The Guns of Battery Wagner

The armament of Battery Wagner included a varied lot when compared to the predominately Parrott siege train on the Federal side of Morris Island. The assortment of Wagner’s guns reflected the sources drawn upon by the Confederates. Battery Wagner featured fifeteen gun positions and three mortar positions. Those are lettered here for clarity:

BatteryWagnerGuns

Major Thomas Brooks recorded the locations of guns in the battery at the time of capture. You’ll notice I skipped “F” because that location, of a broken gun, was not annotated clearly. Brooks skipped “J” in his records. So we have A to T with those omissions.

There were minor variations in the armament during the siege. And of course several of the weapons were disabled, some repaired, during the siege. Let me discuss these in order of the positions:

I don’t think this is an exhaustive listing. Additional 12-pdr and 32 pdr field howitzers and 32-pdr howitzers were listed in the fort’s armament at the start of the siege. Also add to this tally the guns in Battery Gregg which included 8-inch shell guns and a IX-inch Dahlgren.

These weapons saw heavy service during the seven weeks of siege operations. During some of the days of heaviest fighting, Brigadier-General Alfred Colquitt reported the following expenditures of ammunition from Battery Wagner’s guns:

  • August 29 – 32-pdr smoothbore guns fired 27 shell, one canister and one grapeshot; 32-pdr howitzers fired 20 shells; 12-pdr howitzer fired 99 case and 53 canister.
  • August 30 – 10-inch mortars fired 40 shells; 10-inch columbiads fired four shells; 8-inch seacoast howitzers fired 30 shells and eight grape; 32-pdr smoothbore guns fired 9 shells and one each of grape and canister; 12-pdr howitzers added 62 case, 44 shells, and 8 canister.
  • August 31 – 203 shots from guns and howitzers; 61 shells from mortars.
  • September 1 – 182 shots fired from all weapons.

Compared to the Federal siege guns, the non-uniform armament of Battery Wagner offered few long range weapons. A couple of columbiads, often just one serviceable, offered token resistance against the Federal ironclads. At the same time a motley array of short range weapons were employed to “sweep” the approaches to the fortification. The carronades, howitzers, and mortars in Battery Wagner were much feared by those building the approach lines in front of the Confederate works.

The Wiard Guns on Morris Island: More field guns on the second parallel

In the earlier post, I pointed out that looking at the details in this photo showing Napoleon guns on the second parallel on Morris Island:

Napoleon_Battery

We see this:

Napoleon_Battery1D

And this (full size so you can pick out the details):

Napoleon_Battery1E

Notice the maneuvering handspike on the lower left. Those details show up on the right hand side of this photo:

Wiard_Battery

Here’s another view of that ammunition chest:

Wiard_Battery1A

The accouterments hanging on the earthworks in front of the wheel:

Wiard_Battery1B

Having established the Wiards position on the second parallel as just to the left of the Napoleons, let’s look at the guns themselves. A great study of the Wiard Guns and their advanced, if non-standard, carriages.

Wiard_Battery1C

For those unfamiliar, the trail of the carriage meets the axle below and not on top as with a standard Army field carriage. The placement of the trunnions on a high, arching cheek allowed for greater elevation – up to 35°. The rear sight hangs from a seat on the back of the breech.

The crew is loading the other gun in the pair. From this angle, we also see the wedges, a feature that counteracted shrinkage of the wooden wheel.

Wiard_Battery1D

The gun crew wears an assortment of hats. According to the photo caption, these fellows were part of Lieutenant Paul Berchmire’s Battery F, 3rd New York Light Artillery. Aside from the hats, there’s a bit of contrast among those men.

Wiard_Battery1E

Some look like they have yet to shave for the first time. Others seem to have avoided razors for years.

However, I’d point out my placement of these two photographs stands at odds with this photograph:

Battery_B_four_12_pound_Howitzers_Lieutenant_Guy_V_Henry_2nd_parallel

The right pair of howitzers seen here occupy positions used by those Wiard guns in the photo above. See, again, the cut from Major Thomas Brooks’ map, focusing on the “How. Battery” in front of Battery Brown:

BatteriesRight2ndParallel

But I think we are looking at the same section of the second parallel, but at different times. Brooks’ journal entry for August 6, 1863 provides a clue:

Made repairs in defensive howitzer battery on the right of second parallel. Two Wiard field guns now in position there have proven very destructive to platforms and embrasures; more so than any field guns which have come under my observation.

Perhaps some of the debris seen in the howitzer battery photo was the result of those “destructive” Wiards.

HowitzerBattery1G

At any rate, if my figuring is correct, when the engineers first established the second parallel, two Napoleons and two Wiards anchored the line on the right. Later the Napoleons went to positions further to the left, as indicated on Brooks’ map. The Wiards likewise moved to the left, with one going on the far side of Battery Kearny. That Wiard gun position had embrasures for firing on both Battery Wagner and Battery Gregg – an arrangement not seen in the Wiard gun photo above.

So three photos. Two taken early in the siege. One taken later. All of the same general area.

Photo credits: Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs, ID Number 71MSS918_021.tif, 71MSS918_014.tif, and 71MSS918_020.tif.

(Citation from OR Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 282.)

Mountain Howitzer returned to wartime station at Fort Sumter

Likely you’ve seen this wartime photo a time or two before.

The cannon is a 12-pdr mountain howitzer.  Location is Fort Sumter.  The Confederates used several weapons of this type during the long siege of the fort, employing them for close defense against landing parties.

For many years Fort Sumter National Monument featured a similar 12-pdr mountain howitzer on a wooden carriage overlooking the corner of the fort nearest to Morris Island.  The howitzer was a good point along the fort tour for interpretation about the Confederate garrison, the threats they faced, and the failed September 1863 naval landing assault on the fort.  But in recent years the howitzer sat inside the park’s museum awaiting a new carriage.

Fort Sumter 4 Aug 11 1565

That left the location somewhat “bare”.

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 256

But now the fort has a new steel carriage for the howitzer.  From Columbia, South Carolina’s The State:

Mountain howitzer back on rampart at Fort Sumter

A gun like those used by Confederates in the final months defending Fort Sumter is back on the ramparts of the Charleston fort.

A mountain howitzer cast in 1863 was put back this week after six years. It had been removed after its original wooden carriage deteriorated from spending years in the elements.

The 120-pound howitzer was kept in the museum but has a new protective coating and is mounted on a $12,000 steel carriage. Rick Dorrance, the fort’s chief of resource management, said Civil War sites nationwide are increasingly replacing wooden gun carriages with steel.

During the final months of the defense of Sumter, the wheeled howitzers were in bombproof areas in the daytime and rolled to the walls at night.

I’m glad to see the howitzer back out to the assigned position.  It’s the little things that set the scenery and make the stage more meaningful.

(Last photo above is from Bruce Smith /AP.)