Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Miscellaneous Missouri artillery units

Having looked at the second quarter, 1863 summaries for the First Regiment and Second Regiment (first formation) Missouri Artillery, we can now turn to eight entries carried at the bottom of the state’s listings:

0193_1_Snip_MO_Misc

Eight lines.  Double the number from the previous quarter.  There is some carry-over from the previous quarter, but each line deserves close scrutiny:

  • 1st Battery Missouri State Militia (M.S.M.) Artillery: Matches up from the previous quarter.  Reporting at Sedalia, Missouri with two 12-pdr mountain howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts. This was Captain Charles H. Thurber’s battery.  The return was posted to Washington in September 1863.  So we might think this reasonably accurate.  Think again.  Indeed most of the battery was at Sedalia, in the District of Central Missouri, at this time of the war.  But a muster roll from that same time indicates, a section of two 2.9″ English Rifled Guns, 21 men, and 24 horses under Lieutenant Albert Wachsman was on escort duty with the 4th M.S.M. Cavalry.  The guns mentioned were undoubtedly imported from Liverpool, England, manufactured by Fawcett, Preston & Company, with some affiliation to the Blakely rifles of note (Very likely a CORRECTION here, see comments below).  The caliber was, of course, the same as the 10-pdr Parrott.  So perhaps a clerk somewhere along the way made a decision to tally under that column.  Call it clerical expediency?
  • Lovejoy’s (?) Battery, Mountain Howitzer: Listed at Brownsville, Arkansas with four 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  The location is almost certainly reflecting the August 1864 reporting date.  If my read of the name is correct, this is a battery in the 2nd Missouri Cavalry (Merrill’s Horse) commanded by Lieutenant George F. Lovejoy.  And, if so, the regiment, along with its battery, was posted in central Missouri.  The 2nd Cavalry was in the 1st Brigade, First Cavalry Division, Department of Missouri.
  • Howitzer Battery Attached to 5th Cavalry M.S.M.: This unit reported from Waynesville, Missouri, but with no cannon indicated.  Three companies from that regiment were at Waynesville under Major Waldemar Fischer. A listing of equipment reported included: four thumbstalls, two tube pouches, two vent covers, two vent punches, two whips, two tar buckets, two leather buckets, two gimlets, one guners’ pincers, four sets of mountain howitzers harnesses, four lanyards, two priming wires, and 250 friction primers.  We might say that’s the left-overs from a couple of mountain howitzers.  Maybe?
  • 2nd Cavalry M.S.M. :  At Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  The 2nd Cavalry M.S.M. was assigned to the District of Southeast Missouri at this time of the war, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hiram M. Hiller.  Dyer’s mentions McClanahan’s Battery associated with this regiment, but I have no other particulars.
  • Company G?, 6th Cavalry:  Reporting at Vicksburg, the 6th Missouri Cavalry was assigned to Thirteenth Corps at the time.  Colonel Clark Wright commanded.  During the campaign, the 6th was initially assigned to the corps headquarters.  Later they were assigned to the Ninth Division of the corps (remember, at that time the Western armies gave unique numbers to each division).  When given verbal orders to report to Brigadier-General Peter Osterhaus, commanding that division, on May 25, Wright refused, asking for written orders.  Reason I bring that up, in addition to demanding written orders, Wright also asked for two 12-pdr howitzers. (See OR, Series I, Volume XXIV, Part III, Serial 38, page 347.) Such implies Wright had found use for light artillery with his troopers, perhaps based on experiences. At any rate, the 6th Cavalry would, for the second quarter running, report ammunition on hand… for 12-pdr mountain howitzers… which we will count below.
  • Company A, 10th Cavalry: Reporting at Memphis, Tennessee, with four 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  The 10th Missouri Cavalry was assigned to the Sixteenth Division, specifically the District of Corinth, and commanded by Colonel Florence M. Cornyn.  Lieutenant Peter Joyce of Company A had charge of two sections of mountain howitzers.  State records cite this as Joyce’s Battery.  The battery received praise for work on July 7 in action near Iuka, Mississippi.
  • 18th Missouri Volunteers: The location is difficult to read, but indicating a Tennessee address.  The regiment reported two 6-pdr field guns. Colonel Madison Miller commanded this regiment, which at the time was part of the District of Corinth, Sixteenth Corps.
  • 6th Co., 1st Missouri Engineers:  Reporting no guns, but stores, and at Pocahontas, Tennessee.  And yet another interesting story.  During the Vicksburg Campaign a battalion of the engineers were sent to Pocahontas on orders to gather timber and other supplies.  While there, the engineers found themselves heavily involved with suppressing irregulars and other sorts.  From the regimental history, page 97:

The train used by the Regiment for bringing timbers and other materials required, was fitted out with a guard of boiler iron for the Engineer on the locomotive, and a flat car was fitted up with a timber guard faced on the outside with boiler iron, and carrying a ten pounder Parrott gun with a train guard of fifteen men, they called this bullet-proof car their gunboat.

So maybe the engineers are reporting the stores on hand for that Parrott gun?  Well, I’m going to dispute the identification of the gun based on the ammunition reported, below.

One glaring omission from the list above, and the two regimental listings, is Landgraeber’s Battery.  Originally organized in October 1861 as the First Missouri Flying Battery, or sometimes the First Missouri Horse Artillery, or Pfenninghausen’s Battery (after the battery’s first commander), in June 1863, this battery was assigned to First Division, Fifteenth Corps.  Captain Clemens Landgraeber commanded. The battery had four 12-pdr howitzers (some indications mountain, others field) on hand.  After September 1863, the battery would receive the official designation of Battery F, 2nd Missouri Light Artillery.  And that is actually how the battery appears on the consolidated returns from the Official Records in June.  However, I would contend the designation was retroactively applied.  The “first” Battery F was at that time in Missouri, counting down the days to mustering out, but with no report entered for the summary.  Either way around, we have two units which can be called Battery F, but no data from either of them.

Another battery missing from Missouri’s lists is Walling’s Battery.  But they appear elsewhere in the summaries under the Mississippi Marine Brigade.

With those administrative details aired out… or at least the questions laid on the table… we can move to account for the ammunition.  With a lot of mountain howitzers, the smoothbore page is busy:

0195_1_Snip_MO_Misc

By battery:

  • 1st Battery M.S.M.: 36 shell, 50 case, and 40 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • Lovejoy’s Battery: 64 shell, 372 case, and 116 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 2nd Cavalry M.S.M.: 20 case and 24 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 6th Missouri Cavalry: 64 shell and 40 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 10th Missouri Cavalry: 30 shell, 160 case, and 30 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 18th Missouri Infantry: 217 shot, 179 case, and 123 canister for 6-pdr field guns.

So we have an indication that the 6th Missouri Cavalry had mountain howitzers at one time.

Moving over to the rifled projectiles, none of these units reported Hotchkiss projectiles on hand.  But moving to the next page, there are some points to discuss:

0196_1_Snip_MO_Misc

Two batteries reporting quantities:

  • 1st Battery M.S.M.:  245 Parrott shell and 80 Parrott canister in 2.9-inch caliber; 100 Schenkl shot in 2.9-inch caliber.
  • 1st Missouri Engineers: 26 James shells, 3.80-inch caliber.

If we work from the premise that Washman’s section used 2.9-inch English rifles, then we have to question the identification of Parrott projectiles here.  When those rifles were purchased, a quantity of projectiles were included.  So might those be Britten rifled projectiles, 2.9-inch, instead of Parrott?  I can make a case the clerks simply transcribed these as Parrott projectiles, lacking an open column header.

As for the 1st Missouri Engineers, let’s also consider the next page:

0196_2_Snip_MO_Misc

  • 1st Missouri Engineers: 72 Schenkl shells, 3.80-inch caliber; 20 Tatham’s canister, 3.80-inch caliber.

The 1st Missouri Engineers didn’t report any cannon, but we have a citation from the regimental history mentioning a Parrott rifle.  However, the detachment reported having James caliber projectiles on hand.  I’d lean towards this unit having a James rifle on the armored flat car (if indeed that is what we are looking at here), and the regimental history incorrectly identifying the gun.

To close out this section and all of Missouri for the second quarter, we have the small arms:

0196_3_Snip_MO_Misc

Looking down the list, we see a scatter of entries:

  • 1st Battery M.S.M.: Thirty Navy revolvers, twenty-eight cavalry sabers, twenty horse artillery sabers, and forty-nine (?) foot artillery sabers.
  • 10th Missouri Cavalry: Sixty-nine cavalry sabers.
  • 18th Missouri Infantry: Three Army revolvers.
  • 1st Missouri Engineers: Twenty-six breechloading carbines and three rifles (type not specific).

My presumption is the “train guard” from the 1st Missouri Engineers carried those long arms while doing their escort work.  As to why those appear on the artillery’s ordnance return as opposed to one for infantry weapons, I think this goes back to who was filing the paperwork.  If you are the ordnance officer for a detachment of engineers working in Tennessee, would you submit two separate reports?  Or just consolidate it all onto one report, regardless if artillery or small arms?  All that paperwork was going to Washington anyway.

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150 Years Ago: An inspection of the batteries on Sullivan’s Island

One aspect of the operations of Charleston that I like to present is the evolution of fortifications around the harbor (Federal and Confederate).  In my opinion, one should study such to appreciate the tactical aspects. Many authors will write on the subject as if a “battery” or “fort” was static and unchanged through the war, and thus representing a generic “unit” of force.  However, I would offer the level of detail offered in reports and correspondence during the war indicate the participants saw no small importance in the evolution of those defenses.  In other words, if the participants in 1864 thought it important to mention the different caliber of weapons, then 150 years later we should lend that aspect some manner of interpretation.

In the case of Sullivan’s Island, one can easily trace the evolution of the works from the very first days of the war, through improvements prior to the Ironclad Attack on Fort Sumter, changes after the fall of Morris Island, and all the way up to the fall of Charleston in 1864.  A report posted by Major George Upshur Mayo on March 29, 1864 provides one of several “snapshots” describing the works on Sullivan’s Island on that time line.  The entire report, including endorsements, is close to 3,000 words with three pages of tables, including a count of all munitions (the report appears in the ORs, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 383-6).  For brevity, allow me to present portions of the main report with additional annotations where needed.  And for reference, these are the works in review:

Sullivans_Island_Batteries

Starting from the western-most battery:

Battery Bee, upon the western extremity, is not yet quite completed, though a number of laborers are engaged upon it. Its armament is in an effective condition, the guns all working well and protected by merlons. The magazines are dry and kept with neatness. The ammunition in them, as far as could be judged without examining each cartridge, is in good order; the implements new. There are three chambers which have no cannon, which, I presume, will be furnished when necessity or opportunity requires.

Mayo indicated Battery Bee included one 11-inch Dahlgren (salvaged from the USS Keokuk), four 10-inch columbiads, one 10-inch rifled columbiad, and one 8-inch columbiad. In the magazines were 241 11-inch shot, 97 11-inch shell, 671 10-inch shot, 435 10-inch shell, 50 10-inch grapeshot, 25 10-inch canister, 45 10-inch (rifled) bolts, 6 10-inch rifled shells, 338 8-inch shot, 134 8-inch shells, 30 8-inch canister, 124 11-inch cartridges, 626 10-inch cartridges, 180 8-inch cartridges, 2,496 pounds of common powder, 1,587 friction tubes, and 985 paper fuses.  Interesting, though, Mayo rated Battery Bee as incomplete even at this late date with open gun positions.

On to the next battery in the line:

Battery Marion, connected with Battery Bee, is neatly policed. The platform for the 7-inch Brooke gun has settled from its true position; the parapets in one or two places have a disposition to slide on account of the shifting character of the sand. Dampness begins to ooze through one place in the passage, not as yet sufficient to affect the ammunition, which is in good order.

Colonel [William] Butler complains of a defect in the powder sent from the naval ordnance bureau with or for the Brooke gun, saying experience has proven it to be defective in strength. To the eye it appears good; analysis can only disclose the reported defect. The same officer requests that efforts be made to procure for the guns in his command a small quantity of bar steel to repair the eccentrics of the columbiad carriages, which repairs, when necessary, can be made at the island. The battery is connected with Fort Moultrie by a sally-port.

Mayo tallied Battery Marion’s armament as three 10-inch columbiads, one 8-inch columbiad, and five 10-inch seacoast mortars; but he didn’t count the triple-banded 7-inch Brooke which was not mounted at that time.  In the magazines were 318 10-inch shot, 261 10-inch shells, 23 10-inch canister, 256 10-inch mortar shells, 125 7-inch rifle shells, 522 7-inch bolts, 16 7-inch hollow shot, 252 10-inch cartridges, 201 8-inch cartridges, 207 7-inch cartridges, 8,800 pounds of powder, 1,900 friction primers, and 600 paper fuses.

Mayo gave only a brief report on Fort Moultrie:

Fort Moultrie, next in order upon the island, has now no quarters inside, which gives a good parade within its walls. It is well protected by a system of traverses and the guns in effective condition. The magazine is in good order and neatly kept. In the rear of the fort are a number of broken canister, which might be removed for renewal to Charleston. The ammunition in good order.

The fort’s armament at that time consisted of four 10-inch columbiads, two 8-inch rifled columbiads, one 32-pdr banded and rifled, two 24-pdr smoothbore guns, and one 10-inch seacoast mortar.  Munitions in the fort included 660 10-inch shot, 269 10-inch shells, 36 10-inch canister, 33 10-inch spherical case, 90 8-inch shot, 53 8-inch shells, 190 8-inch rifled bolts, 274 32-pdr shells, 120 32-pdr rifled bolts, 553 24-pdr shot, 83 24-pdr grapeshot, 89 24-pdr canister, 450 10-inch cartridges, 255 8-inch cartridges, 485 32-pdr cartridges, 168 24-pdr cartridges, 18,275 pounds of common powder, 130 pounds of rifle powder, and 4,510 friction tubes.

Continuing, Mayo reached Battery Rutledge:

Battery Rutledge in good order, with its ammunition dry and well cared for. The batteries from Bee to this one constitute one continuous parapet, well protected with traverses and spacious, well arranged bomb-proofs, and in some instances with amputating rooms for the medical bureau; these of course were not visited.

Battery Rutledge contained three 10-inch columbiads, one 10-inch columbiad rifle, and three 10-inch seacoast mortars.  The magazines contained 396 10-inch shot, 125 10-inch shell, 7 10-inch grapeshot, 26 10-inch canister, 11 10-inch caseshot, 58 10-inch rifled bolts, 22 10-inch rifled shells, 40 10-inch mortar shells, 126 6-pdr canister (fixed), 29 6-pdr (fixed) shot, 236 10-inch cartridges, 4,000 pounds of common powder, and 2,300 pounds of damaged powder.

Mayo did not include a narrative assessment of Fort Beauregard, but listed the armament as one 10-inch columbiad, one 8-inch rifled and banded columbiad, one 8-inch smoothbore columbiad, two 32-pdr banded and rifled guns, one 32-pdr smoothbore gun, two 24-pdr smoothbore guns, and three 8-inch seacoast howitzers.  In Fort Beauregard’s magazine were 106 10-inch shot, 3 10-inch canister, 416 8-inch shot, 111 8-inch shell, 79 8-inch grapeshot, 113 8-inch canister, 169 8-inch shell, 69 8-inch rifled bolts, 101 32-pdr shot, 12 32-pdr shells, 80 32-pdr grapeshot, 69 32-pdr canister, 166 32-pdr rifled bolts, 7 32-pdr conical rifled shot, 156 32-pdr rifled shells, 229 24-pdr shot, 156 24-pdr grapeshot, 2 24-pdr conical smoothbore shell, 130 24-pdr canister, 749 unfixed cartridges of various sizes,  1,800 pounds of common powder, 1,150 pounds of “Rodman” powder (presumably “Mammoth” powder), 200 pounds of damaged powder, and 1,529 friction tubes.

Mayo turned next to the four numbered, and unnamed, batteries between Forts Beauregard and Marshall.

Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4, two-gun batteries extending along the south beach at an average distance of about 500 yards apart, covering the space between Forts Beauregard and Marshall and intended seemingly as a protection against boat assaults, are small open works with no traverses. There being no magazine in this cordon of works, the ammunition is kept in chests, exposed to the weather. Some of the chests need repairs and tarpaulins as a protection.

Mayo suggested improvements to the parapet of No. 1; mentioned a carriage in No. 3 that required repair; and damages to the parapet of No. 4. Mayo also suggested these works needed iron traverse circles to replace wood circles then in place.  Colonel Ambrosio Gonzales overruled, saying the 24-pdr guns should be mounted on siege carriages to allow redeployment where needed on the island.  Mayo noted the “disparity” in the ammunition for each of these batteries:

  • No. 1:  Two 32-pdr smoothbore guns, 104 32-pdr shot, 15 32-pdr shells, 77 32-pdr grapeshot, 78 32-pdr canister, 93 32-pdr cartridges, and 176 friction tubes.
  • No. 2: two 24-pdr smoothbores, 84 24-pdr shot, 100 24-pdr grape, 32 24-pdr canister, 69 24-pdr cartridges, 140 friction tubes, and 5 signal rockets.
  • No. 3: Two 32-pdr smoothbores, 34 32-pdr shot, 9 32-pdr shells, 48 32-pdr grape, 50 32-pdr canister, 46 32-pdr cartridges, and 49 friction tubes.
  • No. 4: Two 24-pdr smootbores, 88 24-pdr shot, 14 24-pdr shells, 111 24-pdr grape, 99 24-pdr canister, 29 24-pdr cartridges, and 41 friction tubes.

The last work on the line inspected by Mayo was Fort (or Battery) Marshall, at Breach Inlet:

Battery Marshall, at Beach Inlet, is as yet in an incomplete condition, though the guns are all in working order. A large bomb-proof, in addition to those already complete, has been commenced, upon which a force is now at work. One of the 12-pounders has wheels of different sizes, and in another the cheeks of the carriage are not upon a level. These two defects in these two carriages should be remedied. The magazines are in good order, and dry, as well as the ammunition, but roaches, by which they are infested, cut the cartridge-bags. It would therefore be as well to keep the powder in the boxes and barrels until a necessity arises for use, so that the bags may be preserved. I noticed the passage-way to one of the magazines much encumbered with shell. A room constructed for such projectiles is decidedly to be preferred.

Fort Marshall, at this time, included one 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch shell gun, one 7-inch Brooke rifle, one 32-pdr rifle, two 12-pdr rifled guns, two 12-pdr smoothbores, one 4-inch Blakely on naval carriage, and three 8-inch seacoast howitzers.  The magazines, improper as they were, contained 95 8-inch shot, 225 8-inch shell, 71 8-inch grapeshot, 90 8-inch canister, 156 7-inch conical rifled bolts, 19 32-pdr shells, 12 32-pdr grapeshot, 16 32-pdr canister, 32 32-pdr rifled shot, 100 32-pdr rifled shells, 292 12-pdr shot, 124 12-pdr grapeshot, 124 12-pdr canister, 25 12-pdr conical rifled shot, 62 12-pdr conical rifled shells, 32 4-inch Blakely shells, 28 4-inch Blakely grapeshot, 21 4-inch Blakely canister,  866 cartridges of various sizes, 2,800 pounds of common powder, 500 friction tubes, 35 paper fuses, 190 Girardey fuses, and 92 McAvoy igniters.

Mayo went on to discuss Batteries Gary, Kinloch and Palmetto on the mainland. But to serve brevity in a post already beyond my preferred word count, I will save those for later.

Mayo expressed concerns about unmounted and unassigned guns on the island.  “A 32-pounder banded rifle not mounted is laying upon the beach,” he noted.  He also mentioned several 6-pdr field pieces not under any direct control of the battery commanders.  In general, Mayo felt the guns needed “lacquer and paint” to improve appearances and protect against the elements.  Lastly, he noted the presence of bedding in the magazines, but left that matter to the discretion of local commanders.

I plan, as part of my documentation of each individual work, to examine these batteries in detail.  So please check back for follow up posts in regard to specific arrangements in each fortification.

Big guns for Beauregard: Blakely 12.75-inch Rifles

Busy of late, I neglected an interesting sesquicentennial. The journal kept at Headquarters, Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida offered this section among several paragraphs recording activity on September 11, 1863:

The large Blakely gun just mounted at Battery Ramsay was fired to-day at 1 p.m., with a charge of 40 pounds weight of powder, sabot and shell of 425 pounds weight, and 2° elevation. At the first discharge the gun burst, splitting open in eight places in rear of the first reinforce band.

This gun was one of two which had recently arrived from England. The pair were the largest weapons in the Confederacy, and were considered the best guns to counter the Federal monitors. But with one pull of the lanyard, those weapons looked feeble and weak.

The story of these massive guns began with British artillery designer Captain Alexander Blakely and Confederate purchasing agent Captain Caleb Huse. In 1862, Huse ordered the largest rifled guns Blakely could make, specified for use in the seacoast defenses of the Confederacy. At the cost of £10,000 each, Blakely instructed the Gorge Forrester & Company’s Vauxhall Foundry in Liverpool to turn out two guns. The guns had a bore of 12.75-inch, sometimes identified as 13-inch. The guns also went by the projectile weight – 900-, 700-, 600-, or 650-pounder, depending on which sized shot was used. I’ll use the designation of 12.75-inch which seems most practical and realistic.

In his Treatise on Ordnance and Armor, published in 1865, Alexander Lyman Holley provided some particulars of the guns, along with a plan of construction:

blakely12_75In_Holley

The gun was 16 feet long with a composite construction. The use of cast iron here was due to a shortage of steel, which Blakely preferred. Writing about it in the Southern Historical Papers, Confederate Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas described the guns:

These guns were built up of a wrought iron cylinder, closed at the breech with a brass-screw plug, some thirty-inch long and chambered to seven inches. This cylinder had three successive jackets, each shorter than its predecessor, so that from muzzle to breech the thickness of the gun increased by steps of about three and a-half inches. The object of the seven-inch chamber in the brass plug was to afford an air or gas space which would diminish the strain of the gun.

In addition, a set of steel hoops over the breech further strengthened the gun. The bore of the gun was 12 feet 7.5 inches long. The maximum diameter was 51 inches over the steel hoops. Overall this gun weighed 50,000 pounds. The wrought iron carriages weighed another 58,000 pounds.

The guns shipped from England in the summer of 1863. In mid-August, the guns arrived on the blockade runner Gibraltar (formerly the CSS Sumter) at Wilmington, North Carolina. Immediately, General P.G.T. Beauregard used all pressure he could muster to have the guns added to Charleston’s defenses – Even to the point of noting the guns were property of John Fraser & Company, with a Charleston interest. Finally, at the direction of Secretary of War James Seddon, the guns went to Charleston starting the last week of August.

When the first gun arrived, it went to Battery Ramsay in a position to cover the inner harbor should the ironclads rush past Fort Sumter. Of course, with all the fanfare and newspaper accounts, the Federals soon learned of this new weapon and noted it in reports.

The problem facing the gunners of this massive Blakely was not a shortage of ammunition, as some 70 tons of special projectiles arrived on the Gibraltar. Instead, they needed a manual. To load the gun, the crew had to man-handle the 650 pound bolts, nearly two feet long, into the muzzle. The projectiles were flanged to fit into groves in the bore. Once in the muzzle, the crew had to delicately push the projectile down the bore without it seizing in the rifling.

And, the crew didn’t know the purpose of the bronze chamber. At direction of Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley, the gunners loaded powder bags into the bronze air chamber completing the 40 pound charge. When they fired the gun, the bronze gave way and allowed the cracks mentioned in the report above. Not only was the gun damaged, but Beauregard suffered considerable embarrassment.

Fortunately, James Eason & Company were able to patch the gun by adding a massive breech block over the cracked cast iron. It eventually went back to Frazier’s Wharf Battery. The second gun was then subjected to detailed and well observed test before it went into place at the White Point Battery. There it caught the attention of painter Conrad Wise Chapman (see far left):

BlakelyWhitePointChapman

In that position, the Blakely shared a post with one of the guns recovered from the USS Keokuk. Captain John Johnson, comparing the two weapons, did not like the British guns due to the “inferiority of their projectiles.” He added, “These generally failed to take the grooves and would tumble like nail-kegs, without ever attaining their proper range.” Some of the fault lay with the nature of locally produced projectiles that lacked the high tolerances intended for the guns.

Skipping ahead in the Charleston timeline a bit, these two massive Blakelys were still there when the city was abandoned. Not willing to give up those prizes to the Federals, the Confederates blew up both guns.

Some pieces of the guns appear in photos of Charleston Arsenal after the fall of the city.

If you look close, you can read the chalked or painted legend:

CharlestonArsenal1A

“Piece of 600 lbs “Blakeley” [sic].

To the left is hoop, where the misspelling of Blakely continued – “Blakeley Gun” band.

CharlestonArsenal1C

Not clear if that was one of the original steel hoops or something added later with James Eason’s repairs. Oh, and there are all those infernal torpedoes laying about!

Back to the main pile of ordnance, there is a collection of projectiles with “Blakeley” all over them.

CharlestonArsenal1D

No mistaking those flanges. The two closest are flat top bolts. The two behind are shells, but with the flanges somewhat obscured. There appears to be a 6-pdr projectile balanced on top of the closest shell, for comparison. A set of these massive Blakely projectiles (one bolt and one shell) were once on display at the Washington Navy Yard but are now in storage.

Further back behind the layout of projectiles and torpedoes is this hunk of iron:

CharlestonArsenal1B

“Breech of the ‘Blakeley’ Gun Charleston S.C.” That is the breech patch fixed on the damaged gun by James Eason & Company. The section is today part of the West Point trophy collection, along with a section of the gun’s chase.

Another portion, of the second, undamaged, gun remains in Charleston. It remains where the explosion which broke the gun deposited it – in the attic of the Robert William Roper House at 9 East Battery Street. Imagine having a Civil War artifact weighing a couple of tons upstairs.

British and American rifles against Fort Sumter: The Naval Battery on Morris Island

Yesterday I mentioned, or more precisely cited Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren’s mention, of the Navy’s contribution to the siege batteries on Morris Island. Dahlgren placed a detachment of sailors, manning two 8-inch Parrotts and two 70-pdr Whitworth rifles, under Commander Foxhall Parker.

The Naval Battery lay to the left of Battery Reynolds on the first parallel. Work on those positions started on July 25, as Colonel Edward Serrell described in his report:

… two batteries were begun in the first line of works, which was now known as the first parallel, in which to mount four naval guns. Heavy parties were worked at night and, as far as practicable, during the day until these batteries were finished. They occupied the center of the line, and had two 200-pounder Parrott rifled guns and two 80-pounder Whitworth guns mounted in them.

Serrell credited Lieutenant James Baxter, though he was seriously wounded during the operation, with the work on the battery. The battery stood 3,980 yards from Fort Sumter; 2,590 yards from Battery Gregg; and 1,335 yards from Battery Wagner.

Serrell included a plan of these works in his report.

NavalBatterySerrellPlan

The layout matches, though not exactly, with that depicted by Major Thomas Brooks in his map of the siege lines.

FirstParallelBatteries

Notice the angle of the gun platforms in Serrell’s plan compared to those in Brooks’ map. To settle this, let’s go to some photographs.

In this photo we see the two 8-inch Parrotts. Hard to tell if the platforms are angled to the left. If pressed, I would say not. Notice the carriages.

NavalBattery1A

The Navy not only brought the guns ashore, but provided the carriages. Wood carriages, mind you, not wrought iron like the Army’s.

The marsh behind the battery, to the left of the frame, fixes the battery location. Do you see any sand crabs scurrying about?

NavalBattery1B

On the left side of the works is what appears to be a splinter-proof, which could be the magazine shown on Serrell’s plan. But it appears to have collapsed… or was just never set upright.

NavalBattery1C

Those two gentlemen have army garb. A shovel and other implements around them may indicate these fellows were part of a work detail maintaining the works.

But looking to the right, we see men in naval uniforms. Those are, beyond doubt, Parker’s sailors. Their gear hangs from stakes in the sandbags.

NavalBattery1D

But this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and you came here to look at guns! So here’s one of those 8-inch Parrotts.

NavalBattery1E

Good study of the naval carriage from the rear. Rollers allowed the carriage to pivot. I’ll save discussion of the carriage particulars for another day. But let me point out the fellow’s right foot rests upon the rear hurter of the carriage. The rollers are the rear transoms. The top portion of the rear rollers are seen just above the hurter. Those, fixed to the truck of the carriage, allowed controlled recoil. Notice the crew has posed for the camera, complete with a fixed, taught lanyard.

The gun to the right doesn’t have a lanyard, but we can make out details of the elevating screw and the rear sight. Overall a better view of the rear of the truck. Notice the tackle hooked to the rear.

NavalBattery1F

And the guy on the right? His picture appears in the dictionary under “Navy Tar.” With a beard like that, you know he had some stories to tell. What you don’t see around this section is a lot of clutter. The ropes, tackle, and implements appear ready for use, or at least just set down from being used (like the ropes and pulley in the cropped section above). No bottles, trash, or refuse.

A couple of observers look over the works, perhaps calling up the next shot. Or perhaps determining the damage done by the last shot.

NavalBattery1G

But let us look at the bottom of the frame at the details of the magazine below. A double layer of wood supports a layer of sandbags. There are canteens stuck in between the wood. And that is a good transition to the next photo ….

NavalBattery2A

The same structure seen in the other photograph of the Naval Battery:

There’s a large sponge, probably for the Parrotts, laying against the magazine behind the battery. But what we see here in center frame are two 70-pdr Whitworths (I explained my justification for not using the designation 80-pdr in an earlier post.)

Look close at the writing on the carriage – “Rear Admiral S.F. DuPont // Port Royal // S.C. // For an 80 pdr. Whitworth Rifle.” Notice those tick marks under Rear-Admiral. Are those the number of shots fired?

NavalBattery2B

The boots on the carriage cheeks and the disarray around this battery stand in contrast to those of the Parrotts.

NavalBattery2C

The crew does not even appear interested in posing for the camera.

One fine detail that catches the eye – a Whitworth bolt laying in the sand.

NavalBattery2D

Commander Parker recorded the Whitworths fired 222 solid projectiles, “of which 98 hit and 124 missed the fort.” One of these guns was disabled during the bombardment of Fort Sumter, as the bands slipped past the vent. Parker complained the shot often jammed in the bore. Brigadier-General John Turner, supervising the artillery during the bombardment, considered the Whitworths inaccurate and difficult to load. A ramming incident resulted in four killed sailors. After that the Whitworths remained silent. On the other hand, the Parrotts performed well. Parker recorded 703 shots, including 373 hitting Fort Sumter.

So we might say with a little patriotic spirit that the Yankee Parrotts out gunned John Bull’s Whitworths in on Morris Island. But these four guns were but a part of a larger, massive force oriented towards the Confederate stronghold at Fort Sumter. But a drop in the bucket of the rain of projectiles falling on that bastion starting in mid-August.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 223 and 229. Naval OR, Series I, Volume 14, page 472.)

Imported seacoast rifles from England: Introducing the Widow Blakely and her sister

UPDATE: I’ve revised this post to remove a wartime photo hastily added which I identified as the Widow Blakely. Such was not the case.  Please see my follow up post for the details about the guns in question.

Most cannon serve somewhat anonymously, maybe at best with an officer recording a registry number or weight. But on occasion a weapon appears with a very distinctive name. Typically, those named guns have a story to tell. That’s the case with this particular gun.

The “Widow Blakely” was one of several “named guns” in the Vicksburg defenses. The name derived from that particular weapon being the only Blakely cannon in the Vicksburg siege lines. Colonel Edward Higgins cited the gun as a “7.44-inch Blakely Gun” in his report of the siege.

The Widow Blakely’s origin parallels the heavy caliber James rifles and other similar conversions. In 1860, British Captain Theophilus Alexander Blakely patented a system to modify old smoothbore guns into rifles, with a breech band added for strength. The conversion required the breech moldings turned down, to allow a breech band slipped over to reenforce the critical section of the gun. The bore was also enlarged and rifled to complete the conversion. On the surface, the system was not much different than similar conversions made in America. One major difference, which may have been more semantics, was Blakely’s use of a steel band (the term “steel” being used to describe several variations of metal composition during the Civil War).

In 1861, Confederate agents in England secured some of these Blakely conversions. Several variations in caliber appear among the records and surviving weapons. But concentrating for now on the Widow Blakely, the firm of Fawcett, Preston & Company secured British naval 42-pdr, of 57 cwt, smoothbore guns from Low Moor Iron Company. And it is important to note, these were likely not Royal Navy guns, but rather pattern guns produced by Low Moor and seconded for conversion.

The 42-pdrs started out with a 7-inch bore. The conversion reamed out an additional half inch with the rifling process. For some reason, which is not entirely clear, Confederate records cite the weapons as 7.44-inch. The guns were 124 inches in overall length, including a breeching loop.

Most likely the gun that became the Widow Blakely arrived in Savannah via the blockade runner Bermuda in September 1861. However a very similar gun was also purchased by the state of Virginia and used in the state’s defenses along the Potomac River. It was captured the following spring by Federal forces, and is today part of the Washington Navy Yard trophy collection.

WNY 10 Apr 10 295
7.5-inch Blakely at Washington Navy Yard

The gun bears the trunnion stamp of Low Moor.

WNY 10 Apr 10 297
Low Moor Trunnion Stamp

The breech reinforcement was built up with three separate rings.

WNY 10 Apr 10 296
Breech Band on 7.5-inch Blakely

The muzzle betrays the gun’s origin as an old smoothbore design.

WNY 10 Apr 10 299
Muzzle of 7.5-inch Blakely

The rifling, which still stands out clearly, was a triangular 12 groove.

WNY 10 Apr 10 300
Rifling of 7.5-inch Blakely

Do be mindful of those renting space there at the top groove.

This is what the Widow Blakely originally looked like, more or less.

WashNY 21 July 272
7.5-inch Blakely at the Navy Yard

But, as mentioned above, the Widow Blakely suffered a mishap. A premature shell explosion damaged the muzzle. With heavy ordnance in short supply, the Vicksburg defenders cut the muzzle back a couple feet to repair the gun. There’s reference to its use as a mortar, although I’d say the employment was much closer to that of the columbiads.

The Widow is still there at Vicksburg, having spent some time at West Point’s trophy yard.

Widow Blakely Vicksburg
Widow Blakely at Vicksburg

From the trunnions back, the Widow matches well to her “sister” gun at the Washington Navy Yard.

70-pdr Whitworth Rifles

Practically every gun on display at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. has a story to tell.  And in some cases a couple.  Such is the case for a 70-pdr Whitworth rifled cannon on display just outside the Naval Museum.   Contemporary sources label this gun based on the old weight of shot calculations, but modern historians opt for the land diameter of the rifling, or 5-inch.  I’ll cite the former, as it seems proper from the sources.

70-pdr or 5-in Whitworth Rifle

The history of this four-and-a-quarter ton steel weapon begins in Manchester, England with the Whitworth Ordnance Company.  Yes, you read correctly, steel.  Sir Joseph Whitworth was among the first gun-makers to benefit from the Bessemer process.   As seen in the photo, the gun construction consisted of several reinforcing bands or hoops over a central tube.   The construction of this piece should have matched the diagram provided by J. Emerson Tennent his 1864 book “The Story of the Guns.”

70-pdr Whitworth Plan
70-pdr Whitworth Plan

Overall the gun measured 133 inches.  The base layer of hoops extended 90 inches, with a second 63 inches long mounting the trunnions.  A 37-inch long breech reinforce ended just behind the trunnions.   As noted on the diagram, the gun-maker applied the interior hoop layers with hydraulic pressure.  The outer breech reinforce was threaded into place.  If Whitworth used the same method employed on his smaller weapons, the bands were forced onto the gun tube, with a very slight taper toward the rear of the gun.   Such will factor in later in the “story.”

Muzzle of 70-pdr Whitworth

Whitworth also used a distinctive hexagonal rifling system, as seen in the photo above.  If you consider the rifled grooves of a cannon as load-bearing, hexagonal rifling offers a wide surface area to impart the spin to the projectile.  Whitworth also found the shape easier to machine, and maintain.  (see Tennant, pp 43-46)   Suffice to say I’m being overly simplistic noting the details of the rifling, saving the discussion for another day.  However, for practical purposes, this rifling system required the gun to use special Whitworth projectiles.

Whitworth Projectile
Whitworth Projectile

The 70-pdr promised a range of 5,000 yards firing a solid bolt.  I would imagine that Confederate agents in England, desperate for modern ordnance, were quick to disregard any special munitions requirements for the Whitworths.  Aside from the more familiar (due to its display at Gettysburg) Whitworth field guns, agents ordered at least four of the “70-pdr Whitworth Rifles.”  My speculation is, due to the breeching loop seen on the example at the Navy Yard, is the Confederates intended these rifles for naval applications.  As reinforcement, I would point out the four rifles known to be purchased at that time were shipped on the steamer Princess Royal along with two engines destined for ironclads under construction.

That sets up the first story about these guns.  Four days out from Bermuda, the Princess Royal arrived off Charleston on the morning of January 29, 1863 and attempted to slip through the blockade.  At around 3:15 a.m., lookouts on the U.S.S. Undilla spotted a light heading toward the harbor.  Commander of the Undilla, Lieutenant-Commander S.P. Quackenbush, brought the ship to quarters and slipped anchor.  Aided by rockets fired from the nearby USS G.W. Blunt, the Undilla maneuvered to intercept the Princess Royal, and fired two shots.  The blockade runner altered course and headed to ground on the beach.   With her crew abandoning ship, Quackenbush sent a detachment to take possession of the Princess Royal.  By dawn, the navy inventoried “rifled guns, arms, ammunition, steam engines for ironclads building in Charleston, and an assorted cargo.” (ONR, Series I, Volume 13, page 554)

Inscription on the Breech

As a testament to the capture, the piece on display at the Navy Yard bears the inscription on the breech: “Whitworth 80-pdr [sic] Rifle // captured with 3 others // blockade runner // Princess Royal”.

The Navy later outfitted the Princess Royal as a steam gunboat, serving off Texas and Louisiana.  One of the steam engines carried as cargo powered the USS Kansas, a North Atlantic blockader.  But at least two of the Whitworths remained in the Charleston area.  On July 22, 1863, Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren ordered Commander Foxhall Parker to organize a detachment to man a “naval battery” ashore.  Consisting of two 8-in Parrotts and two Whitworth rifles and located on Morris Island, the battery was to aid the Army in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. (ONR, Series I, Volume 14, p. 385)  And we know the Whitworths were 70-pdrs because of a wartime photograph of the battery.

The Naval Battery at Morris Island
The Naval Battery at Morris Island

And I must say for the record, a more unkempt battery you will not find!  Boots drying on one gun, rammers laying about, and ropes haphazardly draped over the carriages.  Makes me wonder if the sailors’ morale was affected by the service ashore.  Perhaps.

On August 23, Commander Parker offered a rather detailed report of the battery’s activities:

The whole number of Parrott shells expended amounts to 703, of which 373 struck the fort, 252 fell short of went over it, and 78 tumbled.

From the Whitworth guns 222 solid projectiles were fired, of which 98 hit and 124 missed the fort.

Upon the 19th instant one of the Whitworths was entirely disabled by the reinforce bands starting forward, and upon the 21st I discontinued firing from the other, as the shot were continually jamming in the bore, in ramming home one of which four men were killed by a premature explosion of the charge. (ONR, Series I, Volume 14, p. 472)

I could see where the crews might be a little demoralized.

Brigadier General John W. Turner, Chief of Artillery for General Quincy Gilmore’s Department of the South, left no doubt his opinion of the Whitworth in his report, dated November 30, on the bombardment of Fort Sumter.  Turner mentioned premature explosions, wedged projectiles, and inaccurate fire.  He then details the slippage of the bands when:

…subsequently one of them became disabled by the the gun apparently sliding through the re-enforce to the rear.  A displacement of nearly an inch took place, closing the vent completely.  (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, p. 223)

I agree with the conclusions of other historians.   The slippage noted was due to a design flaw – the hoops were not welded nor was the taper sufficient to arrest movement of the gun’s composite layers.

The vent of the survivor at the Navy Yard appears, today, open and unaffected by such slipping.

Vent of the 70-pdr

However, a base ring supporting a sight bracket, apparent in both the plan from Tennant’s book and in the wartime photograph, is missing from the Navy Yard’s trophy.  In the plan, the ring appears separate from the other components of the gun.  Maybe that the ring broke free due to handling.   Or perhaps the slippage due to firing.  Another surviving piece is on display at West Point’s trophy park, and does show signs of the slippage.

So the old 70-pdr Whitworth at the Navy Yard offers a history which blends aspects of technical innovation, a touch of daring with the blockade runner, and perhaps a bit of tragedy with its dangerous, ineffective service.  Today it stands as a trophy of war, honoring those who maintained the blockade during the Civil War.

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Aside from on site notes and links 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.