The Folwell letters, June 29, 1863: “Co. I is rear guard of the grand army”

On June 28, 1863, Captain William W. Folwell lamented on the wait for the rear guard to cross the bridges at Edwards Ferry, as his command prepared to remove those pontoons.  June 29th found his company BEING the rear guard of the Army of the Potomac.  This was a two letter day for Folwell.  The first was posted in the morning:

Buckeys Town, Md.,

June 29th, 1863, 8 A.M.

Here I am.  Co. I is rear guard of the grand army.  We got to camp at 3 A.M. Got 3 hours good sleep and a good breakfast.  We march to Union Town.  We are well.

Just a short note. But some details that allow us to validate the movements of the engineers.  Aside from the pontoons sent back down the C&O Canal, the remainder of the detachment (parts of the Regulars and the 50th New York Engineers) was sent on a march toward Frederick, Maryland.  The march, which must have begun around mid-day on the 28th, took the detachment of engineers past Poolesville, over the Monocacy, and up to Buckeystown.

And this was the trail end of the Army of the Potomac.

Later in the day, Folwell had time to write another letter home:

Camp Engineer Brigade,

Frederick, Md.,

June 29th 1863.

I wrote you a hasty note in pencil this morning, which I mailed at Buckeystown, while marching hither.  Two miles this side of that place, we came up on the 5th Corps, which followed our trains.  I was then relieved of my duties as Provost Marshall.  I had some very active duty hurrying up some 11th Corps stragglers.  One fellow I had to handle roughly, and finally set two men with fixed bayonets to drive him on.  I was very glad to be relieved. Communication is cut off between us and Washington, the R.R. having been damaged at Mt. Airey Station some miles below here.  I presume, therefore, that said note will be slow in reaching you, as also this is likely to be.  Still, I wish to do all I can to keep you advised of my whereabouts and welfare.  We halted here at noon today, and pitched camp.  In the morning at two o’clock, we march, probably towards [Middleburg], the present H.Q. of the A.P. The news is scarce and uncertain.  Gen. Hooker is relieved and Gen. Meade is in his shoes.  It is said that both Reynolds and Sedgwick declined the appointment.  Co. I is rear guard again tomorrow, and no knapsacks will be carried.  Good Night.

Interesting, if the identification is correct, that Eleventh Corps soldiers would still be straggling on June 29.  That corps had crossed Edwards Ferry first, back on June 25.  There is, of course, a world of possibilities… to include mistaken identification.

I do find interesting that Folwell mentions a break in communications, but no problem with supply or delayed movements.  As I mentioned in the previous installment, Stuart’s cavalry moved through as a fast summer thunderstorm – there and gone.  Of course, Folwell was not getting all the news and knew nothing of the wagon train captured outside of Rockville the previous day.

At the end of the march, the engineers closed on Fifth Corps.  And the anticipated march for the following day was towards the Pipe Creek line. However, while the news of Meade’s assumption of command was correct, the rumors as to alternate commanders was not.

At this stage of the campaign, we leave the operations of the Potomac Crossing and the campaign transitions into the movements that would take the army to Gettysburg.  Folwell’s Company I was not to be in that fight.  Rather, they were placed back with their pontoons.  While not specific to my “lane” on Edwards Ferry, I’ll continue to post Folwell’s letters, so we may hear all of the engineer’s story.

(Citations from William Watts Folwell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 423-24 (pages 429-30 of scanned copy))

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 4th Regiment, US Regulars

Looking at the summary for the 4th US Artillery for the 2nd quarter (ending in June) of 1863, we see ten of the twelve batteries posted returns (or more accurately, had their returns recorded by the Ordnance Department… assuming nothing here).  Of those ten returns, all but one was received by the end of 1863.  But only six offered a location for the battery as of the time of report.  Is this the impact of active campaigning on the administrative reports?  Let’s see….

0168_1_Snip_4thUS

Looking at these lines by battery:

  • Battery A – Reported at Sulphur Springs, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The location is obviously reflecting the date when the report was actually filed, not where the battery was located on June 30 of the year.  The battery was, on that date, marching through Maryland.  Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing had but three more days in command of this battery, supporting Second Corps.
  • Battery B – No location given, but with  six 12-pdr Napoleons. Of course we know this battery, led by Lieutenant James Stewart, was supporting First Corps and was camped south of Gettysburg on June 30.  And of course, the following day the battery would perform admirably on the field.
  • Battery C – And no location given, but also reporting six 12-pdr Napoleons. In late May the battery transferred to the 1st Brigade (Regular), Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.  Lieutenant Evan Thomas remained in command.  That brigade was moving up from Frederick, Maryland on June 30.
  • Battery D – Yet another without location given, though with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. This battery remained at Suffolk, Virginia, assigned to First Division, Seventh Corps and commanded by Captain Frederick M. Follett.
  • Battery E – No report.  Lieutenant  Samuel S. Elder’s was in the First Brigade, Horse Artillery assigned to the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles assigned.  Another battery with a location “on the march” and destined for the fields of Gettysburg.
  • Battery F – Reporting at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Yes, another reflecting the “as of report” location.  Lieutenant Sylvanus T. Rugg commanded this battery in support of Twelfth Corps.  We can place them, also, among the columns moving through Maryland and southern Pennsylvania on June 30.
  • Battery G – No report given for this quarter.  Battery G was assigned to the Eleventh Corps artillery earlier in June.  The battery location as of June 30 was on the road between Emmitsburg and Gettysburg, with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Marcus Miller went on recruiting duty and was replaced, briefly, by Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson.  But Wilkeson would be mortally wounded on July 1 while leading his battery at a poor position on what became known as Barlow’s Knoll.  Lieutenant Eugene A. Bancroft succeeded in command.
  • Battery H – At Murfreesboro, Tennessee with four 12-pdr field howitzers. Lieutenant Harry C. Cushing in command of this battery, assigned to Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.
  • Battery I – Belle Creek, Kentucky with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Frank G. Smith commanded this battery, supporting Third Division, Fourteenth Corps.  the location is a question mark.  The battery was, at this time, with its parent formation around Murfreesboro.
  • Battery K – Bridgeport, Maryland with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Another location which reflects the later reporting date.  This battery, under Lieutenant Francis W. Seeley, was supporting Third Corps and was around Emmitsburg on June 30. Seeley was wounded on July 2 (so badly that he later resigned his commission), and Lieutenant Robert James assumed command.
  • Battery L – No location offered, but with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Under command of Captain R. V. W. Howard, and assigned to First Division, Seventh Corps, in Southeast Virginia. .
  • Battery M – At Murfreesboro, Tennessee reporting four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 24-pdr field howitzers.  Lieutenant Francis L. D. Russell remained in command and the battery remained with Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.  Of note, the battery upgraded from field howitzers to Napoleons.

So comparing what we know about each particular battery’s service to what was recorded administratively, there does appear to have been some disruption of paperwork at the end of the second quarter.  Though I don’t think anyone would fault the officers for inattention to cyclic reports at this interval of the war.  They were more concerned with the real business of artillery.

Turning to the ammunition pages, we start with the smoothbore columns… noting the need to extend those to support the “big howitzers” of Battery M:

0170_1_Snip_4thUS

A lot of Napoleons and howitzers, so a lot to discuss:

  • Battery B: 360 shot, 236 shell, and 164 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons. However, a tally of 452 case for 6-pdr field guns is offered.  I think this is a transcription error and should correctly be interpreted as case for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C: 163 shot, 186 shell, 388 case, and 196 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F: 288 shot, 96 shell, 388 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H: 219 shell, 342 case, and 146 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery I: 192 shot, 62 shell, 192 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery K: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery L: 96 shot, 32 shell, 96 case, and 33 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery M: 138 shot, 64 shell, 212 case, and 128 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons; 72 shell, 72 case, and 48 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.

With so many of these batteries seeing action at Gettysburg, we might seek some insight as to what was on hand for the battle and what was used.  But yet again we must exercise some caution with making conjectures. There is an “as of date” along with a “reporting date” and other variables to consider here.  More than a grain of salt is required, in my opinion.

Moving to ammunition for the rifled guns, we start with Hotchkiss:

0170_2_Snip_4thUS

Two batteries reporting:

  • Battery A: 120 canister, 36 percussion shell,  319 fuse shell, and 673 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery D:  83 canister, 100 percussion shell, 542 fuse shell, and 475 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

As there was no record for Battery E, we are left to wonder what Elder’s gunners had on hand.

Moving to the next page, we can focus specifically on the Parrott columns:

0171_1A_Snip_4thUS

Just that one battery at Suffolk to consider here:

  • Battery L: 474 shell, 340(?) case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

None of these batteries reported Schenkl projectiles on hand.  So we can move to the small arms:

0171_3_Snip_4thUS

By battery:

  • Battery A: Sixteen Army revolvers and twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Twenty-two Navy revolvers and seven cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: Eighteen (?) Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Nine Army revolvers and 135 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirteen Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Army revolvers, six cavalry sabers, and fifteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery I: Three Army revolvers and forty-five cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Twelve Army revolves, one Navy revolver, and thirteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: Fourteen Army revolvers and 117 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: Eight Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.

With so many of these batteries seeing action in the opening days of July, the figures are, again, tempting.  While trivial of sorts, the number of small arms reflect weapons of war used by the batteries.  In some cases, we might seek precision as to the use of those weapons.  For instance, when Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing drew his revolver to order his men back to their posts on July 3, was that an Army revolver, as was reported with his battery?  Colt or Remington? Or something the Lieutenant had come by outside of official channels?

“… forced to halt and lie down by the tornado of canister…”: Stewart’s Battery at Gettysburg

Last summer, Civil War Trust re-opened the Thompson House site at Gettysburg, better known as Lee’s Headquarters.  The Trust’s site details the work from acquisition through restoration with sliding navigation and videos.  If you are not familiar with this story, the Trust finalized the purchase of the grounds in January 2015.  The restoration involved the demolition of non-historic structures, removal of a parking lot, and renovation of the historic structure.  We might simply say this was a “rollback of the asphalt” type preservation effort.  But there’s a little more.  The effort effectively restored a portion of the viewshed.  And given the prominence of the house in relation to the battle, as well as featuring in photographs from the war and immediate post-war period, the restoration aids in interpretation.

However, from my perspective the most anticipated change was the return of cannons to a location adjacent to the Thompson House.  Speaking here of the position for Battery B, 4th US, commanded by Lieutenant James Stewart at the time of the battle. I’ve heard several stories as to why the position has long been without cannons.  But all boil down to the park not having the resources to spread around. The concrete pads were there.  But no cannon.

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The spot was within the NPS easement, and thus technically not part of the Trust’s restoration, but the re-installation of the cannon just made perfect sense at this juncture.

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For those who query about such details, the guns are 12-pdr Napoleons.  The one on the left (of the photo above) is registry number 14 from Cyrus Alger (cast in 1862):

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And on the right is registry number 318 from Revere Copper, cast in 1863:

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The battery had six Napoleons in action during the battle.  Around mid-day on July 1, 1863, Stewart deployed the battery on the north side of the Chambersburg Pike.  Stewart himself took a three gun section to the north side of the railroad cut.  The other three, under Lieutenant James Davison, stood between the Pike and the railroad.  Augustus Buell, in “The Cannoneer”, described the disposition:

We were formed… “straddle” of the Railroad Cut, the “Old Man” [Stewart] with the three guns forming the right half-battery on the north side, and Davison with the three guns of the left half-battery on the south side.  Stewart’s three guns were somewhat in advance of ours, forming a slight echelon in half-battery, while our three guns were in open order, bringing the left gun close to the Cashtown Road.  We were formed in a small field just west of Mrs. Thompson’s dooryard, and our guns ranked the road to the top of the low crest forming the east bank of Willoughby’s Creek.

And today we can look over those guns at for a view similar to that of Davison’s gunners on the day of battle.  We might debate as to exactly where the guns were placed that day.  But we see here ample room to deploy a three gun section commanding the slope up to McPherson’s Ridge.  And what did the battery do in this position?  Again, Buell recalled:

Directly in our front -that is to say, on both sides of the pike – the Rebel infantry, whose left lapped the north side of the pike quite up to the line of the railroad grading, had been forced to halt and lie down by the tornado of canister that we had given them from the moment they came in sight over the bank of the creek.

However effective the battery fires were, they were somewhat exposed with the Confederate advance.

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Buell continued:

But the regiments in the field to their right (south side) of the pike kept on, and kept swinging their right flanks forward as if to take us in reverse or cut us off from the rest of our troops near the Seminary.  At this moment Davison, bleeding from two desperate wounds, and so weak that one of the men had to hold him on his feet (one ankle being totally shattered by a bullet), ordered us to form the half-battery, action left, by wheeling on the left gun as a pivot, so as to bring the half-battery on a line with the Cashtown Pike, muzzles facing south, his object being to rake the front of the Rebel line closing in on us from that side. Of the four men left at our gun when this order was given two had bloody heads, but they were still “standing by,” and Ord. Serg’t Mitchell jumped on our off wheel to help us.  “This is tough work, boys,” he shouted, as we wheeled the gun around, “but we are good for it.” And Pat Wallace, tugging at the near wheel, shouted back: “If we ain’t, where’ll you find them that is!”

Well, this change of front gave us a clean rake along the Rebel line for a whole brigade length, but it exposed our right flank to the ranking volleys of their infantry near the pike, who at that moment began to get up again and come on.  Then for seven or eight minutes ensued probably the most desperate fight ever waged between artillery and infantry at close range without a particle of cover on either side.  They gave us volley after volley in front and flank, and we gave them double canister as fast as we could load.  The 6th Wisconsin and 11th Pennsylvania men crawled up over the bank of the cut or behind the rail fence in rear of Stewart’s caissons and joined their musketry to our canister, while from the north side of the cut flashed the chain-lightning of the Old Man’s half-battery in one solid streak!

At this time our left half-battery, taking their first line en echarpe, swept it so clean with double canister that the Rebels sagged away from the road to get cover from the fences and trees that lined it.  From our second round on a gray squirrel could not have crossed the road alive.

All that drama taking place within easy view of the area now preserved around the Thompson house:

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(Citation from Augustus Buell, “The Cannoneer”: Recollections of Service in the Army of the Potomac, Washington, D.C.: The National Tribune, 1890, pages 67-8.)

Battle of the Bands, part 2: Comparison between Tredegar, Macon, and authentic Parrotts

When discussing Parrott rifles, we really have to focus on the bands.  The bands over the breech end of the cannon are what make the Parrott a Parrott, by type.  Without the band, the Parrott would simply be a gun of cast-iron that generally followed the Ordnance Shape in exterior arrangements.  One that would be prone to bursting.  And thus something not likely to have seen much service.  On the other hand, with the band in place, at least the field gun calibers were actually reputable weapons… relatively speaking.

And it is important to understand the variations of these bands. Some time back I highlighted the difference between the authentic, original Robert P. Parrott-designed, and West Point Foundry produced, guns and those “knock offs” from Tredegar. The Tredegar weapons had longer and thicker bands.  This was due to construction techniques.  In brief, the original, patented, Parrott design called for a single bar to be heated, formed into a spiral, then placed onto the breech (and turned as it cooled).

On the other hand, Tredegar lacked the lavish facilities of West Point Foundry (and one might also say was aloof to some of the advancement in metalworking… but that’s a complex story). So when “copying” the Parrott for Confederate orders, Tredegar modified the technique to construct the band.  In short, Tredegar constructed a set of wrought iron rings or hoops.  When heated, those slipped onto the breech and were butt welded together.  As the rings cooled, they shrunk down onto the breech. Please note the basic technique was similar for Tredegar’s Parrott copies and larger weapons to include Brooke Rifles.  These butt welded bands were not as strong as the spiral welds from West Point Foundry.  So Tredegar allocated more metal to compensate.

As indicated above, Tredegar’s work was aimed at replicating the features of the northern weapon.  Those copies were based on examples purchased just prior to the war (notably by Virginia) and others captured early in the war.  One would suspect the features employed for this replication would be passed directly to other vendors producing Parrott-type rifles for the Confederacy, such as Macon Arsenal.

But such presumption should be given a “field test” with study of surviving pieces.  And the place to do that is along Confederate Avenue at Gettysburg.  There we find a pair of 20-pdr Parrotts from West Point, although a “Navy” weapon with breeching shackle attached:

Gettysburg 13 May 2012 147

A pair of 20-pdr Tredegar Parrotts:

Confederate Ave 30 Jan 10 179

And, recently returned to the field, a pair of 20-pdr Parrotts from Macon Arsenal:

Gettysburg 020

(Yes, I should have stood to the right side of that Macon gun there… but Jim, I’m a blog writer, not a photographer!)

Measuring the length of the bands on these three, starting with the original, Yankee Parrott:

Gettysburg Sept 10 001

Just over 16 inches.  I call it 16 ¼ inches overall.

Now the Tredegar Parrott:

Gettysburg Sept 10 030

Substantially longer. I would call it 21 ¼ inches overall.

And finally, back (on the road) to the Macon gun:

Gettysburg Sept 10 020

Hold the phone there!  Look close at that tape:

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Despite the “wiggle” in my tape, we have something shorter than the other two.  I call it 15 ¾ inches, round about.  So with three quick measures, we can throw out the presumption about Macon’s products just being straight copies of the Tredegar guns.  Of course, you could probably deduce that by noting the clearance of the band on the standard NPS reproduction carriage.

But is the Macon band thicker, by chance, for compensation?  Let’s start, for a baseline, back at the Federal Parrott:

Gettysburg Sept 10 003

Since the band edge is rounded off, we have to eye-ball this a bit.  I call it at just over 1 ½ inches.  I’ve seen secondary sources state this should be, precisely, 1.625 inches.  But we are “in the field” and the 1 ½ inch measure will be OK for now.

Moving to Tredegar’s product:

Gettysburg Sept 10 028

I’d say this is just about the same thickness.  Just over 1 ½ inches.  Though there are secondary sources that credit the Tredegar band on 20-pdrs as being 2 inches thick.  Let me take an assignment here to survey all surviving Tredegar 20-pdrs at Gettysburg for comparison.  But for now, we have the 1 ½ inch measure to work with for our purposes.

Now back to Macon:

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So you don’t have to strain the eyes too much, I had a second measure where I fiddled with the ferule a bit measuring the second of the pair:

Gettysburg Sept 10 014

Clearly in both cases the measure is LESS than 1 ½ inches.  Substantially so.  I’d call it 1 9/32 inches.

But you may have noticed that my ruler was “set up” off the actual barrel a bit.  That’s because on both Macon Parrotts there is a “lip” or ring between the band and the barrel.  Let’s look close:

Gettysburg Sept 10 015

The clearance on the first Macon Parrott is tighter, but on the second there is a clear separation between this lip and the other components of the gun.  This is also clearly not a supplemental or inner band.  My first thought was this lip was the remainder of some fitting that limited the advancement of the band during construction.  But the more I looked at the lip, it appeared to be threaded.

And that, perhaps, would explain the different dimensions of the band. Speculation here, only, as no source I know of corroborates this. Perhaps Macon Arsenal threaded the bands onto the breech.  Such also might explain the “scuffs” that appear on the guns today.  If the bands were threaded, perhaps Macon felt the construction imparted additional strength over the butt welded bands and thus reduced dimensions.  But again, I’m only speculating here based on appearances.

By all means, don’t just accept my speculation here.  Go visit the guns and make your own observations. Then circle back to discuss!

Overall, let me offer this table for field measures of these three sets of Parrott rifles:

20pdrParrottComparisons

I would point out the measure taken in the field for both Confederate guns differs from printed secondary references.  So more “field trips” are warranted for conformation.

One other measure to share…. looking at the bore of the Macon rifle:

Gettysburg Sept 10 024

The bore size corresponds to the 20-pdr caliber, properly, at around 3 ¾ inch, in the books supposed to be 3.67 inches.  Notice the well defined rifling.  This piece likely did not see much service.  In all likelihood, the weapon was delivered in the spring of 1864, going to a location in Georgia.  Given the outcome of that summer’s campaign, quite possible this 20-pdr was captured, and spent the rest of the war in some Federal depot.

Wonder what story this gun would tell if allowed to speak?

A rare pair from Georgia: Confederate 20-pdr Parrotts, Macon Arsenal

Back in the summer, the folks at Gettysburg put a pair of 20-pdr Parrotts back out on the field.  I’m a bit behind in my writing assignments… and it is cold outside… so let me post some summertime photos to warm you up a bit:

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The location is Captain Robert Stribling’s Battery (the Fauquier Artillery) along West Confederate Avenue. The battery manned two 20-pdr Parrotts and four 12-pdr Napoleons at the time of the battle.  And what we see here are a pair of 20-pdr Parrotts representing the battery at this position. This pair is somewhat unique among surviving weapons, being the only such (that I know of) produced by Macon Arsenal.

Recall Macon Arsenal included one of the government-run foundries setup by the Confederacy. The arsenal is most known for the production of 12-pdr Napoleons.  But the arsenal also produced a small number of iron guns, following the layout of the Parrott rifle system.  In the past, I’ve mentioned a 10-pdr Parrott which is suspected to be from Macon. Arsenal records indicate a handful of 20-pdr and 30-pdr Parrotts were also produced.  Of, probably, five 20-pdr Parrotts produced by Macon, we have these two survivors.  So you can say these had a good survival rate… or be thankful to have two survivors out of such a small production run.

Unlike the 10-pdr at Chancellorsville, there is no doubt as to the origin of the 20-pdrs:

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Right there on top – “Macon Arsenal”.  The other stampings read “1864” for the year of production (perhaps matching to April or May in arsenal records); “1660” is the recorded weight, in pounds; “No.1” is the foundry number; and “E.T.” for either the inspector or other official making acceptance.

The gun’s mate has similar markings, but a fair bit clearer:

Gettysburg Sept 10 023

Note the differences here with the weight being 1664 pounds and the foundry number of 3. We also see the rifling – five right handed spiral grooves.

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Do watch for the wasps there.

Working our way back from the muzzle, we see a clamp of sorts around the end of the chase, just short of the muzzle swell:

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That on No.1 appears to be aligned, while that on No.3 is askew after 150 years of handling. The band itself is a fraction over 1 inch in width:

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As seen on the right, what appears to be a square pin goes through the strap.  Presumably this is what remains of the front sight. The open end of the strap is fixed by a bolt (seen above).  The other side is hinged:

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That is on No.3, where the strap is askew, where the hinge is easier to view.  Notice, to the right, you don’t see the pin that might be the front sight.  This strap is apparently both out of alignment and upside down.

Looking at the barrel itself, thanks to a fresh coat of paint we can see a lot of surface details.

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The casting seam may be traced right back through the shoulders to the band.  And very little turning was done to smooth the surface.  This would not pass the Federal inspections but was determined as sufficient for Confederate needs.  Turning just added to the processing time and gave picky inspectors something to fret over… in J.R. Anderson’s opinion, at least.

And we get back to what makes this a Parrott, the band:

Gettysburg 032

I’ve taken the time to collect some rough field measurements.  But I wish to save those for a post comparing the bands of Federal, Tredegar, and Macon Parrotts of this caliber.  That in mind, we’ll save full discussion of the band arrangement for later.  But do note the slight radial line visible about a quarter the way up from the breech.  That may be a trace left over from butt-welding the rings constituting the band.  Also notice a scuff mark just in front of the band. Perhaps a vestige of the work to force the bands onto the barrel?  Or yet another result of bad handling?

Looking at the breech, we see arrangements for the rear sight at the top position:

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Just seems like a lot of inherent inaccuracies built in with that front sight on a strap.  But then again, this isn’t a sniping rifle.

Notice the casting seem down the face of the breech.  And we also see a dent in the knob.  Battle damage or mishandling? Probably the latter.

Here is a better view of the rear sight area:

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And again we see “scuffs” near where the band is attached over the barrel.

It is good to see these old guns back on the field after many years absence.

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Many thanks to those who work restoring these guns and the organizations that aid the park service in this regard.  Very good work with these two rare guns.  And it is good to see them on the field instead of stuffed in a museum. Better to have them on the field, in spite of the risk due to weathering and wear. Cannons were made to point out over a battlefield.  And though these two could not possibly be Gettysburg veterans (due to the date of manufacture), they stand in well in place of those that were.

Al Sieber, a desperate charge at Gettysburg, and Geronimo

The records tell us more than 175,000 men fought at Gettysburg from July 1 to July 3, 1863.  And of course, we have, from that list of participants, thousands upon thousands of stories that are woven into the larger fabric of history.  We walk the grounds of Gettysburg today and can recall epic deeds, usually speaking of the divisions, brigades, and regiments… of course the generals.  Perhaps more often than at other battlefields, because of the prominence in the recollections of the survivors, we are able to speak of individuals.

One of those epic deeds, on a day filled with such, occurred in the afternoon phase of battle on July 2.  For many, I need only offer this photo as a preface for one of those stories:

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For those requiring a reminder of the incident, I offer the text of the nearby interpretive marker:

“Every man realized in an instant what that order meant – death or wounds to us all, the sacrifice of a regiment to gain a few minutes’ time…”
Lieut. William Lochren, U.S.A.
1st Minnesota Infantry

Late on the afternoon of July 2, after the collapse of the Union line at the Peach Orchard, Confederate infantry in front of you threatened to pour through a gap in the Union line here. When Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, commander of the Union Second Corps, rode up to assess the situation, only one regiment was at hand to stop the Confederate tide – the 1st Minnesota.

“My God, are these all the men we have here?” Hancock asked. It was, but they would have to do. “Charge those lines!” shouted Hancock, and immediately the lone regiment swept down the slope “double quick.” With levelled bayonets, the Minnesotans crashed into Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox’s Alabamians who outnumbered them 4-to-1.

The charge broke the Confedereate ranks and stalled the Southerners long enough for Union reinforcements, but at a terrific cost. According to a regimental officer, of the 262 Minnesotans in the charge, only 47 escaped death or injury.

An action worthy of memorialization.  An act that has been recounted by many over the years.

But allow me to focus on but one of the 215 casualties among the 1st Minnesota that day. You probably know of this person better by way of Robert Duvall’s excellent portrayal in the movie “Geronimo: An American Legend.”

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Albert Sieber was born in Baden, Germany in 1843.  Following the death of his father, the family immigrated to America, first settling around Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  They later relocated to Minnesota.  Under-age at the start of the Civil War, Sieber would enlist in March 1862, as “Albert Sebers” in Company B, 1st Minnesota. He first saw action during the Peninsula Campaign.

A year later, Sieber was in that formation of “all the men we have here” that Hancock had to throw into the teeth of the Confederate assault on July 2, 1863.  As with so many of his comrades, Sieber lay wounded at the close of the action, on the field.

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In Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts, Dan Thrapp relates Sieber received two wounds that day – a skull fracture from a shell fragment and a terrible wound to the right leg, with ball entering the ankle and exiting near the knee. So severe the wounds, Sieber would not return to the regiment.  After almost half a year in hospitals, Sieber transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps and served on prison guard details.  He made corporal before discharged at the end of the war.

After the war, Sieber sought a fresh start in the west.  He made a living as a prospector and rancher, along with other adventures, appearing in California, Nevada, and Arizona (territory at that time) through the later half of the 1860s.  And by 1870 he’d earned a reputation as a tracker, leading to employment by General George Crook as not just a scout, but Chief of Scouts.

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I’m fond of this photo of Sieber mainly because of the dress.  On a standard portrait stage of the era, we see Sieber half slouched and looking more at leisure than attention.

We have another photo of him seated in front of a team of Apache Scouts:

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You’d be hard pressed to find more direct, serious gazes than on those faces.

Through the campaigns against the Apache, Sieber served as a Chief of Scouts. The role not only intertwined the Seiber story with fellow Civil War veteran Crook, but also with the likes of Charles Gatewood and Geronimo.  As we well know, thanks to Hollywood, he was a major player in the action that brought Geronimo into custody in 1886.

However, Hollywood’s version of events is far from the actual reality.  Sieber was alive and in the field at the time of Geronimo’s surrender.  No, Sieber didn’t pass away “catching a little sleep” in a Mexican cantina. Rather he continued to work in the Arizona territory as a scout.  An nor was Geronimo’s surrender the end of troubles with Apache… as but a year later Sieber was wounded while chasing the renegade Apache Kid.

The turn of the century found Sieber still working in Arizona, mostly prospecting.  On February 19, 1907 he was managing a work team of Apaches clearing a road in conjunction with the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River.  Blasting left a large boulder precariously perched over the work area.  Sieber insisted the workers leave the area before the bolder fell.  But, slowed by bad leg, Sieber was not fast enough to escape the rock slide.  He was killed by the boulder.

It is said, that Al Sieber was “gunshot and arrow shot 28 times.”  For clarity, I do not know if that popularly quoted figure includes his two wounds at Gettysburg.  And I am left to wonder if it was the musket ball, that traveled from ankle to knee, at Gettysburg which gave him the limp, slowing his movement in 1907.

Regardless, I would submit the story of Al Sieber for consideration on this day – 153 years from the final day of the battle of Gettysburg.  Once again, we see the long shadow cast by the Civil War upon our history.

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?