Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Pennsylvania, Independent and other artillery

In the first quarter, 1863 returns, we had trouble with the Pennsylvania independent batteries as the clerks identified the units by the commander’s or organizer’s name.  But with some cross-matching we could at least tentatively identify seven of nine such batteries from the returns.  For the second quarter, we have but a fraction of that:

0217_1_Snip_PA_MISC

From the standpoint of accountability this is simply unacceptable.  A section of mountain howitzers assigned to a cavalry regiment and three independent batteries.  We should see eight batteries listed.   Furthermore, there was a battery from the heavy artillery which had a section detailed to the Army of the Potomac during this period. And, with the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania in June, we could also add in a good number of militia batteries called out to defend the Commonwealth.  Though, those batteries were not officially in the Federal army, just called out in defense of their state.  Still if we are counting all the gun tubes, those deserve mention.

Thus we have a lot of explaining to do and some blanks to fill in.  Starting with the first line on this section of the report, let’s consider those cavalrymen with the diminutive cannon:

  • 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry – The line read “Col. 11th Cav. Stores in charge.”  And among those stores were two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  The 11th was assigned to the Seventh Corps, Department of Virginia and spent an active spring with detachments posted around the Suffolk and Norfolk area. Colonel Samuel P. Spear commanded.  The regimental history has passing mention of “our” howitzers, but no specifics.  However, on a reconnaissance mounted towards the end of the month one howitzer, managed by Sergeant Stewart B. Shannon, of Company I, went along.

Moving down to the independent batteries, let us list what was… and match to what we see on the list.  :

  • Battery A:  Schaffer’s Battery.  Not listed. Commanded by Captain Stanislaus Mlotkowski.  The battery was posted to Fort Delaware, in the Middle Department, and serving as garrison artillery despite the light artillery title.
  • Battery B: Muehler’s Battery, but appearing as Stevens’ Battery (Line 36) on this summary, for Captain Alanson J. Stevens. “In the field” with four 6-pdr field guns and two 3.80-inch James Rifles.  The battery was assigned to Third Division, Twenty-first Corps, Army of the Cumberland. Thus “in the field” was part of the Tullahoma Campaign.
  • Battery C: Thompson’s Battery. Not listed. Captain James Thompson’s Battery was, at this time, consolidated with Battery F (below) and assigned to 1st Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.  Their six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles went into action at the Peach Orchard, at Gettysburg, around 5 p.m. of July 2, two guns facing west and four south.
  • Battery D: Durell’s Battery. Not listed. Captain George W. Durell’s battery was part of the well traveled First Division (having moved from the Second Division), Ninth Corps, taking in the summer at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
  • Battery E: Knap’s Battery. Appearing on Line 35 of this summary, as at Catlett’s Station, Virginia, with six 10-pdr Parrotts, as of August 5.  The battery was assigned to Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac. When Captain Joseph M. Knap resigned on May 16, Lieutenant Charles A. Atwell assumed command.  Atwell’s battery held an often underappreciated position on Power’s Hill at Gettysburg.
  • Battery F: Hampton’s Battery combined with Battery C (above) at this stage of the war.  Their monument is next to Battery C’s at Gettysburg. Lieutenant Nathaniel Irish was the ranking officer on the rolls of the battery at this time.
  • Battery G: Young’s Battery.  Not listed. Captain John Jay Young’s battery was also assigned to Fort Delaware.
  • Battery H: John Nevin’s Battery. Commanded by Captain William Borrowe and appearing as Line 34, at Alexandria, Virginia, with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery was assigned to the Defenses of Washington, serving south of the Potomac.
  • Battery I:  Getting ahead of ourselves… Captain Robert J. Nevin’s Battery would not form until December 1863.

So we can match the three lines in the summary to three of the independent batteries.  Though we are conspicuously missing two batteries in field service – Battery C and Battery D.

As mentioned above, there were several militia batteries called out for service in the summer of 1863.  However, let avoid undue length and work those in as a separate post.  Though I would like to call out two other batteries, which were listed in the order of battle during certain stages of the Gettysburg Campaign:

  • The Keystone Battery: Captain Matthew Hastings commanded.  Listed in Bate’s as a militia battery, the Keystone Battery was assigned to the Defenses of Washington in August 1862.  In June 1863 the battery was at Camp Barry.  Before mustering out in August 1863, the battery briefly served in the field with Third Corps.  Their muster out date (August 20) might explain the lack of report in this summary.
  • Battery H, 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery: The regiment’s batteries garrisoned several points from Baltimore to Fort Monroe (and perhaps we need a detailed posting on their service).  But Battery H, Commanded by William D. Rank, from Baltimore, had a section of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles sent forward to guard the railroad lines in Maryland.  That section was then caught up in the Gettysburg Campaign and saw serviced with First Brigade, Second Division, Cavalry Corps.  For more on this story, see Dana Shoaf’s video report.

With some of the blanks filled in and identification of what we do see on the summaries, let us turn to the ammunition reported:

0219_1_Snip_PA_MISC

For smoothbore ammunition:

  • 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry: 100 case and 36 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzer.
  • Battery H ( Borrowe’s): 288 shot, 96 shell, 292 case, and 103 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery B (Stevens’): 448 shot and 200 case for 6-pdr field guns.

None of these batteries reported Hotchkiss projectiles on hand.  And on the next page we can focus on the Parrott columns:

0220_1A_Snip_PA_MISC

One reporting:

  • Battery E (Knap’s): 480 shell, 600 case, and 144 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

Turning to the last page of ammunition:

0220_2_Snip_PA_MISC

Just one entry:

  • Battery B (Stevens’): 100 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

Lastly the small arms: 0220_3_Snip_PA_MISC

Of the three artillery batteries:

  • Battery H ( Borrowe’s): Fourteen Navy revolvers and sixty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E (Knap’s): Thirty-seven Navy revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B (Stevens’): Seven Navy revolvers, five cavalry sabers, and fourteen (?) horse artillery sabers.

In closing, we might complain the clerks “shorted” us four important batteries (if we include the Keystone Battery and Rank’s heavy artillerists).  But what was not listed provides us ample room for discussion.

And if you are keeping track, I “owe” a posting on the Pennsylvania militia batteries along with a full explanation of the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery’s dispositions.

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Bridging the Potomac: Diary of William W. Folwell, 50th New York Engineers – Part 1

As a historian, particularly one who’s day job is not history, one of the greatest gifts a friend can offer is a primary source previously not seen or consulted.  Any good historian is always looking for additional sources that may help with the unanswered questions, provide more detail and clarity, or at least offer corroboration for other sources.  History, in my view, is the process of accumulating parts of the story. A process that is never really complete, no matter how authoritative the perception might be.

Last year, John Hennessy shared just such a source in an email titled… as these are apt to be… “Have you seen this?”  The link was to a wartime letters of William Watts Folwell, who served as an engineer officer in the Army of the Potomac for most of the war.  The letters are part of the digital, online collection of University of Minnesota Library.  These appear to be letters home, but have been transcribed into a typewritten page.  Of course, my interest was immediately focused on Folwell’s entries from June 1863 and his accounts of the bridge-laying at Edwards Ferry.

Born in 1833 in Romulus, New York, Folwell attended Hobart College, graduating in 1857.  After a brief position teaching mathematics at the college, he was studying philology in Berlin at the outbreak of the Civil War.  In February 1862, Folwell mustered into the 50th New York Engineers as a first lieutenant in Company G.  He was promoted to Captain in December of that year, commanding Company I.  Then advanced to major in February 1865 (with rank from October 15, 1864).  Some sources indicate he was given a promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel before mustering out in June 1865.  After the war, Folwell briefly lived in Ohio before accepting the position of President, the first president as a matter of fact, of the University of Minnesota in 1869.  And that would be how Folwell’s diary ended up in the university’s collection.

william_watts_folwell

Specific to the Gettysburg Campaign and the movement through Loudoun County in June 1863, Folwell was in command of Company I, 50th New York Engineers.  And that unit was very busy laying bridges that brought the Army of the Potomac from Virginia to Maryland.  As such, I am going to enter his account into my collection of Edwards Ferry resources here on the blog.  Though there are interesting entries from earlier in June (and at other times in the war), for sake of scope, I will start with the entry for June 17, 1863.  At that time, Folwell was in Alexandria:

Bivouac 50th N.Y.V. Engrs., near Alexandria, Va., June 17, ’63, 7 A.M.

Major [Ira] Spaulding takes Cos. C, F and I and one pontoon train to Nolan’s [Noland’s] Ferry on the Upper Potomac.  We are going just at noon as the Steamer comes, and we expect her every moment.  We worked like beavers last night till 2 A.M., making up our train. We had to dismantle the rafts made up at Belle Plain, unload the wagons on those, and then reload the material for shipment by canal.  We take steamer to Georgetown, then enter the canal up which we tow our boats by teams if we can get them; if not, by hand.

Last evening, Capt. Woodward and his wife rode down to camp from their hotel. Bain [Lieutenant Mahlon Bainbridge Folwell, brother]  and I called on them in the evening.  Saw Mrs. Ben. Woodward, also.  Ate sundry and drivers ice-cream and straw-berries, and drank soda waters.

We are both well, barring a slight head-ache Bain has.

I can’t tell you any War news. Don’t know any.  Hooker is probably moving w. between here and the Bull Run Mountain, while Lee goes up the valley.  I wish you could see your husband at this present.  He wears a dirty hat, do. coat, do. vest, do. trousers in the left knee of which is an immense hole through which his drawers display themselves conspicuously. My baggage is over in Maryland somewheres.  When I shall see it, I can’t tell. I have nothing with me but one rubber blanket, one woolen do., one shelter tent, and my sword.

I must try to find an envelope for this before it is too late.  Direct to me as usual.

One detail I must track down is the referenced Captain Woodward.  The meeting with Woodward and his wife seems a pleasant respite from an otherwise hot and dusty campaign.

This account plugs in well with the movements described in the Official Records by way of dispatches.  The bridges had last been used at Aquia Creek.  And at the time of writing, staff officers in the Army of the Potomac were anticipating the need for a bridge over the Potomac at some point near Leesburg. The day before (June 16), Brigadier-General G.K. Warren detailed some of the crossing points on the river between Hancock and Leesburg. Captain Charles Turnbull, of the US Engineer Battalion, had one set of pontoons at Georgetown and was ordered to move up the canal to the Monocacy River on June 17.

On the same day Folwell wrote his letter, Colonel William Pettes, commanding the 50th New York Engineers, received orders from Brigadier-General Henry W. Benham, commander of the Engineer Brigade, to

… detail Major Spaulding, with 200 men from your regiment, to proceed per steamer Rockland to Georgetown, to join the trains which started under Captain Turnbull. The steamer will be at the railroad wharf as soon as possible.  Your men will take four days’ rations with them. The boats, after getting into the canal, will be pushed forward as fast as possible to Noland’s Ferry, where the bridge is ordered to be laid before noon of the 18th.  Teams, if possible, will be procured from Washington, to haul the boats along the canal….

We see, generally, the details of the letter match those of the order.  However, “as soon as possible” was interpreted to allow for ice cream, strawberries, and soda water.

I’ve always found it odd that none of the dispatches or orders issued at this phase of the campaign specify the purpose of the bridges to be laid.  Just a few days after this, on June 19, a clear suggestion came from Major-General Henry Slocum to place a bridge to provide a supply link back to Washington.  And the location for that bridge was Edwards Ferry, where eventually most of the army would cross into Maryland.

But if we walk back to June 17, there is a question as to why the Army of the Potomac wanted a bridge at Noland’s Ferry.  That site is almost fourteen miles upstream from Edwards Ferry, and beyond even White’s Ford.  In my opinion, the most important reason to place a bridge at Noland’s Ferry on the date specified on the orders would be to support movement from Harpers Ferry to Loudoun… emphasis on FROM Harpers Ferry.  As things stood that day, Major-General Joseph Hooker was maneuvering the Army of the Potomac as if to meet the Army of Northern Virginia in the vicinity of the Bull Run Mountains. He had given no indication about movements across the Potomac. But he had asked about the availability of the Harpers Ferry garrison.  Mine is conjecture based on what we surmise of the situation.  But that does open room for logical extensions into the “what if” world.

My plan is to continue transcribing these letters as time permits, with commentary to provide context within the detailed blog posts about the crossing.  It should be “entered into evidence.”

(Citations from William Watts Fowell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 404-5 (pages 410-11 of scanned copy); OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part III, Serial 45, page 179.)

Sherman’s March, May 19, 1865: “And thus was completed the great circuit …”

Recording the march of 1st Division, Twentieth Corps for May 19, 1865, Major-General Alpheus Williams wrote:

May 19, after a march of fourteen miles, the division pitched tents upon the high ground above Holmes’ Creek, near Cloud’s Mills, within two miles of Alexandria.

VAMarch_May19

Today this area is part of a stand of townhouses named “Cameron Station” and Brenman’s Park.  (And as I write this, realization sets in that, while I’ve taken time to locate dozens of camp sites through Georgia and the Carolinas, I have not set down with wartime maps and sorted out where the rest of Sherman’s troops camped around Alexandria.  Someone has probably already documented those details.  If not, I shall in time!)

When he submitted his official report of the march up from North Carolina on May 27, Williams offered a summary of the movements of the 1st Division through the last half of the war.  Recall that Williams and the division had been part of Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac, in 1863.  The Twelfth, along with the Eleventh, rushed to Chattanooga in the fall of 1863.  They’d been consolidated into the Twentieth Corps as part of the reorganizations during the winter of 1864.  They fought as such during the Atlanta Campaign.  And they were among the four corps chosen to march on the Savannah Campaign, with Williams temporarily commanding the corps.  So Williams had a lot of ground to cover… in more ways than one.  I submit his summary as a good closing for my coverage of the Great March:

And thus was completed the great circuit made by this division within the last twenty months. From the banks of the Rapidan it was transferred, in September, 1863, to the Army of the Cumberland, through the States of Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Leaving Tennessee in May, 1864, it has marched in succession through Northern Alabama, through Georgia from its north line near Chattanooga to Savannah, including the State capital, through the center of South Carolina, circuitously from the rice-fields opposite Savannah to its northeastern angle near Cheraw, through the center and capital of North Carolina, through Southern Virginia and its conquered capital back to the precise spot it left a little over a year and a half ago. Such a happy return to familiar scenes after marches, labors, exposures, and events of such extent and magnitude might well occasion and excuse a manifestation of unusual enthusiasm and exultation among all ranks.

A lot had transpired in those twenty months.  A lot of marching.  A lot of difficult crossings.  A lot of fighting.  A lot of campfires.  And a fair number of nights in cold camps.  Two of the hardest years of the war.  And, as Williams alluded to, the men had returned to the point at which the war had started for many of them – Washington, D.C.

The troops would rest and refit for a few days after May 19.  Their last “march” would take them through Washington, D.C. on May 24 to camps north of the city.  This march was met with much more celebration than others on the “great circuit.”

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 605-6.)