“The distance transported is nearly 1,400 miles, about equally divided between land and water. ” Strategic Moves in the Winter of 1865

By January 1865, even a biased observer of the Civil War would have to agree the final acts were due to play out within months.  But before the curtain would open on the next rounds, several actors had to move about on the stage.  As some of the fall 1864 campaigns reached conclusions, the demands of January 1865 prompted movement of troops across theaters.  Both Federal and Confederate troops were in motion that month.  There are three movements which I’d highlight as rather important to the last phases of the Civil War.

I’ve mentioned one of those movements in brief already.  The Second Division, Nineteenth Army Corps, under Major-General Cuvier Grover, were veterans of the vicious fall campaigns of 1864 in the Shenandoah Valley.  But in January 1865, Grover’s men were designated to be the new garrison of Savannah, Georgia.  The division departed Camp Sheridan, outside Winchester, Virginia, on January 7, 1865.  From there, the troops moved by railroad to Camp Carroll, Baltimore, Maryland.  This first leg of the journey was about 100 miles.

The division’s second leg was by steamers from Baltimore to Savannah – some 625 miles, give or take.  The division arrived in Savannah on January 20.  This freed up the division of Major-General John Geary (Second Division, Twentieth Corps) for the movement into South Carolina.  And thus the force that Major-General William T. Sherman had marched through Georgia in the fall of 1864 remained intact for similar treatment of South Carolina.   Grover’s men spent the last winter of the war at the enviable posting of Savannah.

The second troop movement to consider is that of the Twenty-third Army Corps.  The lone formation in the Army of the Ohio, Major-General John Schofield’s troops were veterans of the Atlanta and Franklin-Nashville Campaigns.  And at the start of January 1865 they were south of Nashville.  From the big overview, Schofield’s troops were extra chess pieces on the far side of the board, better employed on the Atlantic Coast.  But Schofield could not simply march the direct route through to the Carolinas.  Instead their route was opposite that taken by the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps in the fall of 1863.

The key individual in the Twenty-third Corps movement was Colonel Lewis Parsons, Chief of Rail and River Transportation.  On January 11, 1865, Parson’s received an order from Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana:

It having been decided that the Twenty-third Army Corps, Major-General Schofield commanding, shall be transferred from the Tennessee to the Chesapeake, you will immediately proceed westward, and take the general supervision and management of its transportation.

Dana advised Parsons to use boat transportation, if practical, to Parkersburg, West Virginia. But if needed, the rail system should be leveraged.  Parsons wasted no time, departing Washington on the same day.

A railroad man before the war, Parsons hedged his bets and contacted “several trustworthy gentlemen intimately connected with the management of Western railroads” to have sufficient rolling stock to move the troops if the situation arose.  Initial estimates called for boat (or rail) capacity to move 10,000 men.  But by January 18, Parsons realized the number was in reality 20,000! Adjusting, Parsons shuffled resources to meet the demands.

The first leg was movement by river boat from Clifton, Tennessee to Paducah, Kentucky. The second leg, along the Ohio River, used over fifty steamboats to move the troops to Cincinnati, Ohio.  At first Parsons planned to move the troops by rail from there because of river conditions.  But as the boats arrived, on January 21-23, ice in the river cleared up.  So the boats pressed on for over 300 more river miles to Wheeling, West Virginia (well past Parkersburg, by the way) where they transferred to the rail-cars.

Though moving from Wheeling to Washington by rail, a harsh winter stood in the way of the next leg of the journey.  To avoid unnecessary delays caused by stops to prepare rations, Parsons had local quartermasters, or the railroad operatives themselves, stage cooked meals ready to serve the troops.  Parsons personally supervised the loading of the last trains on the west side of the Appalachians on January 31.  “I took the train and reached [Washington] on the night of the 1st instant, where, on the following day, I found upon the banks of the Potomac the Twenty-third Army Corps safely encamped.”

Parson reflected on the achievement:

The distance transported is nearly 1,400 miles, about equally divided between land and water. The average time of transportation, from the embarkation on the Tennessee to the arrival on the banks of the Potomac, was not exceeding eleven days; and what is still more important, is the fact that during the whole movement not a single accident has happened causing loss of life, limbs, or property, except in the single instance of a soldier improperly jumping from the car under apprehension of danger….

And keep in mind, I’m offering only the “Cliff Notes” version here.  Parson’s report, including attachments, runs some sixty pages within the Official Records.  Parsons earned a promotion to Brigadier-General that winter.

But while Parson’s job was done, the Twenty-third Corps was still moving.  Within days some troops moved again to Annapolis, Maryland where they boarded ocean-going transports headed to North Carolina.  And here the movement met its first major snag.  Several of the transport vessels were not outfitted to handle troops.  Regardless, the troops went south… some cases on cargo vessels.  Schofield, now in command of the Department of North Carolina and having placed Major-General Darius Couch in command of the corps, directed the Twenty-third Corps to Cape Fear.  The Corps Third Division arrived at Fort Fisher on February 9.  But the remainder arrived in serials.  The last of the corps did not complete the journey until February 28 (with the last elements disembarking at Morehead City, North Carolina).  Though the movement by sea was slow in comparison to Parsons’ charge, elements of the corps arrived in time to take part in the final operations at Wilmington.

The last major movement I’ll mention here is on the other side of the lines.  The start of the new year found the Army of Tennessee somewhat beaten, but still in being.  And an army that “is” is still an army.  However, that army was most needed in South Carolina.  So orders came forth to move some parts of the army eastward. I’ll step past the organizational changes and such details in this post.  But for comparison to Federal activities, let me summarize the movements of Major-General Benjamin Cheatham’s Corps, as recorded by one of the corps’ staff officers, Major Henry Hampton.   On January 27, the corps left Meridian, Mississippi by rail.  Making stops at Demopolis, Selma, and Montgomery, the Corps moved through Alabama from January 29 to February 3.  Starting at Columbus, Georgia on February 3, the troops were able to ride by train to Milledgeville.  On February 7, Hampton recorded:

Left Milledgeville in a storm of rain and rode horseback twenty-five miles, bivouacking near Colonel Lane’s, two miles from Sparta.

Of course, staff officers ride while infantry march.  But using the much maligned  Confederate rail system, some of which Sherman had wrecked only a few weeks earlier, from Mississippi to central Georgia, many footsteps were saved.  Indeed, for Cheatham’s men to reach Augusta, Georgia, the only leg were no railroad existed was the forty-five or so miles from Milledgeville to rail stops on the Georgia Railroad.  By February 10, Hampton reported camping across the Savannah River in South Carolina.  Such was a feat that one could argue rivaled the movements facilitated by Parsons … when one considers what resources were available to the Confederates.

Three movements.  Three substantial troop formations placed at new locations on the map.  All accomplished within weeks.  Although the war was winding down, the troops were still in motion.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1080-1; Part II, Serial 99, pages 215, 216-7, 219.)

Rebel bounty: Captured guns at Chickamauga

As the sun rose on September 21, 1863, the Confederates in the Army of Tennessee experienced a rare experience – possession of a battlefield following a clear victory.  Taking inventory of the debris of the battle, Confederate ordnance officers found a substantial amount of artillery equipment – on paper enough cannons to equip over six batteries.

In his report of the battle, Colonel James Barnett detailed the loss of 39 cannons and carriages.  By type these were:

  • Six 3-inch rifles
  • Seven 10-pdr Parrotts
  • Four 12-pdr Napoleons
  • Nine James rifles
  • Six 6-pdr field guns
  • Six 12-pdr field howitzers
  • One 12-pdr mountain howitzer

In addition, Barnett recorded the loss of 13 limbers, 30 caissons, and one battery wagon.  Oh, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

On the other side of the line, Captain O.T. Gibbs, ordnance officer for the Army of Tennessee, recorded a different quantity and breakdown in his statement of stores received at Ringold, Georgia:

  • Six 3-inch rifles
  • Two 12-pdr Napoleons
  • Eleven James rifles
  • Eight 6-pdr field guns
  • Fifteen 12-pdr field howitzers
  • Seven 12-pdr mountain howitzers
  • Two 24-pdr howitzers

Fifty-one total.  The reason for the discrepancy?  Gibbs tallied the weapons received by his office, including old, worn out, or simply disfavored weapons.  Gibbs also appears to have included in his list guns captured by Federals on the field, then recaptured by the Confederates, and turned in for repairs.  Furthermore, in several cases, the batteries helped themselves to Federal guns and turned in their old weapons to the ordnance depot. (And in at least one case, a battery ‘horded’ a field howitzer without letting the ordnance officers know about it.) In short, Gibbs’ list is far from definitive for the tally of captured guns.  Although it does offer a wealth of details about those guns.

The numbers are interesting on both sides.  Looking first to Barnett’s tally, I consider three types to be “top notch” favored weapons of the Civil War – 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, 10-pdr Parrotts, and 12-pdr Napoleons.  The Federals gave up only seventeen of those.  Or enough for four four-gun batteries (or three six-gun batteries).  The remainder of the lost guns were of less favored types.

Many would return to action in the spring in a different guise – melted down by the Confederate foundries into 12-pdr Napoleons.  Gibbs’ inventory reads like a “who’s who” of ordnance manufacture, with vendors, both north and south, represented:

6-pounder bronze gun, with carriage and limber, made at Greenwood’s,  Cincinnati, Ohio. 1861….

12-pounder howitzer, with carriage and limber, Saint Louis, Mo., Marshall  &Co., 1862….

12-pounder bronze howitzer, with carriage, damaged, A. B. R. & Bro., Vicksburg, Miss….

3-inch iron rifled gun, with carriage and limber, Rome, Ga., Noble &  Bro.. 1862….

12-pounder bronze howitzer and carriage, J. Clark, New Orleans….

A substantial number of weapons turned in to the depot included early war Tredegar products:

12-pounder iron howitzer, with carriage. J. R. & Co., 1861

12-pounder iron howitzer, with carriage. J. R. & Co., 1862

3-inch rifled gun, with carriage, No. 1480, J. R. & Co

The foundry number of the 3-inch rifle matches one invoiced in May 1862:

Page 380b

Although the receipt does not indicate, other weapons cast around that time were iron.  So it leads to the logical inference that #1480 was an iron 3-inch rifle. We might also presume that, just as in the eastern theater, the iron 3-inch rifle and iron 12-pdrs had fallen into disfavor among the gunners of the western theater.  So these were selected for return to the ordnance depot when nice new Yankee cannon were in hand.

With Gibbs’ tally, only three of the “top notch” guns were turned in to the ordnance depot – two Napoleons and one 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  Two of the Napoleons captured on the field were immediately incorporated into Battery D, 9th Georgia Artillery (Captain Tyler M. Peeples), who turned in the two 24-pdr howitzers seen in Gibbs’ report.   All the Parrott rifles and five of the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles were put to immediate use.  The one 3-inch Ordnance Rifle received at Ringold had the detailed listing of:

3-inch steel rifled gun, U.S., No. 86, P.A. & Co., 817 pounds.

That gun is still around, but on another field.

Gettysburg 199

Where would that be?  Don’t click on the photo… no cheating!

Gettysburg 203

This gun stands today on Hancock Avenue at Gettysburg, representing Battery H, 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery.

Gettysburg 205

Practically a world away from the woods of Northern Georgia.  I’ve long wondered if a swap arrangement might be appropriate.  But then again, every time I pass the gun at Gettysburg, I pause to recall that the war was not ONLY fought for three days in July 1863.

(Barnett’s and Gibbs’ reports are from OR, Series I, Volume 30, Part I, Serial 50, pages 237-9, Part II, Serial 51, pages 40-43.)