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.


Batteries in the Marshes: The Defenses of Savannah, Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, I’ll first turn to the improvements to the fortifications directed by General P.G.T. Beauregard in October 1862.

Although after his initial, but brief September 1862 inspection, Beauregard considered the defenses well placed, after the detailed inspection in October, he found many issues with gun placement in the works.  Beauregard called for repositioning of guns in almost all the existing major fortifications.  In addition he cited poor magazine and traverse placement in several of the batteries.

Those “tuning” chores in order, Beauregard ordered several new batteries erected.  To produce a cross-fire against any threat from Whitemarsh Island, he ordered a three-gun battery built at Greenwich Point on St. Augustine Creek. Turning again to the map, that battery is depicted in green and those from the earlier date in yellow (and remember the base map depicts fortifications as they existed in December 1864, so don’t jump ahead with this story and ignore the red and blue markings!)


Notice how the guns from Carston’s Bluff, Greenwich Point, and Thunderbolt sealed off any approach from Whitemarsh Island.

Further south, Beauregard wanted a battery on Rosedew Island to cover the Little Ogeechee River. And to further protect the causeway leading south to this extended line, he directed the formation of a siege train and additional works on Isle of Hope. The later, along with another three-gun battery, would help cover the approaches from Skidaway Island.


Rosedew Island is just left of center, again in green.  The Isle of Hope fortifications extended at different points from the center-right, upwards.  I’ve depicted two locations on opposite ends of the island.  However I am not sure exactly where the three gun battery, named Lake Bluff Battery, was located (UPDATEDon’t know why I overlooked this name.  Lake Bluff Battery – as noted in the table below, was located on the Altamaha River well southwest of Savannah.  The battery was an isolated and remote defense, but is of interest to those who like the obscure stories!  Look for a follow up post.).

Beauregard also directed a series of signal stations – Genesis Point, Rosedew Island, Beaulieu, Isle of Hope Causeway, Thunderbolt, Carston’s Bluff, Fort Jackson, Fort Boggs, and in Savannah.

But with regard to the guns in the forts, Savannah continued to make do with what was available after the harder pressed sectors received their allocations.  I’ve not located any returns for January or February 1863, but Major General Benjamin Huger provided a well detailed inspection report dated March 31, 1863. I derive the table below from that report.


Not listed here are several field guns, including rifled guns, listed in the fortifications.  The value of these guns was protecting land-side approaches to the forts, not defending the waterways.  The siege train employed for the Isle of Hope consisted, in March 1863, of four 8-inch siege howitzers, two 4-inch Blakely rifles, and one 20-pdr Parrott.  Also not listed above were a couple of Confederate ironclads – the CSS Georgia (although just a floating battery) and the CSS Atlanta – to supplement the land defenses.

Huger also provided a sketch indicating the facings of the guns along the Savannah River.


Clearly the Confederates had the Savannah River tied up nicely.  Further south, the works along the Ogeechee, Little Ogeechee, and Vernon Rivers required more attention.  If Savannah were to remain an option for blockade runners or commerce raiders, the Confederates had to control those waterways.


Looking at events 150 years ago, it was the battery at Genesis Point, by this time called Fort McAllister, which was receiving the attention of the Federals.  As noted above, the fort was armed with one 10-inch columbiad, one 8-inch columbiad, one 42-pdr gun, three 32-pdr guns, one 32-pdr rifle, and one 10-inch mortar.

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Reproduction Columbiad at Fort McAllister

Those seven guns (and one mortar) would soon duel with Federal ironclads.

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Reproduction 32-pdr Gun at Fort McAllister

(The referenced reports and orders appear in OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 657-60 and 853-8)

Batteries in the Marshes: The defenses of Savannah, Part 1

Now if you consider the Charleston area a backwater by the middle of the Civil War, then maybe Savannah, Georgia qualifies as an eddy. But just as Charleston saw considerable activity in January 1863, the combatants in the Savannah sector were restless. Yesterday “Seaman Rob” provided a look at the ironclads bombardment of Fort McAllister, an operation taking place 150 years ago this week. Allow me to address the “land” side of activity in that theater.

After the fall of Fort Pulaski, activity around Savannah tapered off. Mostly garrison routine with a few patrols and blockade activity. The inactivity was partly due to limited forces arrayed. Any serious move against Savannah required more Federal troops, perhaps three times the number committed. And on the other side, the Confederates barely had enough troops to maintain the works.

However that is not to say Savannah lacked importance. The port remained an option for blockade runners. Even though Fort Pulaski denied access to the Savannah River, other routes allowed secretive blockade runners to slip in and out. The map below highlights the location of Wassaw and Ossabaw Sounds, with Savannah in the upper center (and Fort Pulaski on the upper right).


The map above is from the Official Records Atlas. It is a color version of a map drawn up at the war’s end and depicts fortifications in place at the time Major General William T. Sherman captured Savannah in December 1864. So keep that in mind when looking at the installations indicated in red and blue.

It was possible for ocean-going ships to work down from the port of Savannah, through St. Augustine Creeek and the Wilmington River, to reach Wassaw Sound. Lighter draft vessels could work the waters inshore of Sidaway Island to reach Ossabaw Sound. Furthermore, blockade runners could take shelter in the Ogeechee River (meandering across the lower left of the map) behind a well placed Confederate battery. (And I would add that all of the waterways named here are part of the modern Intercoastal Waterway.)

Notice also the proximity of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad which, through several junctions, connected Savannah to Macon and Florida. Like many railways in the Confederacy, this became an important supply line. Reports during the war indicated vessels drawing up to 13 feet of draft could reach the railroad where it passed over the Ogeechee River, if well piloted.

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Ogeechee River, just upstream from the Railroad Crossing

But not only were those waterways havens for blockade runners, they also offered up avenues for Federal raiders. The problem facing the Confederates was, with limited forces, the need to cover a vast area filled with tidal marshes. In September 1862, the Military District of Georgia counted only 8,371 present for duty.

Conversely, the problem for the Federals was how to move past those marshes and get to firm ground for maneuver. The Federal Navy couldn’t move up the rivers without ground support. And there simply was no “ground” from which to support! And like the Confederates, the Federals lacked the force to do much campaigning. An October 1862 return tallied only 12,837 present for duty throughout the entire Department of the South (covering South Carolina, Georgia, and north Florida).

Shortly after taking command of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia at the end of August 1862, General P.G.T. Beauregard began an inspection tour. He visited Savannah on September 21, 1862, but time constraints prevented a detailed review. He returned a month later in October for a very thorough inspection of Savannah’s defenses. This section of the map depicts the defenses immediately east of Savannah, extending south from the Savannah River. The fortifications indicated in Beauregard’s October report are depicted with yellow boxes (again, keep in mind that the base map depicted the works existing in December 1864).


The Savannah River defenses centered on a line roughly three miles downstream from Savannah. Beauregard considered Fort James Jackson, dating to the War of 1812, “a very weak work.” Battery Lee, just downstream, was better sited and armed. A battery across the marsh on Carston’s Bluff protected the back of Fort Lee. Across the river from Fort Jackson was a “Naval Battery” on a low island in the river (later named Fort Tattnall). Battery Lawton on Barnwell Island completed the line. Fort Boggs, just outside Savannah, provided another layer of river defense. Batteries near the waterfront and on Hutchinson Island provided close defense of the river-port.

To the south, the lone work defending the Wilmington River was Thunderbolt Battery. Very little covered St. Augustine Creek, which connected the Wilmington and Savannah Rivers. And St. Augustine Creek also lead back east to the waters behind Tybee Island, in close proximity to Fort Pulaski. However, while this offered a path for Federal advances, there was precious little ground for the Federals to stage for an attack across St. Augustine Creek towards Savannah. The Federals had patrolled Whitemarsh Island, the most suitable for Federal needs. But even there the marshes prohibited any direct move across to Savannah.

Further to the south of Savannah, very little covered the waterways and tidal marshes. Beauregard reported only two works – a battery at Beaulieu and a another battery at Genesis Point (later named Fort McAllister).


Here again, marshes kept the Federals at arms length. Skidaway Island might serve as a base for attacks inland – but only if a commander found a way through the tidal flats and marshes.

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Ogeechee River at Fort McAllister

Beauregard included an inventory of the guns located in the forts defending Savannah from seaward approaches. (Beauregard also detailed the western, or land, defenses of the city, where 37 siege guns, howitzers and carronades were present.)


As with Charleston, the majority of ordnance on hand was older, obsolete 32-pdr guns. But Savannah had only five rifled guns. Recall that Fort Pulaski had forty-six guns at the time it fell, including five 10-inch columbiads, nine 8-inch columbiads, three 42-pdr guns, twenty 32-pdr guns, and two 4.5-inch Blakely rifles. Certainly iron Beaureagard wished he had back in the winter of 1863.

Beauregard was not just concerned about the number of guns defending Savannah. He also no less than 29 actions – ranging from improved magazine placement to plans for removal of women and children at Federal approach – required to better defend the city. I will look at some of those actions taken through January 1863 in the next post.

(Beauregard’s reports are found in OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 633-4, 645-648, and 657-60.)

150 years ago: Rifled guns defending Charleston

Recently I mentioned Confederate efforts to arm and equip the batteries defending Charleston, South Carolina in the winter of 1862-3. On this day (January 23) in 1863, Colonel Ambrosio J. Gonzales, Chief of Artillery and Ordnance for General P.G.T. Beauregard’s department, filed a report detailing the rifled guns in South Carolina and the ammunition available for those guns.

The report included a table similar to this one, with the title “Approximate statement of rifled guns in South Carolina”:


In the remarks section below the table, Gonzales explained the disposition of a handful of other weapons in the department:

Besides the within rifled guns there are in Georgetown, S.C.. two 12-pounder banded rifled guns, received from Richmond and two 6-pounder rifled Blakely guns.

In Georgia there are one 32-pounder rifled, one 30 pounder Parrott, two 24-pounder Blakely and a few field 6-pounders. There are in Florida, as far as is known, a few 3-inch rifled guns.

Thus all told, Gonzales tallied over seventy guns. Almost half of the total were field gun caliber weapons. Those were of little use against the Federal fleet, which was seen as the most dangerous threat. Indeed, none of these guns were larger than 7-inch caliber (42-pdr).

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42-pdr Seacoast Gun, Banded and Rifled, at Fort Sumter

Even more troubling for Gonzales was the lack of projectiles for the guns. From the totals offered in the table, the guns had an average of forty rounds each. Fine if you are an infantryman planning to skirmish for an hour or so. But not enough for a fortification defending the entrance to one of the Confederacy’s major seaports. Gonzales, and his commander, desired nearly four times that amount to defend the southern coasts:

Colonel Gorgas is most earnestly requested to provide the promised 150 rounds per each of the above guns, and above all to send the projectiles for the 12 pounder and 6-pounder bronze, the 20-pounder Parrott, the ammunition for which was not sent with the guns from Richmond, although packed and addressed in the presence of Major Alston, and the 3.67 caliber guns.

Recall that earlier in the month, Colonel Joshia Gorgas agreed to supply projectiles. But at the same time he’d cautioned against converting too many smoothbores to rifles, due to limited projectile supplies.

Gonzales’ report references several less common artillery types. Mentioned are imported Whitworths and Blakelys. Perhaps the “weaker” Parrotts were of Confederate manufacture. Although I would point out the lone rifled 18-pdr gun reported in September 1862 does not appear on Gonzales’ list.

But the “12-pounder old English siege (rifled)” ?

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12-pdr English Gun at Charleston’s Old Powder Magazine

At least one of those is still in Charleston – banded and rifled. This artifact, cast during the reign of King George II, is among the oldest cannon used in the Civil War. And certainly the oldest weapon taken in hand for modification. That, I say, is deserving of a separate post!

(Gonzales’ report and citations are taken from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 754-5.)

A battle over bands: The Childs-Ripley Incident at Chareston Arsenal

As it is improper to mention a lesser known incident of the war and not provide sufficient details, allow me to follow up yesterday’s post with more information about the Childs-Ripley incident at Charleston Arsenal in late November 1862.  So a bit of background on the principles to start.

The son Thomas Childs, a distinguished War of 1812 officer, Major Frederick L. Childs graduated West Point in 1855.  He briefly served at Fort Monroe, Florida, West Point, and Fort Moultrie before posting to the Texas frontier.  In March 1861, Childs resigned and offered his services to the Confederacy.

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Captain Childs, C.S.A, commanded Castle Pinckney in April 1861, playing a minor role in the bombardment of Fort Sumter.  Later that spring he served at posts around Wilmington in his native state of North Carolina.  But in July Childs returned to Charleston in command of the arsenal, detailed to the Ordnance Department.  In this capacity, Childs came into frequent contact with Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley, who commanded troops in the Charleston area.

Roswell S. Ripley
Ripley – sporting a post-war mustache

Not a southerner by birth, Ripley graduated seventh in the West Point class of 1843, a good bit ahead of fellow Ohioan Ulysses S. Grant.  He received two brevet promotions for service in the Mexican War.  After brief assignments in Florida during the Seminole Wars, Ripley reported to Fort Moultrie.  There he courted the wealthy widow Alicia Middleton.  Shortly after marriage, Ripley left the army and entered the private sector, no doubt with his wife’s estate providing a significant step up.  Ripley remained active in military affairs, joining the state militia.  That capacity placed him at the fore of operations at the start of the war.  He played a significant role in operations against Fort Sumter and the establishment of the defenses of Charleston afterwards.  But in the spring of 1862, Ripley’s notion of a forward defense of the city conflicted with his superiors (at first General Robert E. Lee, then later General John C. Pemberton).  Granted a transfer, Ripley took command of a brigade in General D.H. Hill’s division in Northern Virginia.  After serving through the summer campaigns, Ripley was wounded leading his brigade at Antietam.  On recovery, authorities requested his services again at Charleston – which again placed him in contact with Childs.  In mid-October Ripley assumed command of the First Military District at Charleston.

The direct trail to the contention between Childs and Ripley began with Special Orders No. 229 issued by General P.G.T. Beauregard’s headquarters (Department of South Carolina and Georgia) on November 21, 1862, which read in part:

III.  The commanding general of First Military District has authority to direct and order the rifling and banding of such guns as require it within his command to the extent of the capacity for doing the work effectually, and may make requisitions directly upon the Charleston Arsenal or other proper source through his district ordnance officer for the necessary material for the work.

As mentioned in the previous post, Beauregard sensed peril at Charleston, particularly a growing threat from the Federal fleet. From his perspective, Beauregard complained of extensive delays modifying old smoothbore ordnance into at least partially acceptable rifled guns. Working through Childs, the turn around time was four weeks.  Ripley, perhaps bypassing much red tape, claimed the process could be done in half the time.

But the nature of this order put Beauregard’s command at odds with the Confederate Ordnance Department. Childs’ authority at the arsenal covered the requisition, or modification, of ordnance.  Yet Order No. 229 gave Ripley authority in that regard.  While Ripley negotiated directly with Eason & Brothers, Childs sought to bring another Charleston firm, that of Cameron & Company, to bear on the problem.  Towards that end, Childs had earmarked a set of 42-pdr bands for a contract with Cameron, and asked for Ripley to send one of those weapons there.  Ripley, on the other had, had at least one 42-pdr gun at Eason awaiting bands.

This came to a head on November 26, 1862.  Ripley arrived at the arsenal with armed guards and demanded Childs release the bands for immediate use at Eason’s shop.  Childs refused on the grounds the iron was obtained from Atlanta, under the Ordnance Department’s authority, not the local command’s.  In a three page report (first page seen below), Childs noted, “… the bands have been waiting for the guns and it was every intention to give them either to Eason or Cameron…” but Ripley had not turned the appropriate guns over to the arsenal for the work.  Ripley, on the other hand, claimed he’d already sent the guns where the work was to be done which would save time in the process.  Childs, somewhat resentfully added, “There can be no proper reason for the Easons not working as well for me as for General Ripley…”

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Ripley had Childs arrested, citing the failure to fill valid requisitions with the supply on hand.  And of course the bands went over to Eason.

For what it was worth, Beauregard fully recognized the conflicting issues, noting, “… the chiefs of ordnance of this department and district, relying too much on the supplies of the arsenal, of which they are not fully informed, often make requisitions at too short notice, thereby causing unnecessary delays and confusion.”  His offered solution was a relocation of the arsenal to “a place in the northwestern part of this State” selected by Major Childs.  The Ordnance Department’s response, if any, was not recorded.  Childs remained under arrest, but was allowed to continue his work at the arsenal, confined to Charleston, awaiting a court-marshal.

The contention for iron feeding into the defense of Charleston continued in spite of the arrest.  By late December Colonel Ambrosio J. Gonzales, Beauregard’s chief of artillery, pressed the Ordnance Department for more munitions, particularly projectiles for the 32-pdr and 42-pdr rifled guns.   Gonzales complained he had less than 50 rounds per gun at Forts Sumter and Moultrie.  In response forwarded on January 6, 1863, Colonel Josiah Gorgas cautioned, “It would be well to consider the question of a supply of rifle projectiles before going too far with the rifling and banding of 32-pdrs.  The want of proper iron for casting these shells is very serious.”

That last sentence sums up so many problems facing the Confederate war effort – a want of iron.  Gonzales, Ripley, and Beauregard needed supplies in Charleston.  And likewise J.R. Anderson called for supplies in Richmond.  (And let’s not forget what the Confederacy lost just a year prior.)   Gorgas’ went on to suggest, “Send me a full statement of all you want and cannot get at Charleston, limiting your requisition to, say, 150 rounds per gun.”

As for Childs, by February the Ordnance department reassigned him to other posts.  After temporary duty at Augusta Arsenal, Childs went on to command the Fayetteville Arsenal in North Carolina.

(Sources:  Frederick Childs’ Confederate service record; OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 685, 689-692, and 746.)

Ordnance to repel the Ironclads: Eason Brothers and the arms buildup in Charleston

There’s a tendency, as one considers the Civil War from a high level, to consider Charleston, South Carolina as a “backwater” after the start of the war.  Yet hardly a day went by from the fall of 1862 to the Confederate evacuation in 1865 which didn’t see some military activity.  Several important battles – Secessionville, the Ironclad Attack, Battery Wagner, and reduction of Fort Sumter to name a few – took place in what was the war’s most protracted “siege” as the Army and Navy conducted joint operations against the Confederate defenders.  Geography and operational considerations prevented campaigning on the scale seen elsewhere.  But the South Carolina low country was far from a “backwater” in the flow of the war.  Indeed, in the closing days of January 1863 activity at Charleston would step up.

At the end of 1862, the Federals began a concentration of ironclad ships along the South Carolina coast.  The Federals planned to use these to clear some of the smaller fortifications – Fort McAllister in Georgia and the defenses of Cape Fear in North Carolina – before concentrating on Charleston.  But the Confederates saw these iron monsters as a direct threat to Charleston.  The situation called for large bore rifled guns, such as the vaunted Brooke Rifles.  But those being in short supply (and high demand across the Confederate coast), General P.G.T. Beauregard, commanding the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, sought expedients as alternatives.

An inventory of the guns around Charleston from September 1862 demonstrates the lack of heavy weapons then available.  Arrayed about the harbor, and including landward facing defenses on James Island, the defenders had a total of eight 10-inch columbiads, three IX-inch Dahlgrens, twenty-seven 8-inch columbiads, six 8-inch Navy guns, eleven 8-inch seacoast howitzers, twelve 42-pdr guns, sixty-seven 32-pdr guns, and fifty-one 24-pdr guns.  As for large bore rifled guns, the defenders had six rifled 42-pdr guns, fifteen 32-pdrs, five 24-pdrs, and one 18-pdr.  All of these were modified smoothbores, with rifling and in many cases reinforcing bands added.  Although many of these modifications were done in Richmond, the Charleston firms of Eason Brothers & Company and Cameron & Company also provided these services.

Clearly this was inadequate – in both quantity and caliber – for Charleston’s needs.  Beauregard pressed Richmond authorities for more heavy caliber guns, particularly rifles.  But as noted in other articles, that source was slowly catching up with the need.  In Charleston, Beauregard faced a small bureaucratic problem.  In late November 1862, Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley, commanding at Charleston, arrested Major Frederick L. Childs, of the Charleston Arsenal, on charges for “refusing to fill a requisition.”  Ripley insisted that Childs sat upon several banding components rather than issue for the improvement of the smoothbore weapons.  This unfortunate episode meant that, just as Charleston’s defensive preparations needed more attention, internal friction delayed action.

Regardless of the delays, Eason & Brothers managed to supply a few additional refurbished, rifled, and banded guns through January, as indicated on receipts in the Confederate Citizens files.

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About halfway down the receipt is a listing for rifling a “42-pdr double banded gun.”

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The double banding probably alluded to the stacking of bands, as seen on many contemporary Brooke rifles.  No surviving gun matches that description. But readers will recall this weapon presently at Kingwood, West Virginia.

Kingwood 24 Jul 10 351
42-pdr Seacoast Gun, Tredegar manufacture, banded and rifled by Eason Bros.

The gun itself was cast by Tredegar.  Records claim the stamp on the right trunnion included the year “1861.”  If correct, this was among the guns produced by Tredegar prior to the outbreak of war, for sale to seceding states.

The band was added later.  A stamp on that band leaves no doubt as to who performed that work.

Kingwood 24 Jul 10 357
Breech and Band Stamps on 42-pdr

The wrought iron has eroded away somewhat.  But the initials “J.M.E. [&] BRO” still stands out.  While several other banded 42-pdrs have associations with Charleston, this one has a clear link to Eason & Brothers.

In addition to updates – arguably marginal updates – to otherwise obsolete guns, Eason provided a substantial amount of projectiles for these guns.  Other receipts from January 1863 show the firm provided solid shot for rifled 42-pdrs, 32-pdrs, 24-pdrs, and 12-pdrs.

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James M. Eason, Brothers, and Company were an important component to the Confederate buildup defending Charleston at the end of 1862 and start of 1863.  The arms and ordnance provided by Eason would be tested in the days and months to come.

Virginia Resolves … to Buy Some Big Guns

In earlier posts about the 42-pdr seacoast guns, I’ve alluded to a story involving those cast near the outbreak of the Civil War at Bellona Foundry.   One of those guns is on display at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C.

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42-pdr (closest) Model 1845 Seacoast Gun

Historian Warren Ripley identified the gun in Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, then connected the piece into a minor, but interesting, story from the first days of the Civil War.  Important to the connection are the gun’s markings.

This particular gun displays the standard marks seen on guns produced by Bellona Foundry for Federal orders.  On the right trunnion is the foundry and foundry owner’s initials.  In this case “B.F.” for Bellona Foundry and “J.L.A.” for Dr. Junius L. Archer.

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Right Trunnion Stamps

On the left trunnion is the date stamp, partially obscured with only the “1” visible.

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Right Trunnion

Ripley and others record the year stamp as 1860.  Perhaps in earlier times, with less paint and prior to weathering, they read the stamp clearly.  Another indicator on the date is the registry number on the muzzle.

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Muzzle of Gun

At the 12 o’clock position is “No. 24.”  Matching registry numbers to the sequence of accepted ordnance, the number corresponds to one in a batch of four credited in May 1860.  The foundry provided two more in November 1860.

Inspector’s initials at the bottom – “B.H.” for Benjamin Huger – strengthens the case for an 1860 date stamp.  Those familiar with the secession crisis and Fort Sumter recall Huger arrived to take command of the Charleston Arsenal in November 1860 (OR, Series I, Volume 1, Serial 1, page 74).  Thus the inspection for this gun had to take place prior to that time.

The weight stamp appears clear on the breech face, indicating a weight of 8590 pounds.   (The four guns received in the batch averaged 8562 pounds, however.)

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Weight Stamp on Breech

Ripley connected the date of manufacture to a reference from the Official Records regarding cannons at Bellona Foundry.  On April 1, 1861, the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution that outlined the state’s stance with regard to the Federal government and the Confederacy.  At that time, although Virginia remained in the union, the assembly prohibited movement of military forces through the “Old Dominion.”  In addition, the resolution noted,

…a large number of heavy guns, manufactured at Belona [sic] Foundry near the capital of Virginia, under an order of the Ordnance Department at Washington, D.C., have been ordered to Fortress Monroe, where they can only be needed for the purpose of intimidation and menace to Virginia at present, and of actual hostilities….

The resolution authorized the Governor to seize the guns if Federals attempted to move them.  Further, the Assembly appropriated funding to compensate both the Federal government and manufacturer for the guns when seized.  Specifically, the Assembly allocated $7,872.47 for Archer and $13,024 for the government in Washington.   The later figure is the amount paid to Archer, up to that time, on the standing contracts for cannons.  (See OR, Series IV, Volume 1, Serial 127, pages 203-4.)

While the Virginians moved to secure the guns, the Bellona weapons did not escape the attention of Confederates either.  Their agent in Richmond, Edward C. Anderson, wrote on April 15 that his efforts to purchase the guns were thwarted by the state’s actions. (OR, Series IV, Volume 1, Serial 127, page 221.)

Perhaps, from the broader view of history often well above us “gun enthusiasts,” is the rather open operation of Confederate agents in Virginia at the time.  Huger, still an officer in the U.S. Army certainly knew of the state of affairs at Bellona and possibly communicated such to acquaintances in the Confederacy.  And of course how many others already in Confederate uniform or having sympathies for the new government also knew about the guns?

At the time in question, Bellona had contracts to produce 24-pdr flank howitzers, 42-pdr seacoast guns, and 8-inch “New Columbiads” for trials.  The contracts, issued in 1857, totaled just under fifty guns and were not complete by April 1861.  Apparently many of the guns remained at Bellona, accepted but not delivered. Unfortunately no inventory has come to light, and certainly no specific registry numbers are cited. So the gun eludes certain identification as one of the weapons “secured” by the Virginians.

Lending support to Ripley’s supposition is a trophy inscription on the gun.

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Trophy Inscription

The inscription reads, “Captured from the Rebel Batteries on the Potomac River July 1862.”

I’ve yet to track down the specific action in which the gun was captured.  The date alludes to a time after the Seven Days campaign, but I’ve known the Navy’s trophy inscriptions to contain a few inaccuracies.  Still the registry number, foundry marks, and the fact the gun was used by Confederates all point to this 42-pdr as one of those “purchased” by the State of Virginia in early April 1861.

Sure, I’d like to see an inventory sheet or other definitive identification before saying the gun’s story is certain.  Heck, just finding a canceled check for $13,024 passed between Richmond and Washington, as the war broke out mind you, would be interesting enough!


Aside from on site notes and notations provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.