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:


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:


We see this:


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


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


Here’s another view of that ammunition chest:


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


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.


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.


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.


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:


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:


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.


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”.

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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.)

Howitzers from the Big Easy: Leeds and Company Field Howitzers

Leeds & Company of New Orleans is another “western” private vendor who provided cannon to the Confederacy.  Before the war, the iron foundry produced steam and milling equipment.  At the onset of war, the firm transitioned to supply ordnance and stores for private, state, and Confederate customers.  Leeds & Company provided labor and other support such as rifling older weapons.

With respect to cannons, I’ve mentioned their 6-pdr field guns and 12-pdr light field guns (Napoleons) in earlier posts.  Also among the firm’s castings were columbiads, naval guns, 6-pdr rifles (actually 3.3-inch caliber), and 12-pdr field howitzers.  One of the later survives today on the Wilderness battlefield, and is the focus of today’s post.

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Leeds & Company 12-pdr Field Howitzer at the Wilderness

In profile, this gun could easily pass for a Federal Model 1841 12-pdr Field Howitzer. The right trunnion stamps affirm the vendor’s identity and thus Confederate origin.

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Right Trunnion of Leeds howitzer

Allow me an “editorial” pinch here.  Notice the heavy layers of paint.  The practice of indiscriminately slathering the trunnion caps with black paint when performing maintenance on the carriage often obscures the markings. In this case, “Leeds & Co. // New Orleans” is clearly visible.  But how many more layers of black paint might be applied before those stamps are filled in?

The number “23” appears on the right rimbase. But alas my photo is rather blurry.  So you’ll have to take my word for it.  The left trunnion offers the year of manufacture.

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Left Trunnion of Leeds howitzer

The muzzle face shows no markings, or for that matter little variation from the Federal Model 1841 field howitzer.

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Muzzle face of Leeds howitzer

The muzzle profile conforms to the base Model 1841 pattern.

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Muzzle profile of Leeds howitzer

My field measurements indicate the muzzle ring and chase ring are a few tenths closer together than Federal howitzers. But the variance is hardly worth mentioning.  The measure of the muzzle ring, at one inch wide, and …

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Measure of muzzle ring on Leeds howitzer

… and the chase ring, at 11/16ths of an inch, match the dimensions of Federal howitzers I’ve measured.

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Measure of Leeds howitzer chase ring

The knob extends about 4 1/4 inches from the face of the breech.

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Measure of knob on Leeds howitzer

This is about a quarter inch shorter than Federal types.  Notice the significant fillet at the attachment to the breech face, which is also a deviation from the Federal pattern.

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Breech profile of Leeds howitzer

Otherwise the breech face and profile are little different than the Federal types.

Notice the three tapped holes on the upper breech face where the hausse seat was fixed, matching with the threaded socket for front sight.  These holes indicate the howitzer was indeed fitted for use.   That said, where might this cannon have been during the war?

The date on the trunnion offers room for speculation.  Looking to the paper trails in the Citizens Files, Leeds & Company sold howitzers to the Confederate Army in March and April 1862.

Page 35

An invoice from March 3, 1862 (above) bills for two 6-pdrs field guns and two 12-pdr howitzers.  Another from March 4 charges for two 6-pdrs guns and four howitzers. The receiving officer for these guns was a “Major Smith”, whom I could identify but not with certainty.  Notice the light writing at the bottom – “The above two Howitzers were issued to Captain Hodgson Battery Wash. Arty.”  The two howitzers mentioned on the invoice were probably among those used by the 5th Company, Washington Artillery on April 6, 1862 at Shiloh.

More howitzers (along with other guns) appear on a receipt filed by Captain Hypolite Oladowski for deliveries in April that year:

Page 93a

These were earmarked for troops under the command of General Braxton Bragg.

But the papers cover 1862 purchases and delivery, and the left trunnion on the howitzer indicates production in 1861.  What would account for the lag time between casting and issue? One possible explanation is that in the opening months of the war, Leeds & Company sold weapons to anyone asking.   Perhaps this howitzer was among those sold to private concerns, militia organizations, or state forces.  From there, the howitzer was “drafted” into Confederate service.  But the foundry number “23” alludes to production later in the year when the Confederate government took more control over purchases.

Another possibility is the howitzer was cast by Leeds & Company speculating on a demand.  If cast in late 1861, perhaps the howitzer was purchased and delivered until the following spring.  Odd as it may seem, requests from Smith and Oladowski might have been filled by weapons “on the shelf” at Leeds & Company.

Neither possible explanation I offer here would narrow down the service record of the howitzer currently at the Wilderness. But there is sufficient weight of evidence to indicate the weapon was used on Western battlefields and is today far away, geographically speaking, from its wartime story.

Oladowski’s receipt is worth further examination.  It is dated March 2, 1863, by which time he was a Lieutenant Colonel, and filed from Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Page 93

The accounts for Leeds & Company were not settled until long after the fall of New Orleans.  Rather nice, orderly of the Confederate Ordnance Department, don’t you think?

Some Friday ‘splody: Civil War Cannons

Busy day on this end and not much time for creativity.  So I’ll steal a line from Xbrad and post some ‘splody videos.  I’ve assigned myself the mission to post something about Fort Clinch in the next few weeks and I’m currently discussing the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, so this video dovetails into place:

I’ll feature a “unique” 3-inch Ordnance Rifle currently at Fort Clinch in the next few days (not this one, but one of the fort’s authentic guns).

Oh, and I’ve mentioned Fort Pulaski frequently of late.  Here’s one of the fort’s reproductions in use:

Yea, nothing says “Go Dawgs!” like a 30-pdr Parrott.

Howitzers from Poplar Avenue: 12-pdrs from Quinby & Robinson

Time to discuss some of the products from my favorite Confederate gunmaker.  Even before Tennessee had officially seceded, the firm of Quinby & Robinson began casting cannon at their Memphis foundry located near the corner of Poplar and Front Streets.  Hindered by a fire which destroyed much of the foundry, Quinby & Robinson still managed to deliver over 75 cannon before Memphis fell to Federal forces.  The majority of those pieces, forty or so, were 12-pdr field howitzers.   Eight of those are reported as survivors today.

One of those howitzers ventured far from its western Tennessee home, standing today as part of Poague’s Howitzers near the Virginia Memorial at Gettysburg.

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Quinby & Robinson 12-pdr Field Howitzer

Externally, Quinby & Robinson followed the Federal Model 1841 pattern rather closely.

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Muzzle Moldings on Quinby & Robinson Howitzer

Missing is the thin fillet on the muzzle ring, but that ring and the chase ring are within tolerances for the Model 1841 pattern.  The Memphis-made howitzer has a bit more muzzle lip however.

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Neck and Fillet on Breech

Quinby & Robinson allowed nearly a half-inch fillet for the cascabel neck.

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Trunnions and Reinforce

The reinforce and trunnions also matched the Federal pattern.  The howitzer at Gettysburg has a thin line behind the trunnions, almost delineating a trunnion band.  But this appears to be a variation on this piece and not a feature on all weapons in the series.

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Right Trunnion

The right trunnion reads “Quinby & Robinson // Memphis Tenn.”

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Left Trunnion

And the left simply reads “1861.”

The 12-pdr at Gettysburg certainly adds to the “Confederate” flavor to the display, standing next to other howitzers of southern origin (a Washington Foundry and two Noble Brothers howitzers along with an Alger piece). But the Quinby & Robinson howitzer is out of place geographically.  More to my taste are these two examples at Shiloh.

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Bankhead's Battery on Ruggles' Line at Shiloh

Two Quinby & Robinson howitzers represent Bankhead’s Tennessee Battery on Ruggles’ Line.  One of the pair was cast in 1861.  Since Bankhead’s formed in Memphis, and was equipped with 12-pdr howitzers, this raises a possibility that very piece was on the field with the battery during the battle.  I bet someone was thinking about that possibility when they put it there.

Another line on that invoice: Tredegar 12-pdr Iron Field Howitzer

Earlier I offered this lengthy invoice to trace the origins of a 12-pdr bronze howitzer from Tredegar:

Just above the entry for Tredegar’s bronze 12-pdr #1578 is another line for a “12pdr Iron Field Howitzer #1513” (highlighted in red):

A gun with that registry number survives today at Petersburg National Battlefield Park.

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Tredegar Iron 12pdr #1513

My photos of the markings (taken with my older camera) are too blurry for display.  So you’ll have to take my word instead of visual verification.  But what you can see from this photo the exterior form took significant departure from Tredegar’s rather orthodox bronze contemporaries.

A similar 12-pdr iron field howitzer stands outside the Richmond NPS visitor center at the old Tredegar Iron Works site.

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12pdr Iron Field Howitzer at Tredegar

Most prominent is reinforce.  While half the size that of the bronze howitzer, the iron howitzer’s reinforce was a non-tapering cylinder.  The step at the end of the reinforce was smoothy blended into the tapering barrel.   The breech face was rounded, with contour lines resembling that of the Federal’s 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  And even further streamlining the form, the rimbases joined the barrel in a smooth molding.   Overall, this howitzer could easily pass for something from a “Federal” design of 1861 vintage.

Early in the war, the Confederacy lacked good bronze for field pieces.  While calling for bells and other scrap metal, southern gunmakers turned back to iron composition for field guns.  There is some indication that Tredegar produced iron 12-pdr howitzers for state orders early in 1861.  However, Tredegar began casting iron 12-pdr howitzers for Confederate orders in November 1861.  The first of these failed due to poor metal choice.  Eventually those problems were resolved and the army accepted twenty-five of the iron 12-pdrs from Tredegar.  That total includes three on the invoice pictured above.  Production ceased in late 1862 with the official order to switch to Napoleon type field guns.

Tredegar’s 12-pdr iron howitzers serve as a physical reminder of shortage of resources to feed the Confederate war machine.  The production run also points to the evolution of weapons types, as more evolved guns replaced the pre-war classes.  On the other hand, the exterior form confirms that someone in Richmond had been reading all those reports from ordnance tests from the 1850s.