Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – New York Independent Batteries, Part 2

Earlier this week, I started on the long list of New York Independent Light Artillery Batteries, from the fourth quarter (December), 1862 summaries.  This second part of the list presents a lot more gaps to fill and questions to answer:

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Notice this set of batteries, between the 15th and 32nd, is not complete.  So that’s one gap to address.  And we have only six returns logged in by the clerks, two of which were not posted until 1864.  We pick up with the 15th Independent Battery:

  • 15th Battery:  At Fredericksburg, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  The 15th was a re-designation of Battery A, 2nd New York Light Artillery Battalion (recall the 14th was a similar flip of Battery B of the same battalion).  The battery was assigned to the Artillery Reserve, under (temporary command of) Lieutenant Andrew R. McMahon but was not engaged during the battle of Fredericksburg. Captain Patrick Hart would assume command in February.
  • 16th Battery: In Washington, D.C. with six 10-pdr Parrott Rifles. Originally Dickinson’s Light Artillery, this battery was under Lieutenant Milo W. Locke and posted to the Artillery Camp of Instruction.
  • 17th Battery: Minor’s Hill, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Organized as the Orleans Battery in August 1862. Captain George T. Anthony’s battery was part of Abercrombie’s Division, defending Washington.
  • 18th Battery: No report.  The “Black Horse Artillery” or “Billinghurst Battery” as in William Billinghurst and his proto-machine gun. Captain Albert Mack commanded this battery, which was in route to New Orleans in December 1862 to become part of the Department of the Gulf.  Reports indicate the battery was issued some of the Billinghurst-Requa guns.  However, a report from late January 1863 indicates the battery had six 20-pdr Parrotts.
  • 19th Battery: In Washington, D.C. with six 12-pdr Napoleons.   Posted to the Camp of Instruction under Captain William H. Stahl.
  • 20th Battery: No report. Captain  B. Franklin Ryer’s battery was still getting organized in December 1862 and would serve at Fort Schuyler, New York.
  • 21st Battery: No report. In December 1862 this battery was heading to New Orleans, under Captain  James Barnes.  The battery would be part of the garrison of that city.
  • 22nd Battery: Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain John D. Numan commanded this short-lived light battery.  By February the battery became Company M, 9th New York Heavy Artillery.
  • 23rd Battery: Washington, North Carolina with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. And another long story that needs its own post!  This was originally Battery A, New York Rocket Battaion, which was sent to North Carolina in April 1862.  The re-designation was not official until later in 1863.  And obviously by December 1862 the rockets were replaced by conventional artillery.  Captain Alfred Ransom was in charge.
  • 24th Battery: No report. And this was Battery B of the Rocket Battalion.  Also serving in North Carolina, this battery was under Captain J. E. Lee.  And we might also assume the battery had, or was, exchanging rockets for muzzleloading artillery.
  • 25th Battery: No report.  The 25th was also heading to New Orleans in December 1862.  But this hard-luck battery lost most of its horses when the transport Sparkling Sea wrecked off Florida on January 9, 1863.  Captain John A. Grow commanded.

Not listed on this return are the 26th, 27th, and 28th Batteries.  Let us fill in the blanks:

  • 26th Battery: Captain George W. Fox’s battery had worse luck than the 25th, and wrecked twice before arriving in New Orleans in late January.
  • 27th Battery: Under Captain John B. Eaton, this brand-new battery was just arriving in Washington, D.C. at years’ end.
  • 28th Battery: Also just mustering in at the end of the year.  Captain Cyprian H. Millard had command during this period and the battery assigned to Fort Schuyler, New York.

As for the 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd Batteries, recall those four were, respectively, Batteries A, B, C, and D of the 1st New York Light Artillery.  New York would have four more numbered independent batteries, on paper at least.  But those are for consideration outside the reporting period.

With the administrative details out of the way, and hopefully some gaps in the summary explained, let us look to the ammunition reported.  First the smoothbore projectiles:

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Three batteries with 12-pdr Napoleons:

  • 17th Battery: 292 shot, 112 shell, 236 case, and 168 canister.
  • 19th Battery: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister.
  • 22nd Battery:  288 shot, 96 shell, 228 case, and 96 canister.

Of note, all three batteries were in or around Washington at the time.  So one might expect the ordnance supplies to be well dressed and orderly.

For Hotchkiss pattern rifled projectiles:

0069_Snip_Dec62_NY_Ind2_2

Two batteries for consideration:

  • 15th Battery: 365 percussion shell and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • 23rd Battery: 336 shot, 50 canister, 60 percussion shell, 50 fuse shell, and 80 bullet shell for their 3-inch rifles. I like the assortment offered.

Next, entries for Dyer’s and Parrott’s patent projectiles:

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The 15th Battery reported 120 Dyer canister for their 3-inch rifles.  The 16th Battery had 479 shell, 600 case, and 135 canister of Parrott pattern for their 10-pdr rifles from the same manufacturer.

None of the batteries reported Schenkl pattern projectiles:

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And that brings us to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • 15th Battery: 18 Navy revolvers and 19 cavalry sabers.
  • 16th Battery: 14 Army revolvers and 21 horse artillery sabers.
  • 17th Battery: 30(?) Army revolvers and 20 horse artillery sabers.
  • 19th Battery: 20 Army revolvers and 50 horse artillery sabers.
  • 22nd Battery: 18 Army revolvers and 20 horse artillery sabers.
  • 23rd Battery: 60 Army revolves and 75 cavalry sabers.

The eighteen New York batteries mentioned in today’s post we see varied service histories and several associated with the more exotic weapons from the Civil War.  This is yet another point I wish the summaries were more complete. Perhaps then we might track down more details of the service history of these lesser-known weapons.

150 Years Ago: At Fredericksburg, one shot clears the tannery

The battle of Fredericksburg might have “effectively” ended with the stalled assaults on Marye’s Heights at sunset on December 13, 1862. But the Federals continued to occupy the city and ground in front of Marye’s Heights for two more days.  The battle lines exchanged fire throughout those days. Among the shots fired on December 15 came from 24-pdr field howitzers in Captain George V. Moody’s Madison Light Artillery (Louisiana). Lieutenant Colonel E. Porter Alexander directed those shots.

I’ve cited this before when discussing the use of the heavy howitzers during the war, but as this matches nicely with the 150th narrative, allow me to recite it once more –

… Monday morning was again thick and hazy, but when the sun was about an hour high the nest of sharpshooters in the tanyard announced their ability to see by opening a very lively fusillade. I happened to be nearby, & I at once determined to try & route them. But the building was so nestled in the hollow, & hidden by intervening low hills & trees, that only one gun, one of Moody’s 24 pr. howitzers, could even the peak of its roof be seen. But I knew that if I only skimmed the top of the low intervening hill the shell would curve downward & probably get low enough for the loop holes. The howitzer was on the south of the Plank Road & some 400 yards off. I got the line of the obnoxious corner of the roof & sighted in that line, & then fixed an elevation which I thought would just carry the shell over the low hill, aiming myself, & taking several minutes to get all exact. Then I ordered fire. Standing behind we could see the shell almost brush the grass, as it curved over the hill, & then we heard her strike & explode. At once there came a cheer from our picket line in front of the hill, & presently there came running up an exited fellow to tell us. He called out as he came – “That got ’em! That got ’em! You can hear them just a hollering & a groaning in there.”

Alexander’s detailed description offers a ready example of the advantages of the howitzers’ low velocity and high angle trajectory when applied to the battlefield. The 24-pdrs were designed with this type of fire effects in mind. Given the reference about distances and the time taken to set the shot, I would assume Alexander had good measures of the field and was able to properly set the fuse for just the right time.

Petersburg 333
24-pdr Field Howitzer at Petersburg

Alexander wasn’t done with Moody’s big howitzers that day. And again, he used the ballistic capabilities of the howitzers to achieve an effect:

… we discovered that quite a little body of the enemy were lying down in a shallow depression about 400 yards from another of Moody’s 24 pr. howitzers, which were my favorite guns. Partly to make the enemy unhappy, & partly to show my companions how effective the gun was, I carefully aimed & fired four shrapnel (each of which contained 175 musket balls) so as to burst each one about 15 feet above the ground & about as many yards in front of the little hollow. While we could not see into it, the bullets & fragment would probe it easily. From the very first shot, we saw, at the far end, men helping three wounded to get out to the rear, but our infantry sharpshooters opened on them & ran them back. The next day, [Lieutenant Colonel Briscoe G.] Baldwin & [Captain Samuel] Johnston visited the spot together to study the effects, & told me that they found 13 dead which they were sure from the fresh wounds & blood were killed by those four shrapnel.

Yes, a remarkable demonstration of the effectiveness of Alexander’s “favorite guns.” Part of me visits this passage and takes hold of the details about how the weapon was used. Certainly a ready example of a “textbook” employment of the howitzer. Yet another part of me reads this and recoils at the detachment of men in combat from the normal moral conventions.

Was this war? Or was this murder?

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Citations from Edward Porter Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander, edited by Gary Gallegher, University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Pages 181-2. The account, written after the war, generally follows with the shorter description of the activity of that day offered by Alexander in his official report (OR, Series I, Volume 21, Serial 31, pages 576-7) written in December 1862. However, in the wartime account Alexander states 12-pdr guns fired on the troops in front of Marye’s Heights.

Fredericksburg Battlefield by Cannons

As I’ve done thus far throughout the sesquicentennial, allow me to offer a “tour” of the Fredericksburg battlefield’s cannons.

Fredericksburg battlefield features a small, but varied, set of guns. The largest are four 32-pdr seacoast guns in the National Cemetery, serving as memorials. As for those in the “field” there are two impressive 4.5-inch Rifles at Chatham.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 201

Being on Chatham Heights, a visitor can take license and say they represent the guns that bombarded the city during the battle. But these are the type seen in wartime photos entrenched upon the heights in 1863.

In a position to “duel” with these are two 30-pdr Parrotts on the other side of the Rappanannock.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 056

In between are 3-inch Ordnance, 3-inch Confederate, 12-pdr Confederate Napoleons, and several James Rifles. I’ve included an iron 6-pdr gun located downtown. Although it is not setup on a battlefield display, it is on the battlefield… as is this fellow…

Fredericksburg 19 Feb 11 002

… that I must leave off the list.