Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Vermont’s Batteries

Not a populous state, yet Vermont arguably fought above their weight class during the Civil War with nearly 10% of the state’s population responding to the call.  We hear much of the two infantry brigades which served with the Army of the Potomac.  And the storied 1st Vermont Cavalry gets it due from those who chronicle the horse soldiers.  But with respect to the artillerymen, the most often mentioned is the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery, which served through much of the war, in effect, as infantry.  What of the light batteries?  Well… let’s look to their summaries:

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At the close of the third quarter, 1863, Vermont had only two light batteries in service (the third would not muster until 1864).  And those two batteries were dealing with the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes of Louisiana.  Thus, in our “main theaters of operation” centered studies of the war, these two batteries garner little attention.  Let’s give them some attention here:

  • 1st Battery: Reporting from Brashear City (modern Morgan City), Louisiana with four 3-inch rifles. Under Captain George T. Hebard, the battery moved to Third Division, Nineteenth Corps in the reorganizations after the fall of Port Hudson.  Initially assigned to Baton Rouge, the battery returned to Port Hudson in late July.  During the first week of September, the battery participated in the unsuccessful Sabine Pass expedition.  After that, they returned to Brashear City on garrison duties.
  • 2nd Battery: At Port Hudson, Louisiana, with four 6-pdr (3.37-inch) rifles. Although using a column for bronze pieces, these were most certainly Sawyer rifles of cast steel.  After the fall of Port Hudson, the battery remained at that place as part of the Fourth Division, Nineteenth Corps (again, a transfer as part of the corps’ reorganization).  Captain Pythagoras E. Holcomb commanded the battery at the start of the summer.  But on August 19, he was mustered out of the battery to accept a promotion to major in the 1st Texas (US) Cavalry.  An interesting “unionist” story to follow.  But as this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and not “The Tinking of Sabers,” I’ll leave that story to those who write about the cavalry.  Lieutenant John W. Chase was promoted in October to replace Holcomb. 
  • 3rd Battery: Not listed.  This battery began forming in November.  So we will discuss them in the next quarter in more detail.  Captain Romeo H. Start received commission in the battery on November 23.  And was busy recruiting from that point forward.

So just two batteries to account for in the ammunition tables.  With no smoothbores reported, we can skip that page.  So we move to the Hochkiss columns:

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  • 1st Battery: 86 canister, 329 percussion shell, and 261 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

No Dyer, James, or Parrott rounds reported.  So we turn to the Schenkl columns:

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  • 1st Battery: 130 shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 498 shell and 222 case for 3.67-inch rifles.

Note also, at the far end of the table, some of those rare Tatham’s canister were reported also:

  • 2nd Battery: 222 canister for 3.67-inch rifles.

This leads us to the small arms reported:

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  • 1st Battery: Fourteen army revolvers and thirty-four horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Seven army revolvers and fifty-one cavalry sabers.

These two batteries continued their service in Louisiana into the next year.  The 1st would muster out the following summer.  But the 3rd, which we mentioned only as a prelude here, would move up to the front around the same time to participate in some of the most violent fighting of the war. 

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Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Vermont Batteries

At the end of June, the two volunteer batteries from Vermont were serving at Port Hudson, Louisiana:

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Just the 1st and 2nd Batteries at this time of the war, with the third forming up in January 1864.  And a very short administrative description:

  • 1st Vermont Light Battery: Listed at Port Hudson, Louisiana with six 3-inch rifles (perhaps ending any speculation I might have offered from the previous quarter). Captain George T. Hebard remained in command.  The battery was assigned to Second Division, Nineteenth Corps.  Hebard’s battery occupied a position just left of center on the Federal siege lines.
  • 2nd Vermont Light Battery: Also at Port Hudson, Louisiana with six 3.67-inch rifles.  Although using a column for bronze pieces, these were most certainly Sawyer rifles of cast steel. Assigned to Third Division, Nineteenth Corps under Captain Pythagoras E. Holcomb. The battery occupied one of the works on the right end of the Federal siege line, rather close to the Confederate defenses.

There is a fine map from the Atlas volume of the Official Records which shows the respective locations for these batteries.  The map annotations call out each battery by commander’s name.  According to the map, the 1st Battery had six 3-inch rifles and the 2nd Battery had six 6-pdr Sawyer rifles.

No smoothbore rounds reported for these batteries, only rifled projectiles.  We start with Hotchkiss for the 1st Battery:

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  • 1st Battery: 110 canister, 75 percussion shell, and 860 (!) bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Turning to the next page, note the lack of James projectiles.  We can focus on the Dyer’s Patent types:

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Again, just 1st Battery:

  • 1st Battery: 120 Dyer’s canister for 3-inch rifles.

Rather significant we don’t see any Hotchkiss, Dyer’s, James, or Parrott reported from 2nd Battery.  In a way it corroborates the presence of Sawyer rifles.  Those weapons were designed to fire projectiles of Addison M. Sawyer’s design (patented in 1855).

But we do see 2nd Battery in the Schenkl columns:

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Both batteries in fact:

  • 1st Battery: 312 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 99 shot, 1536 (!!) shell, and 524 canister, of Schenkl type, for 3.67-inch rifles.

Of note, Sawyer’s patented projectiles featured a large lead sabot that covered almost the entire body of the projectile.  Some of those have been recovered from around Port Hudson.  There is no doubt 2nd Battery had Sawyer projectiles for their rifles.  But there are no columns for Sawyer.  So… do perhaps the clerks put “Sawyer” under “Schenkl”?

Moving to the right, 2nd Battery also reported Tatham’s canister:

  • 2nd Battery: 598 Tatham canister for 3.67-inch rifles.

Yes, a lot of canister.  And certainly something an artillerist would want around during a siege.

Turning to the small arms:

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Both batteries reporting:

  • 1st Battery: Eighteen Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Eleven Army revolvers and fifty-eight cavalry sabers.

As is my mission, of sorts, with these summaries is to translate and demonstrate how these dry numbers translated to real activity afield, the Vermont batteries, while brief, are an excellent case in point.  We can match the guns reported – though not without questioning the clerks on 2nd Battery’s guns – to specific places on wartime maps.  And from those maps we can step out to what remains of the battlefield today.  All contributing to the study of the subject.

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Vermont Batteries

For the fourth quarter of 1862, the batteries of Vermont got no love from the clerks at the Ordnance Department.  For the first of 1863, at least the batteries received mention:

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A small state, Vermont provided only two light batteries up to this point of the war (a third would be mustered in January 1864).  Both active batteries served in the Army of the Gulf.  Likewise, both would play parts in the campaign against Port Hudson, Louisiana later in the spring and into summer.  The receipt date for both batteries is within bureaucratic tolerance – August and May of the reporting year, respectively.

  • 1st Vermont Light Battery: Listed at New Orleans, Louisiana with six 3-inch rifles. In January, Captain George W. Duncan resigned. Captain George T. Hebard assumed command of this battery at the start of the spring.  The battery was assigned to Second Division, Nineteenth Corps.
  • 2nd Vermont Light Battery: Placed at Baton Rouge, Louisiana with six 3.67-inch rifles. Assigned to Third Division, Nineteenth Corps under Captain Pythagoras E. Holcomb.

When attempting to identify the specific type of cannon assigned to these batteries, I have to pause to offer simply the calibers reported.  I’m most certain the six 3.67-inch rifles of the 2nd Battery were Sawyer 6-pdr Steel Rifles.  But, we see here those are reported as bronze rifles.  With so many case where columns were “re-purposed” by the clerks, why not one more.

And for the 1st Battery, the weapons assigned were specifically identified as steel rifles. However, there is much inconsistency in the reports, correspondence, and records in regard to “steel rifles”.  Some times standard wrought iron Ordnance Rifles were so identified.  However, the identification leaves open the possibility that Sawyer rifles, or even Wiard rifles, in that caliber were used by the battery.  And that would be just a short list of possibilities.  The standard old 3-inch Ordnance Rifle would be the leading candidate.  But we might speculate, given 2nd Battery’s association with the Sawyer rifles, that 1st Battery also had weapons of that origin.

Moving past the speculation about the guns, let us find out what they fired.  No smoothbore weapons on hand, so no smoothbore projectiles.  So we skip forward to the Hotchkiss rounds:

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And allow me to add to that snip the continuation columns on the next page:

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The total tally for Hotchkiss projectiles looks as such:

  • 1st Battery: 120 canister, 444 percussion shell, and 625 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 939 fuse shell and 347 canister for 3.67-inch rifles.

The batteries did not report any Dyer’s, James’, or Parrott’s on hand.  Nor any Schenkl.  So we move directly to the small arms:

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Of the two:

  • 1st Battery: Eighteen Army revolvers and thirty-three horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Eight Army revolvers and fifty-eight cavalry sabers.

Aside from the precise identification of the cannons, the two Vermont batteries offer a simple report to interpret.