, the war seemed poised to strike light lightning.  His letter closed with Company I nearing their destination… and expecting rain.  That is where his letter of June 18 picked up:

Monocacy Aqueduct, June 19th, ’63, 10 A.M.

The rain came on and fell in the biggest kind of torrents for three hours.  It, however, ceased as we were closing up on the main body of the train at this place, about 8 o’clock P.M. I got the order to tie up and lie by for the night.  The men spread their blankets on the boats, drank their coffee, and went to sleep.  Several officers got leave to sleep in a house on the tow-path side.  We left the door open, and so slept well till daylight.  The housekeeper made us a good breakfast of our own provisions and gave me some milk in addition.

First point of order here is an explanation of the location.  When departing Georgetown, Folwell’s party was going to Nolan’s Ferry.  But the party stopped instead at the Mouth of the Monocacy… or, well, technically at the Monocacy Aqueduct.  Let me pull up a map from the Sesquicentennial postings in order to put these placenames in perspective.:

PotomacCrossings1A

In the upper right we see were the Monocacy River joins the Potomac.  There were several named (recognizable names, to us Civil War types) in that vicinity.  Several transportation routes, including the canal, converged at that corner of the map.  However, Folwell’s engineers were supposed to proceed roughly two and a half miles up the canal to Nolan’s Ferry.  The pause at the Monocacy was in some part due to White’s raid at Point of Rocks on the night of June 17.  But also factoring here are the vaccinations as Hooker, and staff, tried to sort out the situation.  And that is the stuff I’ve built several blog posts about.

Moving back from the big picture, Folwell’s breakfast must have been a welcome departure from eating over a campfire.

12:15 P.M. Went up the canal with the Major and Capt. Turnbull of the Regulars, to select a point for getting our material into the river.  We have to unload balks, chess, etc., and carry them down to the river, and then haul the boats out on the tow path and drag them down the bank into the water.

Very interesting, and important, assessment of a tactical problem.  The equipment was but a few yards from the river.  But those few yards were the towpath and bottom land next to the river.  Queue up the “easier said than done” cliche.  We will see later the engineers found a better way to unload when actually putting up the bridges at Edwards Ferry a few days later.  But for now, let’s stick with June 18.

This we do when orders rec’d.  Meantime, we are encamping upon a nice piece of ground on the heel path.  Our company wagons have come up, also our horses.  By some ill luck, our own personal baggage has been left behind.  The Quartermaster in order to equalize the load, took this baggage from my company wagon, and put it on to a separate empty wagon, which vehicle has remained in Washington.  Farewell to my visions of clean shirts and stockings.  My company desk has all my private company papers in and your picture.

So it is “hurry up and wait” for Folwell.  Though I cannot pin it to a specific instance, the orders received were one of a series of commands and countermands while Hooker and staff sorted things out.  And we know Hooker would continue to change his plans with respect to bridging the Potomac through those late June days.  The next move would take Folwell back down the canal to Edwards Ferry.  And that’s the next installment.

(Citations from William Watts Fowell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 411-12 (pages 417-8 of scanned copy).)

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 5th Regiment, US Regulars

We move now to the Fifth US Artillery, which will complete our look through the Regulars for second quarter, 1863.  For the reporting period in question, every battery of the regiment had something recorded.  Though, that was not always cannon on hand.  Three of the battery reports arrived at the Ordnance Department in 1864 or 1865.  Otherwise, the Fifth appeared to have their paperwork in order.  So let’s see if that was simply a false front:

0168_1_Snip_5thUS

Walking through the rows:

  • Battery A: At Portsmouth, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  During the spring, Battery A transferred, with parent organization, to Seventh Corps.  Under the new arrangements, Lieutenant James Gilliss’ battery supported Second Division of that corps.  The battery had been at Suffolk, Virginia, but was moving over to the Peninsula for Dix’s brief demonstration toward Richmond in late June.
  • Battery B:  Reporting at Hagerstown, Maryland with no artillery!  Battery B was at Fort Hamilton through much of the spring, completing its training and such.  In June, Lieutenant Henry A. Du Pont led the battery, reporting to First Division, Department of the Susquehanna, within the Middle Department’s Eighth Corps.  And the battery reported there with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Battery C: Technically off by one day, the battery reported at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  With Captain Dunbar R. Ransom taking command of the 1st Brigade of the Artillery Reserve (Army of the Potomac), Lieutenant Gulian V. Weir assumed command of this battery.
  • Battery D: Bealton, Virginia (?) with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Lieutenant Charles Hazlett’s battery supported Fifth Corps. The battery’s location on June 30 of the year was, of course, in the vicinity of Union Mills, Maryland.  And, as many readers are well familiar, Hazlett’s tenure in command was to end a couple days later as he defended Little Round Top.  Lieutenant Benjamin Rittenhouse was his able replacement.
  • Battery E: At Fort Hamilton, New York but without cannons.  As with Battery B above, Battery E completed its training and organization during the spring.  And like that sister battery, Battery E was transferred to the Department of the Susquehanna in June.  Lieutenant James W. Piper was in command.  The battery had six 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F: No location given, but with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  The proper location, we know, was with Sixth Corps, around Manchester, Maryland.  Lieutenant Leonard Martin commanded this battery, which would defend Cemetery Hill on July 3.
  • Battery G: Port Hudson, Louisiana with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant  Jacob B. Rawles commanded this battery from Second Division, Nineteenth Corps.
  • Battery H: Tullahoma, Tennessee with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  This was “flip” from the previous quarter, which I believe is in error.  The battery likely had four Napoleons and two Parrotts at this stage of the war. Captain George A. Kensel assumed command of the battery in mid-spring.  And the battery remained with First Division, Fourteenth Corps.
  • Battery I: Reporting at West Point, New York with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. But we know that location is in error, possibly reflecting the 1865 report receipt date.   On June 30, Lieutenant Malbone F. Watson’s battery was with Fifth Corps along Pipe Creek.  Watson would lose a leg while leading his battery at Gettysburg on July 2.  Lieutenant Charles C. MacConnell took his place.
  • Battery K: No location given, but with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Another battery which we know was on the road to Gettysburg.  Lieutenant David H. Kinzie remained in command, but the battery transferred to the Twelfth Corps’ artillery.
  • Battery L: Reporting at Maryland Heights, Maryland with two 6-pdr field guns. Lieutenant Edmund D. Spooner’s battery was caught up in the disaster at Winchester, Virginia.  According to Spooner, eighteen men, armed only with sabers, escaped capture (having lost six Ordnance Rifles).  What remained of the battery reported to Camp Barry, which I’d submit is a more accurate location.  The report of two 6-pdrs points to some interesting inferences.
  • Battery M: At Warrenton, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. This location might be accurate for August, when the report was received. But at the end of June 1863 the battery was around Yorktown and was involved with Dix’s demonstration there. Captain James McKnight’s battery was assigned to Fourth Corps.

So we see the batteries of the Fifth Regiment were actively engaged across the board.  No easy garrison duty for those gunners!

Moving down the return… or more accurately, turning the page, we look at the smoothbore ammunition reported:

0170_1_Snip_5thUS

With the majority of the regiment’s batteries armed with Napoleons, we see those columns well populated:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 192 canister for Napoleons.
  • Battery C: 465 shot, 162(?) shell, 369 case, and 100 canister for Napoleons.
  • Battery G: 217 shot, 352 shell, 438 case, and 132 canister for Napoleons.
  • Battery H: 172 shot, 64 shell, 171 case, and 100 canister for Napoleons.
  • Battery K:  36 shot, 5 shell, and 3 case for Napoleons.
  • Battery M:  288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for Napoleons.

The line that stands out is for Battery K.  Might those be the quantities on hand at the close of July 3, 1863?

Battery E probably had ammunition for its Napoleons on hand, but not reflecting on this report.

Spooner’s hard-luck, fought-out battery with their 6-pdrs reported:

  • Battery L: 96 shot, 56 case, and 48 canister for 6-pdr field guns.

Moving now to the rifled projectiles, there were two batteries with 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, but only one of which offered a full report.  Even with that, the Hotchkiss columns were noticeably short:

0170_2_Snip_5thUS

With Battery B still “new” and not fully reporting, only Battery I had Hotchkiss entries:

  • Battery I: 100 canister and 400 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

For the next page, we can narrow the review down to three batteries with Parrott rifles:

0171_1A_Snip_5thUS

Those three were:

  • Battery D: 320 shell, 500 case, and 48 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery F: 480 shell, 480 case, and 144 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery H: 240 shell, 54 case, and 94 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

And the next page, there were quantities of Schenkl projectiles reported:

0171_2_Snip_5thUS

Two entries for Parrott batteries and one for the 3-inch battery:

  • Battery D: 360 shell for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery F: 120 shell for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery I:  300 shell for 3-inch rifles.

Overall, the two “pure” Parrott batteries seemed well provisioned.  Battery H, which was mixed, might be a little lean.  And Battery I, with its 3-inch rifles, seemed a bit short.  But that might, again, be due to what the battery did during those first days of July.

That leaves us the small arms to consider… and a lot to consider:

0171_3_Snip_5thUS

Yes, a FULL slate of small arms reported:

  • Battery A: Twenty-two Army revolvers and sixty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B:  A hundred Army revolvers and 138 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: Fifty-five Army revolvers and nineteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Thirteen Navy revolvers, fifteen cavalry sabers, and thirty-seven horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Twelve Army revolvers and 107 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Twenty-four Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Twenty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers, five cavalry sabers, and thirty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery I: Twenty-one Army revolvers and thirty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: Fifty-eight Army revolvers and sixteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: Nothing… not even the sabers reported carried off the field at Winchester.
  • Battery M: Twenty-four Navy revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.

We again must keep in mind the time frame and context.  These numbers on the sheet were cannon, ammunition, and small arms which would be put to use by these batteries in June and July 1863.

Fortification Friday: “Sufficient strength to resist” artillery taken on cavalry raids

Last week, we discussed Mahan’s American blockhouse and how that form of fortification became important during the Civil War.  During the war, the blockhouse became a common feature along railroads, roads, rivers, and other key points in the rear areas.  I don’t think this reflected a “brand new” use of the blockhouse fortifications, but rather one of greater significance as result of the needs of the war.

Pre-war thinking on such matters focused on a conflict against European powers, in a “War of 1812” scenario.  As such, the rear areas would be somewhat secure behind the Atlantic Ocean (with Mexico and the British in Canada assessed as more defensively oriented).  Only on the frontier would there be great need for blockhouses to secure supply and communication lines.  But the American Civil War upset that line of thinking.  With extended lines across half the continent, the armies could not expect to guard every quarter. This gave an opening for leaders with names like Stuart, Forrest, Wheeler, Mosby, and Morgan.  Yes, those glorious raiders riding about disrupting Yankee operations…

I would offer the Confederate raider threat reached its peak during the Atlanta Campaign.  Not to downplay other sectors, but the spring-summer of 1864 was somewhat a “point of no return” in many regards.  As a counter to the raiders, Major-General William T. Sherman directed the fortification of numerous posts along his supply and communication lines.  One of those we saw last week:

02151r

And as I pointed out last week, the blockhouse in the photo compares well to the figures offered by Mahan in his post-war manual:

MahanPage65Fig1_2

Assuming Mahan’s figures are indeed close matches, we can project all sorts of details not visible in the photo – such as internal arrangements.  And thinking of those, we have the other half of Mahan’s illustrations to consider:

MahanPage65Fig4_5_6_7_8

Now we might say a picture is worth a thousand words.  If so, I’d offer these detailed figures are worth a couple thousand more. Figures 4, 5, and 6 give us a measure of the loop-holes on the lower story.  Figures 7 and 8 provide the same for the upper story.  One might dismiss the details as simply “common sense.”  But my counter would be that “common sense” is usually derived from experience.  And in this case, the manual attempts to impart some experience onto inexperienced cadets… who definitely needed sage advice based on wartime experience.  Besides, as I like to say on such matters, “it goes to show us how THEY did it.”

The caption provided for this page of figures further solidifies the linkage to wartime experiences:

Figs 1, 2, 3, etc., represent the chief details of the two-story block-houses that have been adopted for the defense of railroad stations, bridges, etc., along the line of communications of General Sherman’s Army.  From experiments made upon them, the lower story, with its double row of heavy logs from three and a half to four feet in thickness, is regarded of sufficient strength to resist the field artillery usually taken with cavalry on their raids.

And that was the goal – a “keep” for an outpost garrison that would afford protection against the raider’s weapons.

Now some will point out that Forrest and Wheeler captured their fair share of blockhouses while out raiding.  I would offer that in most cases those captures involved a pause of action under a flag of truce.  Words like “… to prevent further effusion of blood” were mentioned.  So we might contend the blockhouse did indeed serve the “keep” function even if the garrison were captured.

(Citation from Mahan, An Elementary Course of Military Engineering: Part 1: Field Fortifications, Military Mining, and Siege Operations, New York: John Wiley & Son, 1870, page 65.)

The Folwell letters, June 18, 1863: “We live an Iliad every month….”

When we left Captain William Folwell, he had settled down for a night’s sleep, on the night of June 17, 1863, laying across bridging equipment on a raft heading up the C&O Canal, proceeding to Nolan’s Ferry.  That was an earned, uninterrupted sleep after a hard day of work.  Now we pick up on the morning of June 18:

When I fairly awoke, I stripped and jumped into the canal, and enjoyed a delightful swim.  During a short halt, we made to feed the animals, I had the men cut a quantity of boughs and stick them about the sides of the boats.  They furnish us a delightful shade.

I am half siting, half laying on my blankets, under the boughs dressed in the most free and easy stile. I wear simply my hat, shirt and trousers, boots and stockings, under clothing, – coat and vest are all piled at the end of my bed.  Now and then, I hand my legs over the side of the boat and let my feet drag in the water.  I intend jumping over-board soon and taking another swim. All aboard.  Level here – and away we go.

Folwell and his men seemed to enjoy the trip up the C&O Canal.  Other than their charges (equipment and animals), their duty was simply that of riding the rafts.  They could move no faster than the animals towing their equipment.  So nothing to do but sit and wait.  Such contrast to a report filed by Brigadier-General Henry Benham on the same day.  Benham painted the picture of an Engineer Brigade hard pressed.  He described the movement of Major Ira Spaulding’s detachment, of which Folwell’s command was a part, as delayed and somewhat frantic due to the need to cross-load equipment from steamers to the canal.  Benham cited a lack of manpower in Alexandria to recover and refit equipment recently used at Aquia Creek.

But all that mess was downstream from Folwell.  His ride up was as peaceful as one might have in a theater of war.  Folwell took the time to give us a description of his surroundings and the soldiers’ activities:

It is worth a while to make this voyage here for the scenery.  The canal (Chesapeake & Ohio) follows the Potomac river bank all the way. The banks are steep and thickly wooded.  The bed of the river is rocky and tortuous, and along the edge of the water grown many willows. Talk of going up the Nile.  That voyage could not be more interesting than this.  We have no naked Arabs and Fellahs, but we have half-naked Yankee soldiers who can make vastly more fun.  What fun to see them diving off the raft, and tumbling along in the water.  If they fall behind swimming, they only have to get on to the tow-path and run up and jump in ahead of us.  Yesterday, when several of them were merry, they sang Methodist hymns with great energy and not in bad taste.  [Artificer] Allen Taylor pushed [Sergeant] Tommy Owens overboard. I have given Tommy leave to dunk Mr. Taylor the first good chance he has.  On the other boats is a group playing Muggins very industriously.  Corporal [Charles] Bodle is mixing a lemonade.  [Sargent Levi] McGill has just finished a cup of bread and milk, and has promised to buy a canteen full for me at the first opportunity. This with some bread will make my dinner.

I like this passage for several reasons.  Foremost, this reminds me of those days when I “soldiered” when we were, like Folwell’s command, in transit with nothing to do but wait for journey’s end.  And during those intervals, you see the personalities come forward.  Folwell mentions these men, all enlisted, in a familiar tone.  This is not the “fatherly” tone one might see from a commander.  Rather one who wishes he too could partake of such play, condoning it as a break in the military discipline, but recognizing he, as the captain, cannot pass over that line.  We will read more on this later in the letter.

And this all stands in sharp contrast to Benham’s report… not to mention the infantry on those hot, dusty marches into Loudoun County!

Folwell seemed to enjoy this way of “going to war.”  But he stopped to add context:

Do you wonder how I can rattle on at this rate, as if I were on a pleasure excursion, and the salvation of the country did not depend on our having a Bridge down at Nolan’s Ferry by dark of to-day.  What do I know?  I have seen and read one or two newspapers this week, but with so much on my mind I could not fairly make out their contents. I think I understand that the Rebels are advancing up the valley, and that their Cavalry is threatening Pa. and that Hooker’s Army, having broken “camp near Falmouth,” has fallen back to cover Washington and possibly to follow Lee into Maryland.  I am inclined to think that Hooker’s Army or some portion of it will use this Bridge, which I understand is to be laid at Nolan’s Ferry near the mouth of the Monocacy.  What a trepidation must the Dutchmen of Penna. be in, and I dare say the people of this “Southern Hier” begin “to tremble in their shoes”. On some accounts, I am not sorry for this demoralization of the Rebels.  Our Copperheads used to see what kind of a war they are waging.  We have had no mail since last Saturday, and it will be some day before one can reach us.

Folwell seemed to grasp the general situation of June 1863, perhaps better than some of the generals did at the time.  I think it significant, though don’t know what to make of such, the reference to “Hooker’s Army” instead of “our Army” or other phrase.  Not to mention the remark about the Copperheads.

 

Bringing us back to the canal, Folwell recounted:

One of the mules has just been kicking, and has broken his harness.  While we lie still, a dozen men slide out of their clothing, and plunge into the water.

And that lead Folwell to channel classic figures of old:

One would think some of the fellows to have been sons of Neptune and Amphitrite, and to have been reared in the rocky mountains of the Hereids and Oceanidae.  Oenid. Bah for classics.  We live an Iliad every month, and the wanderings of Ulysses are of no account in comparison with the devious marches of the Engineer Brigade.  The charms of the Siren fade beside the blandishments of Georgetown apple and cider women.  Scylla and Charybdis present no great difficulties than the narrow lock gates of the Chesapeake & Ohio canal.  The rocks of Ithaca and the sands of Pylus all find counterparts in the bed of the Potomac. We have met no Polyphemus yet.  It is curious to see a snake swim.  There’s one and a dozen men a swimming.  What do they care.

And from there, Folwell began to think to a future beyond the war.

This is a suitable dolce for niente. I wish I had the Lotus Eaters here to read, for I can’t recall a line of it now.  I know how we can have fun if we have leisure.  Take our Yacht from Venice to Montreal and thence to Lake Champlain, and down the Hudson to N.Y.  Up the Passaic and then through the canal in to the Delaware river, down that and across in to the Susquehanna and so on, as we like. All the way around to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi, and through the Illinois canal into Lake Michigan and so home.  Was sagst du? Another lock.  The sun gets around and I shall have to move to keep in the shade.  I think I must swim. There.  I feel as cool and moist as a cucumber pickle just from the cellar.

These luxuries you women know nothing of.  Possibly, I ought not to mention except under the disguise of six syllabled words.  Here are some beautiful bits of scenery around the bend in the river. I can not tell you how the luxuriance of the trees and grass delights me.  The other day, I told Col. [William H.] Pettes that in case my brother couldn’t be mustered in and should be discharged that I should offer my resignation.  “No use, sir.  I shouldn’t let you go,” he said, and I suppose it would be impossible for me to get out of service now.  The more I think about Venice, Ohio, the more I am persuaded that I should like to go there, if I were sure you would enjoy health there.

And here we see a personal reflection, which I think relates to the familiar tone used about the men in the earlier passage:

When I come from the War, I shall be a very different man from the one you first knew.  I am forgetting and losing my taste for poetry and literature, and find myself less susceptible of fun and frolic.  Sterner and busier. The habit of command, forming now, will probably remain during my life, and I fear I am becoming captious and impatient of control.  You will have to tame and soften and civilize me when I get back home….

I hate to read into things, but considering this passage with the earlier one strikes a cord with me.

Ah, it gets hot.  I think I will put up a piece of tent to make shade.  With a little help from [Private Ira] Decker, I have a shelter under which a breeze sucks through deliciously.  We have just lengthened out the tow line to relieve the team, and to keep the head of the raft from inclining toward the tow path.  It will be night when we reach our destination.  I fear in that event we shall have to work all night.  Well, that will be nothing new.  I am getting too lazy to write and I think you are probably glad of it.  Nicht wahr? Whew!  how hot the sun is the moment the wind dies away.  I must get in the canal again.  here goes.

Perhaps we can forgive the engineers for “recreating” on the canal, because we know they would put in some very long hours doing difficult work in the days that followed.

1 P.M. Been dozing.  Allen Taylor being still drunk, discharged his gun without leave, and I have put him in arrest.  What a fool the man is.  Besides, he might shoot some one of us.

Records show that Artificer Allen Taylor was demoted to private on July 11, 1863.  I will have to research more to determine if the incident of June 18 was the cause of Taylor’s demotion.

Corporal McGill does not get back with the milk for dinner.  I grow hungry.  It is advisable to eat lightly on marches, when it is impossible to take meals statedly. Wonder where the boy is they have sent us from home.  I presume we shall get it at length. Shall I get in the canal again.  It’s “awful hot.” No, the sun will scorch my back.  I will wait till later in the day.  Here’s McGill come back with empty canteens.  So, no dinner.  Never mind, try again.  He brings news told him by the Capt. of the tug we just met.  That some Rebs. crossed at Point of Rocks last night and burned the town. It is not known whether they returned to Va. or have gone over to Md.  We may have a fight before night.  I suppose I ought to put my boots on and be ready to fall my men in.  I hope, however, the Rebs.will not molest us.  The “joys of battle” are very fine in the story-books.  The poets rejoice in them, but soldiers are not eager for the fray as said poets feign.

The Confederate raid alluded to here was on the night of June 17, and conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel Elijah V. White against the stations at Catoctin and Point of Rocks.

Starting the next passage, Folwell mentioned an eight mile stretch between locks.  I will venture a guess this was either just below Edwards Ferry’s lock, or just above. The time was late in the afternoon.

Here’s a long level – 8 miles, they say.  The sun is under a cloud.  There’s a breeze. I am cool and comfortable.  What a delicious little nap I have had.

8 P.M. Another nap and another swim.  The mules stopped for a drink.  It was hot, oh, beastly hot.  I slid in the water. The men followed my example and 20 of us were paddling around the raft.  Here are some magnificent elms on the heel-path.  Oh. how cool I am under my tent, barefooted.  Quite a different individual from him of the “tea-pot photograph.” This life will make a barbarian of me.  Any man is a barbarian away from home and the Church.  There’s a shower in the clouds.  It thunders in the distance. As the showers usually follow the water-courses, I think it best to provide against this by rolling up my blankets and dressing myself. I will fold these sheets which I have written over and enclose them.  I hope they will amuse you a little.  I have whiled away several hours of what otherwise would have been a tedious day.  The rain is coming.

And with that, Folwell closed his letter and thus the narrative for the day.  I’ve let this post run on longer than normal, as the letter offers an insightful view of “soldiering” from the perspective of a company commander.  And… a wandering mind!

The next installment will pick up with Folwell and command at the Mouth of the Monocacy, amid a heavy rain.

(Citations from William Watts Fowell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 406-11 (pages 412-17 of scanned copy).)

 

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 4th Regiment, US Regulars

Looking at the summary for the 4th US Artillery for the 2nd quarter (ending in June) of 1863, we see ten of the twelve batteries posted returns (or more accurately, had their returns recorded by the Ordnance Department… assuming nothing here).  Of those ten returns, all but one was received by the end of 1863.  But only six offered a location for the battery as of the time of report.  Is this the impact of active campaigning on the administrative reports?  Let’s see….

0168_1_Snip_4thUS

Looking at these lines by battery:

  • Battery A – Reported at Sulphur Springs, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The location is obviously reflecting the date when the report was actually filed, not where the battery was located on June 30 of the year.  The battery was, on that date, marching through Maryland.  Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing had but three more days in command of this battery, supporting Second Corps.
  • Battery B – No location given, but with  six 12-pdr Napoleons. Of course we know this battery, led by Lieutenant James Stewart, was supporting First Corps and was camped south of Gettysburg on June 30.  And of course, the following day the battery would perform admirably on the field.
  • Battery C – And no location given, but also reporting six 12-pdr Napoleons. In late May the battery transferred to the 1st Brigade (Regular), Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.  Lieutenant Evan Thomas remained in command.  That brigade was moving up from Frederick, Maryland on June 30.
  • Battery D – Yet another without location given, though with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. This battery remained at Suffolk, Virginia, assigned to First Division, Seventh Corps and commanded by Captain Frederick M. Follett.
  • Battery E – No report.  Lieutenant  Samuel S. Elder’s was in the First Brigade, Horse Artillery assigned to the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles assigned.  Another battery with a location “on the march” and destined for the fields of Gettysburg.
  • Battery F – Reporting at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Yes, another reflecting the “as of report” location.  Lieutenant Sylvanus T. Rugg commanded this battery in support of Twelfth Corps.  We can place them, also, among the columns moving through Maryland and southern Pennsylvania on June 30.
  • Battery G – No report given for this quarter.  Battery G was assigned to the Eleventh Corps artillery earlier in June.  The battery location as of June 30 was on the road between Emmitsburg and Gettysburg, with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Marcus Miller went on recruiting duty and was replaced, briefly, by Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson.  But Wilkeson would be mortally wounded on July 1 while leading his battery at a poor position on what became known as Barlow’s Knoll.  Lieutenant Eugene A. Bancroft succeeded in command.
  • Battery H – At Murfreesboro, Tennessee with four 12-pdr field howitzers. Lieutenant Harry C. Cushing in command of this battery, assigned to Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.
  • Battery I – Belle Creek, Kentucky with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Frank G. Smith commanded this battery, supporting Third Division, Fourteenth Corps.  the location is a question mark.  The battery was, at this time, with its parent formation around Murfreesboro.
  • Battery K – Bridgeport, Maryland with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Another location which reflects the later reporting date.  This battery, under Lieutenant Francis W. Seeley, was supporting Third Corps and was around Emmitsburg on June 30. Seeley was wounded on July 2 (so badly that he later resigned his commission), and Lieutenant Robert James assumed command.
  • Battery L – No location offered, but with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Under command of Captain R. V. W. Howard, and assigned to First Division, Seventh Corps, in Southeast Virginia. .
  • Battery M – At Murfreesboro, Tennessee reporting four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 24-pdr field howitzers.  Lieutenant Francis L. D. Russell remained in command and the battery remained with Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.  Of note, the battery upgraded from field howitzers to Napoleons.

So comparing what we know about each particular battery’s service to what was recorded administratively, there does appear to have been some disruption of paperwork at the end of the second quarter.  Though I don’t think anyone would fault the officers for inattention to cyclic reports at this interval of the war.  They were more concerned with the real business of artillery.

Turning to the ammunition pages, we start with the smoothbore columns… noting the need to extend those to support the “big howitzers” of Battery M:

0170_1_Snip_4thUS

A lot of Napoleons and howitzers, so a lot to discuss:

  • Battery B: 360 shot, 236 shell, and 164 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons. However, a tally of 452 case for 6-pdr field guns is offered.  I think this is a transcription error and should correctly be interpreted as case for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C: 163 shot, 186 shell, 388 case, and 196 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F: 288 shot, 96 shell, 388 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H: 219 shell, 342 case, and 146 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery I: 192 shot, 62 shell, 192 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery K: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery L: 96 shot, 32 shell, 96 case, and 33 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery M: 138 shot, 64 shell, 212 case, and 128 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons; 72 shell, 72 case, and 48 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.

With so many of these batteries seeing action at Gettysburg, we might seek some insight as to what was on hand for the battle and what was used.  But yet again we must exercise some caution with making conjectures. There is an “as of date” along with a “reporting date” and other variables to consider here.  More than a grain of salt is required, in my opinion.

Moving to ammunition for the rifled guns, we start with Hotchkiss:

0170_2_Snip_4thUS

Two batteries reporting:

  • Battery A: 120 canister, 36 percussion shell,  319 fuse shell, and 673 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery D:  83 canister, 100 percussion shell, 542 fuse shell, and 475 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

As there was no record for Battery E, we are left to wonder what Elder’s gunners had on hand.

Moving to the next page, we can focus specifically on the Parrott columns:

0171_1A_Snip_4thUS

Just that one battery at Suffolk to consider here:

  • Battery L: 474 shell, 340(?) case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

None of these batteries reported Schenkl projectiles on hand.  So we can move to the small arms:

0171_3_Snip_4thUS

By battery:

  • Battery A: Sixteen Army revolvers and twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Twenty-two Navy revolvers and seven cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: Eighteen (?) Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Nine Army revolvers and 135 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirteen Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Army revolvers, six cavalry sabers, and fifteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery I: Three Army revolvers and forty-five cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Twelve Army revolves, one Navy revolver, and thirteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: Fourteen Army revolvers and 117 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: Eight Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.

With so many of these batteries seeing action in the opening days of July, the figures are, again, tempting.  While trivial of sorts, the number of small arms reflect weapons of war used by the batteries.  In some cases, we might seek precision as to the use of those weapons.  For instance, when Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing drew his revolver to order his men back to their posts on July 3, was that an Army revolver, as was reported with his battery?  Colt or Remington? Or something the Lieutenant had come by outside of official channels?

Fortification Friday: Mahan’s American Blockhouse

One of the themes I’ve worked in this series of posts is a comparison between pre-war and post-war manuals. In small ways, the comparison points to the influence of wartime experience in the practice of military science… at least in the American army.  Another such example is the use of blockhouses.  Pre-war, Mahan discussed blockhouses in relation to field fortifications as a safety redoubt or keep.  That was not, of course, to say such was the exclusive use of blockhouses.  But Mahan simply offered less thought about the use of stand-alone blockhouses. Rather the emphasis was upon structures which would be used in conjunction with standard, conventional field fortifications to meet the traditional needs of an army on campaign. Again, this is not to say Mahan didn’t agree with stand alone blockhouses, but rather that in instructions to his students he put all the emphasis on blockhouses used as keeps within field fortifications.  So this is a “how they were taught” consideration instead of a “this is the only way they would use it” declaration. Keep that fine point in mind.

On the other hand, the American military experience, drawn out even more so by the Civil War, included the need for fortifications guarding rear areas.  In particular, protection of railroad lines, bridges, and other such infrastructure was rather important. And, as we know from ample examples from official records, photographs, and other sources, the blockhouse became the preferred fortification for that need.  And Mahan identified that in his post-war writings, declaring an American-ism in such employment:

American Block-House. In the more recent block-houses erected in our service for the protection of bridges, railroad stations, etc, the sides and roof … are constructed with a double thickness of logs eighteen inches in diameter, hewn to a face of eight inches where they are in contact.  The inner logs are placed upright, the outward horizontal. A space is left in the outward casing sufficient for the fire from the loop-holes made through the inner. The horizontal logs above the loop-holes are held up by short uprights, mortised into them and into those just below. The ceiling is covered with earth, as shown in the section, three feet thick at the ridge and sloping towards the eaves to about six or nine inches, where it is confined by a pole plate. The earth is protected from the weather by a board roofing.  Tin or sheet iron ventilators are made through the roofing and ceiling, and a brick flue to receive the pipe of the stove used in cold weather.

The loop-holes are nearly of the same form and dimensions of those already given.

Mahan gave us two sets of illustrations supporting this passage.  The first demonstrated the blockhouse particulars mentioned above:

MahanFig48_49_50

We see a double layer of timbers – the inner most placed vertical and the outer laid horizontally. In both cases, the logs are flattened on the sides in contact to close up any gaps.

Also notice the provisions for loopholes.  The dimensions remained the same, generally. But instead of simply carving out loopholes, Mahan suggested a more elaborate arrangement.  I’d describe this as a set of small columns between a gap in the outer, horizontal timbers.  Traditional loophole cuts are made in the vertical timbers of the interior. So there is still the double row of protection and the minimum opening required for the musket barrel.

I say a picture is worth a thousand words:

02147r

This is a blockhouse protecting the railroad between Nashville and Chattanooga in Tennessee.

Continuing, Mahan offered more elaborate plans for these blockhouses:

Some of these structures are built in the form of a cross, consisting of a square central chamber, twenty-four feet on a side, and of four wings of the same form and dimensions when the block-house is for cannon. An embrasure is pierced in each of the three sides of each wing to serve a single gun.  The cheeks of the embrasures are faced with logs, and the mouth is secured by a musket-proof shutter with a loop-hole in it.  The embrasures are below the level of the loop-hole, allowing these to be used whenever necessary.

Though not exclusively for the employment of artillery, the implication is that guns required more space within the fort and thus more elaborate arrangements were needed.  The addition of shutters is noteworthy and speaks to the need for crew protection in the era of muzzle-loading artillery.

But where you have artillery, you must also have a magazine:

Arrangements for magazines and store-rooms are made under the floor of the block-house in the most secure parts.

Ah… OK… answers that question.

And what about the entrance:

The entrance to the block-house may be either through a postern, the bottom of which is on the level of that of the ditch, a ramp leading from this level outwards, a door properly secured, and steps, forming the inner communications; or it may be arranged as shown in Fig. 51, 52, with a plank thrown across the ditch on the same level as the natural ground, the entrance to the door being masked by a double stoccade, leaving the same passage-way as that of the doorway.  Loop-holes in the door and sides of the building sweep this passage.

And here’s the referenced figures:

MahanFig51_52

Also note in this set of figures, and that above, the berm built up against the blockhouse.  As discussed earlier, this improved the defensive quality of the work, particularly against artillery.  Furthermore it prevented the enemy from hiding under the loopholes.  We don’t see that in the wartime photo above.  I’m of a mind we are seeing a blockhouse in the final stages of construction, rather than some flaw in the engineer’s design.  Other wartime photos show earth banked up against the blockhouse:

02151r

This is another Tennessee blockhouse.  Wonderful details to consider – the loopholes and the entrance stand out nicely.  And consider the figure offered by Mahan (post-war) to illustrate the two story blockhouse:

MahanPage65Fig1_2

Can you find a better match? That’s great stuff!

Another illustration Mahan provided in the post-war manual detailed arrangements for the loopholes.  So while he “said” such was “already given,” teaching after the war he saw need to elaborate.  We’ll look at that next.

(Citation from Mahan, An Elementary Course of Military Engineering: Part 1: Field Fortifications, Military Mining, and Siege Operations, New York: John Wiley & Son, 1870, page 62-3.)

The Folwell letters, June 17, 1863: Loading pontoons for a trip up the C&O

Last week, I offered a transcription of a letter from Captain William W. Folwell, Company I, 50th New York Engineers, dated June 17, 1863.  We left Folwell as he went about preparing his command for movement from Alexandria across the Potomac (by steamer) to be loaded onto canal boats on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.  Folwell’s company was part of a force under Major Ira Spaulding, equipped with pontoon bridges, ordered to Nolan’s Ferry.  With that short introduction, let us turn to Folwell’s lengthy letter for June 18.  Folwell began by describing the activities starting at 9 a.m. the previous day (thus the “discrepancy” in my headline for this post):

On the “Raging Canal”

Near Seneca, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, June 18th, 1863.

Before I drank the cup of coffee and ate the cookies the men gave me, I thought I was not well. Now, I am all right except that the constant labor and rapid change of scene which we have experienced for the last few days has put me all out of joint.  My mind is in such a state of diffusion that I hardly remember myself. I wrote you a hasty note yesterday morning from Alexandria.  We left there at 9 A.M. on board Steamer “Sylvan Shore.” After putting Gen. Benham’s horses off at 6th St. Wharf, (I saw the place where I bade you and Jennie what I thought to be my last good bye) we proceeded to Georgetown, where we found the Regulars with the train, which we had made up the night before. Disembarked, stacked arms, and went to work at locking our rafts, 4 boats in each., [through the] locks from the river into the canal. Bain [Lieutenant Mahlon Bainbridge Folwell, brother] was unwell and Lt. [Daniel M] Hulse had gone to Washington to get his pay.  I was alone with my Co. and had to work very hard. The men were beset with swarms of women and boys, having pies, cakes, gingerbread and “ice cold lemonade” for sale.  Before we got through, many of them found out the “gin mille” and began to be merry for work. it cost me my most diligent efforts to keep my men together at work.  I am glad that Co.I, although very many of the men drank somewhat, had more but were able to do duty.  Of the regulars, dozens of them lay dead drunk on the boats.  Others were left along the bank.  It was three o’clock when, having been ordered by the Major to bring up the rear, I got my last raft through the locks.  At 4, I got the mules hitched on (3 to each raft) and followed the body of the train.  I don’t think I could be more tired than I was. The day was terribly hot, and we are unused to the close air of cities.  The canal runs right through Georgetown.

This passage is full of the candid observations that attracts us to soldier’s letters.  One can sense the fatigue as Folwell considers the day’s work that hot summer day.  But what stands out most is the “distractions” from work all around the docks.  Again, I would remind readers of the heated inquiries directed towards the engineers during the later half of June.  At Army headquarters, the impression was the engineers were moving slowly and in particular that Benham didn’t have control.  Well… pies, lemonade, and some of that stronger drink will cause some delay!

The particulars here are worthy of pause to consider.  Folwell started boarding transport across the Potomac at nine that morning.  Not until four that afternoon were they ready to move up the canal.  And please note the engineers floated the pontoons in the canal (not shipped inside the canal barges).  Four pontoons were joined to make one raft.  These pontoons were roughly 31 feet long and 5 ½ feet wide.  C&O barges came in several classes, but varied between 50 and 92 feet long, but were usually 14 ½ feet wide.  The latter dimension, determined by the width of the canal’s locks, was the important governing factor. We can, from that, venture educated guesses as to the exact arrangements made to form pontoon rafts.

One last note, Folwell mentions the steamer Sylvan Shore.  She was a sidewheel steamer, reported at 217 tons.  The ship was first chartered by the Army in August 1861.  She operated in North Carolina and Virginia. In fact, just two months earlier, the Sylvan Shore was  involved with operations on the Neuse River.  Milton Martin, who owned the steamer, originally contracted the vessel for $200 per day.  But in May 1863, Army officials altered that deal to $100 per day.  Why do I know so much about this vessel?  Well it was the subject of a post-war court case, in which Martin called for reimbursement at the original, higher rate.  I have not, however, been able to conclusively match the steamer to an image of a similarly named vessel.  (Of note, the orders moving the Spaulding’s engineers mentioned the sidewheel steamer Rockwell.  So at least two steamers were required to move the bridging equipment, men, and animals.)

Those details out of the way, let us continue with Folwell’s eventful cruise up the canal:

The ride up the canal is delightful.  The luxuriance of the hard wood forest, such strong contrast to the barren plains and pines of the “near Falmouth” region.  Before dark, we reached Chain Bridge, which, by the way, is not a chain Bridge, nor even a Suspension Bridge, but a wooden arch truss bridge….

34797r

The scenery about it is very romantic.  At sunset, I ordered the Sergeants with their squads to relieve each other during the night in navigating the raft, and unstrapping my blankets, I made a bed on top of some bulks and lay down to sleep.  I had taken a bath in the canal, which disposed me to sleep, and presently I forgot all my cares, and thought no more of them till after daylight this morning. I slept, of course, in my clothes, with a handkerchief tied about my head and a shelter tent spread over me.

As that closed Folwell’s eventful June 17.  For ease of reading, let us stop the transcription here and pick up the rest of the letter in the next post on this thread.

(Citations from William Watts Fowell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 405-6 (pages 411-12 of scanned copy).)