Tag Archives: Ambrosio J. Gonzales

Guns pointed at Sherman: Confederate artillery dispositions in South Carolina, January 1865

Colonel Ambrosio José Gonzales served as the Chief of Artillery for the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida through much of the war. Gonzales was an exiled Cuban revolutionary when the war began, living in South Carolina.  And of course, at the onset of hostilities, he volunteered his services to the seceded state.

I’ve mentioned this interesting officer on several occasions while plotting the 150th events – most often in regard to his periodic reports of ordnance available to defend Charleston and other points in the department.  On January 19, 1865, Gonzales submitted one such report.  The timing provides a snapshot of the Confederate defenses opposing the Federal offensive into South Carolina.

The report was complied in a tabular format, making it difficult to reproduce here without a lot of white space and tabs.  So I’ll break down the particulars in a “fort by fort” format below.  Most of these works I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, so I’ll ask you to look back at some of those for particulars of the defensive arrangements.  Working, as the report did, from north to south through the department, we start with the defenses north of Charleston:

  • Battery White, protecting Georgetown, South Carolina, contained three rifled 32-pdr guns, six 24-pdr smoothbore guns, two rifled 12-pdr guns, one 12-pdr siege gun, and one 6-pdr field gun. The report thus indicates the 10-inch columbiads placed there earlier in the war had been removed by January 1865.
  • Battery Warren, on the Santee River had one 12-pdr rifle and one 32-pdr smoothbore.

Around Charleston itself, starting with the works on Sullivan’s Island:


  • Battery Marshall – two 8-inch columbiads, one 7-inch Brooke rifle, one 32-pdr rifle, two 12-pdr rifles (one of which was the old English gun), a 4-inch Blakely rifle, three 8-inch seacoast howitzers, and one 12-pdr siege gun.
  • Two Gun Batteries, four in total, with four 32-pdr and four 24-pdr smoothbores.
  • Battery Beauregard – one 10-inch columbiad, one 8-inch rifled columbiad, one 8-inch columbiad, three 8-inch seacoast howitzers, two rifled 32-pdrs, one 32-pdr smoothbore, two 24-pdr smoothbores, and three 10-inch mortars.
  • Battery Rutledge -three 10-inch columbiads and one rifled columbiad (8 or 10-inch).
  • Fort Moultrie – four 10-inch columbiads, two rifled 8-inch columbiads, one rifled 32-pdr, and one 10-inch mortar.
  • Battery Marion – three 10-inch columbiads, a 7-inch Brooke Rifle, one 8-inch columbiad, and five 10-inch mortars.
  • Battery Bee – one XI-inch Dahlgren, one 10-inch rifled columbiad, four 10-inch columbiads, and one 8-inch columbiad.

Behind Sullivan’s Island were the defenses of the Christ Church District:

  • Battery Evans – one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Palmetto – one IX-inch Dahlgren.
  • Battery Gary – two 8-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Kinloch – one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Christ Church Lines – two 20-pdr Parrott rifles, two 8-inch shell guns and two 24-pdr smoothbore guns.

Fort Sumter’s armament at this point was one 10-inch columbiad, one 8-inch rifled columbiad, and four rifled 42-pdrs in those “three gun batteries.” Castle Pinckney contained four 10-inch columbiads and one 7-inch Brooke rifle.

Defending the city of Charleston itself were a formidable array of batteries along the waterfront:

  • Battery Waring – two 10-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Ramsey (White Point Battery) – one XI-inch Dahlgren, one 12.75-inch Blakely, one 42-pdr rifle, and three 10-inch columbiads.
  • Frazer’s Wharf Battery with one 12.75-inch Blakely.
  • Calhoun Street Battery with one rifled 8-inch columbiad.
  • Vanderhorst’s Wharf Battery with one 7-inch Brooke rifle and one 42-pdr rifled gun.
  • Half-Moon Battery with one 42-pdr rifle and one 32-pdr rifle.
  • Spring-Street Battery – one 10-inch columbiad.
  • Battery over the Ashley – one 10-inch columbiad.

On James Island, the fortifications still bristled with guns defending that approach to Charleston:


  • Battery Wampler – two 10-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Harleston – three 10-inch columbiads, one 7-inch Brooke rifle, and one 6.4-inch Brooke rifle.
  • Battery Glover – three 8-inch rifled columbiads.
  • Fort Johnson – two 10-inch columbiads, one rifled 10-inch columbiad, one rifled 8-inch columbiad, one 7-inch Brooke Rifle, and two 24-pdr Austrian howitzers.
  • Battery Simkins – two 8-inch columbiads, two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles, and three 10-inch mortars.
  • Battery Cheves – three 8-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Haskell – one 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, two 42-pdr carronades, one rifled 32-pdr fitted as a mortar, and two 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery Tatum – one 32-pdr smoothbore and two 24-pdr Austrian howitzers.
  • Battery Ryan – one 32-pdr smoothbore, one rifled 24-pdr, five 24-pdr Austrian howitzers.
  • Redoubt No. 1 – one 8-inch columbiad and one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Fort Lamar – three 8-inch columbiads, one 32-pdr rifle, two 32-pdr smoothbore, and one 18-pdr smoothbore.
  • Secessionville – one 8-inch siege howitzer, one 42-pdr smoothbore, two 32-pdr rifles, three 32-pdr smoothbores, one 24-pdr rifle, one 24-pdr smoothbore, one rifled 18-pdr, and two 6-pdr field guns.


  • The “New Lines” with six specific battery locations (Battery Seroy was named “Battery No. 0” in this report – two 8-inch columbiads, two 8-inch seacoast howitzers, 8-inch siege howitzer, four 32-pdr smoothbores, eight 24-pdr smoothbores, two 18-pdr smoothbores, two 12-pdr rifles, and three 12-pdr smoothbores.
  • Battery Tynes – two 8-inch columbiads and one rifled 42-pdr.
  • Battery Pringle – two 10-inch columbiads, two 8-inch columbiads, two rifled 42-pdrs, and two rifled 32-pdrs.
  • Fort Trendholm – two 10-inch columbiads, one rifled 8-inch gun, two rifled 42-pdrs, two rifled 32-pdrs, two 32-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr smoothbores, and six 6-pdr field guns.

Covering the approaches to Charleston from the southwest, via the Edisto River:


  • Battery Washington – one 32-pdr smoothbore, one 24-pdr smoothbore, and one 18-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Haig – two 24-pdr smoothbores.
  • Battery Wilkes – one 24-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Geddes – one 24-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Palmer – one 8-inch columbiad, two 32-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr smoothbores, and one 12-pdr smoothbore.
  • Overflow works – one 32-pdr smoothbore, three 24-pdr smoothbores, and one 12-pdr smoothbore.

Further to the southwest, along the Charleston & Savannah Railroad:

  • Church Flats – two 12-pdr smoothbores and one 8-inch shell gun.
  • Pineberry – one 32-pdr smoothbore and one 4.62-inch rifle.
  • Willstown – one 32-pdr smoothbore, one rifled 24-pdr, and two 3.5-inch Blakely rifles.
  • Caw Caw – two 24-pdr smoothbore.
  • Stock’s Causeway – one 12-pdr smoothbore and one 4.75-inch smoothbore siege gun.
  • Ashepoo battery – one 24-pdr rifle, one rifled 18-pdr, and one rifled 12-pdr.
  • Burnett’s – one 4.62-inch rifle, two rifled 32-pdrs and one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Dawson’s Bluff – one 24-pdr smoothbore and one 3-inch rifle.

Beyond those works, curiously Gonzales reported a battery at Red Bluff, which had been abandoned in December including one 8-inch Columbiad and two 24-pdr rifled guns.  Those guns were withdrawn, with great effort, by Major-General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry after the fall of Savannah.  Likewise, Gonzales listed two 24-pdr Austrian howitzers and one 24-pdr flank howitzer at Old Pocotaligo, which had been withdrawn a few days before the report’s date.

In Florida, the Confederates maintained works on the Appalacicola River (five 32-pdr smoothbores and six 24-pdr smoothbores) and St. Mark’s (two 32-pdr rifles and two 32-pdr smoothbores).

In addition to those listed above, Gonzales noted twenty 6-pdr guns, six James rifles, and two 12-pdr howitzers distributed around the department at fixed positions in undesignated posts.

The cannon listed in Gonzales’ January 19 report were all fixed in fortifications.  While some weapons were field guns or could be adapted for field use, in most cases the garrisons lacked sufficient equipment and horses to move them with a field army.  In an earlier report, dated January 6, 1865, Gonzales detailed the field batteries in the department:

  • 14th Battalion Georgia Artillery, Company B, Captain Ruel W. Anderson, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Georgia Regulars Battalion, Company C, Captain A. Smith Barnwell, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Beaufort Light Artillery, Captain H.M. Stuart, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Chatham Light Artillery, Captain John F. Wheaton, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Chesnut Light Artillery, Captain Frederick C. Schulz, four 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Georgia Regulars Battalion, Company B, Captain Charles Daniell, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Palmetto Artillery, Battery G, Captain W.L. DePass, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Furman Light Artillery, Captain William E. Earle, one 12-pdr Napoleon, two 12-pdr howitzers, and one 10-pdr Parrott.
  • German Artillery, Company A, Captain F.W. Wagener, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Bachman’s German Artillery, Captain W.K. Bachman, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Guerard’s (Georgia) Battery, Captain John M. Guerard, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Inglis Light Artillery, Captain William E. Charles, four 6-pdr field guns.
  • Kilcrease Light Artillery, Captain F.L. Villepigue, two 12-pdr howitzers and two 6-pdr field guns.
  • Lafayette Light Artillery, Captain J.T. Kanapaux, four 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Leon Light Artillery, Captain Robert H. Gamble, two 12-pdr howitzers and two 3-inch rifles.
  • Louisiana Guard Artillery, Captain Camille E. Girardey, four 12-pdr Napoloens and two 3.5-inch Blakely rifles.
  • Marion Light Artillery, Captain Edward L. Parker, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Milton Light Artillery, Company A, Captain Joseph L. Dunham, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Milton Light Artillery, Company B, Captain Henry F. Abell, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Orleans Guard Artillery, Captain G. LeGardeur, Jr., two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Georgia Regulars Battalion, Company A, Captain J.A. Maxwell, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Santee Light Artillery, Captain Christopher Gaillard, two 6-pdr field guns and two 3-inch rifles.
  • Terrell Light Artillery, Captain John W. Brooks, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Waccamaw Light Artillery, Captain Mayham Ward, two 12-pdr howitzers and two 6-pdr field guns.
  • Wagner Light Artillery, Captain Charles E. Kanapaux, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Washington (South Carolina) Light Artillery, Captain George H. Walter, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Section supporting Colonel Colcock’s cavalry, Lieutenant Richard Johnson, two 12-pdr Napoleons.

So the field batteries included fifty-nine Napoleons, five 10-pdr Parrotts, four 3-inch rifles, two Blakely rifles, twenty-eight 12-pdr howitzers, and ten 6-pdr field guns.  This gave Lieutenant-General William Hardee 108 cannon to support the mobile forces charged with opposing Sherman’s advance into South Carolina.

In total, 322 fixed and 108 field artillery pieces opposed the Federals as the embarked on the march into South Carolina.  In Sherman’s two wings, the Federals brought only 68 field guns.  Yet, much like they say about real estate, when it comes to artillery on the battlefield it is all about “location, location, location.”  With less infantry and cavalry to oppose the Federals, the Confederates could not bring their numerical advantage in artillery to bear.

(Gonzales’ reports appear in OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, pages 992 and 1024-6.)

150 Years Ago: Beauregard asks “Where are my requisitions for heavy guns?”

We often encounter times when, in the course of any endeavor, a shortage of resources impedes progress.  If part of a large organization, rounds of coordination occur.  Often the conversation centers on establishing some simple facts – What was requested? When was it requested?  Were is it now?

In military operations such resource inquiries occur almost constantly, making many a staff meeting exciting to say the least.  One such inquiry occurred on this day (March 15) in 1863.  The artifact is a report from Colonel Ambrosio J. Gonzales, Chief of Artillery and Ordnance, to General P.G.T. Beauregard:

I have the honor to state, in answer to your note of the 13th, received yesterday evening, that there is no record in the ordnance or artillery offices relative to the applications of General Pemberton for heavy guns for this department.

What application he may have made in writing directly to Richmond I know not. I am positive about one thing, to wit, that he went to Richmond to apply personally for such heavy guns and obtained the promise of ten 10-inch columbiads, and several 8-inch which were to have been cast in Rome, Ga.; the latter not being procurable some 10inch were promised in their stead. I inclose copies of such communications as are on my books in relation to this matter.

I once telegraphed the Secretary of War during General Pemberton’s administration for 10-inch mortars, and after your taking command a letter from Colonel Rhett, inquiring how many guns were wanted by you for the defense of the department (heavy guns), having been referred to me by you, I applied for fifty-one 10-inch columbiads for the defense of the inner harbor, as a necessity, after the failure of the obstruction at the gorge, which application was approved and forwarded by you, and of which a copy was, I believe, kept at the adjutant-general’s office.

For some time, Beauregard inquired to Richmond about obtaining heavy guns.  Despite assurances and some deliveries, Beauregard never felt enough was in place.  Now with a growing fleet of ironclads at Port Royal threatening to roll into Charleston with guns blazing, Beauregard was wondering “where are the guns we ordered?”

Keep in mind the production cycle of heavy guns.  The time between casting and delivery for a Tredegar columbiad was several months.  Beauregard took command of the department in August 1862.  He was told at that time weapons were on the way to improve the coastal defenses.  Yet by March 1863 his command had received only nineteen heavy caliber cannons, against fifty-one needed.  A lot of forts but not a lot of guns.  So “Bory” asked his ordnance officer to help establish the facts – how many guns did Major-General John C. Pemberton order before leaving in August?  Gonzales’ answer was not what Beauregard wanted to hear.

The only guns promised to Pemberton were due from Rome, Georgia.  And those promises fell apart when the Noble Brothers started hurling insults at ordnance officers.  However, keep in mind that the Noble Brothers had no experience with such large weapons in the fall of 1862, not to mention short capacity. So the promise was rotten from the start.

So the answer to “when was it requested?” rolled forward on the calendar to “December.” Tredegar could not turn out fifty-one columbiads that fast.

Beauregard’s request for information coincided with a special board he had convened to determine what should be done to better protect Charleston.  Brigadier-Generals Roswell Ripley, S.R. Gist, and James Trapier. Make no bones about it, Beauregard had hoped a long list of requisitions and requests would stiffen the output from the board.  That in hand, he might really lay into those in Richmond (Oh, not like he had an axe to grind or anything, right?).

Now the question changed to “what can we do with the resources on hand?”

(Colonel Gonzales’ report appears in OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, page 828.)

Some “olde English iron”: British smoothbores rifled for Confederate service

The other day I mentioned this rifled gun currently resting outside the Old Powder Magazine in Charleston, South Carolina:

Charleston 4 May 10 181

12-pdr English Siege Gun, Banded and Rifled by Confederates

There is little doubt as to the weapon’s vintage. The royal monogram on the top is that of either King George II or King George III .  In other words, likely a weapon that pre-dated the Revolution and therefore the United States.

Charleston 4 May 10 187

Monogram – King George II or III – on Gun

The gun appears to have several bands welded together.  Such was common practice among Confederate shops, both in Charleston and Richmond.

Charleston 4 May 10 184

Band on 12-pdr Gun

However the knob was removed from the gun, either during the alterations or later handling.

Charleston 4 May 10 193

Breech Profile of Banded and Rifled 12-pdr

The gun’s muzzle remained unaltered.

Charleston 4 May 10 185

Muzzle Profile of English 12pdr

A look down the bore shows the other alteration done by the Confederates – rifling.

Charleston 4 May 10 186

Bore of Rifled and Banded English 12-pdr

I count seven grooves, but with all the deterioration that’s more of a guess.  The bore is a bit larger than standard 12-pdr gauge.  But that may be explained by the machining required for rifling.

Also at the Old Magazine is a similar 12-pdr that remained, at least on the exterior, unaltered.

Charleston 4 May 10 188

12-pdr English Gun at the Magazine

The breech of this gun retains the knob and ring.  Although proper fitting for naval use, the practice from the 18th century into the 19th century called for similar fittings on seacoast guns.

Charleston 4 May 10 191

Breech profile of unaltered 12-pdr

An obstruction blocks the bore.  So while certainly not “banded” this gun could be “rifled” … or not.

Charleston 4 May 10 189

Muzzle profile of unaltered 12-pdr

Neither gun has trunnions.  Those may have been broken off to disable the guns or damaged during handling.  Since markings on the trunnions often provide additional details of the gun’s origin, that leaves a gap in the precise identification.

The guns measure around nine and a half feet long.  That places them in the 34 cwt class for the caliber.  While comfortable identifying Civil War artillery, I’m more of a dabbler when it comes to colonial era weapons.  So I’ll save the exact designation for those who know that time period well.  However, the tally of a “12-pounder old English siege (rifled)” in the list of guns at Charleston in January 1863 certainly makes this a Civil War piece.  In April of that year, another report indicated one 12-pdr “Old English siege, rifled, banded” and four “Old English siege, rifled, not banded” were among the weapons deployed in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Apparently the Confederates found modification of these old guns acceptable.  On August 15, 1863, one of the unbanded but rifled guns was sent back to the Charleston Arsenal to receive a band.  At the same time a smoothbore of the same type was at the arsenal, presumably for modification.  The old English 12-pdrs appear again in correspondence dated that October, with favorable mention from Colonel Ambrosio J. Gonzales:

The rifled 12-pounder gun [Major John Barnewll] mentions at Royal’s is very old, but reported as a very good gun.  It is one of those long 12-pounder English siege guns, recommended by me to the commanding general to be banded, which was then approved.

So at least the artillery chief and his commander, General P.G.T. Beauregard, saw value in the old guns.  At the time, the ordnance officers may have held these guns in higher esteem as they were cast using older methods.  The “hot blast” techniques introduced in the 19th century left many questions about iron guns.  In some eyes, the “older” guns were indeed “better”.  These guns, perhaps veterans of earlier wars, were therefore selected for modification – rifling, and in some cases banding.

While not anti-ironclad guns, they were dispersed to the outer fortifications around Charleston to cover waterways and other approaches to the city.  Proving once again even an old gun can have some “bite” left in it.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 415.)


150 years ago: Rifled guns defending Charleston

Recently I mentioned Confederate efforts to arm and equip the batteries defending Charleston, South Carolina in the winter of 1862-3. On this day (January 23) in 1863, Colonel Ambrosio J. Gonzales, Chief of Artillery and Ordnance for General P.G.T. Beauregard’s department, filed a report detailing the rifled guns in South Carolina and the ammunition available for those guns.

The report included a table similar to this one, with the title “Approximate statement of rifled guns in South Carolina”:


In the remarks section below the table, Gonzales explained the disposition of a handful of other weapons in the department:

Besides the within rifled guns there are in Georgetown, S.C.. two 12-pounder banded rifled guns, received from Richmond and two 6-pounder rifled Blakely guns.

In Georgia there are one 32-pounder rifled, one 30 pounder Parrott, two 24-pounder Blakely and a few field 6-pounders. There are in Florida, as far as is known, a few 3-inch rifled guns.

Thus all told, Gonzales tallied over seventy guns. Almost half of the total were field gun caliber weapons. Those were of little use against the Federal fleet, which was seen as the most dangerous threat. Indeed, none of these guns were larger than 7-inch caliber (42-pdr).

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 312

42-pdr Seacoast Gun, Banded and Rifled, at Fort Sumter

Even more troubling for Gonzales was the lack of projectiles for the guns. From the totals offered in the table, the guns had an average of forty rounds each. Fine if you are an infantryman planning to skirmish for an hour or so. But not enough for a fortification defending the entrance to one of the Confederacy’s major seaports. Gonzales, and his commander, desired nearly four times that amount to defend the southern coasts:

Colonel Gorgas is most earnestly requested to provide the promised 150 rounds per each of the above guns, and above all to send the projectiles for the 12 pounder and 6-pounder bronze, the 20-pounder Parrott, the ammunition for which was not sent with the guns from Richmond, although packed and addressed in the presence of Major Alston, and the 3.67 caliber guns.

Recall that earlier in the month, Colonel Joshia Gorgas agreed to supply projectiles. But at the same time he’d cautioned against converting too many smoothbores to rifles, due to limited projectile supplies.

Gonzales’ report references several less common artillery types. Mentioned are imported Whitworths and Blakelys. Perhaps the “weaker” Parrotts were of Confederate manufacture. Although I would point out the lone rifled 18-pdr gun reported in September 1862 does not appear on Gonzales’ list.

But the “12-pounder old English siege (rifled)” ?

Charleston 4 May 10 181

12-pdr English Gun at Charleston’s Old Powder Magazine

At least one of those is still in Charleston – banded and rifled. This artifact, cast during the reign of King George II, is among the oldest cannon used in the Civil War. And certainly the oldest weapon taken in hand for modification. That, I say, is deserving of a separate post!

(Gonzales’ report and citations are taken from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 754-5.)

A battle over bands: The Childs-Ripley Incident at Chareston Arsenal

As it is improper to mention a lesser known incident of the war and not provide sufficient details, allow me to follow up yesterday’s post with more information about the Childs-Ripley incident at Charleston Arsenal in late November 1862.  So a bit of background on the principles to start.

The son Thomas Childs, a distinguished War of 1812 officer, Major Frederick L. Childs graduated West Point in 1855.  He briefly served at Fort Monroe, Florida, West Point, and Fort Moultrie before posting to the Texas frontier.  In March 1861, Childs resigned and offered his services to the Confederacy.

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Captain Childs, C.S.A, commanded Castle Pinckney in April 1861, playing a minor role in the bombardment of Fort Sumter.  Later that spring he served at posts around Wilmington in his native state of North Carolina.  But in July Childs returned to Charleston in command of the arsenal, detailed to the Ordnance Department.  In this capacity, Childs came into frequent contact with Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley, who commanded troops in the Charleston area.

Roswell S. Ripley

Ripley – sporting a post-war mustache

Not a southerner by birth, Ripley graduated seventh in the West Point class of 1843, a good bit ahead of fellow Ohioan Ulysses S. Grant.  He received two brevet promotions for service in the Mexican War.  After brief assignments in Florida during the Seminole Wars, Ripley reported to Fort Moultrie.  There he courted the wealthy widow Alicia Middleton.  Shortly after marriage, Ripley left the army and entered the private sector, no doubt with his wife’s estate providing a significant step up.  Ripley remained active in military affairs, joining the state militia.  That capacity placed him at the fore of operations at the start of the war.  He played a significant role in operations against Fort Sumter and the establishment of the defenses of Charleston afterwards.  But in the spring of 1862, Ripley’s notion of a forward defense of the city conflicted with his superiors (at first General Robert E. Lee, then later General John C. Pemberton).  Granted a transfer, Ripley took command of a brigade in General D.H. Hill’s division in Northern Virginia.  After serving through the summer campaigns, Ripley was wounded leading his brigade at Antietam.  On recovery, authorities requested his services again at Charleston – which again placed him in contact with Childs.  In mid-October Ripley assumed command of the First Military District at Charleston.

The direct trail to the contention between Childs and Ripley began with Special Orders No. 229 issued by General P.G.T. Beauregard’s headquarters (Department of South Carolina and Georgia) on November 21, 1862, which read in part:

III.  The commanding general of First Military District has authority to direct and order the rifling and banding of such guns as require it within his command to the extent of the capacity for doing the work effectually, and may make requisitions directly upon the Charleston Arsenal or other proper source through his district ordnance officer for the necessary material for the work.

As mentioned in the previous post, Beauregard sensed peril at Charleston, particularly a growing threat from the Federal fleet. From his perspective, Beauregard complained of extensive delays modifying old smoothbore ordnance into at least partially acceptable rifled guns. Working through Childs, the turn around time was four weeks.  Ripley, perhaps bypassing much red tape, claimed the process could be done in half the time.

But the nature of this order put Beauregard’s command at odds with the Confederate Ordnance Department. Childs’ authority at the arsenal covered the requisition, or modification, of ordnance.  Yet Order No. 229 gave Ripley authority in that regard.  While Ripley negotiated directly with Eason & Brothers, Childs sought to bring another Charleston firm, that of Cameron & Company, to bear on the problem.  Towards that end, Childs had earmarked a set of 42-pdr bands for a contract with Cameron, and asked for Ripley to send one of those weapons there.  Ripley, on the other had, had at least one 42-pdr gun at Eason awaiting bands.

This came to a head on November 26, 1862.  Ripley arrived at the arsenal with armed guards and demanded Childs release the bands for immediate use at Eason’s shop.  Childs refused on the grounds the iron was obtained from Atlanta, under the Ordnance Department’s authority, not the local command’s.  In a three page report (first page seen below), Childs noted, “… the bands have been waiting for the guns and it was every intention to give them either to Eason or Cameron…” but Ripley had not turned the appropriate guns over to the arsenal for the work.  Ripley, on the other hand, claimed he’d already sent the guns where the work was to be done which would save time in the process.  Childs, somewhat resentfully added, “There can be no proper reason for the Easons not working as well for me as for General Ripley…”

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Ripley had Childs arrested, citing the failure to fill valid requisitions with the supply on hand.  And of course the bands went over to Eason.

For what it was worth, Beauregard fully recognized the conflicting issues, noting, “… the chiefs of ordnance of this department and district, relying too much on the supplies of the arsenal, of which they are not fully informed, often make requisitions at too short notice, thereby causing unnecessary delays and confusion.”  His offered solution was a relocation of the arsenal to “a place in the northwestern part of this State” selected by Major Childs.  The Ordnance Department’s response, if any, was not recorded.  Childs remained under arrest, but was allowed to continue his work at the arsenal, confined to Charleston, awaiting a court-marshal.

The contention for iron feeding into the defense of Charleston continued in spite of the arrest.  By late December Colonel Ambrosio J. Gonzales, Beauregard’s chief of artillery, pressed the Ordnance Department for more munitions, particularly projectiles for the 32-pdr and 42-pdr rifled guns.   Gonzales complained he had less than 50 rounds per gun at Forts Sumter and Moultrie.  In response forwarded on January 6, 1863, Colonel Josiah Gorgas cautioned, “It would be well to consider the question of a supply of rifle projectiles before going too far with the rifling and banding of 32-pdrs.  The want of proper iron for casting these shells is very serious.”

That last sentence sums up so many problems facing the Confederate war effort – a want of iron.  Gonzales, Ripley, and Beauregard needed supplies in Charleston.  And likewise J.R. Anderson called for supplies in Richmond.  (And let’s not forget what the Confederacy lost just a year prior.)   Gorgas’ went on to suggest, “Send me a full statement of all you want and cannot get at Charleston, limiting your requisition to, say, 150 rounds per gun.”

As for Childs, by February the Ordnance department reassigned him to other posts.  After temporary duty at Augusta Arsenal, Childs went on to command the Fayetteville Arsenal in North Carolina.

(Sources:  Frederick Childs’ Confederate service record; OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 685, 689-692, and 746.)