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

The wartime service of the 3rd US Artillery was, in my opinion, “cushy”.  Several batteries remained on the west coast.  No doubt a vital assignment, ensuring the gold of California remained secure (and that’s not said with any sarcasm).  But since so much of the regiment served as garrison artillery, that left little to report in the Ordnance Returns. Thus a lot of white space for the 2nd quarter of 1863:

0168_1_Snip_3rdUS

We find only four batteries reported having field artillery tubes on hand!

  • Battery A – At Albuquerque, New Mexico with two 12-pdr field howitzers and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Same as the previous quarter.  And, updating my own notes here, Lieutenant John B. Shinn was in command of this battery (brevetted to captain for his service on the initial campaigns in New Mexico).
  • Battery B – Given the annotation “Infy. Stores.”  The battery remained at Fort Point, San Francisco, California.
  • Battery C – No location given, but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Part of the Second Brigade of the Horse Artillery, Army of the Potomac.  Lieutenant William D. Fuller was in command.  The battery was not on the field at Gettysburg (and thus often left off some order of battle listings) but was with the Second Brigade, Second Division, Cavalry Corps at Westminster, Maryland.
  • Battery D – At Alcatraz Island, California with the annotation “Infy. Stores.”  Captain William A. Winder, of the 3rd US Artillery, commanded the garrison of Alcatraz at this time of the war.  Under his command were Batteries D, H, and I (which we will mention below).
  • Battery E – No return. Serving in the Department of the South, posted to Folly Island, South Carolina at the end of June.  Lieutenant  John R. Myrick was in command.
  • Battery F – At Warrenton Junction, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The location is certainly in error for the June 30th date, but accurate for August when the report was received in Washington.  This battery, combined with Battery K (below), was assigned to the 1st US Regular Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, under Lieutenant John G. Turnbull.  So the location was somewhere between Frederick, Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Battery G – Fort Turnbull, Connecticut  but without any assigned cannon. The battery had been disbanded the previous fall and was being reorganized with new recruits.  Eventually, Lieutenant Herbert F. Guthrie would command, but I am not certain as to the date of his assignment.
  • Battery H – “Infy. Stores” with location as Alcatraz Island, California.
  • Battery I – Also “Infy. Stores” and at Alcatraz Island.
  • Battery K – Annotated as “with Battery F”.  See that battery’s notes above.
  • Battery L – At Columbus, Kentucky with six 10-pdr Parrotts. Combined with Battery M, below.  Captain John Edwards in command.  The battery was assigned to First Division, Ninth Corps.  At the start of the spring was posted to Kentucky.  In early June, the battery moved with its parent division to reinforce Vicksburg.  And after the fall of Vicksburg the battery was part of the pursuit to Jackson, Mississippi.  So a well-traveled battery.
  • Battery M – “With Battery L” at Columbus.  — At Lexington, Kentucky with six 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Lieutenant – “Stores in Charge.”  This line tallied various implements and supplies, apparently assigned to a lieutenant of the regiment, but with no location indicated.

So the service details out of the way, we turn to the ammunition reported on hand, starting with smoothbore ammunition:

0170_1_Snip_3rdUS

Two lines to consider, but not without some notes:

  • Battery A: 148 shot, 112 case, and 216 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 170 shell, 240 case, and 88 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers; and 24 shells for 12-pdr field guns.
  • Battery F & K: 360 shot, 96 shell, 198 case, and 104 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Battery F’s quantities, though with a rather high number of solid shot, are within reason.  But Battery A, out there in New Mexico, held on to ammunition for a pair of 6-pdrs that were no longer on hand.  I’m not going to say the 12-pdr shells there in Albuquerque were for Napoleons or the old 12-pdr heavy field guns.  Regardless, their listing here raises an unresolved question.

Moving to rifled projectiles, we have to consider Hotchkiss types first:

0170_2_Snip_3rdUS

Two batteries up again:

  • Battery A: 96 canister, 144 percussion shell, 110 fuse shell, and 288 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery C: 30 canister and 50 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

We can trim the next page to focus only on the Parrott columns:

0171_1A_Snip_3rdUS

That much traveled battery out at Vicksburg:

  • Batteries L & M: 618 shell, 435 case, and 265 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

And we have but one entry to consider for Schenkl:

0171_2_Snip_3rdUS

  • Battery C: 18 shells for 3-inch rifles.

That last entry fills up, somewhat, the allocation for Battery C.  But one expect to see more.  The report arrived in Washington in November, 1863.

We move last to the small arms:

0171_3_Snip_3rdUS

Hopefully those numbers are legible.  The original lacked clarity in the column lines. And overall the sheet’s quality diminishes towards the bottom of the page.  Here’s what I transcribe:

  • Battery A: Thirteen carbines, eighty-six Army revolvers, seventy-six Navy revolvers, and eighty-seven horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: One carbine, twenty-six Navy revolvers, thirty-five cavalry sabers, and 172 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F & K: Thirteen Navy revolvers and forty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Eighty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L & M: Fifteen Army revolvers and forty-five horse artillery sabers.

I can understand Battery A, out in the far west and given many non-artillery duties, would need carbines, pistols, and sabers.  But Battery C?  That’s a lot of sabers… even for a data entry error!

Petersburg as “Lee’s Keep”- in the grand strategic sense

Another great weekend at Longwood University for the Civil War Seminar (hosted by the university and the Appomattox NHP).  For those who could not attend, CSPAN was on site recording for the morning talks. I’m not sure when those will be rebroadcast, so “consult your local listings.”

Unfortunately, the CSPAN crew did not record the two afternoon sessions.  I say unfortunately because those two blocks were the most thought provoking… at least from my chair.  The “lost” sessions were Dr. Richard J. Sommers with “Enduring Lessons in Leadership from the Siege of Petersburg” and William C. Davis on “Lincoln and Davis as Commanders in Chief.”  I tried to work in as many of the soundbytes and highlights as possible by way of Twitter.  But that cannot replace the full impact of the delivery.  Which… is why I always encourage folks to attend these events in person!

One point from Sommers’ talk that I grabbed and considered on the ride home came from this talking point:

This is not, for those who have studied the 1864 campaigns with any depth, a new interpretation.  However, there were some fine points that Sommers’ introduced that caused me to associate some other details.  And that gave me a new perspective from which to “square” the grand strategic view in my head.  Consider a few of the ancillary points Sommers’ raised:

  • Petersburg was not a traditional siege.  No advancing parallels or batteries of reduction.  Rather Grant attempted to poke, prod, and flank Lee out of the fortifications.  So the actions more closely resembled open field battle than siege warfare. Again, nothing that most readers would say is “new” in the mix.  We know this already.
  • Lee didn’t opt to stay in Petersburg-Richmond due to sound military strategy, but rather because he was “told” to do so.  And, again, nothing new here.  Just throw it in the pot for now to mix with the other parts.
  • The siege of Petersburg prolonged the life of the Army of Northern Virginia by nine months.  Thus an “army in being” was preserved even if at the lower echelons the experience wasted the units.
  • And toward that point, it is said that Lee knew the war was lost as soon as his army took to the trenches… but in justification it is said that Lee didn’t have any alternatives.
  • Alternatives?  Well, Lee was to some degree just following orders.  But we cannot simply commit Lee to that fate saying he was just a good soldier following orders. Lee did have some influence on Confederate national policy and objectives, to be sure.  And we must assess that Lee was in agreement with many of those national polices and agree with the objectives, even if that meant hardship for … and eventual destruction of… his army.
  • However… it was not until near the very end of the war that Lee was granted full control of the Confederate armies (plural) so as to fully enact those national policies and objectives.

So… circle back to a map I ran during the sesquicentennial:

Lees_ConfederacyLateMarch1865

As stated in the original post, the rose colored area was a rough depiction of Lee’s reach – that area in which Lee could expect to influence directly.  As we know, there were many more Confederate troops under arms elsewhere across the South. But Lee had no way of directing them within a timely, responsive manner.  So he could not wield whatever power lay outside that reach.

We might back the time-line up to November 1864 and contemplate what reach the  Confederate “national command authority” (in other words, Davis and his counsel) had in the days prior to Sherman’s march out of Atlanta…. better still, what the Confederates held as of the day after Lincoln’s reelection, which I would submit would be a more important strategic turning point for several reasons.  At that time the rose colored swath of the map would extend to include South Carolina, most of Georgia,  Alabama, and parts of Mississippi and Tennessee, not to mention a larger portion of North Carolina.  A larger area, with larger commitments.

And let’s back that time-line even further back to the summer of 1864.  Such would open the swath of reach to include Atlanta, before its fall, and some important portions of Virginia… namely the Shenandoah Valley and approaches to Richmond.

So… at that time, nine months or so before the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, what was the “plan” as established by the Confederate national command authority?  Well… in a nutshell… the objective was to survive, with the most likely alternative to be taking advantage of war-weariness of the North.  And with that as the strategic plan, the most important resources left to the Confederacy was not territory or cities, but rather having armies in the field.  Yes, armies in the field to fight more campaigns and keep the Federals at bay a little longer.  But more importantly, armies that were a bargaining chip or leverage, with which some considerations might be exacted from those in Washington.

In order for the “bargaining chip” strategy to work for the Confederacy, several things had to work in their favor.  Obviously, the armies had to remain “in being.”  Armies on campaign have a tendency, given combat and attrition, to lose some of that “being.”  Though there were some forays, notably Jubal Early’s run on Washington or Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri, mostly these served the point – the armies in being had to be reckoned with, while disrupting and delaying ongoing Federal operations.

 

That leads to another factor that had to work in the Confederate’s favor.  They needed some pause or delay in Federal operations. The longer the armies in being remained, the more value those assets had within any peace talks.  And as mentioned above, Early’s and Price’s operations certainly caused delays as Federal forces were reallocated to deal with threats.

But there were other ways to bring the Federals to a pause.  Consider what we have discussed recently about fortifications, specifically the notion of a “keep” within the works.  Yes, the keep was the last line of defense within the fort, but it was not a place where the defender went to die when making that last stand.  Rather it was a place from which the defender could force the attacker to pause.  And within that pause, the defender might use the leverage of a “garrison in being” to exact some compensation, hopefully an armistice with honor.

Now translate that to the strategic level.  Maybe we might say General Joseph E. Johnston was transforming Atlanta into a “keep” of sorts.  Some might argue that Johnston fought a series of actions moving from “keep” to “keep” on the way to Atlanta.  But, of course, we know that Johnston’s replacement opted for a more aggressive option which might be called, from a strategic level, a sortie against the attacker.  Heck, we might even carry that notion forward to consider General John B. Hood’s Tennessee Campaign one grand sortie in that light.

Circling back to Virginia, the analogy to the “keep” fits better when applied to Petersburg. With crossing of the James River and initial thrust at Petersburg, Grant had place Federal boots on Richmond’s parapets, strategically speaking.  And at that point, the trenches that ran from Petersburg to Richmond became, at the strategic level, a “keep” from which Lee hoped to exact a pause.  And that was a nine month long pause.

The flip side of that successful “keep” at Petersburg was the corresponding failure to enact a similar pause elsewhere on the map.  All efforts to delay Sherman through Georgia and the Carolinas came to naught.  Savannah, nor Charleston, nor Columbia were effectively transformed into keeps.  Indeed, we might say heavy rains did more to slow Sherman than anything the Confederates attempted by arms.

All this said… I submit one way to view the last nine months of the Confederacy is one of keeping, or not keeping, keeps.  Conversely, we might view the Federal operations in that same span of time as one of occupying outer works and turning keeps.  All of which served to slice and reduce that rose colored area in which the “armies in being” of the Confederacy might be wielded.

Fortification Friday: Square, rectangle, or even a cross – blockhouse forms

Last week, we introduced the blockhouse as an interior structure, perhaps better classified as a facility, within a field fortification.  Allow me to stress again, the context of Mahan’s writings in “Field Fortifications” about blockhouses was scoped to discuss the use of those sort of structures in conjunction with larger works.  It was not to say blockhouses would always be used as such, nor to dismiss other sorts of employment of that fortification type. This particular Mahan lesson (of which there were many, across several manuals, as we must recall) was focused on building a “keep” so the defenders might “keep” something valuable… their lives in the event all was lost.

Having discussed the concept and general layout of the blockhouse, Mahan turned to particulars:

With regard to the details of the construction, the timber for the sides should be twelve inches thick, to resist an attack of musketry, and to resist field-pieces, two feet, in which case the sides are formed of two thicknesses of twelve-inch timber. If the timber is placed upright, each piece should be let into a mortise in the cap-sill; and every fourth piece of the top, at least, should be notched on the cap-sill, to prevent the sides from spreading out.

This would form, in essence, the walls of the blockhouse.  Notice the prescribed thickness, in regard to the expected threat – be that musketry or artillery.  I would add that with the introduction of rifled artillery, the two foot thickness was insufficient.  But there begins a point of diminishing return. How much more timber should one add to the blockhouse, thus subtracting usable interior space, in order to defend against an Ordnance or Parrott rifle?  Ah… a question best addressed when we consider the post-war manuals!  So let’s hold that thought.

I do wish Mahan had included a good illustration of the proposed arrangement of timbers. And I’ve not located any other contemporary illustration to serve.  But the general idea is apparent… perhaps for generations who suffered the splinters from Lincoln Logs, if not so much for those of more recent times and their Lego bricks.  We will revisit the arrangement of timbers in the walls for the post-war manuals.

Moving forward, we need to consider the layout of those walls and how best to arrange the blockhouse in order to meet requirements:

The plan of the block-house must conform to its object generally; it may be square or rectangular.  If flank defenses are required, its play may be that of a cross. The interior height should not be less than nine feet, to allow ample room for loading the musket; this height will require that the timber of the sides shall be twelve feet long, in order to firmly set in the earth.  Sometimes a ground sill is placed under the uprights, but this is seldom necessary.  The width may be only twelve feet in some cases, but it is better to allow twenty feet; this will admit of a camp bed of boards on each side, six-and-a-half feet wide, and free space of seven feet….

So the layout, as seen from above, could be the square form familiar to us from the playsets of yore.  Or could be extended or expanded to use other layouts as tactical needs demanded.  The layout tended to employ right angles, however.  We look back at Figure 44, which is somewhat a cross, in plan:

PlateVIFig44

Notice how the dimensions are governed somewhat by the need to provide space for handling muskets.  Form will follow function.  The most important quality of the blockhouse, as a keep, is to allow the garrison to create a pause in the action, should the parapet be lost.

But “camp bed”?  Yes, that implies a place to sleep. But it was also a defensive arrangement.  “The camp bed serves also as a banquette; it is placed four feet three inches below the loop-hole, and has a slight slope of about eight inches inwards.”  Notice how the interior arrangement is to provide, in terms of wall to wall floor space, for a 6 ½ foot wide camp bed on each side with open space for seven feet between.

Now everything thus far has implied the garrison would only have muskets in the blockhouse.  Let us make arrangements, then, for artillery:

If cannon is to be used for the defense, the width must be at least twenty-four feet; this will allow eighteen feet for the service of the gun, which is generally ample, and six feet for a defense of musketry on the opposite side.  A greater width than twenty-four feet cannot well be allowed, because the bearing would be too great between the sides for twelve inch timber; and even for a width of sixteen feet it would be well to support the top pieces, by placing a girder under them on the shores.

Basically, bigger guns require more space.  So we adjust the arrangements.  But there is a physical limit as to how much more space is allocated.  If a really large blockhouse were built, it would require substantial structural reinforcement.  Better to stick with a single cannon per side, if used at all.

Since these arrangements place emphasis on affording space to handle weapons, be that musket or cannon, we need to discuss the loopholes in detail.  We’ll turn to that in the next installment.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 63-4.)

Hansbrough’s Ridge winter encampment site WILL be preserved!

Last week, Fredericksburg’s Free Lance-Star ran an article by Clint Schemmer, and concurrently run on their website, detailing efforts to preserve a Civil War site on Hansborough’s Ridge, in Culpeper County:

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Civil War Trust and others are working to save Hansbrough’s Ridge, a commanding rampart near Stevensburg that sheltered a big part of the Army of the Potomac in the bitter-cold winter of 1863-64. The site is a Virginia Historic Landmark.

The VOF board voted Thursday to give the trust a $250,000 grant toward preserving the 174-acre site, contingent on a conservation easement being placed on it. The property, which stretches from State Route 3 north almost to Cole’s Hill, includes incredibly well-preserved remnants of soldiers’ camps, field hospitals, defensive trenches and a signal station.

In addition to the VOF grant, a pledge from the American Battlefield Protection Program and the seller leave the Civil War Trust and other preservationists within a short reach of closing this deal.  Clint’s article states around $50,000 would be needed to reach the sale price.

Hansbrough’s Ridge is one of those “lesser known” and “off the beaten path” sites where one can actually SEE history in situ.  Specific to its “battlefield” status, significant action played out across Hansbrough’s Ridge during the battle of Brandy Station.   Later in the same year of the war, the ridge became the winter home for portions of the Army of the Potomac’s Second Corps.  From late December, 1863 through the first days of May, 1864, soldiers lived on the Hansbrough’s Ridge.  When they broke camp there, they marched southeast towards the Rapidan River and the infamous Wilderness of Central Virginia.  Those steps down Hansbrough’s Ridge were the first of the Overland Campaign.

What makes Hansborough’s Ridge so remarkable is, in part due to remoteness from populated sections of the county and also in part due to geology of the ridge, the campsite was left unchanged for decades.  As the article notes:

Virginia historians say they know of only one surviving place from the war’s Eastern Theater that is somewhat comparable. It’s the 41-acre Stafford County Civil War Park, which holds three earthen forts and the remains of winter huts that Union troops built to warm themselves in the winter of 1862–63, a transformative time that many called their army’s “Valley Forge.”

Similarly, the following winter was important to resting and refitting soldiers of the Army of the Potomac who had been fighting for two years, and to drilling new recruits.

“Pristine” is a word often overused, in my opinion, in regard to Civil War sites.  There are precious few sites that are, by definition, pristine.  I can say that Hansbrough’s Ridge is absolutely the closest I’ve seen to pristine in my forty years of visiting Civil War sites.  In my visits, I’ve seen hut sites … not rock piles that were hut sites… but the actual hut sites with the walls as clearly defined as the day the soldiers left.  Some of these localities were captured in wartime photographs, offering vital context to what we see on the ground today.

I’m hesitant to post a lot of photos of the site, pending closure and firm security of the site from trespassing.  But allow me to offer one:

HR WE Site 037

We know, based on accounts of the soldiers who stayed on Hansbrough’s Ridge, were those bricks likely came from.  But that’s just the “thread” to follow here.  It will bring us to the larger story of how those soldiers lived; what they experienced; and most importantly, why they spent a cold, lonely winter on a ridgetop in Virginia.

That story is not just one of artifacts or rock-piles, but the context of their presence.  There are other reminders – in place, mind you – that speak of the haste as the soldiers broke camp that spring.  All of which is why this is an important site to preserve.  This site needs to be studied – properly and professionally – not looted by those who would “relic hunt” thus removing context from the artifacts.  You see, it is the RIDGE itself, and not some solitary button or dropped musket ball, that will tell this story.  The whole RIDGE.

And with a broader vision, we consider the efforts to preserve Hansbrough’s Ridge in light of efforts to create a state park for Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain Battlefields.  I can see a time when visitors can contemplate both battlefield and encampment while touring Culpeper’s Civil War sites.

Fortification Friday: Blockhouses as Safety Redoubts in the Fort

When I say “blockhouse” many of you might be thinking about favorite childhood playsets:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Certainly suitable for the defense of the bedroom in the face of the elite Confederate Plastic Brigade, or perhaps the indigenous Plastikawi tribe.  But… something that could not hold against the Green Army Men armed with bazookas and flamethrowers.

Kidding aside, the playset fort is pattered after real structures from American history.  The blockhouse was not unique to America, as it was a form brought over by Europeans.  However, the blockhouse became the preferred fortification on the North American continent from colonial times right up to the 20th century.  Blockhouses work well in situations where the enemy is unlikely to possess anything larger than light artillery.  The interior of the blockhouse was easily adapted into living quarters.  Conversely, living quarters (houses) might be easily adapted into a blockhouse.  Those, and other qualities, made that form of fortification popular on the frontier.

The popular image of a blockhouse is something made of wood.  But stone, or even adobe, might be used instead.  Since wood was in abundance on the early American frontier, we tend to see a lot of structures like this one:

Ft King George 3 Aug 11 1273

This is recreation of Fort King George, Darien, Georgia (a place with many, many layers of history).  In this particular case, the blockhouse served several roles – a high observation platform over the marsh, a platform for covering fire to protect approaches to the fort, and, in the event the works were overwhelmed, a final defense for the fort’s garrison.

It is that last function that Mahan had in mind when considering interior arrangements for field fortifications.  Blockhouses were a structure that could be used for what he called “safety redoubts”:

Safety Redoubt.  In enclosed works a place of retreat, into which the troops may retire in safety after a vigorous defense of the main work, will remove the fears of the garrison for the consequences of a successful attack of the enemy, and will inspire them with confidence to hold out to the last moment.

This interior work, which may be very properly be termed the keep, can only be applied to works of large interior capacity.  It may be formed of earth, or consist simply of a space enclosed by a defensive stoccade, or palisading.  In either case it should be about four feet higher than the main work, to prevent the enemy from obtaining a plunging fire in it from the parapet of the main work.

Let us pause here before going to Mahan’s formal introduction of the blockhouse.  This “hold out to the last” is a notion steeped in 19th century presumptions about how a siege would play out.  A garrison “holding out” would force the enemy to make a direct attack on the parapet… in other words, to get up close, personal, and… well… very violent with the defender.  And in that violent melee, the defender was not exactly in a position to call a “time out”.

The safety redoubt, or keep, was a place to retreat and, more importantly, force a pause in the action.  And from the keep, within that pause, the defender might negotiate a cessation of the fight, with honor.  Thus we see how that might allay fears of “consequences” for the garrison.

That in mind, Mahan offered his preference for the keep:

The best arrangement for the keep is the construction termed the block-house. This work is made of heavy timber, either squared on two sides or four; the pieces which form the sides of the block-house are either laid horizontally, and halved together at the ends, like an ordinary log-house, or else they are placed vertically, side by side, and connected at the top by a cap-sill. The sides are arranged with loop-hole defenses; and the top is formed by laying heavy logs, side by side, of the same thickness as those used for the sides, and covering them with earth to the depth of three feet.

Mahan offered this figure as an example of a blockhouse:

PlateVIFig43

This perspective is looking at the blockhouse along with a cross section of adjacent works and structures.  Rather busy.  This section is along the line a-b from Figure 44:

PlateVIFig44

The combined caption reads:

Figs. 43,44. Shows the plan and section of a block-house of upright timber.  The plan is made to exhibit a portion of the top complete; the timber covering the top; the arrangement of the cap pieces; a plan of the loop-holes; and a plan of the camp-bed. Fig. 43 exhibits, in a like manner, a cross section of the block-house and ditch; with interior and exterior elevation.

We will go into the particulars for construction in later posts.  What is important to identify here is the functional nature of this blockhouse.  Just as with the colonial-era Fort King George, we see a blockhouse adjacent to a ditch and other defensive structures.  One might say the blockhouse filled up the fort’s interior.

For an attacker, this presents a serious tactical problem.  One might defeat the defender on the parapet.  But the parapet would be a dangerous place to make a living with the blockhouse overlooking all. So you see where a “pause” would be in order.

Keep in mind, within this discussion of keeps, Mahan was not stating or suggesting that blockhouses only be constructed within and in conjunction with elaborate field works.  Rather that he offered that a blockhouse was a structure that served well as a keep inside a larger set of works.  We see that usage applied by his students during the Civil War.  Looking back again to Fortress Rosecrans:

FortressRosecrans

We see Redoubts Schofield, Brannan, T.J. Wood, and Johnson within the interior.  One wartime report described the arrangement as, “… strong against attack, being defended by large keeps, which deliver their fire upon every part of the interior.”  I would further add that most of the lunettes on the perimeter of this vast fortress included blockhouses.  So there were multiple “keeps” within a depth of the defense.  Keep in mind the scale of this fortress.  The safety redoubts, named above, were armed with 30-pdr Parrotts and 8-inch siege howitzers.  The Confederates would need to bring a large amount of iron in order to suppress the fort’s garrison.

But the size of this work was perhaps its weak point.  After the Army of the Cumberland moved further south, through the summer of 1863, there the need to keep this fortification in order was taxing, in terms of manpower. An 1865 report suggested all be reduced to simple blockhouses covering the bridge and depots.

That circles back to the point about blockhouse usage.  As said before, Mahan was not suggesting the only place to use a blockhouse was as a fort’s keep. But as his text was focused on field fortifications, the focus was on that function.  We will see blockhouses enter the conversation in regard to detached defenses in particular.  Furthermore, the post-war instructions would place more emphasis on the detached, singular blockhouse.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 62-3; OR, Series I, Volume XLIX, Part 2, Serial 104, page 502.)

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

The batteries of the 2nd US Artillery saw varied service during the Civil War – across several theaters of war and with several different assignments.  We saw examples of that service from the previous quarterly summaries.  Moving from winter into spring, the nature of the 2nd’s service remained… in a word… varied.

0168_1_Snip_2ndUS

We might also say the 2nd was orderly.  All returns filed were posted between July and October of 1863 (excepting, as you see above, that of Battery F).  However there are some blanks to fill in and some clarifications to make:

  • Battery A – Reporting from Warrenton Junction, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The location is certainly reflecting the August 10, 1863 receipt date, as we know for a fact this battery was just outside Gettysburg on June 30. As most readers likely know, after Chancellorsville and reorganization with the Horse Artillery, Captain John C. Tidball took over the freshly constituted 2nd Brigade of the Horse Artillery.  That brigade would include his old battery.  Lieutenant John H. Calef would famously command this battery when it went into action, July 1, 1863, on McPherson’s Ridge. And of course, one of those six Ordnance rifles is still out there today.
  • Battery B – Reporting at Taneytown, Maryland with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.   This was actually combined Batteries B and L (see below).  The battery was assigned to Second Brigade of the Horse Artillery, which was commanded it’s old commander, Captain James M. Robertson. Lieutenant Albert Vincent commanded the battery during the spring.  However, for the Gettysburg Campaign, Lieutenant Edward Heaton held the command.
  • Battery C – Port Hudson, Louisiana with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery was part of Fourth Division, Nineteenth Corps. Lieutenant Theodore Bradley commanded.
  • Battery D – “In the field, VA” with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Where else should a battery of Napoleons be?  Maybe a better description would be “on the way to Gettysburg.”  Battery D was assigned to Sixth Corps and commanded by Lieutenant Edward D. Williston.
  • Battery E –  [Illegible], Mississippi with six 20-pdr Parrott Rifles. While I cannot identify the placename, this battery was part of the Second Division, Ninth Corps, which had been sent from Kentucky to Vicksburg.  Lieutenant Samuel N. Benjamin remained in command.
  • Battery F – No report. Lieutenant Charles Green remained in command.  The battery moved to the District of Memphis, of the Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery G – Reporting at Warrenton Junction, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.   The battery remained with Sixth Corps, and was among the mass of men moving towards Gettysburg at the end of June.  Lieutenant John H. Bulter was in command.
  • Battery H – Assigned to Fort Barrancas, Florida as garrison artillery.  We see “Infty. stores” indicated with no artillery equipment reported.  Captain Frank H. Larned was in command.
  • Battery I – Fort McHenry, Maryland.  No field artillery reported.  Lieutenant James E. Wilson commanded.
  • Battery K – Fort Pickens, Florida on garrison artillery assignment.  Captain Harvey A. Allen had command of this battery.
  • Battery L – We see a description “with Battery B” but with a location of [Illegible] City,  Maryland.  The Battery reported no cannon.
  • Battery M – No location given, but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Assigned to 1st Brigade, Horse Artillery.  And like others, the location might be summarized as “on the way to Gettysburg.”  Lieutenant A.C.M. Pennington resumed command, replacing Lieutenant Robert Clarke, after the Chancellorsville Campaign.

With at least some of the blanks filled in and questions answered, let us move on to the ammunition reported on hand.  Here we find a rather clean set of entries:

0170_1_Snip_2ndUS

Three batteries with Napoleons, so we have three lines to consider:

  • Battery C: 96 shot, 128 shell, 160 case, and 128 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons
  • Battery D: 273 shot, 110 shell, 321 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery G: 144 shot, 144 shell, 288 case, and 192 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Moving to the next page, we see the Ordnance Rifle batteries had Hotchkiss proejctiles:

0170_2_Snip_2ndUS

  • Battery A: 167 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 136 canister, 574 percussion shell, 307 fuse shell, and 213 bullet shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 72 canister and 185 bullet shells for 3-inch rifles.

Here we have some room for interpretation and conjecture about the numbers, and the reporting process. Batteries A and M would report quantities of Schenkl shells on the later pages, which we will get to.  But we see here those two batteries did not report a substantial quantity of ammunition on hand.  Hard to believe those two batteries, particularly Calef’s, had only a few dozen rounds per gun as of the end of June.  More likely is the reports were filed giving quantities on hand after the battle or at some point during the pursuit phase of the campaign.  But we simply don’t know that for sure.  We must make of the numbers what we can.

One other point I’d raise here is in regard to Battery B.  Reports indicate the battery suffered from a batch of bad shells during the Gettysburg Campaign.  We might speculate there is something beyond just the numbers here also.

Moving over to the next page, we can focus on the Parrott projectiles used by Battery E:

0171_1A_Snip_2ndUS

  • Battery E: 522 shell, 204 case, and 72 canister for 20-pdr Parrott rifles.

Moving to the last page of projectiles, we have a couple of entries for Schenkl:

0171_2_Snip_2ndUS

These make up, somewhat, for the shortages observed for Batteries A and M above:

  • Battery A: 145 shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 389 shells for 3-inch rifles.

Still the aggregate quantities come up short for what one would assume the batteries carried into action at Gettysburg.  Particularly noteworthy is the absence of canister for Battery A.

Lastly we turn to the small arms reported:

0171_3_Snip_2ndUS

By battery:

  • Battery A:  Fourteen Army revolvers, sixty-six Navy revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and seventy-three horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Six Army revolvers, thirteen cavalry sabers, and one horse artillery saber.
  • Battery C: Nineteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Eighteen Arm revolvers and forty-three horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Fifty-two Army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and thirty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Twelve Army revolvers and fifteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: 119 Army revolvers and twenty-six (or is it eighty-six?) horse artillery sabers.

The standout line on this end of the summary, if not the entire summary, is that of Battery A’s small arms.  If this is accurate for June 30, or at least representing what was on hand during the battle of Gettysburg, it is significant. The numbers are similar to that reported the previous quarter…. only indicating a net loss of four cavalry sabers.  I don’t have at my fingertips the personnel returns for Calef’s battery, but clearly most of the men would have had a revolver and a saber.  Such would contradict some assumptions often stated about artillerymen and small arms.

205 Years Ago: The New Madrid Earthquake and repercussions on the Civil War

Yesterday the US Geological Survey posted this reminder to their Facebook page:

The New Madrid Earthquake is well known though mostly as the answer to trivia questions. The presence of a major and active fault line in the middle of the continent is not unusual.  But as it sits in the middle of the United States, it is perhaps one of the most studied such faults.  What most interests me, having lived in that area and having a strong interest in the history, is how the earthquake affected the land in ways still visible today.  Specific to the Civil War, it is that changed landscape we must consider when studying several campaigns.  Most notably the Battle of Island No. 10.

The USGS website (linked in the post above) provides more details about the earthquake.  An important point to understand is the earthquake was not simply one incident on one date.  Yes, the most violent of the quakes was on February 7, 1812 measuring 7.5 in magnitude.  But that was just one among over 200 recorded between December 16, 1811 and March 15, 1812, “… ten of these were greater than about 6.0; about one hundred were between M5.0 and 5.9; and eighty-nine were in the magnitude 4 range.”  The quakes caused major damage across parts of the central Mississippi Valley.  Shaking was observed as far away as Washington and other cities on the Atlantic Coast.  In short, this was a “big one.” But at the time, the location was among the westernmost settlements in the United States.  So it was not as bad as it could have been – one recorded death in the sparsely populated region.

In terms of physical affects, the web article summarizes:

The earthquakes caused the ground to rise and fall – bending the trees until their branches intertwined and opening deep cracks in the ground. Deep seated landslides occurred along the steeper bluffs and hillslides; large areas of land were uplifted permanently; and still larger areas sank and were covered with water that erupted through fissures or craterlets. Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore. High banks caved and collapsed into the river; sand bars and points of islands gave way; whole islands disappeared. Surface fault rupturing from these earthquakes has not been detected and was not reported, however. The region most seriously affected was characterized by raised or sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and large landslides that covered an area of 78,000 – 129,000 square kilometers, extending from Cairo, Illinois, to Memphis, Tennessee, and from Crowley’s Ridge in northeastern Arkansas to Chickasaw Bluffs, Tennessee. Only one life was lost in falling buildings at New Madrid, but chimneys were toppled and log cabins were thrown down as far distant as Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, and in many places in Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee.

And I would point out that many of those affects are still visible today.  Driving through the area, one will often see discolored patches of sandy soil marking the location of a fissure or sand-blow.  However, one very notable remnant of this quake was large subsidence in Tennessee:

A notable area of subsidence that formed during the February 7, 1812, earthquake is Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, just east of Tiptonville dome on the downdropped side of the Reelfoot scarp. Subsidence there ranged from 1.5 to 6 meters, although larger amounts were reported.

If you refer to the map embedded with the post above, Reelfoot Lake is just to the upper right of the bold Reelfoot Fault line, on the Tennessee side of the Mississippi River.  Where the river crosses the fault line is the area where Island No. 10 was located. I’ve written some on Island No. 10 in the past. Specifically how the topography has changed between 1862 and today, thanks in some part to work aimed at keeping the river in check.

But reflecting back to the earthquakes of 1811-12, there is another geographic and geologic component to consider.  Reelfoot Lake and the expansion of similar low areas on the Missouri side created a natural barrier.  One of my favorite contemporary illustrations to use when discussing the topography around Island No.10, New Madrid, and Reelfoot Lake is this one:

MississippiRiver1850cropped

Yes, horribly stylized with exaggerated features.  But the point is served, between Crowley’s Ridge and the Tennessee River lay a vast area of swamps and lowlands, interrupted at intervals with high ground such as the Chickasaw Bluffs.  These swamps inhibited transit on land, making the river a vital transportation and communication artery.

When studying terrain as it relates to military campaigns, normally we are drawn to mountains were passes become key terrain features that might be easily defended.  But in this case the “passes” are in fact waterways. And therefore we see a natural barrier that might be defended – not with fortifications cited on lofty purchases – but by batteries carefully placed on narrow strips of dry land to contest the passage of ships.  The Federals could not by-pass Island No.10 and its associated batteries due to the expanse of swamp.  Eventually, the key to unlocking this barrier lay in cutting a passage through the swamps.  And that effected, Reelfoot Lake turned from a feature anchoring the Confederate right flank, into a roadblock preventing retreat.  You see, those areas of subsidence caused by the New Madrid Earthquake figured prominently in the course of a major campaign.

And those were formed 205 years ago as the earth around New Madrid, Missouri shook.