Tag Archives: Bellona

150 years ago: Arms buildup for Vicksburg

The string of tactical defeats and strategic withdrawals for the Confederates in the Western Theater through 1862 not only conceded territory to the Federals but also translated to lost war material.  At the Iron Buffs of Columbus, Island No.10, Fort Pillow, and Memphis, the Confederates shed much needed heavy ordnance and material.  Likewise, the rebels left many small arms on the field at Fort Donelson and Shiloh.  Not to mention the loss of production facilities in Nashville, New Orleans, and Memphis.  All of which was sorely lacking at the next bastion under pressure – Vicksburg.  During the fall of 1862, as the center of gravity in the west shifted towards that particular bend of the Mississippi River, Confederates shipped large quantities of equipment to Vicksburg.

But “shipped to” does not necessarily mean “received at” when one balances the books.  In the last days of November, those in Vicksburg complained of delays.  A message sent on November 30, 1862 complained of receiving only 1,700 small arms.  In response, on December 2 Colonel Joshia Gorgas reported in detail the support offered to that point by the Confederate Ordnance Department:

  • October 29, Richmond: One thousand seven hundred small-arms.
  • October 29, Richmond: Four 4.62 rifled and banded guns, with carriages and ammunition complete; four 12-pounder bronze guns; four 24-pounder howitzers, with carriages, caissons, and ammunition complete.
  • November 9, Richmond: Four thousand rounds ammunition for 6-pounder gun and 12-pounder howitzer (three-fifths gun and two-fifths howitzer); 80 rounds 20-pounder Parrott ammunition; 200 rounds 3-pounder Parrott ammunition.
  • November 10, Charleston: Eight hundred arms to General Smith, Vicksburg.
  • November 10, Atlanta: Five hundred 3-inch rifle shot and shell.
  • November 11, Richmond: Seventy rounds 20-pounder ammunition.
  • November 18, Richmond and Lynchburg: One thousand five hundred arms and ammunition.
  • November 18, Knoxville: One thousand five hundred arms and ammunition.
  • November 18, Atlanta: Five hundred arms and ammunition.
  • November 24, Richmond: Three 10-inch columbiads.

In short about 6000 small arms forwarded from depots in Richmond, Charleston (South Carolina), Atlanta, and Knoxville to Vicksburg.  But of course the majority of those (save the first 1,700) didn’t get on a train until November and thus were likely still on the rails when Gorgas responded. (*)

But that was just the muskets and such.  The “fun” stuff we discuss on this blog is the artillery, right?  Four 4.62-inch rifled and banded guns, four 12-pdr guns (likely Napoleons), four 24-pdr howitzers, and three 10-inch Columbiads.  At least one of the 4.62-inch rifles ended up at Port Hudson and another ended up in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Because of that scattering, its hard to say for sure all three 10-inch Columbiads served at Vicksburg.  The river defenses contained at least two weapons of that caliber before hand, so mention in action reports is not proof of presence of these big triplets.

But there is a good line on when the guns left Richmond.  Tredegar often filed claims for hauling equipment and stores for the Confederacy.  A tally of the “hauling account” for November lists an entry for November 22:

On the 15th, Tredegar unloaded three 10-inch Columbiads shipped downriver from Bellona Foundry, from the wording “boat in basin,” likely using the James River Canal.  The entry also indicates one of the Columbiads went to the proving grounds.  Tredegar also loaded up two 4.62 inch rifles for shipment to Danville at that time – which may or many not be part of the set Gorgas ordered shipped on November 9.  The going rate to unload a gun from a canal boat was $5.  The rate to haul a gun to the range was $10.  Loading two guns on the railcars cost $15.

On November 22, Tredegar loaded three 10-inch Columbiads  on cars heading to Danville, and from there points west.  Since the entry mentions handling one Columbiad from the proving grounds and the other two from the basin to the depot, that covers the weapons mentioned on the 15th.  Tredegar also loaded three carriages for the Columbiads.

Notice the costs of the labor for the 22nd.  Just as on the 15th, $10 a gun to transport to the depot (either from the basin or proving range).  Counting gun and carriage, Columbiads cost $7.50 per gun to load onto rail cars.  The 4.62-inch rifles loaded on the 15th were mounted on siege carriages, so handling costs were fifty cents left.   Again, let me highlight the rather tight bookkeeping done for the Confederate government.

A look further down on the “hauling” tally indicates Tredegar handled five more of the 10-inch Columbiads a few days later:

On the 29th, Tredegar’s workers loaded three of five 10-inch Columbiads handled that day onto rail cars.  The tally does not indicate where those were sent.  Either date (the 22nd or the 29th) would fit for the day those Columbiads rolled out bound for Vicksburg.  I’m inclined to go with the 22nd since the name of the connecting destination was provided.  And again look at the handling costs – $10 to move a gun, $5 to load a gun on a railcar, and $7.50 to haul and load a carriage.

But before leaving the tally sheet, consider this entry made between the two clipped above:

Anyone care to venture a guess about those pieces and where they were used?  I’ll give you a hint.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 051

In late November 1862, the Confederacy rushed guns to several threatened points.


* For Gorgas’ report and the original inquiry from Vicksburg, see OR, Series I, Volume 17, Part II, Serial 25, pages 775-6.

The receipt for hauling is located in the Confederate Citizens Files for J.R. Anderson & Company.

Another Paperwork Trail: Bellona 8-inch Columbiads

You might recall a couple of 8-inch guns  from St. Augustine from earlier in the Confederate Columbiad thread.

St. Augustine 1 Aug 11 515

Bellona 8-inch Columbiad No. 29

The muzzle stamp very clearly identifies this gun as registry number 29.

St. Augustine 1 Aug 11 509

Muzzle Stamp for #29

But you may recall that I took exception to the plaque at the base of the gun mount.

St. Augustine 1 Aug 11 510

Plaque Mentioning the Gun's Service

As I said at the time, with a production year of 1861, the gun was certainly not in St. Augustine before the Civil War.  Indeed, Federal reports indicate that prior to Florida’s secession the only 8-inch weapons at Fort Marion were old seacoast howitzers, not “proper” columbiads.

But what about during the Civil War?  Did the Confederates send this gun, and it’s mate, to St. Augustine?  If so, there should some notation of 8-inch Columbiads.  Unfortunately, the records of Bellona Foundry are incomplete at best.  But there is one invoice dated October 20, 1861 that mentions registry number 29.

The bill records four 8-inch Columbiads numbering 29, 30, 31 and 32 shipped to three different locations on October 21 (see the remarks on the right side).    Notations mid-way down indicate, “by direction of Lieut. Col. Gorgas Chief of Ordnance,” the destinations of those four guns:

  • One to General John Magruder at Yorktown, Virginia.
  • One to General Richard Gatlin at Fort Macon, North Carolina.
  • Two to the commander of defenses at Cedar Key, Florida.

Unfortunately the records do not indicate which gun went where.  But each of these localities were the site of military action in the winter and spring of 1862.  The USS Hatteras raided Cedar Key on January 16.  Fort Macon fell to General Ambrose Burnside in April.  Yorktown fell after a long, but somewhat cumbersome, siege in early May.

There’s a lot of room for speculation regarding these guns.  Photographs from Yorktown show guns very similar to Bellona #29 in the Confederate works.

But look close.  Those are wooden carriages.  Recall that #29 has short trunnions used on iron carriages. The nearest columbiad in the photo has long trunnions.  We might debate the shadows on the trunnions of the second gun,  however.  As for Fort Macon and Cedar Keys, I have no specific returns of those defenses to work from. So my speculation on those points must end there.

A Federal naval force from the USS Walbash, under Captain C. R. P. Rogers, landed at St. Augustine on March 11.  In his report, Rogers stated the Fort Marion contained three 32-pdr guns and two 8-inch seacoast howitzers, along with “a number of very old guns….” (Report of Captain Rodgers, Naval ORs, Series I, Volume 12, page 595-7).   Such would exclude presence of the 8-inch Columbiads from the Bellona invoice. 

Given the invoice and Captain Rogers’ report, the presence of Bellona #29 as part of the Confederate defenses of St. Augustine is unlikely.  And the same can be said for #27 on the other side of the Plaza de la Constitución.  The weight of evidence points to the capture of these two guns, perhaps early in 1862.  If so, these guns may have arrived in St. Augustine during the war years when Fort Marion was used as a depot.  Just as likely the guns arrived after the war for use in memorials.  But the documentation rules out active use of the Confederate Columbiads at Fort Marion.

So should someone change the plaques?  I say no.  Let’s keep this bit of trivia between us as some “insider” factoid.  No need to pull the rug from underneath the quaint, nostalgic, undocumented story about these columbiads.

Big Rebel Guns: Confederate 10-inch Columbiads

As my current thread is Confederate Columbiads, let me turn to the largest variety cast in the South during the war – the 10-inch Columbiad.  Just as the case with the 8-inch variety, both Tredegar and Bellona cast 10-inch “New Columbiads” for Army contracts before the Civil War.  And also like the smaller columbiad, starting late in 1861 those two foundries (and perhaps a few more) produced a “Confederate Columbiad” to a revised form which resembled the Federal Rodman Gun.  But unlike the 8-inch columbiads, there is a “missing link” between the two patterns for the 10-inch caliber.  So the evolution of the Confederate patterns in the larger caliber are a matter of conjecture and extrapolation.

Charleston 4 May 10 047

Confederate 10-inch Columbiad facing East Battery Street, Charleston, SC

While only seven 8-inch versions remain for study, seventeen 10-inch Confederate Columbiads survive today.  And all but six of those are in South Carolina, alluding to heavy use of the type in that theater of war.  Examples from Tredegar and Bellona stand around Charleston, Fort Moultrie, and Georgetown in the Palmetto State.  These guns were the counter provided as the Federal fleet attempted to close the Carolina coast.

White Battery 5 May 10 382

Tredegar 10-inch Columbiad at Battery White, Georgetown, SC

Surviving records show Tredegar and Bellona cast just over 140 of the 10-inch guns.  New Orleans vendors at least attempted manufacture.  In April 1862, the firm of Samuel Wolff & Company charged $150 for a “Pattern for 10-inch Columbiad, flask, etc.”  But there is no indication that production commenced (Page 34, Wolff & Co., S, Confederate Citizens Files).

Externally the 10-inch Columbiad matched the 8-inch Confederate model, but with of course larger proportions.  The Confederate section of Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina has two 10-inch Columbiads, one each from Tredegar and Bellona.

Charleston 4 May 10 206

Columbiads in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, SC

Both guns follow the external form discussed with the 8-inch Confederate Columbiad – namely a cylindrical reinforce, with a tapering chase.  The reinforce area is about 26 inches long.

Charleston 4 May 10 217

Tredegar 10-inch Columbiad #1678

Tredegar number 1678 is an October 1862 casting.  The exterior indicates a lack of any machining to smooth the exterior, which is somewhat a Tredegar tradition (or production shortcut).  Casting lines remain at several points.  Machining lines exist only where the form required cutting down metal.

Charleston 4 May 10 210

Breech of Tredegar #1678

The breech shows the Rodman-like cascabel, but with the same ratchets seen on the Confederate 8-inch Columbiads.  Note the rough casting or machining line around the back of the reinforce.

Charleston 4 May 10 207

Muzzle of Tredegar #1678

Tredegar placed the foundry number on the muzzle – “1678” in this case.  This view also shows the 9-inch long trunnions often used on Confederate columbiads.  The long trunnions allude to use on wooden carriages.

Trunnion markings conform to Tredegar standards with the gun maker’s initials along with the foundry stamp – “J.R.A. & Co. // T.F.”  The left trunnion displays the year of manufacture – 1862.

Charleston 4 May 10 208

Right Trunnion of Tredegar #1678

The Bellona 10-inch Columbiad differs with more muzzle markings.

Charleston 4 May 10 216

Muzzle of Bellona #20

From the top continuing clockwise these read – “20  // R.M.C. // B.F. // 1863 // 13945.”  Translated this is registry number 20, inspected by Richard M. Cuyler, cast at Bellona Foundry in 1863, weighing 13,945 pounds.

The Bellona gun appears to have more machine work done.  But years of exposure and layers of paint prevent a definitive conclusion in that regard.

Charleston 4 May 10 211

Bellona 10inch Columbiad #20

On the other side of the Charleston area, at Fort Moultrie a 10-inch Confederate Columbiad sit next to a pair of 10-inch Rodman Guns.

Fort Moultrie 3 May 2010 598

Confederate Columbiad and Federal Rodman at Fort Moultrie

Convenient, as that leads to the next post on the thread – a direct comparison of the two types.