Category Archives: Charleston SC

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:


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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:


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


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:


We’ve seen this from another perspective in FJ8:


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:


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


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:


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:


From Charleston Arsenal in 1864.

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


The stencil was applied over a seam in the wood…


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:


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


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:


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.


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:


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:


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


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.


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:


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:


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:


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:


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


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:


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:


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.


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:


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:


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:


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.


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:


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…..


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:


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


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:


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


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.


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:


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:


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….


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:


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.


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:


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.


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:


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:


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


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:


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.