Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Rhode Island’s Light Batteries

Despite being a small state, Rhode Island offered significant contributions to the Federal war effort during the Civil War.  In terms of artillery, the state provided a regiment of light batteries, three heavy artillery regiments, and a few non-regimented batteries.  The latter were mustered by mid-1862 and thus fall outside the scope of our review of the Ordnance Department’s summaries.  Of the heavy regiments, one battery was outfitted as a light battery.  And that battery – Company C, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery – served in South Carolina and will be familiar to readers.   Given those particulars, we have nine batteries to consider for the fourth quarter, 1862 summaries:

0075_Snip_Dec62_RI_1

From the top, we start with the eight batteries of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery.  All but these of these were serving in the Army of the Potomac at the time:

  • Battery A: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain William A. Arnold commanded this battery supporting Second Division, Second Corps.
  • Battery B: No return. Battery was also assigned to Second Division, Second Corps.  It was under the charge of Captain  John G. Hazard. This storied battery had six 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C: No return.  Assigned to First Division, Fifth Corps, Captain Richard Waterman commanded this battery.  They had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles on hand during the battle of Fredericksburg.
  • Battery D: At Newport News, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery was actually at Falmouth at the end of 1862.  Newport News is the location of the battery in March 1863, when the return was received in Washington.  Captain  William W. Buckley commanded this battery assigned to Second Division, Ninth Corps.
  • Battery E: At Falmouth with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain Pardon S. Jastram’s battery supported First Division, Third Corps.
  • Battery F: At New Berne, North Carolina with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain James Belger commanded this battery, which was assigned to the newly-formed Eighteenth Corps at the time.
  • Battery G: No return. Charles Owen’s battery was part of Third Division, Second Corps, then at Falmouth.  However, Lieutenant Crawford Allen is listed as the commander at the end of the year.The battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at Fredericksburg, firing 230 rounds.  More on those later.
  • Battery H: At Fairfax Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Assigned to Casey’s Division from the Defenses of Washington.  Captain Jeffrey Hazard commanded this battery.

Several spaces below is the lone entry for the Third Artillery’s Company C.  Referring back to Denison’s history of the regiment, he records for February 23, 1863 (as close a point I can find relative to the end of 1862):

The position of the regiment at this time were as follows: The head-quarters, with eight companies, within the entrenchments on Hilton Head, two of which were in Fort Welles; two companies – one heavy (A) and one light (C) – at Beaufort, A in Battery Stevens; one company (L) in the fort at Bay Point; one company (G) in Fort Pulaski.

This was, of course, well before the operations of 1863 on Morris Island and other points outside Charleston which would involve the 3rd Rhode Island.  But we see specifically that Company C was organized as light artillery.  For them we see:

  • Company C: At Hilton Head, South Carolina with two 24-pdr field howitzers and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  I think Captain Charles R. Brayton was in command of the company at this time.

The company was, of course, assigned to the Tenth Corps (a relatively new designation at the time).  And we know them to be actually act Beaufort, thanks to Denison’s account.  While we can take the battery’s reported armament as accurate, keep in mind the battery’s assigned weapons, as did all in the Department of the South, varied.  Furthermore, some of the other batteries in the 3rd Rhode Island would operate field weapons later in 1863.  Also keep in mind the batteries in the theater would man some interesting “weapons”… to say the least:

00749a

Moving forward to the ammunition columns, allow me to refer to that heavy company as “Company C”, to differentiate from the light batteries.  There was no report from Battery C, so we have some room to avoid redundancy.

For smoothbore ammunition:

0077_Snip_Dec62_RI_1

We have three batteries reporting quantities:

  • Battery E:  288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F: 120 shell, 151 case, and 18 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company C:  175 shell, 90 case, and 80 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.

So we don’t have quantities for batteries B and D which we know had Napoleons on hand.

For rifled projectiles, starting with Hotchkiss patents:

0077_Snip_Dec62_RI_2

Only one line to work with here:

  • Battery A:  110 percussion shell, 450 fuse shell, and 434 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Moving over to the next page, consider the Dyer’s and Parrott’s patent projectiles:

0079_Snip_Dec62_RI_1

From the Dyer’s columns only one battery reported quantities:

  • Battery H:  720 shrapnel for 3-inch rifle.

In terms of Parrott projectiles:

  • Battery F: 175 shell, 75 case, and 54 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Company C: 240 shell, 189 case, and 60 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

Lastly, we turn to the Schenkl projectiles:

0079_Snip_Dec62_RI_2

Just one to consider:

  • Battery H:  360 shell and 120 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Before we move on to the small arms, consider what we are missing here.  Batteries C and G, with 3-inch rifles, did not have a filed return.  But let’s not allow them to remain silent due to that administrative issue.  Both commanders filed reports from the Battle of Fredericksburg, and both offered comments on their guns and ammunition.  Captain Owen, of Battery G, wrote:

During the five days, I expended about 230 rounds of ammunition.  The Hotchkiss shell and case shot is the only variety upon which I can rely.  The Dyer ammunition generally misses the groove, and the Hotchkiss percussion bursts in the piece.

Captain Waterman, of Battery C, went further in his report to discuss the guns and packing material:

It may be proper to state that, from the experience of the last nine days, as well as from ten months’ active service with the 3-inch gun, I consider it inferior at ranges of from 900 to 1,500 yards to the 10-pdr Parrott gun.

The Schenkl percussion and the Hotchkiss fuse shells worked to entire satisfaction.

The ordnance ammunition with metallic packing failed in almost every instance to ignite the fuse, and I consider it worthless when explosion constitutes the chief value of the projectile.  As solid shot, the ordnance shrapnel was serviceable in the cannonade of Fredericksburg.

A couple of opinions to weigh on the scales.

On to the small arms:

0079_Snip_Dec62_RI_3

By battery:

  • Battery A: Twenty-four Army revolvers and thirty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Twelve Navy revolvers and eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Fourteen Navy revolvers.
  • Battery F: 104 Navy revolvers and nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Twenty Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Company C: Fifty Navy revolvers, 120 cavalry sabers, and one horse artillery saber.

The pattern seen here was for batteries operating in the side theaters to have more small arms.  Given the service of both and detailed duties, that follows logically.

Advertisements

“Efficiently garrisoned as any in the department”: Evaulation of USCT troops in Florida

Bear with me for another “backwater of Florida” post here.  This has some sesquicentennial timing, as I like to incorporate here.  It also works into the USCT experience that I like to highlight as we proceed through the sesquicentennial.

On September 5, 1864, Colonel Charles Brayton, Chief of Artillery for the Department of the South, offered a report of a recent visit to the garrisons in Florida.  Addressing Major-General John Foster, Brayton wrote:

General: I have the honor to make the following report of a tour of instruction through the District of Florida:

The garrison of Fort Clinch consists of two companies of the One hundred and seventh Ohio Volunteers and one company of the Third U.S. Colored Troops, recently sent to that post to perform the artillery duty. This company has had some experience at Jacksonville in artillery, and will, in my opinion, make efficient artillerists, they having competent instructors.

With the departure of two brigades from the department that summer, individual companies served on detached duties.  The three at Fort Clinch were from two different regiments – an Ohio volunteers regiment and a USCT regiment.  And the USCT company was transitioning from infantry drill to heavy artillery assignments.  Brayton seemed confident these men would take well to their new roles.

Brayton continued in a “southernly” direction, describing the Jacksonville garrison next:

The garrisons of the different works at Jacksonville are all in excellent condition, being well drilled in the manual of the piece and well instructed in the nomenclature of pieces, carriages, implements, equipments, ammunition, and ranges of the different objects in the vicinity of their respective batteries. The garrison of Fort Hatch, Company H, Third U.S. Colored Troops, Capt. S. Conant, is particularly conversant with the above points. I am of the opinion that these works are as efficiently garrisoned as any in the department, the ranges of different points having been often verified by actual practice.

Perhaps the reason for Brayton’s confidence with Fort Clinch was founded on his satisfaction with the same 3rd USCT at Jacksonville.  Keep in mind that Brayton was very familiar with the nature of heavy artillery in the department.  He’d commanded the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery.  He had several very well maintained and operated garrisons for which to compare.  These are high compliments coming from someone who had experience in the matter, and were not simply empty comments to appease someone’s ears.

To that point, Brayton was quick to point out deficiencies where those existed:

The garrison of Fort Marion, at Saint Augustine, I found in quite an indifferent condition. The recent raid and absence of a company that had been instructed as artillery left the fort without an efficient garrison. I would respectfully suggest that a company of the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteers be designated to perform the artillery duty in this work, and not to be removed unless the regiment leaves the post. The frequent change of garrisons and the substitution of companies unacquainted with their duties at times when the best artillerists are needed for defense perils the safety of the town and fort, and renders impossible to maintain a well-instructed and efficient garrison.

Looking to one of his own regiment’s batteries, Brayton identified the need to refresh and refit a light battery:

I would respectfully state that Company A, Third Rhode Island Artillery, has been on all the raids in Florida since the battle of Olustee, and its efficiency is impaired by a loss of horses and material and the addition of 60 new men. The battery has had but little opportunity for drill since it was mounted, and I am of the opinion that it needs an opportunity for drill not to be obtained at Jacksonville. I would therefore request, if it is deemed consistent with the good of the service, that Company A, Third Rhode Island Artillery, now at Jacksonville, be relieved by Battery F, Third New York Artillery, from Beaufort, and that Company A, on being relieved, be ordered to Beaufort.

Foster would approve the relief of Company A.  The point to consider here is how taxing even the small scale raids and other operations could be upon a military formation.  These backwater assignments were not exactly easy, cushy rear area work.

From this report, as I look back 150 years, what catches my attention is the high regard Brayton had for the ability of the USCT serving as artillerists.  Officers of that time felt artillery was far more demanding in terms of intellect.  Not to disparage the infantry, but for artillery to perform properly on the battlefield there is a lot more math involved.  The crew of the gun might not have to think about precise facing movements, but instead had to consider a number of factors like elevation, fuse settings, and range deflection.   There was, at some points during the war, questions about the colored troops having the ability to handle such tasks.  Now here is Brayton saying they were as good as any other in the department – a department with a heavy emphasis in “garrison” and “heavy” artillery, mind you.

By the summer of 1864 the USCT were winning accolades.  Some of them were not the type exemplified with battle streamers.  In this case, it was the appreciation of professional officers.  Preconceptions were changing.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 271-2.)

 

 

“The small number of artillerists now in the department”: The artillery of the Department of the South, Spring 1864

Major-General John G. Foster assumed command of the Department of the South on May 26, 1864.  Foster served at Charleston (specifically Fort Moultrie) before the war, had been second in command at Fort Sumter when the war started, but spent much of the next two years in North Carolina.  Foster was familiar with Charleston… and with making do with small garrison forces along the coast.

Among the first actions Foster took was an inquiry about the status of artillery within the department, with a focus on the field artillery.  On this day (May 29) in 1864, Foster’s Chief of Artillery, Colonel Charles R. Brayton of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, provided a report:

Sir: In accordance with instructions of yesterday from department headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the condition of my department and the requirements necessary to make the same effective.

The effective light artillery within the department consists of three batteries, stationed, equipped, and armed as follows:

LtArtyDeptSouthMay64

Batteries B and F, Third New York Artillery, have sufficient men for six pieces, to which number it is intended to increase them when horses can be obtained. Company G, Second U. S. Colored Artillery, is recruiting at Hilton Head and numbers upwards of 110 men. It is intended to arm this battery with six 12-pounder howitzers. In the manner above mentioned it is intended to increase the light artillery within the department to twenty-four pieces, which will allow a six-gun battery for each district. Required to horse the different batteries, each increased to six pieces, 250 horses suitable for artillery purposes. The remaining necessary material can be obtained from the ordnance department when required.

The light batteries served in the shadow, you might say, of the larger guns on Morris Island.  But as chronicled last year, the light guns provided support during operations on Morris Island.

After the siege, the batteries played a prominent role in the Florida Expedition in the winter of 1864.  But with the departure of the Tenth Corps, just three batteries remained.  At strength, but in need of horses. These were important assets for the department, providing mobile support for threatened points and any expedition inland.

The weapons listed – two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, four Napoleons, four Wiard rifles, and four 12-pdr howitzers – is not complete, I think.  There is ample evidence a large number of light field guns and howitzers remained either in the fortifications or in storage.  One indicator of these “extra” weapons is the plan to outfit Company G, 2nd USCT with six howitzers.  And if I may, does that not say something about the acceptance of the USCT in the department?  Manning artillery, particularly field artillery, was judged a complex, mentally demanding job.  Recall the “smart ones” from West Point usually got into the artillery.

Brayton continued, reporting on the status of the heavy artillery at different locations in the command:

The heavy artillery forces within the department consist of ten companies of the Third Rhode Island Artillery, with an aggregate strength of 800 men. Five companies are stationed on Morris Island, in charge of the important forts and batteries, assisted by sufficient details from the infantry to serve the offensive guns constantly when required, and the defensive ones in case of an attack.  The mortar batteries on Morris Island are necessarily without full reliefs on account of the small force on the island. The batteries on Folly Island, which are purely defensive, are served by details from the infantry, instructed by non-commissioned officers from the artillery.

With regard to the manning of these batteries, keep the distinction in mind between the “offensive” batteries on Morris Island’s north end and the “defensive” batteries further south, down to Folly Island.  As reported, many of the latter were manned by infantry.  But it was the “offensive” batteries which seemed to have all the action:

Thirty shells are thrown into Charleston daily from the Morris Island batteries, directed at different portions of the city, and a slow mortar fire at different times opened on Sumter, with a view to prevent the mounting of mortars on the terre-plein. The armament of the different works in the Northern District are in good condition, and those on Morris Island ready at a moment’s notice for offensive or defensive operations. Weekly reports of all firing, changes in garrisons, bursting of guns, with full history of same, together with accounts of the firing of the rebels, are required from the chief of artillery of this district.

Further down the coast, Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Fort Pulaski also had heavy artillery mounted, but lightly manned:

The different forts and batteries at Beaufort are in charge of companies of the Twenty-sixth U. S. Colored Troops, under the instruction of non-commissioned officers from the artillery. The armaments of these works are well cared for and ready for defensive purposes.

Four companies of heavy artillery are stationed at Fort Pulaski and one at Hilton Head; the latter company is now instructing the First Michigan Colored Volunteers in artillery with a view to have them serve such works in Hilton Head District which cannot be manned by the artillery.

The armaments of the works in this district are well taken care of. The details to serve as artillery from the infantry have not such opportunities for drill as I desire on account of heavy fatigue work now going on. Detachments from the artillery at Pulaski are serving on the armed transports May Flower, Thomas Foulkes, Plato, and Croton.

Yes… the Army had some gunners trained to fire from ships.

Rounding out the department’s artillery, Brayton discussed the garrisons in Florida:

Fort Clinch, at Fernandina, is garrisoned by companies of the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York; the forts at Saint Augustine by detachments from the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteers; the different batteries at Jacksonville by details from the Third U. S. Colored Troops.

Again, details from the infantry, including USCT, filled in where the Army lacked artillerists.  And this overall shortage of gunners factored into Brayton’s conclusions and recommendations:

The departure of the Tenth Army Corps left us with infantry garrisons, many of which were wholly ignorant of their duties as artillerists; non-commissioned officers and privates from the artillery have, however, been distributed as instructors, so that the different garrisons are in fair condition as regards drill. Copies of General Orders, No. 88, from War Department, relative to the care of field-works and their armaments, have been distributed to the different officers in charge of forts and batteries and provisions of the order required to be observed. The small number of artillerists now in the department renders it necessary that every available man should be on duty with his special arm, and as many are detailed as clerks, orderlies, teamsters, boatmen, bakers, and attendants in hospitals, I would respectfully request that all detailed men from the light and heavy artillery be ordered to join their companies, and that no details for any purpose, other than in the line of their duty, be made from the artillery.

Brayton did not mention, however, the employment of rockets and boat howitzers which had been of particular use in front of James Island.  Those weapons were, as with other artillery weapons in the department, manned by infantry.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 105-6.)

“Ninety-five tons of loyal complements”: Bombardment of Charleston continues

The last I detailed the Federal bombardment of Charleston was in relation to increased bombardments in the middle of January 1864. Through the end of January, Confederate observers recorded 990 projectiles reached the city, with an additional 533 falling short. The average, considering days on which no shots were fired at the city, was 49 per day counting hits and misses.

The Federals increased the pace in February.  A March 4, 1864 report from Colonel Alfred Rhett, commanding the Fifth Military District (which encompassed the city of Charleston itself) provided the number of projectiles observed fired at the city for each day:

CharlestonBombardmentTable

The totals for February 1864 were 964 fired into the city and 763 falling short.  For that month, the average per day increased to 59.5 rounds per day.  And the figures provided in the table do not count shots fired at other targets around the harbor.  A table from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery’s regimental history lists the weapons in Fort Putnam with their assigned targets, ranges, elevation, fuse settings, powder charge, and shell charges:

FortPutnamBatteryRanges

UPDATE: Forgot to add – the range given here for Battery Lamar appears to be in error.  I estimate the range to be around 8500 yards.  Perhaps the typesetter mixed up “8” with “3” when transcribing.

Guns at positions 1 and 2 in the fort bore directly on Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter.  Their most distant target was the channel in front of Mount Pleasant at 3500 yards… or nearly two miles.  Those two 30-pdr Parrotts were these two familiar subjects:

FortPutnamEast1A

Two larger 8-inch Parrotts in positions 3 and 4 also pointed at Sullivan’s Island.  But the mountings allowed traverse to fire on Fort Johnson, though not on Charleston.

A 10-inch Columbiad in position 5 also fired on Forts Johnson and Sumter, in addition to other targets on James Island.  The most distant of those targets was two miles away.  I believe the photo below shows that gun.  There is a sign to the left of view that appears to have a number “5.”

FortPutnamBty1g

A 6.4-inch Parrott in position 6 also fired on James Island along with Castle Pinckney some three miles distant:

FortPutnamBty1d

In position number 7, a 30-pdr Parrott could train on Mount Pleasant, Castle Pinckney, and, importantly, Charleston.  The range to Charleston was a remarkable 7440 yards, or 4.2 miles.  And this was at a 40° elevation with 3¾ pounds of powder.  I’ll come back to discuss this gun a bit more further down in this post.

Position number 11 contained a 6.4-inch Parrott that fired upon Charleston and “Ram on stocks” – again, I should mention, a military target. Range to Charleston was the same 7440 yards.  The gun elevated 38° and used ten pounds of No. 7 grade powder to reach the city.  The weight of the shell was 101 pounds.  The projectile took over thirty seconds to reach its target in Charleston.

Lastly, a 3.67-inch Wiard gun in position number 12 also fired on James Island and Charleston.   However a notation below the table indicated “This last did not reach” in relation to the 7440 yard range to Charleston.  As the gun fired a much lower powder charge compared to the 30-pdr Parrott, one could expect less performance from the field piece.

I don’t know of any wartime photographs that capture details of Charleston as seen from Morris Island.  However a color drawing does show an artist’s rendition of the view:

In the mid-range of this view are Battery Simkins and Fort Johnson.  Beyond are the ship masts and church spires of the “Holy City.”

In regards to the 30-pdr in position number 7, that weapon burst during the bombardment that winter.  But not before it fired a remarkable number of rounds:

The famous gun, in its life, for firing on Charleston was No. 7.  It was expended on the 4,606th round, having thrown ninety-five tons of loyal compliments to the Charlestonians, expedited by nine tons of patriotic powder.

The ordnance officers recorded the fragmentation of the gun after it burst:

BurstParrottNo193

The gunners of the 3rd Rhode Island went on to say more about this gun:

We must add another word of this famous thirty-pounder that so splendidly pounded the cradle of secession.  From the time it was mounted – Jan. 10th – its carriage playing and recoiling on a peculiar chassis of long, elastic timbers, it was fired, on average, once in about twenty minutes, day and night (sometimes once in twelve minutes), til it burst March 19th, making it, on account of its elevation, range, destructive work, and long life, the most remarkable gun on record.  Its fragments were carefully collected and put together, and after it had received suitable inscriptions ending with these words, “Expended on Morris Island under Col. Charles R. Brayton, Chief of Artillery,” it was sent to West Point for study and for preservation.  On the 15th of January it fired 237 shell, 216 being good shots and striking the city fairly.  In its whole life it fired 4,257 good shots, 259 tripped, ten fell short, and eighty were premature explosions.

Folks, let me pause for a moment of silence.  Cavalrymen speak lovingly of their horses.  And infantrymen will caress their musket.  I submit this is the artillerman’s emotional attachment to their iron.  The endurance of the gun, compared to that of the Swamp Angel, or other large Parrotts used on Morris Island, stands in contrast.  The 4,606 rounds fired from 30-pdr, registry number 193, were a substantial portion of the 3,250 rounds fired at Charleston itself in January and February 1864.

One last note on that particular gun position in the fort.  Photographic evidence suggests that after it burst a larger Parrott replaced it:

Notice the “7” just below the super-elevated 6.4-inch Parrott in the photo above.

The guns at Fort Putnam were not the only weapons bearing on Charleston’s defenses.  But those guns did the lion’s share of the work.

(Citation from Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, page 238.)