Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – North Carolina

Considering December 1863, one year after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, US Colored Troops had become an important, if not essential, component of the Federal war machine. We historians say they’d proven their mettle at places such as Morris Island. However, questions remained in the minds of the more traditional line officers. But none could deny the ever growing number of USCT regiments and batteries joining the force.

Thus it is no surprise to see colored troops artillery units appear in the summaries. We’ve discussed a few along the way, in particular those from Louisiana and Mississippi. Initially, these formations carried designations referencing the states in which their muster took place. And these received a suffix descriptor of “A.D.” for “African Descent” in order to set them apart in the order of battle from unionist regiments recruited in the same areas. Eventually, all would receive designations within the USCT regimental system. But for the mid-war period, this presents a tricky “administrative” problem for those of us researching to find the stories from those USCT units. Just making a positive identification of a unit is often difficult.

And in many cases, clearly even the clerks during the Civil War were a bit confused. When reviewing a wartime reference to a USCT unit, one must often “beat the bushes” in order to get it right. A good example of this is from our next summary statement entry:

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  • Company L, 1st Artillery, A.D.: At Newport Barracks, North Carolina, with one 12-pdr Mountain Howitzer, on a return received on October 13, 1864.

Newport Barracks was a Federal outpost between Morehead City and New Bern, North Carolina. Protecting the valuable supply line inland, the post was important for maintaining the Federal hold on the eastern part of the state. And of course, into 1865 that supply line became Sherman’s resupply point. That said, Newport Barracks was not simply your run-of-the-mill remote outpost. There are markers around the location of the barracks and fortifications.

Newport 2 May 10 135

A nearby Civil War Trails marker highlights a February 2 action in which the Confederates, in conjunction with a larger attempt at New Bern, overran the Federal garrison posted to Newport Barracks. After which, the Federals reestablished the base, with even more security.

It’s the unit identification which becomes problematic here. There was a 1st North Carolina Colored Heavy Artillery (NCCHA) Regiment. We might start the story of this regiment in February 1864 related to the attempt on New Bern which was associated with the Newport Barracks action mentioned. In the crisis, the commander at New Bern armed civilians, including some free blacks, as the garrison braced against a Confederate attack. After the emergency, eyes turned to the contraband camps as a source for recruits. Major Thorndike C. Jameson received authorization to recruit a regiment of heavy artillery from the freedmen.

Jameson was an ardent abolitionist and pastor from Massachusetts. He’d initially volunteered as a chaplain in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. Opting for a more active role, he secured a commission and was later appointed major in the 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, then stationed at New Bern. With William Lloyd Garrison among his friends, Jameson had secured quick support for a plan to raise a colored heavy artillery regiment. The 1st NCCHA mustered in March 1864. However, all was not that simple. The recruiting process was flawed to say the least. I would recommend “Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era” by Richard M. Reid for a detailed examination.

Specific to our discussion, the 1st NCCHA was not up to full strength even into the fall (for that October reporting date). The regiment remained at New Bern, mostly performing fatigue details. During a Yellow Fever outbreak, the 1st NCCHA was assigned to provost guard duties. Only after suffering through the summer under the pandemic was the regiment assigned to actual “artillery” duties. In January 1865, the regiment transferred from the Sub-District of New Bern to the Sub-District of Beaufort. As such, they were assigned to defend the bases of Morehead City and Beaufort.

While Newport Barracks was part of that command, sources are not clear in regard to the 1st NCCHA being assigned there. Furthermore, we have date issues here. The heavy regiment was not in existence at the end of December 1863. And if we postulate this was a “post dated” report sent in October 1864, we still cannot reconcile that with the 1st NCCHA’s service at New Bern. And by the way, the regiment became the 14th US Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment in March 1865.

So if it wasn’t the 1st NCCHA, then who? There was another colored “1st” regiment from North Carolina – the 1st North Carolina Infantry, African Descent. The regiment later became the 35th US Colored Troops. Formed in June 1863 around New Bern and Plymouth, this regiment was part of Wild’s Brigade and served in South Carolina during the Morris Island Campaign. They spent the rest of the war in the Department of the South. However a detachment of the regiment was left behind at New Bern and saw quite a bit of service. They would be a candidate for this entry line, except for again the location. The 1st NC Colored Infantry detachment does not appear to have served at Newport Barracks. Nor do we find any connection for the unit to any mountain howitzers.

But there’s one more “1st” from North Carolina to consider. The 1st North Carolina Volunteers, or what we today call the 1st North Carolina (Union) Infantry, must also be considered. Authorized in May 1862, Colonel Joseph M. McChesney commanded the regiment. The regiment formed within Federal lines in North Carolina, with volunteers reflecting the complicated experience in the coastal region. Some men were union men to the core. Others were fence-sitters motivated by personal gain or simply looking for a measure of security. And some of the ranks were deserters from Confederate service. As such, there were misgivings within echelons of the Federal command about this regiment. Early on, the regiment provided guards for outposts and garrisons, with some companies detached from the main body. However, a few companies from the regiment earned a reputation for efficiency and good order when assigned to patrols.

From formation through the end of 1863, most of the command was assigned to the Sub-District of the Pamlico, with the Washington, North Carolina, garrison. But later in 1864 the regiment transferred to Beaufort and was assigned to outposts which included Newport Barracks. In fact, Company L of the 1st North Carolina was assigned to Newport Barracks in October 1864. Captain George W. Graham commanded the company. And there is some indication of a howitzer section, at least temporarily, assigned and managed by Lieutenant W.W. Alexander of the company.

The “clincher” in this case, I believe, is to fast forward to the next quarter… which I hate to do here. For the 1st quarter of 1864, we find this line under North Carolina:

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Company L, 1st Volunteer Infantry…. that has to be Captain Graham’s. Same location with the same mountain howitzer. We are left to conjecture about the clerk’s entry indicating “artillery” and “A.D.” At a minimum, at least they provided some justification for this lengthy blog post!

All that established, there was ammunition for the mountain howitzer:

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  • Company L, 1st North Carolina Infantry: 26 shells and 142 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

And more on the next page:

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  • Company L, 1st North Carolina Infantry: 31 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

There are no other entries for this line on the pages that follow. And we know that is typical for “sectional” artillery assigned to infantry formations.

Concluding this post, I hope the readers recognize my “blogger’s indulgence” with a rather lengthy post going down different “rabbit holes” to demonstrate what I’d consider the likely explanation for the entry line. But the explanation allowed me to demonstrate what I figure as the proper approach to interpreting the entry line and significance. This also allowed me to discuss, at least within a few brief paragraphs, the service of two North Carolina units which may be unfamiliar to readers. The 1st NCCHA and the 1st North Carolina Volunteers had very different service stories in some regards. Yet, given the postings and duties, perhaps similar wartime experiences in the same operational area. I submit once the clerks committed to writing that “A.D.” on the line, we here in the 21st century had to discuss both units.

Gettysburg, Day 3: Cannon Shells and Logistics

Preface: Sorry this is posted a day late. Intended for this to go live yesterday, but was too busy with other matters. Readers, hopefully, will understand… and enjoy the refinement that an additional day of rumination brings.

We hear this quip a lot: Military professionals study logistics! And as my theme in this Gettysburg series of late has been aimed at the importance of staff activities in relation to the battlefield, only natural that we should shift from intelligence and reconnaissance to logistics.

If I may again send a jab at the armchair general ranks here, everyone will agree logistics is an important facet to military operations, but so few really grasp the nature of logistics as a discipline within the science of military operations. That’s because we are a lazy lot. Logistics requires a grasp of details. One really has to dive into the numbers in order to understand the nature of logistics. It’s a whole lot of “left brain” stuff. More so than the average attention span is apt to allow depicted in… say… a movie… or even a blog post. But we will give it a swag here.

We often see logistics depicted in wargames as if a tether restraining a unit to its base of supply. In the Avalon-Hill-type games, often the rules (and optional rules at that!) specify the need for a unit to trace hexes back to a road, and thence back to a point of supply. And that might be the unit’s headquarters, a dedicated supply chit sitting on the map, or a hex location presumed to be a big pile of stuff. Regardless of the particulars, the rule presumes logistics is simply a flow of things which is regulated by distance more so than the resources involved. True, distances are an important regulator when discussing logistics. But that’s not the only regulator, nor is it the most important.

To study logistics, one has to understand and eventually master a vast set of formulas. If not precise algebraic formulas, not something far off that. But at the base, there are three basic foundations to any logistical problem:

  • How long will it take to get the needed resource (supply) from source point to issue point?
  • What resources are expended in order to get the needed resource (supply) across the gap from source to issue?
  • What is the value for the gaining unit with the issue of that resource (supply)?

I don’t mean to make this sound all Mahan-ish on you. But these are the basic measurements we have to somehow quantify in order to really understand the logistics. I’m not going to say this is the only way to quantify logistics. Just saying this is one approach, easy for those without a great deal of direct experience to grasp… and one we might directly apply to Civil War situations.

So… we need to know the time taken to move the supplies, as that will determine the lead time… or on the need end of the logistics, the wait time. We need to know how much the movement of the supplies will cost in terms of man hours, wear vehicle, gallons of fuel… or is that pounds of hay…, and any other resource allocation which is needed just to move the “stuff.” And the top end determining factor is what will the force receiving the supply be able to do once in possession of that supply which they cannot do without.

Very important point that last one. Nothing worse than opening a box of fancy hats at the moment one most needs bullets

More to the point, if you narrow down the military science to the measure of how much “combat influence” or “combat power” has unit has on the battlefield, then we are talking about things like the number of bullets per man that unit has. We logically move to a discussion of how long that unit can expect to engage in combat with the bullets on hand, given an average rate of fire. That then translates to a “value” of every box of bullets sent from the depot, which if we are bold in the calculus might translate to the number of minutes a unit can stand in a fight. And we can also determine how frequently those boxes should arrive.

We might argue for the infantry and cavalry some combat power remains even after the cartridge boxes are empty. Cold steel is bold, often dangerous alternative to hot lead. And for the artillerists, edged weapons are rarely an option.

Because this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and also because day three of Gettysburg features that great cannon duel, let us think about this in terms of artillery projectiles. Working backwards in the questions, as that allows us to progress from a firm footing for even those with a passing acquaintance with the battle, what is the unit of measure for cannon ammunition? Practically speaking it is this:

Taking a 12-pdr Napoleon, as in the illustration, there were 32 rounds in each chest. But remember not all rounds are equal – A dozen shot; a dozen case; four shells; and four canister. Each type with a different purpose. Indeed, let us set aside the four canister right from the start, as those were only for use at close range and, docturnally speaking, mostly for self defense. The combat power of the gun was derived from placing shot, case, and shell on a distant target. So lets trim that to 28 projectiles.. or 28 shots to be fired out of each chest.

Under a standard allowance, each cannon had four such chests – one on the limber, three with the caisson. So a total of 112 “value” rounds per gun, under the standard allocation of ammunition. Yes, keep in mind that is the “by the book” numbers. We know things were not so tidy in wartime situations (and if you didn’t know that, well… see all those numerous posts under the heading of “Summary Statements” here on the blog). But I contend those are good numbers on which to base a discussion.

Can we translate 112 rounds into the number of minutes a battery can be engaged before running out of ammunition? Yes, but we have to accept some complexities here. Obviously, if the intended target is enemy artillery (counter-battery fire which was the focus both ways on the afternoon of July 3) then solid shot might be more preferable, though case and shell had their place. Likewise, against infantry case was more applicable, though shot and shell had effects. Those preferences noted and considered, let’s keep the equation to a high level and go with 112 rounds… but reserve this line of thought for injection into the tactical situation at Gettysburg in a moment.

A really motivated crew might fire as much as two rounds a minute, but that’s not a practical rate. Brigadier-General Henry Hunt and other good artillerists are known to encourage slow and deliberate fires. And often we see that expressed as one round every two minutes. Some will cite higher rates sustained during the “hell on earth” minutes, such as occurred on the afternoon of July 3, 1863. No argument here. But I would simply point out the higher rate of fire usually translated to less accuracy, and thus a higher number of rounds expended to achieve the same tactical purpose, or worse leading to the failure to achieve the desired tactical purpose… as we shall see from the experience on the field that day.

So if fully stocked, by the book, a Napoleon gun could stand in battery firing one round every two minutes for almost four hours before needing some resupply. If doubled up to one round a minute, that’s at best a couple hours. Still we have a rough measure of one chest providing one hour of one gun’s worth of “combat power” of a crew firing “calmly and coolly.” Just a rule of thumb… not an exact measure by any means. If we change that to “frantic” fire, then one chest equals… maybe… thirty minutes.

Change the numbers a bit for a 3-inch Ordnance Rifle or 10-pdr Parrott. Those weapons had 50 rounds per chest. Subtracting back the canister again, just 46 “value” rounds (and remember that most of these light rifled guns did not have solid bolts issued at this time of the war – usually just case, shell, and canister). Thus translating to six hours of “time in battery.” At first this seems like a quantitative game changer in favor of the rifle. But as with all things logistical, gotta look at the details. A 12-pdr smoothbore shell and a 3-inch Hotchkiss weighed nearly the same (a little over 9 pounds). But the allocation of payload is different. Smoothbore shells were cavernous compared to the interior of rifled projectiles, and thus carried more “stuff” to the intended target. If we really want to “true up” this logistical measure, we’d have to gauge things like the number of balls in each case shot, by weapon caliber. Or perhaps the weight of the bursting charge in each type of shell. But for this lesson, at the 101 level, we save that for the advanced classes.

Now consider what we have discussed as would be applied to the situation on July 3. The Confederate gunners were attempting to suppress Federal firepower (artillery and infantry) lodged on Cemetery Ridge. The type of projectiles favored for that work were shells. Shot might help, but required very precise placement for effect. Case, designed to scatter sub-projectiles over a wide area, would have an effect. But it’s advantages were negated due to the limited depth of the target area. Shells, on the other hand, could have fuses cut to impart effects on a specific part of the defensive line. Thus, for Colonel E. P. Alexander the discussion is not about “value rounds” to derive combat power, but rather “preferred rounds” to achieve the desired effect from applying that combat power. Due to the tactical situation and fire effect preferences, he had but 16 “preferred rounds” per 12-pdr Napoleon and likely around 24 per Parrott or 3-inch rifle. Such limited his part of the duel from the “value round” figure of four hours down to only thirty to forty minutes of “preferred rounds.” Sure, he could (and there is some anecdotal evidence this was done) stockpile more shells in anticipation of the bombardment. But that would only correct the supply needs in the short term. And would have the additional effect of disrupting the normality of the issue of ammunition… by the regulation chest.

On the other side of the field, Hunt had a different set of criteria facing his logistic calculation. The initial targets were, just as his Confederate counterparts, enemy cannon. And again the shell was preferred for the work to be done. But Hunt also had to consider what the bombardment was designed to setup. The infantry were coming across that field eventually. And if the cannon were to blunt that attack, the guns would need ample case shot handy to apply in short order. Thus the order to conserve fire after the initial response to the Confederate fires. Instead of expending the less preferential case-shot in an attempt to disrupt, if not drive off, the Confederate gunners, better to save those four dozen rounds per gun anticipating a time when those would be of more practical use.

Keep in mind the numbers and this rough equation of combat power – specifically the time that combat power could be applied – was not lost on the rank and file. At least one battery on Cemetery Hill recognized the number of rounds left in their chests directly translated to the length of time they would be held in position under enemy fire. And they emptied chests in a less than soldierly manner… just leaving rounds on the ground. One officer later counted 48 rounds of 3-inch rounds laying on the ground where a limber had previously sat. Clearly the crew had run some numbers of their own and determined a better way to weather the storm.

We are getting rather far along here, as things will evolve. Yet still have not gotten to the other two questions. Let’s digest the matter offered thus far, and resume in the next post. The key point to keep in mind is the combat power of an artillery battery is in direct proportion to the number of ammunition chests in possession. Numbers… and type of projectile.. matter.

Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – New Jersey

Next we turn to the batteries from the Garden State. Five entries representing the artillerymen from New Jersey:

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As the state’s batteries were at times referenced by number, yet at others by letter, I’ll provide both here:

  • 1st Battery / Battery A: At Brandy Station, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain William Hexamer remained in command.  The battery was with the Fourth Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve through the end of October. Then, with reorganizations of the reserve, moved to the Third Volunteer Brigade. 
  • 2nd Battery / Battery B: Reported at Petersburg (!), Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons, reflecting a July 1864 receipt date. Captain A.Judson Clark commanded the battery, and it remained with Third Corps.  And with that assignment, the battery was likely going into winter camp outside Brandy Station, though not over in the woods where Hexamer’s battery stayed.
  • 3rd Battery / Battery C: At Camp Barry, D.C. with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain Christian Woerner commanded. One of three batteries from New Jersey we find at the Artillery Camp of Instruction, Twenty-Second Corps.
  • 4th Battery / Battery D: Reporting at Camp Barry, D.C with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain George T. Woodbury commanded. 
  • 5th Battery / Battery E: Also at Camp Barry with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain Zenas C. Warren commanded.  The third New Jersey battery in the Artillery Camp.

Turning to the ammunition, we start with those for the Napoleons:

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  • 2nd Battery: 288 shot, 96 shell, and 288 case for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Note, the three batteries in the Artillery School were not issued ammunition for service details. Such may indicate the batteries were indeed training, with ammunition issued only when required for training needs.

One entry on the next page:

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  • 2nd Battery: 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

No Hotchkiss rounds reported. So we turn to the Parrott columns:

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  • 1st Battery: 400 shell, 480 case, and 163 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

To the right is an entry for Schenkl shells:

  • 1st Battery: 245 shell for 10-pdr Parrott.

No additional ammunition reported for the cannon. So we turn to the small arms:

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  • 1st Battery: 14 Colt army revolvers and 26 cavalry sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: 7 Colt navy revolvers and 13 horse artillery sabers.
  • 3rd Battery: 20 Colt navy revolvers and 50 cavalry sabers.
  • 4th Battery: 20 Colt navy revolvers and 30 cavalry sabers.
  • 5th Battery: 20 Colt navy revolvers, 25 cavalry sabers, and 5 horse artillery sabers.

The next page has three entries for cartridge bags:

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  • 1st Battery: 48 cartridge bags for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • 2nd Battery: 40 cartridge bags for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • 5th Battery: 9 cartridge bags for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Lastly, we cover the entries for pistol cartridges, fuses, powder, primers, and miscellaneous articles:

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  • 1st Battery: 337 army caliber pistol cartridges; 1,042 paper fuses; and 793 friction primers.
  • 2nd Battery: 50 yards of slow match.
  • 4th Battery: 558 navy caliber pistol cartridges and 2 yards of slow match.
  • 5th Battery: 34 friction primers and 50 yards of slow match.

I find it interesting to see the differences in allocations, in particular to the ammunition, for batteries in the field and those in the school. Of course we know there was plenty of ammunition stashed around Camp Barry. However, apparently that was counted by the “school” and not assigned to the batteries. While I didn’t include those here, the allocation of implements and other equipment likewise follows pattern.