Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Connecticut

Connecticut provided three light batteries to the Union cause during the Civil War.  Of those, only two were in service at the end of September 1863.  And that is what we see on the summary lines for the state in the third quarter, 1863:

0241_1_Snip_CT

This is half the story, but let us start with these lines:

  • 1st Connecticut Light Artillery Battery: Reporting at Folly Island, South Carolina with six 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain Alfred P. Rockwell remained in command, with the battery still assigned to Tenth Corps, Department of the South.  The battery  supported Colonel Thomas W. Higginson’s Edisto Expedition, aimed to divert Confederate attention from Morris Island.  The 1st Connecticut lost two guns, on board tug Governor Milton when that vessel ran aground and was burned.  The guns were recovered by Confederates.  With the four remaining guns, Rockwell’s Battery went to Folly Island, where they replaced a set of Quaker Guns covering Lighthouse Inlet.  The battery received replacements for the lost cannon.  The battery history insists, “They were of the latest pattern and much praised by the comrades.”  But the battery went on reporting six James rifles into the spring of 1864.  In November, Rockwell took a brief leave and Lieutenant George Metcalf, to the dismay of the men, held temporary charge of the battery.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery Battery: Reporting from New York City with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Still under Captain John W. Sterling and part of the 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, the battery was among the forces dispatched north in response to the New York Draft Riots.  Sterling’s battery supported Brigadier-General Thomas Ruger’s brigade in August.  In October, the battery returned to duty at Washington, D.C.

However, there were two other batteries we should mention here.  Batteries B and M, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery served the 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.  Under Captains Albert F. Booker and Franklin A. Pratt, respectively, each was armed with four 4.5-inch siege rifles.  And they would haul those guns up and down central Virginia during the Bristoe Campaign.  Pratt would put his guns to good use on November 7, 1863 at Kelly’s Ford.  We can understand the omission from the summaries, as these were “heavy” batteries with “siege guns.”

Moving down to the ammunition, the two howitzers of Sterling’s battery had rounds on hand:

0243_1_Snip_CT

  • 2nd Battery: 120 shell, 160 case, and 32 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.

It’s over on the columns for rifled projectiles we find all the activity.  First the Hotchkiss types:

0243_2_Snip_CT

  • 1st Battery: 190 shot, 50 percussion shell, 80 fuse shell, and 360 bullet shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 136 percussion shell and 240 bullet shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

There is one more Hotchkiss entry on the next page:

0244_1_Snip_CT

  • 2nd Battery: 24 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

To the right are columns for James’ patent projectiles:

  • 1st Battery: 132 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 28 shell and 56 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

Lastly, both batteries reported Schenkl shells:

0244_2_Snip_CT

  • 1st Battery: 458(?) shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 156 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

Overall, a good quantity of rifled projectiles on hand.  Even if for the less desired James rifles.

Lastly, we have the small arms reported:

0244_3_Snip_CT

By battery:

  • 1st Battery:  Seventy-nine Navy revolvers, thirteen cavalry sabers, and forty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Eighteen Navy revolvers and fifteen horse artillery sabers.

Summaries posted later in the war were less particular about the distinction of “light” or “heavy” duties.  So all four Connecticut batteries would appear together.  But for the third quarter of 1863, we have to pretend there are two more lines on the form.  The odd twist here was the two “heavy” batteries were serving with a field army.  All the while, the two “light” batteries, for all practical purposes, were serving garrison roles!

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Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Heavy Artillery

Let me give the heavy artillery batteries, battalions, and regiments their due for this quarter of the summary.  While looking at each of the state sections, we’ve mentioned a few of these batteries.  But not the whole.  The omission, by those at the Ordnance Department, was mostly due to bureaucratic definitions than any overt action.

Briefly, the summary statements we are reviewing here are focused only on ordnance rated as “field artillery.” A further qualification is that only units assigned roles to use field artillery (as in for use as “mobile” artillery) are included.  So, IF a field howitzer was assigned to a fort’s garrison, AND that howitzer was considered part of the fort’s armament, and not part of the garrisoning unit’s property, THEN it was accounted for in a different set of sheets for accounting.  Such means a great number of field artillery pieces, not to mention the siege, garrison, and seacoast artillery, escapes mention in these summaries.  And we don’t have, to my knowledge, a full record for those anywhere in the surviving documents.  However, I would point out that in 1864 the Ordnance Department began using a common form to account for field, siege, garrison, and seacoast artillery.

But for the second quarter of 1863, that accounting is lacking in the known records.  We do have a handful of “heavies” that were assigned roles which required mobile artillery.  And those were mentioned as we proceeded through the summary.  For sake of completeness, let me list all the heavy units in service as of June 1863 and match those to summary lines where mentioned.  Keep in mind the varied service of these formations.  Traditionally, these were assigned to garrison fortifications.  But wartime contingencies would see the “heavies” employed as infantry or even cavalry were needed.  And those needs would evolve as the war continued.

By unit, ordered by state (these are regiments unless otherwise noted):

  • 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery:  As mentioned earlier, Batteries B and M served with the Army of the Potomac, in 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve.  They, and their 4.5-inch rifles, were left behind and missed Gettysburg (though were active in the pursuit which followed).  The remainder of Colonel Henry L. Abbot’s regiment served in Third Brigade of the Defenses South of the Potomac (DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps), defending Washington, D.C.  Regimental headquarters were at Fort Richardson.
  • 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery: Serving at this time as the 19th Connecticut Infantry (designation would change in November 1863) under Lieutenant Colonel Elisha S. Kellogg, and assigned to Second Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps.  Companies B, F, and G manned Fort Ellsworth; Company A assigned to Redoubt A (in that sector); Company D to Redoubt B; Companies C and K to Redoubt C; and Companies E, H, and I were in Redoubt D.
  • 1st Indiana Heavy Artillery: Assigned to the Department of the Gulf, the regiment was in First Division, Nineteenth Corps (having converted from the 21st Indiana Infantry earlier in the year).  We discussed Batteries A and E and their work at Port Hudson.  Colonel John A. Keith commanded, with detachments at Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
  • 1st Maine Heavy Artillery: Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps under Colonel Daniel Chaplin.  Batteries assigned mostly to the defenses on the west side of Washington, and along the Potomac.
  • 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: Assigned to First Brigade of the Defenses South of the Potomac – DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps.  Colonel Thomas R. Tannatt commanded the regiment, and also commanded the brigade.
  • 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery:  Authorized in May 1863, this regiment, under Colonel Jones Frankle, would not complete formation until later in the fall.
  • 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Battalion: This battalion was formed with four previously independent batteries and served primarily at Fort Warren, Boston harbor.  The four companies were originally the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th unassigned heavy companies (becoming Companies A, B, C, and D respectively).  Major Stephen Cabot commanded this consolidated battalion.  In addition the 3rd and 6th unassigned companies also appear in the list of garrison troops around Boston.
  • 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery: This regiment, commanded by Colonel George A. Wainwright, would not officially form until later in July.
  • 2nd New York Heavy Artillery:  We discussed Colonel Joseph N. G. Whistler’s regiment while covering a lone entry for Battery L (which later became the 34th New York Independent Battery).  The 2nd New York Heavy was assigned to First Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, South of the Potomac.
  • 4th New York Heavy Artillery:  Under Colonel Henry H. Hall, this regiment formed the Fourth Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, Defenses South of the Potomac.  Detachments manned Fort Marcy and Fort Ethan Allen.
  • 5th New York Heavy Artillery:  Assigned to the defenses of Baltimore, Maryland, as part of the Middle Department.  Commanded by Colonel Samuel Graham, but with Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Murray in charge of two battalions then at Baltimore.  Another battalion, under Major Gustavus F. Merriam, appears on the returns for First Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, South of the Potomac.
  • 6th New York Heavy Artillery:  Assigned to the First Division, Eighth Corps.  Colonel J. Howard Kitching commanded.  The regiment was part of the Harpers Ferry garrison before the Gettysburg Campaign, and soon brought into the Army of the Potomac.
  • 7th New York Heavy Artillery: Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps under Colonel Lewis O. Morris (who also commanded the brigade).
  • 8th New York Heavy Artillery: Under Colonel Peter A. Porter, this regiment had garrison duty at Forts Federal Hill, Marshall, and McHenry around Baltimore, as part of Eighth Corps, Middle Department.  On July 10, the regiment moved forward to Harpers Ferry, staying there until August 3.
  • 9th New York Heavy Artillery: Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps under Colonel Joseph Welling.
  • 10th New York Heavy Artillery: This regiment was all of the Third Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps.  Commanded by Colonel Alexander Piper.  One battalion (four companies) moved from the defenses of New York to Washington in June, joining the rest of the regiment. Their service was mostly on the southeast side of the perimeter around the Anacostia.
  • 11th New York Heavy Artillery:  We discussed their saga in an earlier post.  Colonel William B. Barnes’ regiment was still forming when thrust into the Gettysburg Campaign.
  • 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th New York Heavy Artillery:  These regiments were all authorized by the spring of 1863, but in various states of organization at the end of June.
  • 3rd New York Heavy Artillery Battalion: Also known as the German Heavy Artillery.  Under Lieutenant-Colonel Adam Senges, and assigned to Second Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps, on the south side of the Potomac.  This battalion was, later in the year, consolidated into the 15th New York Heavy Artillery, and came under Colonel Louis Schirmer.  For some reason, Schirmer’s name is associated with the command as early as June 1863.
  • 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery: Lieutenant-Colonel Chauncey G. Hawley’s command garrisoned Covington, Kentucky as part of Twenty-third Corps, Department of Ohio.
  • 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery:  (the 112th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.) Under Colonel Augustus A. Gibson and assigned to First Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac.  Regimental headquarters at Fort Lincoln.
  • 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery: We discussed Battery H and their “impressed” service at Gettysburg. While that battery was on detached service (Baltimore, then pushed out to guard the railroad), the remainder of the regiment served out of Fort Monroe providing detachments for garrisons in the Department of Virginia. Colonel Joseph Roberts commanded.
  • 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery: We looked at this regiment, assigned to the Department of the South, in detail earlier.  Colonel Edwin Metcalf commanded the regiment
  • 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery:  Colonel George W. Tew commanded this regiment, serving in North Carolina, and being reorganized from an infantry formation.
  • 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery:  Colonel James M. Warner commanded this regiment, assigned to First Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-second Corps.  Batteries garrisoned Forts Totten, Massachusetts, Stevens, Slocum, and others.
  • 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery:  Only Battery A of this regiment was mustered as of the end of June 1863. Captain Andrew J. Langworthy’s battery was assigned to the defenses of Alexandria, within DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-second Corps.
  • 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent): I mentioned this regiment briefly at the bottom of the Tennessee section. Colonel Ignatz G. Kappner commanded this regiment, at the time more of battalion strength, garrisoning Fort Pickering in Memphis. The regiment later became the 3rd US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery.
  • 2nd Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent): Also mentioned in the Tennessee section, this regiment, under Colonel Charles H. Adams, was forming up in June 1863.  The regiment would later be designated the 4th US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery.
  • 1st Alabama Siege Artillery (African Descent): Organized from the contraband camps around LaGrange, LaFayette, and Memphis, Tennessee starting on June 20, 1863. Captain Lionel F. Booth appears to be the ranking officer in the regiment in those early months.  The regiment would later be designated the 6th US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery, and then later the 11th USCT Infantry.
  • 1st Louisiana Heavy Artillery (African Descent):  Later in the year designated the 1st Corps de Afrique Heavy Artillery.  And still later in the war becoming the 10th US Colored Heavy Artillery.  And at times, the regiment appears on the rolls as the 1st Louisiana Native Guards Artillery (a name also associated with another USCT formation).  This regiment served throughout the war in the defenses of New Orleans, in the Department of the Gulf.

Yes, a lengthy post.  But this summarizes the status of over thirty regiments.  As you might deduce from reading the entries, the service of the “heavies” was weighted to the defenses of Washington, D.C.  However, the “heavies” also garrisoned places such as Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, and other remote points.

Some other trends one might note – a good number of these regiments formed in the spring and summer of 1863.  We can, in some cases, link that to the draft and those seeking light service.  But at the same time, let us not “Shelby Foote” our way through these units.  At the time of mustering, the Army wanted troops for garrison defense.  And that was a valid requirement, given the posture at the time.

Lastly, it is important to also frame the context of the four USCT regiments listed above.  These were largely formed out of contraband camps.  And their duties were, for the most part, to provide garrison troops that would free up the white volunteers for service in the field.  But, as the course of events played out, one of those regiments would defend Fort Pillow in April 1864.

So much for easy duty in those heavy regiments!

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Missing batteries

Earlier this week, I finished the transcription of the second quarter, 1863 summary statements with a pair of entries for California under the “Miscellaneous” heading.  In the past, I’ve given my own “miscellaneous” listing to cover batteries which were not mentioned in the summary. But since the clerks of 1863 have secured that heading, I’ll have to consider other options.

For this quarter, with evolution to the presentation, I’ve given space to many of those missing batteries in the normal entries.  Furthermore, it seemed that by June 1863 the Ordnance Department had improved accounting.  When comparing to “missing batteries” from the previous quarter, we can note entries for the 1st Arkansas, 1st Colorado, Mississippi Marine Brigade artillery, and Tennessee’s Federal batteries.  However some were inevitably left out.  A short summary by state, just as a reminder:

In addition, let us also consider the heavy artillery regiments then in service.  As of June 1863, the summaries we have to consider only tallied field artillery.  Heavy, siege, and seacoast weapons were detailed on other forms.  Though I would point out that in 1864 the summaries were consolidated somewhat.  There is a fine “bureaucratic” point to keep in mind here.  The guns of a fort, armory, or other facility were considered property of that installation.  So while the members of a regiment might have manned massive Parrotts and Columbiads, the guns were reported by the installation.

Mentioned in the bullet points above and sprinkled throughout the summaries for the second quarter, many “heavies” were issued field artillery and put to service on active campaigns IN the field.  So we have considered their service where crossing into the field artillery lane.  Still, I think for the sake of a complete record, we should at least identify what heavy artillery units were on the rolls at the time and where they served.

So my next post, to conclude the second quarter of 1863, will be a summary listing of heavy artillery units that were on the rolls as of June 1863.

Artillery support when the Petersburg mine went off

As you might guess, when thinking of the Crater at Petersburg, a subject which crosses my mind is the use of artillery in the operation.  Not to diminish the other aspects of the battle, but the artillery of the Army of the Potomac played an important role there… and is somewhat overlooked in my opinion.  I’m not an expert in the battle.  So I would direct you to one of many folks who have written book length treatments of the battle.

My schedule has prevented me from writing up more on Petersburg up to this time.  Likely, given the sesquicentennial pace, I’ll have to put that on my “after April 2015” stack.  But I did want to mention the artillery’s role and provide a graphic depiction, by way of Brigadier-General Henry Hunt’s map:

PlateLXIV_3

The map, and a busy map it is, includes a table breaking down by battery the type and number of guns engaged on July 30, 1864:

PlateLXIV_3A

For those who are squinting, the roll call is eighteen 4-½-inch rifles, two 20-pdr Parrotts, fifty-two 3-inch rifles (3-inch Ordnance or 10-pdr Parrotts), thirty-eight 12-pdr Napoleons, ten 10-inch mortars, sixteen 8-inch mortars, and twenty-eight Coehorn mortars.  Grand total is 164 guns and mortars brought to bear on the Confederate lines in support of the assault.

Some of that number were in the 18th Corps sector and not firing directly in support of the assault.  Others were, likewise, firing on the 5th Corps front well to the south of the crater.  But all were firing at some time that morning to suppress or pin down the Confederates in conjunction with the assault.  For comparison, the “great bombardment” by the Confederates on July 3, 1863 during that “contest” at Gettysburg involved about 140 guns.

Hunt’s map indicates not only the battery positions, but also what the targets were.  This adds to the “clutter” on the map. But this is an incredible resource for determining his intent with respect to the fires placed upon the Confederate lines.

PlateLXIV_3B

The snip above looks at the area of the mine, and just south.  Notice there are more dashed blue lines leading to the Confederate redoubt south of the mine than there are the redoubt above the mine.  Suppression of the Confederate line was the intent there.

Another Federal position worth noting is that of Company C, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery.  Battery number 8 on Hunt’s map contained ten 10-inch mortars.  Circled here in blue.

PlateLXIV_3C1

Those mortars fired on approximately 1,000 yards of the Confederate front, to the south of the crater (blue shading in the snip above).  Recall, these mortars were firing, for at least part of the day, case shot as constructed under Colonel Henry Abbot’s instructions.  Battery Number 19, Company B, 1st Connecticut, with six 4-½-inch rifles, located north-east (center-right on the snip above) of the mortars also covered a large section of the Confederate lines.

One problem with these arrangements is that suppressing fire requires a high rate of ammunition expenditure.  Suppressing fire cannot be sustained, even by a master artillery chief such as Hunt, for longer than a few hours.  At some point, fresh ammunition chests must be rotated in.  The assault had to quickly achieve the initial objectives, or lose the suppressing fire support.

Napoleons (and siege howitzers) as mortars: More data and range tables!

Back in May I wrote about a “suggestion” from Brigadier-General Henry Hunt in regard to firing 12-pdr Light Field Guns – Napoleons – as mortars.  Hunt inquired with Colonel Henry L. Abbot, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery and the presumptive commander of the siege artillery to support the Army of the Potomac, about testing Napoleons dug in to fire at high angle.  In that post, I remarked that Abbot “… had not gotten around to trials of the Napoleons as mortars.  Nor would he.”  A few days after the request, Abbot moved to Fort Monroe to join the Army of the James.  Well, I have a correction to make!

Commenter John Wells offereda vague recollection of reading in some period artillery manual or other that the Napoleon could be reversed on its carriage to allow high angle of fire “mortar practice”” At the time, I didn’t recall such, but noted there was mention of siege howitzers employed in that manner.  But John’s comment, coming from someone knowledgeable on Civil War era weapons, had me double checking. Sure enough, a passage from Abbot laid out those experiments with some detail.  John was spot on!

Abbot’s Siege Artillery in the Campaigns against Richmond is like a “practical guide to heavy artillery” and filled with many fine points of technical nature.  In regard to Napoleons mounted for use as mortars, he wrote:

The advantages of vertical fire under certain circumstances are so great, that in May, 1864, a few experiments were made, under my direction, by Captain [Wilbur F.] Osborne, 1st Connecticut artillery, to test the light 12-pounder gun as a mortar.  They indicated that it might be thus used when mortars could not be procured; but the expedient was never necessary in the siege of Richmond.

So, while Abbot could not fill Hunt’s request personally, one of his capable subordinates did.  But while Hunt suggested simply digging in the trail of the cannon to provide the necessary elevation, Osborne worked the weapon in a different manner:

The carriage was dismounted and the gun reversed in its trunnion beds so as to point over the trail. Two parallel skids laid in a direction perpendicular to the parapet and separated by the proper interval, supported the axle at such a height as to allow the breech to be depressed between them sufficiently to give an angle of elevation of 45º to the piece.  The breech rested on a kind of quoin, and it was found necessary to tie the trail down with the prolonge when the gun was fired. With five ounces of powder, giving a range of about 1600 yards, the strain upon the carriage was inappreciable.  Solid shot (weighing 12.12 pounds) were used; and with charges of four ounces and less, the sabot was not detached until striking the ground.  With very small charges the sabot passed below the vent, but the friction primer always ignited the powder.  These experiments were made in grate haste, at the request of General Hunt, chief of artillery, army of the Potomac, only three days before starting for the field, and no very extended trial was practicable.

Abbot provided a table showing the results of these trials:

AbbotVert12Pdr

For comparison, the standard Napoleon load for a solid shot in horizontal fire was 2.5 pounds, giving 1,680 yards at 5º elevation.  So almost the same range, with a lot less powder.  But that’s mortar powder instead of the standard grade cannon powder, mind you.  The ranges cited were for solid shot.  Using shell, I would think the ranges would, as they did for horizontal fire, drop off to around 1,300 yards.  And shells were more practical for vertical fire.

The practical issue with the arrangement used in the tests was the modification of the weapon mounting.  Dismounting a 1,225 pound bronze gun was no trivial matter in the field.  And for the field artillerists, who would need to employ the gun in most cases for direct, horizontal, fire, this would mean two periods of time in which the gun was unavailable for use.  Not to mention the need to bring along wood for rails, as tested by Osborne.

Abbot went on to record similar tests using the 8-inch siege howitzers, which he was particularly fond of (and Hunt was less so):

Similar experiments with an 8-inch howitzer were conducted by Lieutenant Colonel [Joseph A.] Haskin, in charge of the defenses north of the Potomac, in October, 1863. The following are the results obtained by him and communicated in the manner above described.

AbbotVert8inHow

The tests took into account the differences between the older Model 1841 and new Model 1861 versions of the howitzer:

The variation in range between the two models, of which the bores differ only in the form of the chamber, (elliptical and gomer,) will be noticed with surprise. It accords with my own experiments, soon to be given, with the new and old model mortars. The absolute value of the range shows that a considerable economy in powder wold result from using the howitzer instead of the mortar, but in service this advantage would be more than balanced by the greater inconvenience of loading and pointing.  It is, however, a fact worth remembering that vertical fire, in cases of necessity, can be obtained readily and effectively from guns and howitzers.

That last remark is indeed “worth remembering.”  Within fifty years, weapons designers began working with advanced carriages, using stronger steel frames and pneumatic recoil systems, to allow high elevations.  This revolutionized the use of field artillery.  From primarily a direct fire weapon in the Civil War, by World War I the artillery was more often than not employed against targets unseen by the gunner… and at high angles of fire.  In that light, the Federal experiments were steps in an evolutionary course which lead to today’s high powered howitzers:

www.Army.mil

(Citations from Henry L. Abbot, Siege artillery in the campaigns against Richmond: with notes on the 15-inch gun, including an algebraic analysis of the trajectory of a shot in its ricochets upon smooth water, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1887, pages 23-25.)

“The contingency is too gloomy to think about”: Resources strained between Virginia and South Carolina

On this day (June 2) in 1864, General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered a reconnaissance to determine the extent of Federal dispositions on Bermuda Hundred.  Colonel Olin M. Dantzler lead the 22nd South Carolina on this endeavor.   Dantzler used a ravine to conceal his approach, but that came to a head a few hundred yards short of the Federal works.  And there his men stood face to face with the guns of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery : two 32-pdr howitzers, a 24-pdr howitzers, a 20-pdr Parrott, and two 30-pdr Parrotts.  The howitzers did the most damage.  Canister claimed Dantzler and sixteen of his men.

I’ve mentioned that action a time or two before, as it is one of the few instances where 32-pdr field howitzers were used in combat.  But looking beyond that tactical setting, there is an interesting “big picture” angle to consider with this action.  When Dantzler fell, his body was retrieved by the Federals.  And on his body was a letter relating some intelligence of note.  Major-General Benjamin Butler quickly passed an extract of the letter along to Washington:

No news; all very quiet here. We are very short-handed now. The Twentieth [South Carolina Infantry] was positively ordered, and was ready to go, but the order was countermanded and it is now the only infantry left nearer Charleston than Savannah. If we are allowed to remain quiet, all this is well enough, but if we should be attacked by any of the approaches to the city, I fear the consequences.

The contingency is too gloomy to think about.

I’ve often wondered if the letter, or at least word of the letter, passed through Major-General Quincy Gillmore’s headquarters.  The men of the Tenth Corps, veterans of the Morris Island campaign the previous summer, were familiar with Dantzler.  Recall that a counterattack led by Dantzler on the night of August 21, 1863 which significantly delayed the Federal approach to Battery Wagner.  And Gillmore would instantly understand the implications of Dantzler’s South Carolinians presence in Virginia.

The intelligence gleaned from Dantzler’s letter demonstrated, if there was any lingering doubt, the “they have not army enough” strategy was working.  The down side, of course, to implement such the Federals had to spread themselves very thin in places.  One place being Charleston, and thus negated any opportunity to exploit the Confederate weakness.

And this incident demonstrated again just how interconnected the different theaters had become by this stage of the war – familiar adversaries fighting in different venue, with implications reaching far afield.  The stakes were much higher in the spring of 1864.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, page 110.)