Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Maryland’s Batteries

Sorry for the extended absence from the blog, as I’ve been on and off and back on vacation.  And let me pick up where we left off, on the second quarter, 1863 summary statements.  The next state in the queue is Maryland, with three batteries showing in the report:

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Three lines, looking uniform with Ordnance Rifles all around:

  • Battery A: Indicated with the Army of the Potomac, but is that “Pa” or “Va”?  The former would be most precise, but either would be understood.  And reported with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  In May, the battery moved from the Sixth Corps to the Fourth Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve. Captain James H. Rigby remained in command. The battery occupied a position on Powers Hill during the battle of Gettysburg, doing good work supporting the Federal position on Culp’s Hill.
  • Battery B: Reported at Maryland Heights, Maryland, with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Alonzo Snow’s battery was also transferred out of the Sixth Corps in May, 1863.  Listed “unassigned” in the Artillery Reserve, the battery reported to Camp Barry, Washington, D.C., and was likely still there at the end of June.  In mid-July, the battery was among the forces reoccupying Harpers Ferry.
  • Baltimore Independent Battery: Showing at Baltimore, Maryland, with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This is the correct location for the receipt date of February 1864.  But turning back to the end of June, 1863, the Baltimore Battery had much more to say.  Captain F. W. Alexander was part of Milroy’s command at Winchester, Virginia at the beginning of that month.  When that place was evacuated, Alexander’s men spiked the guns, disabled the carriages, destroyed ammunition, and escaped with their horses.  So their “proper” return would be no guns or ammunition, and reforming at Camp Barry.

Deserving brief mention, two other Maryland batteries were organized in July 1863 – Batteries A and B, Junior Light Artillery.  Both would serve but a year, mostly around Baltimore.  Neither were in existence at the end of June, however.

Moving to the ammunition pages, we can skip the smoothbore page, as these batteries had only rifles.  But where there are Ordnance Rifles, we expect to find Hotchkiss projectiles:

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All three reported quantities:

  • Battery A: 98 canister, 110 fuse shell, and 196 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 148 canister, 120 fuse shell, and 383 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Baltimore Battery: 121 canister, 120 percussion shell, 240 fuse shell, and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Of note, in the court of inquiry investigating the disaster at Winchester, Alexander indicated that at the start of the battle of Winchester, he had 1200 rounds on hand…. just one short of the actual tally given in the summary.   By the time of evacuation he was down to 28 rounds per gun, most of which was canister.  When ordered to evacuate, he testified,

I mounted the men on the horses, leaving those equipments that would rattle; saw the guns of my battery spiked, took off the cap-squares and linch-pins, and threw them into the water-tank. I then formed the men by twos, and marched them out of the fort.

So if we wish to split hairs, all the numbers given above for the Baltimore Battery, and their guns included, would be scratched out for the reporting date of June 30, 1863.

Moving to the next page, we find some Dyer’s projectiles on hand:

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Two reporting quantities:

  • Battery A: 375 shrapnel and 43 canister for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 97 shells for 3-inch rifles.

And the next page, we find the same two batteries with Schenkl projectiles:

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  • Battery A: 372 shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 444 shell for 3-inch rifles.

So once again, we find batteries with an assortment of projectile makes.

Moving on to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery A: Eight Army revolvers, twenty cavalry sabers, and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Ten Army revolvers and twenty-two cavalry sabers.
  • Baltimore Battery:  Twenty-five Army revolvers and thirty-two horse artillery sabers.

Worth noting, in his official report, Alexander laments that most of his men were “totally unarmed” and thus were sent rapidly on the road to Harpers Ferry with the word of a Confederate cavalry pursuit.  He had just over eighty men to report at the end of the retreat, so just who had those pistols and sabers might be inferred.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part II, Serial 44, page 103.)

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Tree Clearing at Gettysburg’s Powers Hill

While in Gettysburg yesterday, I took the time to stop at one of the least visited locations of the battlefield – Powers Hill.  There are several reasons to revisit this location, even if you are a Gettysburg Grognard.  The Gettysburg National Military Park included Powers Hill in the ongoing treeline restoration efforts.  Furthermore recent preservation efforts secured adjacent properties, allowing demolition of 20th century structures and even more treeline restoration.

The tree clearing started mid-way through last year.  Gettysburg Daily has provided updates on the progress.  We are probably due for another update, but pending that posting I’ll submit a photo taken from Blacksmith Shop Road.

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In addition to the tag “one of the least visited,” I would also tag Powers Hill as one of the least appreciated points on the battlefield.  Conveniently located off the Baltimore Pike and near cross routes to the Taneytown Road, Powers Hill became an assembly point for artillery in particular.  The Army of the Potomac’s ammunition trains sat nearby.  And of course, as monuments to three Federal batteries attest, the hill became a platform by which artillerymen could support the Federal right flank.  In the early morning of July 3, 1863, gunners on Powers Hill opened fire on Confederates in the vicinity of Spangler’s Spring and Culp’s Hill.

Edwin Forbes sketch of the fighting at Culp's Hill with Powers Hill to the left

The treeline clearing at Powers Hill, taken with similar efforts at the James McAllister Farm and Spangler’s Spring areas, offers the chance to better interpret the battlefield.  Most readers have stood at the “Angle” on Cemetery Ridge and appreciated the artillery placement.  On that relatively wide open space, even a novice can recognize the best locations for artillery.  “Put the guns here and fire at the enemy over there.  Simple right?”  But over on Powers Hill one can fully appreciate the tactical prowess of the Yankee gunners.

Long range fire on Powers Hill effectively shielded the Federal right flank.  However, in the past that story was hard to relate because we saw the forest AND the trees.  While several modern dwellings (and a miniature golf course) will remain in the line of sight after the tree clearing is done, visitors can better appreciate the prominence of Powers Hill over that sector of the field.

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One better – realize that the crest of Powers Hill is only about 1200 feet, give or take, from the parking lot at the Gettysburg Visitor Center.  Yes, closer in proximity than Meade’s Headquarters.  If the park is not planning a walking trail out that way, they are missing a great opportunity.