Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – New York Independent Batteries (Part 3)

Time to “close out” the New York Independent Battery summaries for first quarter, 1863 by looking at the last set – the 25th and higher:


Like a half empty ammunition chest!  The Ordnance Department recorded batteries numbered up to the 32nd.  And we see only the 25th, 27th, and 32nd gave returns.  So we should make short work of this set.  But since we are here… Dyer’s reminds us New York offered thirty-six of these independent batteries by war’s end.  Let’s give a full accounting of those just to round out the list:

  • 25th Battery: Reporting at New Orleans, Louisiana with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain John A. Grow remained in command of this hard-luck battery.  Recovered from a shipwreck in transit to New Orleans, the battery went into the defenses of the city as part of the Nineteenth Corps.
  • 26th Battery: No return.  Also a shipwreck survivor!  Captain George W. Fox’s battery was also listed in the New Orleans defenses.  Very likely the battery had not been reequipped for field service by the spring of 1863.
  • 27th Battery: At Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Under Captain John B. Eaton, this relatively new battery was still training up to standards at the start of spring 1863.
  • 28th Battery: No return. This battery would spend the war at Fort Schuyler, New York.  Captain Cyprian H. Millard is listed as commander.
  • 29th Battery: No return. Formerly, Battery A, 1st New York Light Artillery Battalion. This battery was assigned to the Army of the Potomac’s Artillery Reserve, likely retaining its four 20-pdr Parrotts. Returns from the period list Lieutenant Gustav Von Blucher as commander, but Captain Otto Diedrich was listed on the battery rolls.
  • 30th Battery: No return.  Re-designation of Battery B, 1st New York Light Artillery Battalion. Also with the Artillery Reserve at this time, and also a battery with four 20-pdr Parrotts.  Captain Adolph Voegelee commanded.
  • 31st Battery: No return.  And this was old Battery C of that New York light battalion.  Also assigned four 20-pdr Parrotts.  This battery’s history is somewhat vague.  Captain Robert Langner remained battery commander. But the battery does not appear on Army of the Potomac rolls at the end of the winter.  However, the battery appears to have taken nine casualties during the Chancellorsville Campaign.
  • 32nd Battery: At Martinsburg, (West) Virginia, and reporting six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  The location is valid for the June 1864 reporting date.  Starting the spring of 1863, the battery was still with the Army of the Potomac’s Artillery Reserve. Captain Charles Kusserow gave way to Lieutenant George Gaston, temporary, at the start of spring.
  • 33rd Battery:  Not listed.  This battery would not muster until September 1863.
  • 34th Battery: Not listed. Recall, this is the re-designation for Battery L, 2nd New York Heavy.
  • 35th Battery: Not listed. Recruiting of this battery started in July 1863 but never progressed far.  Battery never formally organized and those recruited transferred to the 16th New York Heavy Artillery.
  • 36th Battery: Not listed. Another battery authorized in the summer of 1863.  And it also failed to organize.  Recruits sent to the 13th New York Heavy Artillery.

So much for administrative histories.  As you see, we should have eight returns and probably twenty-six gun tubes to discuss.  Instead, we have three returns and fourteen cannon.  Of those, only one smoothbore battery to report ammunition:


  • 27th Battery: 229 shot, 62 shell, 254 case, and 72 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Moving to those 3-inch rifles, Hotchkiss was issued:


  • 25th Battery: 80 canister, 60 percussion shell, 300 fuse shell, and 300 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 32nd Battery: 120 canister, 600 percussion shell, and 480 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

How about Dyer’s, James’, Parrott’s, and Schenkl’s?





But there were small arms to report:


  • 25th Battery: Eighteen horse artillery sabers, perhaps saved from the shipwreck of January 9, 1863.
  • 27th Battery:  Nineteen Army revolvers, thirty cavalry sabers, and ten horse artillery sabers.
  • 32nd Battery: Nine Army revolvers, forty-four cavalry sabers, and eighteen foot artillery swords.

Thus we round out the New York Independent Batteries.  The unit’s service varied.  Some of these batteries stood at pivotal moments of the war.  Others, as we have seen from administrative accounting, were posted well out of the war.

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – New York Independent Batteries (Part 2)

Continuing with the first quarter, 1863 summaries for the New York Independent Batteries, the second batch consists of batteries numbered 13 to 24:


Compared to the first twelve batteries, the second set exhibits more variation in armament… just a little:

  • 13th Independent Battery: At Brook’s Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain  Julius Dieckmann commanded.  Battery assigned to First Division, Eleventh Corps.
  • 14th Independent Battery: No return.  As related for last quarter’s return, this was more a paper designation, which was never fully activated.  Personnel of the battery were distributed for service in other batteries at the time.  The battery  would not be officially struck until the fall of 1863.
  • 15th Battery:  Reporting at Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.   The battery was assigned to the Artillery Reserve, under Captain Patrick Hart.
  • 16th Battery: In Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. with six 10-pdr Parrott Rifles. Originally Dickinson’s Light Artillery, this battery was under Captain Frederick L. Hiller and posted to the Artillery Camp of Instruction.  The battery would transfer to Seventh Corps in April.
  • 17th Battery: Minor’s Hill, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain George T. Anthony’s battery was part of Abercrombie’s Division, defending Washington.
  • 18th Battery: At Opelousas, Louisiana with six 20-pdr Parrotts.  Assigned to Second Division, Nineteenth Corps at the time.  Captain Albert G. Mack retained command. The battery was around New Orleans at the start of spring 1863.  Opelousas was their location the following summer, corresponding to the report’s receipt date of August 1864.
  • 19th Battery: Another battery in Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. Reporting six 12-pdr Napoleons.   Posted to the Camp of Instruction under Captain William H. Stahl.
  • 20th Battery: No report. Captain  B. Franklin Ryer’s battery was assigned to Fort Schuyler, New York.
  • 21st Battery: Indicated at Port Hudson, Louisiana with four 3-inch steel guns. Actually, in the spring of 1863, this battery was in New Orleans, under Captain  James Barnes, on garrison duty.  I am at a loss to definitively identify the 3-inch steel guns. Perhaps, Sawyer 3-inch rifles?
  • 22nd Battery: Indicated as “Attached to Ninth Artillery.”  By February the battery became Company M, 9th New York Heavy Artillery.
  • 23rd Battery: Washington, North Carolina with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The redesignation from Battery A, New York Rocket Battalion was not official until February 1863. Captain Alfred Ransom was in charge of this battery, assigned to the Eighteenth Corps, Department of North Carolina.
  • 24th Battery: At Plymouth, North Carolina with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Likewise, Battery B of the Rocket Battalion was not “officially” the 24th Battery until February 1863.  This battery was under Captain J. E. Lee and was also assigned to the Eighteenth Corps.

Turning to the ammunition reported, first the smoothbore types:


All 12-pdr ammunition:

  • 17th Battery: 269 shot, 107 shell, 236 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • 19th Battery: 268 shot, 88 shell, 272 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • 24th Battery:  194 shot, 91 shell, 288 case, and 168 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Notice that I am “calling” the 24th Battery’s shells as a data entry error – to be 12-pdr field gun shells, vice those for 12-pdr field howitzers.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, first the Hotchkiss:


Four batteries reporting quantities:

  • 13th Battery: 120 canister, 120 percussion shell, 340 fuse shell, and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 15th Battery: 365 percussion shell and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 21st Battery: 80 canister, 480 percussion shell, and 240 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 23rd Battery: 197 canister, 129 percussion shell, 269 fuse shell, and 564 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Moving to the next page of projectiles…


Let us break this down into sections for clarity.  We find some Dyer’s projectiles reported:


One entry:

  • 15th Battery: 120 Dyer’s canister for 3-inch rifles.

And over to the Parrott columns:


Two lines here:

  • 16th Battery: 456 shell, 625 case, and 135 canister, of Parrott-type, for 10-pdr Parrott rifles.
  • 18th Battery: 302 shell, 336 case, and 308 canister, Parrott patent, for 20-pdr Parrott rifles.

And one column on this page for Schenkl, but let us combine that line with those on the next page:


Just one battery reporting Schenkl:

  • 18th Battery: 100 Schenkl shot and 230 Schenkl shell for 3.67-inch bore, which corresponds to 20-pdr Parrotts.

Moving lastly to the small arms:


By battery:

  • 13th Battery: Fifteen Navy revolvers and twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • 15th Battery: Eighteen Navy revolvers and sixteen cavalry sabers.
  • 16th Battery: Fourteen Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • 17th Battery: Twenty Army revolvers and thirty (?) horse artillery sabers.
  • 18th Battery: Four Springfield .58 caliber rifles, three Army revolvers, and twelve horse artillery sabers.
  • 19th Battery: Twenty Army revolvers and fifty horse artillery sabers.
  • 21st Battery: Eighteen Army revolvers and eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 23rd Battery: Sixty Army revolvers and seventy-five cavalry sabers.
  • 24th Battery: Fifty-three Army revolvers.

So we find those former rocket batteries assigned to North Carolina with a larger quantity of small arms than expected.  Might be a reflection of the unit’s previous organization.  Might be due to the assigned garrison duties.

Next we will look at the last set of these New York Independent Batteries, 25th and above.

Fortification Friday: More magazines… coffer-work, gabions, and splinter proofs

Last week, we took a look at the form and function of powder magazines in field fortifications.  Magazines protected ammunition – both from enemy action and natural agents (moisture being the most dangerous in that regard).  We also saw that, in field fortifications, would be constructed of fascines, coffer-work, or gabions.  Having looked at the first of those construction types, let us turn to the coffer-work.  Briefly, the coffer-work was a magazine lined with boards, planks, or what have you, instead of facines.  But the details of construction differed, of course:

A coffer-work is formed by making frames of six-inch scantling; each frame is composed of two uprights, termed stanchions, and a cap and ground-sill, will nailed together; it is six feet wide, and six feet high in the clear.  These frames are placed upright, and parallel to each other, about two-and-a-half feet apart; they are covered on the top and sides by one-and-a-half-inch plank, which is termed a sheeting. The magazine otherwise is constructed as in the last case.

We have two elevations illustrating the coffer-work.  First a longitudinal view:


And a cross-section:


As with the fascine magazine, we see the basic dimensions set with a six foot wide floor and a six foot height.  We might relate the coffer-work to the internal finishing of a room. We see a framing (stanchions) with studs 2 ½ feet apart.  A floor and walls made of planking laid over that. Note the planking… I mean sheeting… also nailed in place for the ceiling.  A roof consists of two layers of fascines along with the appropriate amount of earth atop that.

Two fine points on the layout.  First is the sill.  This was dug out prior to laying the stanchions.  The longitudinal view bisects the magazine.  So giving the visual impression the floor floats in thin air… not so, just correlate in your head to the cross-section.  Also note the sill slopes to the entrance, as specified. Also note that instead of slanting outward and upward, the coffer-work’s walls are straight.  6x6s are sufficient to hold back earth against more than the natural slope.

Bottom line, the materials used for the walls and the slope of those walls was the main difference between fascine and coffer-work magazines.  Likewise, when using gabions, the chief difference is again how the walls are built, but the materials demanded a different approach to the construction work:

When gabions are used, a hole is usually dug in the ground to form a part of the magazine; the gabions are placed in two rows, side by side, around the hole, and are filled with earth. The top is formed as in the case of fascines.

Turning to the next figure:


Yes… it is crooked in the original and fixing it detracts from the detail.   And.. we are missing some detail as it is!

Gabions are great if one is reinforcing walls, as we discussed in regard to revetments. But there are limits to gabion load bearing.  Instead of a wall completely constructed with gabions, the trick is to cheat a bit – dig a three foot (or so) trench so the gabions need only be three foot tall.  Double stacking gabions or six foot tall gabions would be a weaker structure.  Missing details in the figure include the floor, any revetment of the lower half of the walls, and the earth laid against the exterior of the gabions.  Based on “in the case of fascines” there should be a sill, a floor of planks, and perhaps fascines over the lower half of the walls.

The gabion magazine looks attractive.  I can easily relate experiences where similar shelters are built using the modern equivalent to gabions.  But Mahan seemed to prefer fascines and coffer-works over gabions for magazine construction.  Clearly the choice between the types would be weighed against resources and practicality.

So three types of magazines to consider.  But we have a natural weak point to address – the mouth, or doorway.  Must have a mouth open to allow passage.  And that passage will let in messy things like enemy shells.  How to fix that?  Splinter-proofs!

The mouth of the magazine is covered by a splinter proof shelter.  This is constructed by taking scantling eight by ten inches, cut into suitable lengths, and placing it in an inclined position, so as to cover the mouth, and leave an easy access to it. The pieces, usually, are inclined 45º, and are placed side by side; they are covered by at least two feet of earth, or sods; and hides or tarpaulins are thrown over the whole.

Splinter proofs looked as such:


As described, 8x10s lain against the magazine’s exterior wall.  Two feet of earth on top of that.  And a tarp anchored at the top and lain over the whole.  Notice also the fascines as a revetment of the exterior wall of the magazine (on the right) and the elevated flooring (bottom).  Keep in mind the amount of foot traffic expected through the splinter proof.  The layout had to protect but allow passage.  Passage, that is, of men carrying heavy artillery projectiles and such.  So select the good timbers for the floor.

But, as the name implied, splinter proofs offered less protection than bomb proofs. Yet, lesser protection was deemed sufficient for some uses within the fort:

 Splinter proof blinds are mainly intended to afford a shelter against the fragments of hollow projectiles that explode in the work.  They may be used as a kind of barrack for the troops; and to store provisions, &c.

For example, splinter proofs appeared all across Morris Island during the summer of 1863. Those were used as staging shelters for infantry, sappers, and engineers working on the siege lines.

So we have the specifications for the magazines to include protection of the entrances.  But not so fast.  Writing post war, Junius Wheeler had some refinements, to include references to wartime practices.  We need to examine those instructions if we wish to understand the practice, as applied to magazines, used during the Civil War.

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

Assessing Generalship… and doing it properly!

Couple weeks back I posted a couple of examples and asked “are these guys incompetent?”  That was somewhat a leading question, given Generals Burnside and Slocum, based on how the men are usually received… maybe rated is a better word… by historians and the general lot of us Civil War aficionados.  The knot I was picking at was assessing generalship… historically speaking.

The problem, as I see it, is such ratings and assessments are often given from the ex post facto and from the safety of the armchair or writing desk.  And that is not a dig at those of us 150 years removed.  Rather saying we should… read, must… use the greater access to details and perspectives which our position relative to the place and time affords.  In other words, we should approach such assessments with a degree of formality.  Simply saying, “he was a bad general” is not enough.  We should be able to quantify!

Quantify, well that means we need standards, definitions.  So exactly is generalship?

A simple dictionary definition will reference something to the effect, “exercising military skills in command of a military unit.”  Somewhat generic for our need.  We probably should say one need be a general, in rank, or at least holding a general’s post in responsibility.  A battery commander, who is a captain, would not be demonstrating generalship in command of his four, or six, guns.  Likewise, a general managing a battery is not really demonstrating generalship (though arguably… demonstrating a lack of generalship!).

And what of these “military skills”?  Many will point immediately to tactics and strategy.  But that is somewhat an overshot.  We can certainly say tactics and strategy are part of the mix.  But those are really a subset of skills grouped into larger skill-sets (to use a redundant buzzword).  Instead, I’d offer a definition along these lines:

Generalship: The military skill of exercising command, control, and management of a military unit which is designated as befitting a general’s rank (i.e. brigade, division, or higher command).

I think it is important to focus on those three skill-sets – command, control, and management.

A good place to start is with Army Field Manual 6-0 (FM 6-0), titled “Mission Command.” There we find Command defined:

Command is the authority that a commander in the armed forces lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of rank or assignment. Command includes the authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources and for planning the employment of, organizing, directing, coordinating, and controlling military forces for the accomplishment of assigned missions. It also includes responsibility for health, welfare, morale, and discipline of assigned personnel.

We see command tied to a position in the organizational chart.  Generals have the power to command by virtue of position, and not by rank alone.  There are plenty of non-commanding generals (now days and during the Civil War). Think about the Hunt-Sickles interaction at Gettysburg, for an example where this comes into play.

There are three elements of command:

  • Authority – “the delegated power to judge, act, or commandIt includes responsibility, accountability, and delegation.”  In other words, a commander is responsible and accountable for all, but can (should) delegate execution.
  • Decisionmaking – “selecting a course of action as the most favorable to accomplish the mission.”  Ah!  The mission … as in what the unit must accomplish.  “Decisionmaking includes knowing if to decide, then when and what to decide, and understanding the consequences of decisions.”  And the manual reminds us, this is “both art and science.”
  • Leadership – “influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation – while operating to accomplish the mission….”  Notably, “the leadership of commanders ultimately includes the force of will.”

How about control?

… control is the regulation of forces and battlefield operating systems to accomplish the mission in accordance with the commander’s intent. It includes collecting, processing, displaying, storing, and disseminating relevant information for creating the common operational picture, and using information, primarily by the staff, during the operations process. Control allows commanders to disseminate their commander’s intent, execute decisions, and adjust their operations to reflect changing reality and enemy actions. It allows commanders to modify their commander’s visualization to account for changing circumstances. Control also allows commanders to identify times and points requiring new decisions during preparation and execution.

This also contains three main elements:

  • Information – “…in the general sense, is the meaning humans assign to data.” The modern spin on this is the commander will develop, through his staff, a common operating picture, shared with subordinates.  Applying “analysis and judgment” the commander reaches a situational understanding.  And that… well it becomes the foundation for decisionmaking.  There’s a lot more to the modern interpretation here… but let’s keep things simple for the moment.
  • Communication – “… means to use any means or method to convey information of any kind from one person to another.”  Communication is the commander’s voice.  Just that simple.
  • Structure – “… is a defined organization that establishes relationships among its elements or a procedure that establishes relationships among its activities.”  So not just who reports to whom. Consider here that repeatable practices, such as handling resupply or placement of guards at intersections, are structure.  These allow the commander’s intent to be exercised in absence of direct communication.  Structured behavior.

Finally, management… I include it in my definition, but you’ll find the modern military is short to describe that element.  There is a tendency to pit leadership against management, with leadership being the preferred quality.  One does not “manage” a firefight, but rather leads the command through it! Armies are led, don’t you know!   And management is something better conducted in the motor pool or supply room.

But let’s not relegate management to the logistical endeavors. Notice in the discussions above about command and control, we saw not a feather paid to tactics, operations, and strategy.  That’s because those are aspects of management.  To put it plainly, management in the military sense is the movement, placement, orientation, and maintenance the military unit.  And not just maintenance in the sense of greasing axles and cleaning muskets.  Rather, going to the broader sense to encompass all needed to maintain the unit’s presence in the operation and purchase on the situation toward accomplishment of the mission.

A lot of deep thinking here.  But let’s circle this back to the point of departure.  If we decide, in this historical sense, a general was not a good general – that is we find his generalship lacking – then I believe the burden of proof is on us. We have to lay out an assessment of that general’s behavior.  It should address how the general exercised command, control, and management.  And it should honestly demonstrate successes and failures, where ever they may be.

It is simply not enough to say the general left a flank open.  That may be a tactical sin, but is not necessarily an overwhelming condemnation of generalship.  It’s what brought the general to the decision about the flank… or his failure to communicate a better disposition… or his failure to exert his leadership… that we need to examine in order to derive a conclusion.  To do otherwise is certainly committing a sin … that of bad history!


The Artilleryman Magazine – Fall 2016 Issue

The fall issue of The Artilleryman Magazine arrived last Friday.  If you are not a subscriber already, I highly recommend this periodical.  Especially in the new, reworked format.

Articles in this issue include:

  • Schenkl Combination Fuse, by John D. Bartleson,Jr., CW04 (Ret.), USN – Detailed technical examination, backed up with lavish illustrations, on this type of fuse.  Added much to my understanding of Schenkl fuses.
  • Sherman’s Blunder Led to McPherson’s Death, by Stephen Davis, Ph.D. –  General James McPherson’s death occurred at a critical juncture of the Atlanta Campaign (I would argue a more critical point than John Reynold’s death).  This article explores the tactical details… and interprets the wartime site photos.
  • Lady Artillerists, by Gary Brown –  A look at some of the legends and lore behind female artilerists, drawing from American and European history… and pointing to the branch’s future as the military opens combat roles to female soldiers.
  • 25th Loomis’ Battery Long Range Artillery Match, by Don Lutz and Ericka Hoffman – Report from the July 30-31 authentic artillery competition.  Participants fired 584 rounds, in this 25th year of the match.  It is held on the Grayling Michigan National Guard Range Complex.
  • U.S. 30-Pounder Parrott Sight, by Thomas Bailey – Photos and essay discussing the arrangement and use of this type of sight, which we often see in wartime photos.
  • All Did Their Duty: Artillery at the Battle of Trenton, by Joshua Shepherd. “Trenton constituted the first great triumph for America’s field artillery….” Need we say more?
  • Is your Cannonball Explosive?, by John Biemeck, Colonel (Ret.) – An authoritative approach to handling Civil War era ordnance.  Very important read… and many lessons to take to heart.  Though I fear some will just read “it is OK to handle the projectiles” without fully reading the recommended practices.
  • Pair of French Naval Guns Captured by the British, by John Morris – Examination of two French short 6-pdrs (Model of 1786), from Fort Ticonderoga.

Also included is a news update from the US Army Artillery Museum.  The Artillery Bookshelf has a review of American Breechloading Mobile Artillery, 1875-1953.  And letters to the editor include a submission from myself, discussing a claim based on an Ordnance Return (I may provide more details down the road in a blog post).

I mentioned new format in the opening above.  That is about to become “newer” and extending to 64 pages in the Spring 2017 issue.  Jack Melton, who took over the magazine in 2015, has certainly taken the periodical to a higher level.  Illustrations jump off the page!  And as you see from the list of articles above, the content extends beyond just the gun tubes… touching upon other aspects of military history, though always relating back to the artillery of course.  Great work!

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – New York Independent Batteries (Part 1)

All told, thirty-six formations from New York received the designation “Independent Battery, Light Artillery” during the war.  Some of these were simply re-designation of existing batteries, to better align record keeping with practice (such as Battery L, 2nd New York Heavy discussed last week, which became the 34th Independent Battery).  Others were completely new batteries formed outside the regimental system.  Of those, some were short lived or never completely formed.  Still, these independent batteries were a rather substantial number of lines to account for in the quarterly summaries.  For the first quarter, 1863, there were thirty-two enumerated:


Let us look at these in batches, for better focus:


Starting with the first dozen:

  • 1st Independent Battery: At Belle Plain, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Andrew Cowan commanded the battery assigned to Second Division, Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • 2nd Independent Battery:  No return. At the start of the winter, Captain Louis Schirmer commanded this battery, assigned First Division, Eleventh Corps.  When Schirmer was promoted to command the corps’ artillery reserve later in the spring, Captain Hermann Jahn took command of the battery.
  • 3rd Independent Battery: At Potomac Creek, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts (an increase from the last quarter). The battery served in Second Division, Sixth Corps, under Lieutenant William A. Harn.
  • 4th Independent Battery: No return.  Assigned to Second Division, Third Corps. We are familiar with the 4th, thanks to their stand at the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, and know they had six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Through the winter, the battery saw several officers depart for other commands and Lieutenant George F. Barstow, 3rd US Artillery, took command late in the winter.  “The men were despondent,” Captain James E. Smith later recounted, “and became lax in their duties, not without some excuse.”  For this, and other reasons, Smith returned to command his old battery in May.
  • 5th Independent Battery: At Falmouth, Virginia with four 20-pdr Parrotts.   This was Captain Elijah D. Taft’s battery in the Army of the Potomac’s Artillery Reserve.
  • 6th Independent Battery: No location listed, but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. At the start of the winter, the 6th was under Captain W. M. Bramhall and part of the Artillery Reserve.  By spring, Lieutenant Joseph W. Martin assumed command with the battery transferred to the Horse Artillery (First Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac).
  • 7th Independent Battery: At Norfolk, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Peter C. Regan’s battery supported the Seventh Corps.
  • 8th Independent Battery: At Yorktown, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Part of the Fourth Corps, on the Peninsula, Captain Butler Fitch commanded this battery.
  • 9th Independent Battery: Fort Reno, District of Colulmbia, with only infantry stores.  Captain Emil Schubert, of the 4th US Artillery, was commander of this battery, assigned to the Twenty-Second Corps.  As indicated, the battery was not equipped as light artillery.
  • 10th Independent Battery: At Falmouth with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant Samuel Lewis replaced Captain John T. Bruen during the winter.  The battery remained with Third Division, Third Corps until later in the spring.
  • 11th Independent Battery: Also at Falmouth but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Battery also assigned to Third Division, Third Corps. Lieutenant John E. Burton replaced Captain Albert Von Puttkammer in command.
  • 12th Independent Battery: At Camp Barry, Artillery Camp of Instruction, District of Columbia and reporting four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain George F. McKnight replaced Captain William H. Ellis.

A few changes in command and only one significant transfer through the winter.  And not many changes in the number and type of cannon.  Notice all these batteries served in the Eastern Theater.  More specifically, in Virginia and the defenses of Washington.

Only one battery reported smoothbores on hand:


But we have two lines?

  • 5th Battery:  56 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • 10th Battery:  288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Why would Taft’s Battery have canister for 6-pdr smoothbores?  Perhaps for use in their 20-pdr Parrotts.  The bore size was the same.  Notably, the battery didn’t report these in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, 10th Battery seemed short of ammunition for it’s Napoleons. No change from the previous quarter’s report.  Such leads me to believe someone made “quick work” of their duties.

Hotchkiss projectiles were favored for the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles in the Army of the Potomac, and accordingly, we see a lot of those reported on hand:


Six batteries with entries:

  • 1st Battery: 129 canister, 211 percussion shell, 370 fuse shell, and 570 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 6th Battery: 59 canister, 285 percussion shell, 44 fuse shell, and 323 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 7th Battery: 114 canister, 47 percussion shell, 259 fuse shell, and 715 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 8th Battery: 175 canister and 45 percussion shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 11th Battery: 151 canister, 258 fuse shell, and 775 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 12th Battery: 137 canister, 73 percussion shell, 40 fuse shell, and 120 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Not to fret about the 8th Battery, as they were not short on ammunition.  Turning to the next page:


We see the 8th had Dyer’s patent projectiles:

  • 8th Battery:  369 shell and 650 shrapnel for 3-inch rifles.

And there are two Parrott batteries (not counting Smith’s which didn’t submit a report):

  • 3rd Battery: 480 shell , 480 case, and 190 canister of Parrott for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • 5th Battery: 45 Parrott Shell for 20-pdr Parrotts.

And the last page of rifled projectiles has a couple more entry lines for Schenkl:


  • 1st Battery: 29 Schenkl shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 3rd Battery: 120 Schenkl shell for 10-pdr Parrotts.

Lastly, we turn to the small arms reported on hand:


Seems like everyone had something:

  • 1st Battery: Twenty-eight Navy revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and fifteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 3rd Battery: Four Army revolvers and twelve cavalry sabers.
  • 5th Battery: Twenty-three Army revolvers and twenty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • 6th Battery: 155 Navy revolvers, twenty cavalry sabers, and two horse artillery sabers.
  • 7th Battery: Eighteen Navy revolvers and twenty-six cavalry sabers.
  • 8th Battery: Fourteen Navy revolvers and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 10th Battery: Fifty-eight Navy revolvers and eleven horse artillery sabers.
  • 11th Battery: Twenty Army revolvers and twenty-two cavalry sabers.
  • 12th Battery: Twenty-eight Army revolvers and twenty-nine horse artillery sabers.

For the next installment, we’ll look at the second batch of New York’s independent batteries – 13th through 24th.

Fortification Friday: Carefully place and construct Powder Magazines!

So you’ve built your works and improved it with a nice set of batteries.  Great!  Are those walls and obstacles all that is needed to scare away an attacker?  Probably not.  At some point, the defenders will need to do more than sit being the parapet.  They will need to do some shooting.  And shooting requires, among other things, gunpowder and projectiles.  Lots of gunpowder and projectiles.  But those are things one does not just have laying about in the open.  Not to mention the danger of explosions, gunpowder tends to deteriorate if not properly stored and maintained.  Thus the need for powder magazines.

Mahan registered the requirements of such powder magazines in his treatise:

Powder magazines. The main objects to be attended to in a powder magazine are, to place it in the position least exposed to the enemy’s fire; to make it shot proof; and to secure the powder from moisture.

Point of order here.  Mahan singled out powder magazines specifically as places where ammunition was kept. Defenders might build various protective structures for other uses, but the powder magazine’s arrangements were to directly address the needs of storing ammunition. Point to remember later when we look at other types of internal structures.

Also note the use of the word “shotproof” here.  Specifically that requirement is to prevent solid shot from battering the structure.  Bombproof would, of course, involve resisting enemy shells.  But from the text, it is not clear that Mahan made a distinction here… just food for thought.

Don’t know that I’d rank these three requirements, as all are important.  But I’d offer that the professor gave us his preferences in reverse order!  That is if he had such rankings.  Consider the next paragraph:

If there are traverses, such for example, as are used in defilement, the magazines may be made in them; or they may be placed at the foot of a barbette; or, in dry soils, be made partly under ground.

Egad!  A traverse, as we learned, is a structure designed to sit in the way of the enemy’s anticipated line of fire… so as to intercept those fires.  So much for “least exposed”….

But let us focus on the practical aspects of the magazines:

The magazines should be at least six feet high, and about the same width within; its length will depend on the quantity of ammunition. It may be constructed of facines, gabions, or cofferwork, or any means found at hand may be used which will effect the end in view.

I’ve not seen any justification for the six foot dimensions.  Perhaps just the average height of the men servicing the ammunition.  Hey, you need to save that back for throwing back the enemy’s assaulting troops!  And we see mention here of some revetment types in order to strengthen the magazine beyond that of plain soil.  But cofferwork is a new phrase, implying a more complex magazine arrangement.  Let us hold off details of that and focus on the basic work.

If [fascines] are used, the sides should slope outwards to resist the pressure of the earth; the fascines should be firmly secured by pickets and anchoring withes.  The top may be formed by a row of joists, of six-inch scantling, placed about two and-a-half feet apart; these should be covered by two layers of fascines laid side by side, and the whole be covered in by at least three feet thickness of earth.

Figure 34 illustrates these arrangements:


The figure shows a magazine buried at all sides.  So assume the placement is correct and sufficient earth is employed to make the structure shotproof as required.  Thus we focus on the internal arrangements.  As required, the fascines are secured and anchored.  Notice these are slanted (“sloped outward”) as necessary for support.  The floor is six feet wide.  Six feet above that is an eight feet wide ceiling, constructed with six-inch wide beams (scantling).  Those support two layers of fascines, laid in opposite orders.  And atop that, another three feet of earth.   Shotproof!

But let us look at details below the floor:

The bottom should be covered by a flooring of joists and boards; a shallow ditch being left under the flooring, with a pitch towards the door of the magazine, to allow any water that might leak through to be taken out.  A thatch of straw might be used on the inside, but it is somewhat dangerous, owing to its combustibility; hides or tarpaulins are better, and will keep out the moisture more effectually.

Thus, we see all three requirements addressed in this basic magazine. Nice notes here as to drainage.

Mahan was concerned mostly with construction of the magazine.  He did not address directly maintenance needed, which was of just as much importance.  Beyond just keeping earth on the magazine and the internal structure strengthened, the magazine need be tidy and organized.  Not only to reduce risks of accidental explosions, but also so that retrieval of ammunition was quick and easy.

And speaking to accidents, a good engineer would confront such risks.  To some degree the slope of the magazine wall would focus the force of an explosion upwards and out. The sides of the magazine should be thicker, or at least more resistant, than the roof, so as to allow the venting of such force.  But those were just mitigations against the risk.  The first line of defense against such risk was proper handling and maintenance of the ammunition.

With the basics of the magazine established, let us turn next to more elaborate arrangements.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 58-9.)