Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Batteries from Iowa, Kentucky, and Kansas

Following the order presented in the summary statements, the next set of volunteer batteries came from Iowa, Kentucky, and Kansas.  Yes, not exactly alphabetical, but we’ll go with the clerk’s ordering.

At the time of the report, in December 1862, Iowa had only three batteries accepted for service (a fourth battery was not mustered until the fall of 1863). All three are listed on the summary with only two showing reports.

There were three volunteer batteries from Kentucky were in Federal service in December 1862, according to Dyer’s Compendium.  And Dyer’s identifies two of those as lettered batteries.  But there are only two entry lines in the summary of that period, and those are listed as numbered, implied independent, batteries.  So we have questions to address for Kentucky’s batteries.

For the summary, Kansas was represented by five entries.  Three are batteries identified by commanders and two are artillery assigned to cavalry. I contend that a full, proper study of the Kansas artillery is a book waiting to be written. Many of the batteries were formed as companies within infantry or cavalry regiments (which, like Texas, was a delineation that was often blurred).  And regimental commanders were very reluctant to release those to formal artillery organizations.

And one more twist to consider with these entries – most were not received in Washington until 1864!  Those preface notes out of the way, here are the entry lines for the batteries and their cannons:

0043_Snip_IA_KY_KS_1

Starting with the Hawkeye State:

  • 1st Iowa Independent Light Battery: The location annotation does not make sense to me.  The battery was with Sherman’s ill-fated expedition to Vicksburg, landing at Chickasaw Bayou.  It reported four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers (as they had on hand at Pea Ridge earlier in the year).
  • 2nd Iowa Independent Light Battery: No report.  The 2nd was posted between LaGrange and Germantown, Tennessee at this time, part of the Thirteenth Corps.
  • 3rd Iowa Independent Light Battery: Helena, Arkansas.  The 3rd reported four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. The battery was assigned to the District of Eastern Arkansas, Department of Missouri, but soon to be collected into the Vicksburg campaign.

Now over to the Bluegrass State, and the aforementioned confusions:

  • 1st Kentucky Independent Light Battery:  Located at Gualey Bridge, (West) Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  This was Captain Seth J. Simmonds’ battery, assigned to the District of the Kanawha.
  • 2nd Kentucky Artillery?:   This entry line has the notation “not in service.”  My guess is this references the 2nd Kentucky Heavy Artillery Regiment that never got organized.

Not listed on the return, but worth noting are the lettered Kentucky Batteries (sometimes identified as with the 1st Kentucky Artillery Regiment, but most often just the letter and state designation):

  • Battery A: This was Captain David C. Stone’s battery, supporting the Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland and in action at Stones River.
  • Battery B: Also known as Hewett’s Battery, and (to add more confusion) in some reports as the 2nd Kentucky Independent Battery.  Commanded by Lieutenant Alban A. Ellsworth.  Also saw action at Stones River in the Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps.

Allow me to hold off a more detailed discussion of the important service of those two batteries, conspicuously omitted from the summary.

Now Kansas, where more questions follow.  Let me “swag” some proper identifications here:

  • Allen’s Battery:  No report.  I think this references Captain Norman Allen and the 1st Kansas Independent Battery.  The battery saw action at Prairie Grove, as part of the Army of the Frontier, with four 12-pdr howitzers (according to my notes).
  • Blair’s Battery:  Fort Scott, Kansas.  Four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  This should be Lieutenant Edward A. Smith’s 2nd Battery Kansas Artillery.  The name references Captain Charles W. Blair, the battery’s first commander.
  • Hopkins’ Battery:  Captain Henry Hopkins’ 3rd Kansas Battery.  The battery had three 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer.  The battery was also at Prairie Grove.
  • [Illegible] Ninth Volunteers:  This appears to reference a section under 2nd Lieutenant Henry H. Opdyke, of the 9th Kansas Cavalry.  The section had two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  They saw action in the Prairie Grove campaign.
  • 2nd Cavalry:  Fort Smith.  Two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  Another detachment within a cavalry formation.  This one under Lieutenant Elias S. Stover.

Not mentioned is another artillery section, also of two 12-pdr mountain howitzers, in the 6th Kanasas Cavalry.

So again, we have a lengthy “first page” in the summary, due to setting the context of the numbers.  The summary certainly illuminates the holes in the summary statements… and why I prefer to present “as is” and then circle back for validation.

Moving on to the smoothbore ammunition tallies:

0045_Snip_IA_KY_KS_1

By the batteries:

  • 1st Iowa: 6-pdr field gun – 400 shot, 320 case, and 80 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shell, 160 case, and 42 canister.
  • 3rd Iowa: 6-pdr field gun – 410 shot, 325 case, and 85 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 129 shell, 86 case, and 36 canister.
  • 2nd Kansas: 6-pdr field gun – 196 shot, 236 case, and 108 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 46 shell, 170 case, and 72 canister.  Also reporting a large quantity of mountain howitzer ammunition – 124 case and 34 canister.
  • 9th Kansas Cavalry section: 12-pdr mountain howitzer – 41 shell, 116 case, and 57 canister.
  • 2nd Kansas Cavalry section: 12-pdr mountain howitzer – 80 case and 8 canister.

So we have one more question – why the 2nd Kansas Battery would hold on to mountain howitzer ammunition?  Perhaps, as they were operating alongside some of the cavalry with the smaller howitzers, the ordnance handlers in the 2nd Kansas assumed some oversight in ordnance matters.

The only battery we’ve discussed today with rifled guns was the 1st Kentucky (Simmonds’) Battery with 10-pdr Parrotts.  Accordingly, we look to the Parrott columns on the corresponding pages:

0046_Snip_IA_KY_KS_1

The Kentuckians had 490 shells, 455 shot, and 60 canister of the Parrott make.

The 1st Kentucky also had a quantity of Schenkl rounds for their Parrot rifles:

0046_Snip_IA_KY_KS_2

Yes a lot of work for me to snip that, for one entry – 69 Schenkl 10-pdr shells.

I suspected the small arms section would be interesting, given the varied service. But it is somewhat pedestrian compared to others:

0046_Snip_IA_KY_KS_3

The 1st Iowa reported eight cavalry sabers and fifty foot artillery sabers.  The 1st Kentucky had nine Army revolvers and 26 cavalry Sabers.  Then we have the Kansas troops:

  • 2nd Kansas – 129 Army revolvers and 24 cavalry sabers.
  • 3rd Kansas – 53 Army revolvers and 17 cavalry sabers.
  • 9th Kansas Cavalry section – one cavalry saber.
  • 2nd Kansas Cavalry section – 21 Navy revolvers and one cavalry saber.

I’d half suspected and expected the Kansans to have some odd assortment of long guns.

Once again… the old Unexploded Civil War Shell problem

For those who are just getting caught up from the sesquicentennial, the Civil War ended 150 years ago… give or take a few weeks.  But that is not to say that we’ve heard the last of the Civil War.  In fact, we might still hear – if someone is unlucky, unwise, or both – explosions from the war.   And if that same someone is unlucky, unwise, and/or both, they might get the grim designation of being the last casualty of the Civil War.

Recall the story of Sam White, relic collector and one who disarmed shells.  From all sources, White was experienced at disarming shells and had done such for years.  But on February 18, 2008, White did something that triggered a shell (an XI-inch Dahlgren by some accounts I’ve seen).  Some have said White was “cutting corners” in his process.  I don’t know that for sure.  Regardless, a projectile designed to sink a ship went off.  White lost his life.   As I’ve said many times before, I hope that the legacy of Sam White is that people take the proper precautions and do not become lazy about safety with regard to live Civil War ammunition that is encountered.

And the story of Sam White needs to be recalled from time to time.  Particularly since stories of unexploded shells appear frequently enough.  On Saturday (May 23), a shell found on the Manassas Battlefield prompted an evacuation.  And yesterday, a bomb disposal team destroyed a James rifle projectile found on the Prairie Grove Battlefield.  So I don’t think this is a subject we can just relegate to the history books.

As I look over social media today, not naming names just yet, I see some rather disconcerting comments made.  Many are upset that a historical artifact was destroyed.  They have complained that the means and effort to disarm the shell were simple and could have been done with little risk.  That, I think, is a bad response.  While the loss of the historical artifact is bad, what is worse is that people are offering “advice” that will (not may, but WILL) lead to another accident.  It is as if Sam White’s accident is forgotten.

Let’s be perfectly clear here.  Black powder is an unstable compound.  That’s what gives it an explosive effect.  While black powder, like most munitions, has predictable traits, that does not diminish the danger. Black powder is sensitive to heat, flash, friction, or compression.  A lot of little things can set off black powder.  Recall some of those incidents on Morris Island with shells exploding prematurely due to “rasping” of the powder in the shell?  Yes, more than flame and hammers can set off black powder.

Same could be said for C4 explosives that the military uses today.  There were times in my Army days that I carried C4 or other explosives.  But I listened to my trainers and observed the precautions necessary.  I’ve carried black powder in my cartridge box and stored it with my reenacting kit. But I’ve always respected it.   And so we all should.

Something from the news story from Arkansas bears noting.  Jessee Cox, superintendent of the Prairie Grove Battlefield Park indicated that he had no chance to consult with other parks or other sources as to what should be done to preserve the shell… safely.  THAT, my friends, is where the problem is.  As Cox said, “There’s no 800 number to call and get those answers.”

There are plenty of people out there who could have provided those answers.  I go back to my military training in that the unexploded ordnance teams (UXO) are very knowledgeable on these matters.  There are programs in place to protect and preserve historic artifacts when found (i.e., that used by the team at Andrews Air Force Base).   Indeed, the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal units based out of Charleston and Norfolk did much to determine the best way to handle these historic artifacts and render them safe.   My point is there are specific guidelines and practices to be observed when disarming black powder-era ordnance.   No offense to the back-yard relic hunters out there, but we don’t need “now watch this” to turn into a disaster.  Expert advice should be offered to the authorities who confront these situations. Not hearsay.

Now I don’t fault the Bentonville Bomb Squad for doing their job here.  They were doing exactly what their training called them to do.  My beef is with the training.  There should be a protocol to consult when historic artifacts are encountered.  That protocol should include contact information to subject matter experts on black powder-era ordnance.  That would ensure safety in the first place – for the general public and the teams handling the items.  The disarming of the old ordnance requires types of equipment that may not be on hand.  So that protocol should also include how such equipment may be requisitioned, loaned, or otherwise acquired if needed.  In short, a solution to the problem… not just a “blow it in place” response.

But above all… those of us Civil War enthusiasts must stop downplaying the danger and risk involved.  These are weapons designed to kill and maim.  Those weapons didn’t lose that potential by simply sitting in the ground or on some shelf or on some monument (!) for several decades (scroll to the bottom on that link).  So those weapons should be respected for what they potentially still can… and sometimes will… do.

“… serious defects in our military system.”: Hindman reflects after a lost campaign

With nightfall at Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862, fighting ebbed and eventually ceased. Major General Thomas Hindman faced a dire situation. Low on supplies and lacking substantial reinforcements to continue battle, he could not hold the position fought over during that day’s battle. Taking stock of the situation, Hindman opted to retire back into the Boston Mountains towards his base of supply. This withdrawal was a strategic setback for the Confederacy, relinquishing a substantial portion of Arkansas to the Federals and a launching point for operations into Missouri.

As expected for a commander in the wake of such defeat, Hindman sought out reasons he was marching south instead of north. In his lengthy post-battle report, he wrote:

After a battle the mind naturally passes in review all the circumstances connected with it. I hope the expression here of such reflections as now present themselves to me will not be deemed improper. Undoubtedly there are serious defects in our military system. Chief among these is the rule of electing to the lowest commissioned office and promoting to those above in companies and regiments. It combines mobocracy and primogeniture in such proportions that it seems almost a miracle that anything of discipline or efficiency survives. As a substitute, I would propose this, that whenever a vacancy does occur in a company or regiment, an examining board of three capable officers be appointed by the division or corps commanders; that, without regard to rank or restriction to the command, all persons desiring the vacant place be invited to appear before the board within a given time to be examined as to character and qualification, and that the board recommend and the division or corps commander immediately assign to duty the one found best qualified and most meritorious, conditioned that he shall not draw pay till the assignment be approved by the War Department.

Hindman stopped short of direct criticism of the company grade officer. But clearly he found some fault and had it at the fore of his mind when writing these words in the days before Christmas.

The proposal was not, at least from 150 years perspective, very radical. Indeed it is not far removed from the system used by the U.S. Army and several foreign armies at other times. The practical problem with Hindman’s proposal is that it would likely lead to a semi-permanent board to review a steady stream of candidates for an army’s worth of vacancies.

But Hindman continued to suggest more changes with respect to management of junior officers:

As auxiliary to this, division or corps commanders should be authorized to order before a similar board any regimental or company officer deemed incapable, neglectful, or otherwise unfit, and, on the report of the board against him, to suspend him from duty and cause the place to be immediately filled, as in the case of any other vacancy, and on the approval of the proceedings by the War Department. The delinquent officer should invariably be put in the ranks as a private soldier. I would apply these provisions to all the staff officers of corps, divisions, brigades, and regiments, with the further regulation that persons assigned to staff duty, where bond is required by law, may execute the same before the commander of the division or corps. Great delays and detriment to the service result from the existing arrangements as to that matter.

Hindman felt the need to purge not only failing junior leadership, but also staff officers. Put a musket in their hands and have them fill a spot in the line.  I’d submit the issue ran deeper than Hindman expressed in his report – into the noncommissioned officer ranks – but either he was less concerned with that health metric or just didn’t “get down to the troops” enough to sense it.

The deficiencies Hindman alluded to, without naming names or providing specifics, were a function of a rapidly built army using both volunteers and conscripts.  Certainly we might discuss the American military experience in the World Wars, Korea, or Vietnam and see some of the same issues.  Nor, back to the Civil War context, was the Federal army immune to the issue of junior leadership.  And on the reverse side of the coin, in more recent American wars fought mainly with smaller, all-volunteer ranks, the problem is not so much weeding out the poor performers but rather retaining the talent.

Yet, I do wonder if the Confederate army had more “surface area” with respect to the selection of company-level and staff officers.  In a society which enforced patronage and fealty within a hierarchy system, the selection of leaders could be somewhat predictable.  I might be generalizing in that regard.  But it would make for an interesting study.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, pages 144-5.)