Tag Archives: Charleston South Carolina

“The enemy were shelling at midnight”: Federals continue bombardment of Charleston

After the Christmas Day bombardment of Charleston, Federal activity slacked a bit through the first week of the new year.  Confederate summary reports indicate around a dozen shells fired at the city on days the Federals were active.  Some days passed without any shots fired at the city.  But starting January 9, the Federal bombardment stepped up in number, if not weight.  From the Confederate Department Journals for those days:

January 9 – …. About 11 a.m., one of the batteries on Cumming’s Point opened upon the city with two guns, and at midnight was still firing slowly at intervals of about one-half an hour.

January 10 – As stated in yesterday’s journal, the enemy commenced shelling the city at 11 o’clock last night, firing at intervals of about thirty minutes. After 18 shots had been thrown they ceased at 6 a.m. One shell fell short and 9 failed to explode. … During the morning batteries on both sides remained silent, but at 3.25 p.m., the enemy opened on the city with three guns from Cumming’s Point, firing occasionally the three at the same time and again at intervals of from one to three minutes. Twenty-eight [shells] in all were thrown, when the enemy ceased at 4.35. Fifteen shells did not explode.

January 11 – …. During the night there was no firing whatever. … Until 3.35 p.m. the enemy’s as well as our batteries remained silent, when Battery Cumming opened with a light rifled gun upon the city and fired at rather longer intervals than usual until 9.58 p.m., by which time 88 shots had been thrown in the direction, but not into the city, as 85 fell short. This must have been an experimental trial. The result was very satisfactory to us. The shells used are said to have been of the kind known as Wiard shells. ..

January 12 – …. About 1.30 p.m., the enemy opened a vigorous fire upon the city with several guns at or near Battery Gregg, using shells similar to those fired yesterday, but with somewhat more effect. At midnight the bombardment was still progressing. By this time 138 shells had been fired, and of these 87 fell short. The fuses used with these projectiles appear to be of a better quality, as but few failed to explode. The damage done to the city, however, was inconsiderable.

January 13 -…. It is now determined that the light Parrott guns with which the enemy have for the past few days been shelling the city are situated at the foot of the scarp of the main work at Battery Gregg. As reported in yesterday’s journal, the enemy were shelling at midnight. This was continued the remainder of last night at regular intervals, and during this day they have maintained a steady bombardment of the city, firing about once every five minutes. At 12 midnight the bombardment is unabated, and up to this time 244 additional shells have been fired in the direction of the city, 112 of which fell short. Our batteries have remained silent. Not a single shot is reported to have been fired by them the entire day. The shells used by the enemy are very light–believed still to be the Wiard pattern.

January 14 – The bombardment has been incessant for the last twenty-four hours, and up to 12 midnight they had thrown 203 shells, 27 of which fell short. Fire at the corner of East Bay and Broad streets was observed at 11 p.m., and was extinguished in about an hour. To-day the enemy was observed moving the small Wiard gun from Battery Cumming and placing instead a larger one. ….

January 15 – …. Enemy continued to fire on the city from Cumming’s Point. Whole number [shells] fired, 189, of which 63 fell short, all of the first shots that came into the city falling in its southeastern corner, east of Meeting and south of Broad streets. At 3 o’clock the direction of fire was changed, and for the first time shells fell in the upper portion of the city in the neighborhood of the Second Presbyterian Church, its tower evidently being the point aimed at. One shell passed immediately over the church and fell in the rear of a lot in John street near Meeting. At 6 a.m., fire was caused by the explosion of a shell from battery on Cumming’s Point, in a building on Meeting street near Water street. The fire department succeeded in confining it to the one building….

The Confederate journals specifically call out a transition from heavy Parrotts to field gun caliber weapons – 30-pdr and 20-pdr Parrott rifles.  So while the number of shells increased, their average size decreased.

While the inventor Norman Wiard no doubt dabbled some with projectiles, I am not aware of any large production of shells attributed to any design of his.  I would suggest these were instead Hotchkiss shells.  But even there, I’m speculating, since the Confederate accounts offered no detailed descriptions.

What interests me the most is the change from heavy caliber Parrotts to the field caliber weapons.  The purpose behind bombardment of Charleston, wrapped within arguably legitimate targeting of military and supporting facilities, was one of intimidation.  To that point, did it matter if the shell landing in Charleston weighed 100 pounds or 30 pounds?

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, pages 131-135.)

End of year summary from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery

Last day of the year, so time for a little summary roll-up of the activities at Charleston, South Carolina for 1863.  The regimental history of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery offered just such a roll-up, focused on material and labor expended:

In the siege operations in 1863, the returns showed that we expended twenty-four Parrott guns.  We also expended 46,175 sand-bags; about 500 wattle gabions; fifty iron gabions; seven sap-rollers filled with facines; three sap-rollers filled with cotton; 12,382 feet of boards and planks.  The saps approaching Fort Wagner, if in a straight line, would have exceeded a mile.  They were four feet wide and two feet deep.  Three-fourths of the work was executed in the night, and nine-tenths of it under fire of artillery and sharp-shooters.  The sap-rollers – nine feet long and four feet in diameter, weighing about 2,000 pounds – were moved about six inches at a time.  About one-half of the work was performed by colored troops.  About 200 men were engaged at a time; reliefs were frequent.  The more exposed work continued about fifty days, and we lost 150 men.

The regimental history did not provide  the number of projectiles fired.  I’d estimate that count, including Army and Navy gunfire fired at all targets around Charleston, would exceed 26,000 rounds.   Most of that firing occurred during the second major bombardment.  A significant portion of that total was fired from heavy caliber weapons.  Note also the character of the labor… and who performed the work.  And for all that expenditure of material and muscle, the advance towards Charleston had only gained one barrier island and silenced, but not destroyed, a single fortification.

Students of the Civil War will point out a similar summary might have been recorded for operations outside Petersburg and Richmond, or outside Atlanta, at the end of 1864.  Was the nature of warfare changing?  Or were certain features of warfare enhanced?

(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 207.)

Photo Analysis: Morris Island Ordnance Depot (Part I)

During operations on Morris Island, the Federals maintained a busy ordnance depot on the south end near Lighthouse Inlet.  If there was ever a place and time for an artillery-focused blogger to use a time machine….  Just imagine the “stuff” laying out on the beach – cannons, burst cannons, carriages, implements, projectiles, …. Short of a time machine, several photographs exist in which the lens turned that way.

One of those photos – the first in what I hope to make a series over – was taken by Samuel A. Cooley, the “Photographer of the Department of the South.”

[Unknown location. Wagons and camera of Sam A. Cooley, U.S. photographer, Department of the South] (LOC)

There’s his crew, with all the field equipment, camera, and a glass plate at the ready.  Cooley photographed scenes along the South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida coasts.  Cooley is most known for his photos of Fort Sumter after its capture in 1865.  From what I gather, Cooley’s photographic activities came to Morris Island in December 1863.  He maintained a studio there through the end of the war.  So this photo…

… might have been from anytime from that point on to the end of the war.  (The stereo-view is also digitized in the Library of Congress collection.)

For years I’ve been drawn to this photo because of the “stuff” scattered around in a semi-organized manner.  None of the neat stacks of equipment or carefully aligned rows – all indications of a real ordnance depot supporting an active campaign.  At times, I’ve entertained this depot was on Folly Island instead of Morris Island.  But the more I try to pin things down, the more elusive the confirmation is.  For now, I’ll settle and suggest this is a photograph of the ordnance depot on the south end of Morris Island.


I’ve never seen any documentation that might narrow down the location to a specific spot on the map. To my knowledge, no diagrams of the ordnance depot exist.  So I don’t know where exactly to put the “star” to locate this photo.  Given that shortfall, I’ll present some of the clues I’ve found in the photo in hope that you readers might pick up the challenge.  I usually spend time looking for markings, flags, or other indicators of a unit designation.  With all that equipment in view, are there any markings?

Starting furthest back on the right, there’s this thing…


That’s a heavy sling cart.  Just like the one on display today at Fort Pulaski.

Ft Pulaski 3 Aug 11 1336

Another set of those appears on the left side of the line:


While offering no markings, the presence of those heavy sling carts indicates the Federals were handling heavy guns, like those big Parrotts.  So some corroborative evidence, but nothing definitive.  In between the sling carts are caissons and field forges more closely associated with field batteries.


The only “mark” that stands out is an “8” with a laurel around it.  Again, nothing to narrow down to a particular unit.  Note, however, on the left the siege carriage limbers.  Again, corroboration that both field and siege guns were supported out of this depot.

Another way to narrow down the location is review of the background.  In this photo is a single story building, arranged as if a workshop.


Only a few tents are in view.


In the distant background are treelines.  Very typical coastal treelines of that time, with the base of the trees in silhouette.  Indicates some human activity which kept the brush clear.


That might be Black Island.  If so, the even more distant treeline behind the workshop would be James Island and the Confederate batteries.

OK, with that swag taken to narrow down the photo’s location and orientation, let’s turn to the “stuff” in the foreground.  Lots of projectiles…. lots of types of projectiles…


Some are easily identified as the Parrott Pattern.  There’s a strapped smoothbore projectile (don’t let the shadow fool you) in the stack.  And falling off the back looks to be a Brooke projectile with bourrelet (ring around the body just behind the ogive, or “nose”).

Looking at the other stack further up in the photo…


More Parrott projectiles, but one of those to the left looks like a Hotchkiss with lead band standing out as an off-shade.

Between the stacks of shells are a few “litters,” or carriers used by the troops to move shells.


These are laying upside down.  But in many photos of the batteries, these are sitting behind the guns, looking like short legged tables.

Just behind the carriers is this ratchet roller for use in handling the guns.


I’m at a loss to find a photo with this particular part in use.  Looks like this one has lost one “tooth” at some point.

Other items in the foreground which draw the eye are rows of wrought iron carriages.


These were the type seen frequently in photos of the Army’s Parrotts in position on Morris Island.  Certainly enough on hand to sustain a long campaign.  Other photos of the depot show these with a better view for details.  What I’d point out here is the difference between the inside of the traversing wheel (upper center) and outside (lower center).  The inside of the wheel had “spoke” reinforcements.

A nice row of 30-pdr Parrotts stood just behind the carriages.


The sad part here is the resolution, even digitized, does not allow us to read the muzzle markings.  At least a battery’s worth of the 30-pounders there.  Later production, as there is no muzzle swell.  And these also appear to have the shorter trunnions, which don’t use all of the capsquare on the carriage. The shorter trunnions reflected the Federal preference for wrought iron carriages.

In front of those Parrotts were rails for wooden carriages.


Again, evidence pointing to the use of captured Confederate guns.  And if you are looking for more evidence, look behind the Parrotts:


Yes, an old carronade of the type used by Confederates as flank defense in Battery Wagner.  Maybe a 42-pdr?  Or 32-pdr? It appears to be mounted on a modified field carriage with no cheeks.  Now there’s a cannon with a story to tell!

Morris Island and Charleston Pages: Updates and Additions

With a little free time today, I’ve been able to catch up on the page-to-posts links for all the Morris Island stuff of late.   You’ll see some slight changes to the navigation as result.

In addition, I’ve updated some of the artillery pages to bring in recent posts.  Also created a Brooke Rifles page (fans of that weapon will be happy at last).

Beyond those updates, I’m taking a look at the blogging tempo and output.  Although this year I’ve taken a turn towards Charleston – and a good turn, in my view – the intent is not to make this blog over to that topic.  Blogging on that topic is “fun writing” from my end.  But too much along one row tends to turn writing into a chore.  Won’t let that happen.  So I’ve been looking at the return to a weekly schedule of postings. Maybe “Morris Island Mondays” along with “Fortification Fridays” ?  We’ll see.  That’s the good thing about the American Civil War, from the blogger’s perspective.  There’s always something to write about.

Sun, Moon, and Tides: Salvaging the Keokuk’s Guns, Part 3

The first two posts in this set have related details of the salvage of guns from the USS Keokuk and discussed the sources we have for that story. Allow me to turn now to some “gritty” details and offer some of my own interpretation.

The key element in the recovery of the USS Keokuk’s guns is the light and tide data. Those factors limited the time allowed for the recovery crew to work.  So let me bring in data about the sunrise, sunset, moon rise, and moon set for April 20 to May 5 (from the US Naval Observatory site).  First the sun’s data for the time in question:


I’ve walked through the definitions of Beginning Morning Nautical Twilight (BMNT), Beginning Morning Civil Twilight (BMCT), End of Evening Civil Twilight (EECT), and End of Evening Nautical Twilight (EENT), but for a refresher, here’s a diagram:

The definition of each is based on the angle the sun is below the horizon.  So while we can say the sun set at around 7 PM during the period in question, the twilight ensured there was visibility until nearly 8 PM each night.  Likewise, “first light” was between 4:49 AM and 4:31 AM.  The bottom line here – “night work” was only possible between around 7:30 PM and 4:45 AM each day.

Next the moon’s rise, fall, and phase:


The first important consideration with respect to the moon’s data is the percentage of illumination.  We all know of the fateful moonlight on May 1-3, 1863 and how that affected actions on certain Virginia battlefield.   At Charleston, those nights with full and almost full moon periods coincided with the retrieval operations.  In short, on the nights LaCoste’s crew needed the most natural illumination, they got it.

Second important point is the moon transit times.  Starting on the night of April 27-28 the moon transits were very favorable to those working at night on the waters – rising in the afternoon and setting after midnight.

But, there’s a third factor to consider with the moon – tides.  Yes, you probably recall the moon’s gravitational effects are the major influence on tides.  So while the moon was up, and shining brightly, the tides were also high.  I’ve taken the  tide data for the same dates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) tides page, placing it into this somewhat busy table.  Each day has it’s own tide data graph:


Note, this data is “projected” tide levels, not actual.  Since NOAA did not have a sensor buoy out in 1863, the actual tide levels, which are affected by a number of other variables, are unknown.  The red diamonds indicate the projected level of the tide at hourly intervals.  For the period in question these ranged from just short of seven feet over sea level to just under sea level.  During the days of April when workers tore through the turret tops, the tides were not expected to exceed six feet.

The yellow highlights in those blocks indicate the “prime working hours” to the best of my calculations.  These would be during periods of night with the tides under two feet.  My estimates don’t match exactly to Johnson’s “two and a half hours’ labor on each night.”  During some of the best nights for work, from April 24-28, I think there were closer to four hours of prime working hours.

On the other hand, the first days of May offered scant few prime working hours for the crew.  For May 1-2 when the first gun was retrieved, the crews had barely an hour of darkness with low tide.  May 3 offered no prime working hours.  The best hours for work on May 4 and 5 were late evening.  The moon was full and up most of the night.

What’s more, the tide data runs against one element of the story related by Warren Ripley.  It was not a rising tide which pushed the first gun out of the turret, but rather a falling tide.  Call it a very fortuitous odd large wave.  But anyone who’s spent a day at the beach will attest such exist, even with falling tides.

There’s one more measure to consider here. Johnson indicates the Keokuk sank in 13 feet of water.  That matches to Navy charts made during the war.  Consider that Commander Rhind reported the Keokuk‘s draft, before going into action, was 9 feet.  If drawings of the Keokuk are accurate, the line of sight for the Dahlgrens was around 16 feet above the keel.  Even considering settling that would happen, the Keokuk‘s turrets should have remained exposed for more than just the lowest tides.  Given that calculation, would LaCoste and crew have worked on the turret tops or the sides?

Of course none of my data presented here takes into account the weather.  Even a slight storm would have deprived the Confederates of valuable working hours.  But Johnson does not mention any specific nights on which the weather prevented or minimized work.

In conclusion, I’ll offer these points for thought:

  • There were more “prime working hours” than generally believed (not counting for weather of course).
  • The turrets were more exposed than Johnson led us to believe.
  • LaCoste’s crew did not benefit from a rising tide during the recovery of the first gun.

None of those points would have significantly reduce the risk.  Nor do those offered conclusions diminish the daring nature of the operation.  And of course we can still say without doubt that this gun…

Charleston 4 May 10 060

… was recovered from the Keokuk in early May 1863 and used by Confederates for the defense of Charleston.

The stalemate of April outside Charleston, Part 2

First off, let me update the map provided in part 1 of this set (looking at the situation outside Charleston in late April 1863):

I’ve added the place-names for the islands held by the Federals.  Also depicted the units deployed to James, Morris, and Folly Islands.

Second, let me better describe Brigadier-General Vogdes’ command.  The brigade  consisted of 6th Connecticut, 36th Illinois, 4th New Hampshire, 100th New York, 62nd Ohio, 67th Ohio, and 85th Pennslvania infantry regiments.  The Third Battalion of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry (Companies I, K, L, and M) accompanied the brigade.  Also attached to Vogdes’ command was one company of the 3rd New York Light Artillery, two companies of the 3rd Rhode Island Artillery, and Battery C, 1st U.S. Artillery.  Rounding out the formation was three companies of the 1st New York Engineers.

On Seabrook Island, just off the map to the left, Brigadier-General Thomas Stevenson had the 10th Connecticut, 24th Massachusetts, 56th New York, and 97th Pennsylvania, along with additional supporting troops.  All told, nearly 7,500 Federals occupied the barrier islands south of Charleston.

On the Confederate side, General P.G.T. Beauregard’s calls for assistance, prior to and after the April 7 ironclad attack, resulted in an increase in troops around Charleston.  On March 21, Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley’s 1st Military District (Charleston, Fort Sumter, James Island, St. Johns Island, and posts to the north of Charleston) numbered 12,345 troops present, up from 8,663 reported at the middle of the month.  On April 7, when the ironclads attacked, that number was roughly the same.  But by April 23, Ripley reported 18,351 present for duty.  But this was a temporary increase in strength.

Although not engaged in any major fighting, the troops were far from idle. In the weeks after the April 7 attack, Beauregard feared a Federal landing at Bull’s Bay might expose the flanks of Sullivan’s Island.  One brigade shifted to Christ Church Parrish in response.  At the same time, Beauregard ordered Brigadier General S.R. Gist to occupy Black Island, behind Morris Island, with field artillery (see the map above for location).  Fear was that Federals might occupy that island and take in flank both the Morris Island defenses and Secessionville (Fort Lamar).  But to fortify these points the Confederates needed time and labor.  As mentioned before, they were coming up short on the later.

By the first days of May, troops were departing Charleston for other threatened sectors.  Among those departing were the brigades of Brigadier-Generals S.R. Gist and W.H.T. Walker. Pressed to send Brigadier-General Nathan Evan’s Brigade on top of that, Beauregard argued with some success to retain at least 13,000 troops in front of Charleston (both 1st and 2nd Military Districts).

Reflecting on the situation and the results of the April 7th engagement, Beauregard offered advice to Colonel John Forsyth, responsible for the defenses at Mobile Bay:

I place great reliance, however, on three things – heavy guns, Rains torpedoes, and, in deep water, rope obstructions.  I have also introduced here Lee’s (one of my officers) spar torpedoes, attached to row-boats, which ought to be used in flotillas on all our large rivers.

In the days after the attack, Beauregard had followed his own advice.  He temporarily held up some heavy guns, including Brooke rifles, moving by rail to Savannah.  But unable to retain those, he looked about for other options.  One was to modify more of the heavy smoothbores into rifled guns – particularly the 8-inch columbiads which had little effect on the ironclads – in a manner similar to the 42-pdrs.  This program eventually expanded to 10-inch columbiads.  But the process took time.  None of the guns would appear in the harbor defenses until mid-summer at the earliest.

The number of rifled guns in Beauregard’s entire command as of the end of April was 113, as indicated on an April 24 report:


The majority of rifled guns were field artillery, and an odd assortment at that (Wiards, Blakelys, Parrotts, James, and Whitworths).  The converted 42-, 32- and 24-pdrs were marginal at best. Of the Brookes, three of those from the report were earmarked for the CSS Atlanta at Savannah.

But the Charleston defenders would receive, as the spoils from the victory on April 7, two additional heavy guns.  With the USS Keokuk sunk in shallow waters (see the blue mark just to the lower right of the map), Confederate engineers deemed it possible to salvage the ship’s XI-inch Dahlgrens.  That work took place between mid-April and the first week of May.  As result, Beauregard added the heaviest guns in all of the South to his defenses. (I promise more details on that operation in posts to follow.)

While working the wreck, the Confederates needed to support the salvage crew from any Federal interference.  At least twice during the salvage, Confederate ironclads moved up to cover the operation.  On April 20, the CSS Chicora exchanged shots with the Federals.  Guns on Morris Island also covered the operation, particularly a Whitworth field gun.  Although of light caliber, the gun could fire a solid bolt accurately to extreme ranges.  Beauregard wanted a second gun of this type, but was denied.

With respect to torpedoes, after the ironclad attack the Confederates wanted to determine the reason for the “big torpedo” failure.  As related earlier, the determination was excess cable played out during the laying of that weapon, thus rendering it incapable of firing.  That issue identified, the defenders soon placed more of the large torpedoes.

But Beauregard was most interested in employing the spar torpedoes.  Writing to Adjutant General Samuel Cooper in Richmond, he lamented that, “The work on the marine torpedo ram is at a stand-still for want of material and money.”  The funding for the project was expended and more was needed. While the Confederate navy provided some materials, much of the needed iron-plating went to the ironclads then under production in Charleston.  Pressing the point, Beauregard added:

Meantime the great value of the invention has been demonstrated so as to secure general conviction, and Captain Tucker, commanding Confederate States naval forces afloat on this station, declares unhesitatingly that this one machine of war, if finished, would be more effective  as a means of defense and offense than nearly all the iron-clads here afloat and building, a fact of which I am and have been fully assured.  Had it been finished and afloat when the enemy’s iron-clads entered this harbor several weeks ago but few of them probably would have escaped.

In early May, Confederates in Charleston received reports of “400-500 tons of iron mailing plates” in Nassau.  Circulars went out offering up to $1,500 per ton to blockade runners transporting the iron.  Beauregard went to the extreme measure of denying cotton to any runner who refused to carry the iron.

During the lull through the end of April, Confederates angled for an opportunity to mount a row-boat spar torpedo attack on the Federal vessels anchored in the Stono River near Folly Island. But these efforts came to naught.  Naval crews sent to Charleston in anticipation of capturing a monitor were soon sent back to Richmond.

As April closed, both sides maintained a stalemate outside Charleston.  Yet as both sides shouldered for leverage on the coastline, particular points gained prominence for future operations.  Folly Island would be the toe-hold needed to secure Morris Island.  Morris Island would thence become the key to reducing Fort Sumter.  Beauregard’s spar torpedoes would indeed succeed in damaging the Federal ships outside the harbor.   And the stationary torpedoes would keep the fleet out of the harbor.  The stalemate in April was but a brief respite before the next round of operations.  There would be few such respites in the next two years of war as Charleston became a very active theater.

(Citations and table from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 906, 917, and 927.)

“The troops in Virginia and Tennessee have generally built [forts]…”: Slave labor for seacoast forts

Last month, while discussing the issues facing the Charleston defenders, I mentioned the shortage of labor needed to build the defenses. General P.G.T. Beauregard and other military officials complained the planters failed to supply the numbers required to complete the works. Often when interpreting this particular issue, we bring up the irony that in order to preserve States Rights and the “peculiar institution” the Confederacy came to some rather “federalist” policies. Not to take away from that, I’d offer a side path to consider.

The requirement for labor remained, even after the ironclad attack of April 7, 1863 – if nothing else, the requirement was even greater. At Savannah, officials estimated the need for 1,500 slaves. But in the previous month only 132 were “engaged upon the earthworks near Savannah. Of these 102 will be discharged this week.” In South Carolina, the army called upon the state for 3,000 laborers. Yet, officials reported receiving only a fraction of that number.

And I would point out this was not just a practice unique to South Carolina and Georgia were Beauregard commanded. Fellow blogger Jim Schmidt recently discussed slave labor employed to build the defenses of Galveston, Texas (both Federal and Confederate use, BTW).

While the military complained the planters were not answering the calls, the planters had grievances of their own. A letter from state senator A. Mazyck to South Carolina Governor Milledge Luke Bonham, later attached to correspondence to General Beauregard, offers ample enumeration of those:

South Santee, April 21, 1863.
His Excellency M. L. Bonham, Governor, &c.:

MY DEAR SIR: While I was in Charleston, on my way home from Columbia, I met my neighbor, Dr. A. E. Gadsden, who told me that some 7 or 8 negroes that he had had there for some months in the public service had been without employment fur a week or ten days because it was said there was nothing for them to do, and were at length discharged and sent home to him, yet notwithstanding this a notice is published that negroes will be called for from this district early in May. The fact stated by Dr. Gadsden will be generally known in this part of the country, and cannot fail to make the impression that the labor is not really wanted, and that the planters are harassed and their business interrupted for nothing. Most of the negroes on this river have been removed. A few of us, however, have kept ours at home, and are endeavoring to plant a crop, which we cannot do if our negroes are taken away in May. In the course of the winter a good many of them were employed in constructing a battery on North Santee, which has been a long time finished, but not a single gun has yet been mounted on it, and it does not seem that any will be, so that this, like all the rest of our work, is wasted. Under these circumstances I do not think it likely that any negroes will be obtained here. The facts I have stated show that there must be some gross mismanagement on the part of the military authorities. I do not know that you can do anything to remedy the evil, but I think it right to bring it to your notice, as you may not otherwise lie aware of it.
Very respectfully and truly, yours, &c.,
A. Mazyck.

Given the inefficiency of the system, and the ever present need for labor on the plantation, little wonder the planters were reserved with their support.

In Georgia, Governor Joseph E. Brown added his concerns in correspondence with Brigadier-General Hugh Mercer, commanding at Savannah, on April 24, 1863:

… It was believed that the Confederate generals in command had no more right to call on the State government to impress negroes for them than they had to call on State officers to impress provisions, forage, or any other thing necessary for the Army, as the act of Congress makes the one as much the duty of Confederate officers as the other. It was also believed that the negroes now called for could not be collected in time to erect new works which might be completed and ready for use before the time when the enemy will be forced by the heat of the climate to abandon further offensive operations against Savannah this spring…. If we are to continue the war successfully it is of the most vital importance that our fields shall be cultivated and provisions made for the Army and the people at home, including the families of our brave soldiers. It is now the time of greatest necessity for labor in the fields. A hand taken from the plantation for the next two or three months had as well be taken for the whole year, as he can make no crop unless he works now….

The State troops last year built the line of fortifications constructed by order of General Jackson, including Fort Boggs, with the exception probably of the masonry, without any additional compensation and without complaint. The troops in Virginia and Tennessee have generally built the fortifications ordered by our generals in the same way.

The letter from Brown carried considerable sting. However his prediction about Federal operations proved incorrect, at least in part. The “enemy,” apparently undeterred by the heat, continued active operations outside Charleston through the summer. Although, as far as Brown was concerned Savannah remained safe.

Now having offered these citations, I could then invite you down the path to discuss the practical failure of states rights in a Confederacy at war. But you’ve probably read the “died of a theory” quote before.

Instead, consider the ready example offered by Brown when insisting the troops do more of the work. Virginia and Tennessee? Both states had seen heavy campaigning the previous year. The Armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee had carried the war into the North during 1862. And…And, more importantly the rank and file had seen the “total war” being waged.

We shouldn’t just isolate discussions about “total war” to blusterous John Pope or William T. Sherman. That mode of warfare had implications in the Confederacy as well.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 902, 914, and 915-16.)