Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – Arkansas

We start the fourth quarter of 1863’s summaries not with the US Regulars, which has been the pattern in the past quarters, but with the volunteers from Arkansas. Unionist volunteers that is. Apparently the clerks at the Ordnance Department adopted a pure alphabetical arrangement… sort of that is. Below Arkansas are listings for USCT under the heading for Alabama. Give them a break, as Sesame Street was still over 100 years away.

At any rate, there is one line for Arkansas in this quarter:

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  • 1st Light Battery: At Fayetteville, Arkansas with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain Denton D. Stark remained in command of this battery, then supporting Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison’s Arkansas Unionists garrisoning Fayetteville. In the previous quarter, we noted this battery was dispatched by section from Springfield to Fayetteville. Elements of the battery participated in the pursuit of Confederate General Joe Shelby’s raid in October. Stark led a section that saw action at Cross Timbers, Missouri, on October 15. But December found all the sections in Fayetteville.

In the previous quarter, we noted the presence of a section of mountain howitzers with Harrison’s 1st Arkansas Cavalry. These troops were also at Fayetteville. And I believe the cavalry retained use of the mountain howitzers at that time of the war. But there is no return here.

For later reference, the 1st Arkansas Light Battery (African Descent) would organize in June 1864. Then later that battery became Battery H, 2nd US Colored Light Artillery. We shall reserve a spot for them in future summaries.

Turning to the 1st Arkansas Battery’s report, we look at the ammunition and other ordnance on hand. No smoothbore ammunition needed, so we skip past Page 3’s first leaf. Then we turn to the Hotchkiss projectiles listed on the right side of Page 3:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 463 Hotchkiss time fuse shells for 3-inch rifles.

On to page 4’s left side and more Hotchkiss:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 1194 Hotchkiss percussion fuse shell, 942 Hotchkiss case shot, and 237 Hotchkiss canister for 3-inch rifles.

Yes, that’s a lot of rounds! We can skip the Parrott, Schenkl, and miscellaneous columns. That brings us to the small arms:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 20 Enfield muskets, 28 Colt .44 revolvers, and nineteen horse artillery sabers.

And for the muskets, the battery reported a sizable number of cartridges:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 1000 ball, .54 inch caliber. I’m not the small arms expert, but Enfields were .577. So either the Arkansas were making due with the wrong ammunition, or this is a transcription error.

No such issues in regard to the revolver ammunition on the next page:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 1,800 cartridges for army caliber (.44-inch).

But to the right of that we have an entry with a question regarding the miscellaneous articles:

  • 1st Light Battery: 50 yards of slow match.

During the Civil War, slow match was a common issue item. In fact, a regulation ammunition chest would hold 1.5 to 2 yards of slow match (in addition to friction primers and 3 to 4 portfires). And, yes, technology had progressed, by the start of the Civil War, so that artillerists didn’t have to stand around with a linstock to ignite the powder. “Didn’t have to” is the operative phrase here. There’s a lot of uses for slow match aside from firing the cannon. But in this case, was there any better option?

The 1st Arkansas does not report any friction primers. Fifty yards would have given the gunners eight yards, plus some left over, per gun. The battery reported a total of 2,836 rounds on hand. That translates, with fifty rounds per chest, into 57 ammunition chests (rounding up for a partial). If we factor 1.5 yards of slow match per chest, we should have 85 yards. But only fifty yards are reported. Still not enough per regulation. But perhaps sufficient until the shipment of friction primers arrived from Missouri?

My point isn’t that “authentic” Arkansas light battery reenactors should be lighting off their cannon with slow match. Rather that we should not insist all the batteries in the war had equal supplies. In this case, we might conclude the Arkansas failed to count the friction primers on hand… or that they were using slow match in lieu of friction primers. Either way, it adds to the other facts that define the historical situation – bad record keeping, or poor logistical support. Both were in play in Arkansas at the end of 1863.

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