“The small number of artillerists now in the department”: The artillery of the Department of the South, Spring 1864

Major-General John G. Foster assumed command of the Department of the South on May 26, 1864.  Foster served at Charleston (specifically Fort Moultrie) before the war, had been second in command at Fort Sumter when the war started, but spent much of the next two years in North Carolina.  Foster was familiar with Charleston… and with making do with small garrison forces along the coast.

Among the first actions Foster took was an inquiry about the status of artillery within the department, with a focus on the field artillery.  On this day (May 29) in 1864, Foster’s Chief of Artillery, Colonel Charles R. Brayton of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, provided a report:

Sir: In accordance with instructions of yesterday from department headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the condition of my department and the requirements necessary to make the same effective.

The effective light artillery within the department consists of three batteries, stationed, equipped, and armed as follows:


Batteries B and F, Third New York Artillery, have sufficient men for six pieces, to which number it is intended to increase them when horses can be obtained. Company G, Second U. S. Colored Artillery, is recruiting at Hilton Head and numbers upwards of 110 men. It is intended to arm this battery with six 12-pounder howitzers. In the manner above mentioned it is intended to increase the light artillery within the department to twenty-four pieces, which will allow a six-gun battery for each district. Required to horse the different batteries, each increased to six pieces, 250 horses suitable for artillery purposes. The remaining necessary material can be obtained from the ordnance department when required.

The light batteries served in the shadow, you might say, of the larger guns on Morris Island.  But as chronicled last year, the light guns provided support during operations on Morris Island.

After the siege, the batteries played a prominent role in the Florida Expedition in the winter of 1864.  But with the departure of the Tenth Corps, just three batteries remained.  At strength, but in need of horses. These were important assets for the department, providing mobile support for threatened points and any expedition inland.

The weapons listed – two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, four Napoleons, four Wiard rifles, and four 12-pdr howitzers – is not complete, I think.  There is ample evidence a large number of light field guns and howitzers remained either in the fortifications or in storage.  One indicator of these “extra” weapons is the plan to outfit Company G, 2nd USCT with six howitzers.  And if I may, does that not say something about the acceptance of the USCT in the department?  Manning artillery, particularly field artillery, was judged a complex, mentally demanding job.  Recall the “smart ones” from West Point usually got into the artillery.

Brayton continued, reporting on the status of the heavy artillery at different locations in the command:

The heavy artillery forces within the department consist of ten companies of the Third Rhode Island Artillery, with an aggregate strength of 800 men. Five companies are stationed on Morris Island, in charge of the important forts and batteries, assisted by sufficient details from the infantry to serve the offensive guns constantly when required, and the defensive ones in case of an attack.  The mortar batteries on Morris Island are necessarily without full reliefs on account of the small force on the island. The batteries on Folly Island, which are purely defensive, are served by details from the infantry, instructed by non-commissioned officers from the artillery.

With regard to the manning of these batteries, keep the distinction in mind between the “offensive” batteries on Morris Island’s north end and the “defensive” batteries further south, down to Folly Island.  As reported, many of the latter were manned by infantry.  But it was the “offensive” batteries which seemed to have all the action:

Thirty shells are thrown into Charleston daily from the Morris Island batteries, directed at different portions of the city, and a slow mortar fire at different times opened on Sumter, with a view to prevent the mounting of mortars on the terre-plein. The armament of the different works in the Northern District are in good condition, and those on Morris Island ready at a moment’s notice for offensive or defensive operations. Weekly reports of all firing, changes in garrisons, bursting of guns, with full history of same, together with accounts of the firing of the rebels, are required from the chief of artillery of this district.

Further down the coast, Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Fort Pulaski also had heavy artillery mounted, but lightly manned:

The different forts and batteries at Beaufort are in charge of companies of the Twenty-sixth U. S. Colored Troops, under the instruction of non-commissioned officers from the artillery. The armaments of these works are well cared for and ready for defensive purposes.

Four companies of heavy artillery are stationed at Fort Pulaski and one at Hilton Head; the latter company is now instructing the First Michigan Colored Volunteers in artillery with a view to have them serve such works in Hilton Head District which cannot be manned by the artillery.

The armaments of the works in this district are well taken care of. The details to serve as artillery from the infantry have not such opportunities for drill as I desire on account of heavy fatigue work now going on. Detachments from the artillery at Pulaski are serving on the armed transports May Flower, Thomas Foulkes, Plato, and Croton.

Yes… the Army had some gunners trained to fire from ships.

Rounding out the department’s artillery, Brayton discussed the garrisons in Florida:

Fort Clinch, at Fernandina, is garrisoned by companies of the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York; the forts at Saint Augustine by detachments from the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteers; the different batteries at Jacksonville by details from the Third U. S. Colored Troops.

Again, details from the infantry, including USCT, filled in where the Army lacked artillerists.  And this overall shortage of gunners factored into Brayton’s conclusions and recommendations:

The departure of the Tenth Army Corps left us with infantry garrisons, many of which were wholly ignorant of their duties as artillerists; non-commissioned officers and privates from the artillery have, however, been distributed as instructors, so that the different garrisons are in fair condition as regards drill. Copies of General Orders, No. 88, from War Department, relative to the care of field-works and their armaments, have been distributed to the different officers in charge of forts and batteries and provisions of the order required to be observed. The small number of artillerists now in the department renders it necessary that every available man should be on duty with his special arm, and as many are detailed as clerks, orderlies, teamsters, boatmen, bakers, and attendants in hospitals, I would respectfully request that all detailed men from the light and heavy artillery be ordered to join their companies, and that no details for any purpose, other than in the line of their duty, be made from the artillery.

Brayton did not mention, however, the employment of rockets and boat howitzers which had been of particular use in front of James Island.  Those weapons were, as with other artillery weapons in the department, manned by infantry.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 105-6.)

“Ninety-five tons of loyal complements”: Bombardment of Charleston continues

The last I detailed the Federal bombardment of Charleston was in relation to increased bombardments in the middle of January 1864. Through the end of January, Confederate observers recorded 990 projectiles reached the city, with an additional 533 falling short. The average, considering days on which no shots were fired at the city, was 49 per day counting hits and misses.

The Federals increased the pace in February.  A March 4, 1864 report from Colonel Alfred Rhett, commanding the Fifth Military District (which encompassed the city of Charleston itself) provided the number of projectiles observed fired at the city for each day:


The totals for February 1864 were 964 fired into the city and 763 falling short.  For that month, the average per day increased to 59.5 rounds per day.  And the figures provided in the table do not count shots fired at other targets around the harbor.  A table from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery’s regimental history lists the weapons in Fort Putnam with their assigned targets, ranges, elevation, fuse settings, powder charge, and shell charges:


UPDATE: Forgot to add – the range given here for Battery Lamar appears to be in error.  I estimate the range to be around 8500 yards.  Perhaps the typesetter mixed up “8” with “3” when transcribing.

Guns at positions 1 and 2 in the fort bore directly on Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter.  Their most distant target was the channel in front of Mount Pleasant at 3500 yards… or nearly two miles.  Those two 30-pdr Parrotts were these two familiar subjects:


Two larger 8-inch Parrotts in positions 3 and 4 also pointed at Sullivan’s Island.  But the mountings allowed traverse to fire on Fort Johnson, though not on Charleston.

A 10-inch Columbiad in position 5 also fired on Forts Johnson and Sumter, in addition to other targets on James Island.  The most distant of those targets was two miles away.  I believe the photo below shows that gun.  There is a sign to the left of view that appears to have a number “5.”


A 6.4-inch Parrott in position 6 also fired on James Island along with Castle Pinckney some three miles distant:


In position number 7, a 30-pdr Parrott could train on Mount Pleasant, Castle Pinckney, and, importantly, Charleston.  The range to Charleston was a remarkable 7440 yards, or 4.2 miles.  And this was at a 40° elevation with 3¾ pounds of powder.  I’ll come back to discuss this gun a bit more further down in this post.

Position number 11 contained a 6.4-inch Parrott that fired upon Charleston and “Ram on stocks” – again, I should mention, a military target. Range to Charleston was the same 7440 yards.  The gun elevated 38° and used ten pounds of No. 7 grade powder to reach the city.  The weight of the shell was 101 pounds.  The projectile took over thirty seconds to reach its target in Charleston.

Lastly, a 3.67-inch Wiard gun in position number 12 also fired on James Island and Charleston.   However a notation below the table indicated “This last did not reach” in relation to the 7440 yard range to Charleston.  As the gun fired a much lower powder charge compared to the 30-pdr Parrott, one could expect less performance from the field piece.

I don’t know of any wartime photographs that capture details of Charleston as seen from Morris Island.  However a color drawing does show an artist’s rendition of the view:

In the mid-range of this view are Battery Simkins and Fort Johnson.  Beyond are the ship masts and church spires of the “Holy City.”

In regards to the 30-pdr in position number 7, that weapon burst during the bombardment that winter.  But not before it fired a remarkable number of rounds:

The famous gun, in its life, for firing on Charleston was No. 7.  It was expended on the 4,606th round, having thrown ninety-five tons of loyal compliments to the Charlestonians, expedited by nine tons of patriotic powder.

The ordnance officers recorded the fragmentation of the gun after it burst:


The gunners of the 3rd Rhode Island went on to say more about this gun:

We must add another word of this famous thirty-pounder that so splendidly pounded the cradle of secession.  From the time it was mounted – Jan. 10th – its carriage playing and recoiling on a peculiar chassis of long, elastic timbers, it was fired, on average, once in about twenty minutes, day and night (sometimes once in twelve minutes), til it burst March 19th, making it, on account of its elevation, range, destructive work, and long life, the most remarkable gun on record.  Its fragments were carefully collected and put together, and after it had received suitable inscriptions ending with these words, “Expended on Morris Island under Col. Charles R. Brayton, Chief of Artillery,” it was sent to West Point for study and for preservation.  On the 15th of January it fired 237 shell, 216 being good shots and striking the city fairly.  In its whole life it fired 4,257 good shots, 259 tripped, ten fell short, and eighty were premature explosions.

Folks, let me pause for a moment of silence.  Cavalrymen speak lovingly of their horses.  And infantrymen will caress their musket.  I submit this is the artillerman’s emotional attachment to their iron.  The endurance of the gun, compared to that of the Swamp Angel, or other large Parrotts used on Morris Island, stands in contrast.  The 4,606 rounds fired from 30-pdr, registry number 193, were a substantial portion of the 3,250 rounds fired at Charleston itself in January and February 1864.

One last note on that particular gun position in the fort.  Photographic evidence suggests that after it burst a larger Parrott replaced it:

Notice the “7” just below the super-elevated 6.4-inch Parrott in the photo above.

The guns at Fort Putnam were not the only weapons bearing on Charleston’s defenses.  But those guns did the lion’s share of the work.

(Citation from Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, page 238.)

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.)

Napoleons in the Second Parallel on Morris Island

There are a several other photos taken on Morris Island during the summer of 1863 which I’ll give mention. Some of these show the “rear area,” in particular the ordnance yard and camps. Others show Batteries Wagner and Gregg after Federal occupation. I’ll get to those in due time.

However, I should, from a chronological standpoint, discuss a couple of photos taken in the second parallel showing the use of field artillery on the line. We’ve already looked at a photo of the howitzer battery. In addition to those four howitzers, and the two placed out in the surf battery, between two and four 12-pdr Napoleon guns and two 3.67-inch Wiard rifles bolstered the defense of the second parallel.

A photo of two Napoleons shows what I think is the two gun position drawn on Major Thomas Brooks’ siege map:


Brooks called out two locations in the second parallel with the annotation “Napoleon in barbette.” Those appear to be single gun positions. But on the far right of the line, in front of the Requa position on the surf battery on Brooks’ map, is a two gun position:


For a brief time in late August, the howitzers from the surf battery were relocated there. I think the photo shows those two guns, and those two guns are Napoleons at an early time in the evolution of the parallel. Looking to the background of the photo, the position overlooked the beach. And directly in front of the battery are branches of trees, which may be parts of the abatis laid there.

The Napoleons were part of Battery B, 3rd New York Light Artillery under Captain James Ashcroft. As with many of the photographs of batteries on Morris Island, the photographers appear to have captured an “action” scene. The crew is loading the gun on the right.


And we know that Napoleon was produced by Ames, Alger, or Revere, since there is both a hausse seat and a baseplate.

Better view of those fittings on the gun to the left. Notice also the blade sight on the muzzle. The crew ran out the lanyard for this gun. They were, one might guess, ready to fire the gun for the photographer. But wait a minute…


… firing through the sandbags? OK, set this one aside as a posed photograph. Give some credit, however, as Sullivan’s Island is visible in the background. The photographer was indeed on the front lines, even if a quiet salient of that line.

Elsewhere in the photo were several empty boxes and other debris. The blur leaves no visible markings to determine the purpose of these boxes.


Half concealed on the left is an ammunition chest.


To the far left of the photo is the wheel of some other vehicle.


The hub and axle are not that of another Napoleon. And it is not a limber. It is a non-regulation wheel. I think you’ve seen one like it before:

Matching the wheel and the ammunition chest brings us to this photo:


So we’ll look at that photo next.

Photo credits: Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs, ID Number 71MSS918_021.tif and 71MSS918_014.tif. Library of Congress, reproduction number LC-DIG-cwpb-03639.