Category Archives: Fredericksburg

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Connecticut, California, and Delaware Volunteer Batteries

The majority of artillery batteries employed by Federal forces during the Civil War were volunteer formations from the states.  Indeed, with the initial call for troops, there were more volunteer artillery batteries than needed.  Because the states were responsible for organizing and in some cases equipping these batteries, there were many variations – organization, training, equipage, and others.  Most of the “workable” variations were flushed out by the end of 1862.  As I’ve discussed before, senior artillerists focused on organization and training as early as the summer of 1861.  But the Federals were stuck with some of these variations, for better or worse.

From the administrative perspective, the naming of units is perhaps the most annoying to the researcher.  Some states conformed to the same conventions as the regulars – regiments with lettered batteries.  Others simply went with an ordinal number for each battery (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.).  Some states, New York for instance, used both. There were separate regimental systems for “light” and “heavy” artillery.  And… and… some states just seemed to adopt a “whatever” approach.  Thus the volunteer batteries were often cited by different names in reports.  Add to the confusion the practice of calling the battery by the commander’s name (or mustering officer’s name) in the field.  Makes one glad the alternate designations section appears in each OR volume.

That aside, there were also interesting variations with the equipment used by these volunteer batteries.  We’ll see more hand-written column headers as we proceed.  And those lead to some interesting research trails to say the least.

That preface out of the way, let us look at summary statements, alphabetically by state.  The first being from the states of Connecticut, California, and Delaware… Um… did I say alphabetical?  I guess the ordnance clerks winged it:


Over to the far right, we see a written column – “Siege Gun 1861, 4.5 in bore, …..”  I don’t know what the last line in that nomenclature is, but know that the weapon cited was one of my favorite – the 4.5-inch rifle.

So let’s break down the list starting with Connecticut.  Note the first two are the “light” batteries for field duty (see above about the different regimental systems here… more confusion for the light readers!).  The third is a battery from the “heavies” assigned for field duty:

  • 1st Battery, Connecticut Field [Light] Artillery – Beaufort, South Carolina with two 12-pdr field howitzers and six 3.80-inch James rifles.  The 1st Battery was assigned to the Department of the South.
  • 2nd Battery, Connecticut Field [Light] Artillery – Occoquan, Virginia with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.80-inch James rifles.  Officially part of the Military District of Washington, the 2nd Battery was assigned to duty at Wolf Run Shoals.
  • Battery B, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery – Falmouth, Virginia with four 4.5-inch siege rifles.  This battery was assigned to the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.

And of course that last battery’s duty is well known.  I will venture to guess you’ve seen those guns before:

No mention in the summary of Battery M, 1st Connecticut Heavy, which was also assigned to the reserves at this time.  The two batteries were for all intents combined during their service in the field.

Moving out to California, one line is offered.  But it is not for a battery, but rather for 3rd California Volunteer Infantry having “stores in charge” that included two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  These were at Camp Douglas, Utah.  Keep in mind that the 3rd US Artillery had men assigned out west without artillery.  Yet we have the 3rd California Infantry with artillery without artillerists.  Go figure.

The last in this set that I’ve carved out of the summary is designated 1st Battery Delaware Artillery, Field.  That battery was sometimes known as Nield’s Independent Artillery, for it’s commander Benjamin Nields.  At the reporting date, it was stationed at Camp Barry in the District of Columbia.  They reported two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3-inch steel rifles.  Wait… 3-inch steel rifles?  Perhaps some of those Singer, Nimick, and Company rifles?  Or one of the even more “exotic” weapons of more experimental nature?  I doubt either to be the case.  Looking forward a bit, a June 1864 report from the Official Records, when the battery was assigned to the Department of the Gulf, indicated four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles and two 12-pdr Napoleons:


Yes, enough time transpired between the two data points that guns may have changed out.  But I would submit it is more likely the wrong column was used in the summary due to a mistake at some point in the data gathering.

We’ve seen a lot of interesting entries from the first page of the summary.  The ammunition pages offer a few more.  However the smoothbore entries are as one might expect:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 12-pdr field howitzer projectiles – 142 shells, 254 case, and 72 canister.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shells, 160 case, and 31 canister.
  • 3rd California Infantry: 6-pdr field gun projectiles – 112 shot, 106 case, and 112 canister; 12-pdr mountain howitzer – 144 shell, 120 case, and 144 canister.
  • 1st Delaware: 12-pdr field howitzer – 26 shell, 54 case, and 20 canister.

For the rifled projectiles, we start with Hotchkiss patent:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch projectiles – 120 Hotchkiss percussion shell, 120 Hotchkiss fuse shell, and 518 Hotchkiss bullet shell (case).
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 70 Hotchkiss fuse shell and Hotchkiss 168 bullet shell (case).
  • 1st Delaware:  3-inch projectiles – 77 Hotchkiss canister and 340 Hotchkiss bullet shell (case).

Note the quantities for the 1st Connecticut.

As with yesterday’s discussion with the Parrott projectiles, keep in mind that different inventors modified their projectiles to fit in their competitor’s cannons.  Here we see Hotchkiss projectiles that fit into the James rifles.  More Hotchkiss  patent and the James Patent on the next page:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 200 Hotchkiss canister and 235 James canister.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 50 (or 80?) Hotchkiss canister.

And rounding out the rifled projectiles, those of the Schenkl patent:


  • 1st Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 1,078 Schenkl shells.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 6-pdr 3.80-inch – 316 Schenkl shells.
  • 1st Delaware: 3-inch – 94 Schenkl shells.

Notice the variety of patent-types within the two Connecticut batteries.  Recall that mixing such types caused problems in the field.

And of course the quantities.  All told the 1st Connecticut Light had 2271 projectiles.  Their friends in the 2nd had but 604 (or 634, if I misread the one line).  At some point I will pull the numbers and make observations about the “load-out” for a battery, circa December 1862.  I suspect the 1st Connecticut will break the bell curve.

Last note about the projectiles – there are no entries for 4.5-inch to cover the heavy Connecticut battery.  So we are left not quantifying how well stocked (or not) those guns on the Rappahannock really were.

And finally, the small arms:


The handwritten column headers deserve some clarification.  From left to right, I read these as “Carbine”, “Springfield, Cal .58”, and <something> “Cal .58”.  Your guess is as good as mine about the third column.  It will come into play with the next installment, as for now there were no entries there for Connecticut, California, or Delaware.  Also note, further to the right, that the revolver calibers are replaced with “Army” and “Navy” :

  • 1st Connecticut Light: 135 Navy revolvers, 13 cavalry sabers, 46 horse artillery sabers, and 86 foot artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light: 20 Navy revolvers, 122 horse artillery sabers.
  • 1st Delaware: 24 Army revolvers and 142 horse artillery sabers.

No entries for the California infantry, presuming those small arms were carried against a regimental return elsewhere.

Again, roll the numbers around.  Nearly every man in the 2nd Connecticut and 1st Delaware had their own swords, though pistols were in shorter supply.  However, the 1st Connecticut, stationed in South Carolina, must have issued a revolver and sword for every man!

150 Years Ago: Hunt prefers the big siege rifles

One-hundred and fifty years ago (and one day, as I had other pressing news to report yesterday), Brigadier General Henry Hunt offered a report on the effectiveness of the heavy rifles employed at Fredericksburg the previous week.

I have the honor to report that the practice in the recent battle with the 20-pounder Parrott was in some respects very unsatisfactory, from the imperfection of the projectiles, which, notwithstanding the pains which have been taken to procure reliable ones, are nearly as dangerous to our own troops as to the enemy, if the former are in advance of our lines. In addition, the guns themselves are unsafe. At Antietam two of the twenty-two, and on the 13th instant another, were disabled by the bursting of the gun near the muzzle. The gun is too heavy for field purposes, and can be used with advantage only as batteries of position. For the last purpose it is inferior to the 4½-inch siege-gun, which requires the same number of horses and only half the number of drivers. I therefore respectfully propose that, as the allowance of artillery in this army is small, the 20-pounders be turned in to the Ordnance Department as soon as they can be replaced by light field guns,. and that a portion of the siege train (sixteen guns) be organized to accompany the force in the field for service in such positions as require heavy guns, and, in case of a siege, to form a part of the train. Seven such guns are now here. Twelve were asked for, and it is a misfortune they were not furnished. Two companies of the First Connecticut Artillery are serving with the guns now here. I propose that two other companies of that regiment be detailed, each company be organized as a battery with four guns, the whole to be placed under the command of a field officer of the regiment, and attached to the Reserve Artillery.

Ever since the Peninsula Campaign, the Army of the Potomac included a substantial siege train.  Recall the varied set of guns used at Malvern Hill.  By December 1862, the Army’s artillery park was more uniform in composition.  The field batteries assigned to the infantry formations were by and large 10-pdr Parrotts, 3-inch rifles, and 12-pdr Napoleons – although a few batteries of 12-pdr howitzers remained.  The siege batteries used, as alluded to in Hunt’s report, 20-pdr Parrotts and 4.5-inch Ordnance Rifles.

Lending weight to Hunt’s comment about the weight, the 20-pdr Parrott rifle was the heaviest weapon mounted on a field carriage.  On its modified 32-pdr howitzer carriage, a 20-pdr Parrott on the march – with limber, ammunition chest, gun, and carriage – weighed 4405 pounds.  The caisson with three more chests weighed about an other 4000 pounds.

On the other hand, the 4.5-inch rifle rode on a siege carriage.  With limber (no ammunition chest) the 4.5-inch rifle traveled weighing around 7300 pounds.  But before you go second guessing Hunt, the 4.5-inch rifle’s ammunition traveled in separate wagons, in loads that were better configured for transport.

The difference here is “field carriage” verses “siege carriage.”  The 20-pdr on field carriage arrangement allowed the gun to go into action from the march.  The 4.5-inch rifle required more time to prepare for action.  But Hunt felt the 20-pdrs “ready for action” configuration was of little value as the gun was too difficult to maneuver into action.  On the other hand, the weight of the 4.5-inch rifle was of less consequence as it was employed with more deliberation.

Regardless if you follow that logic, the greater concern with the 20-pdr was, as with all the Parrotts, the tendency to burst.  Three failed guns in two actions.  That is compared to the near flawless record of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  The 4.5-inch rifle had not seen extensive service to this point, but would enjoy an air of reliability – at least for the moment.  Even later in the war main complaint against the bigger rifle was vent erosion, not bursting.

Despite Hunt’s requests, seven months later the Army of the Potomac still marched with a mix of 20-pdr Parrotts and 4.5-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Ironically, given Hunt’s concerns about mobility, it was the 20-pdrs of Taft’s 5th New York Battery on Cemetery Hill on July 3, not the 4.5-inch rifles of the 1st Connecticut.  The bigger guns were held back because they took up too much valuable space on the roads to Gettysburg.

(Citation is from OR, Series I, Volume 21, Serial 31, pages 189-90.)

Elevating Gear for your 30-pdr Parrott

I’ve used this photo a few times now. It is a 30-pdr Parrott rifle at Lee’s Hill at Fredericksburg.

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30-pdr Parrott, registry #341, on Lee’s Hill at Fredericksburg

The carriage is a metal reproduction, replacing a wooden carriage which had badly deteriorated (and left the 4200 pound gun in an unsafe condition). The carriage is a close copy of a siege carriage. You see the rest or cradle on the stock and the traveling trunnions on the cheeks, which were used to situate the gun to the rear of the carriage while on the move. Notice also the carriage lacks the loop at the base of the trail, seen on the smaller field gun carriages. But there’s another fine point of detail to note about this carriage mounting.

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Side view of the Parrott showing the elevating screw and gear

This Parrott carriage lacks the standard elevating screw and four handled head that is seen on most reproductions. Instead there is a long threaded screw, offset to the left, and a single crank.

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Elevating gear on 30pdr Parrott

Notice how the screw is fixed with a single bolt to an eye on the carriage trail (bottom of this view). The single arm and handle at the top of the screw provides clearance for the gunner. The screw rotates through a brass nut. That nut has a pin fitting directly into a piercing within the knob of the gun.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 053

Right side of Parrott Breech

Very simple in concept. Turn the elevating screw and the travel of the nut will impart elevation on the gun. The Navy and Army used elevating screws of this type on heavy guns. A good example of such wartime use is this photo from the Washington defenses.

The Parrot rifle on the left has the single handle elevating gear offset to the left.

Just a fine detail point to consider on your next visit to Fredericksburg. My contribution to the “how did it work” file for the day.

150 Years Ago: At Fredericksburg, one shot clears the tannery

The battle of Fredericksburg might have “effectively” ended with the stalled assaults on Marye’s Heights at sunset on December 13, 1862. But the Federals continued to occupy the city and ground in front of Marye’s Heights for two more days.  The battle lines exchanged fire throughout those days. Among the shots fired on December 15 came from 24-pdr field howitzers in Captain George V. Moody’s Madison Light Artillery (Louisiana). Lieutenant Colonel E. Porter Alexander directed those shots.

I’ve cited this before when discussing the use of the heavy howitzers during the war, but as this matches nicely with the 150th narrative, allow me to recite it once more –

… Monday morning was again thick and hazy, but when the sun was about an hour high the nest of sharpshooters in the tanyard announced their ability to see by opening a very lively fusillade. I happened to be nearby, & I at once determined to try & route them. But the building was so nestled in the hollow, & hidden by intervening low hills & trees, that only one gun, one of Moody’s 24 pr. howitzers, could even the peak of its roof be seen. But I knew that if I only skimmed the top of the low intervening hill the shell would curve downward & probably get low enough for the loop holes. The howitzer was on the south of the Plank Road & some 400 yards off. I got the line of the obnoxious corner of the roof & sighted in that line, & then fixed an elevation which I thought would just carry the shell over the low hill, aiming myself, & taking several minutes to get all exact. Then I ordered fire. Standing behind we could see the shell almost brush the grass, as it curved over the hill, & then we heard her strike & explode. At once there came a cheer from our picket line in front of the hill, & presently there came running up an exited fellow to tell us. He called out as he came – “That got ’em! That got ’em! You can hear them just a hollering & a groaning in there.”

Alexander’s detailed description offers a ready example of the advantages of the howitzers’ low velocity and high angle trajectory when applied to the battlefield. The 24-pdrs were designed with this type of fire effects in mind. Given the reference about distances and the time taken to set the shot, I would assume Alexander had good measures of the field and was able to properly set the fuse for just the right time.

Petersburg 333

24-pdr Field Howitzer at Petersburg

Alexander wasn’t done with Moody’s big howitzers that day. And again, he used the ballistic capabilities of the howitzers to achieve an effect:

… we discovered that quite a little body of the enemy were lying down in a shallow depression about 400 yards from another of Moody’s 24 pr. howitzers, which were my favorite guns. Partly to make the enemy unhappy, & partly to show my companions how effective the gun was, I carefully aimed & fired four shrapnel (each of which contained 175 musket balls) so as to burst each one about 15 feet above the ground & about as many yards in front of the little hollow. While we could not see into it, the bullets & fragment would probe it easily. From the very first shot, we saw, at the far end, men helping three wounded to get out to the rear, but our infantry sharpshooters opened on them & ran them back. The next day, [Lieutenant Colonel Briscoe G.] Baldwin & [Captain Samuel] Johnston visited the spot together to study the effects, & told me that they found 13 dead which they were sure from the fresh wounds & blood were killed by those four shrapnel.

Yes, a remarkable demonstration of the effectiveness of Alexander’s “favorite guns.” Part of me visits this passage and takes hold of the details about how the weapon was used. Certainly a ready example of a “textbook” employment of the howitzer. Yet another part of me reads this and recoils at the detachment of men in combat from the normal moral conventions.

Was this war? Or was this murder?


Citations from Edward Porter Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander, edited by Gary Gallegher, University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Pages 181-2. The account, written after the war, generally follows with the shorter description of the activity of that day offered by Alexander in his official report (OR, Series I, Volume 21, Serial 31, pages 576-7) written in December 1862. However, in the wartime account Alexander states 12-pdr guns fired on the troops in front of Marye’s Heights.

150 Years Ago: Fredericksburg

This morning I am off to Fredericksburg for sesquicentennial events. As with Antietam, I hope to post updates “live” from the field. As a starter, here are some images from Tuesday’s events.


A moment in camp


Federal artillery “bombards” Fredericksburg


And again!


Historian Frank O’Reilly at the Upper Crossing site


Middle Crossing Site from the Fredericksburg Docks


400 feet across – Upper Crossing site


Caroline and Hawke Street

Looking up Lafayette Boulevard.

Half of today’s crowd. The other half went forward with Frank O’Reilly.


Today Kenmore Avenue. 1862 – a millrace canal.


The attackers near the stone wall. Looking up Mercer Street.


Closer they advance.


The Sunken Road 150 years later.


Looking back at that costly last 150 yards.


127th Pennsylvania – twice into battle at Fredericksburg.


The Fifth Corps.


Afternoon tour at Prospect Hill. Big crowd. Amplifier needed.


Our long line moves to a point near Meade’s Pyramid.


The rangers had us move through the low ground to “experience” what Federal soldiers did 150 years ago. This view looks back into those woods.



In the footsteps of Humphrey’s Division.



Humphrey’s Division reaches the millrace.


The Rowe House is a witness to the battle.


Last images as I look back 150 years.



Fredericksburg Battlefield by Cannons

As I’ve done thus far throughout the sesquicentennial, allow me to offer a “tour” of the Fredericksburg battlefield’s cannons.

Fredericksburg battlefield features a small, but varied, set of guns. The largest are four 32-pdr seacoast guns in the National Cemetery, serving as memorials. As for those in the “field” there are two impressive 4.5-inch Rifles at Chatham.

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Being on Chatham Heights, a visitor can take license and say they represent the guns that bombarded the city during the battle. But these are the type seen in wartime photos entrenched upon the heights in 1863.

In a position to “duel” with these are two 30-pdr Parrotts on the other side of the Rappanannock.

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In between are 3-inch Ordnance, 3-inch Confederate, 12-pdr Confederate Napoleons, and several James Rifles. I’ve included an iron 6-pdr gun located downtown. Although it is not setup on a battlefield display, it is on the battlefield… as is this fellow…

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… that I must leave off the list.

150 years ago: Canvas or wood for your pontoons?

As our attention turns to Fredericksburg, the topic of pontoon bridges enters the sesquicentennial threads.  I’ve discussed the nature of constructing these bridges in detail, with respect to those placed at Edwards Ferry in June 1863.  We think of the wooden pontoons most often within the context of the Civil War.  Big wooden boats like the ones on display at Chatham overlooking Fredericksburg today.

Chatham 13 Dec 014

These were not the only type of boats used for pontoon bridging during the Civil War.  One alternative was a frame, either wood or iron, with either canvas or rubber covering.  An example of the frame with canvas type appears in a wartime photo taken at Rappanannock Station in 1864.

Almost looks like it was setup on some display just for the benefit of the photographer!

The canvas boat was of course lighter and easily broken down for transport.  But there were some down sides to canvas boats.  A message from Major (or was it Brigadier?) General Horatio Wright to Major General William Rosecrans in early December 1862.

I’m pulling this message out of context, so some background is in order.  Considering his orders and line of march, Rosecrans decided the Army of the Cumberland, or Fourteenth Corps if you prefer, needed a pontoon bridge set.  He figured on about 700 feet of bridging.  Authorities in Washington approved, and directed Rosecrans to order the equipment from Cincinnati, where engineers in General Wright’s Department of the Ohio could supervise the outfitting.  There was some back and forth about the type of boat to issue – wood or canvas.  The preference of the Army’s engineers is apparent in Wright’s response on December 7, 1862:

Canvas boats are not so reliable as wooden ones. Unless great care is used, canvas necessarily mildews and then soon rots. If used by soldiers for shelter, it would soon become damaged for boats. It is not entirely water-proof, even after it lies in the water some time. It is doubtful whether canvas boats are as reliable in ordinarily rapid streams as wooden ones, especially if the bridge’s required to serve a long time, as on a line of communication. Canvas is more easily punctured and worn by floating bodies, and requires to be taken out of the bridge to be well repaired. It takes more time to unload, put together, and launch a canvas boat than to simply unload and launch a wooden one. According to Duane’s book, a canvas boat train requires as many wagons to transport it as a wooden one. Wooden boats can be produced here as rapidly as canvas ones, and are rapidly calked and repaired when leaky, provided they are made of seasoned timber. Wooden boats are much better for use as boats, or to combine into rafts. Unless for a very short campaign, with careful and experienced engineer troops, I would advise the adoption of wooden boats. Buell’s pontoons were made of green lumber. We can get seasoned now. Shall I order wood or canvas?

The reference of “Duane’s book” is, I believe, to the Manual for Engineer Troops by Captain James C. Duane.  As an instructor on various engineering topics, Duane had the opportunity to research pontoon bridging, compare to practices in other armies, and experiment with different materials.

I could probably pull another dozen pages from the manuals and wartime accounts to further illustrate respective advantages and disadvantages of wooden boats vs. canvas frame boats for pontoons.  Wood, at least seasoned wood, was more durable and required less maintenance.  Not mentioned, but cited in the engineering manuals of the day, wood stood up well against rocky stream bottoms, where canvas ripped.

With respect to the number of wagons needed, there’s a lot of other factors that were not considered with Wright’s response.  Duane indicated a wooden boat, or “French style,” pontoon train required 34 wagons each loaded with a pontoon boat, seven balks, numerous lashings, oars, boat-hooks, and an anchor.  On the other hand the canvas train required 29 wagons each with a canvas pontoon, trestle, with balks, oars, and boat-hooks.  Notice the canvas boat wagons included some, if not all, the superstructure of the bridge.  The wooden pontoons, being fixed size and structure, were much more bulky on the road.  The wagon carrying the canvas pontoon was smaller and lighter.

Wartime experience called upon some reassessment in regards to the preference of materials.  In 1869, a board of engineers submitted a new manual covering bridging operations (eventually approved and published in 1870).  The board noted:

With regard to the canvas boat, it soon became apparent that it was precisely what we required for our advance-guard train. It is light, simple, strong, easily repaired, and when packed can safely be transported with the superstructure of the bridge as rapidly as any column of troops can move.

The board of officers submitting this manual included Duane.  The board also noted that the canvas bridging also worked well for expedient ferry operations.

I’ve found no direct record to confirm the type of pontoons delivered to Rosecrans.  The Army of the Cumberland used both types at times later in the war, for what it is worth.

But turning back to the Eastern Theater for a moment – what if  Major General Burnside’s pontoon train had included a set of these “advance guard” canvas pontoon boats?