Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – North Carolina

Considering December 1863, one year after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, US Colored Troops had become an important, if not essential, component of the Federal war machine. We historians say they’d proven their mettle at places such as Morris Island. However, questions remained in the minds of the more traditional line officers. But none could deny the ever growing number of USCT regiments and batteries joining the force.

Thus it is no surprise to see colored troops artillery units appear in the summaries. We’ve discussed a few along the way, in particular those from Louisiana and Mississippi. Initially, these formations carried designations referencing the states in which their muster took place. And these received a suffix descriptor of “A.D.” for “African Descent” in order to set them apart in the order of battle from unionist regiments recruited in the same areas. Eventually, all would receive designations within the USCT regimental system. But for the mid-war period, this presents a tricky “administrative” problem for those of us researching to find the stories from those USCT units. Just making a positive identification of a unit is often difficult.

And in many cases, clearly even the clerks during the Civil War were a bit confused. When reviewing a wartime reference to a USCT unit, one must often “beat the bushes” in order to get it right. A good example of this is from our next summary statement entry:

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  • Company L, 1st Artillery, A.D.: At Newport Barracks, North Carolina, with one 12-pdr Mountain Howitzer, on a return received on October 13, 1864.

Newport Barracks was a Federal outpost between Morehead City and New Bern, North Carolina. Protecting the valuable supply line inland, the post was important for maintaining the Federal hold on the eastern part of the state. And of course, into 1865 that supply line became Sherman’s resupply point. That said, Newport Barracks was not simply your run-of-the-mill remote outpost. There are markers around the location of the barracks and fortifications.

Newport 2 May 10 135

A nearby Civil War Trails marker highlights a February 2 action in which the Confederates, in conjunction with a larger attempt at New Bern, overran the Federal garrison posted to Newport Barracks. After which, the Federals reestablished the base, with even more security.

It’s the unit identification which becomes problematic here. There was a 1st North Carolina Colored Heavy Artillery (NCCHA) Regiment. We might start the story of this regiment in February 1864 related to the attempt on New Bern which was associated with the Newport Barracks action mentioned. In the crisis, the commander at New Bern armed civilians, including some free blacks, as the garrison braced against a Confederate attack. After the emergency, eyes turned to the contraband camps as a source for recruits. Major Thorndike C. Jameson received authorization to recruit a regiment of heavy artillery from the freedmen.

Jameson was an ardent abolitionist and pastor from Massachusetts. He’d initially volunteered as a chaplain in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. Opting for a more active role, he secured a commission and was later appointed major in the 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, then stationed at New Bern. With William Lloyd Garrison among his friends, Jameson had secured quick support for a plan to raise a colored heavy artillery regiment. The 1st NCCHA mustered in March 1864. However, all was not that simple. The recruiting process was flawed to say the least. I would recommend “Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era” by Richard M. Reid for a detailed examination.

Specific to our discussion, the 1st NCCHA was not up to full strength even into the fall (for that October reporting date). The regiment remained at New Bern, mostly performing fatigue details. During a Yellow Fever outbreak, the 1st NCCHA was assigned to provost guard duties. Only after suffering through the summer under the pandemic was the regiment assigned to actual “artillery” duties. In January 1865, the regiment transferred from the Sub-District of New Bern to the Sub-District of Beaufort. As such, they were assigned to defend the bases of Morehead City and Beaufort.

While Newport Barracks was part of that command, sources are not clear in regard to the 1st NCCHA being assigned there. Furthermore, we have date issues here. The heavy regiment was not in existence at the end of December 1863. And if we postulate this was a “post dated” report sent in October 1864, we still cannot reconcile that with the 1st NCCHA’s service at New Bern. And by the way, the regiment became the 14th US Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment in March 1865.

So if it wasn’t the 1st NCCHA, then who? There was another colored “1st” regiment from North Carolina – the 1st North Carolina Infantry, African Descent. The regiment later became the 35th US Colored Troops. Formed in June 1863 around New Bern and Plymouth, this regiment was part of Wild’s Brigade and served in South Carolina during the Morris Island Campaign. They spent the rest of the war in the Department of the South. However a detachment of the regiment was left behind at New Bern and saw quite a bit of service. They would be a candidate for this entry line, except for again the location. The 1st NC Colored Infantry detachment does not appear to have served at Newport Barracks. Nor do we find any connection for the unit to any mountain howitzers.

But there’s one more “1st” from North Carolina to consider. The 1st North Carolina Volunteers, or what we today call the 1st North Carolina (Union) Infantry, must also be considered. Authorized in May 1862, Colonel Joseph M. McChesney commanded the regiment. The regiment formed within Federal lines in North Carolina, with volunteers reflecting the complicated experience in the coastal region. Some men were union men to the core. Others were fence-sitters motivated by personal gain or simply looking for a measure of security. And some of the ranks were deserters from Confederate service. As such, there were misgivings within echelons of the Federal command about this regiment. Early on, the regiment provided guards for outposts and garrisons, with some companies detached from the main body. However, a few companies from the regiment earned a reputation for efficiency and good order when assigned to patrols.

From formation through the end of 1863, most of the command was assigned to the Sub-District of the Pamlico, with the Washington, North Carolina, garrison. But later in 1864 the regiment transferred to Beaufort and was assigned to outposts which included Newport Barracks. In fact, Company L of the 1st North Carolina was assigned to Newport Barracks in October 1864. Captain George W. Graham commanded the company. And there is some indication of a howitzer section, at least temporarily, assigned and managed by Lieutenant W.W. Alexander of the company.

The “clincher” in this case, I believe, is to fast forward to the next quarter… which I hate to do here. For the 1st quarter of 1864, we find this line under North Carolina:

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Company L, 1st Volunteer Infantry…. that has to be Captain Graham’s. Same location with the same mountain howitzer. We are left to conjecture about the clerk’s entry indicating “artillery” and “A.D.” At a minimum, at least they provided some justification for this lengthy blog post!

All that established, there was ammunition for the mountain howitzer:

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  • Company L, 1st North Carolina Infantry: 26 shells and 142 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

And more on the next page:

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  • Company L, 1st North Carolina Infantry: 31 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

There are no other entries for this line on the pages that follow. And we know that is typical for “sectional” artillery assigned to infantry formations.

Concluding this post, I hope the readers recognize my “blogger’s indulgence” with a rather lengthy post going down different “rabbit holes” to demonstrate what I’d consider the likely explanation for the entry line. But the explanation allowed me to demonstrate what I figure as the proper approach to interpreting the entry line and significance. This also allowed me to discuss, at least within a few brief paragraphs, the service of two North Carolina units which may be unfamiliar to readers. The 1st NCCHA and the 1st North Carolina Volunteers had very different service stories in some regards. Yet, given the postings and duties, perhaps similar wartime experiences in the same operational area. I submit once the clerks committed to writing that “A.D.” on the line, we here in the 21st century had to discuss both units.

Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – New Jersey

Next we turn to the batteries from the Garden State. Five entries representing the artillerymen from New Jersey:

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As the state’s batteries were at times referenced by number, yet at others by letter, I’ll provide both here:

  • 1st Battery / Battery A: At Brandy Station, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain William Hexamer remained in command.  The battery was with the Fourth Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve through the end of October. Then, with reorganizations of the reserve, moved to the Third Volunteer Brigade. 
  • 2nd Battery / Battery B: Reported at Petersburg (!), Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons, reflecting a July 1864 receipt date. Captain A.Judson Clark commanded the battery, and it remained with Third Corps.  And with that assignment, the battery was likely going into winter camp outside Brandy Station, though not over in the woods where Hexamer’s battery stayed.
  • 3rd Battery / Battery C: At Camp Barry, D.C. with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain Christian Woerner commanded. One of three batteries from New Jersey we find at the Artillery Camp of Instruction, Twenty-Second Corps.
  • 4th Battery / Battery D: Reporting at Camp Barry, D.C with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain George T. Woodbury commanded. 
  • 5th Battery / Battery E: Also at Camp Barry with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain Zenas C. Warren commanded.  The third New Jersey battery in the Artillery Camp.

Turning to the ammunition, we start with those for the Napoleons:

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  • 2nd Battery: 288 shot, 96 shell, and 288 case for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Note, the three batteries in the Artillery School were not issued ammunition for service details. Such may indicate the batteries were indeed training, with ammunition issued only when required for training needs.

One entry on the next page:

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  • 2nd Battery: 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

No Hotchkiss rounds reported. So we turn to the Parrott columns:

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  • 1st Battery: 400 shell, 480 case, and 163 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

To the right is an entry for Schenkl shells:

  • 1st Battery: 245 shell for 10-pdr Parrott.

No additional ammunition reported for the cannon. So we turn to the small arms:

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  • 1st Battery: 14 Colt army revolvers and 26 cavalry sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: 7 Colt navy revolvers and 13 horse artillery sabers.
  • 3rd Battery: 20 Colt navy revolvers and 50 cavalry sabers.
  • 4th Battery: 20 Colt navy revolvers and 30 cavalry sabers.
  • 5th Battery: 20 Colt navy revolvers, 25 cavalry sabers, and 5 horse artillery sabers.

The next page has three entries for cartridge bags:

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  • 1st Battery: 48 cartridge bags for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • 2nd Battery: 40 cartridge bags for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • 5th Battery: 9 cartridge bags for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Lastly, we cover the entries for pistol cartridges, fuses, powder, primers, and miscellaneous articles:

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  • 1st Battery: 337 army caliber pistol cartridges; 1,042 paper fuses; and 793 friction primers.
  • 2nd Battery: 50 yards of slow match.
  • 4th Battery: 558 navy caliber pistol cartridges and 2 yards of slow match.
  • 5th Battery: 34 friction primers and 50 yards of slow match.

I find it interesting to see the differences in allocations, in particular to the ammunition, for batteries in the field and those in the school. Of course we know there was plenty of ammunition stashed around Camp Barry. However, apparently that was counted by the “school” and not assigned to the batteries. While I didn’t include those here, the allocation of implements and other equipment likewise follows pattern.

Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – Miscellaneous New York Artillery

Below the list of independent batteries are three lines covering returns from formations either outside the listed artillery organizations or under the other branches of service. These are always good stories, often alluding to lesser known aspects of the war:

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Examining these three in detail:

  • 99th New York, U.S. Gunboat “Smith Briggs”: Reporting from Fort Monroe, Virginia with one 30-pdr Parrott Rifle. I provided a short background about this regiment and the Smith Briggs in last quarter’s summary. (I should follow up with details on this “Marine Brigade,” however) Captain John C. Lee seems to be the commander at this time (though it appears Lee had been relieved, temporarily, earlier in the year, then restored). However, there was, as indicated in the return, a change with the gunboat’s armament with a bigger Parrott rifle replacing the howitzer and 10-pdr Parrott reported in the previous quarter. This tracks with correspondence between Major-General John Foster and Rear-Admiral S. Phillips Lee from October 1863 in regard to armaments. In short, the Army needed cannon and carriages for shipboard use. And the Navy agreed to loan (not transfer) those. In February during the battle of Smithfield, the Smith Briggs suffered a shot through the boilers and was blown up. Presumably the Parrott rifle fell into Confederate hands.
  • Battery H(?), 13th New York [Heavy] Artillery: At Norfolk, Virginia, but with no cannon reported. I believe this line reflects the elements of the incomplete 36th Independent Battery which were folded into the 13th New York Heavy Artillery. Recall Charles G. Bacon was the officer raising the 36th. But with that authority receded, Bacon accepted a commission as a Lieutenant for Battery E, 13th New York Heavy in November 1863. At the end of 1863, Batteries A, B, C, and D of the 13th were assigned to Eighteenth Corps and stationed in the Norfolk area. Battery H, if that is correct for this entry, did not muster until March 1864. Further complicating a specific designation, the return was not received until August, meaning all batteries of the regiment are candidates! All may be a mute point, as the unit reported six No. 1 field carriages, assorted implements, tarps, and ammunition chests.
  • Lieutenant F.G. Comstock, Stores in Charge: Reporting at Fort Jefferson, Florida, with two 12-pdr field howitzers. The 110th New York Infantry transferred from Third Division, Nineteenth Corps to a garrison posting at Fort Jefferson in February 1864. And Lieutenant Franklin G. Comstock served as the regimental quartermaster. So the location appears to match, down to the name of the officer, for the received date of May 30, 1864, as opposed to the “reporting date” of December 1863. Turning back the calendar further, the 110th New York had an active fall, being involved with the expedition to the Teche Country in November. Perhaps the regiment used those howitzers while in Louisiana, and carried them along to Key West? Just as likely, the regiment assumed control of the howitzers after arriving at Key West for their garrison duties. Colonel Clinton H. Sage commanded the regiment through his discharge on December 10, 1863. Lieutenant-Colonel Warren D. Smith led the regiment afterward until a permanent replacement was assigned.

Looking back at last quarter’s post, there are some units that I’d submit were missed with the summary roll-up (either due to lack of return submission or clerical actions):

  • 51st New York Infantry: Had reported ordnance stores and ammunition on hand the previous quarter. Likely all were passed to other units by December.
  • 98th New York Infantry: The regiment remained posted to North Carolina. Though by this time their ordnance may have been deemed garrison equipment, and thus reported through other channels.
  • 3rd New York Cavalry, Allis’s Howitzers: I’ve detailed this section in earlier posts. If force to speculate, I’d say likely the 3rd New York retained that howitzer section through the end of the year, even if Lieutenant James A. Allis as not still in command.
  • 12th New York Cavalry, Fish’s Howitzers: This detachment, under Lieutenant Joseph M. Fish, was certainly still intact at the end of December. But was not reported here.

Those speculations aside and the details in view, we turn to the remaining pages of this summary, starting with the smoothbore ammunition:

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  • 110th New York: 100 shot for 18-pdr siege & Garrison gun; 10 shell and 36 case for 12-pdr guns (could be light, heavy, or siege).

Certainly not compatible with the howitzers reported on hand! This discrepancy continues on the next page:

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  • 110th New York: 36 canister for 12-pdr guns.

So why would the regiment have field howitzers, but ammunition for guns? Particularly all the 18-pdr shot? The details beg questions we cannot answer here.

The next page (Hotchkiss projectiles) has no entries. So we turn to the Schenkl columns:

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  • 99th New York: 30 shells for 4.2-inch rifles (30-pdr Parrotts).

As there are no other tallies of projectiles, we are left with the suggestion that Smith Briggs‘ guns were short of ammunition!

A lone entry on the small arms page:

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  • 99th New York: 5 Enfield muskets, .58-caliber.

This is an unconventional inclusion. Normally the small arms issued to the infantry were tallied on separate returns. This implies the five Enfields were assigned to the crew of the Smith Briggs, operating as gun crews. And the 99th had plenty of ammunition for those muskets:

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  • 99th New York: 2,000 musket cartridges for .54-caliber and 1,000 musket cartridges for .58-caliber.

So even within the small arms reporting, we see entries which beg questions.

The last page offers no such question marks:

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  • 99th New York: 40 friction primers.

If anything, these miscellaneous entries set up follow-on postings to better describe the nature of service. For the New Yorkers, I’ve got those taskings. The Marine Brigade and those cavalry howitzer sections deserve more story-telling.