Two stories I hope are interpreted with the Reconstruction Era National Monument

Officially announced as we entered the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, President Obama created the Reconstruction Era National Monument, along with several other monuments at historic sites related to the advancement of civil rights.  From the official fact sheet:

Reconstruction Era National Monument: Located in coastal South Carolina, the new Reconstruction Era National Monument encompasses four sites throughout Beaufort County that tell the vibrant story of the robust community developed by freed former African American slaves in the Reconstruction Era South.  This designation includes the Brick Baptist Church and Darrah Hall at the existing Penn Center on St. Helena Island as well as the Old Firehouse in downtown Beaufort and parts of Camp Saxton in Port Royal where the Emancipation Proclamation was read on New Year’s Day in 1863. These sites establish the first unit of the National Park System focused on telling the story of Reconstruction.

And that brand-new Monument already has its official website.  I’m impressed with the direction taken.  As I’ve pointed out before, there is a tendency to compartmentalize Reconstruction as if a separate, stand-alone chapter.  We should properly see a story-arc that connects the Civil War through to Civil Rights … and right up to our doorsteps today.  And Beaufort County, South Carolina is a perfect place to demonstrate that continuity.   Reconstruction of that county stated during the Civil War.  And the turns of Reconstruction into the post-war era may be traced readily across various sites in the county.

I am pleased to see the inclusion of Mitchelville and Fort Howell in the Monuments list of “Places to See.”  These immediately call to mind the military role within Reconstruction.  We often forget, despite being largely a political event, Reconstruction was in part a military operation.  And one that deserves deep study as a military operation.  Certainly as those military activities often directly contributed, or in some cases detracted from, the advancement of Civil Rights.  Furthermore, many of the military experiences from that period which deserve study.  There are lessons learned applicable even today.  (Dare I remind readers the very lengthy “reconstruction” engagements still ongoing in places such as Afghanistan?)

Several places within the Beaufort Historic District will no doubt get attention. Mention of the Baptist Church brings to mind one important story I’d like to see highlighted with the interpretation. After the battle of Port Royal Sound, November 1861, much of the county was occupied by Federal forces.  Many white residents fled inland, leaving behind a population of former slaves.  Those numbers swelled as more slaves escaped through the lines, or were brought to freedom by the Federals.  And that population turned, as people will in trying times, to their religious convictions for support.  Working among the freemen, Reverend Solomon Peck worked to establish a church, using the Old Baptist Meeting House among other places.  Seeking formal sanction for assuming control of the structures, Peck wrote to President Lincoln.  And Lincoln replied along the lines that if the majority of the members of the church still present (on the island) are indeed loyal to the United States Government, then they are entitled to use the facilities.  After all they would be “the church” in standing.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal. But when you look at it through the lens of history, it is. This is a level of equality not normally extended at that time.  So long as the persons were loyal … says nothing of citizenship, but loyal… then the government would recognize a legal standing.  The government recognized them as the body of a church.  Legally.  And what dovetails nicely in this story is the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the church, to freedmen, at the start of January, 1863.

Another story that I would much wish to see used in the interpretation of the new Monument comes from the military side in those Civil War years.  Frederick Denison, of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, recorded an episode that occurred outside Beaufort as the regiment garrisoned the island, in the spring of 1863:

We are here tempted to record a little military anecdote.  While Lieutenant [Edward] Waterhouse was on duty near Beaufort, having occasion to ride across the island in a carriage, he invited a staff-officer of the Regulars to ride with him.  Meeting a private of a colored regiment who paid the required salute, the Lieutenant properly returned it, when the following dialog ensued:

Regular: “Do you salute niggers?”

Lieutenant: “He is a soldier and saluted me.”

Regular:  “I don’t care for the regulations.  I swear I won’t salute a nigger.”

Lieutenant: “I obey the regulations and return a soldier’s salute.”

Regular: “Curse such regulations. I’ll never salute a nigger; and I don’t think much of any one that will.”

Lieutenant: (Coolly reining in his horse).  “You can get out and walk, sir.”

The snob tried his shoe-leather on the sand, a wiser man, we may hope, and with a higher idea of both the Lieutenant and the polite colored soldier.

You see, the Emancipation Proclamation might say the slaves are free. Constitutional amendments might guarantee their freedom, citizenship, and right to vote.  And those freedmen might even wear the uniform and carry a musket.  But real equality is not pressed down by the government.  It’s achieved at the personal level.  When the Lieutenant Waterhouses of the Army saw fit to treat every USCT private in the same manner as any other private in the Army, there is an equality to speak of.

The simple exchange of salutes might seem small in the grand scheme of things.  But that salute was but a small example of a larger sentiment building among those serving in the department.  Those USCT soldiers would earn the respect and admiration of many for deeds on Morris Island during the summer which followed. There would be plenty of those “regular staff-officer” types, at the time and the century that followed, who would not catch on.  Thankfully, over the span of the next 100 years, there were more of the Lieutenant Waterhouses who did.

(Citation from Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, page 150.)

Fortification Friday: Outlets evolved in the post-war instructions

Earlier we considered the pre-war instructions offered by Mahan in regard to outlets, particularly how those would be constructed.  Training cadets before the war, Mahan covered the topic with a few paragraphs.  Later, after the war, he added a section about bridges associated with the outlets.  However, by the 1880s, Junius Wheeler’s instructions to cadets would sprawl over the better part of seven pages.  Maybe this is simply a case where pre-war there was a premium on copy space for printed manuals.  On the other hand, maybe Wheeler felt “his” cadets needed “special help” getting this particular aspect of fort-building in order.  Or perhaps, which I tend to think, wartime experiences prompted the extended emphasis.

The first thing we see with Wheeler’s treatment of the subject is a focus shift.  Before discussing the construction of these outlets, he steps back to discuss what these are used for.  Notably, the section is titled “Communications, barriers, etc.”:

Communications. – The defenders of a closed work must have arrangements made by means of which they can enter or go out of the work when necessary. In the case of continued lines, arrangements should be provided by means of which the defenders can make sorties.

Word choice here.  Mahan’s writing pressed that outlets were important for servicing the works.  Left unstated, implied at best, were other uses for the outlets – communications, logistics, reconnaissance, or simply just getting out to stretch the garrison’s legs. On the other hand, by selecting this sub-heading, Wheeler set different functional requirements… although, much vaguer than Mahan’s.

Wheeler’s second paragraph discussed the basics.  The outlets had to be made through the parapet, and that created a weak point in the work.  To minimize the risk, he insisted the number of outlets be kept to a minimum and built where least exposed.  Specifically, he gave these suggested placements:

In redoubts, the outlets are on the sides least exposed to attack; in half-enclosed works, they are placed near the middle of the gorge; in forts, they are usually placed near the re-entrants.

And that matches well to Mahan’s suggestions from decades before.  But where we see variations is with the size of these outlets, which Wheeler relates based on functional requirements:

A passage for the use of infantry only should not, as a general thing, be less than six feet wide; for artillery, not less than ten feet wide; for sorties, the outlets in continued lines should be at least fifty yards wide.

See what happened here?  Wheeler took Mahan’s two size categories and then added a third, based on an additional use-case.  I think at this passage Wheeler is thinking back to works at Vicksburg or Petersburg or around Atlanta.  And in those campaigns, field works had become part of an offensive operation – be that a very deliberate siege at some levels, but more dynamic than an “According to Vauban” siege.  Again, not to say wide passages for sorties did not exist prior to 1861, but rather to say those took on different emphasis around about 1863-4… at least in the American context.

Demonstrating that the more things change, the more they tend to stay the same, Wheeler offered this diagram for an idea outlet through the parapet with masking traverse:

WheelerFig50

Yes, he ripped off Mahan.  But give him a little credit for adding more notations and giving us that nice profile on the right.  And he offered the lines (c and g, the “crossing” arrows through the middle) which were the enemy’s “extreme lines of fire”.  Those lines, Wheeler instructed, governed the length of the traverse (T).  Note how those lines are drawn off the corner of the superior slope of the parapet.

Toward that, Wheeler did add a lot more to the notion of masking the outlet:

The length of the traverse may be shortened by turning back the interior crest at right angles to its general direction, and extending it as far as the crest of the Banquette.

This “turn back” is indicated by “B” on the figure.  One on each side of the outlet.  Notice how that would send the lines of fire (again, lines c and g) into a tighter intersection, further back in the outlet, and thus reducing the area the enemy might fire upon. Such angles reduced, the traverse need not be so long.  All in all a nice functional flourish to the outlet design.

Beyond that, Wheeler offered other options that would reduce the vulnerability:

Instead of having a road along its entire front, the traverse is sometimes joined to the parapet on one side of the opening, as shown by the dotted lines b d and e f, in Fig. 50.

And such would mean only one “extreme line of fire” need be considered in regard to traverse length.  But that did mean traffic had a nasty chicane to deal with.

This is all good, but how about that fifty-yard wide outlet for sorties?

The method adopted to mask the interior of the work in this latter case, is to place the traverse opposite the outlet on the outside, and beyond the ditch….

The traverse in this case is usually broken, generally a redan in trace, with the profile of a parapet, but commanded by the parapet in rear.

Figure 51 illustrated this manner of masking:

WheelerFig51

Basically, if you have to provide a wide gap in the works, the only viable solution is to build a miniature work in front to cover it.  Keep in mind, such sortie outlets would be placed on less exposed sections of the line.  And of course, these would be covered by strong faces on either side.  Such would reduce the chance the enemy might target the outlet for their own “sortie”.  And the redan covering the front would further reduce the danger of direct artillery fire.  Note, however, you don’t see a traverse in the interior of the works to cover the sortie outlet.  The purpose of this outlet is to allow infantry in wide columns to emerge in quick order. Bad enough, though necessary, to have that redan in the way.  Putting a traverse on the inside would impose yet another choke point for maneuver… and yet another delay in an operation where time was critical.

Before leaving Wheeler’s discussion of outlets, we’ll also examine the evolution of barriers and bridges.  Furthermore, Wheeler introduced the notion of ramps within these outlets.  All interesting facets to consider with respect to the art of military fortifications.

(Citations from Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 148-51.)

Loudoun County CW Roundtable 2017 Schedule

We’ve just posted our 2017 schedule for the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable.  And wanted to re-post here as I know some readers in our area will be interested:

Speakers and Topics Scheduled for 2017

March 14, 2017—George Lewis: 500 Horses a Day

April 11, 2017—James A. Morgan III: Activities of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War

May 9, 2017—Mike Block: The Confederate Experience in Culpeper County, Virginia

June 13, 2017—Laura June Davis: Mississippi River Boat Burners

July 11, 2017—Robert H. Moore II: The Summers and Koontz Affair

August 8, 2017—Elizabeth Parnicza: The Looting of Fredericksburg

September 12, 2017—James Hessler: Dan Sickles

October 10, 2017—Gordon Calhoun: The CSS Florida, Operations and Artifacts

November 14, 2017—David Goetz: John S. Mosby and the Lincoln Conspiracy

December 12, 2017—Members’ meeting (TBD)

Note: Meetings are not held in January and February.

If you are not a member of the roundtable but wish to attend, drop me a note.  Would be glad to introduce you to the group.

Other “event” news to note, the 18th Annual Civil War Seminar hosted by Longwood University and Appomattox Court House NHP is scheduled for February 18.  No details as to speakers, but I highly recommend getting this one on your calendar.

A rare pair from Georgia: Confederate 20-pdr Parrotts, Macon Arsenal

Back in the summer, the folks at Gettysburg put a pair of 20-pdr Parrotts back out on the field.  I’m a bit behind in my writing assignments… and it is cold outside… so let me post some summertime photos to warm you up a bit:

Gettysburg Sept 10 027

The location is Captain Robert Stribling’s Battery (the Fauquier Artillery) along West Confederate Avenue. The battery manned two 20-pdr Parrotts and four 12-pdr Napoleons at the time of the battle.  And what we see here are a pair of 20-pdr Parrotts representing the battery at this position. This pair is somewhat unique among surviving weapons, being the only such (that I know of) produced by Macon Arsenal.

Recall Macon Arsenal included one of the government-run foundries setup by the Confederacy. The arsenal is most known for the production of 12-pdr Napoleons.  But the arsenal also produced a small number of iron guns, following the layout of the Parrott rifle system.  In the past, I’ve mentioned a 10-pdr Parrott which is suspected to be from Macon. Arsenal records indicate a handful of 20-pdr and 30-pdr Parrotts were also produced.  Of, probably, five 20-pdr Parrotts produced by Macon, we have these two survivors.  So you can say these had a good survival rate… or be thankful to have two survivors out of such a small production run.

Unlike the 10-pdr at Chancellorsville, there is no doubt as to the origin of the 20-pdrs:

Gettysburg 024

Right there on top – “Macon Arsenal”.  The other stampings read “1864” for the year of production (perhaps matching to April or May in arsenal records); “1660” is the recorded weight, in pounds; “No.1” is the foundry number; and “E.T.” for either the inspector or other official making acceptance.

The gun’s mate has similar markings, but a fair bit clearer:

Gettysburg Sept 10 023

Note the differences here with the weight being 1664 pounds and the foundry number of 3. We also see the rifling – five right handed spiral grooves.

Gettysburg 025

Do watch for the wasps there.

Working our way back from the muzzle, we see a clamp of sorts around the end of the chase, just short of the muzzle swell:

Gettysburg 023

That on No.1 appears to be aligned, while that on No.3 is askew after 150 years of handling. The band itself is a fraction over 1 inch in width:

Gettysburg Sept 10 010

As seen on the right, what appears to be a square pin goes through the strap.  Presumably this is what remains of the front sight. The open end of the strap is fixed by a bolt (seen above).  The other side is hinged:

Gettysburg 035

That is on No.3, where the strap is askew, where the hinge is easier to view.  Notice, to the right, you don’t see the pin that might be the front sight.  This strap is apparently both out of alignment and upside down.

Looking at the barrel itself, thanks to a fresh coat of paint we can see a lot of surface details.

Gettysburg 037

The casting seam may be traced right back through the shoulders to the band.  And very little turning was done to smooth the surface.  This would not pass the Federal inspections but was determined as sufficient for Confederate needs.  Turning just added to the processing time and gave picky inspectors something to fret over… in J.R. Anderson’s opinion, at least.

And we get back to what makes this a Parrott, the band:

Gettysburg 032

I’ve taken the time to collect some rough field measurements.  But I wish to save those for a post comparing the bands of Federal, Tredegar, and Macon Parrotts of this caliber.  That in mind, we’ll save full discussion of the band arrangement for later.  But do note the slight radial line visible about a quarter the way up from the breech.  That may be a trace left over from butt-welding the rings constituting the band.  Also notice a scuff mark just in front of the band. Perhaps a vestige of the work to force the bands onto the barrel?  Or yet another result of bad handling?

Looking at the breech, we see arrangements for the rear sight at the top position:

Gettysburg 021

Just seems like a lot of inherent inaccuracies built in with that front sight on a strap.  But then again, this isn’t a sniping rifle.

Notice the casting seem down the face of the breech.  And we also see a dent in the knob.  Battle damage or mishandling? Probably the latter.

Here is a better view of the rear sight area:

Gettysburg 033

And again we see “scuffs” near where the band is attached over the barrel.

It is good to see these old guns back on the field after many years absence.

Gettysburg 019

Many thanks to those who work restoring these guns and the organizations that aid the park service in this regard.  Very good work with these two rare guns.  And it is good to see them on the field instead of stuffed in a museum. Better to have them on the field, in spite of the risk due to weathering and wear. Cannons were made to point out over a battlefield.  And though these two could not possibly be Gettysburg veterans (due to the date of manufacture), they stand in well in place of those that were.

Fortification Friday: Drawbridges? For field fortifications?

Last week we looked at the use of outlets in the field fortifications.  Certainly it was impractical to insist the garrison stockpile sufficient food and supplies for the anticipated duration of the conflict at hand… not to mention cross their legs the whole time.  Some sort of gate or entrance was required.  However, that presented a weak point that an attacker might exploit.  Thus Mahan urged his students to build additional structures, namely traverses, to cover those entrances.  That reduced the risk to a degree.

But where the point where the outlet crossed the ditch (if it had to cross a ditch, that is) presented a greater problem.  As we’ve seen in detail, one of the important properties of the ditch was serving as an obstacle to any attack.  But the outlet would require a six to ten foot wide path across the ditch.  Thus granting an attacker a potential highway across.  Common sense response to that problem was to simply build some sort of retractable bridge.  But pre-war, Mahan did not offer that as a direct solution (indeed, avoiding mention of the problem altogether).  But in his post-war edition, Mahan offered:

Draw-Bridge. For the usually narrow ditches of field works, either a light rolling bridge may be used for a communication, from the outlet, across the ditch; or else an ordinary wooden draw-bridge.  A very simple one, and of easy construction, was proposed by Colonel Bergère of the French engineers.

I believe this refers to Colonel Pierre Bergère (1785-1868), but I don’t know of a specific work to reference in regard to the bridges in question here.  I find it interesting the more detailed discussion of bridges enters Mahan’s post-war edition with Bergère serving as a reference and introduction.  Either as if the 1861-65 experience simply followed that of the French engineer, or could not be applied directly.  I have my thoughts, but let’s save that for later.

Mahan offered Figure 45, bis to illustrate the proposed bridge:

MahanFig45bis

Technical details followed:

The bridge is a light platform a,a’, of joists and boards, long enough to span the ditch D, and so arranged as to turn around an axle at A, the crest of the scarp.  At the point B, on each side of the platform, an iron gudgeon is firmly attached to it and turns in the eye of a socket at the end of lever C B.  This lever is formed of two pieces of scantling of some tough flexible wood, each about four inches square. The lever has an eye, at the middle point O, which receives a strong iron bolt that connects two ordinary gun carriage wheels.  The two pieces which form the lever are firmly fastened together, as shown in the figure; a weight, consisting of shells filled with sand, or shot, being fastened at the end c, and serving as a counterpoise to the bridge.  Two rails A, of heavy scantling are laid for the wheels to run upon in maneuvering the bridge; which is done simply by one or two men taking hold of the spokes of the wheels, and so, by turning them, causing them to run backwards or forwards, and thus raise or lower the bridge.

The arrangement is a clean piece of engineering.  But nothing novel or particularly advanced, technically speaking.  Noteworthy is the re-purposing of common equipment, such as carriage wheels and projectiles, on hand with the field army.

But I have to throw a flag out here.  If those building the fortification had ample time to build fancy drawbridges, they were more so working as garrison troops and probably not actively campaigning.  The premise behind field fortifications was those would be temporary structures established as part of a field army’s operations.  Not structures to be garrisoned, which should shade more to the permanent fortifications with far more elaborate arrangements all around.  But experience in the Civil War took the American officers away from some pre-war assumptions about how fortifications would be use.  And more importantly how to classify them.  We’ve already noted that Junius Wheeler began classifying semi-permanent and temporary garrison fortifications within the discussion of field fortifications.

Now this is not to say no self-respecting American engineer in 1861 would consider the drawbridge when planning the outlet to a fort. Rather that in 1861, the use of drawbridges were not emphasized in the classroom.  But by 1870, that changed to provide a couple of paragraphs and a nice illustration based on a French officer’s recommendations.  As we will see by looking at Wheeler’s text, by the next decade, those instructions evolved even further.  Pages, mind you, dedicated to the discussion of small bridges!

(Citation from Mahan, An Elementary Course of Military Engineering: Part 1: Field Fortifications, Military Mining, and Siege Operations, New York: John Wiley & Son, 1870, page 57-8.)

Winter reorganizations: Army of the Cumberland

Last week, I gave a lengthy justification for readers to consider winter encampment activities as related to the Civil War.  Overlooked, as we are drawn to the battles or campaigns, these encampments did much to setup those more “attractive” events. One of the examples I offered was the Army of the Cumberland’s stay, which lasted well into the spring, at Murfreesboro in 1863.  The length and breadth of that activity deserves full book length treatment, in my opinion. But for the moment, allow me to focus on one category of that encampment’s activities – reorganization.

The formation that won the Tullahoma Campaign, captured Chattanooga, and then was defeated at Chickamauga, was a different formation than the one which had won at Stones River in January.  Yet, the differences in that organization are somewhat subtle.  Consider the formation that Major-General William S. Rosecrans moved out of Nashville with in December 1862:

Fourteenth Corps Dec 18 1862

Um… this is an eye-test chart, I know.  Click the illustration and you’ll hit Flickr where you can zoom in and out.  This is roughly what Rosecrans had, on or about December 18, 1862.  Some things to note here (as I know you have trouble reading it!):

  • Rosecrans had three hats.  At this period of the war the “commands” of Department of the Cumberland, Army of the Cumberland, and Fourteenth Corps were almost interchangeable.
  • The formation of the Department/Army/Corps was a hand over from the previous Army of the Ohio as it was under Major General Don C. Buell.
  • In the old Army of the Ohio, there had been an organization for the field, for campaigning, and an organization on paper, for administration.  The former was built around wings and was temporary to meet situations.  The later included numbered divisions (up to Twelve) with separately numbered brigades (into the thirties).
  • When Rosecrans assumed command, he gradually changed that arrangement, first with three somewhat permanent wings.  But even as late as the middle of December 1862, the army still operated with the division and brigade designations from before.
  • For example, Major-General Alexander McCook commanded the Right Wing constituted of the 9th Division (13th, 21st, and 22nd Brigades), 2nd Division (4th, 5th, and 6th brigades), and 11th Division (37th and 35th brigades, plus a brigade brought over from 13th Division, formerly 1st Division of the Army of the Mississippi… a sidebar for later discussion).
  • Just days before battle at Stones River, Rosecrans reverted the division/brigade numbering to a more conventional format – that we are more familiar with, having each wing’s division numbered internally, and likewise each division’s brigades likewise numbered in sequence.

To that last set of points, consider the 41st Ohio, which was in the 19th Brigade, under Colonel William B. Hazen, and in the 4th Division under Brigadier-General John M. Palmer (who’d transferred over from that Army of the Mississippi division, by the way). Just before the big battle, the 41st Ohio’s parent organization changed to Second Brigade, Second Division, Left Wing, Fourteenth Corps.  Just a paper change, you say.  But think about it from the perspective of the officer trying to sort out who is aligned on his left or right flank.  That might be the “old” 22nd Brigade of Brigadier-General Charles Cruft showing up.  Or it might be the “new” Third Brigade, First Division, Left Wing, which used to be Colonel Charles Harker’s 20th Brigade.  You see, there were three possible names for each brigade that might possibly be in play at Stones River.

Now I am placing more emphasis on that factor than probably ought to be.  I know of no cases where confusions derived on the field due to the designation changes.  Usually, as we know from official reports, the reference was to a commander’s brigade by name.  If there was any confusion, it was usually confined to the staff when managing the administrative details.

However, there’s a subtlety here we should be keen to.  Prior to December 1862, a soldier in Hazen’s Brigade carried the name of his unit as the 19th Brigade.  That carried with it a somewhat implied detachment from divisions and corps.  The brigade might be reassigned to another formation on a temporary basis.  That’s why it was numbered in such manner.  But once the designation was changed to reflect an ordinal under a parent division, that changed.  Now Hazen’s Brigade was bound to Second Division… though that division might move between wings or assignments as needed.

Turning forward to the winter encampment, that assignment was further solidified by orders which came down on January 9, 1863.  Specifically, General Orders No. 9 from the War Department… not the Army or Department… but the War Department, mind you:

By direction of the President, the Army of the Cumberland, under the command of Major-General Rosecrans, is divided into three army corps, to be known as the Fourteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first.

Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas is assigned to the command of the Fourteenth Army Corps; Maj. Gen. A. McD. McCook to the command of the Twentieth; and Maj. Gen. T.L. Crittenden to the command of the Twenty-first Corps.

The result was this organization, adding a Reserve Corps, by June 30, 1863:

Fourteenth Corps June 30 1863

Now the soldier in the 41st Ohio was part of the Second Brigade, Second Division, Twenty-first Corps.  There is certainly a formality to that.  And more importantly an attachment to a formation.  At some point down the road, people would start talking about corps badges and such.

And yes, the organization was more balanced than that used at Stones River.  You’ll note that as Fourteenth Corps became a subordinate formation, Rosecrans lost one of his many hats, being “only” the army and department head.  Still Thomas had a “big” command with the Fourteenth Corps’ four divisions.  But the overall result was to give Rosecrans a more responsive organization.  We could well drill into particulars, namely with cavalry and other “lightning” formations if you get my drift.  But even at the high level, this looks like a flexible, responsive, and fighting formation.

There’s another subtle part to this which also need be addressed.  Rosecrans issued his own general order effecting the arrangement of the corps.  But that referenced the War Department’s order. And as you read it, yes that was the President’s orders.  From the top.

You see, prior to January 9, if Rosecrans had an issue, hypothetically speaking, with a wing commander, he might figure a way to administratively move him out.  But after January 9, any changes with the corps commanders had to be made with the blessings of those in Washington… top people in Washington.  This reorganization served to bind the subordinate formations, right down to the individual soldier, to a unit.  Likewise we see the “big army” was somewhat bound to the soldier.

Fortification Friday: Don’t for get the door! Gotta get in and out of the fort

So you’ve built a strong fortification in accordance with Mahan’s instructions.  The fortification has wonderful fields of fire, properly sized parapets, protected batteries, and bombproofs for everything to include the commander’s liquor stash.  Great!

But sooner or later the fort’s garrison has to wonder outside the works.  Say for maintenance of the works, or patrolling the outskirts, or simply for resupply.  So there needs to be a passage to the exterior somewhere in the plan.  Mahan called these outlets:

Outlets are passages made through a parapet, or an enclosure of a gorge, for the service of the work.  They should, in all cases, be made in the least exposed part of the work.  Their width need not be more than six and a half feet, when used only for the service of the work; but when they serve as a common passage for wagons, &c., in the case of the intrenchment crossing a road, they should be at least ten feet wide.

Clear definition.  And some clear specifications with the idea width established at either 6 ½ feet, for “walk out” outlets, or ten feet, for “ride out” outlets.  That established as a rule of thumb, we turn to the structural components and advice for building these outlets:

When cut through the parapet, the sides receive a slope of three perpendicular to one base, and are riveted with sods, &c.

A gate, termed a barrier, serves as an enclosure to the outlet.  The framework of the barrier is made like an ordinary gate, consisting of two uprights, or stiles, a cross-piece, or rail, at the top and bottom, and a swinging bar, or a diagonal brace. Upright palisades, about seven feet long and four inches thick, are spiked to the frame about four inches apart; they are finished at top with spikes. A barrier, thus constructed, will not offer a shelter to the enemy should he attempt to cut it away.  The barrier is hung on hinges like an ordinary gate.  The posts of the framework should be very solidly braced to support the weight of the barrier.

Figure 41 illustrates such a barrier:

PlateVIFig41

Yes, they sell these as pre-fabricated products at Home Depot and Lowes.  Well… not exactly to military specifications.  But you get the point, the base form is a simple gate. For the annotations, Mahan offered:

  • A A – posts to which the gate is swung.
  • B B – the uprights of the gate.
  • c c’ – the upper and lower cross pieces. (c’ seems to have been left off).
  • D – the diagonal brace.
  • E – the bar of the gate.

Note also the mention of spikes on the gate. Specifically palisades.  These were not intended to impale an attacker, but rather to keep the attacker’s reach away from the structure of the gate.  So drop all those Medieval notions there.

Continuing, Mahan offered,  “A cheval-de-frise is sometimes used for a barrier, it presents but a trifling obstacle.”  So let us relegate that to the level of lazy engineering.

But just keeping the enemy at arms length was not enough.  One also had to protect the outlet from cannon fire. Toward that end:

The outlet should be covered by a mask, thrown up either on the interior, or on the exterior, to prevent the enemy from firing through it into the work.  A traverse is thrown across it, if placed on the interior.  Sufficient space should be left between the traverse and the parapet for the passage of a gun.  The length of the traverse is arranged to prevent the enemy from firing into the work, by an oblique fire through the outlet.  The traverse may be of earth or of wood; in either case it should be arranged for defense to enfilade the outlet. In some cases, and it would generally be safest, a barrier is erected between the parapet and the traverse, on each side of the outlet.

Figure 42 provides us Mahan’s suggested layout of the masking traverse:

PlateVIFig42

From the key for this figure:

  • O – the passage or outlet through the parapet.
  • P – (to the left of “Fig. 42.”) the passage between the parapet and the traverse
  • T – the traverse

Note Mahan gave us 6 ½ feet between the parapet and traverse for “P”.  We also see the prescribed cross fires built across the passage.

Mahan went on to suggest more elaborate defensive arrangements to protect important passages.  “In very frequented passages, a redan or a lunette, is thrown up on the exterior to cover the outlet, and thus ensure its safety in case of surprise.”  These arrangements followed the standard configurations for faces and flanks.  No doubt, such added more work for the defender’s labor force, as they would be clearing and leveling both front and rear.

The important take away with respect to passages is how a necessary weak spot in the defenses would be turned into a strong point by way of barriers, traverses, and other cover.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 61-2.)