Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – First Illinois Artillery Regiment

When we looked at the returns for the 1st Illinois Artillery for first quarter, 1863, we found many of the batteries along the Mississippi River or in central Tennessee preparing for spring campaigns.  Reviewing the administrative details for the second quarter of the year, we find some of those batteries had indeed played important roles in the campaigns…. while others had their turn in the weeks to follow.  Here’s the regiment’s rows for the reporting period ending June 30, 1863:

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Recorded entries for all but two of the batteries, meaning we have a fairly complete set to work with.  However, six of these returns were not received until 1864:

  • Battery A: Larkinsville, Alabama, with five 12-pdr Napoleons and one 10-pdr Parrott.  That is where the battery wintered in 1864, when the report was received at the Department.  In June 1863 the battery was with Second Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, under Captain Peter P. Wood, outside Vicksburg, Mississippi. Of note, the battery had completely re-equipped from the earlier quarter.
  • Battery B: At Vicksburg, Mississippi with five 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer.  Like Battery A, this battery was also assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps.  Captain Samuel E. Barrett commanded.
  • Battery C:  Reporting at Bridgeport, Alabama with three 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The location reflected the 1864 reporting location.  In June of 1863 the battery was involved with the Tullahoma Campaign in middle Tennessee. Lieutenant Edward M. Wright’s battery remained with Third Division, Twentieth Corps.
  • Battery D: No report. The battery was assigned to Third Division, Seventeenth Corps, and was at Vicksburg that June.  This was Edward McAllister’s old battery, retaining four 24-pdr field howitzers. Captain Henry A. Rogers was killed in action on May 29.  Lieutenant George J. Wood temporarily commanded the battery, but resigned a few weeks later.  To fill the void, Captain Frederick Sparrestrom of Battery G, 2nd Illinois Artillery was placed in temporary command (There’s an interesting story line here to follow when we pick up the 2nd Illinois Artillery).  When Sparrestrom returned to his battery, Lieutenant George P. Cunningham, who had rose through the ranks.
  • Battery E: At “Bear Creek,” behind the Vicksburg siege lines, with five 12-pdr Napoleons and one 3.80-inch James Rifle.  This was an addition of four Napoleons, at the expense of three James, from the previous quarter.   Captain Allen C. Waterhouse remained in command, and the battery remained under Third Division, Fifteenth Corps.
  • Battery F: No report. Captain John T. Cheney commanded this battery assigned to First Division, Sixteenth Corps.  The battery began the spring at Memphis.  In mid-June, the division was sent to Vicksburg.  The battery was part of the force sent towards Jackson, Mississippi late in June.
  • Battery G:   Serving as siege artillery at Corinth, Mississippi.  Captain Raphael G. Rombauer assumed command of the battery earlier in the spring.
  • Battery H: At Vicksburg with four 20-pdr Parrotts.  This famous battery was assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps.  Captain Levi W. Hart resumed command during the spring (though Lieutenant Francis DeGress would replace him permanently later in the year).
  • Battery I: Camp Sherman, Mississippi with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Camp Sherman was near Bear Creek, and also in the rear of the siege lines at Vicksburg. The battery was assigned to First Division, Sixteenth Corps.  When Captain Edward Bouton accepted a colonelcy in a USCT regiment, Lieutenant William N. Lansing assumed command.
  • Battery K: Memphis, Tennessee with with ten Union Repeating Guns.  But as noted earlier, that column was likely being utilized by the clerks to track Woodruff guns. Captain Jason B. Smith resumed command (which had temporarily, at least on the order of battle, been that of Lieutenant Issac W. Curtis).  The battery was assigned to the Cavalry Division, Sixteenth Corps at that time.  As many will recall, the battery accompanied Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s raid in April-May.  As with the rest of Grierson’s command, the battery would operate under the Nineteenth Corps after the raid.
  • Battery L: New Creek, (West) Virginia, with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain John Rourke commanded this battery, assigned to First Division, Eighth Corps.  They guarded an important point on the B&O Railroad and Upper Potomac.
  • Battery M:  Reporting at Chattanooga, Tennessee (reflecting location when the return was received in February 1864) with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles (a reversal of numbers reported the previous quarter). Lieutenant George W. Spencer commanded this battery, assigned to the Second Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.  This puts the battery on the march, on along Manchester Pike, at the end of June.

A lengthy administrative section.  But all due for a set of batteries heavily engaged at that time of the war.   And as we move next to discuss the ammunition on hand, there remains a need for lengthy discussions!  Lots of entries. Some that need explanation.

We start with the smoothbore ammunition reported on hand:

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Lots of round ammunition on hand:

  • Battery A: 220 shot, 84 shell, 262 case, and 123 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons; 120 canister for 6-pdr field guns; and 134 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery B: 348 shot, 180 case, and 121 canister for 6-pdr field guns;    20 shell, 30 case, and 20 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery C: 42 case for 6-pdr field guns; 203 shell, 258 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery E: 113 shot, 123 shell, 260 case, and 160 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery L: 70 shot, 504 case, and 823 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 519 shot, 189 shell, 639 case, and 134 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons; and 48 case and 231 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery M: 82 shot, 224 shell, 268 case, and 59 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Battery A had upgraded from a mix of 6-pdr guns and 12-pdr howitzers earlier in the spring.  They apparently still had ammunition for those weapons on hand awaiting disposition.  One would expect sometime during the siege of Vicksburg those were cross-leveled to needy batteries, and Battery A didn’t carry all those useless rounds all the way to Alabama!

On the other hand, hard to account for why Battery C would have 6-pdr case shot on hand at this time of the war.

Battery L reported a large quantity of 6-pdr smoothbore ammunition on hand in the previous quarter.  As I speculated before, we have primary sources that indicate 6-pdr smoothbore ammunition was at times used from James rifles.  But the 12-pdr howitzer canister?  Well it would fit in the Napoleons, though would have a reduced charge.  Still, I’d like to see something documenting these substitutions, if indeed used for this specific battery.

Moving past the questions about the smoothbore ammunition, we proceed to the Hotchkiss projectiles:

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We normally see the Hotchkiss closely associated with 3-inch rifles.  That is true here, but with the added twist of the James 3.80-inch rifles:

  • Battery C: 197 canister, 270 percussion shell, 214 fuse shell, and 358 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery E:  17 percussion shell and 93 bullet shell for 3.80-inch James Rifles.
  • Battery L: 504 canister, 115 percussion shell, and 1,005 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles; 186 shot, 144 fuse shell, and 232 bullet shell for 3.80-inch James rifles.
  • Battery M: 83 canister, 32 fuse shell, and 273 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Again we see Battery L with ammunition on hand that does not match the guns assigned.  In this case, 3-inch rifle projectiles would be useless for James rifles. But recall, the battery also reported a quantity of 3-inch projectiles … a smaller quantity… the previous quarter.  So I don’t think this is a transcription error.  Perhaps Battery L was tasked with maintaining a divisional-level supply, out there in West Virginia.

The next page of rifled projectiles uses every section in the header. So I’m going to break this down for ease:

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Rarely we see Dyer’s reported. But here is one entry:

  • Battery L: 580(?) 3-inch shrapnel.

So more of these projectiles that don’t match to the battery’s guns.

Moving to the James columns, we would expect to see a lot of entries:

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And we are not disappointed:

  • Battery E: 60 case shot and 50 canister for 3.80-inch James Rifles.
  • Battery I: 64 shot, 320 shell, and 256 canister for 3.80-inch James Rifles.
  • Battery L: 387 shot, 106 shell, and 19 canister for 3.80-inch James Rifles.

Then moving right, we have the Parrott columns:

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Two batteries reporting Parrott rifles. And two reporting that inventor’s projectiles:

  • Battery A: 145 shell, 47 case, and 65 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery H:  30 canister for 20-pdr Parrotts.

Well, we hope Battery H had more than a handful of canister rounds per gun.

Let us also break down the next page by section, starting with Schenkl:

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One line, but noteworthy:

  • Battery L: 356 shell for 3-inch rifles; 382 shell for 3.80-inch James.

Again, Battery L reporting a rather substantial number of 3-inch projectiles.

We often associate Tatham canister with James rifles:

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Two batteries reporting:

  • Battery H: 40 canister for 3.67-inch rifle.
  • Battery L: 268 canister for 3.80-inch James Rifle.

Yes, 20-pdr Parrotts were 3.67-inch bore.  So are we to believe that Battery H, there at Vicksburg, only had seventy rounds of canister… and nothing else?

Moving to the small arms columns, the 1st Illinois remains defiant to this transcriber:

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Like a canister blast, there’s a lot of scatter here:

  • Battery A: Three Army revolvers, forty-three Navy revolvers, and four horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Seventeen Navy revolvers and five cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: Ten Army revolvers, nine Navy revolvers, and thirteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery E: Ten cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Eleven Navy revolvers and three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Twenty breechloading carbines and ninety-seven cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L:  Seventeen muzzle-loading carbines, twenty-eight Army revolvers and 148 cavalry sabers.

Noteworthy for their absence is Battery H.  But I guess if you are pushing around a 20-pdr Parrott, small arms are an encumbrance.  Notice also the entries,  generic though it be, for breechloading and muzzle-loading carbines.  As discussed at length in earlier posts, many times the small arms allocations for the batteries reflected additional duties, such as providing security and details for patrols, at remote posts.

Lengthy… but interesting… that’s the summary for the 1st Illinois Artillery, giving a “sort of” picture for June 1863.

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Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – First Illinois Artillery Regiment

Assignments for individual batteries in the 1st Illinois Light Artillery Regiment for the first quarter, 1863 reflected the reorganizations completed during that winter for the western armies.  When the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Corps reorganized into manageable formations, the batteries shifted with their supported infantry brigades to serve under new corps banners.  To grasp these changes, one must dig past the basic details offered in the summary pages.  A third of the regiment reported at Young’s Point, Louisiana, just up the river from Vicksburg:

YoungsPoint

Here they joined an assembly of forces under Major-General Ulysses S. Grant arrayed to capture Vicksburg. Historian Marion Bragg, charged with recording the historic place names along the Mississippi River, described Young’s Point in 1977:

Youngs Point, on the Louisiana side of the river just above Vicksburg, is today one of the most tranquil places imaginable.  Nothing disturbs the quiet of the rural countryside but the occasional throb of a diesel towboat gliding past the point, or the chug of a farmer’s tractor in one of the nearby bean or cotton fields.

In 1863, Youngs Point was literally covered with thousands upon thousands of Federal soldiers, and a whole fleet of Union Navy vessels were tied up in the willows along the shore….

A contrast in times. Those four Illinois batteries were but loops in a spring being coiled that winter.

OK, so I got to foist one of my unused sesquicentennial post illustrations upon you to preface this post.  Let’s get back to the battery summaries:

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Again, we must look below the surface of the administrative details to see the changes from the previous quarter:

  • Battery A: At Young’s Point with four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. Captain Peter P. Wood commanded this battery.  As part of the transformation of Thirteenth Corps, it remained under Sherman’s portion of the army, assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps.
  • Battery B: Also reporting at Young’s Point, but with five 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer. And this battery was also assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps with the reorganization.  Captain Samuel E. Barrett commanded.
  • Battery C:  At Murfreesboro, Tennessee with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Assigned to Sheridan’s division under the old Fourteenth Corps, the battery followed that division to become part of the Third Division, Twentieth Corps (NOTE: An earlier designation separate from the merged corps from the Army of the Potomac in 1864.)  Lieutenant Edward M. Wright commanded.
  • Battery D: Reporting at Berry’s Landing, Louisiana.  I place this landing just upriver of Helena in Arkansas, rather than Louisiana.  But, of course, there could be several landings by that name.  The battery reported four 24-pdr field howitzers. With the reorganization of Thirteenth Corps, Captain Henry A. Rogers’ command went to Third Division, Seventeenth Corps.
  • Battery E: Another reporting at Young’s Point, this battery with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  A reduction from six rifles reported the previous quarter.  Captain Allen C. Waterhouse commanded.  With the reorganization, this battery went to Third Division, Fifteenth Corps.
  • Battery F: No report. The battery was stationed at Memphis through the winter of 1863, presumably still with James rifles.  However, it was under First Division, Sixteenth Corps.  Captain John T. Cheney commanded.
  • Battery G:   Serving as siege artillery at Corinth, Mississippi. Lieutenant Gustave Dechsel commanded the battery.
  • Battery H: At Young’s Point with two 20-pdr Parrott Rifles. Lieutenant Francis De Gress’ battery was assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps.  The battery retained two 20-pdr Parrotts.  And those big Parrotts would see much service during the war.
  • Battery I: No report.  Captain Edward Bouton commanded this battery which was assigned to First Division, Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery K: Memphis, Tennessee with with ten Union Repeating Guns.  But as noted earlier, that column was likely being utilized by the clerks to track Woodruff guns.  Lieutenant  Isaac W. Curtis’ battery was assigned to the Sixteenth Corps and would later see action in the cavalry operations of the Vicksburg Campaign.
  • Battery L: New Creek, (West) Virginia, with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain John Rourke commanded this battery, assigned to First Division, Eighth Corps.
  • Battery M:  Reporting at Chattanooga, Tennessee (reflecting location when the return was received in February 1864) with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The battery was posted to Franklin, Tennessee during the winter of 1863.  Lieutenant George W. Spencer commanded.

The guns of the 1st Illinois Artillery would make an impact later in the spring and summer months during the Vicksburg Campaign.  So what ammunition did they report on hand?  Starting with the smoothbores:

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Yes, we have some of the extra columns here, reflecting ammunition for the big howitzers:

  • Battery A: 375 shot, 314 case, and 117 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 122 shell, 153 case, and 36 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery B: 450 shot, 430 case, and 133 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 30 shell, 110 case, and 17 canister for their lone 12-pdr field howitzer.
  • Battery C: 132 shell, 180 case, and 50 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery D: 336 shell, 225 case, and 83 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery L: 70 shot for 6-pdr field guns; 136 shot, 192 shell, 554 case, and 132 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons. Why 6-pdr shot? Well, my guess is those were used with the James Rifles.
  • Battery M: 50 shot, 150 shell, and 200 case for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Moving next to the rifled projectiles, we start with the Hotchkiss-patterns:

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Three lines to report:

  • Battery C: 234 canister, 95 percussion shell, 210 fuse shell, and 242 bullet shell in 3-inch rifle caliber.
  • Battery L: 156 shot, 40 percussion shell, 156 fuse shell, and 28 bullet shell in 3.80-inch (James) caliber; Also reporting 150 fuse shell in 3-inch.  And I still cannot offer an explanation for the later type in this battery.
  • Battery M: 450 shot, 168 canister, and 250 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

On the next page of the summary, we can focus on just the James and Parrott columns:

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Again, three batteries to consider:

  • Battery E: 480 shell and 160 canister of James-patent in 3.80-inch rifle caliber.
  • Battery H: 114 shell, 48 case, and 73 canister for 20-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery L: 320 shot, 36 shell, and 19 canister of James-patent for 3.80-inch rifles.

And the last page of rifled projectiles:

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One line:

  • Battery L: 316 Schenkl shells for 3.80-inch James rifles; 172 Tatham canister for 3.80-inch rifle.

Now on to the small arms:

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Considering by battery:

  • Battery A: Three Army revolvers, forty-four Navy revolvers, and four horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Twenty-seven Navy revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: Eight Navy revolvers and thirteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery E: Ten cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Thirteen Navy revolvers and nine cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Twenty-two Burnside’s Carbines and 101 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Smith’s Carbines, Twenty-eight Army revolvers, and 148 cavalry sabers.

Those last two lines deserve some discussion.  Battery K served alongside cavalry.  Battery L, on the other hand, was guarding the railroad in West Virginia.  Interesting to see those batteries reporting quantities of carbines.

Keeping in sequence, we’ll turn to the 2nd Illinois Light Artillery next week.

Sherman’s March, February 16, 1865: “I instructed him not to fire any more into”… Columbia

If you ask me, Battery H, 1st Illinois Light Artillery should be among the most recognized artillery formations of the Civil War. The battery served in many important campaigns of the war and played critical roles in several major battles.  Armed with 20-pdr Parrott guns, this volunteer battery saw action at Shiloh (those big guns in Grant’s Last Line), Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta (where the guns were lost and recaptured on July 22, 1864), and the march to the sea.  Captain Francis DeGress was the battery commander from the summer of 1862 onward, so the unit was commonly referenced in reports by his name.  And yes, the battery hauled the heavy 20-pdrs, which artillerists such as Brigadier-General Henry Hunt shunned, on light-order marches across Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  If we could ever determine a surviving example from those allotted to the battery, those Parrotts would be among the most storied cannons from the Civil war.   Consider, those 20-pdrs fired on Vicksburg, Atlanta, Fort McAllister, Savannah, and, on February 16, 1865, Columbia, South Carolina.  The State House still bears the scars from DeGress’ guns:

More Battle Damage on the State House

A map of Major-General William T. Sherman’s dispositions on February 16, 1865 might simply have a solid line from Granby to a point above Columbia on the Broad River, simply saying “Sherman.”  At no time since early January were all the columns so contracted:

SCMarch_Feb16

In brief, the Right Wing moved, Fifteenth Corps leading, from positions near Granby forward to find bridges over the Congaree burned.  From there, Second Division of the corps leading, engineered a crossing of the Saluda and reached the Broad River before nightfall.  The Seventeenth Corps trailed, but went into camp along the Congaree opposite Columbia.  The Twentieth Corps concentrated behind the Right Wing.  And the Fourteenth Corps moved in from Lexington and took position to cross the Saluda River near Mount Zion Church.  The Cavalry Division moved to Lexington, with advances towards Wise’s Ferry.

Thus Sherman’s entire march force covered an area roughly eleven miles by six miles.  This disposition allowed Sherman to threaten entry into Columbia at several points, and if need be even continue flanking to the north.  Such compelled the Confederates to withdraw.  That’s the macro-view of the movement for February 16.  For the micro-view, let me focus on the advance of Major-General William Hazen’s Second Division, Fifteenth Corps, with the Ninth Illinois Mounted Infantry, detached from the Seventeenth Corps, assisting.

Throughout the night prior, Hazen’s division suffered from considerable Confederate artillery firing from positions outside Columbia.  Hazen reported the loss of one officer killed and two wounded from this firing (keep this in mind for later).  On the morning of February 16, Hazen advanced his skirmish line to find the Confederate positions from the day before abandoned.  Just after daylight, the skirmishers reached the Congaree Bridge, finding it burned by the retreating Confederates.  By 8 a.m. Hazen had his division alined along the river, and was exchanging fire with Confederates on the opposite bank.  At this time, DeGress’ battery deployed and began countering Confederate artillery and sharpshooter fire.  (And I’ll return to DeGress in a moment.)

At 11 a.m., orders from Sherman, passed down through Logan, directed Hazen to move to a bridge over the Saluda near Saluda Factory.  The lead of this advance was Colonel Theodore Jones’ First Brigade of the division, specifically the 13th Ohio and 57th Illinois.  Reaching the Saluda, Jones found the bridge there also burned.  But that did not stop the movement, as Jones later reported:

The Thirtieth Ohio and Fifty-fifth Illinois were crossed in pontoon-boats, and drove the enemy over the crest of the first ridge, where they remained, covering the working party until the bridge was completed. The rest of the brigade then crossed over the bridge.

Once again, the leading elements of a Federal advance had effected, engineered, a crossing and avoided delays.  The advance continued, wheeling onto the Broad River and the bridges into Columbia from the west, as Jones continued:

The command “forward” was then given to the skirmishers, who advanced, driving the enemy with great rapidity across Broad River, the enemy burning the bridge. The brigade then went into camp; distance marched, eight miles.

With darkness, the Federals halted, with preparations to throw a pontoon bridge over the Broad River the next morning.  Hazen reported three wounded in the day’s action.

Hazen’s aggressive advance put the Federals on two fronts against Columbia, but not yet in Columbia.  Again, Sherman was not interested in storming the defenses to gain the city.  Putting a premium on any loss of life, at least in the Federal ranks, Sherman was content to pressure the Confederates into conceding ground.   And a Confederate high command focused more on keeping an army in being, over retaining any control over geographic points, was content to give Sherman the city.

But back to DeGress and his 20-pounders.  Lieutenant-Colonel William H. Ross, Chief of Artillery for the Fifteenth Corps, described the deployment of DeGress’ guns that morning:

February 16, it was found necessary to put a battery in position on the extreme left in order to command rebel batteries, which were shelling the main road leading to the main bridge over Congaree River, and in order to accomplish this it was necessary to run the blockade of the rebel batteries, which I ordered and which was gallantly performed by this battery, Captain De Gress leading the column in sections. The position was gained without casualties; firing commenced and the rebel batteries silenced. Major-General Howard then ordered one section of this battery placed in the road at west end of bridgeway over Congaree River, commanding the main street in the city of Columbia in which the rebel cavalry were moving. The street was briskly shelled and made untenable.

The initial deployment of the guns, as indicated by both Hazen and Ross, was to counter Confederate batteries firing from the opposite shore.  After silencing the Confederate artillery fire, DeGress turned on the depots and other military targets within range.  Around that time, Sherman himself came up to take a look at Columbia from the same position occupied by DeGress:

Captain De Gress had a section of his twenty-pound Parrott guns unlimbered, firing into the town. I asked him what he was firing for; he said he could see some rebel cavalry occasionally at the intersections of the streets, and he had an idea that there was a large force of infantry concealed on the opposite bank, lying low, in case we should attempt to cross over directly into the town. I instructed him not to fire any more into the town, but consented to his bursting a few shells near the depot, to scare away the negroes who were appropriating the bags of corn and meal which we wanted, also to fire three shots at the unoccupied State-House. I stood by and saw these fired, and then all firing ceased. Although this matter of firing into Columbia has been the subject of much abuse and investigation, I have yet to hear of any single person having been killed in Columbia by our cannon. On the other hand, the night before, when Woods’s division was in camp in the open fields at Little Congaree, it was shelled all night by a rebel battery from the other aide of the river. This provoked me much at the time, for it was wanton mischief, as Generals Beauregard and Hampton must have been convinced that they could not prevent our entrance into Columbia. I have always contended that I would have been justified in retaliating for this unnecessary act of war, but did not, though I always characterized it as it deserved.

While DeGress’ firing on the city, specifically, ceased, the artillery fire in general continued against Confederate cavalry and sharpshooters, well into the afternoon. Major-General Frank Blair, who’s Seventeenth Corps moved up to the position, noted, “The enemy’s sharpshooters kept up an exceedingly annoying fire from the opposite bank of the river, which compelled us to open upon them and the city with artillery.”  While DeGress’ guns relocated to Hazen’s sector, other Federal batteries arrived to continue firing against the Confederates in Columbia. The Twelfth Wisconsin Battery fired 31 rounds that day.  Company H, First Missouri Light Artillery added 135 rounds.  While there is no breakdown, DeGress fired 110 rounds from both positions occupied during the day.  And batteries of the Seventeenth Corps no doubt added their weight.

It is said in some circles that DeGress fired upon the city with no justification.  What is clear, even before we get to Sherman’s post-war memoirs, is that the Confederates made Columbia a military target starting the night before and continuing through the 16th.  Quite the contrary, one would be hard pressed to explain why the Federals would not have fired on Columbia that day.

The final play for Columbia would wait until the next day.  But Sherman had already posted orders in regard to the occupation of the city.  A passage in Field Orders No. 26 read:

… occupy Columbia, destroy the public buildings, railroad property, manufacturing and machine shops, but will spare libraries and asylums and private dwellings.

That was the written intent.

(Citations OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 287, 372, 379; William T. Sherman, Memoirs of General Sherman, Volume 1, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1889.)

(Photo credit: Bill Coughlin, August 9, 2013, Courtesy HMDB.)

Marching Through Georgia, December 12, 1864: Focus on Fort McAllister

On December 12, 1864, a fast steamer headed north out of Port Royal Sound.  On board were messages from Major-General John Foster and Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren, both citing messages carried by Captain William Duncan from Major-General Oliver O. Howard.  Word of Major-General William T. Sherman’s arrival at Savannah would bring some authoritative information for the newspapers which had been speculating upon speculation.  More important, the news triggered actions at the bases in South Carolina and Georgia.  At Hilton Head depots and on boats in Port Royal Sound were supplies of all sorts, all earmarked for Sherman’s men.  But to get those supplies to Sherman, the Federals needed a port facility, even a small one.  While the forces off shore might transport the goods, it was up to Sherman’s men to force a break in the Confederate coastal defenses through which those could flow.  The focus thus turned to Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River.

But that is not to say the rest of the lines around Savannah were inactive.  To the contrary, December 12 was a day of much activity.  On the Savannah River, Colonel Ezra Carman’s brigade supported the slow movement of the 3rd Wisconsin to Argyle Island.  Having only one raft capable of carrying 12 men at a time, the process had taken nearly a full day, and was still not complete that morning.  However, the Federal raft was not the only vessel plying the river that morning.

Earlier on December 10th, Flag-Officer William W. Hunter passed up the Savannah with the CSS Sampson and CSS Resolute, with orders to guard the Charleston & Savannah Railroad bridge.  There, Hunter joined with the CSS Macon, which had been harassing the Federals on the march.  On the 11th, Hunter received orders to destroy the bridge and retire to aid in defense of Savannah.  After destroying the bridge that day, Hunter waited until 7 a.m. on the 12th to descend the river:

When opposite Argyle Island we obtained information from a man on shore that the Yankees were at a mill farther down, grinding.  He stated that he did not think there was any artillery. As we went along we saw at the different places smoking ruins. After we passed the mill, at Tweedside, situated on a back river a short distance, where we saw the enemy, as above stated, we were opened upon by one or more light batteries of Parrott guns, posted upon a bluff in the bend of the river, which we had to approach head-on, and entirely commanding the channel, apparently supported by infantry, and about 1,000 or 1,200 yards distant.

The guns firing at Hunter’s gunboats were those of Captain Charles Winegar, Battery I, First New York Light Artillery.  They were stationed at the Colerain plantation just below a sharp bend of the main river channel:

MarchDec12_GunboatFight

Winegar later reported:

On the morning of the 12th day of December, about 8 o’clock, the enemy’s gunboats made their appearance…. After an engagement of about three-quarters of an hour, from 2,400 to 2,700 yards, they were forced to retire up the river, leaving their tender behind disabled, together with her officers and crew, numbering about 30, our expenditure of ammunition being 138 rounds.

Although Hunter’s gunboats carried rifled 32-pdr guns and certainly had the weight of firepower to their advantage, the river channel prevented them from bringing that to bear.

Winegar was able to engage almost immune from any broadsides. Attempting to retire upriver, Hunter’s boats ran into each other.  As result, the Resolute was disabled and drifted to Argyle Island.  The vessel proved to be a valuable addition for the Federals and was soon employed transporting troops and forage across the river.  Hunter, however, retired his remaining gunboats up to the cover of Wheeler’s Cavalry.  Yet another combat force was taken off the map for the Confederates, unable to influence the events to follow.

Elsewhere along the lines the Federals continued to press up close to the Confederate lines in order to gain the measure of the defenses.  The Right Wing continued to adjust lines due to the shift prompted by the late arrival of the Fourteenth Corps.  Likewise the Fourteenth Corps had to develop their place in line. Though some commanders at the brigade and division levels saw opportunities and asked for permission to attack, none were granted.  Very clear was Sherman’s intent, perhaps seasoned from experiences earlier in the war.  Sieges were operations of patience and time.  Sherman would act to ensure his army had plenty of both.

The one commodity that Sherman did worry about running low on was fodder for his animals.  Orders went down on December 12 to dismount anyone not absolutely necessary for operations.  Various men who’d mounted themselves during the march turned in horses.  In addition, all those animals needed in supply operations would be centrally held.  Typical were the orders for the Fifteenth Corps:

All the teams and cattle will be ordered up to their respective divisions, and will be parked and corralled with a view to the convenience of forage.  As the article will become very scarce during our stay, the greatest economy in the use of it is recommended, and the collecting and distributing of the same must be well systematized within the divisions to prevent waste.

As for the troops, while many complained the columns still had plenty of issue rations – hardtack and such – for the men.  Of course, the men were in preference to what Georgia had provided during the earlier weeks.

Further south, Brigadier-General H. Judson Kilpatrick had Colonel Eli Murray’s brigade of cavalry slip over the Canoochee River.  Murray reached McAllister’s plantation and pushed scouts out to within a couple miles of Fort McAllister.

MarchDec12_FtMcAllister

Later in the day, Kilpatrick reported to Sherman:

I met the enemy’s picket near the railroad, and chased Major Anderson, the commanding officer at Fort McAllister, back to his fort. From one of his escort captured, I learn that the fort is garrisoned by five companies, two of artillery and three militia; in all, about 200 men none of whom, however, have ever been under fire. There is a deep broad ditch to cross on entering the fort, and considerable opposition no doubt, will be met with. There is a low swamp about one mile this side the fort; a battery of four guns covers the road leading through this swamp…

Kilpatrick went on to suggest his forces might force their way into the fort:

… by forcing this battery to retire, a charging party could follow it directly into the fort, and the affair would be over. I did not intend, general, to attempt the capture of the fort by a sudden dash, but I intended to deliberately storm the works. I have old infantry regiments, armed with Spencer rifles, who could work their way up to within easy range and force every man to keep his head beneath the parapet, and, finally, force my way into the fort–of course, I intended to maneuver my troops as infantry.

Sherman, however, wanted Kilpatrick to begin scouting further south and look to possibly making contact with the fleet at one of the other riverways along the coast.  The cavalry chief took those orders and moved out the next day.

Opposite Fort McAllister, some distance away, the signal station at Cheves’ rice mill remained vigilant watching the Confederates while at the same time looking for the Federal fleet.  Throughout the day, a section of 20-pdr Parrotts from Captain Francis DeGress’ Battery H, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, supported by part of Battery H, 1st Missouri Light Artillery, sparred with the Confederate gunners.  Neither side did little more than annoying the other.

Instead of a cavalry rush, Sherman wanted to use the infantry to ensure the act was completed quickly.  Howard detailed Second Division, Fifteenth Corps, under Brigadier-General William B. Hazen, for the task.  The selection had significance.  The core of that division were a few veteran regiments which had served in Sherman’s division at Shiloh back in April 1862.  It had subsequently been part of Fifteenth Corps, under Sherman, during the Vicksburg Campaign.  Among the division’s previous commanders was Major-General Frank P. Blair, Jr., by then in charge of the Seventeenth Corps.  Not only was the Second Division somewhat “Sherman’s own” but it embodied the long story that was the Western Theater.  To battle honors that included Shiloh, Corinth, Chickasaw Bluffs, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Resaca, Kennesaw, and Atlanta, the division would add another the next day – Fort McAllister.

Considering the March by way of Markers, today there are two entries discussing specific events on December 12.  One at Port Wentworth discusses the gunboat-artillery fight.  Another at Richmond Hill notes Kilpatrick’s scout.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 44, Serial 92, pages 357, 685 and 698; ORN, Series I, Volume 16, page 357.)