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!


June 4, 1864: Mortars to the front

Even though June 3, 1864 at Cold Harbor is best recalled as an infantryman’s fight, as mentioned yesterday, the Fifth Corps artillery launched over eighteen tons of ordnance towards the Confederate lines.  While massed batteries, as done with great effect just miles to the south at Malvern Hill in 1862, was not an applicable tactical option, the artillery remained an important combat force on the battlefield.  But field fortifications, even basic trenches, provided some mitigation against traditional field artillery.  With earth and wood protecting the soldiers from direct fire, the infantry could better withstand any eighteen tons of shot and shell the enemy might care to throw over.

Increasingly, not just in the Civil War but across the scope of warfare, vertical fires became more important where fortifications came into use.  In the Second Corps sector of the Federal lines, mid-day on June 3, Colonel John C. Tidball employed Coehorns in close proximity to the Confederate lines.  Captain James H. Wood, 4th New York Heavy Artillery, commanded the six mortars assigned to the Second Corps.  Wood wrote:

At 12 m. 3d of June one section (two pieces)was first placed in position at Cold Harbor, at a distance of about 800 yards from the rebel lines. The charge of powder used was 6 ounces and the length of fuse 15 seconds. The mortars were stationed in a hollow in rear of a belt of woods; 80 rounds were fired. It was reported by the front line of battle and the skirmishers of the Union forces that the shells made great havoc with the enemy, nearly every one exploding in their midst. At 7 p.m., by suggestion of General Barlow, the entire battery withdrew to the rear.

But the mortars would return.  That night the Federals completed mortar positions just 150 yards from the Confederate lines.  When the morning broke with heavy musketry, the mortars were ready:

At this place the charge of powder was 2 ½ ounces and the length of fuse 7 ½ and 8 seconds. The effect was excellent, and in about half an hour the rebels ceased to fire entirely. The position was such that the damage caused by the explosion of the shells was plainly discernible; and it was reported furthermore by our skirmishers that great execution ensued and the utmost consternation was visible among the enemy. The battery was highly complimented by Major-General Barlow and Brigadier-General Owen.

But their work soon attracted Confederate attention. Confederate field artillery fired in an attempt to damage or destroy the mortar battery.  But being so low and behind works, this did little good.  Confederate sharpshooters were more effective, preventing the gunners from standing up to aim or manage the mortars.  As a counter, the mortars began firing on the sharpshooters:

It was determined to try the effect of the mortar shells upon them and the whole battery delivered its fire, with the same charge of powder and length of fuse as at first. The result was almost instantaneous. Their firing was suppressed and was not resumed for several hours. It is perhaps not improper to observe that, during this affair, 2 rebels were seen to be blown 10 feet into the air, with heads detached. Their companions wildly scattered in every direction, and our infantry (General Owen’s brigade) giving a cheer, delivered a volley with telling effect.

Afterward the Confederates treated the mortars with caution.  Wood observed, “… that the enemy had fallen back in front of the mortars, leaving but a few skirmishers and sharpshooters in their front line of breast-works.”  In effect, the mortars had created a zone in which the Confederates could not operate.  While not a large zone, at least that offered some tactical advantage to the Federals.  But the Federals would need many more Coehorns if this was to be a useful advantage.

On the other side of the lines, the Confederates likewise started looking to vertical fires.  At that time, the Army of Northern Virginia lacked Coehorns.  But, Brigadier-General William N. Pendleton noted in his report on the campaign one adaptation of field artillery to the need.  “A 24-pounder howitzer of McIntosh’s battalion was adjusted a little in rear of the line and served as a mortar. It did good service in annoying the enemy’s working parties.”

Soon the howitzer and the Federal mortar began exchanging fires, as Wood recorded:

… the rebels fired at our forces with good range, using what was supposed to be a 24-pounder howitzer, trained as a mortar. The projectile thrown was spherical case-shot, by the explosion of one of which a man and a mortar were struck, but no serious damage was done to either. A new supply of ammunition having been received, it was decided to silence the rebel machine, if possible. By observing the smoke of their discharges, it was estimated that the distance was about 800 yards. A charge of 6 ounces of powder and a 15-second fuse were used, and after about one dozen discharges the enemy’s machine was silenced.

Wood’s mortars continued to do good work during the fighting at Cold Harbor.  The gunners had become very well practiced in the art of laying shells where needed.  Later, the mortars engaged in some more counter-battery fire, with good results:

On the 11th the remaining section, in charge of Captain Jones and Lieutenant Moore, was employed in firing at a rebel battery of light 12-pounders, which had opened upon a Union battery a short distance to our left. The mortars were estimated to be about 800 yards from the rebel battery. The charge was 5 ½ ounces and the length of fuse 15 seconds. The first shot struck on the left of the battery on a sand-bag breast-work, tearing a large hole therein. Another exploded inside the parapet, another in rear of the battery, another a short distance to the right. Assisted by the Union battery (light 12-pounders), the enemy’s guns were silenced. After this a few shells were thrown into a house almost in front of the mortars and 300 yards distant. The charge was 3 ½ ounces and the fuse 10 seconds in length. The house was a refuge for sharpshooters. One shell broke through the roof and exploded in the house. No more shots were observed to come from that locality.

With both armies remaining in close proximity for more than a week, the mortars were an idea weapon to use.  But there were precious few of them at the front.  Back in Massachusetts, Ames Manufacturing had a batch of fifty of the little mortars ready for inspection.  More Coehorns were on the way.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 36, Part I, Serial 67, pages 527-8, 1050.)


Wainwright’s Diary, April 17, 1864:

Colonel Charles S. Wainwright offered a short diary entry for April 17, 1864.  As his custom, he began with the weather:

April 17, Sunday. We have had another wet spell since Friday; yesterday it rained steadily. The spring is more backward and colder than it was at this time last year; much as in 1862. I trust we are not going to have a whole summer of rain as we had then….

Those living in Virginia today might relate.  Since Monday evening, the weather’s been almost wintery cold, with frost warnings.  Though with perhaps less rain.  But close enough for Mother Nature’s 150th.

On Friday I got the order assigning the battery of heavy artillery to my command. They have had terribly bad weather to get their camp in order, which has come very hard on them as over half the men are recruits, and the rest have always been accustomed to garrison duty. The Fourth New York Heavy was originally commanded by a brother of General [Abner] Doubleday, who I believe proved to be worthless; then de Russy was colonel and now Tidball; the two last ought to have made a good regiment of it. They look very much like rats drowned out of their holes as I pass the camp….

The “battery” was according to the organizational tables actually a battalion.  Specifically 2nd Battalion, 4th New York Heavy Artillery under Major William Arthur.  The battalion consisted of Companies D, H, K, and E.  In their regimental history, the chapter detailing these assignments in the Army of the Potomac carries the title “Good-bye, Cannon.”  As Brigadier-General Henry Hunt had requested earlier in the winter, the 2nd Battalion was assigned to support the field batteries providing details for guard and other duties. They brought no heavy artillery pieces of their own to Wainwright’s brigade.

The battalion reported to Wainwright on April 15, and “The tents were pitched in an orchard near an old house occupied by an elderly lady and her daughter, also by the Brigade Commissary.”

In this picture of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery’s camp at Fort Marcy, Virginia, William Arthur is seated under the tent fly at the right:

William was the brother of President Chester A. Arthur.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, page 342; Hyland C. Kirk, Heavy Guns and Light; A History of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery, New York: C.T. Dillingham, 1890, page 145.)