Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Heavy Artillery

For the last post of this blogging year, we have the last post in the series covering the summary statements of the third quarter of 1863. This is simply an administrative summary of the heavy artillery units in Federal service at the end of that quarter. Some of these did appear in the summary statements, usually offering little more than a location. In this installment, we’ll expand upon that a bit with the aim (which will fall short, no doubt) to have at least mention of all Federal units designated as artillery which were serving at that time of the war.

The reality of the heavy artillery service is those units were by intent garrison troops. So in effect part artillery, but also part infantry. Both being on the “heavy” side of things. Not a lot of marching. Not a lot of combat. But a lot of drill and other propriety. And if artillery was crewed by the unit, those were typically considered property of the installation (be that a fort or other post) and not owned by the unit – for accounting purposes that is. Over my years of research, I’ve only seen a handful of these installation ordnance returns. The form was different, usually completed by an actual ordnance officer. I would presume from there the summaries were kept on a separate ledger. And I’ve never seen that ledger… if such exists.

All that means is we are left simply accounting for units, assignments, and duty locations. And even then we must acknowledge the list will be incomplete. Some infantry units served, for all practical purposes, as heavy artillery. And, particularly in the New England states, un-mustered militia units often pulled duty in the seacoast fortifications. So there are a lot of hairs to split in order to claim a full, complete accounting. For now, let us just focus on units mustered as, and thus designated as, heavy artillery. And we’ll look at those by state.

Alabama

  • 1st Alabama Siege/Heavy Artillery (African Descent): This unit had a date with destiny at a place called Fort Pillow… though under a different name. Initially organized in June 1863, from contrabands in Tennessee and Mississippi, by the end of September four companies were part of the Corinth, Mississippi garrison. No regimental commander was appointed until the spring 1864. The regiment would then be redesignated to the 6th US Colored Heavy Artillery (and after Fort Pillow, to the 7th US Colored Heavy Artillery; and in 1865 to the 11th USCT Infantry). The four companies, and commanders, at Corinth for the end of the third quarter were:
    • Company A: Captain Lionel F. Booth
    • Company B: Captain John H. Baker
    • Company C: Captain William T. Smith
    • Company D: Captain Delos Carson

Connecticut

  • 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery: As mentioned earlier, Batteries B and M served with the Army of the Potomac, in 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve.  The remainder of Colonel Henry L. Abbot’s regiment transferred to Second Brigade of the Defenses South of the Potomac (DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps), defending Washington, D.C.  Regimental headquarters were at Fort Richardson. Abbot pulled double duty as the brigade commander.
  • 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery: Also serving in Second Brigade of the Defenses South of the Potomac. This regiment was under Lieutenant-Colonel Elisha S. Kellogg.

Delaware

Illinois

Indiana

Louisiana

  • 1st Louisiana Heavy Artillery (African Descent): A placeholder entry in the summaries. See post for details.

Maine

  • 1st Maine Heavy Artillery: Under Colonel Daniel Chaplin, was part of the defenses of Washington, D.C., assigned to the north side of the Potomac.  The regiment had detachments in Maine on recruiting duties and at the seacoast fortifications (mostly recruits being trained up for duty). 

Maryland

  • Company A, 1st Maryland Heavy Artillery: Details of this unit are scarce. Not exactly sure when it began to organize. By mid-1864, the entire regiment numbered only fifty men. As it failed to fully organize, those present were assigned to duties around Baltimore.

Massachusetts

  • 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Regiment: 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, temporarily, the brigade.
  • 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Regiment: Freshly formed under Colonel Jones Frankle, this regiment left Massachusetts during the first weeks of September. Headquarters were going to New Berne, North Carolina. But the companies would serve at different stations throughout North Carolina and tidewater Virginia.
  • 1st Battalion, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: 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. 
  • 3rd Company, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: At Fort Independence, Boston, under Captain Lyman B. Whiton. Mustered into Federal service in January 1864 (as part of 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery).
  • 6th Company, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: Under Captain John A.P. Allen at Fort at Clark’s Point, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Would not actually muster into Federal service until May 1864 (as part of 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery) .
  • 7th Company, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: Unattached, but serving alongside the 1st Battalion at Fort Warren. Captain George S. Worchester commanded. Mustered into Federal service in August 1864 (as part of 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery).
  • 8th Company, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: Captain Loring S. Richardson commanded. Boston garrison. Mustered into Federal service in August 1864 (as part of 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery).
  • 9th Company, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: Captain Leonard Gordon commanded. Boston garrison. Mustered into Federal service in August 1864 (as part of 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery).
  • 10th Company, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: Commanded by Captain Cephas C. Bumpas. Boston garrison. Mustered into Federal service in September 1864 (as part of 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery).
  • 11th and 12th Companies, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: These companies were still organizing at the close of September 1863. They were, like the others, earmarked for garrison duty around Boston. Not mustered into Federal service until October-November 1864 (as part of 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery).

Missouri

  • 2nd Missouri Artillery: As detailed in the summary post, this regiment was reorganizing and transforming from garrison artillery to light artillery.

Mississippi

  • 1st Mississippi Heavy Artillery (African Descent): Formed at Vicksburg in September. Colonel Herman Lieb commanded. Later became the 5th US Colored Heavy Artillery.
  • 2nd Mississippi Heavy Artillery (African Descent): Formed at Natchez in September, we looked at this regiment as a possible explanation for an entry line with the Mississippi Marine Brigade. Colonel Bernard G. Farrar commanded. Later became the 6th US Colored Heavy Artillery (a duplicate of the 1st Alabama Siege Artillery, above).

New Hampshire

  • 1st Company New Hampshire Heavy Artillery: Under Captain Charles H. Long, this battery formed in the spring of 1863 and was mustered into service at the end of July. The company garrisoned Fort Constitution. In 1864, this company, along with the 2nd, below, became the nucleus for the new 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery Regiment.
  • 2nd Company New Hampshire Heavy Artillery: Organized in August and mustered in September, this company garrisoned Fort McClary, Kittery Point, New Hampshire. Captain Ira M. Barton commanded.

New York

  • 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. While Whistler commanded the brigade, Major William A. McKay led the regiment.
  • 4th New York Heavy Artillery:  Assigned to the Fourth Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, Defenses South of the Potomac.  Detachments manned Fort Marcy and Fort Ethan Allen. When Colonel Henry H. Hall was promoted to Brigadier-General, Captain John C. Tidball, of the regular army, was commissioned at the regimental commander in August.
  • 5th New York Heavy Artillery:  This regiment served by battalions at different postings. Colonel Samuel Graham, of the regiment, commanded the Second Brigade of Baltimore’s defenses. Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Murray was in charge of two battalions of the regiment in that brigade.  Third Battalion, under Major Gustavus F. Merriam, was in the defenses of Washington in First Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, South of the Potomac.
  • 6th New York Heavy Artillery:  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. At the time of the Bristoe Campaign, the regiment was serving as ammunition guards and handlers for 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. On August 3, the regiment returned to Baltimore.
  • 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 formed the Third Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps.  Commanded by Colonel Alexander Piper. 
  • 11th New York Heavy Artillery:  We discussed their saga in an earlier post.  Colonel William B. Barnes’ regiment was still forming and incomplete when thrust into the Gettysburg Campaign. The total number of men mustered was about a battalion strength. Returning to New York in mid-July, the regiment helped suppress the draft riots. Afterward, the companies of the regiment served the forts around the harbor. However, with the end of July and regiment not forming out to full strength, the men were transferred at replacements to the 4th New York Heavy and the regiment disbanded.
  • 12th New York Heavy Artillery: Colonel Robert P. Gibson began recruiting this regiment in March, 1863. Never fully recruited, the state revoked the authorization and the men were transferred to the 15th New York Heavy.
  • 13th New York Heavy Artillery: Recruited by Colonel William A. Howard starting in May 1863, this regiment mustered by company and served by company and battalion detachments. First Battalion, with Companies A, B, C, and D, under Major Oliver Wetmore, Jr., departed for Norfolk in October.
  • 14th New York Heavy Artillery: Colonel Elisha G. Marshall recruited and organized this regiment starting in May 1863. Mustering by company, only six were in service by mid-October. Those mustered were initially assigned to the defenses of New York City.
  • 15th New York Heavy Artillery: Also authorized in May 1863, Colonel Louis Schirmer commanded this regiment. The nucleus of this regiment was the 3rd Battalion New York (German) Heavy Artillery, which had served from the fall of 1861, mostly in the Washington defenses. On September 30, that battalion (five companies) was consolidated with new recruits originally from the 12th Heavy to form the 15th Heavy. They were assigned to Fourth Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, South of the Potomac (with Schirmer commanding the brigade).
  • 16th New York Heavy Artillery:  Colonel Joseph J. Morrison began organizing this regiment in June 1863. Receiving men from the 35th Independent Battery and other organizations, the 16th Heavy began mustering in September. Companies A, B, and C left the state for Fort Monroe in October.
  • 9th Independent Battery: Assigned to Fort Reno, in the defenses of Washington.
  • 20th Independent Battery: Part of the garrison of Fort Schuyler, New York.
  • 28th Independent Battery: Also assigned to Fort Schuyler.

Ohio

  • 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery: Originally the 117th Ohio Infantry, this regiment changed to heavy artillery in May 18663. Colonel Chauncey G. Hawley, who was promoted in August, commanded this regiment. They garrisoned Covington, Paris, and other posts in Kentucky as part of Twenty-third Corps, Department of Ohio. In October, the regiment moved to cover posts in Tennessee.
  • 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery: Under Colonel Horatio G. Gibson, this regiment began mustering, by company, in July 1863. By the end of September, all twelve were in service. The companies initially served at Covington Barracks, but were soon detailed to other posts in Kentucky.

Pennsylvania

  • 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: Since Battery H appeared in the summaries as a light battery, we discussed this regiment’s service in detail in an earlier post. Colonel Joseph Roberts commanded.
  • Ermentrout’s Battery: This militia battery, mustered during the Gettysburg Campaign, was mustered out at the end of August.

Rhode Island

  • 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery: Battery C of this regiment appeared in the summaries, equipped as a light battery.  The remainder of the regiment served as heavy artillery in support of the Department of the South (which has been chronicled at length on this blog….) Colonel Edwin Metcalf commanded the regiment.
  • 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery:  Colonel George W. Tew commanded this regiment, the serving the defenses of New Berne, District of North Carolina.
  • 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (African Descent): Organized on August 28, 1863, Colonel Nelson Viall commanded (some correspondence indicates a rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, as the regiment was only battalion strength at this time of the war). While forming, the regiment remained at Providence, Rhode Island. By the end of the year, one battalion would sail for Louisiana.

Tennessee

  • 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent): 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): This regiment, under Colonel Charles H. Adams, served at Columbus, Kentucky.  The regiment would later be designated the 4th US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery.

Vermont

  • 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.

Wisconsin

  • Company A, 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery:  Captain Andrew J. Langworthy’s battery was assigned to the defenses of Alexandria, within DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-second Corps.
  • Company B, 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery: Captain Walter S. Babcock’s company did not leave Wisconsin until September 1863. It was assigned duty at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
  • Company C, 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery: Still organizing in Wisconsin under Captain John R. Davies. This company moved to Chattanooga in October.
  • Company D, 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery: Would muster in November and then move to New Orleans.

US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery

  • 1st US Colored Heavy Artillery: Would organize in February 1864 at Knoxville.
  • 2nd US Colored Artillery: Light batteries organized starting in 1864.
  • 3rd US Colored Heavy Artillery: See 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent).
  • 4th US Colored Heavy Artillery: See 2nd Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent).
  • 5th US Colored Heavy Artillery: See 1st Mississippi Heavy Artillery (African Descent).
  • 6th US Colored Heavy Artillery: Two units held this designation. The 2nd Mississippi Heavy Artillery (African Descent) and the 1st Alabama Siege/Heavy Artillery (African Descent). The former would retain the designation.
  • 7th US Colored Heavy Artillery: The 1st Alabama Siege/Heavy Artillery (African Descent), assigned this designation after de-conflicting the duplication mentioned above. And to further confuse things, initially the 1st Louisiana Heavy Artillery (African Descent) was given this designation before using the 10th US Colored Heavy Artillery.
  • 8th/11th US Colored Heavy Artillery: See 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (African Descent), but would change to the 11th US Colored Heavy Artillery, as a new regiment with this designation was raised in Paducah, Kentucky, in April 1864.
  • 10th US Colored Heavy Artillery: See 1st Louisiana Heavy Artillery (African Descent), formerly the 1st Corps de Afrique Heavy Artillery.
  • Others: The 9th, 12th, and 13th US Colored Heavy Artillery were all new regiments formed in 1864. The 14th US Colored Heavy Artillery, also formed in 1864, began as the 1st North Carolina Heavy Artillery (African Descent). All to be detailed in later quarter summaries.

In closing, please pardon the lengthy resource post. Much of this was derived from raw notes in my files. And as you can see, particularly with the USCT regiments, lead into interesting discussions about designation changes.

On to the summaries for the fourth quarter of 1863! See you in 2019!

Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Rhode Island’s batteries

As we have discussed for the previous quarters, the small state of Rhode Island mustered a total of four artillery regiments for the Federal cause.  FOUR!

However, three of those regiments were heavy artillery.  And that means only the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery earns significant space in the summaries.  For the third quarter, we find every battery in that regiment (A through H) offered a return.  In addition Battery C, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery was serving as light artillery.  Thus nine batteries on the summary list:

0289_1_Snip_RI

Colonel Charles H. Tompkins (not to be confused with the US Regulars cavalry officer), commanded the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery and doubled as the Chief of Artillery, Sixth Corps.  And all eight of his batteries gave reports for the quarter:

  • Battery A: “In the field” with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William A. Arnold remained in command of this battery,  supporting Second Corps.  Their “in the field” location at the end of September was Culpeper County, Virginia.
  • Battery B: Also “In the field,” but with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Battery B also served in Second Corps’ artillery brigade, and thus was also in Culpeper at this time.  Captain  John G. Hazard of this battery was the corps artillery chief.  In his place, Lieutenant William S. Perrin commanded.
  • Battery C: Reporting at Warrenton, Virgnia, with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain Richard Waterman commanded this battery supporting the Sixth Corps.
  • Battery D: At Loudon, Tennessee with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain William W. Buckley commanded this battery.  Assigned to First Division, Twenty-third Corps through this quarter (but would return to the Ninth Corps, specifically First Division, in October)
  • Battery E: Reporting at Culpeper, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery remained with Third Corps. Captain George E. Randolph, of this battery, was in command of the corps’ artillery brigade.  Lieutenant John K. Bucklyn commanded the battery in his place.
  • Battery F: At Newport News, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons (vice 10-pdr Parrotts reported in the last quarter). Captain James Belger commanded this battery, though he was at the time on extended leave recovering from a wound and on recruiting duty.  In his place Lieutenant Thomas Simpson commanded. The battery spent the summer assigned to the Defenses of New Berne, North Carolina.  And they supported several reconnaissance operations during those months.  In October the battery was ordered to NewPort News.
  • Battery G: Reporting at Warrenton with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain George W. Adams remained in command.  And the battery remained assigned to the Sixth Corps.
  • Battery H: At Fort Scott, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Assigned to the Twenty-second Corps from the Defenses of Washington.  Captain Jeffrey Hazard resigned in August.  Lieutenant Charles F. Mason stood in as commander in his absence.  Lieutenant Crawford Allen, Jr. would transfer from Battery G in December, and receive the captaincy.

Rhode Island would not form any other batteries within the 1st Artillery Regiment.

The last line in this section is for a battery in the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery.  This regiment, as readers will recall, served in the Department of the South at this time, providing garrison troops for Fort Pulaski, Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Folly Island.  But more importantly, the regiment provided troops for the siege of Battery Wagner.  One battery of this regiment was designated a light battery and appears on the summary:

  • Battery C: Reporting on Morris Island, South Carolina with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain Charles R. Brayton remained in command.

We’ll cover the remainder of this regiment in a latter post focused on heavy artillery.

Guns need ammunition.  And the Rhode Island batteries reported plenty.  We start with the smoothbore:

0291_1_Snip_RI

  • Battery B, 1st RI: 192 shot, 64 shell, 192 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery E, 1st RI: 288 shot, 96 shell, 284 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F, 1st RI: 400 shot, 160 shell, 360 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C, 3rd RI: 120 shell, 214 case, and 92 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.

For the rifled guns, we start with the Hotchkiss rounds:

0291_2_Snip_RI

  • Battery A, 1st RI: 175 canister, 57 percussion shell, 533 fuse shell, and 509 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery G, 1st RI: 199 canister, 124 percussion shell, 149 fuse shell, and 334 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery H, 1st RI: 120 canister and 231 percussion shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery C: 3rd RI: 180 canister, 84 percussion shell, 468 fuse shell, and 539 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

I’ll break down the next page into sections for clarity.  Starting with an entry for Dyer’s patent projectiles:

0292_1D_Snip_RI

  • Battery G, 1st RI: 34 shell for 3-inch rifles.

And the Parrott columns:

0292_1P_Snip_RI

  • Battery C, 1st RI: 491 shell, 367 case, and 122 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

And there were plenty of Schenkl projectiles reported:

0292_2_Snip_RI

  • Battery A, 1st RI: 64 shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery G, 1st RI: 146 shell and 33 case for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery H, 1st RI: 260 shell and 589 case for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery C, 3rd RI: 104 shell and 173 case for 3-inch rifles.

The last set of columns we review are the small arms:

0292_3_Snip_RI

  • Battery A, 1st RI: Four army revolvers, nineteen navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B, 1st RI: Twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C, 1st RI: Seven navy revolvers and twelve horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D, 1st RI: Eight army revolvers, twelve navy revolvers, forty-five cavalry sabers, and five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E, 1st RI: Twelve navy revolvers and one horse artillery saber.
  • Battery F, 1st RI: 102 army revolvers and twenty horse cavalry sabers.
  • Battery G, 1st RI: Eight navy revolvers, ten cavalry sabers, and seventeen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H, 1st RI: Twenty army revolvers and thirty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C, 3rd RI: Forty-eight army revolvers, fifty-three cavalry sabers, and seventy-nine horse artillery sabers.

The Rhode Island batteries leave us with few questions.  The only question I pose what ammunition Battery D had on hand for its Napoleons?  Perhaps this nearly complete accounting from the Rhode Island batteries reflects the number of its officers then serving as artillery chiefs.

The Christmas Bombardment of Charleston

The Christmas of 1863 will long be remembered by those who passed the day in the City of Charleston….” said the writer at the Charleston Mercury.  Reporting on the Christmas Morning bombardment of the city, the Mercury reporter detailed:

For hours before the eastern sky was streaked with the first grey tints of morning, the cold night air was rent by other sounds than the joyous peals from the belfry and the exploding crackers of exhilarated boys.

At one o’clock, a.m., the enemy opened fire upon the city.  Fast and furiously were the shells rained upon the city from five guns – three at Battery Gregg, one at Cummings’ Point, and one at the Mortar Battery.  The shelling was more severe than upon any former occasion, the enemy generally throwing from three to five shells almost simultaneously.  Our batteries promptly and vigorously replied to the fire, but without their usual effect in checking the bombardment, which was steadily maintained by the Yankees during the remainder of the night and all the following morning, until about half-past twelve o’clock.  Up to that hour no less than 134 shells had been hurled against the city. – There was no more firing until about five o’clock in the afternoon, when one more shell was fired.  On Sunday [December 27] morning about three o’clock, four shells were thrown in quick succession.  There had been no further firing up to a late hour last night.

Remarkably, the Mercury and the Charleston Daily Courier declined to portray the bombardment in sensational… or dare I say horrific, terror-stricken… terms.  While a detestable disturbance on a day designated for peaceful reflection, there was no outright condemnation.  Perhaps that was due to the Confederate ambush of the USS Marblehead occurring the same “peaceful” morning.  Neither side designed a peaceful Christmas that year.

From the Federal side, the regimental history of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery looked back at the episode years later:

Dec. 24. “Twas the night before Christmas,” but all in the house was stirring as lively as a cat for a mouse.  We were hurling shell and our Yankee sort of Greek fire into the city of Charleston.  We sent a shell every five minutes from our 200-pounder Parrotts in Fort Chatfield.  This music kept up an animated dance among the rebels, and they answered us to the best of their ability. About midnight we could see three fires in the city; two of them quite close together, and within the range of our pieces.  We inferred, what we afterwards learned, that our shells had occasioned the conflagration, at least in part, and the Charlestonians had a sever task in subduing the flames.  This loss to the city was a very heavy one.

The Confederate military records don’t record the caliber of projectiles fired at Charleston.  But those records do offer a good tally of the shots fired.  Colonel Alfred Rhett, commanding the 5th Military District, including Charleston, reported 150 shots fired at the city on Christmas Day.  134 of those reached the city.  And 16 fell short.  There is no indication how many or what percentage of those landing in the city were duds.  Other Confederate authorities placed the number of shells failing to explode between 40% and 50%.   Given the number of unexploded shells found in Charleston in the 150 years since the war, those estimates were probably not far off.

Charleston 4 May 10 115

The shell in the photo above was found on Broad Street in Charleston.  The street seemed to be in the “beaten zone” where a majority of Federal projectiles landed.

Charleston was on the receiving end of Federal artillery fire starting the previous August.  After the Swamp Angel burst, Federal fired occasional shots into Charleston through September and October.  More so to test ranges than for any specific objective.  In November a total of 77 shots reached the city, with another ten falling short according to Confederate observers.  Those were spread out between November 16 and 27, with no more than twenty in any one given day.

But in December, the Federals increased the firing on Charleston, with activity almost every day:

  • December 1: 8 shots.
  • December 2: 19 shots.
  • December 3: 32 shots.
  • December 5: 8 shots.
  • December 8: 6 shots.
  • December 11: 8 shots.
  • December 12: 4 shots.
  • December 14: 7 shots.
  • December 15: 10 shots.
  • December 16: 1 shot (with one more missing).
  • December 20: 20 shots reaching and 11 falling short.

Certainly the Federals had found the range.  Keep in context this attention on Charleston came as the Second Major Bombardment came to a close.

Major Henry Bryan, Assistant Inspector-General on General P.G.T. Beauregard’s staff, completed a detailed examination of all bombardments of Charleston through the end of 1863, submitting his findings on January 6, 1864.  In that report, Bryan noted the Christmas Day bombardment was responsible for, “the burning of six buildings and a cotton press…, by a fire originating from the explosion of a shell, and the destruction of some medical stores….”  Bryan added, referring generally to all bombardments of the city up to that time, “It has further caused considerable social distress by obliging thousands of persons in the lower part of the city, in order to avoid danger, to leave their homes and close their hotels, and seek refuge in the upper portion of the city or the interior of the state.”   And those abandoned properties were exposed to vandalism and theft.

Lieutenant George Walker, Confederate Engineers, assisted Bryan in the report and produced a map showing where each shell had landed in Charleston, “designated roughly by specks of red paint the locality where each shell fell, the extreme points where shells struck being connected by straight red-ink lines.”  Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a copy of that map in any archives or other collections.  If it is out there, I’d love to examine those “specks of red paint.”  However, even without seeing Walker’s map, we can surmise the captain’s work was good, given the level of detail and precision of Bryan’s reporting.

There are several threads to follow in regard to the bombardment of Charleston.  First off, Bryan’s report deserves a close look.  And I intend to give it due space in follow up blog posts.

Another thread to follow is how the effects of these bombardments were reported in Confederate papers.  In correspondence to authorities in Richmond, Beauregard clearly reports fires, damage, and causalities due to Federal bombardments.  Though he shrugs them off.  To the public, however, the newspapers arranged the news to keep the Federal bombardment separate from the fires caused.  Censorship?  Perhaps, as the Federals were seeking out Charleston papers for intelligence.  Spin control?  Very likely….

We should also consider how these bombardments, including Christmas Day, were justified and accepted from the military side.  Beauregard wasted no time protesting the bombardments.  And Gillmore rested his actions on justifications agreed upon in earlier correspondence.  It seems both sides agreed, mutually, that Charleston was a fair target.  After the fact, 150 years later, many will cry the bombardment broke the rules of war… and might even level allegations of war crimes.  But at the time, such talk was not in the air.  How did that come about?  It’s a long line of logic, deserving fuller discussion.

Lastly, as this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and we talk about what wonderful things artillery can do on the battlefield, we should also discuss how these Parrott rifles were able to fire on targets 8000 to 9000 yards distant.

So more to follow.

(Citations from Charleston Mercury, December 28, 1863, page 2 column 1; Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, pages 206-7;  and OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 682-3.)