“Foster… was frustrated in his grand stab at Charleston.” – Separating supposition from reliable fact

Over the holiday break, I took to reading H. David Stone’s Vital Rails: The Charleston & Savannah Railroad and the Civil War in Coastal South Carolina.  I’d picked up the book shortly after publication.  But until last month had confined my use of the work to select passages as I “blogged” through the 150ths of the war.  It is a good study of the vital railroad link, which I’ve mentioned on no small number of occasions.  I’d recommend Stone’s book for anyone serious about study of the South Carolina-Georgia Coast theater.

While I think Stone’s study of the railroad is outstanding, as with any historical study there is always some passage or paragraph that a discerning reader will take exception.  Criticism, that is, taken to examination of the logical presentation, consideration of source material cited in support, and thence analysis of the conclusion.  I call it good critical thought… you know, critical as in the sense of “an analysis of the merits and faults” and not the street connotation of being dismissive.

The passage that raised my attention came within a chapter discussing the operations in front of Charleston in the summer of 1864.  As I’ve blogged those activities to length in earlier posts, I’ll cut to the chase here. Major-General John Foster arrived to assume command in the Department of the South in June 1864.  After assessing the situation and considering his orders from Washington, Foster promptly organized an offensive.  Before detailing Foster’s plan, Stone writes:

Well aware of the city’s vulnerability, Foster decided on a decisive assault on Charleston.  He expected at the very least to destroy the railroad connection between the Broad River and Charleston, and he hoped to find a weak point in the line of defense through which he could penetrate and gain the city itself.

That is a loose, but fair, interpretation of Foster’s intent.  A paragraph before, Stone alluded to Foster’s orders from Washington.  Those being “… to tie up any Confederate reserves that might potentially be sent to aid Lee or Johnston.”  And Foster was to remain defensive in stance, with offensive operations limited to raids.   At the end of the chapter, Stone summarizes the operation:

Foster had begun his tenure with high aspirations but was frustrated in his grand stab at Charleston. Coastal topography, oppressive midsummer heat, and inefficient subordinates had doomed the operation; however, the ability of the Confederate troops to concentrate troops from remote areas by rail could not be discounted. Toward the end of the campaign Foster unleashed what became a protracted bombardment of Fort Sumter, but it did not change the fact that his superior force failed to meet its goal….

This is where I turn on the critical eye.  Foster’s goal… what was it?

To answer that, we have to keep in context where Foster fit into the military command structure.  He was a department commander in an Army in the “big army” sense.  So he was a subordinate to Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant.  And as Grant was removed from Washington at the time in question… you know… pressing Bobby Lee in Virginia, the official correspondence between Washington and Foster came from Major-General Henry Halleck. There is a letter written on June 29 by Halleck which summarizes what Grant wanted Foster to do (and in context here, Halleck is responding to Foster’s appeal for more troops and boats to make a push on Fort Sumter and other objectives):

What I understand General Grant wishes you to do is precisely what in one of your former dispatches you proposed doing, i.e., make raids on the enemy’s lines of communication, destroy as much of them as possible, and keep as many of his troops occupied at the south as you can.  He has given no special instructions, but leaves the matter entirely to your judgement and discretion. In a recent dispatch he remarked that in your present condition of the Southern coast, stripped as it was of rebel troops, your forces might effect an important diversion.

Clearly Halleck, and Grant for good measure, did not consider Charleston to be Foster’s main objective.  The date of this letter is important, but more so is the length of time taken for this message to get into Foster’s hands.  Halleck’s letter would have arrived at Hilton Head sometime after the first week of July.   And that was after Foster had launched his offensive.  So did Foster place Charleston as an objective above those given by his superiors?  Did Foster extend the “judgement and discretion” to assume an objective beyond what Grant directed?

Evidence points to “no.”  Throughout June, Foster wrote at length to Halleck in regard to operations.  Though he did pester for more resources (particularly light-draft ships), these must be considered in context – a commander asking for additions in order to accomplish just that little bit more than possible with the existing resources.  Without those, Foster appeared content to remain within Grant’s wishes.  On June 23, Foster provided an update on planned operations, discussing his intent… and how that fit within the context of Grant’s wishes:

I shall be ready to commence operations in about one week, with a force of 5,000 men, which is all that can be collected of the reliable men.  I propose, first, to destroy the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and then to make a sudden attack, either upon some of the defenses of Charleston or of Savannah.  If I fail in one I will try the other….

No where in that message does Foster seem fixated on Charleston.  It was an objective, to be sure.  But it was an objective reserved for follow through, after the primary goals were met.  Furthermore, Foster gave it as much importance as he did Savannah. This was further underscored in a dispatch to Halleck written on June 30 (and thus crossing, in transit, the Halleck letter of June 29).  I quoted that dispatch extensively in an earlier post, but for emphasis would mention this passage:

My definite object is to destroy the railroad, and this, I think, we shall accomplish. But, in addition, we shall worry the enemy, and may possibly find a weak spot by which we may penetrate. If so, we shall not fail to profit by it. If none are found on the west side, I may, possibly, before retiring, attempt to take Fort Johnson by boats.

Again, Foster’s focus was not specifically Charleston, rather was in line with Grant’s instructions – demonstrate and annoy with the aim to fix Confederate forces.   Foster did leave open the hope the situation might deliver some great prize.  But he confined that hope, at least in writing.

We might liken Foster’s hope to that of a quarterback throwing a pass on third down and long yardage.  The objective might be to secure a first down.  But if a touchdown was the result, he’d take that gladly.   Everyone looking from Morris Island had eyes on the prize that was Charleston.  But that is not to say Foster or anyone else in June 1864 were engineering an offensive with a focused, deliberate objective of Charleston.  What we have is Foster’s words to Halleck that confine his goals to those suggested by Grant’s guidance.  To presume more, one would need get into Foster’s head and to his personal thoughts.  Nobody has cited any of Foster’s personal papers or letters home in evidence on this particular subject, for what it is worth.

So where does this notion about Foster’s goal (of capturing Charleston in July 1864) come from?  Stone does not offer footnotes linking sources for the passages quoted above.  To be fair, the first passage is fully supported by the content mentioned earlier in the paragraph, which is sourced.  The second passage, which is his conclusion, need not be directly sourced.  Being a conclusion, it is more so the duty of the writer to lead the reader to agree with a supposition.

In his book, The Siege of Charleston 1861-1865, E. Milby Burton opens the discussion of Foster’s offensive with a quote from the 11th Maine regimental history.  “To capture Richmond would be grand, but to capture Charleston would be glorious….”   A vivid quote, but unfortunately taken out of context, as it comes from a section detailing the regiment’s initial assignment to the Department of the South in January 1863.  From that misdirected opening, Burton proceeded to explain Foster’s offensive as one aimed at Charleston, with a secondary directive, “if possible, destroy the Charleston and Savannah Railroad….”  That said, Burton concluded the Confederate defenders had rallied in the face of superior forces to save Charleston in a near-run affair.

Burton drew from several sources to support this conclusion.  Some were Federal accounts – the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery regimental history, quotes from Admiral John Dahlgren, and northern newspapers for the most part.  None of which were able to definitively pin Foster to a goal.  Not even Dahlgren who, for all his close work with the General, did not fully measure the intent from Washington in his assessment.

Burton relied heavily upon the Confederate engineer John Johnson.  We might turn to The Defense of Charleston Harbor as the furthest point back in the history of the history … er… historiography… in which we hear Foster’s goal that July was Charleston:

With abundant transportation and the powerful support of the navy, Major-General Foster had at length resolved on a very serious attempt on Charleston itself.

Later, summarizing the operations, Johnson wrote:

The land and naval forces of the attack were strong enough, but they were not pushed with the vigor that characterized the fighting on Morris Island. Had they been, they might have achieved in one week what the toilsome and bloody campaign of Morris Island failed to accomplish after twelve months – viz. the capture of Charleston. …

Thus in the progress of the war Charleston had twice driven back the forces of the Federal navy under DuPont and Dahlgren in 1863, and twice the forces of the Federal army under Benham in 1862 and Foster in 1864.

Over the years, I’ve come to rely upon Johnson’s narrative to fill in many of the particulars missing in official accounts.  In particular he provided a wealth of first-hand details about operations.  However, I think in this case, while he made a very astute observation from his own experience, it was lacking in perspective. In short, Johnson did not know, could not know, and would not know (even later) that Foster’s orders limited him to demonstrations.  With that, we really cannot use Johnson as a source to pin Charleston as Foster’s goal.  And thus we find Burton’s, and to some degree Stone’s, suppositions somewhat shaky.

Again, please don’t take this critical essay as detracting from Stone’s good work.  I just think this is a salient point in the narrative of history where historians have generally not explored with the diligence that the subject requires.  We’ve long accepted what distant observers to the event (Johnson or newspapers or regimental histories) have to say.  We’ve not wrangled properly with the direct sources.  To say that Foster, for his July 1864 operations, intended to march into Charleston, one has to discredit what he wrote to Halleck.  I’ve yet to see that done.  (And before we toss this small point of history into the “It was a backwater of the war” dust-bin, remember that in the 1864 campaigns everything was related.  Foster’s operations were a part of a larger, complicated, and inter-dependent Federal operations that season.)

In the end, I’m left with an oft-repeated lesson from the study of history.  Never accept a premise or supposition without the strength of sources – no matter how small or obvious the point might be.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 146, 156, and 157; H. David Stone, Jr. Vital Rails: The Charleston & Savannah Railroad and the Civil War in Coastal South Carolina, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2008, pages 191-2 and 199; The Story of One Regiment: The Eleventh Maine Infantry Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion, New York: J.J. Little & Co, 1896, page 109; E. Milby Burton, The Siege of Charleston 1861-1865, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1970, pages 284-5;  John Johnson, The Defense of Charleston Harbor: Including Fort Sumter and the Adjacent Islands, 1863-1865, Walker, Evans & Cogswell Company, 1890, pages 215 and 223 ).

 

For the holidays, lets each rehabilitate some Civil War general… I call Schimmelfennig!

This being the season of giving, I ask what have we given back to the Civil War field of study?  We all “take” from our studies – reading primary and secondary sources, walking the battlefields, and receiving knowledge all around.   But what do we give back in return?  How this season we “clean up” some corner of Civil War study that need be straightened or otherwise put in order?

Consider… Throughout the Sesquicentennial discussions we heard about some major figures from the Civil War being “rehabilitated” by historians.  Most notable is George B. McClellan.  We even heard mention of Joe Hooker.  Though I still lean towards strict twelve step process for Little Mac… someone skipped a few steps with McClellan in my opinion.  This is not a new notion for historians.  During the Centennial, US Grant was “rehabilitated” to some degree, mostly by that magical prose from Bruce Catton.  William T. Sherman was moved but a few shades to the good side of Lucifer himself.  Though we really should recognize the work of British admirers decades earlier, who sort of threw a mirror in our American faces.  However of late Grant is being “un-rehabilitated” back to a mere mortal.

What I have in mind is straight forward and altruistic – pick a figure due “historical rehabilitation.”  Name any figure from the Civil War – general, politician, or other.  Pick a poor figure.  Someone you think has not gotten a fair shake through the historians’ collective pens. Then offer up a few paragraphs explaining why this figure is worth a second look.  Think about it… are there any persons who are completely nonredeemable?  Totally incompetent? Without any merit?  Well… maybe there are some.  But I’d submit that to be a small number within the larger sample set.  Besides, even H. Judson Kilpatrick, Alfred Pleasonton, and Franz Sigel had good days to speak of!

I’ll make the first offering.  This is my target for rehabilitation:

Alexander Schimmelfennig.  Like most, my introduction to Schimmelfennig was the butt end of many jokes about “hiding with the hogs” at Gettysburg.  Schimmelfennig’s stay at the Henry Garlach house has come to epitomize the failings and faults of the Eleventh Corps in the battle.

Over the years, I’ve learned not to add an extra n, making his name an active present tense verb, to Schimmelfennig. Though you might find more than a few cases where I’ve slipped and not corrected.  Furthermore, I’ve come to recognize my characterization of Schimmelfennig’s actions were but one of many collective misunderstandings (being kind… maybe collective ignorance?) about the actions at Gettysburg.  Indeed, our myopic view of that battle has caused no short list of misconceptions.  Schimmelfennig is one of many receiving short treatment, and outright insult, due to the intellectual white elephant, named Gettysburg, stuck to history’s charge.

Let us first be fair about Schimmelfennig at Gettysburg.  Certainly his July 1, 1863 on the field is not fodder for any great story about military prowess and proficiency.  Though it was not an example of bumbling incompetence.  Why was he in the Garlach back yard to start with?  Well it was because, unlike many of his peers and superiors, he was not emulating General Gates’ flight from Camden in search of “high ground” south of town.

And in the two years that followed that stay in the shed, Schimmelfennig demonstrated he was indeed a very capable field commander… in the oft overlooked Department of the South.  I’ve chronicled those activities during the Sesquicentennial… and will mention a few key points here.   Schimmelfennig first went to the department as part of Brigadier-General George Gordon’s 1st Division, Eleventh Corps, sent as reinforcements in late July 1863. The Brigadier-General led a successful demonstration in February 1864 on John’s Island; assumed responsibility for the front against Charleston through the spring and early summer 1864, directing several bombardments of Fort Sumter, and mounting demonstrations to aid the main operations elsewhere;  And played an important role in Foster’s July 1864 “demonstration” that nearly broke through to Charleston.   After returning from leave (recovering from malaria), Schimmelfennig was in command of the forces that captured Charleston on February 18, 1865.

Schimmelfennig readily adapted to situations and was innovative.  He successfully used of Hales rockets in an assault role and urged the troops to use rudimentary camouflage to disguise their activities.  To the many USCT regiments in his command, he offered fair and complementary leadership, advocating for pay equality.  The naval officers working with him, particularly Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, considered Schimmelfennig the better of the Army generals to work with at Charleston.

And we should remember, as if a name like Schimmelfennig would allow us to forget, that the general was not American-born.  Thus he faced much of the institutional bias within the Federal officer corps.  Schimmelfennig, a Prussian, was a veteran of the revolutions and wars of 1848.  Pulling on our historian sensibilities, Schimmelfennig was a bit of a military historian himself, providing context to the conflicts between Russia and Turkey in the years leading up to the Crimean War.

Oh, and I should add, Schimmelfennig “pioneered” the use of petrochemicals to ward off mosquitoes…. Um… by smearing kerosene over his exposed skin while on duty at Folly and Morris Islands.  Not exactly DEET, but you know.  Fine… he was a bit far short of a renaissance man.

At any rate, you get my point – Schimmelfennig’s service is done a dis-service by overly emphasizing those three days in July 1863… or even after weighing in his (and the Eleventh Corps) performance at Chancellorsville months before.  Maybe he was not among Grant’s Generals depicted in Balling’s painting, but Schimmelfennig served with distinction during the war.  He is at least deserving of more consideration than “a brigade commander at Gettysburg.”

That’s my proposed target for rehabilitation.  What’s yours?  And why?

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, final installment: Landscape lost… and found?

Let me wrap up the “tour” of Fort Johnson by bringing you forward 150 years.  I closed yesterday’s post with a satellite view of the fort as it appears today:

Yes, nothing stands out in the overhead view that would indicate there was once a massive complex of earthworks around that point jutting into the harbor.   The 20th century improvements to the site have apparently swept away those of previous centuries.  But on the ground there are a couple of structures that indicate some of the 18th and 19th century activity at Fort Johnson.   Visible from the satellite view are a couple of round structures that used to be cisterns:

Charleston 4 May 10 283

While it would be nice to think one of these is the same seen in photo FJ8, I don’t believe that to be the case.  I believe these are post-war.  These cisterns are too far inside the fort’s interior.

On the other hand, there is one structure that was definitely part of the Confederate Fort Johnson still standing today:

Charleston 4 May 10 273

This is the old powder magazine.  According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination documents, this structure dates back to 1765.  Yes… 1765, not 1865… making this of Colonial, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War interest.

And, we have a “sestercentennial” anniversary of sorts to observe here.  The fort itself was named for Sir Nathaniel Johnson, one of the colonial governors of South Carolina.  In the same year attributed for the magazine’s construction, the British stored stamps brought from England in Fort Johnson, much to the ire of the colonists.  In 1775, South Carolinians took over the fort and, in an act to be repeated some decades later, raised the state flag (for the first time according to the nomination).  The fort remained in caretaker status through the early 19th century.  During the War of 1812, state militia placed two batteries at the fort.  But not until the 1820s did the US Army begin work at the fort, as part of the overall improvement of Charleston’s defenses.  And, of course, readers are well aware of the fort’s role in the secession crisis of 1860 and the bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861.

Now the magazine itself is important to “fixing” the location of wartime (as in Civil War-time) Fort Johnson.  When the Confederates took over Fort Johnson, one of the improvements made was to incorporate the magazine into a bombproof.  The magazine remained buried until the 1960s.  At that time, the last major parts of the Confederate Fort Johnson was removed to reveal the Colonial-era magazine.

Knowing the history of that structure and using the magic of Google Earth, let me overlay one of the wartime surveys on the view today:

FtJohnsonOverlay1a

Let me stress, this is my “best guess.”  As such it is a work in progress to be improved and refined.  So please please take it as such… and a grain of salt.

The magazine’s location is not depicted with any annotation on the wartime survey.  But it should have been (logically) in the large bombproof on the interior of Fort Johnson.  The water battery stood on the north side of the Grice Marine Laboratory building.  The drive up to the point is roughly on line with the wartime road to Secessionville.  And from that I think the wharf’s location is at the circle at the end of the drive.

With that, let me be bold and throw in the diagram showing the photo perspectives:

FtJohnsonOverlay2

Looking closer:

FtJohnsonOverlay2a

Again, take it with a grain of salt.

While Fort Johnson has faded, with the exception of the old magazine, with time, the placename and history remain.  We might stand there today and look across the harbor to replicate some of the wartime views.  But the earthworks and massive artillery pieces are not there today (though some of those guns sit across the harbor at other locations).  Though we can use the photos and surveys from the end of the Civil War to “paint” in our minds what Fort Johnson did look like in 1865.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part XII: The Fort, the Wharf, and the harbor beyond

Our last stop on the virtual tour of Fort Johnson by way of wartime photos a view that promises the most interesting of all.

FJ10_BatteryRipley

This view looks across the interior of the fort to the north with several features to the front of the water battery in view.  The perspective is depicted on the diagram below, designated as FJ10.

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation2

NOTE: Going back to review the diagram for this post, I realized points FJ7 and FJ8 were a bit out of alignment.  Those points have been corrected on my diagrams.

Unfortunately, for all that promise this photo’s preserved state lets us down.  I’ve never seen a digital copy of this photo from either a high resolution print or the original glass plate (if one exists… I’d love to see it!).  So what we are left with are grainy glimpses of what would be an incredible view of Charleston harbor.  But let’s work with what we have.

To the front left we see the chimneys and “pavilion”:

FJ10_1

The points from which FJ7 an FJ9 were taken are in view, or at least close to the left side of this view.  We also see the pyramids of 10-inch projectiles and the stack of boxes containing 7-inch Brooke bolts.  Panning to the right of that stack of boxes, we see more of the familiar pyramids and also the cistern:

FJ10_2

The bucket is on the opposite side of the cistern, as compared to the view from FJ8.  But we get a better perspective to see it’s layout.  A large circular stone structure with a square wooden platform on top.

Still further to the right, we see the tent featured in several of the other photos:

FJ10_3

From this side, we see the rails used to anchor some of the lines.  We also see the tent has a wooden door, doorstep, and door frame.  In other words, further confirming this tent’s status as a deluxe model for its day.  Notice also to the extreme right the pyramid of bolts for the Brooke.

In all of those crops, we see the interior feature of the earthworks.  Several cuts seen in the works are the entrances to the gun galleries.  Looking to the first 10-inch Columbiad’s position, we see the “V” shaped cut.

FJ10_4

Looking beyond the works, just beyond, we see a the large wheels of a sling cart.  That should be the same sling cart seen at the edges of FJ4.

Extending out to the upper right of frame in that crop is a jetty which intersects at the fort’s wharf.   So let us pan slightly to the left and out to consider the wharf… to look across the harbor:

FJ10_5

The wharf itself is worthy of note.  A lot of history occurred at that wharf, when you consider the war from its first days right up to the end.  I cannot identify the steamer tied up there, given the resolution.  But it appears to be a typical light draft paddle wheel type.

What lies beyond is even more interesting.  Consider the perspective offered in relation to the harbor charts:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation4

As this looks right across to the north, the camera gave us a view of Fort Ripley, an artificial structure built by the Confederates during the war.  Somewhere in the fuzzy distance is Castle Pinckney.  A historic anchorage to say the least.  I’d be interested, if a better digital copy emerges at some point, if this photograph captured a glimpse of the obstructions in the harbor.  Such would add a visual to go with Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren’s written observations.

Since we are looking beyond the fort for the moment, let me mention the other vistas offered in these Fort Johnson photos:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation5

I’ve flipped FJ10 to yellow in this diagram.   FJ1, with angle of view in light blue, is representative of three photos looking across the front of Fort Johnson with Fort Sumter in the background.  And FJ4, with perspective indicated in green, looked back towards Charleston with a teasing glimpse of White Point.

This concludes the photos from this set.  Again let me emphasize the coverage offered by these photos:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation3

Fort Johnson was “front line” from the start of the secession crisis, throughout the war, and right up to the end of hostilities… well a couple months shy.  These works were a cornerstone to the Confederate defenses of Charleston.  Likewise Fort Johnson was an important tactical objective for the Federals.  And these photos provide us a magnificent examination of the fort to include structure, armament, and fixtures.  Scarcely an inch of the fort escaped the camera lens.

And this is important.  You see, Fort Johnson is sort of a “lost landscape” from the Civil War perspective:

As I mentioned at the start of this series, the surveys and photos taken at the end of the war serve us well when studying this site.  They show us “what was.”  That said, I’ll conclude this series in my next post by looking at the past and present views of Fort Johnson.

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part XI: All those projectiles stacked up in the fort… and a paper trail

On to our next stop in the virtual tour of Fort Johnson, by way of wartime photos, as we proceed through the interior.  Our next stop is this photograph:

FJ9_03122a

This photo was taken from the location FJ9, as indicated on the diagram below:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation2

We can pinpoint that location by referencing the tent, which is seen in several other photos:

FJ9_1

As pointed out in earlier photo analysis posts, this tent has amenities to comfort those stationed at the fort.

FJ9_3

The canvas sits snugly over the brick chimney.  And there is a platform to give the dwellers a proper floor above the sand.

And there is a railing to each side of the tent, providing an anchor point for the lines.  We’ve seen those railings on several other photos.  All providing us a three-dimensional appreciation for this tent.

FJ9_2

And notice the stack of 7-inch Brooke bolts, which we examined from another perspective in FJ6.

Looking behind the tent, we see the crib and the bombproof entrance mentioned in FJ8.

FJ9_4

Speaking of that previous post, I highlighted the line of the parapet of the fort.  Again we see that in play in FJ9:

FJ9_5

Also notice here the “cuts” for the entrance to the galleries where the guns are mounted.  The number of entrances helps place this photo’s perspective for the diagram.  The photographer was standing directly behind the first 10-inch columbiad’s entrance, looking towards the second columbiad position and then to the Brooke Rifle’s beyond.

Speaking of the columbiads, we see several piles of ammunition for those big weapons, all at the ready.

FJ9_6

Nothing extraordinary about these.  I’m pressed to say if these are shells or shot.  We don’t see holes for the fuse or other external features.  But then again, the shells, if empty, would have been stacked with the holes down to reduce moisture accumulation.  On the other hand, Fort Johnson’s big guns needed solid shot should the Federal monitors gain the harbor.

What we can see in these photos are fine surface details of these projectiles:

FJ9_7

Notice the casting seam running the circumference of some.  Also the spotty or streaked exterior:

FJ9_8

Colorize those in your mind. A mix of black paint and rust, perhaps?

One of the pyramids has fallen down.  It’s the one that lacks wood rails or braces, second from the camera:

FJ9_9

We’ve seen this from another perspective in FJ8:

FJ8_17

Not enough change in the stack to determine “before or after” in this case. But as you can tell, those projectiles made a handy seat.

Beyond the columbiad projectiles, there is a stack of ammunition crates:

FJ9_10

The resolution of the digital scan allows us to zoom down and read what is on those crates.  So what are they?

FJ9_14

Each apparently contains (or did contain) “1 42-pdr Rifle Bolt”.  The hand painted marking below that stencil is worth considering.  I think it indicates the weight of the projectile, packing material, and box.  It looks like a “Wt. 116lbs.”

The next box up in the stack also has marking to consider:

FJ9_13

I cannot make anything worthwhile out of these markings, except for what appears to be “Bolt” and “Wt. 115lbs.”

And where did these come from?   Next crate up tells us that:

FJ9_12

From Charleston Arsenal in 1864.

OK, want some more?  The crate on top tells us who was responsible for these bolts:

FJ9_11

The stencil was applied over a seam in the wood…

FJ9_11A

But I read that as “Cpt. Ingraham.”

Captain H. Laurens Ingrahm was an ordnance officer assigned to the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  He spent most of the war in Charleston, at the depot.  And there are ample receipts indicting Ingraham handled projectiles of this caliber:

FJ9_11Receipt2

Or in some cases, annotated as 7-inch rifle shells or bolts:

FJ9_11Receipt1

Always nice to get a positive name match.

There’s a lot more to the story of Ingraham and his war-time service.  But I’ll save that for another day.

For the moment, let me bring this installment to a close, looking up at at the flag over the fort:

FJ9_15

Tomorrow we will celebrate American Independence Day.  It will be the 239th anniversary of the event.  This photo takes us back 150 years to a time when Americans were looking forward to the first such Independence Day after four years of Civil War.  Those four years were in many ways the most destructive the United States has ever seen.  The flag, and thus the photo, speak to me today as a symbol of both the country’s independence but also wisdom in reconciliation following that war.

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part X: Structure of the fort from the interior

Our next stop on this virtual walk around Fort Johnson, by way of photos taken at the end of the Civil War, is a point which looks across the interior of the fort at the walls on the east side of the fort.

FJ8_35194u

The digital copy I am working from is a scan of a print and not one of the glass plate.  So you might see some distortions related to that type of media in the crops that follow.  For reference, this photo was taken with the camera standing at the point annotated as FJ8 on the diagram below:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation2

The angle of the camera is centered across to the angle of the fort’s wall where the epaulement on the left of the water battery joined the wall facing Morris Island.  This was a very important section, as it was the structure which prevented the Federals from skipping shot and shell into the back of the gun positions.

As related in the earlier discussion, photo FJ7 was taken from a point next to the ruins inside Fort Johnson.  Somewhere on the extreme right of this crop, next to the chimney:

FJ8_1

So imagine the camera tripod somewhere between the base of the chimney and the pile of bricks on the right:

FJ8_3

That said, I’m more interested in the limber conveniently parked in our view.  We see all the fixtures associated with this important piece of equipment.  We can see the joins in the wheel.  As well the dove-tail joins in the chest atop the limber.

Looking to the left of the limber, and through the pavilion of sorts built around the ruins, there appear to be a pile of logs or other rubbish.

FJ8_4

I find this interesting, as it brings to mind a “burn pit” or sorts.  Also note the mixed styles of vertical beams for the pavilion.  Some square beams.  Others are round poles. Sort of a “use what you have” structure. Oh, and notice the grass growing there.  Clearly this structure had been around a few years.

Looking at the roof of the pavilion, we see shingles.  And we also see bricks and wood laying on top:

FJ8_5

Compare the pavilion roof to that of the shed directly behind.  (And yes that is the shed seen in FJ7, earlier in our “walk”).

Looking above the shed, there are a couple vents sticking out of the fort’s wall:

FJ8_6

These vents tell us the wall wasn’t just a pile of earth, but was in fact built over a bombproof.  Panning back to the left, we see the entrance to the bombproof:

FJ8_7

This is something the photos tell us that the survey diagrams do not accurately, or shall I say fully, depict. The wall is drawn, but the details of this bombproof were below the level of detail offered by the surveys.  The bombproof was just to the side of the sectional diagrams offered by the Coastal Survey team.  Without the photos, we might not know it existed.

However one structure seen on the survey diagrams is right in the middle of the photo.  The fort’s cistern:

FJ8_2

Here’s a closer view of the platform that sits over the cistern:

FJ8_8

You must keep the three-dimensional aspect in mind here.  The stacked logs behind the cistern are in fact the “crib” mentioned in FJ7.  So there is some distance between the cistern platform and those logs.  Notice the large stones on which the platform rests.  And… particular attention to the bucket:

FJ8_15

There are shadows of the planks on the right. But directly under the bucket, the wood is discolored as if moist.  So we have a leaky bucket at Fort Johnson?  Or someone has been sloppy with the water?

Looking back for the moment, this view also provides a fine study of a sling cart:

FJ8_9

This cart has just been used for some work, as the chains are still laying across the tree.

If we look close beyond the wheels, we see the tent mentioned in FJ7.

FJ8_10

Notice the posts and rail on the left side of the tent. That rail is seen in photo FJ6.  See how this all pieces together nicely?

But what I like the most about this photo is that we have a couple of soldiers taking a break from their duties:

FJ8_11

A couple of USCT resting on the stacked ordnance. The projectiles are 10-inch caliber for the columbiads.  Note crumbling pyramid on the left… we’ll see that one again.  Also note the stacked boxes:

FJ8_12

We’ll see these from another perspective.  The markings are easier to read from that view. But for now just consider those faces and body language.  No martial pose.  Sort of an “Are you done with the photo?” attitude.  But as there is little blur, we might presume the photographer had requested they sit (or remain seated) at that point.  Perhaps a study in the fortunes of war… these USCT, former slaves, now tending a former Confederate fortification.

Also demonstrating that change in ownership is the United States flag over the ramparts:

FJ8_13

As related in the earlier posts, the particulars of the angle from which the flag is seen in the photos, we can determine the flag staff was on the outside face of the fort.

We think of these works in terms of “offense” and “defense.”  We saw the offense in the form of four heavy guns.  Now we need to asses the defensive side, particularly how it protected the vulnerable areas in the fort’s interior.

FJ8_14

As mentioned above, this portion of the wall was particularly important as it protected the gunners and some of the sensitive portions of the fort from the Federals on Morris Island.  But we don’t see Morris Island or anything beyond the fort’s walls.  That’s how high these were constructed to serve the defensive purpose.

One other particular we should note about these walls.  Look at the line across this view.  Or allow me to emphasize that with yellow lines:

FJ8_14a

See how level these are?  We have the main line (lower) that demonstrates the height of the main works.  Then there is a “crest” at the point of the works, which we’ve seen in other views, with erosion at the edges, which stood a few feet higher.  Again, these are details we can pull out from the surveys, but the photographs provide a three-dimensional verification.

Another component the photos bring to us is the reality of what the fort’s interior looked like…..

FJ8_16

And maybe what it smelled like?

Next stop… we are going to look at that ammunition stacked on the left of this view.

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part IX: Ruins, Tents, Sheds, Sandbags, and the Flag

Let’s step a little further into Fort Johnson for our next stop, as we virtually walk around the site.  The next photo, which I’ve labeled FJ7 for tracking purposes, is this view looking across the interior:

FJ7_03100u

I’ve plotted the location from which this photo was taken on the diagram below, keyed to FJ7:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation2

As mentioned in the earlier post, we can narrow down the perspective of this photo by referring to objects in view, and comparing those objects to the perspective of other photos.  For me the “pin” is the pyramid of bolts with the markings “A C” on the top three:

FJ7_1

In fact, we can see both of the bolt pyramids, flanking the entrance to the Brooke Rifle’s position, seen in FJ6:

FJ7_2

To the left of the pyramids, is a common-place tent.  One of thousands used during the Civil War.  Nothing in particular to make it particularly noteworthy.

FJ7_3

But notice all the extra support for this tent.  The railing around the sides of the tent serve as a second anchor. There’s a platform under the tent to elevate off the sand and provide dwellers some sort of proper floor.   Sort of reminds me of the tents setup by the Federals on Morris Island, in particular those inside former Battery Wagner… yes these:

Wagner2R

I’d say it is likely the tent in Fort Johnson was setup by the Federals.  Perhaps the same Federals – the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery – who maintained the tent seen over on Morris Island.  But under the rule of “form follows function” I’d submit the Confederates owning similar tents and with similar requirements, would have used the same arrangements… had there been such a need.

We will see this tent again in FJ9… we are not done with the minutia of tenting arrangements.

I doubt the photographer was worried about the tent when composing this photo.  What appears in the foreground seems to be the main subject:

FJ7_4

That is the crumbling bricks of a chimney and some wood walls.  The bricks appear to be just plain old bricks.  Nothing of great interest….

FJ7_5

But then again, this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and not “Bricks of the Civil War.”  So I encourage masonry experts from the internet to enlighten us as to any peculiarities worthy of study.  I would just point out that this chimney matches with the annotation “ruins of old fort” in the survey diagram.

The wood structures extending from the ruins are more interesting to me:

FJ7_6

Because these appear in a couple of photos, specifically FJ8 which I’ll walk through next, we have somewhat a three-dimensional appreciation of these.  Because these are rough hewn, I don’t think these were parts of the buildings that stood at Fort Johnson before the war.  These have the appearance of storage points, defined by low walls.

In the distance beyond these ruins, we see what appears to be a crib.

FJ7_7

There is a doorway defined on the left.  Logs were laid without any filler between.  I’d submit this was also some sort of defined storage space instead of quarters.  Otherwise we’d see some effort to seal off the walls and vestiges of overhead cover.

Behind the crib is the entrance to the 10-inch Columbiad Rifle’s position.

And to the right is another chimney.  These chimneys take me back to the 1861 observations from Fort Sumter:

FortJohnsonFeb1861a

18th century buildings invariably had chimneys.  And we see a lot of buildings in view.

To the right of the chimney is a clear view of the slope on the angle of Fort Johnson which faced Fort Sumter directly.

FJ7_8

In contrast to the other sections of the fort, this slope is deteriorating.  I don’t think that is simply a couple months of neglect.  Looks more as a longer term issue left behind by the previous tenants… the Confederates.  So to me the “story” in that crop is the labor shortage long reported by the Confederate engineers.  That would be the lack of soldiers detailed to do the work, as well as the lack of impressed, requisitioned labor in the form of slaves and free blacks.  A shortage I documented in numerous posts during the sesquicentennial.

To the right of that is another group of chimneys with a building right in the middle:

FJ7_9

I’m inclined to call this a shop or shed of some sort.  There’s a lot of “stuff” laying around the building.  None of which is in focus well enough to give much detail.  Sad, because there were probably some interesting items for discussion laying about there.  Instead, we just have the clapboard building with a tarp over the roof.

Look above the building and we see the United States flag proudly waiving in the breeze coming off the ocean:

FJ7_10

This allows us to locate the flagstaff, or at least the flagstaff in use by the Federals in the spring of 1865, at Fort Johnson.  Given the perspective of FJ7 and FJ5 of the fort’s exterior

FJ5_6

The lines match up to place the flagstaff on the forward wall of Fort Johnson facing Morris Island.  And the photographer was keen to include the United States flag over these recently captured Confederate works.

As is my habit, let me turn to the extreme foreground in closing this “stop” of the tour:

FJ7_11

Not grass, but a lot of bricks and broken sandbags.  I cannot help but think of the thousands of sandbags used around Charleston, by both sides, during the four long years of conflict.