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.

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Bellona 8-inch Columbiad No. 29

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

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Muzzle Stamp for #29

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Right Trunnion of Tredegar #1678

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Confederate Rodman? 8-inch Columbiad with revised form

Yesterday I left off considering this 8-inch columbiad in St. Augustine, Florida.  It is one of two located in the Plaza de la Constitución.

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Bellona 8-inch Columbiad No. 27

This particular columbiad is a product of Bellona Foundry outside Richmond, Virginia.  Because the exterior form resembles contemporary Federal heavy guns, over the years this type has acquired the nomenclature “Confederate Rodman.”  The association with Thomas J. Rodman is limited at best.  In 1861, recently resigned Confederate ordnance officers had knowledge of Rodman’s experiments and modifications to designs.  And the nature of Rodman’s water-cooled, hollow core technique were known to Tredegar and Bellona (War Department officials actually urged them to convert to the system prior to the war).

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Bellona 8-inch Columbiad No. 29

But beyond first impressions the St. Augustine guns, and other like them, owe less to Rodman’s work than it would appear.  As mentioned earlier, these guns retain the cylindrical first reinforce of the “New Columbiads.”  While dispensing with the second reinforce’s shoulder and the chase ring, the form does not match the Rodman’s bottle shape.

Another important departure from the “New Columbiad” profile, the two St. Augustine columbiads have a well sloped breech top.  On the columbiad detailed yesterday (at Fort Pulaski) the breech top formed a near right angle, although smoothed down at the corner.  On the St. Augustine columbiads, from the rear of the reinforce back to the knob there is a gentle curve – not quite as seamless Rodman guns, but close.

The right trunnion bears the marks of Bellona Foundry and its owner, Dr. Junius L. Archer.

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Right Trunnion

The left trunnion year marks indicate Bellona cast these in 1861.

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Left Trunnion

The muzzle marks indicate registry number 27 and 29 without any inspectors initials.

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Muzzle of Bellona Columbiad

Both guns have a weight stamp of 8750, on top of the breech.

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Weight Stamp

Note the machine marks above the numbers.

The breech face does use the Rodman style cascabel, often described as mushroom shape.

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Breech Face

The ratchets are angled wedges into the breech face.  Columbiads produced before the war, and many early Rodmans, used this setup to allow the old style elevating system a purchase push the breech of the gun up.  The preponderance of weight allowed behind the trunnions required this method of elevation.  Later Rodman guns balanced the guns on the trunnions and used a simpler socket elevation system.

Notice also the circular machine marks in the middle of the breech face.  The most distinct of these seems to be a “ghost” where an additional molding was machined off.  Given the machine marks in front of the weight and those on the breech, I would offer that these Bellona columbiads were initially cast to the “New Columbiad” form with knob.  After casting, the breech profile was machined into the updated profile to allow use of the elevating system.

Plaques at the base of these Bellona guns mention service at Fort Marion (a.k.a. Castillo de San Marcos) “before, during, and after” the Civil War.  The manufacture date rules out service before the war.  While possible these guns were shipped to St. Augustine during the war, no Confederate accounts mention such heavy weapons in the city under the secessionist flag.  If anything Federals may have brought the guns to the fort after capture elsewhere.  Army use after the war is also dubious, as authorities considered the Confederate castings of lesser durability compared to the ample supplies of Rodman guns.

One other external feature that these two Bellona guns share with the Rodmans is trunnion length.

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Left Trunnion showing Length

The short trunnions allude to intended use on wrought iron carriages as opposed to the wooden barbette carriages often seen.  Longer trunnions on Bellona No. 66, cast in 1862, indicate Confederates reverted to wooden carriage standards later in the production run.

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Bellona 8-inch Columbiad No. 66

This columbiad stands today at Fort Darling, on Drewry’s Bluff outside Richmond.  Its location makes it a good subject for a follow up post.

Regardless of any similarities, identifying these guns as “Confederate Rodmans” is incorrect.  The proper designation, I feel, is “Confederate Columbiads, Revised Model.”

Working from the old patterns: Confederate “New Columbiads”

Back in April I posted some on the heavy columbiads used at Fort Sumter in 1861.  Both the 8- and 10-inch variety evolved from seacoast howitzers through the Models of 1844.  Not happy with the endurance of the Model 1844, the Ordnance Department conducted tests on modified versions of the columbiad.  These are given, retroactively, the designation of “New Columbiads” as there was no formal model year applied.   Of the 94 known 8-inch “New Columbiads” received by the Army, Tredegar and Bellona combined for 26.  Likewise of the seven 10-inch “New Columbiads” received for trials, the two Virginia firms combined for four examples.

As indicated in the earlier post on “New Columbiads” for the most part these guns were used, and destroyed, in tests.  As such, many examples dispensed with the elevating ratchet system found on the breech of most service columbiads of the age.  Instead these used large knob style cascables to facilitate handling on the test ranges, where elevation was usually fixed by the mounting.

No doubt the two firms retained patterns and forms for these test columbiads.  As the war clouds gathered, and leaders throughout the south called for heavy weapons, Tredegar and Bellona cast batches of these columbiads.  One of those weapons sits today at the southeast corner of Fort Pulaski on a wooden reproduction center pintle wooden barbette carriage.

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8-inch Confederate Columbiad at Fort Pulaski

The right trunnion bears the familiar stamp of Tredegar  – “J.R.A. & Co. // T.F.”

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Right Trunnion

The left trunnion indicates a very early wartime production date.

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Left Trunnion

The breech differs significantly from other columbiads, with the large knob mentioned above.

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Breech with Knob Cascabel

With no other explanation, I would offer the selection of the knob was simply due to pattern availability.  While getting big guns in the hands of the warfighter quickly, the columbiad required the older style elevating systems.  Wartime photos of similar knobed columbiads show quions.  The National Park Service has this piece mounted with a couple of wood blocks.

Conforming to Federal patterns, the first reinforce extended about 25 inches from the breech, as a perfect cylinder.  The second reinforce tapered gradually to a point past the trunnions.  There it tapered sharply down to the chase.

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Reinforce Detail

Note also the sight mass over the trunnions, typical placement for this make and model.

Not seen on the earlier profile, a wedge-shaped section of the muzzle of this gun is missing.

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Burst Muzzle

For many years this particular columbiad sat outside Fort Pulaski  buried muzzle down (some say as a graveyard post, retained long after the bodies were reburied elsewhere).  In the 1970s, the park excavated, restored, and mounted the gun.  The chase is badly pitted, but still has the chase ring.

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Confederate Columbiad Showing Missing Muzzle Section

Although the muzzle marks are difficult to read, the letters “GA” appear on the top of the barrel.  Certainly not a standard Confederate marking, this alludes to a purchase for Georgia state troops.  Others have stated this gun is foundry number 1140 with a weight of 9460 pounds.  The number would fall within the range of guns cast in April 1861.   So this gun has an interesting story to tell just from the start.

When surrendered on April 11, 1862, the fort had five 10-inch and nine 8-inch columbiads.  One of those sat over the open breech on the southeast corner, right where the surviving gun is perched today.

Fort Pulaski Breech

But of course, the muzzle on that gun is intact.  Still the damaged muzzle and provenance of the 8-inch Tredegar columbiad indicate the possibility the surviving gun was among those in the fort during the bombardment.

At some point in 1861, both Tredegar and Bellona modified the columbiad patterns.  An 8-inch Columbiad also cast in 1861, although from Bellona, currently gracing the might be mistaken for a Rodman gun.

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Bellona 8-inch Columbiad

The Bellona weapon retains the cylindrical reinforce, opposed to the Rodman’s rounded shape.  But it does have the “mushroom” cascabel used on Rodman guns.  I’ll examine this example and similar Confederate columbiads in my next post on the subject.