Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Iowa’s batteries

Iowa provided four light batteries to the Federal cause during the Civil War. Three of those were on active service at the end of September, 1863.  The fourth was mustering and organizing that fall.  For the third quarter, 1863, the summaries offer four entry lines:

0249_1_Snip_Iowa

Three batteries and one artillery section reported with the 2nd Iowa Cavalry.  I’ll include the 4th Battery here for “administrative” discussions:

 

  • 1st Iowa Battery: No report.  After the fall of Vicksburg, the 1st Iowa Battery participated in operations against Jackson, Mississippi.  After that operation, the battery fell back to the Big Black River Bridge were it camped for most of the summer.  At the end of September, the 1st Iowa Battery moved with its parent formation, First Division, Fifteenth Corps to Memphis, as part of the relief column sent to Chattanooga.  Captain Henry H. Griffiths commanded, however he also served as division artillery chief.  In his place Lieutenants William H. Gay and James M. Williams led the battery. In the previous quarter, the battery reported four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  Later in the fall, the battery’s guns were completely worn out.  They would receive a full complement of 10-pdr Parrott rifles in December.
  • 2nd Iowa Battery: Reporting from Vicksburg, Mississippi with two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. The battery remained with Third Division, Fifteenth Corps and spent the summer at Big Black River Bridge.  It was still there at the end of September.  As Captain Nelson T. Spoor served as division artillery chief, Lieutenant Joseph R. Reed commanded this battery.
  • 3rd Iowa Battery: At Little Rock, Arkansas with four 6-pdr field guns, three 12-pdr field howitzers, one 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, and one 10-pdr Parrott.  Yes, nine cannon! Captain Mortimer M. Hayden remained in command.  The battery served in the Department of Eastern Arkansas and participated in Steele’s Little Rock expedition (Third Division) in September.  When Hayden briefly served as division artillery chief, Lieutenant Melville C. Wright held temporary command.
  • 4th Iowa Battery:  Not listed.  Still organizing at Davenport, Iowa.  Captain Philip H. Goode received his commission and command of battery on September 12, 1863. He’d previously served with Company F, 15th Iowa Infantry.
  • 2nd Cav. Arty. Stores.” –  A location of Memphis, Tennessee and with two 12-pdr mountain howitzers, and attributed to a lieutenant.  Colonel Edward Hatch commanded the regiment.  But with Hatch in command of a brigade of cavalry, part of Sixteenth Corps, operating out of Memphis, Lieutenant-Colonel William P. Hepburn stood in.  The regiment saw much service scouting and chasing Confederate raiders in west Tennessee that summer and early fall.  Hatch would mention, specifically, Lieutenant Perry L. Reed in charge of two howitzers in a dispatch later in November.  So he is the leading candidate for the “lieutenant in charge of stores.”

 

In the previous quarter, we saw the 41st Iowa Infantry reported a 12-pdr mountain howitzer in their charge at far away Fort Pierre, in the Dakota Territories.  No mention of it here.  But no doubt that mountain howitzer was still in use somewhere on the frontier, if not by the Iowans.

Those particulars out of the way, we can move to the “feed” for those cannons, starting with the smoothbores:

0251_1_Snip_Iowa

Three lines to consider:

  • 2nd Battery: 57 shot, 42 case, and 80 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 74 shell, 20 case, and 60 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 3rd Battery: 371 shot,  319 case, and 102 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 269 shell, 276 case, and 62 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 2nd Iowa Cavalry: 148 shell, 212 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, first the Hotchkiss type:

0251_2_Snip_Iowa

  • 3rd Battery: 40 percussion shell, 40 fuse shell, and 60 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

And that same battery had Parrotts on hand:

0252_1_Snip_Iowa

  • 3rd Battery: 354 shell, 240 case, and 60 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

We have no Schenkl or Tatham projectiles to account for, so let us move directly on to the small arms:

0252_3_Snip_Iowa

Two lines to consider:

  • 2nd Battery: Four cavalry sabers.
  • 3rd Battery: Three Navy revolvers, two cavalry sabers, and nine horse artillery sabers.

A rather clean accounting for the Iowa cannoneers.  With the exception of the missing return for the 1st Battery, we have most of the I’s dotted and T’s crossed… down to Lieutenant Reed’s pair of mountain howitzers.

 

 

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150 years ago: Battle of Big Black River Bridge, and I have nothing for you!

Looking back 150 years ago, in the aftermath of the battle of Champion Hill Federal troops in Major-General John McClernand’s Thirteenth Army Corps pursued Confederates west towards Vicksburg. A little over half way to Vicksburg, McClernand’s lead elements ran into a Confederate defense setup along the Big Black River, covering the railroad bridge.

This is one of my favorite battles in the Vicksburg campaign. Not for any particular reason. I’ve simply found it fascinating. I wanted to post something proper for the battle. But this morning the combination of pollen blooms and the hot-cold-hot spring weather has withered my ability to focus on writing. I don’t even want to dig out my 1990s photos of the battlefield.

So let me offer up instead an excellent set of photos from Bruce’s Civil War Album showing the landscape as it appears today. Big Black River Bridge was fought in the bottom lands with meander scars, bayous, and cypress stands factoring into the troop movements. The critical moment of this battle occurred on the Federal right where Brigadier-General Michael K. Lawler mounted a brigade assault.

photo of Michael Kelly Lawler (1814-1882)
Brig. Gen. Michael K. Lawler

Lawler’s assault – with the 21st Iowa, 23rd Iowa, and 11th Wisconsin with the 22nd Iowa the reserve – is a good example of a successful brigade level attack. Artillery support was ample. And reinforcements arrived where needed, at the time needed. All in contrast to some other brigade level attacks that we might consider.

Recalling the success, Major-General Ulysses S. Grant later wrote “I heard great cheering to the right of our line and, looking in that direction, saw Lawler in his shirt sleeves leading a charge upon the enemy. I immediately mounted my horse and rode in the direction of the charge.” Grant was too often the beneficiary of such unexpected success on the battlefield. Seems to me there was more than just luck and happenstance at work.

Some Confederates made their way over the river and back to Vicksburg, but about 1,700 were captured. In addition to the troops, Lawler’s men captured six 12-pdr howitzers, three 12-pdr Napoleons, three 6-pdr guns, and six 10-pdr Parrotts. Eighteen guns at the Big Black. Just days earlier at Raymond, Federals captured a similar number of guns. Add to that Confederate artillery losses at Jackson and Champon Hill. Yes, out west the Confederates were shedding an Army’s worth of artillery in the course of a campaign.

Sorry for a non-substantial post today. If I feel better this evening, I’ll do Lawler’s assault the justice it deserves. Until then, you might consider this “alternative” version of the Battle of Big Black River Bridge:

Oh, I long for the simple days where a pair of dice and an Avalon-Hill box were sufficient.