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

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

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

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

In terms of physical affects, the web article summarizes:

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

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

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

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

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

MississippiRiver1850cropped

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

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

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

Fortification Friday: “Arrangements Intended for the Comfort and Health of a Garrison”

All well and good to build up a fort, complete with obstacles and defilements for to make the attacker’s job that much harder. Better still to have the interior arrangements for proper placement, and protection, of batteries, with bombproof magazines filled with ammunition at the ready.  And maybe even offer some bombproofs just so the garrison can seek shelter from enemy fire.  But we must remember that for most of the fort’s existence, it will be more “home” for the garrison than defensive structure.

In short, a fort has to be “livable”, otherwise the garrison will go sour.  And by sour, we are referring to failing health and morale.  Disease and malaise have often felled more than bullets and shells.  Writing before the war, Mahan gave only general instructions in his treatise on fortification. But for the post-war instruction, Wheeler set aside a section specifically to discuss what he classified as, “Arrangements Intended for the Comfort and Health of a Garrison.”

Nature of the arrangements. – A garrison compelled to live within an enclosed space like a field work, should be provided with all the arrangements which are necessary for the health and for the comfort of the men, consistent with surrounding circumstances.

The arrangements essential to the health and comfort of the men include those intended to protect them from the weather, to provide for their support, and to supply their necessities.

Necessities?  Yes, we are talking, for the most part, about facilities for personal hygiene, food preparation, and berthing. Hurrah for the Sanitary Commission!  Of course, under the “consistent with surrounding circumstances” the commander might bring in other amenities such as a hospital or sutler store. But, all depended upon circumstances.

As for particulars:

The principal arrangements are the tents, huts, or shelters in which the men are sheltered; the guard-houses, and rooms for those on duty; the kitchens and bake-ovens in which the food is prepared; the sinks or privies, and the places provided for the men for washing themselves and their clothing; the hospitals for the sick; etc. Wells, or means of providing the garrison with a supply of good drinking water, form no unimportant part of the arrangements necessary for the comfort as well as the health of a garrison.

But for all that importance, Wheeler lacked the space necessary to best cover this subject:

The limits of this book will not admit of a discussion, nor even a reference to the various divisions, of this important section of the interior arrangements of a field work.

Those arrangements are second only to those required for actual defense, and in many cases they are equal, as the defense of the work in a great measure depends upon them.

The only rule that can be laid down is to make all these arrangements of a temporary character, and to place them so that they can be removed, at a moment’s notice, out of the way of any interference with an active defense of the fortification.

Certainly, Wheeler’s words on this subject reflected extensive experience from the Civil War. We can find evidence attesting to this at numerous surviving sites.  In addition to the works, we see company streets laid out with tent pads or huts provided; kitchens in close, but safe, proximity; sinks, not so close in proximity; and always attention paid to water.  Not just clean water for drinking and cleaning, but also ensuring any standing, stagnant water was drained away.

With respect to the limited space allocated within the fortification manuals, there were other classes at West Point and other manuals of instruction. Perhaps best serving that point, we consult Major General Daniel Butterfield’s Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry, published in 1863:

In camp, the best water will be pointed out before the men are dismissed… The places for cooking and sinks must be pointed out to the orderly sergeants of companies… The cooking places must be chosen with a view to avoid danger of fire.

It must be explained to the men, as a standing order, that when no regular sinks are made, nor any particular spot pointed out, they are to go to the rear, at least 200 yards beyond the sentries of the rear guard.  All men disobeying this order must be punished.

Punished for the sake of their own health and comfort, mind you!

(Citations from Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 155-6;  Daniel Butterfield, Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1863, page 53.)

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 1st Regiment, US Regulars

So to start the review of the summary statements from the second quarter, 1863, the First Regiment of the US Artillery is appropriately at the front of the queue:

0168_1_Snip_1stUS

The batteries of the First were detailed to assignments across various theaters of war, though not to the Trans-Mississippi.  Looking at the administrative details by battery:

  • Battery A – Reporting at Port Hudson, Louisiana with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch rifles.  A location change from the previous quarter, but their charges remained the same. Captain Edmund C. Bainbridge remained in command of this battery, assigned to First Division, Nineteenth Corps. Of note, Bainbridge also served as the division’s artillery chief.
  • Battery B – At Hilton Head, South Carolina with four 12-pdr field howitzers, and adding two 3-inch rifles (over the previous quarter’s report).  Lieutenant Guy V. Henry commanded this battery, assigned to Tenth Corps.  Henry temporarily served as the Chief of Artillery, Department of the South, from around June 19 through the first week of July.  But no “fill in” battery commander is indicated on the records.
  • Battery C – At Fort Macon, North Carolina with a dim annotation I interpret as “inf’y service”.  However, the line does not tell the whole story. A detachment from Battery C, under Lieutenant James E. Wilson, served in the Tenth Corps, and would be active in South Carolina.
  • Battery D – No change from the previous quarter.  At Beaufort, South Carolina with four 3-inch rifles. Lieutenant John S. Gibbs assumed command of the battery.  Though co-located with Battery M, the two were officially listed separately in organizational returns.
  • Battery E – Reporting at, if I am reading this right, Manchester, Pennsylvania with four 3-inch rifles.  If my read of the location column is correct, this is an excellent “snapshot in time” of a battery on campaign… at least for the location column, keeping in mind the return was not received until August 11, 1863. Of course, Captain Alanson Randol was in command of this battery, which was merged with Battery G (below), as part of the 2nd Brigade of Horse Artillery, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery F – Port Hudson, Louisiana with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Under Captain Richard C. Duryea, this battery served Third Division, Nineteenth Corps.  Duryea is also listed as commanding the division’s artillery at this time.
  • Battery G – No report.  Dyer’s has Battery G’s personnel serving with Battery E at this time.
  • Battery H – At Warrenton, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The location is an obvious error.  The battery had moved from Third Corps to the Artillery Reserve after Chancellorsville. So the location might more accurately be Frederick, Maryland.  Captain Chandler P. Eakin commanded the battery.  Though just two days into the next quarter he was severely wounded, with Lieutenant Philip D. Mason assuming the role.
  • Battery I – No return.  But we are familiar with Lieutenant George Woodruff’s battery, which brought six 12-pdr Napoleons into action at Gettysburg.  They were assigned to Second Corps.
  • Battery K – Another difficult to read location entry.  I cannot make out the town, but the state is “MD”.  So we might also presume this to be a report reflecting an “on campaign” position, as of June 30.  The battery reported six 3-inch Ordnance rifles.  -Also with 2nd Brigade of the Horse Artillery, supporting the Cavalry Corps, Captain William Graham was the commander.
  • Battery L – Reporting at Port Hudson, Louisiana with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Henry W. Closson’s battery was in Forth Division, Nineteenth Corps.
  • Battery M – At Beaufort, South Carolina with four 12-pdr Napoleons (losing two 3-inch Ordnance rifles from the previous quarter).  Captain Loomis L. Langdon lead this battery,  assigned to the Tenth Corps.

As mentioned in the preface, as the transition between the second and third quarter of 1863 came at a critical stage of the war, we need to consider the “receipt at ordnance office” date with these details.  For the 1st US batteries providing returns, six were not received until August of that year.  Two more arrived in September.  Another in December.  And not until April 1864 did Battery F’s return arrive at the Washington offices.  (As indicated above, there were two missing battery returns.)

All of which is good background to keep in mind.  The particulars that were not tracked on the form speak to how the data arrived for entry into the form.  With that in mind, let us look at the tallies for projectiles.  Starting with the smoothbore ammunition:

0170_1_Snip_1stUS

The preponderance of entries were for 12-pdr Napoleon rounds.

  • Battery A: 40 shot, 56 shell, 110 case, and 33 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery B: 400 shell, 500 case, and 100 canister for 12-pdr field howitzer.
  • Battery F: 448 shot, 300 shell, 382 case, and 200 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery H: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery K: One (1) shot for 12-pdr Napoleon.  As this battery had only 3-inch rifles, we have to ask if this is just a stray mark… or the battery lugged around a single Napoleon shot for… perhaps… bowling?
  • Battery L: 236 shot, 8 shell, 182 case, and 40 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery M:  475 shot, 138 shell, 494 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Aside from the question about Battery K, there is also a question about some reported quantities.  As related in the preface to this quarter, we have to ask for the batteries in action at Gettysburg if these are quantities on hand June 30?  Or for some other point after the battle?  And I would submit that question need be assess on a battery-by-battery basis.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, we note the number of Ordnance rifles results in a healthy sheet for Hotchkiss patent types:

0170_2_Snip_1stUS

Looking down by battery:

  • Battery A: 12 canister and 202 percussion shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 280 canister, 422 percussion shell, 227 fuse shell, and 275 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery D: 86 canister, 50 percussion shell, 176 fuse shell, and 150(?) bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery E: 60 canister, 180 percussion shell, and 360 bullet shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery K: 60-canister and 56 bullet shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery M:  12 canister, 12 percussion shell, 24 fuse shell, and 20 bullet shells for 3-inch rifles.

First off, Battery M must have retained a small quantity of rounds on hand after transferring it’s 3-inch rifles to another battery.

The other question that springs to mind is regarding the low numbers reported for some batteries, such as Battery K.  We might speculate if that reflects the quantity on hand after a battle or major campaign.  But that’s speculation.

For the next page, we can cut down to the colums on the far right:

0171_1A_Snip_1stUS

Let us focus first on the Parrott columns:

  • Battery L: 150 shell and 220 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery M:  130 case for 10-pdr Parrott.

Once again, we find Battery M with ammunition that will not fit its guns.

Moving over to the right, there is one entry here for Schenkl projectiles:

  • Battery L: 20 shot for 10-pdr Parrott.

Then on the next page of Schenkl projectiles, two numbers to consider:

0171_2_Snip_1stUS

  • Battery B: 100 shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery K: 127 shells for 3-inch rifles.

This explains some of the shortages noted on the Hotchkiss page.  But we see batteries mixing the two types of projectiles, against the better wishes of General Hunt.

Lastly we move to the small arms:

0171_3_Snip_1stUS

Yes, we see a bunch of write-in column headers here!  Only one of which applies to this set of batteries:

  • Battery A: Nine Army revolvers and 119 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: One-hundred Army revolvers, seven cavalry sabers, and 153(?) horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: 123 Army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and 107 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Nine Navy revolvers and nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Ten Army revolvers, forty-seven cavalry sabers, and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Twenty-one Navy revolvers and sixteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: Sixteen Army revolvers, thirty-six cavalry sabers, and seventy-eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: Four Springfield .58 caliber muskets, sixty-two Army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and 107 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: Seventy-seven Springfield .58 caliber muskets, 104 Navy revolvers, nine cavalry sabers, and ninety-five horse artillery sabers.

We’ve discussed in earlier posts the peculiarities of small arms issue to field artillery batteries. Service in the Department of the South, were batteries were detailed to perform many non-artillery tasks, was one factor here.  Still, the batteries of the 1st US Regiment would seem to be armed to the teeth!

Eighteenth Annual Appomattox CH / Longwood U. Civil War Seminar

The Eighteenth Annual Civil War Seminar, hosted by Appomattox Court House National Historic Park and Longwood University, is on Saturday, February 18, 2017.  As in the past few years, the place to be is Jarman Auditorium on the Longwood University campus, Farmville, Virginia.

Details about the speakers and schedule went up on the Appomattox event page earlier this week (to which I’ll add annotations from the flyer):

  • 8:30 a.m.          Doors open
  • 9:00 a.m.          Introduction by Dr. David Coles
  • 9:10 a.m.          Eric Buckland:  John S. Mosby: The Perfect Man in the Perfect Place

From January 1863 to April 1865, Virginian John Singleton Mosby was afforded the unique opportunity to execute a vision he had for conducting irregular combat operation behind Union lines in Northern Virginia.  He achieved singular success as one of the greatest small unit unconventional leaders in history.

  • 10:15 a.m.        Ralph Peters: The Human Side of Civil War Leadership

… explores the professional, emotional and physical challenges of command late in the war, as losses among leaders mounted and health decayed, even as the war’s demands expanded. It focuses on exemplary figures such as Francies Channing Barlow and “Little Billy” Mahone, John Brown Gordon and William C. Oates, as well as Grant and Lee.

  • 11:30 a.m.        William C. Davis: Grant, Lee, and Leadership

The two greatest commanders of the Civil War era had very different leadership styles and approaches to management, yet when it came to how they made decisions they were remarkably similar.  Their ways of marshaling manpower, material , and other resources helped determine the outcome of their campaigns, but so did their personalities and outlooks on life and the world around them.

  • 12:30                 Lunch
  • 1:45 p.m.          Dr. Richard J. Sommers: Enduring Lessons in Leadership from the Siege of Petersburg

The Siege of Petersburg was the longest campaign of the Civil War. It centered on the Northern attack and Southern defense of the Confederate capital, Richmond, and its crucial line-of-communications center, Petersburg.  The campaign pitted the foremost general of each nation – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant for the United States and General Robert E. Lee for the Confederate States – directly against each other.

  •  2:45 p.m.        William C. Davis: Lincoln and Davis as Commanders in Chief

We often forget that the president is also the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces of the United States.  As such it is his duty in wartime to marshal all the resources — human and industrial — of his nation to the overarching goal of defense and/or victory.  Lincoln and Davis came to the task each with significant advantages and handicaps, and each in some areas performed better or worse than the other.

No reservations necessary.  Signs will be posted on the Longwood University Campus.  For directions to the campus go to http://www.longwood.edu.  For more information contact Dr. David Coles at 434-395-2220 or Patrick Schroeder at 434-352-8987, Ext. 232.

As I’ve mentioned for previous years, you will not find a better venue in terms of quality of content for the price – this one is FREE.

I plan to attend and hope to see you there.  But if you are unable to, I’ll be on Twitter providing some of the highlights.

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Preface and Notes

The official title of the ledger sheet is “Summary Statement of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores on hand in the Artillery Regiments in the service of the United States during the Second Quarter ending June 30th, 1863.”

Page 1

The layout of this form differs little from that of the previous two quarters.  So readers will be familiar with the format and presentation.  Yes, some of this will be repetitive – the same batteries reporting mostly the same equipment.  Though I hope readers understand the intent – that of presenting the data in a linear format so as to allow for “point in time” references. Yes, this is handy for the “what guns did they have?” or “what ammunition was on hand?” questions.  Though the latter, I’d say, was more a day to day proposition.  Furthermore, I think these numbers provide a glimpse back at operational and administrative procedures used during the war.  Things that escaped discussion, for the most part, as we surged to understand battles, campaigns, and politics.  But still a factor to consider when discussing the success or failures within the parameters of those battles, campaigns, or political actions, as the case may be.

In essence, the second quarter of 1863 should be a “copy and paste” for the most part from the first quarter.  There were not a lot of major reorganizations and refits conducted between March and June of that year (well… one exception, which will be mentioned below).  But what will make the second quarter of interest is what was going on operationally.  And there were four major moving parts, operationally speaking, in my opinion.

During the months of April, May, and June, General U.S. Grant executed the Vicksburg Campaign.  Concurrently, if not completely complementary, General Nathaniel Banks worked against Port Hudson.  Those operations seemed to sponge up resources from all around the Mississippi Valley, supplanting most everything going on from the Appalachians to the Rockies.

Well save one thing… the slow starting Tullahoma Campaign out of central Tennessee.  The new organization of the Army of the Cumberland would stand to the test of a major movement, though not a major battle until the following quarter.

In the east, the Chancellorsville Campaign proved a misfire for Federal efforts.  That prompted some shuffling of artillery batteries within the Army of the Potomac, mostly to streamline and improve command and control of the “long arm.”  Although the summary statements did not track such assignments, I will keep note of those as we discuss each battery in turn. And of course we must keep in mind those batteries were soon back on the march, going north instead of south, as the Gettysburg campaign began.

Lastly, because you know my favorite study, we must also recall the Department of the South was not exactly a dormant sector.  In April, the Federals would salvage a lodgement along the coast after the defeat of the ironclads at Fort Sumter. The position on Folly Island would turn into a base to launch a major offensive on Morris Island.

So those are all things “rattling around in the box” that we call the second quarter of 1863.  Notice how so much of those operations placed batteries in the field on June 30.  Indeed some on the cusp of major battles.  And I think this is reflected in the “date received” column of the summaries.  Consider the first lines from the first page, covering the 1st US Artillery:

0168_1_Snip_1stUS

None of these returns were received in Washington before August.  One was not posted until 1864.  Mind you, these were the “regulars” and on top of that the FIRST regulars.  Some of whom were operating with the modern DC commuter’s range of downtown Washington.  Yet, their reports were delayed for a couple of months.  So we can immediately tell the operational tempo of war affected the turning wheels of bureaucracy.

And of course that immediately calls up questions about the accuracy of those returns.   If your “report as of date” is June 30 and on July 1 your battery is involved in a most vicious combat, how do you file?

A recently mentioned example to mind, consider Battery B, 4th US.  The summary has the battery with 164 canister. Now was that the quantity going into action on July 1, some of which would be expended in front of the Thompson House?  Or was that 164 canister after post-battle resupply?  Or was that 164 canister as of November 6 when the report was received in Washington?  And that for a battery operating, for a significant portion of the period, within a day’s railroad ride for any envelope addressed to Washington.

Yes, the numbers lead to questions. But at the same time, they provide a better foundation for discussion.  You see, those cannon and their projectiles were not simply laying about in nice piles for the use of the army.  That equipment and materials had to be supplied.  SUPPLIED.  A verb that is so easy to write, representing a vital supporting activity to any operation… but one often painfully difficult to enact.

Later this week, I’ll start posting the transcriptions for the second quarter.  You’ll find those linked, as I post them, on the Second Quarter, 1863 page.

Fortification Friday: “a redan or a lunette, is thrown up on the exterior to cover the outlet”

Before we close the discussion of openings for forts (see what I did there?), let me circle back to compare Mahan and Wheeler in regard to one of the fine points considered.  That being the use of a detached redan or lunette in advance of the outlet.  Recall that in pre-war writing, Mahan suggested:

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.

And Wheeler, in the post-war, mentioned a similar arrangement, but perhaps narrowed the application to those larger outlets, for sorties, where simple interior traverses would not be practical.

Mahan offered two figures that illustrated the redan to the front of an outlet:

PlateVIIFig48_49

Figure 48 offers a wide redan in front of an outlet, which is further covered and flanked by by the “horns” of the larger work.  A very well protected outlet, we might say.  Mahan considered this a Redan Line.

On Figure 49, we see much more complexity.  Particularly with the defensive lines of fire.  The outlet is nested within a redan of a larger line.  On both sides are faces within redans of differing angles. This is considered a Tenaille Line – a proper definition we will discuss later.  But the point being the covering redan, to the front of the outlet, was absolutely necessary here in order to protect that weak spot.  The covering redan is somewhat off center of the outlet, perhaps to limit exposure at the expense of accessibility.

Wheeler, as you may recall, gave us only a simple rendition of the covering redan:

WheelerFig51

The question I have in regard to these advanced, detached “parts” covering openings is… just how often were these employed during the Civil War?

When examining surviving earthworks, we often find the area around the outlets obliterated.  Sometimes, due to necessity, that is done to facilitate visitor access.  But more often, just a case where the structures around the outlets were the most susceptible to erosion.

And when examining wartime plans, we see some use of these redans… but more often not.  Consider Fortress Rosecrans outside Murfreesboro:

FortressRosecrans

This was, some have said, the largest fort built during the war.  And in this plan we see examples of many features suggested by Mahan.  Specific to the outlets, we see up near the top that Battery Cruft was a detached lunette (maybe a “half lunette”) covering an outlet.  Elsewhere, such as next to Lunette McCook at the bottom right, we see an outlet (an existing road) without a covering redan or traverse.  Though we do see obstacles erected to the right of Lunette McCook.  And certainly that named work was positioned to dominate the approaches to the outlet.  Furthermore, what you don’t see in my “snip” are works in advance of the fortress that covered the railroad and road.  Though those were oriented south and not regarded as covering the outlet in question.

Another plan to consider is from Virginia, at Deep Bottom:

DeepBottomSnip

Here we see five road crossings at the main line of the works.  One of those is blocked entirely by a redan.  The other four (including one that appears to be a path cut just to clear a redan) have no traverses or covering works.  Just obstacles placed in front.

If we are assessing the protection of outlets, with Mahan’s suggestions in mind, we find a mixed application of those covering redans.  Seems to me the use of that sort of feature was based on the engineering assessment of need.

Now considering such use under Wheeler’s suggested implementation, let’s look to the location of a few large scale sorties.  First, how about the works were the Crater assault was mounted:

CraterSector

And further around the lines, and further forward in the historical timeline, to the sector around Fort Mahone:

FortMahoneSector

And to the left of that sector near where the Federal Sixth Corps mounted their sortie:

FortWelchSector

Now the scale of these maps mean these are not so much “plans” as operational maps.  So we know there are structures that escaped the pen here.  But what stands out, with double underlines, is the use of something far more elaborate than Mahan and Wheeler discussed.  We see entire sections of works advanced in a manner to provide staging grounds for those formations preparing for the assaults. Major assaults, mind you, involving whole divisions.  These were, you see, works built for the offensive.  Grand offensives!  In that light, might we say the entire Federal line was one large “covering work” in front of an array of staging areas and supply depots?

“… forced to halt and lie down by the tornado of canister…”: Stewart’s Battery at Gettysburg

Last summer, Civil War Trust re-opened the Thompson House site at Gettysburg, better known as Lee’s Headquarters.  The Trust’s site details the work from acquisition through restoration with sliding navigation and videos.  If you are not familiar with this story, the Trust finalized the purchase of the grounds in January 2015.  The restoration involved the demolition of non-historic structures, removal of a parking lot, and renovation of the historic structure.  We might simply say this was a “rollback of the asphalt” type preservation effort.  But there’s a little more.  The effort effectively restored a portion of the viewshed.  And given the prominence of the house in relation to the battle, as well as featuring in photographs from the war and immediate post-war period, the restoration aids in interpretation.

However, from my perspective the most anticipated change was the return of cannons to a location adjacent to the Thompson House.  Speaking here of the position for Battery B, 4th US, commanded by Lieutenant James Stewart at the time of the battle. I’ve heard several stories as to why the position has long been without cannons.  But all boil down to the park not having the resources to spread around. The concrete pads were there.  But no cannon.

1 Nov 261

The spot was within the NPS easement, and thus technically not part of the Trust’s restoration, but the re-installation of the cannon just made perfect sense at this juncture.

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For those who query about such details, the guns are 12-pdr Napoleons.  The one on the left (of the photo above) is registry number 14 from Cyrus Alger (cast in 1862):

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And on the right is registry number 318 from Revere Copper, cast in 1863:

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The battery had six Napoleons in action during the battle.  Around mid-day on July 1, 1863, Stewart deployed the battery on the north side of the Chambersburg Pike.  Stewart himself took a three gun section to the north side of the railroad cut.  The other three, under Lieutenant James Davison, stood between the Pike and the railroad.  Augustus Buell, in “The Cannoneer”, described the disposition:

We were formed… “straddle” of the Railroad Cut, the “Old Man” [Stewart] with the three guns forming the right half-battery on the north side, and Davison with the three guns of the left half-battery on the south side.  Stewart’s three guns were somewhat in advance of ours, forming a slight echelon in half-battery, while our three guns were in open order, bringing the left gun close to the Cashtown Road.  We were formed in a small field just west of Mrs. Thompson’s dooryard, and our guns ranked the road to the top of the low crest forming the east bank of Willoughby’s Creek.

And today we can look over those guns at for a view similar to that of Davison’s gunners on the day of battle.  We might debate as to exactly where the guns were placed that day.  But we see here ample room to deploy a three gun section commanding the slope up to McPherson’s Ridge.  And what did the battery do in this position?  Again, Buell recalled:

Directly in our front -that is to say, on both sides of the pike – the Rebel infantry, whose left lapped the north side of the pike quite up to the line of the railroad grading, had been forced to halt and lie down by the tornado of canister that we had given them from the moment they came in sight over the bank of the creek.

However effective the battery fires were, they were somewhat exposed with the Confederate advance.

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Buell continued:

But the regiments in the field to their right (south side) of the pike kept on, and kept swinging their right flanks forward as if to take us in reverse or cut us off from the rest of our troops near the Seminary.  At this moment Davison, bleeding from two desperate wounds, and so weak that one of the men had to hold him on his feet (one ankle being totally shattered by a bullet), ordered us to form the half-battery, action left, by wheeling on the left gun as a pivot, so as to bring the half-battery on a line with the Cashtown Pike, muzzles facing south, his object being to rake the front of the Rebel line closing in on us from that side. Of the four men left at our gun when this order was given two had bloody heads, but they were still “standing by,” and Ord. Serg’t Mitchell jumped on our off wheel to help us.  “This is tough work, boys,” he shouted, as we wheeled the gun around, “but we are good for it.” And Pat Wallace, tugging at the near wheel, shouted back: “If we ain’t, where’ll you find them that is!”

Well, this change of front gave us a clean rake along the Rebel line for a whole brigade length, but it exposed our right flank to the ranking volleys of their infantry near the pike, who at that moment began to get up again and come on.  Then for seven or eight minutes ensued probably the most desperate fight ever waged between artillery and infantry at close range without a particle of cover on either side.  They gave us volley after volley in front and flank, and we gave them double canister as fast as we could load.  The 6th Wisconsin and 11th Pennsylvania men crawled up over the bank of the cut or behind the rail fence in rear of Stewart’s caissons and joined their musketry to our canister, while from the north side of the cut flashed the chain-lightning of the Old Man’s half-battery in one solid streak!

At this time our left half-battery, taking their first line en echarpe, swept it so clean with double canister that the Rebels sagged away from the road to get cover from the fences and trees that lined it.  From our second round on a gray squirrel could not have crossed the road alive.

All that drama taking place within easy view of the area now preserved around the Thompson house:

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(Citation from Augustus Buell, “The Cannoneer”: Recollections of Service in the Army of the Potomac, Washington, D.C.: The National Tribune, 1890, pages 67-8.)