Fortification Friday: Gabionades? Let’s get between the guns!

We’ve spent several installments discussing the evolution of shelters through, and after, the Civil War.  Before the war, Mahan gave the subject just under two pages in the manual.  By the 1880s, Wheeler would allocate a dozen pages to the topic.  And this did not reflect the introduction of any great technical advance in the art of fort-building.  Rather it reflected, in my opinion, specifically changes in the manner artillery was employed… but generally towards changes at the operational level.  But keep in mind, this “change” was more so a heavier allocation of ink in the manuals, which translated to different practices being taught to cadets… in turn translating, when that cadet pinned on lieutenant or captain bars, to the soldiers’ work priorities.

A similar evolution, reflected in the ink of the manuals, occurred with respect to the protection used within the batteries, between the guns. These were technically traverses. The intent was to provide safety to the gunners from enfilading fires. Before the war, Mahan offered:

Traverses. Those which are constructed to cover the flanks of the guns from an enfilade fire, are usually what are termed gabionades. To form a gabionade, gabions are placed in a row, side by side, enclosing a rectangular space of about twelve feet in width from out to out, and about twenty-four feet in length, perpendicularly to the epaulment.  A second row is placed within this and touching it.  The area thus enclosed is filled in with earth, to a level with the top of the gabions.  Four rows of large fascines are next laid on the gabions, to support a second tier consisting of one row. The second tier is filled in like the first, and the earth is heaped on top, making the gabionade nearly eight feet high. The work will be expedited by throwing up the greater part of the earth before placing the second tier.  Splinter proof traverses may be made by placing three thicknesses of gabions side by side filled with earth, with a second tier of two thicknesses on top.

Note here that Mahan described two classes of gabionades in this paragraph.  One was a shot proof and the other splinter proof.  The latter using about a third of the materials of the former.

Mahan offered this figure to illustrate a shot proof gabionade, as a type of traverse, in profile:


As described, we see two sets of gabions on each side (four rows total on each side) on the lower tier.  Atop that fascines provide a platform for the second tier, which was two more sets of gabions (two rows on each side).  Those walls defined, the gabionade contained earth providing the mass protecting the gunners.  The result was a twelve foot wide structure (which would run twenty-four feet from the epaulment (or parapet, if you prefer) across the gun platform, which was atop the tread of the banquette. The traverse stood eight feet high, perhaps a little more.  These dimensions were governed by the height of the gun and required dimensions of the platform.  Recall platforms were supposed to run between fifteen and seventeen feet back of the parapet.

However, at the time Mahan was considering pre-war field and siege carriages.  During the war, large Parrotts and Columbiads required adjustments to the formula.  And we see that in the photos taken on Morris Island during the war:


No doubt here, this is Fort Putnam, built atop what was Battery Gregg on Cummings Point. We see a 10-inch Columbiad on the left and a Parrott (8-inch or 6.4-inch) on the right.  Based on the height of the ammunition crates and grape shot, this traverse appears to be twelve to fifteen feet tall.  The traverse is also much longer than specified by Mahan.  However, other photos in the same area demonstrate these traverses were also being used as magazines and shelters.  Thus the larger footprint was partly due to that functional arrangement.  We also see the surface is sod.  Based on engineers’ reports, these were built with gabions but surfaced with earth and sod to prevent the beach sand from blowing away.

An interior view of the works on Morris Island better illustrates the gabionades, or traverses, where not used in conjunction with shelters:


Here we see the breech end of a Parrott (looks to be a 6.4-inch) and the transom of its carriage standing out from behind the traverses.  Note the wood beams sticking out from the traverse on our left.  Such implies a stacking of tiers within, hidden behind that sodded surface.  A presumption here, but I’m pretty sure there were tiers of gabions within.  The Ordnance Manual gives the height of the trunnions on a 10-inch Columbiad wrought iron barbette carriage as 79 inches, or roughly 6.5 feet.  Add to that the height of the gun’s breech over the bore’s center line, and we’d have about 7.5 to 8 feet.  The top of the traverse is just above that breech band, so let’s call it eight to ten feet?  In the background a fellow is posing nicely on the side of anther traverse.  Looks to me he’s about four feet above the platform.  Add his height, and we have a second data point to consider. No rush, just go out and find out who the soldier is, consult his service records to obtain the height, and get back with me…. or let’s just call it as six feet more or less.  So a ten foot tall traverse?

I should also mention here the tactical setting for these traverses.  Readers know well those batteries were subject to counter-battery fire from Confederate guns on Sullivan’s Island and James Island.  And that fire was not some paltry 12-pdr or 3-inch projectiles, rather the largest and heaviest stuff available at the time.  We are talking about 7-inch Brookes, 10-inch Columbiads, and 10-inch mortars.  So stout traverses were certainly needed.

These photos provide a nice redirect to Wheeler’s description of such traverses in his 1882 instruction.  Expanding Mahan’s one paragraph, Wheeler offered over four and a half pages!  So we’ll look at that next week.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 59-60.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – West Virginia Batteries

The section heading reads “Virginia”.  But we know the complicated why that section could not, officially at least, be “West Virginia” for another quarter of record keeping.


From the previous quarter, we saw two lines accounting for infantry serving as artillery.  For the first quarter, 1863, just one.  And that one is easily reconciled.  Company C, Sixth (West) Virginia Infantry was later reorganized as Battery F, 1st West Virginia Artillery come April 1863.  For simplicity here, I’ll adjust that entry line to the later designation:

  • Battery A: At Washington, D.C. with no cannon reported. This battery was in the Artillery Camp of Instruction, Camp Barry.  Captain John Jenks was dismissed in early March, replaced by Lieutenant (later Captain) George Furst. The previous quarter this battery reported six 12-pdr Napoleons. Although a return was filed, and some equipment and small arms were recorded, the battery had temporarily turned in those guns.
  • Battery B: At Winchester, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain John V. Keeper in command of this battery supporting Second Division, Eighth Corps, or Middle Department if you prefer.
  • Battery C: At Stafford Court House, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Wallace Hill commanded this battery. Through the winter, the battery remained part of Third Division, Eleventh Corps.  Before the spring campaigns, the battery became part of the consolidated Eleventh Corps Artillery.
  • Battery D: At Winchester, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain  John Carlin commanded this battery which was also in Second Division, Eighth Corps.
  • Battery E: At Romney, (West) Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.Under Captain Alexander C. Moore this battery supported Campbell’s Fourth Brigade, First Division, Eighth Corps.
  • Battery F: Again, Company C, 6th (West) Virginia Infantry and carried on a line below.  Reporting at Martinsburg, Virginia, with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain Thomas A. Maulsby commanded the battery, supporting Third Brigade, First Divsion, Eighth Corps.
  • Battery G: At Beverly, West Virginia with two 6-pdr field guns and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain Chatham T. Ewing commanded this battery, supporting Averell’s Separate Brigade, Eighth Corps.

Battery H is not mentioned on the report, as it would not be formed until January 1864.

Turning to the ammunition, starting with smoothbores:


As Battery A had apparently temporarily, at least, turned in its cannon, only one battery had smoothbore guns on hand:

  • Battery G: 182 shot, 140 case, and 56 canister for 6-pdr field guns.

Turning to the ammunition for rifled guns, we often associate Hotchkiss with the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Such is the case here:


Three batteries reporting:

  • Battery D: 304 canister, 486 percussion shell, 240 fuse shell,  and 250 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery E: 142 canister, 357 percussion shell,  and 836 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery F: 414 canister, 549 percussion shell, 450 fuse shell, and 1857 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

And on the next page, we can focus just on the Parrott columns:


And those batteries:

  • Battery B: 873 shell, 614 case, and 334 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery C: 810 shell, 270 case, and 114 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery G: 105 shell for 10-pdr Parrott.

No quantities of Schenkl or Tatham’s reported on hand for the quarter.

So we can move on to the small arms:


By battery:

  • Battery A: Fifteen Army revolvers and eighty-five cavalry sabers.
  • Battery B: Seventeen Navy revolvers and fourty-eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: Ten Navy revolvers and nine cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Thirty Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Twenty-nine Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Twenty-five Gallagher carbines, twenty-five .58-caliber pistol carbines, seven Navy revolvers, and seventy-five cavalry sabers.
  • Battery G: Seventeen Army revolvers.

Other than Battery F’s odd assortment of small arms, not many surprises here.

We have two more sections before closing the first quarter of 1863 and will be looking to Vermont and Wisconsin in turn.

Fortification Friday: Some final notes from Wheeler

It’s Black Friday… so the only fortifications you wish to consider are those shopping carts arranged to block the other shoppers from your desired flat screen TV…. So I’ll keep this installment short.

Just a few more points to touch upon from Junius Wheeler’s post-war lessons on field fortifications.  Not so subtly, I’ve beaten the drum that the practice of fortification changed with experiences during the war.  And there were two more specifics that Wheeler mentioned.  First off, if we offer shelter for the troops and magazines for the ammunition, what about the guns?

Shelter for guns, etc. – Shelters are frequently provided for guns, implements, etc.

The thing to be sheltered, its dimensions, and its uses, will regulate the details of construction of the shelter.  The rules applicable for the shelter just described, apply equally to shelters of this class.

While brief, this passage stops short of specificity.  More importantly, Wheeler did not explain why one might place guns under shelter. Implements and other equipment, for sure.  But wouldn’t one want to keep the guns out in battery to fire at the enemy?  Well, maybe that depends on the situation.  Consider that a defender may wish to keep artillery in reserve to be employed as part of a counterattack.  Or perhaps the guns were only run out at certain times or under specific circumstances.  Recall that was the case with mountain howitzers at Fort Sumter (which were setup nightly as deterrence against boat landings).

Another reason to keep the guns under shelter was operations tempo.  Petersburg comes to mind here, and requires more than passing mention.  Recall that before the explosion of the mine, precipitating the Battle of the Crater, Federal artillery moved into positions across that sector of the line. In that case, the Federals spent many days constructing batteries.  But not all the guns were sitting in those batteries while all the other preparations were completed.  Where possible the guns were held off the lines under shelter, waiting for the time to commence the bombardment.  Now the massing, in time and space, of artillery for siege operations was not some new innovation from the Civil War.  That’s not why Wheeler offered a short passage. Rather, what we see is the practice of that massing had reach a level of complexity the instructor saw the need to mention the shelters… at least in brief.

Another note from wartime experience was in regard to construction materials.  We’ve seen Mahan mentioned wood (and derivations to include sticks woven into fascines and such) as the most important material, other than the earth itself, in construction of temporary works.  In the post war teachings, Wheeler maintained the importance of wood, but added more :

Materials used in the construction of shelters. – Timber has been considered to be the material used in the construction of the above shelters.  This material is so abundant in the United States that it can almost always be found in quantities near the work, and can be obtained quickly.  It will therefore be the material chiefly used in temporary fortifications.

No better material can be used for the traverse pieces of these shelters than railroad iron, if it can be obtained.  The form of the rails allows the pieces to be placed in juxtaposition without delay, and the strength of the iron makes the roof better able to resist the shocks of the projectiles, and makes the structure more durable in its character.

Certainly, we’ll get no argument, iron is stronger than wood.  Railroad iron, because of form, was most handy…. where obtainable, and not otherwise needed for its intended purpose.

But that brings up another aspect of these temporary, field fortifications and a transformation seen on the battlefield.  Prior to the Civil War, the instruction assumed armies in campaigns would march forth and depend upon trains of supply wagons to follow. That logistic tail could be ponderous and difficult, depending on the terrain.  In fact, some terrain would restrict or even prohibit campaigns.  Under such paradigm, a well placed salient fortification might be difficult for the enemy to get at without strenuous logistic effort.  Reach might exceed grasp.

Likewise, the defender might find supplying remote posts strenuous.  Although defenders could afford to conserve resources, perhaps only building limited works at remote points, logistics governed the size and strength of those works.

But the arrival of the “iron horse” changed campaigning.  Armies could receive supply in bulk, with in most cases less than a couple days wagon ride from a railhead.  By the end of the war, the campaigns followed, if not focused upon, the railroads.  And this meant an attacker was far more likely to arrive at that remote point in strength.  It also meant the defender could move mobile reserves.  Such justified more elaborate works those remote points.  Consider that in regard to placement of heavy Parrott rifles at Harpers Ferry.  Or Confederate intents to place 10-inch columbiads overlooking the Cumberland Gap.

Yes, I’m wandering far off from Wheeler’s lesson plan.  But circling back to a point.  The Civil War experience changed the way military professionals planned to fight the next war… even replacing, in part, Mahan’s textbooks.

( Citations from Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 143-4.)

Thanksgiving, 1862: Saxton’s proclamation

But there was more than just feasting and festivities for Thanksgiving Day that year.  Brigadier-General Rufus Saxton, Military Governor, Department of the South,  issued a “Proclamation, for a day of Public Thanksgiving and Praise”:

I hereby appoint and set apart Thursday, the Twenty-seventh Day of November, as a day of public thanksgiving and praise; and I earnestly recommend to the Superintendents of Plantations, Teachers, and Freedmen in this Department, to abstain on that day from their ordinary business, and assemble in their respective places of worship, and render praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the manifold blessings and mercies he has bestowed upon us during the past year; and more especially for the signal success which has attended the great experiment for freedom and the rights of oppressed humanity, inaugurated in the Department of the South.  Our work has been crowned with glorious success. The hand of God has been in it, and we have faith to believe the recording angel has placed the record of it in the Book of Life.

You freedmen and women have never before had such cause for thankfulness.  Your simple faith has been vindicated.  “The Lord has come” to you, and has answered your prayers.  Your chains are broken.  Your days of bondage and mourning are ended, and you are forever free.  If you cannot yet see your way clearly in the future, fear not; put your trust in the Lord, and He will vouchsafe, as he did to the Israelites of old, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, to guide your footsteps “through the wilderness,” to the promised land.

I therefore advise you all to meet and offer up fitting songs of thanksgiving for all these great mercies which you have received, and with them, forget not to breathe an earnest prayer for your brethren who are still in bondage.

Given at Beaufort, S.C., this ninth day of November, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two.

This proclamation was pure Rufus Saxton.  We don’t remember Saxton for his military deeds (though, there was much that a casual observer overlooks…).  Rather we remember his role with the freedmen.  Indeed, Saxton should rightly be seen as the architect of “forty acres and a mule.”  It is not hard to take this Thanksgiving proclamation and logically walk over to Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15.

All of which brings me to that last sentence.  I will often trim out the flourishes and such to focus on the important parts of the text. But that line is significant, considering some events taking place here in 2016. Saxton issued this Thanksgiving for freedom (still weeks ahead of the Emancipation Proclamation, mind you) from Beaufort, South Carolina.  And Beaufort is in the news these days as an effort to designate sites in that area as a national monument, with focus on Reconstruction.

Beaufort would be a good selection for a Reconstruction-focused national monument. There is a story to be told. My hope is that, for full understanding of that story, the complete arc from Civil War to Civil Rights is explored within the scope of such a monument.  Saxton’s proclamation and many more of his efforts deserve mention as part of that story.

Thanksgiving at Fort Pulaski, November 1862

I’ve always been fascinated with stories of how soldiers marked Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Those being holidays with religious backdrops, lacking the civic tones seen with some other holidays, the observances tend to move individuals away from soldierly thoughts.  Thanksgiving, in particular, asks the soldier to think about what he (or now days, she) is thankful for.  Away from home; in deplorable conditions; performing difficult, if not dangerous, work… what’s to be thankful for?  But in my experience, soldiers always find a way to reconcile the holiday with their situation.

Consider the Federal troops garrisoning coastal outposts in South Carolina and Georgia in the autumn of 1862.  They were posted to some backwater theater.  More of their comrades fell victim to disease than bullets.  They’d suffered through a summer and fall of setbacks in the field.  And the winter months promised no respite.  But men of the posted to Fort Pulaski found a way to reconcile their situation with the observance of Thanksgiving that November, as the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery historian recalled:

The day of national Thanksgiving – first made national by President Lincoln – one of the good, unforeseen results of the war, was joyfully hailed in the army as it was at our homes.  For its observance, and to enjoy a day of relaxation from the stern duties of war, a program was arranged for a “Grand Thanksgiving Fete and Festival, given by the Officers of the Garrison of Fort Pulaski, Ga., Nov. 27, 1862.”

Invitations were sent to different parts of the Department, and especially to Hilton Head.  The day was propitious and cool. Three steamers conveying guests from Hilton Head reached the fort at noon, and found a cheering reception.  At the entrance of the fort was an arch with the emblazoned word “Welcome.”….

Ft Pulaski 3 Aug 11 1330

Over the sally-port was the name “Mitchell,” suitably draped, and near by the names “Brannan” and “Terry.”….

Fort Pulaski 5 May 10 196

Over the officers’ quarters and the doors of the casemates were mottoes, wreaths, arches, and stars; and the walls were festooned.  All needful preparations had been made for “a feast of reason and flow of soul.”

Savannah 5 May 10 225

In addition to the feast, the garrison conducted “festive exercises, amusements, and enjoyments“:

Target Practice. – three competitors from each company.  Distance 200 yards. Best string in three shots each.  First prize – Gold Medal, valued at $25. Second prize – Silver Medal, valued at $15. Third prize – Bronze Medal, valued at $10.

Rowing Match. – Distance one mile around a stake-boat and return. First prize – Purse of $10.  Second prize – purse of $5. Third prize – Purse of $2.50.

Hurdle Sack Race. – 100 yards and return; over three hurdles 50 yards apart and 18 inches high.  First prize – Purse of $10. Second prize – Purse of $5.

Wheelbarrow Race. – Competitors blindfolded, trundling a wheelbarrow once across Terre-plein.  First prize – Purse of $10.  Second prize – Purse of $5.

Meal Feat. – Exclusively for Contrabands; hands tied behind the back, and to seize with the teeth a $5 gold piece dropped in a tub of meal.  Six competitors to be allowed five minutes each to accomplish the feat.  Prize, $5.

Greased Polk. – Pole to be 15 feet high.  Prize, $10.

Greased Pig. – To be seized and held by the tail. Three competitors from each company.  Prize, pig.

Burlesque Dress Parade. – Each Company will be allowed to enter an equal number of competitors for each prize.


The chronicler mentioned the most applause came for the sack race and meal feat. “When one of the wolly-headed contraband boys raised the $5 from the flour, the cheers rent the air.”  He also observed, “The mock dress-parade was inimitably comic

The festivities included a proper dress parade, in proper uniform, by the garrison.  And later that evening a ball.  The 3rd Rhode Island Minstrel Band and 48th New York band played at intervals throughout the day and into the evening.

… The officer’s table, near a hundred feet in length, was on the terre-plein.  Company G [3rd Rhode Island] had a superb table in their quarters – four casemates – lighted with four chandeliers; while the walls were decorated with wreaths and illuminated with mottoes; “Maj. Gen. Burnside, the R.I. hero;” “Maj.Gen. George B. McClellan (likeness) Commander-in-Chief of the U.S.A.;” “Colonel N.W. Brown. – the father of the Regiment – we mourn his loss;” “3rd R.I.H.A.., Co. G., Slocum Avengers;” “Lieut. Blanding, the star of the R.I. Boys,” “Gov. Sprague (seal of the State).”  It may be guessed that the spoils of Bluffton aided in setting out the tables and furnishing the quarters.  The piano as well as the minstrel band performed for the “light fantastic toe.” Oyster suppers, pies, lemonade – if nothing more spirited – kept up the evening cheer and rounded out the  rare Thanksgiving-day.

But there was more than just feasting and festivities for Thanksgiving Day that year. While the soldiers were reconciling their thankfulness with service far removed from their homes, there were many experiencing a Thanksgiving for the first time.  Brigadier-General Rufus Saxton, the Military Governor of the Department of the South, issued a proclamation in that regard.  And that proclamation deserves separate, focused treatment… which I’ll save for a post of its own.  For now, let us consider all the activities of that day in 1862 as the soldiers observed Thanksgiving.

And let us also consider us, now 154 years removed from those festivities, the place where the soldiers celebrated.  We can visit that place today and walk the battlefield that was turned into garrison.  And we can look upon the places where these games and the feast took place.  We can be thankful that Fort Pulaski survived Hurricane Matthew, though requiring repairs, for future generations.

(Citations from Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, pages 125-6.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Rhode Island’s Light Batteries

When transcribing the summary statements, I like to see clean entries where clerks have recorded returns for all listed batteries.  Such reduces questions to some manageable level.  And that is what we see with the Rhode Island volunteers for the first quarter, 1863:


Not exactly crisp, however.  We see one entry was delayed until 1864.  And we have two station entries that are blank.  Still, better than many we’ve encountered.  As with the previous quarter, we have two parts to consider for the Rhode Island artillerymen.  We start with the 1st Rhode Island Artillery Regiment:

  • Battery A: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain William A. Arnold remained in commanded this battery,  supporting Second Division, Second Corps.
  • Battery B: No station given, but with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Battery was also assigned to Second Division, Second Corps and was thus also at Falmouth.  When Captain  John G. Hazard became the division’s artillery chief, Lieutenant T. Frederick Brown assumed command (the move occurred at the end of the winter months).
  • Battery C: No station given, but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Richard Waterman commanded this battery, assigned to First Division, Fifth Corps. The battery was also in the Falmouth area.
  • Battery D: At Lexington, Kentucky  with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain  William W. Buckley commanded this battery assigned to Second Division, Ninth Corps.  Recall this division was among the troops dispatched wet to Kentucky, with Burnside, during the winter months.
  • Battery E: At Falmouth with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain Pardon S. Jastram’s battery remained with First Division, Third Corps.
  • Battery F: At New Berne, North Carolina with six 10-pdr Parrotts (shed of two howitzers reported in the last quarter). Captain James Belger commanded this battery, part of the Artillery Brigade, Eighteenth Corps.
  • Battery G: Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Assigned to Third Division, Second Corps, then at Falmouth.  Captain George W. Adams assumed command prior to the Chancellorsville Campaign.
  • Battery H: At Union Mills, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Assigned to Casey’s Division, Twenty-second Corps from the Defenses of Washington.  Captain Jeffrey Hazard commanded this battery.

Moving down a lot of blank lines, we have one battery from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery that was serving in the light artillery capacity:

  • Company C: At Beaufort, South Carolina with four 12-pdr field howitzers, having turned in it’s mix of Parrotts and 24-pdr field howitzers.  Captain Charles R. Brayton was in command, assigned to the Tenth Corps.

The Rhode Island batteries were somewhat uniform, with the few mixed batteries refitting from the previous quarter.  Such makes the ammunition listings predictable:


Four batteries of smoothbores… but only three listings:

  • Battery B: 288 shot, 96 shell, 388(?) case, and 96 canister for Napoleons.
  • Battery E: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for Napoleons.
  • Battery C, 3rd Artillery: 426 shell, 549 case, and 164 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.

So no ammunition reported for Battery D.  And two very suspiciously uniform lines for Battery B and E.  Battery C, by the way, had plenty of ammunition on hand.

Moving to the rifled columns, we saw four batteries with 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Correspondingly, four batteries reported Hotchkiss projectiles in that caliber:


Quantities reported were all for 3-inch rifles:

  • Battery A:  195 canister, 57 percussion shell, 467 fuse shell, and 509 bullet shell.
  • Battery C: 120 canister, 251 percussion shell, 193 fuse shell, and 603 bullet shell.
  • Battery G: 239 canister, 104 percussion shell, 211 fuse shell, and 461 bullet shell.
  • Battery H: 120 canister, 250 percussion shell, 280 fuse shell, and 582 bullet shell.

We saw one battery with Parrott rifles.  And there is one entry line to consider:


  • Battery F: 1,293 shell, 171 case, and 134 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

Yes, 1,293 shells…. 215 shells per gun in that battery.

The only “strays” in this set are on the Schenkl columns:


Two batteries reporting quantities:

  • Battery A: 157 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery G: 181 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifles.

Other than a few open questions (particularly with Battery D, moving to the Ohio Valley, not reporting ammunition on hand) these are “clean”.  So on to the small arms.


By Battery:

  • Battery A: Four Army revolvers, twenty Navy revolvers, and thirty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: Eight Navy revolvers and twelve horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers, twelve Navy revolvers, and eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Seventeen Navy revolvers.
  • Battery F: Sixteen Army revolvers, eighty-eight Navy revolvers, twenty cavalry sabers, and nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Fourteen Army revolvers and eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Twenty Army revolvers and thirty-two horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C, 3rd Artillery: Forty-nine Navy revolvers and 120 cavalry sabers.

There were two batteries included within these summaries which lacked any direct affiliation with the Army of the Potomac (Battery D was leaving that army, being transferred west).  Those two batteries, Battery F and lone heavy battery serving as light, were posted to backwater assignments.  Those two batteries reported a larger quantity of small arms on hand, as they assumed some non-artillery roles in the line of duty.

Fortification Friday: Wheeler’s magazines – experience brings refinement

Last week, we saw that Junius B. Wheeler’s post-war text (for cadets studying fortifications) included an emphasis on building shelters for troops within the fortifications.  Not that the arrangements featured new building techniques.  Rather the emphasis on what was protected, and how it was protected, shifted.  That last post looked at shelters for the troops.  But Wheeler also updated guidance for building magazines to store, and protect, ammunition.  And as with the evolution of troop shelters, there were new classifications of magazines based on operational requirements (realized… as I grid this ax… on wartime experiences):

Powder magazines, etc. – Shelters in which the ammunition and other stores can be placed and kept safe from the effects of the enemy’s fire, are equally important as the shelters for the men.  The most important of these are the powder magazines, or those shelters intended for the storage of the ammunition.

Read between the lines here.  With the title of this section, we see there are more types of magazines than just powder magazines. We’ll get back to the “etc.” later.  Just keep that in mind for now.  Second, notice the change of priorities here.  Writing after the war, Wheeler has elevated the need to shelter men to equal that of the ammunition.  A contrast from the pre-war manuals in which only ammunition shelters were specifically mentioned in detail.

Wheeler continued:

The rules for the construction and location of bomb-proof shelters for men, apply equally to shelters of this class.  The only difference in construction is the size of the shelter, it being much smaller, as a rule, than that required for the use of troops.

This certainly falls within the range described by Mahan in his post-war description of powder magazines.  And we know these were large, elaborate structures that could cover a large area of the fort’s interior.  To that point:

Large magazines are not constructed in ordinary field works.  They take up too much room, and even the best of them are but poor places in which to store ammunition for any length of time.  The usual method adopted is to construct as many service magazines as may be necessary, near the guns to be served by them, making them large enough to contain the amount required for a definite service of the gun or guns to which they belong.

So now we have a new term to discuss.. and part of that “etc.” we held on to earlier:

Service Magazines. – Magazines of this kind are oftentimes built in the adjacent traverses if there be any; generally under the parapet near the guns; and sometimes under the barbettes.

The conditions to be observed in locating and constructing a powder [OR is this service?] magazine are that it shall be conveniently placed; shall not be exposed to direct fire of the enemy; be made bomb-proof; be well drained; and if practicable, be well ventilated.

I put my interjection in the first sentence, as it seems to me Wheeler meant to say “service magazine” in this passage.  But the actual printed text reads “powder magazine.”  And that would be important, as we see a critical functional difference here with service magazines – being conveniently placed!

Wheeler offered that service magazines might be kept above ground:


Or either fully or partly underground: WheelerFig46

The above ground variety is similar to the construction of a powder magazine, in the Mahanian sense.  But the below ground variety offered a few new twists.  Describing a service magazine with passage-way lined with wood frames, Wheeler wrote:

The frames are made of timbers or scantlings of the proper dimensions, each frame consisting of two uprights, called stanchions, a ground sill, and a cap. The interior dimensions of the frame are the same as that of the magazine, or six feet high and six feet wide, the least dimensions given, when practicable, to the width and height of the interior space.

The frames are placed upright, about three feet apart, and in the position which they are to occupy.  Their tops and sides are then planked over; this planking is called the sheeting.

The bottom of the excavation is sloped from the sides to the middle, and from the rear to the front, to allow all water leaking through the magazine to collect in a shallow trench mad along the middle line, and to run off into a drain prepared to receive it, or into a dry well dug near the entrance.  The ground sills are then floored with boards.

Great care should be taken to make the top watertight, before the earth is placed upon it.  This done, it is covered with several feet of earth depending upon the degree of exposure to which it is subjected….

The entrance to the magazine should be closed by a stout door, and the approach to it should be protected by a splinter-proof.  If field artillery is employed to defend the work, the limber boxes are taken off and placed within the magazines.

What we see here is somewhat a miniature version of Mahan’s pre-war coffer-work magazine, to include use of the same materials and parts (stanchions, sheeting).  And, of course, we have a splinter-proof over the entrance.

Wheeler’s service magazine was placed near the guns.  But notice Wheeler did not bore us with details of the depth of earth protecting this magazine. Granted, being below (or partially below) ground alluded to some protection. More emphasis was placed on protecting the magazine from water and moisture.  If you ask me, this was realization, again based on wartime experience, that the most frequently encountered issue with the magazines was water damage.  If the fort was well arranged, the enemy’s guns wouldn’t be in place long enough to fire on the magazine.  One hopes….

The last sentence does circle back to the protection from enemy fires.  One practice seen within fortifications was to stack ammunition in racks or such.  But with field artillery, storing the ammunition in the chests offers some protection (after all, those were designed to sit in the open on the battlefield!).  Not to mention, allows for rapid transition from “garrison” to “field” if the need arises.

A fine point that we need to keep in mind is that Wheeler’s service magazines were not replacing “ready ammunition” that may be stacked near the gun.  We see those frequently in wartime photos:


Some.. more than others.  Though remember this photo  was taken after Fort Johnson was in Federal hands… so some piles may have been stacked as the service magazines were cleared out. Much more a mess, I would say, were the stacks and piles behind Battery Rosecrans on Morris Island.

So we’ve seen Wheeler discussed shelters for the troops and magazines for the ammunition.  How did he suggest sheltering the guns?  We’ll look at that, and some other innovations based on wartime experience, next.

( Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 139-43.)