Category Archives: American Civil War

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part VIII: Over a hundred 90-pound bolts to deal with Federal monitors

In the last installment in the walk around Fort Johnson, I offered up this diagram indicating the perspective of several photos of the interior of the fort:


Let me pick up this tour by stopping at point labeled FJ6 on that diagram.  That is where the photographer setup his equipment for this photo:


We are looking into the gallery where a 7-inch Double-Banded Brooke Rifle sits.  This is the same weapon appearing in photo FJ2 on the exterior of the fort.  What I like most about this view is that the line of sight is parallel to the profile line used by the surveyor’s diagram of the fort’s profile:


“Section 2″ in the diagram above was along a line drawn through the right-most gun position.  The FJ6 photo looks down the position to the left of that line.  And keep in mind that “Section 1″ runs perpendicular to the line of Section 2 and thus the line of sight in photo FJ6.  Sure, you say, what is there to be excited about?  Well this allows us to visually confirm… or reject … some of the particulars of the survey.  So let us pay attention the those profiles…


What catches my eye is the slope of the “V” that forms the gallery here.  The survey, since it used crisp lines, indicates the works had a “V” with a crown on each arm.  Almost a “V” within a “V.”  What we see in the photo is an eroded version of that.  A crown exists, but the slope is more of a gradual curve down to the base of the “V” and not offering a distinct shelf or shoulder where the crown meets the base.  Surveyors’ “license” perhaps?  No.  I think the surveyors accurately depicted what they saw.  But theirs were trained eyes, experienced by four years work with earthworks in the field, to know what the profile was designed to be.  And those surveyors were quick to extrapolate from the effects of weather, erosion, and neglect to show how the works were originally built.  After all, the survey was part of a report that needed to demonstrate how formidable these works were, and not intended as a study in shifting of sand.

That all said, let’s look at what would be the “star” of this photo – that big rifle:


Notice the cuts into the carriage, on both cheeks.  Also notice the quoin for elevating the gun.  This gun is pointed to the waters between Forts Sumter and Moultrie.

Looking down at the table supporting the gun, there are tick marks along the edges.


The tick marks below the race appear distinctly in the “sunny side.” But faintly along the edge of the race where the sun is directly on the wood.  However, under the shadow of the carriage, the opposite is true.  So as we consider where the gun was pointed, we have some indication as to how the gun crew ensured the weapon was on target.  The Confederates did conduct practice fires, which we call “registering” today, against targets in the harbor.  And of course they had feedback from the many counter-bombardments of Federal targets on Morris Island. So you might say those tick marks were “earned” along the way.

I would be remiss without calling out the barrel, which serves as a convenient mark to associate several photos.  We can also examine the texture of the fort’s walls.


Moving back a bit from the gallery, let me look through from left to right.  On the far left is the end of a railing.  What we will see from some of the other photos is that this rail served as an anchor for ropes extending from a tent.


To the left of that rail is a wash basin.  It’s a metal basin, perhaps tin, as we can see the metal seam up the side.


But since this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and not the “Civil War Field Hygiene” blog, we are going to look past that wash station at the pyramid of Brooke bolts:


These bolts have a square headed nut for the bolt attaching the sabot to the body.  We’ll see from another view there is a space between the sabot and the body.  There are two bourrelets (the band around the projectile used to align it to the bore), with one at the base and another towards the front.

One of the bolts in the stack is missing its sabot:


I’m not as good with projectiles as I am with cannons.  But I think these are “Tennessee” bolts, known to collectors as “Type II.” There are four holes in the base of the bolt.  One of those is filled by the bolt used to retain the sabot.  The other three, spaced around the middle of the base, are indentations that matched up with lugs on the inside face of the sabot.  The way this worked – when the Brooke was fired, the expanding gasses would push against the copper sabot and thus force the concave outer face to seal against the bore and into the rifling grooves of the bore.  That also forced the three lugs on the inside face of the sabot into the three holes on the base of the bolt.  With the copper sabot pressing into both the rifle grooves and into the holes, the spin of the rifling was imparted to the projectile.  And we can see all the parts for that system, save the rifling of the bore, in this photo.

Projectiles of 7-inch caliber were produced in Charleston and also brought in from other sources.  The bolts were used from both the 7-inch Brooke and rifled 42-pdr guns.  These were intended to counter Federal monitors.  Though, with their mass, the bolts would have crashed through any wooden vessel with ease.  We see fifty-six of these stacked to one side (two pyramids of bolts, stacked nose to nose).  To the other side of the gallery, there is another pyramid of bolts, these stacked tail to tail:


Here we see the flat faces of the bolts.  Not designed for aerodynamic efficiency, these flat faces were meant to impart the most force upon iron plate.  These projectiles didn’t pierce, rather were designed to shatter or bend the plate.  Purely a mass times velocity equation.  Each weighed just over 90 pounds.  And we are seeing over 100 of these bolts.  A lot of mass that would have been thrown at any Federal monitors trying to force passage into Charleston.

The top three projectiles have markings:


“A C” … which I am at a loss to explain.  But those top three bolts, with markings, appear in another photo.  So they are good placemarks as we “tour” the fort.

As we “walk” to the next point along our “tour,” we’d have to step over some weeds growing up in the fort:


A reminder that this photo was taken in the spring of 1865.  Weeds and grass were taking hold over the fortifications of a war in the closing stages.

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part VII: The interior through the camera lens, preserved on glass plate

Thus far, we’ve looked at photos taken of the exterior of Fort Johnson, specifically the water battery.  But those were not the only places the photographer, George Barnard, visited in the spring of 1865.  In fact, Barnard spent considerable time inside Fort Johnson.  From that, we can “virtually” tour the fort, 150 years later, by way of those photographs.

Summarizing what we’ve seen thus far, here is the diagram depicting the location of the camera and perspective of the first five photos in this study… er … tour:


At the end of our examination of FJ5, I called attention to the Brooke Rifle and the barrel out in front of the gun.


The rifle and the barrel are key reference points as we step into the interior.  Both appear in the photo that I’ll label, for our purposes, FJ6:

Up close:


I’ll examine the other details of this photo in a dedicated post, but the Brooke establishes that we are looking down the back of the second gallery from the right on Fort Johnson.  Notice the pyramid of bolts to the right of the crop above.  Note the letters “A.C” on the top three. You see them again in another photo of the fort’s interior:

I’ll call this one FJ7.  And aiding the effort to establish the camera’s perspective is that pyramid of bolts, in the distant center:


See the letters?

The centerpiece of FJ7 are the debris and ruins inside the fort. Those appear on the surveys.  And that further establishes the perspective of the camera.  The ruins also appear in another photo of the interior, but from a different angle:

I’ll call this one FJ8.  Up close, here’s the ruins… which don’t see too badly ruined… if all you want is a pavilion.


Panning to the left, looking beyond the sling cart, we see the tent, with chimney:


That tent appeared in FJ7.  To the right of the tent is a platform with a bucket on top. That coincides with the location of the fort’s cistern on surveys.  Beyond (above) the platform is a log crib.  The crib and tent also appear from another perspective of Fort Johnson:

This photo, FJ9 for my labeling, looks across the interior wall of the fort.  Stacked pyramids of shot and shell stand along that wall.  Some of those were seen in FJ8.  As are the tent and crib:


Those sequences are fine, but only show the “small” particulars of the fort.  What we would like is a wide angle view of the fort’s interior.  Well we have one:


Unfortunately I cannot find this photo, which I’ll call FJ10, from a digitized glass plate.  Only a scan from a printed copy.  But in this view we see, from left to right, the ruins, pyramids of shot and shell, the cistern, and the tent.  There are other points of reference to mention here (notably the sling cart beyond the fort, which was seen in the exterior photographs).

That is sufficient to start plotting the camera locations of the five photos against the fort surveys:


The green lines demonstrate the angle of the camera view.

Considering the first five “stops” made in front of Fort Johnson:


You can see, hardly an inch of the Confederate water battery escaped the camera lens.  How many places of note from the Civil War can we say that about?

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part VI: A look across the front of the fort, keys to the interior

This morning, let us continue the virtual walk in front of Fort Johnson, as it stood in the spring of 1865.  Our next, and last stop outside the fort, is here:


I have labeled this photo’s location as FJ5 on the diagram below:


This perspective gives us a wide view of the entire front of Fort Johnson, from the epaulement to the left of the water battery all the way over to the howitzer in front of the far right of the line.  As this is an “end of war” view, might be good to offer perspective of the alterations done over the four years.  While I don’t have a photo to reference, we can look back at the diagram produced by Captain Truman Seymour (later Major-General, and someone very much connected to the operations around Charleston during the war) in February 1861.


This drawing, from the perspective of Fort  Sumter, shows the east end of James Island.  I’ve included the wharf and other structures in this snip of the original to demonstrate that James Island was a “happening” place before the war.  Many buildings associated with the fort, to include barracks.  And a lot of other structures standing behind.  Later wartime photos and drawings show that area devoid of buildings, as they were soon replaced by earthworks.

Before the war, Fort Johnson was more of a barracks than fort.  But at the onset of the secession crisis, state authorities ordered works established there to confront Fort Sumter.  By February of 1861, this is what Seymour saw through the glasses:


The barracks is to the far left.  The white building in the center of this crop is, if my memory serves, a quarantine hospital.  There were also some customs related buildings at the point.  The main focus here would be the battery.  Seymour plotted a work with three embrasures.  As he noted, and as we discussed regarding the arrangement in 1865, those guns faced Charleston’s inner harbor and not directly at Fort Sumter.

Seymour also provided a plan of the fortifications around Fort Johnson, as he saw them in 1861.


Compare this to the survey from 1865.  Speaking of that survey, since the FJ5 photo gives a wide view of the fort, consider the perspective as related to the profiles in the 1865 survey:


The location of the camera would be to the left, just above the high water mark, on Section 1.  On Section 2, the camera would be on the right of the profile, also near the high water mark.

We can also triangulate the location of the photographer for FJ5 based on items seen in the photo, compared to FJ4.  One of the mortars seen in FJ4 appears at the foot of the camera stand in FJ5:


My suspicion is this particular mortar is among several shipped from Richmond to Charleston during the war.  So I’ve looked all over the photograph for anything that might be a mark associated with Tredegar.  But in vain… had only the photographer been kind enough to catch a better glimpse of the trunnion.  A reference line, running between the vent and ear, is plain to see:


But not a single weight stamp or foundry number visible.

Other items that aid with location identification are the beams near the wharf:


So we should be able to sort out where the camera stood for FJ4, by looking back at the fort.  My guess, since FJ4 was slightly elevated, is that the photographer placed the camera on the ammunition chest behind the siege howitzer, or at least over it:


Of course that would require the photographer to be tripping all over the howitzer while servicing the camera.  The least he could have done is write down the registry number, you think?

The perspective of FJ5 allows us to take in Fort Johnson’s outer works as a whole.


We can still see the “bricks” that made up the works.  But those now appear somewhat sharper than in the other, closer, photos.

The United States flag flies over the fort, after its four year absence.  We’ll narrow down the location of the flag pole based on views of the interior later in this series.


The last berm, or epaulement, protected the battery from flanking fire from the left.  That protection was in place should Federal ironclads gain the harbor or Federal land forces get behind the works on James Island or even to the neck of Charleston.


We see the fort was designed to stand firm even if the situation collapsed elsewhere.

The only time the fort was directly tested by the Federals was on the nights of July 3 and 10, 1864.  Those were not in strength and repulsed.

Looking to the extreme foreground, we see a mix of gravel, dirt, wood, and shells that made up the fill in front of the fort:


This artificial bluff was improved during the war, adding to the fort’s defensive arrangements.

Before leaving this view, let me focus for one shot on the Brooke Rifle:


Notice the wooden barrel that sits in front of and to the right of the gun.   We’ll see that barrel again … as we step inside Fort Johnson in the next series of photo analysis posts.