Author Archives: Craig Swain

Fortification Friday: Star Forts and not-so Star Forts

Our discussion of Mahan’s simple “intrenchments” brings us to the star fort today.  And I feel the star fort is the most troublesome form to discuss in public.  Not that folks get upset about the “star.”  Rather that folks have some preconceptions as to what it should look like.  If one is not particular about the term, the definition might be widely applied.  But when one is particular about the term, a lot of works that we often refer to as “star forts” are not actually star forts!  With that, allow me to get particular about this particular form of entrenchment for a bit.

First, what did Mahan say about the Star Fort, and why we should be so particular:

The star fort takes its name from the form of the polygonal figure of the plan.  [Figures below]  It is an enclosed work, with salient and reentering angles; the object of this arrangement being to remedy the defects observed in redoubts.

Note, he offered no requirement for the number of points on a star, or even that the trace somehow match up to our conceptual notion of a star.  So we have four different basic plans offered, starting with a four point star:


Then a five point:


And a six point:


Oh… and the favorite of those doing the digging… the eight point:


This latter diagram offers a good point to discuss the evolution of the star fort. The implication is that an eight point might derive from a redoubt which has salients added to the sides.  (Recall the discussion at the end of last week’s post about “remedies” for the redoubt.)  All of this sort of stretches our notion of the shape of a star when categorizing what could be called a star fort.  Again, going back to Mahan’s definition, it is the presence of reentering angles which defined the star fort, not the shape that is the result.

But there is more to this evolution thread than simply tacking salients upon a redoubt.    The form actually derived as a modification of the standard bastioned fort.  Recall during the discussion of re-entering angles, curtains, and such we highlighted the “dead space” that existed in front of a curtain wall.  One remedy applied to that was a work known as a tenaille (referring to the French word for tongs, as these works were to look like the jaws of a set of pincers).   Consider a drawing of a basic tenaille:


This is from a larger set, on Wikipedia, which demonstrates more evolved tenailles (and demonstrating a truism about fortifications – the longer you have the more elaborate they become).  For permanent fortifications, a tenaille was a work placed in front of the curtain which allowed the defenders a secure area from which to defend the ditch.  And you can see how from the viewpoint of the attacker, it smoothed out the face of the defense into a simple reentering angle between two salients.

The usefulness of these tenailles lead to a broader application as a stand-alone enclosed work.  These featured alternating salients and reentering angles, none less than 60º (note the eight pointed above with 90º angles complementing).  Faces were usually between 30 and 60 yards. In order for all of that to work with some balance between the salients, the resultant polygon had a certain shape… and that’s how the star was born!

But you see what I just walked you through here – the star fort’s name was derived from the resultant shape, which was the result of a particular arrangement of the angles.  We might just as properly call these tenaille fort.  But in that case we’d have a long discussion of how that polygon gave us the jaws of a pincer.  If you ask me, “star” is the easier term to use here.

But there were down sides (as always) to this arrangement. Referring to the ability of the star fort to remedy the defects of the redoubt, Mahan wrote:

This, however, is only partially effected in the star fort; for, if the polygon is a regular figure, it will be found, that, except in the case of a fort with eight salients, the fire of the faces does not protect the salients; and that in all cases there are dead angles at all the re-enterings.

And there was more….

The star fort has, moreover, the essential defect, that occupying the same space as the redoubt, its interior capacity will be much less, and the length of its interior crest much greater, than in the redoubt;  it will, therefore, require more men than the redoubt for its defense, whilst the interior space required for their accommodation is diminished.

For those reasons, by the time of the Civil War the star fort had fallen into disfavor… or as Mahan put it, “led engineers to proscribe it.”  Yet, we know from so many Civil War maps and accounts that star forts were used.  Simply put, there were places where a star fort worked for the particular defensive arrangement desired.  Places where engineers might prescribe, instead of proscribe, a star fort.

On the other hand, there are a lot of places which are described as star forts which do not meet the definition… for those of us being particular… of a star fort.  An example is Fort McHenry:


Fort McHenry was not an “according to definition” star fort.  Rather it was a pentagon with five bastions… or in other words, a bastioned fort.  Mention of such brings us to the next form mentioned by Mahan, as we look towards next week.

But to summarize the discussion of star forts – these came in four, five, six, eight- pointed varieties (and where practicality was set aside, some with even more points).  It was the integration of salients and reentering angles which defined the star fort, not the overall shape itself.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 13.)

Veterans Day to reflect

In recent years, say the last ten or so, Veterans Day has a bit more meaning to me personally than when I was younger.  Some might say the nation’s appreciation… that’s the wrong word… perception… no that’s still off… maybe say, placement… of veterans has changed.  But as I struggled to find the right word or phrase to describe what has changed in society, I look at what has changed with me over those same years.

Frankly, I’m not a young guy.  Wasn’t ten years ago and certainly am not now.  And as the old guy says, with age one gains perspective.  So that’s what I have – perspective.  My perspective as a veteran is just that – “a” perspective.  Applied to the study of military history, it is not a “better” or “unique” perspective.  Just “a” perspective that is derived from experiences.  One might dismiss such from a purely analytical position.  But everyone has baggage.  What matters is what you can do and chose to do with it.

And with history mentioned, I’ll offer that as the reason for the changes with respect to Veterans Day in my personal view.  You see, I’m now able to look back at my service in the context of history – things that happened while I was in the service and specifically events… historical events… in which I participated.  Let me not bore you with my war stories (I’ll save that for when you are at the bar and paying for the drinks!).  Instead, what I marvel at is having “seen” history being made.  Ten, fifteen, and twenty years later, those events show up in the history books.  While I am not, and cannot be, a historian of those events (as a participant, I refuse to believe my view is impartial… yet hope for a later generation of impartial, professional historians to get it right), I can appreciate the events in which I played a part.  Some day a historian will call to ask about “Operation ….” or “your time in ….” and I shall present to them my well maintained personal files that detail my part in those larger events.  Small part, but a part.

As a historian, of sorts, consider the manner in which I approach such events that I had witness to.  Then let me use that framework in relation to veterans of past generations as a purchase to examine how they viewed the events which marked their service.  From such a stance, there is relief across what was open landscape.

“In our youth our hearts were touched by fire” said Oliver Wendell Holmes.  I think that is true of any veteran of any generation.  Some by large fires.  Others by small fires.  And war is not the only sort of fire that burns in such a way.

Please take some time today and reflect on this Veterans Day.  Thank a veteran.  And as a veteran, I will say, “Thank you for your support.”

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Connecticut, California, and Delaware Volunteer Batteries

The majority of artillery batteries employed by Federal forces during the Civil War were volunteer formations from the states.  Indeed, with the initial call for troops, there were more volunteer artillery batteries than needed.  Because the states were responsible for organizing and in some cases equipping these batteries, there were many variations – organization, training, equipage, and others.  Most of the “workable” variations were flushed out by the end of 1862.  As I’ve discussed before, senior artillerists focused on organization and training as early as the summer of 1861.  But the Federals were stuck with some of these variations, for better or worse.

From the administrative perspective, the naming of units is perhaps the most annoying to the researcher.  Some states conformed to the same conventions as the regulars – regiments with lettered batteries.  Others simply went with an ordinal number for each battery (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.).  Some states, New York for instance, used both. There were separate regimental systems for “light” and “heavy” artillery.  And… and… some states just seemed to adopt a “whatever” approach.  Thus the volunteer batteries were often cited by different names in reports.  Add to the confusion the practice of calling the battery by the commander’s name (or mustering officer’s name) in the field.  Makes one glad the alternate designations section appears in each OR volume.

That aside, there were also interesting variations with the equipment used by these volunteer batteries.  We’ll see more hand-written column headers as we proceed.  And those lead to some interesting research trails to say the least.

That preface out of the way, let us look at summary statements, alphabetically by state.  The first being from the states of Connecticut, California, and Delaware… Um… did I say alphabetical?  I guess the ordnance clerks winged it:


Over to the far right, we see a written column – “Siege Gun 1861, 4.5 in bore, …..”  I don’t know what the last line in that nomenclature is, but know that the weapon cited was one of my favorite – the 4.5-inch rifle.

So let’s break down the list starting with Connecticut.  Note the first two are the “light” batteries for field duty (see above about the different regimental systems here… more confusion for the light readers!).  The third is a battery from the “heavies” assigned for field duty:

  • 1st Battery, Connecticut Field [Light] Artillery – Beaufort, South Carolina with two 12-pdr field howitzers and six 3.80-inch James rifles.  The 1st Battery was assigned to the Department of the South.
  • 2nd Battery, Connecticut Field [Light] Artillery – Occoquan, Virginia with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.80-inch James rifles.  Officially part of the Military District of Washington, the 2nd Battery was assigned to duty at Wolf Run Shoals.
  • Battery B, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery – Falmouth, Virginia with four 4.5-inch siege rifles.  This battery was assigned to the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.

And of course that last battery’s duty is well known.  I will venture to guess you’ve seen those guns before:

No mention in the summary of Battery M, 1st Connecticut Heavy, which was also assigned to the reserves at this time.  The two batteries were for all intents combined during their service in the field.

Moving out to California, one line is offered.  But it is not for a battery, but rather for 3rd California Volunteer Infantry having “stores in charge” that included two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  These were at Camp Douglas, Utah.  Keep in mind that the 3rd US Artillery had men assigned out west without artillery.  Yet we have the 3rd California Infantry with artillery without artillerists.  Go figure.

The last in this set that I’ve carved out of the summary is designated 1st Battery Delaware Artillery, Field.  That battery was sometimes known as Nield’s Independent Artillery, for it’s commander Benjamin Nields.  At the reporting date, it was stationed at Camp Barry in the District of Columbia.  They reported two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3-inch steel rifles.  Wait… 3-inch steel rifles?  Perhaps some of those Singer, Nimick, and Company rifles?  Or one of the even more “exotic” weapons of more experimental nature?  I doubt either to be the case.  Looking forward a bit, a June 1864 report from the Official Records, when the battery was assigned to the Department of the Gulf, indicated four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles and two 12-pdr Napoleons:


Yes, enough time transpired between the two data points that guns may have changed out.  But I would submit it is more likely the wrong column was used in the summary due to a mistake at some point in the data gathering.

We’ve seen a lot of interesting entries from the first page of the summary.  The ammunition pages offer a few more.  However the smoothbore entries are as one might expect:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 12-pdr field howitzer projectiles – 142 shells, 254 case, and 72 canister.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shells, 160 case, and 31 canister.
  • 3rd California Infantry: 6-pdr field gun projectiles – 112 shot, 106 case, and 112 canister; 12-pdr mountain howitzer – 144 shell, 120 case, and 144 canister.
  • 1st Delaware: 12-pdr field howitzer – 26 shell, 54 case, and 20 canister.

For the rifled projectiles, we start with Hotchkiss patent:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch projectiles – 120 Hotchkiss percussion shell, 120 Hotchkiss fuse shell, and 518 Hotchkiss bullet shell (case).
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 70 Hotchkiss fuse shell and Hotchkiss 168 bullet shell (case).
  • 1st Delaware:  3-inch projectiles – 77 Hotchkiss canister and 340 Hotchkiss bullet shell (case).

Note the quantities for the 1st Connecticut.

As with yesterday’s discussion with the Parrott projectiles, keep in mind that different inventors modified their projectiles to fit in their competitor’s cannons.  Here we see Hotchkiss projectiles that fit into the James rifles.  More Hotchkiss  patent and the James Patent on the next page:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 200 Hotchkiss canister and 235 James canister.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 50 (or 80?) Hotchkiss canister.

And rounding out the rifled projectiles, those of the Schenkl patent:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 1,078 Schenkl shells.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 316 Schenkl shells.
  • 1st Delaware: 3-inch – 94 Schenkl shells.

Notice the variety of patent-types within the two Connecticut batteries.  Recall that mixing such types caused problems in the field.

And of course the quantities.  All told the 1st Connecticut Light had 2271 projectiles.  Their friends in the 2nd had but 604 (or 634, if I misread the one line).  At some point I will pull the numbers and make observations about the “load-out” for a battery, circa December 1862.  I suspect the 1st Connecticut will break the bell curve.

Last note about the projectiles – there are no entries for 4.5-inch to cover the heavy Connecticut battery.  So we are left not quantifying how well stocked (or not) those guns on the Rappahannock really were.

And finally, the small arms:


The handwritten column headers deserve some clarification.  From left to right, I read these as “Carbine”, “Springfield, Cal .58”, and <something> “Cal .58”.  Your guess is as good as mine about the third column.  It will come into play with the next installment, as for now there were no entries there for Connecticut, California, or Delaware.  Also note, further to the right, that the revolver calibers are replaced with “Army” and “Navy” :

  • 1st Connecticut Light: 135 Navy revolvers, 13 cavalry sabers, 46 horse artillery sabers, and 86 foot artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 20 Navy revolvers, 122 horse artillery sabers.
  • 1st Delaware: 24 Army revolvers and 142 horse artillery sabers.

No entries for the California infantry, presuming those small arms were carried against a regimental return elsewhere.

Again, roll the numbers around.  Nearly every man in the 2nd Connecticut and 1st Delaware had their own swords, though pistols were in shorter supply.  However, the 1st Connecticut, stationed in South Carolina, must have issued a revolver and sword for every man!

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 5th Regiment Artillery, US Regulars

If you are “Willing and Able” we will look at the 5th Artillery’s portion of the December 31, 1862 summary statement.  Unlike the other regular artillery regiments, the 5th did not have a history dating back to pre-war days.  It was formed on May 4, 1861.  Though a “young” formation, the batteries saw considerable action in the first two years of the war.  But again, this post will focus on the state of affairs at the end of December 1862.

As with previous installments, the yellow lines are the rules across the page, to help us verify the numbers.  The red lines are where I’ve “cut” a portion of the page to bring column headers and line declarations into view.  Please notice there are two horizontal red lines in these tables.  The 5th Artillery’s statement spans from the bottom of one set of pages and onto the next.  Yes, that complicates the effort.  But no bayonets or scissors are needed, thanks to some digital tools.


Not a lot of variation among the cannons assigned to the batteries of the regiment.  However, the locations of some batteries offer questions that need answers.  Here’s the breakdown of the assignments and charges:

  • Battery A: Newport News, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The location may reflect the assignment at the time of the ordnance report filing (March 1863).  Battery A was part of Ninth Corps, Army of the Potomac, at Fredericksburg and participated in the “Mud March” of January 1863.  Battery A remained with the corps when transferred to the Department of Virginia, arriving at Newport News in February.
  • Battery B: “Not organized until 1863.”  This battery was still forming at the reporting time.  Personnel were on duty at Fort Hamilton, New York.
  • Battery C: At Belle Plain, Virginia with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Assigned to First Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery D: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Assigned to Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery E: No return filed.  Like “B” above, Battery E was still getting organized and personnel were on duty at Fort Hamilton.
  • Battery F: At Berlin, Maryland with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  As with Battery A, the location is another “conundrum.” As with its sister, Battery F’s location may reflect that at the time of report filing.  In December 1862, Battery F supported Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, on the banks of the Rappahannock.  However, in July 1863, when the report was filed, the battery was moving through Berlin, Maryland with the pursuit after Gettysburg.  Of note, by July 1863 the battery had six Parrotts.
  • Battery G: New Orleans, Louisiana.  No cannons reported.  The battery was in transit from Fort Hamilton to the Department of the Gulf.
  • Battery H: Murphreesboro, Tennessee with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  Engaged at Stones River on December 31, thus explaining the delay with reporting, Battery H was part of an all “US Regulars” brigade in the Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Battery I: No return filed.  Was assigned to Fifth Corps at Falmouth.  Presumably retained four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Battery K: At Falmouth, Virginia with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Assigned to the Reserve Artillery, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery L: Baltimore, Maryland with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Part of the Eighth Corps, Middle Department.
  • Battery M: Location not indicated, but with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery M was part of the artillery reserve of Fourth Corps, then posted at Yorktown.

Two additional lines appear on the Fifth Artillery’s summary for the Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant.  Both of these were at Fort Hamilton.  No cannons or ammunition were reported under these lines.  Just small arms and other equipment.

The Fifth Artillery reported this for smoothbore ammunition on hand:


The breakdown by battery:

  • Battery A: For 12-pdr caliber – 192 shot, 96 shells, 288 spherical case, and 192 canister.
  • Battery C: 12-pdr caliber – 119 shot, 11 shell, 212 case, and 120 canister.
  • Battery F: 12-pdr again – 96 shot, 32 shell, 96 case, and 40 canister.
  • Battery K: 12-pdr – 96 shot, 61 shell, 117 case, and 32 canister.
  • Battery M: 12-pdr – 233 shot, 87 shell, 274 case, and 96 canister.

Turning to the rifled projectiles, first the Hotchkiss projectiles:


We see only Battery L with any quantity on hand – 720 3-inch shot and 241 fused shells.  Would be interesting to compare Battery L’s quantities with Battery I’s… but the latter battery’s report did not find its way to the summary.

For Parrott rifled projectiles, we see two patterns – Parrott and Schenkel:


By battery:

  • Battery D: 10-pdr Parrott – 72  shells, 500 case, and 24 canister.
  • Battery F: 10-pdr Parrott – 160 shells, 320 case, and 96 canister; 320 Schenkel 10-pdr shot (note, this is Schenkel pattern cast for Parrott guns).
  • Battery H: 10-pdr Parrott – 310 shells, 93 case, and 63 canister.

More Schenkel pattern as the table continues to the next page:


  • Battery D: 251 Schenkel-pattern 10-pdr Parrott shells.
  • Battery L: 120 3-inch Schenkel shells and 120 3-inch canister, Tatham’s pattern canister.

Lastly, the small arms:


  • Battery A: 23 revolvers, .44 caliber, and 65 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: 27 .44-caliber and 27 .37-caliber revolvers.  17 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: 12 .37-caliber revolvers and 62 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: 27 .44-caliber revolvers and 22 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: 7 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: 17 .44-caliber revolvers, 5 .37 caliber revolvers, and 40 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: 58 .44-caliber revolvers and 16 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: 98 .37-caliber revolvers and 145 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: 24 .37-caliber revolvers and 20 horse artillery sabers.
  • Adjutant: 28 horse artillery sabers.

This concludes the statements for the US Regulars. I’ll turn to the volunteer batteries next, in alphabetical order by states.

Fortification Friday: Plans for simple “intrenchments” – Part 2, Enclosed Redoubts

In last Friday’s installment, we discussed some of Mahan’s “simple intrenchments,” specifically the open fortifications commonly used.  The other works mentioned by Mahan were “enclosed” fortifications – in the sense that these offered no open gorge lines.  And enclosed implied that the plan of the works formed a polygon of some sort.  Also keep in mind that, just as open works, enclosed works could be “detached” from the main works, or could be part of a connected series of works.

Mahan broke the the enclosed works into two categories – those without re-entering angles; those with re-entering angles.  And even within that division, those with re-entering angles were further sub-divided based on level of complexity.  Let me hold the discussion of the re-entering angle-based works – known as star forts and bastions – for next week.  This week we will look at the redoubt, which has no re-entering angles:

Any enclosed work of a polygonal form, without re-entering angles, is denominated a redoubt.  This work is used to fortify a position which can be attacked on all sides; the works which have already been described, being unsuitable for this purpose, as their gorges are open, and therefore require to be supported by troops, or works, in their rear; except when they are so situated that an attack cannot be made at the gorge.

We might consider a redoubt to be an open work with a wall added across the gorge.  Within the logical definition, there are some geometric rules that imposed forms upon the plan for a redoubt – triangles, quadrangles, pentagons, and such.  Of these multi-sided options, the quadrangle offered less dangerous angles.  Furthermore, the least risk was found with parallel sides… you know… rectangles or squares:

The square is the most common form for a redoubt, on account of the ease with which it is constructed, and the advantage it possesses, when combined with several others, of protecting the spaces between them by a cross fire.

And we have Figure 7, showing the plan for a common square redoubt.


Think about the layout here.  There are several ways to describe it.  Four salients.  Or four right lines.  Either way you want to turn it, the features lay directly opposite a similar feature.   Also note the entrance at the bottom, or gorge, of this redoubt.  A traverse covered the entrance in Mahan’s simple diagram.  The “saw teeth” on the upper left is part of the follow on discussion, and an attempt at remediation of the problems associated with salient angles.

Though the square redoubt served to limit dangerous angles, like all redoubts it still had flaws:

All redoubts have the same defects. The ditches are unprotected, and there is a sector without fire in front of each salient.  For the purpose of remedying the sector without fire, it has been proposed to convert a portion of each face at the salient angles, into an indented line, to procure a fire in the direction of the capitals.  This method is not of practical application; and if it could be applied would only serve the purpose of changing the position of the sectors without fire from the salients to other points.

So… there was no “fixing” the redoubt’s problems within the layout of the fortification.  Instead, redoubts needed supporting works, chiefly other redoubts, for mutual defense.

Three points I’d add to Mahan’s lesson on redoubts.  First, there was some variation between the term “redoubt” when applied to fixed fortifications. In that context, a redoubt was a work outside the main work’s scarp designed as the feature of defense in the outerworks.  For instance, a demi-lune’s main feature was usually a triangular redoubt.  Keep that in mind when reading contemporary accounts.  Redoubts, be they for fixed or field fortifications, are still enclosed works, but are employed for different purposes.

Secondly, an unmentioned flaw of the redoubt was its vulnerability to high angle fire.  With the simple interior, there was nothing to resist the bounding shell or shot which arrived on the parade ground.  To rectify this, most redoubts featured some sort of traverse across the interior.  A good example of this is seen at Fort Davis, at Petersburg.

Lastly, Mahan does not, in the passages cited above from Field Fortifications, mention some of the other methods employed to address the redoubt’s flaws.  (Though in Mahan’s defense, he went into detail of these in other lessons.)  A common method to address the unprotected ditches was to add galleries at the salients. Another option was a caponniere along the line.  For those less concerned with the exact nomenclature, these were small redans or lunettes placed at points around the redoubt.  Arguably, incorporation of such features transformed the redoubt into a bastioned fort… and thus one of those “other” enclosed works with re-entering angles.

That said… next week we’ll look at some of those enclosed works that used re-entering angles.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 12-13.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 4th Regiment Artillery, US Regulars

“No step backward” on the look at the summary statement from December 31, 1862.  Some will get my reference.  Others must be told that our focus is the 4th Regiment, US Artillery.

Most batteries of the 4th were posted on the frontier in the years prior to the Civil War.  However, by the end of 1862 the regiment was mostly in Virginia (Administrative note again – Yellow lines are the “rules” for the data lines, and red lines are the “tear lines” where I’ve cut-pasted for presentation):


Please note the dates the returns were received in Washington.  Most of the 4th Regiment was complete by mid-summer.  There are some “twists” to this block of data, so watch the run down here:

  • Battery A: Warrenton Junction, Virginia. Six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Earlier in the war, Batteries A and C (see below) were consolidated.  The two split in October 1862.  Battery A supported Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery B: Belle Plain, Virginia.  Six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery supported First Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery C: Falmouth, Virginia. Six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Inheriting the equipment of Battery A (above), Battery C also supported Second Corps.
  • Battery D: Suffolk, Virginia. Six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Supported Seventh Corps, Department of Virginia.
  • Battery E: No return indicated.  Battery E supported Ninth Corps, and was outside Falmouth.  My references indicate the battery had six 10-pdr Parrotts at the reporting time.
  • Battery F: Location not indicated, but known to be near Falmouth.  Six 12-pdr Napoleons. Part of Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery G: Again, no location, but near Falmouth.  Six 12-pdr Napoleons. Battery G was in the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery I: Location not indicated, but this battery was also with the Army of the Cumberland, though part of the Center Wing not engaged at Stones River.  Two 6-pdr field guns and two 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery K: At Falmouth, this battery had six 12-pdr Napoleons. The battery was part of Third Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery L: At Suffolk with two 12-pdr howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Battery L was part of the Seventh Corps.
  • Battery M: No return indicated.  As mentioned above, was consolidated with Battery H.  After the battle of Stones River, Battery M retained four 3-inch rifles and gained two 24-pdr field howitzers.

And that brings us to line 60.  What to make of the writing in the “Letter of company” column:


What is clear – On July 21, 1863 the Ordnance Department received a return from a command at Fort Washington, Maryland.  That command was reporting “stores in charge,” or at least from the way I read it.  Several sources place a detachments of the 4th US Regulars at the post during the reporting period. But the annotation appears, to my eyes, as “colored.”  However, keep in mind that as of December 31, 1862 there were no US Colored Troops – at least being called that by name.

UPDATEA sharp eyed reader offered another possibility, which I must agree is more likely.  The word may be “Colonel” thus indicating the regimental headquarters or such.

So I don’t know how to interpret the company line other than relating that line 60 included various tools and equipment at Fort Washington under the charge of the 4th Regiment.  So before we get all excited about what may or may not be indicated in the company column, we see no cannon or projectiles (or even any carriages or implements) reported by this detachment.  Only some small arms, which we’ll see later in the summary.

Questions of line 60 aside, let us look at the smoothbore projectiles reported for the 4th Regiment:


No surprises given the distribution of smoothbore weapons:

  • Battery B:  216 shot, 92 shells, 216 case, and 92 canister for the 12-pdr.
  • Battery C: 96 shot, 96 shell, 234 case, and 192 canister in 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery F: 252 shot, 76 shell, 252 case, and 76 canister – 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery G: 86 shot, 33 shell, 103 case, and 40 canister – 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery I: 261 shot, 148 case, and 42 canister for the 6-pdr field gun.
  • Battery K: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister – 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery L: 140 shell, 154 case, and 32 canister for the 12-pdr howitzers.

As for Hotchkiss pattern projectiles:


Again, given the guns assigned there are no surprises.  The batteries with Ordnance Rifles had Hotchkiss pattern projectiles:

  • Battery A: 3-inch projectiles – 120 canister, 50 percussion shell, 305 fuse shells, and 725 “bullet shell” (which I interpret as case).
  • Battery D: 3-inch projectiles – 83 canister, 271 fuse shells, and 846 “bullet shell” for the 3-inch rifles.

None of the batteries reported Dyer’s or James Pattern projectiles.  As for Parrott and Schenkel Pattern:


Batteries I and L had the Parrott rifles:

  • Battery I: 126 Parrott 10-pdr shell, 129 Parrott 10-pdr case shot, 47 Parrott 10-pdr canister, and 33 Schenkel 10-pdr shot.
  • Battery L: 480 Parrott 10-pdr shell, 240 Parrott 10-pdr case, and 46 (or 96?) Parrott 10-pdr canister.

No other Schenkel pattern projectiles were reported on the page. Small arms reported:


There were no muskets in the 4th Artillery:

  • Battery A: 15 .44-caliber revolvers and 25 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: 37 .37-caliber revolvers and 24 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: 15 .37-caliber revolvers and 21 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: 9 .37-caliber revolvers and 141 horse artillery sabers!
  • Battery F: 19 .37-caliber revolvers, 10 horse artillery sabers, and one foot artillery saber.
  • Battery G: 7 .37-caliber revolvers and 94 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery I: Four percussion “Dragoon” pistols and 45 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: 21 .44-caliber revolvers, 106 .37-caliber revolvers, and 15 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: 14 .44-caliber revolvers and 118 horse artillery sabers.
  • And Line 60 – 3 .44-caliber revolvers and 29(?) horse artillery sabers.

We need to examine Battery I’s small arms in more detail.  More so as a footnote.  The column header is “Percussion,” with “Dragoon” written in.  Note that the other column headers to the right are “Revolver,” with either .44 size or .37 size written in.  So, it could be these were four percussion pistols of the Model 1855 or similar type.   Or were those Colt’s Dragoon Revolvers?  I would lean towards the latter.

Lastly, as mentioned above, we have the entries for line 60 here.  A handful of pistols and a few stands of sabers.  Yet, as the bureaucracy required, every one of them are counted here on the form.

“Thar’ ain’t no good way to charge a battery.” But that is not to say it cannot be done

Basil Duke was among the most prolific ex-Confederates writing during the decades after the Civil War.  He is most known for his work regarding General John Hunt Morgan’s operations.  I call attention to a passage from Morgan’s Cavalry today, detailing an incident from the battle of Shiloh involving the Kentucky troopers in Morgan’s command.  From Duke’s recollections:

The Federal troops at this point were posted on an eminence, covered with underbrush, and in front of which was a ravine.  Eighteen or twenty pieces of artillery, strongly supported, were planted on this hill, and were playing furiously.  For perhaps an hour Hardee’s efforts to advance were foiled….

We had never seen anything like that before.  We had occasionally been fired upon by a single piece of artillery, when we had closely approached the enemy’s encampments on Green river; and we used to think that hardly fair.  Now the blaze and “volleyed thunder” of the guns on that hill seemed to our excited imaginations like the output of a volcano in active operation. An hour or two previously, a young fellow, belonging to some Confederate battery which had been disabled, had asked permission to serve with us for the rest of the day.  He was riding an artillery horse and had picked up a rifle and a cartridge box on the field, so I put him in the ranks.  While we were expecting the order to charge, my eye happened to fall on this youngster, and it occurred to me that I might get from him valuable information germane to the business on hand.  I therefore took him aside, and remarked: “You say you have served in the artillery for a year and you ought to know a good deal about it.  Now, General Hardee is going to order us to charge that Yankee battery yonder, and I want you to post me about the way to charge a battery.”

“Why, good Lord, Lieutenant!” he exclaimed with much emphasis.  “I wouldn’t do it, if I was you.  Why your blamed little cavalry won’t be a duce high agin’ them guns.”

I became angry, because I was not feeling hopeful or comfortable, and his prediction “mingled strangely with my fears.”

“Haven’t I told you,” I said, “that General Hardee will order us to take those guns?  Now, don’t express any opinion, but answer my question, ‘What’s the best way to charge a battery?'”

He looked me squarely in the eye for a few seconds, and then said very earnestly: “Lieutenant, to tell you the God’s truth, thar’ ain’t no good way to charge a battery.”

The order to charge was not given: I will confess, greatly to our relief….

While the drafted artilleryman felt otherwise, cavalry was capable of charging a battery.  And we have many episodes of such from the Civil War.  If a commander was deliberate about the matter, there was indeed a “good way” for cavalry to charge a battery.  The commander had to take stock of several factors – time and distance being foremost.  And, as always, tactical formation came into play.

Time and distance?  An example from fifty years after the Civil War comes to mind:

(Citation from Basil W. Duke, Morgan’s Cavalry, New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906, pages 84-5.)