Fortification Friday: The simple, effective Abattis

Abattis?  Abatis?  Abbattis?

And how do you pronounce it?  Ah-ba-tee?  Ah-bae-tus?  Or, for those in the deep south… Awe-bat-us.

How about Russian? Zaseka.  And the Russians knew a thing or two about abattis.  Their Zasechnaya Cherta was a thousand kilometer line against the Tatars, dating to the 12th and 13th centuries, built initially from felled trees.  Thus, on a grand scale rivaling the Great Wall of China, the Russians used a basic obstacle to form a defense against cavalry raids.  We find reference to felled tree or well placed limb obstacles from ancient times right up through the twentieth century.

For this post, I will stick with Mahan’s spelling of the word … Abattis, which he described as such:

Abattis. The large limbs of trees are selected for an abattis.  The smaller branches are chopped off, and the ends, pointed and interlaced with some care, are presented towards the enemy.  The large end of the limb is secured to the ground by a crochet-picket, and may be partly imbedded to prevent its being readily torn up.

One of the best methods for forming an abattis, and which is peculiarly adapted to strengthening the skirts of a wood occupied by light troops, is to fell the trees so that their branches will interlace, cutting the trunk in such a way that the tree will hang to the stump by a portion uncut.  The stumps may be left high enough to cover a man in the act of firing.

If we are particular, there are two variety of abattis described here.  The first is that of limbs arranged, and preferably pinned, in front of the works.  Mahan offered this illustration for that form of abattis:

PlateIVFig29

On the left we see the pickets designed to retain the limbs. Mahan offered specific instructions for laying these sort of obstacles:

Abattis are placed in front of the ditch; in this position they must be covered from the enemy’s fire by a small glacis. They are sometimes placed in the ditch against the counterscarp.

Note on the right side of Figure 29 above the glacis.  And think about how this would work in the defense.  An attacker would advance up that glacis, every step bringing them into greater profile within the defender’s view.  At the height of the glacis, the attacker is faced with the need to descend into a mess of twisted branches…all while the defender has a clear shot.  And if the attacker does chose to deal with the abattis, all the work is done in plain view… and within range of… the defender.  At least that is how it was supposed to work against infantry and cavalry.  Junius Wheeler, in his post-war update to Mahan’s lesson plans, offered this illustration:

WheelerFig66

As for artillery, the main reason Mahan suggested the glacis is to make difficult any attempt to break up the abattis by shot or shell.  If well constructed, the glacis would serve to ricochet the projectile over the abattis.  And if the rest of the fort were properly constructed, the projectile would continue to sail over the parapet and all vital areas… expending at some point well to the rear of the defense.  We see that illustrated, in reference to the other components, in Figure 26:

PlateIIIFig26

The obstacle at the bottom of the ditch in this case is a small picket.  But we might refer to some wartime photos to see an abattis used in the ditch, laid against the counterscarp, as Mahan suggested:

32419u

We see an abattis laid against the counterscarp, which we are looking over, in the foreground.  In the background we see palisades and other obstacles… which we will discuss in due time.  Wheeler, writing post-war, offered one other alternative along this theme.  He suggested planting the abattis upright in the ditch as so:

WheelerFig65

The other variation mentioned by Mahan, felled trees still attached to the stump, was perhaps more so a field expedient.  As he said, perhaps where light troops were defending a wood line.  Beyond just forming a supplement to the main fortification, the abattis might be called to serve as the main line of defense in some situations:

This is an excellent obstacle in a wooded country, and admits of good defense, if a slight parapet is thrown up behind it.  The parapet may be made of the trunks of trees laid on each other with a shallow ditch, or trench, behind them; the earth from which is thrown against the trunks. In an open position it may be relied on as a security against surprise, particularly of cavalry.

Abattis were relatively simple, as far as obstacles go.  Very little effort needed to create them.  And the materials were usually easy to come by.  Likewise, once in place the abattis were easy to maintain. So we see a lot of them in Civil War photographs.  One of my favorite studies in that regard is Fort McAllister:

03371a_Crop

This is the view of Hazen’s Division attacking the fort on December 13, 1864.  Not hard to put yourself in those shoes.

We don’t see much in the way of a glacis protecting these abattis.  And these are very far out from the main fortification’s ditch.  Another point of view shows a section of abattis closer to the fort’s ditch:

03138a_Crop

I think we are have several factors involved with the placement of abattis at Fort McAllister.  To begin with, the Ogeechee River’s alluvial plain did not offer much in the way of relief for the defender’s advantage.  So to build a glacis, one needed to displace a lot of sand.   And that is sand, not earth.  And when dry, sand does not stand up well, bringing the need for some form of revetment.  Bottom line, a lot more work.

An operational factor at play is the nature of the defense.  Fort McAllister was built to stop Federal gunboats and ironclads from venturing upriver.  So its facings were strengthened accordingly.  The marshes and other natural obstacles would deter any flanking operation from a sea-based attacker. So the Federals flanked the works by way of a march from Atlanta.

Lastly, the distance of the abattis from the ditch is, I think, significant.  It being a tactical factor. By 1864 both armies were keenly aware of longer engagement ranges.  The defenders of Fort McAllister could push out those abattis and feel comfortable their artillery and musketry would range.  But keep in mind, when viewing the photos, the abattis appears to be “out far” in some sections but close in at other points.  All were, I would submit, placed with respect to tactical needs.

One more photo from Fort McAllister that reinforces Mahan’s discussion of abattis:

03139r

Look at this mass of twisted limbs and branches.  It is not the heavy limbs that Mahan may have preferred.  But it is an obstacle none-the-less.  Again, imagine having to step through that mess in order to get at the next layer of obstacle… all while under fire from the defender.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 45.)

Tatham’s Canister… and some connections

You may have noticed on occasion we find listings for Tatham’s canister in the ordnance summary statements:

TathamHeader

The columns are exclusively canister.  And even more selective, only for calibers associated with James Rifles or the modified, rifled 6-pdr field guns – 3.80-inch and 3.67-inch respectively.  Though I would point out the later shared a bore measure with Parrott 20-pdrs and Waird 12-pdr rifles…. but let’s not wonder down that path… yet! When I started reviewing the summaries, Tatham’s name looked familiar but I didn’t draw many connections.  I knew it from association with ordnance contracts.  But the column header elevated the name on par with those of Hotchkiss, Dyer, James, Parrott, and Schenkl.  So what did Tatham invent? The Tatham in question here is actually a family.  Brothers in fact. From a “Domestic Engineering” Quarterly Index, dated 1910:

 The Tatham Brothers began to make lead-pipe in 1840. The original members of the firm were: Benjamin, Henry B., George N., Charles B. and William P. Tatham.  Chas. B. and Benjamin Tatham were the managers of the New York branch. They made the best lead-pipe ever known, guaranteeing to make it any length, whereas the plumber making his own lead-pipe on shapes or forms, and soldering down two seams, could only go fifteen feet.  Tatham & Bros. bought up the plumbers’ forms, and they had no difficulty in getting pipe short or long as desired….

Yes, plumbing with lead pipes… back in the old days. The article went on to point out the Tathams also had substantial works in Philadelphia, specifically, “On Windmill Island, in the Delaware river, the Tathams had a smelter where they refined various kinds of ores as well as lead.”  Furthermore, at the New York City location the brothers built a shot tower, in the 1850s, to produce lead shot.

The Tathams, being industrious folk who were sensitive to their revenue stream, also secured several patents.  In 1859, Charles B. Tatham received Patent No. 23,202 for an improvement to shot making:

TathamPatent23202

Basically an improved melting pot making the process more efficient and easier to control.  The “point of order” here I’d offer is the Tathams were serious about lead shot.  They were ready to meet substantial orders.

And the Tathams kept up with advances in military technology.  Round musket balls were out… minié balls, were in demand… so Charles patented a better system for casting conical lead bullets:

TathamPatent35334

In short, we see a mold into which molten lead was poured into the trough marked “B”.  Inside the mold were cores, marked “C”, mounted on “D”, a bar.  After cooling, workers opened the mold by pulling the bar up with the cores.  Then the finished bullets fell out, complete with the required cavity.

The exhibits thus far go to show Tatham & Brothers were part of that grand Federal War Machine.  But what about artillery projectiles?  We start with a contract dated November 6, 1861, forwarded by Lieutenant Colonel William Maynadier (whom we’ve met before):

Sir: Be pleased to send to Colonel J. Symington, United States arsenal, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, twenty-five hundred (2,500) canister shot for James’s rifle gun, (3.80 bore.) As soon as 500 are completed turn them over to United States quartermaster, New York, (No.6 State street,) for transportation.

This contract was let to “Mr. C.B. Tatham, 82 Beekman Street, New York.”

Consider the responsible officer here, John Symington, who was at that time working to supply ordnance to western armies.  So that takes us to some of the western battlefields. Jack Melton’s website on artillery and projectiles has a short entry on canister projectiles for James rifles, in which he describes:

A James Canister Pattern I sabot was used for the base. The placement of the tin sheeting over the lead sabot was an attempt to keep the lead from fouling the grooves of the rifled cannon during firing. The majority of James canisters have been recovered from Shiloh and Fort Pillow, Tennessee.

The tin sheeting used is notable here.  Other canister for rifled guns used other arrangements.  It is not enough for me to directly link the canister rounds found at Shiloh to Tatham.  But it is a reasonable speculation.  Perhaps the Ordnance Department gave Tatham’s a set of columns on the summary because of the unique construction, as well as the source.  Though I don’t see that any of the Tatham brothers secured a patent for such.  If there are readers who might shed light on this, would appreciate a comment below!

There were more orders for Tatham’s canister early in the war.  Other Ordnance Department documents indicate quantities of 3.67-inch (which we see in the column header), 2.9-inch/10-pdr Parrott, and 2.6-inch / 6-pdr Wiard.  Most references to the Tatham canister are associated with western arsenals or units.  Again, this may indicate the Tatham projectiles employed a unique system or construction.  Or this simply may be an acknowledgement of the vendor.

Beyond just supplying munitions, the Tathams were privately very active in support of Federal efforts.  In 1861, Charles was on a committee aiding the organization of the 58th New York.  Later in the war, both Charles and Benjamin supported relief efforts for the contraband camps.

Just at the end of the war, in June 1865, the Tathams wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in regard to a curious business negotiation.  The firm of Arthur Shepherd & Co. approached the Tathams with an order of materials for work in Richmond, Virginia.  The Tathams wrote,

The parties whose card is enclosed desire permission to receive from us lead pipe and shot lead.  These articles being contraband under an order from your department, the Secy. of the [Treasury] declined granting a permit until .. your order upon the subject.  If you can give the permission we think it perfectly safe.

The matter was referred to Major-General Henry Halleck and the request was apparently granted. What makes this interesting, to me at least, the physical reconstruction of the South at the early date.  Further goes to indicate the Tathams were well acquainted with high officials at the War Department.

So we know the Tathams were active in the war effort.  The next question would be if any of their factory, particularly in New York which is linked to munitions, exists today.  The address given was  82 Beekman Street.  A bill of sale from 1852 has artwork showing the dockside portion of the New York facilities:

768

The shot tower came later in the 1850s.  A December 18, 1856 article in the new York Tribune described it so:

It will be 2147 feet to the peak from the foundation, which is laid on a level with Ferry street.  It is octagon in form, and composed of sections of iron columns, fluted on the outside – the space between filled in with brick, laid in cement.  Each of these columns rests upon a massive brick foundation, being anchored to a weight of thirty tons, each weight connected by inverted arches with its fellows.  The columns of each section are joined by iron girders, bolted with 1 ¾ inch bolts. The total weight of iron employed in the construction of this tower is 237,000 pounds. During the strong winds recently there was no vibration perceptible more than a hundred feet above the foundation.

Looking to an 1867 “Bird’s Eye” street map of New York City, we see what must be an artist rendition of the tower and the Tatham facilities:

TathamNewYork

The point of reference to follow here is the wharf numbered “69” in the lower center.  That’s Fulton Ferry.  From there walk inland and up to Beekman Street where the Tathams’ address is.  We see a prominent tower… or is that a smoke stack?

Don’t know about you, but I won’t be satisfied unless I see a photograph.  A real photograph that will show the tower … OK…. how about this one?

3b14255r

That should be the Tatham shot tower on the right.  Oh… and there in the distant left is the Brooklyn Bridge.  The photo must be dated to before the end of the 19th century.  The shot tower suffered a couple of fires in the early 20th century and was removed in 1907.

This post has wondered far afield now!  So let me close by showing what the Tathams’ New York street address looks like today:

TathamToday

Queue the “Gangs of New York” music… things have sure changed in 150 years.

 

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – 5th Regiment, US Regulars

Moving in order now to close out the summary statement pages for the US Regular Artillery batteries, we come to the 5th Artillery:

0092_1_Snip_5thUS

When we looked at the Fifth Regiment as part of the fourth quarter, 1862 summaries, the batteries were split between two pages.  Huzzah!  A clerical victory!  And speaking of clerks, the dates on the far left might lend more credence to the data here… we might presume.  Of the twelve batteries, only one does not have a report date registered (reason for that will be seen shortly).  Furthermore, we have nine batteries reporting quantities of what makes a battery something more than a collection of soldiers – cannons!  And at the bottom line, we see an entry for the regimental headquarters.  And we see a relatively straight forward listing of key battery information:

  • Battery A: At Suffolk, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery A began the winter under Third Division, Ninth Corps, commanded by Lieutenant George Crabb, outside Fredericksburg. By March, the battery was under Lieutenant James Gilliss, supporting the same division at Suffolk.
  • Battery B: No report. This new battery continued to form-up at Fort Hamilton through the winter and spring of 1863.
  • Battery C: Reporting at Belle Plain, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain Dunbar R. Ransom commanded this battery supporting Second Division, First Corps.  The battery added two Napoleons over the previous quarter.
  • Battery D: Falmouth, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. We find Lieutenant Charles Hazlett’s battery supporting First Division, Fifth Corps with the six Parrotts that would go on to some renown on some small hill later in the summer.
  • Battery E: At Fort Hamilton, New Jersey but without cannons.  As with Battery B above, Battery E was still organizing, under regimental headquarters’ charge, at this point in the war.
  • Battery F: White Oak Church, Virginia, with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 10-pdr Parrotts. Lieutenant Leonard Martin commanded this battery (though Captain Romeyn B. Ayres held command on early winter returns, split between battery and brigade postings).  The battery supported Second Division, Sixth Corps.
  • Battery G: Way out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant  Jacob B. Rawles commanded this battery from Second Division, Nineteenth Corps.
  • Battery H: Wintering at Murfreesboro, Tennessee and armed with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts. With the reorganization of the Army of the Cumberland, Lieutenant Francis Guenther took his battery to First Division, Fourteenth Corps.
  • Battery I: At Falmouth, Virginia but reporting no cannon.  Lieutenant Malbone F. Watson commanded this battery in support of Second Division, Fifth Corps.  Other records indicate this battery had four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Battery K: Also at Falmouth and with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant David H. Kinzie led this battery of the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery L: Reporting at Winchester, Virginia with six 3-inch rifles. Lieutenant Edmund D. Spooner’s battery joined Milroy’s command at Winchester at the start of spring that year.
  • Battery M: At Yorktown, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain James McKnight’s battery was unassigned, but part of the Seventh Corps at this phase of the war.
  • Regimental HQ: “Sr. Maj.” maybe?  At any rate, reporting from Fort Hamilton.   For those curious, the equipment on hand included a battery forge, a battery wagon, and a fair quantity of implements, accouterments, and supplies.

So from an organizational perspective, we don’t see a lot of changes with the batteries of the regiment.  Nor any significant changes in cannon reported.

What of the ammunition reported?  Starting with the smoothbore section, as expected we have only 12-pdr Napoleon

0094_1_Snip_5thUS

More lines reporting here compared to the previous quarter:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 96 shells, 288 spherical case, and 192 canister for Napoleons.
  • Battery C: 535 shot, 167 shell, 651 case, and 301 canister in 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery F: 96 shot, 32 shell, 96 case, and 40 canister all for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery G: 190 shot, 106 shell, 360 case, and 128 canister in 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery H: 173 shot, 64 shell, 175 case, and 100 canister for the Napoleons.
  • Battery K: No quantities reported..
  • Battery M: 283 shot, 87 shell, 274 case, and 96 canister for their Napoleons.

Note that Batteries A, F, and M reported the same quantities from the previous month.  (I probably transcribed the numbers of shot for Battery M incorrectly in that previous quarter.)

Looking to the rifled projectiles, we start with the Hotchkiss variety:

0094_2_Snip_5thUS

One battery reporting:

  • Battery L: 120 canister, 120 percussion shell, 240 (or 340) fuse shell, and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Battery I is noticeably absent quantities again.

On the next page, no quantities of Dyer’s or James’ appear, but there are Parrott projectiles for those Parrott rifles:

0095_1A_Snip_5thUS

Three batteries reporting:

  • Battery D:  72 shell, 500 case, and 24 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery F: 160 shell, 320 case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery H: 250 shell, 56 case, and 94 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

Comparing to the previous quarter, Battery D’s and Battery F’s quantities remained the same; and Battery H reported a smaller quantity of 10-pdr shell.

Moving to Schenkl projectiles:

0095_2A_Snip_5thUS

Two batteries reporting:

  • Battery D: 251 Schenkl shell for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery F:  320 Schenkl shell for 10-pdr Parrott.

Battery D’s quantities did not differ from the previous quarter. Battery F appears to have lost 320 Schenkel 10-pdr shot listed in the last quarter, then gained the same quantity of shell.  Go figure.

Finally we reach the small arms:

0095_3_Snip_5thUS

By battery:

  • Battery A: Twenty-nine Army revolvers, one cavalry saber, and sixty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: Twenty-seven Army revolvers, twenty-six Navy revolvers, and nineteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Twelve Navy revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: One-hundred-and-ten horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Twenty-seven Army revolvers and twenty-four horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Twenty-two horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Army revolvers, five Navy revolvers, and thirty-nine cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Fifty-eight Army revolvers and sixteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L:  One-hundred-and-fifty horse artillery sabers!
  • Battery M: Twenty-four Navy revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.

I can see a use for Battery E, which was still forming, to have a large number of sabers on hand.  We might presume there was a lot of saber drill going on at Fort Hamilton.

But Battery L?  I guess they would put those 150 sabers to good use later in the summer.

Fortification Friday: Trous-de-loup… French for pits in the ground

Trous-de-loup!  Oh-la-la! Anything in French just sounds sweeter… dare I say romantic?

that-was-frenchquerida

Mahan listed Trous-de-loup as a type of obstacle. What is a Trous-de-loup, anyway?  Um… a straight translation would be something like “holes.”  In the context of military fortifications, Mahan described them as pits, but kept the French nomenclature.  Now these were not just random holes in the ground.  Rather these were fashioned in an orderly manner to serve as an obstacle:

Trous-de-loup. These are pits in the form of an inverted truncated cone, or quadrilateral pyramid; their diameter at top is six feet, their depth six feet, and width at bottom eighteen inches.  A stake is, in some cases, planted firmly in the bottom, its top being sharpened, and the point a few inches below the upper circle.

Mahan offered Figure 28 to illustrate Trous-de-loup:

PlateIVFig28

Let us focus on the left side of Figure 28 for a moment where the pits are demonstrated to the dimensions Mahan specified in the text:

PlateIVFig28A

As obstacles go, the Trous-de-loup broke up the ground over which the attacker advanced.  And notice the specified dimensions.  At six foot depth, this ensured the attacker could not gain a lodgement which was not dominated from the defender’s parapets. This pit was dug from the surface level, giving no artificial elevation to aid the attacker. Furthermore, the attacker would have to share the eighteen inch bottom with, if the option were exercised, a post or stake.  Certainly not something an attacker would like to deal with while crossing the “beaten zone” to get at a fortification.

Trous-de-loup are generally placed in three rows, in quincunx order, a few yards in front of the ditch.  They are readily laid out by means of an equilateral triangle, formed of cords, the sides of the triangle being eighteen feet; the angular points mark the center of the pits….

Quincunx order?  Yes, a pattern… arrangement, if you will.  Quick, familiar reference – pick up a six sided dice and look at the five side.  Scott Manning in one of his Wednesday Warpaths will likely point out to us that quincunx is Latin.  It derived from a name for the denomination of Roman currency.  The geometric pattern served as a good arrangement orchards.  And the Roman legions sometimes used it as a tactical formation… but that’s Scott’s shtick.

To illustrate Mahan’s suggested placement of trous-de-loup, let us drop some equilateral triangles on the figure:

PlateIVFig28A_Overlay

Regular placement of obstacles forces the attacker to adopt predictable approach methods. This enables the defender to better place larger weapons… like artillery… to achieve the maximum effective damage.  So don’t scoff at Mahan’s triangles.  There’s a reason for the specification and, in tactical parlance, it rhymes.

With the arrangement set, the digging would commence. And that leads to the question – what to do with the removed dirt?

The earth taken from them is spread over the ground between them, and is formed into hillocks to render the passage between them as difficult as possible.

Looking back at the top portion of the figure, we see that illustrated:

PlateIVFig28C

Notice how the “hillocks” would serve to force the attacker to scale more elevation and at the same time put the men above the line of sight from the parapet. So if the enemy stayed in the six foot deep hole, he was exposed to fire from the defender.  And if the attacker attempted to advance through (as in skirting around) these pits, he was silhouetted, exposed, and bunched to the fire of the defender.   The word sometimes used in military discussions is “canalized”, as in redirecting the flow of the enemy’s attack into streams.  I know… a tricky use of the word, but this is the profession that derived the term “uncoilation” to describe movement out of an assembly area….

Continuing with the arrangement of pits, these trous-de-loups get better:

If brush wood, or light hurdles, can be procured, the pits may be made narrower, and covered with the hurdles, over which a layer of earth is spread.

So these might be concealed from the attacker’s view, creating a trap of sorts.

Great, trous-de-loup were formidable obstacles.  But the French is difficult to spell and pronounce.  Writing in the 1880s, Major Junius Brutus Wheeler, who taught engineering at West Point, opted to suppress the French terminology while offering a couple variations of the obstacle type:

Military pits. – Excavations made in the ground, conical or pyramidal in form, with small picket driven into the bottom, are called military pits. (French, trous-de-loup.)

They are of two kinds, viz: deep and shallow.

Describing the deep pits, Wheeler wrote:

Deep military pits should not be less than six feet in depth, so that if they fall into the possession of the enemy, they can not be used against the defense.

They are usually made about six feet in diameter at top, and about one foot at the bottom, and are placed so that the centers shall be about ten feet apart.  They should be placed in rows, at least three in number, the pits being in quincunx order. The earth obtained by the excavation, should be heaped up on the ground between the pits.

The deep military pits match directly to those described by Mahan, save the dimension of the bottom and distance measured between pits.   Wheeler offered this figure to illustrate the deep military pits:

WheelerFig71

As for shallow military pits:

Shallow pits should not be deeper than about two feet, so that the enemy could not obtain shelter by getting into them.

They should cover the ground in a zig-zag arrangement, the upper bases being made square or rectangular in form, and in contact with each other.  The side of the upper base should be made about equal to the depth of the pit.  The earth obtained from the holes is thrown in front of the arrangement, making a glacis.

Wheeler did not offer an illustration to support this description.  However, we can go back to Mahan where the right side of Figure 28 demonstrates just such an arrangement of shallow pits:
PlateIVFig28B

Mahan described these as “small pyramidal pits, with pickets.”  Notice to the right of the illustration we see the glacis described by Wheeler.

Closing the discussion of trous-de-loup… er… pits… Mahan suggested other locations for employment of this obstacle:

Trous-de-loup are sometimes placed in the ditch; in this case, their upper circles touch.

This obstacle is principally serviceable against cavalry.

While these military pits look formidable in the diagrams and seem to be an excellent obstacle, there are considerations governing their employment.  As with all obstacles, the trous-de-loup must be “under the guns”, otherwise the attacker would simply navigate through, perhaps only losing a few steps on the march.  Also consider the time and labor required to place the trous-de-loup.  That’s a lot of earth to displace.  The shape of the pit is somewhat demanding for just shovel and pick.

The trous-de-loup worked best when placed in front of the works in the area cross-fired by flanks.  That ground, presumably already cleared by the defender, might not need much augmentation to deter enemy advances.  So one reason we might not see many trous-de-loup in Civil War fortifications is the engineers weighed the effort against benefit.

In that light, Mahan’s last sentence stands out.  Trous-de-loup was rather effective at breaking up fast moving attacks, such as cavalry.  By the time of the Civil War, direct assault of field formations, much less than field fortifications, with cavalry had fallen out of favor.   With that, the engineers found those pits of less importance.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 44-5; Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 176-7.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – 4th Regiment, US Regulars

When reviewing the 4th US Artillery Regiment’s summary from the fourth quarter, 1862, we saw an extra line designated for the “Colonel” of the regiment.  That line covered tools and stores on hand at Fort Washington, Maryland. The equipment, which did not include any cannons but did include some small arms, were items not issued to batteries.  Presumably, Colonel Charles S. Merchant, commander of the regiment (more a “paper” command, of course) had direct responsibility for those stores.

But for the first quarter, 1863, that line for Merchant’s stores is absent:

0092_1_Snip_4thUS

Not a significant change, but one worth pause for discussion.  When an officer received equipment, he was  responsible for the care, maintenance, and, very importantly, accountability of the equipment.  An officer might be held liable if the equipment is damaged or lost while assigned to him.  When the equipment was transferred, the officer needed documentation to support relief from responsibility.   This is one reason we often find correspondence between officers discussing relatively trivial matters of equipment. That said, there was probably some document in Merchant’s personal papers concerning the transfer of three revolvers or various implements to another party.  The good colonel would not want some trouble over such trivial issues to detain him later.  Just something to consider when looking through correspondence.

But we are not concerned with property accountability 150 years after the fact, but rather the status of those batteries.  And here’s what was reported:

  • Battery A – At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The battery was assigned to the artillery reserve of Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.  During the winter, Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing replaced Lieutenant Samuel Canby in command of the battery.
  • Battery B – Reporting in from Belle Plain, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant James Stewart commanded this battery assigned to First Division of the First Corps.
  • Battery C – Around Falmouth, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Supporting First Division, Second Corps and commanded by Lieutenant Evan Thomas.
  • Battery D – From Suffolk, Virginia and reporting six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Assigned to Seventh Corps and commanded by Captain Frederick M. Follett.
  • Battery E – No report.  Transferred from the Ninth Corps in February, Lieutenant  Samuel S. Elder’s battery became part of the Horse Artillery assigned to the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery F – At Stafford Court House, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant Franklin B. Crosby, who would not survive the Chancellorsville Campaign, commanded this battery supporting First Division, Twelfth Corps.
  • Battery G – Outside Fredericksburg, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Assigned to the Army of the Potomac’s Artillery Reserve and commanded by Lieutenant Marcus P. Miller.
  • Battery H – Out in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and in possession of four 12-pdr field howitzers.  In January, Batteries H and M (below) split.  Lieutenant Charles C. Parsons retained command of the battery at that time, but later in the springpassed command of the battery to Lieutenant Harry C. Cushing.  Battery H supported Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.
  • Battery I – Winchester… Tennessee, not Virginia with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Frank G. Smith commanded this battery, supporting Third Division, Fourteenth Corps.
  • Battery K – Another battery at Falmouth, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Francis W. Seeley remained in command of this battery, which was assigned to Second Division, Third Corps.
  • Battery L – At Suffolk, Virginia with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Lieutenant Henry C. Hasbrouck commanded this battery of Seventh Corps.
  • Battery M – At Murfreesboro, Tennessee reporting four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 24-pdr field howitzers.  After the split with Battery H, Lieutenant Francis L. D. Russell assumed command.  The battery supported Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.

Note that only one battery’s return was received in Washington for the quarter.  All received between April and August of 1863.  The 4th Artillery kept on top of their paperwork.

The regiment had thirty-eight Napoleons.  As such, we see a lot of 12-pdr rounds on hand:

0094_1_Snip_4thUS

Most of the entries are as we might expect, but one entry raises questions:

  • Battery B – 216 shot, 92 shell, 216 case, and 92 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery C – 96 shot, 96 shell, 384 case, and 192 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery F – 252 shot, 76 shell, 252 case, and 76 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery G – 86 shot, 35 shell, 103 case, and 40 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery H – 240 shell and 240 case for 12-pdr field howitzer.  Then 128 in the column for 12-pdr mountain howitzer canister. Though as mentioned last week, I think this was the clerk’s expediency and was actually canister for field howitzer of the same caliber.
  • Battery I – 200 shot, 64 shell, 188 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery K – 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery L – 140 shell and 154 case for 12-pdr field howitzer.  32 canister for 12-pdr mountain or field howitzer, as the case may be.
  • Battery M –  Here’s a question of what should have been.  The battery reported no ammunition for its 24-pdr field howitzers.  I’ve shown the empty columns here (split to the right as they appear on the next page of the form).  So were the ammunition chests empty?

One other question comes to mind when comparing the numbers to the previous quarter.  There are no changes, for the most part, in reported quantities within the batteries supporting the Army of the Potomac.  Is that to say the batteries were “topped off” in December 1862 and needed no more?  Or might this be a “copy what we reported last quarter” approach to filling the form?  Either way we have a reason to question the quantities.

Moving next to see what feed the gunners had for rifled guns, first the Hotchkiss projectiles:

0094_2_Snip_4thUS

Two batteries with 3-inch rifles and two batteries with Hotchkiss:

  • Battery A – 120 canister, 50 percussion shell, 305 fuse shell, and 725 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle. And note, these are the same quantities reported by the battery for the previous quarter…. go figure.
  • Battery D –  53 canister, 49 percussion shell, 342 fuse shell, and 576 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.  Now these quantities do differ from the previous quarter.

The next page of the summary covers Dyers, James, and Parrott projectiles, along with a few columns for additional Hotchkiss and Schenkl projectiles.  But there is a lot of empty space in that section.  The whole snip is posted for your review.  I’ll focus on the Parrott columns:

0095_1A_Snip_4thUS

Just one battery reporting, as expected:

  • Battery L – 480 shell, 240 case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

And yes, that is exactly what Battery L reported the previous quarter… the trend continues.

The Schenkl/ Tatham columns are bare:

0095_2_Snip_4thUS

So we turn to the small arms:

0095_3_Snip_4thUS

All except Battery E reporting something here:

  • Battery A – Seventeen Army revolvers and twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B – Thirty-seven Navy revolvers and twenty-four cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C – Thirteen navy revolvers and thirty-two cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D – Nine Army revolvers and 139 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F – Sixteen Army revolvers and thirteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G – Seven Navy revolvers and Ninety-three horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H – Seventeen Army revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I – Four Army revolvers and forty-three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K – Twelve Army revolvers, two Navy revolvers and fifteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L – Fourteen Army revolvers and 118 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M – Seven Army revolvers and seventeen cavalry sabers.

I would point out these quantities differ from those reported the previous quarter.  And such leaves a conundrum.  Are we to conclude the ammunition quantities reported were accurate, with little to no resupply over the winter?  Perhaps there was some omission, across the board, of ammunition numbers?  Or maybe some clerical magic was in play?  And I’m sure you can come up with other possibilities.  Again, the point here is that the summaries should not be considered very accurate of data sets.  We have to keep the anomalies and questions in mind. But… they are the most complete sets of data available for the subject!

For Sale: Fifty Batteries of Field Artillery, Complete!

There are hundreds of artillery enthusiasts right now looking at their check book balances, just in case…. No, I’m not selling artillery, but in 1870 the Ordnance Department was:

CommercialAdvertiser_NY_29Oct1870_P3

This advertisement appeared in the October 29, 1870 edition of the Commercial Advertiser (New York).

This is like a dream list for collectors.  Thousands of muskets, carbines, and pistols along with accouterments and ammunition.  Then the artillery… “50 Batteries of Field Artillery, complete, with ammunition.” This quantity was deemed surplus and to be sold for disposal.  As detailed in the paragraph that followed:

Bids will be entertained for any one, or all of the foregoing lots.  The bids to specify the price offered for the Arms with Ammunition, for Accoutrements by them-selves. The bids for Artillery will be for Batteries complete, with Ammunition; so much for a Battery of light 12-pounders, and so much for a Battery of Parrott 3-inch Rifle Guns, or for Batteries and Ammunition separately.

Yes, it was a different time… one could just buy a whole battery of artillery with ammunition without so much as a photo ID.  Send a bid in the mail to Alexander B. Dyer.  If your prices are good, the good Chief will accept the offer.

But what would you do with a battery of artillery?  In 1870 there was very little interest in Living History or “reenacting” the Civil War (some might argue the war was still being “enacted” even at that late date).  One might post the battery on the lawn to intimidate neighbors.

But fifty batteries?  That’s enough for an army!  And that might be what some had in mind:

EveningPost_NY_NY_14Jul1870_Vol69_P2

This ad appeared on the same day (October 29, 1870) in the New York Herald. It is mostly coincidental, I think, the Ordnance Department ad ran the same day as Starr & Frazier’s.  I suspect one source for Starr & Frazier’s batteries was from an earlier sale, by the Navy:

NYHerald_27Jan1870_VolXXXV_Iss27_P9

You read that correctly, 390 guns, 354 carriages, and over 95,000 projectiles.  A lot of iron for sale!  And this lot includes the 20- and 30-pounders calibers that Starr & Frazier offered.

Let me run some numbers for you on Parrotts and their production.  Might be a little boring, but follow the numbers here:

  • Number of 10-pdr (2.9-inch bore) Parrotts produced for Army contracts during the war – 276 guns.
  • Number of 3-inch bore Parrotts produced for Army contracts during the war – 279 guns.

So an aggregate total of 555 Parrott rifles in the 2.9-inch and 3-inch caliber range. One quirk to the caliber, however. We know that 119 of the 2.9-inch rifles were taken in hand for conversion to 3-inch.  I’ve written on that before. If we need a refresher, drop a line.  But long story short, none of those 119 guns survive today… as far as we know.

Keep in mind those are “Army contracts.”  As we well know there were many Parrotts produced for state or other customers in the early days of the war.  The ad from the Army does not break down the number of Parrotts and Napoleons for sale.  But fifty batteries is somewhere between 200 and 300 guns, depending if those were assessed as four or six gun batteries.  You see, that sale might account for a rather large portion of the Army’s wartime-purchase Parrott rifles.

The numbers for the Navy for the advertised calibers:

  • 20-pdr Parrott rifles on Navy registries – 336.
  • 30-pdr Parrott rifles on Navy registries – 407.

Of those two calibers, a total of 743.  And of that total, we see the Navy selling off 390… more than half…. in 1870.

But wait… there’s more….Was there some event, perhaps, in 1870 that may have generated a market for Parrott rifles?  Um… well there was this:

collage_franco-prussian_war

The Franco-Prussian War erupted in mid-1870.  And the newspapers indicate indeed France was very interested in those Parrott rifles.  Rather accusatory, in May 1871 the Daily Albany (New York) Argus ran:

The radical administration of Washington and the majority of their organs throughout the country, have expressed the most profound sympathy for Prussia in the recent war.  Grant went so far as to congratulate the Emperor William on the near resemblance between the institutions of Germany and the United States. While loud in the expressions of love and admiration for the Germans, they were busily engaged in sending arms to the French.

So… our government worked both sides of the street?  Tell me something new.  What is interesting are the details and “naming of names” in the Argus article. The Remington arms company was singled out for providing $14 million to the French that included over 200,000 sand of arms.  The article did not single out a specific source, but indicated “50 Parrott batteries, six guns each” were sold to the French.

That’s a good, round number – 300 guns.  And it is a rather convenient correlation to those being sold in the fall of 1870.  Just soak that a bit…Those were not all 10-pdrs, and some 20-pdrs were mixed in.  But regardless that is a significant number of weapons taken from the US and boxed up for shipment to France.

And I want to ensure you catch that qualification… this is the number “sold” to France, but not necessarily the number delivered. The Daily Albany Argus later reported, on February 16, 1872, that some of the sales to the French fell through:

Another large contract with which the French Government found special fault as involving fraud… .  From General Dyer’s statement of sales, it appears that the [C.K.] Garrison purchase from the war department was 26 guns, Parrott batteries, with 10,000 rounds of fixed ammunition. This by contract, was to have been delivered in 35 days from the 24th of December, 1870. Afterward the French Government refused to pay on the ground that the contract was not performed in time, and that the charges were exorbitant.  The French authorities claim they were charged at the rate of $15,000 for batteries that cost $1,000.

Hey, war-profiteering mark-up of fifteen times the cost is somewhat reasonable (don’t get me to going on the rates the French charged in 1917, OK? They didn’t give away those Chauchat machine guns, don’t you know.).

Clearly, however, we have a link between the Ordnance Department ad of October 1870 and the sales of Parrotts to the French.  And that connection was rather evident to many on Capitol Hill in 1871… and Dyer was soon sworn in for testimony.  Had there been a 24/7 news cycle, the story might have dominated the media for a week or so.  But it was, after all, a minor affair in the end.  As there are some nice technical details thrown around, the record is interesting, to me at least, for that discussion.

In closing, let me circle back from the 19th century politics… because darn it, this is “To the Sound of the Guns” not “Fancy Politicians” blog.

Consider there are somewhere between 115 and 120 surviving Parrotts of the 10-pdr/3-inch calibers.  Again, that’s counting guns with a “US” acceptance, and not considering those with New York, Pennsylvania, or Navy acceptance marks.  Subtract that surviving number from the quantity of guns purchased on Army contracts during the Civil War (555).  That gives us roughly 435 to 440 Parrotts that were “lost” to scraping or other means over the last 150 years.  Of that number, I ask, how many ended up in France?  And of those that might have reach France, do any survive today?

Whose heritage? Well….SPLC, who’s counting?

On Thursday last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) posted a thought provoking article in regard to Confederate symbols or other public-facing displays.  Rather lengthy article, but is worth a sit-down read.  In the article the SPLC offers:

Following the Charleston massacre, the Southern Poverty Law Center launched an effort to catalog and map Confederate place names and other symbols in public spaces, both in the South and across the nation. This study, while far from comprehensive, identified a total of 1,503.*

These include:

718 monuments and statues, nearly 300 of which are in Georgia, Virginia or North Carolina;
109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or other Confederate icons;
80 counties and cities named for Confederates;
9 official Confederate holidays in six states; and
10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates.

An administrative note here.  I’ve included the asterisk after the total number offered here in the quotation.  It is not clear why the asterisk is there as it does not seem to correspond to a notation within the article… at least not one denominated in the traditional sense.   Though I think what the asterisk is trying to indicate is the process by which those numbers were derived.  An explanation of the sources, if you will.

That explanation appears towards the end of the article:

In researching publicly supported spaces dedicated to the Confederacy or its heroes, SPLC researchers relied on federal, state and private sources. Each entry was verified by at least one other source. When possible, preference was given to governmental sources over private, less-reliable ones.

For federal databases, researchers used the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National Park Service, and the National Register of Historic Places. Researchers created a list of prominent Confederate heroes and identified municipalities, counties, schools, buildings, monuments, military bases, parks and other spaces named for them.

Further down, the SPLC mentioned some of the other sources consulted.  One of which, I am very familiar with:

The Historical Marker Database is another database with entries that are submitted by the general public and confirmed by an editor.

Most readers know I have entered more than 4,000 entries to that database.  I’ve lost count of the number which I edited or contributed to in some way, shape, or form.  I offer that not to brag so such, but to establish some bona fides here.  I’m no longer an active editor, but I know quite a bit about how that source was built and the editing practices.

Knowing what I know, I have to pause and question the data, and therefore the numbers, presented by SPLC.  Even a cursory glance demonstrates a lot of “data leaks” or overlooked, but expected, entries.  SPLC did not share their “rule set” or go into specifics about criteria for inclusion.  So readers are left to ponder what exactly they arbitrated as a “Confederate” public display.  What are those rules?

Consider, SPLC deemed the “Old Men and Boys” and the “Hagood Brigade” Monuments at Petersburg to be examples of such Confederate iconography.  These are very much what I consider monuments, as opposed to memorials.  Monuments, under my definition, have some specific tie in to the location they occupy.  In the case of those two examples, both were placed on sites where the units mentioned fought.  Both monuments were placed during that big spike (around the start of the 20th century) by southern veterans advocacy groups (one by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the other by a surviving member of the unit).  So this implies one rule used is – A monument, on the battlefield, placed by a southern veterans advocacy group during the time of Jim Crow. 

We also see a monument for Wilcox’s Brigade outside Mechanicsburg.  The main difference here is the memorial, by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, was placed in 1999. Likewise, we see from the Fredericksburg battlefield, the Sons of Confederate Veterans placed “The Heights at Smith Run” in 2014.  So an addendum to the rule – A monument placed, even after Jim Crow, on the battlefield by a southern veterans advocacy group.

So given the rule, and it’s amendment, shouldn’t we also see an entry SLPC’s data set for the 11th Mississippi monument at Antietam?  It is a recent addition, famously dodging the park boundaries, and placed by a veterans’ advocacy group.  There is another 11th Mississippi monument, further north at a placed called Gettysburg, which was also placed in recent memory.  That last one is across the street from the North Carolina Memorial (notice the change of my denomination here.. memorial as not tied to historical details and specifics, but more so as a memorialization of event, person, group, or such…).  And of course just down the street…. Confederate Avenue, for those who might be evaluating street names for the data set…. we have the Virginia Memorial.

Picketts Charge 10 Aug 08 513

Is there anything that calls forward notions of the Lost Cause more than a statue of Robert E. Lee at the spot where those battle flags were unfurled prior to that most famous charge?  Seriously, this is the very essence of the Lost Cause depicted in stone and bronze!  I cannot think of anything in the known universe that would better fit in SPLC’s listing.  So why is this memorial not on the map?

And while we are working along that row, what about this memorial at Shiloh?

Vacation 226

A Western version of that Virginia Memorial.  The United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated this memorial at Shiloh in 1917.  Again, we have to ask why this display failed to make the list.

Likewise, we “walk” to another part of the battlefield and see a memorial placed by Arkansans to memorialize their regiments that fought at Shiloh.  In terms of context, there is little difference from the Arkansas Memorial at Shiloh and the Wilcox Brigade or Hagood Brigade memorials mentioned above.  So shouldn’t it be on the list?

Stepping back from statues, let’s consider plaques… more what I’d argue are properly “markers” in function.  Circle back and consider that “The Heights at Smith Run” entry mentioned above. The content is mostly factual.  The only real memorialization here is the dedication line.  Even more detached from any memorialization of the Lost Cause is the SPLC’s listing of General Johnston’s Headquarters in Dalton, Georgia.  That plaque is nothing but “here’s what happened here… just the facts, ma’am.”  So we have another implied SPLC rule in place here – A plaque which relates historical facts related to the Confederacy.

OK, another round of considerations.  There is a tablet standing next to that Arkansas Memorial at Shiloh, that lists Confederate units and details what those units did at a particular phase of the battle.  So if the “Smith Run” and “Johnston’s Headquarters” deserve a pinpoint on the map, shouldn’t that tablet also get a plot?  Oh, and before you answer, consider the US Government, specifically the War Department, placed that tablet around about the same time frame as we see that big “spike” on SPLC’s time line.

And at the same time, how do we reconcile a pinpoint for the regimental tablet at Shiloh, or the 11th Mississippi Monuments, with the presence, in some cases just steps away, of dozens of memorials to Federal regiments and units?  Indeed, if the Confederate displays are all the physical manifestations of “Jim Crow,” then are all the Federal memorials, monuments, and markers automatically “Civil Rights” memorials?  Careful, that’s a slippery slope we are on.  Watch your step or else graffiti becomes a hate crime…..

Another round of questions as to SPLC’s evaluation of listings comes up when considering the Hayward Shepherd memorial at Harpers Ferry.  There is “complex history” and then there is “really complex history.”  This is the latter.  One might fill several pages looking at the angles there… in fact, I think Robert Moore has done just that at some time in the past.  What rules were applied that warranted that memorial’s inclusion, might we ask?

Now am I saying that SPLC’s listing should have thousands more pinpoints?  Not exactly.  What I am saying is that SPLC’s work is sloppy and they should clean it up.  The current data set appears more of a “throw something on the map and see what sticks” approach. The map given given by SPLC calls to mind the “Chilling Civil War” map offered last summer by Slate. More to the point, I am saying that SPLC should have contacted someone who has decades of work spent in the field analyzing these sort of public displays at the ground level.  Someone who could have helped them build a clear set of rules to use when categorizing these public displays.  Clearly, given the information we have, that was not done.

As it currently stands, the SPLC listings are simply unable to support the premise offered in the article.  It is not “firm” or “solid” data.  Is that to say their conclusions are wrong?  No.  But I am saying that we cannot, with a straight face, accept the data as an argument to support the premise that is drawn.  It is a structure placed on a wet sand foundation.