Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Second Illinois Artillery Regiment

As we continue with the summaries through the second quarter of 1863, a pattern emerges with respect to the equipment issued to batteries serving in the east.  We might even narrow that down to just the batteries serving with the Army of the Potomac and Washington Defenses.  Those tend to be armed with just one caliber and type of weapon.  And that type tends to be one of the important three – 12-pdr Napoleon, 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, or 10-pdr Parrott.  Likewise, the ammunition reported tends to be predictable, with Hotchkiss and Parrott the preferred rifled projectiles.

But when we look at those batteries outside that set, particularly out to the western theater, uniformity is thrown away for sake of availability.  More so for the projectiles issued for use.  We’ve seen some of this with the First Illinois Artillery Regiment.  Now another dose as we look to the Second Illinois:

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Of twelve batteries listed, the clerks recorded nine returns.  And of those nine, six reported James rifles and one reported the “odd cousins” – rifled 6-pdrs.

  • Battery A:  No report. The battery marched with Fourteenth (or First, after reconciliation) Division, Thirteenth Corps.  Captain Peter Davidson was in command, but during the Vicksburg Campaign Lieutenant Frank B. Fenton lead the battery.
  • Battery B: No report, but with an annotation of “siege”. No cannon reported. Captain Fletcher H. Chapman commanded.  The battery was part of the Sixteenth Corps, and assigned to the District of Corinth.
  • Battery C: Reported at At Fort Donelson, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain James P. Flood’s battery was actually in middle Tennessee at the reporting date, assigned to the Third Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Battery D: Indicated at Memphis, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain Charles S. Cooper remained in command of this battery, assigned to First Division, Sixteenth Corps, covering Memphis at the time.
  • Battery E: Reported at Carrollton, Louisiana with three 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer.  The location is “as of date of receipt” for September 1863.  In June 1863, Lieutenant George L. Nipsel’s battery was with Fourth Division, Sixteenth Corps, which was detached for duty in the Vicksburg siege lines.
  • Battery F: Indicated at Natchez, Mississippi with two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  Another “as of receipt” location.  In this case, the battery was assigned to Sixth Division, Seventeenth Corps, with Captain John W. Powell in command, and at Vicksburg.
  • Battery G: Outside Vicksburg, Mississippi with four rifled 6-pdr guns. Captain Frederick Sparrestrom commanded this battery, assigned to Third Division, Seventeenth Corps.  There is an interesting, if trivial, sidebar that I hope to present in a follow up post.  The short story – While being ferried across the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg on May 1, 1863, a collision resulted in the loss of most battery equipment and horses.  As related earlier, Sparrestrom temporarily commanded Battery D, 1st Illinois Artillery for a time.  The battery was re-equipped in Memphis and forwarded to Vicksburg, reporting on June 30 (or there-abouts).
  • Battery H: Showing as posted to Fort Donelson.  Reporting two 6-pdr field guns and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Lieutenant  Jonas Eckdall’s battery was transferred to the Third Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland earlier in the spring.  But the battery was among the forces posted to guard the army’s supply lines.
  • Battery I:  At Nashville, Tennessee with two 12-pdr Napoleons, two 10-pdr Parrotts, and two 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain Charles M. Barnett commanded this battery.  It was assigned to Second Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Battery K: No report.  This battery, under Captain Benjamin F. Rodgers, was part of the Fourth Division, Sixteenth Corps, which was forwarded to Vicksburg during the siege.
  • Battery L: Listed at Vicksburg with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Part of Third Division, Seventeenth Corps, Captain William H. Bolton commanded.
  • Battery M: Cited as still in Chicago, Illinois, but gaining four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  The battery was reforming after its surrender at Harpers Ferry the previous fall.  In May, the battery, still under the command of Captain John C. Phillips, moved to Kentucky.  There the battery became part of Fourth Division, Twenty-third Corps, Army of the Ohio.  At the end of June, the battery was at Louisville, Kentucky.

As you can see, a lot of story-lines with the 2nd Illinois Artillery.

Moving to the ammunition, we start with the smoothbore rounds on hand:

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Four batteries reporting smoothbore cannon.  And four reporting ammunition on hand:

  • Battery E: 207 shot, 164 case, and 203 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 34 shell, 60 case, and 34 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery F: 184 shot, 135 case, and 28 canister for 6-pd field guns; 120 shell, 133 case, and 31 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.  Interpreting the last figure as a transcription error by the clerks.
  • Battery H:  186 shot, 160 case, and 42 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery I:  25 shot, 38 shell, 130 case, and 63 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, here’s where we get busy.  We start with the first page of the Hotchkiss columns:

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Heavy use of the Hotchkiss rounds, but for James and 6-pdr calibers:

  • Battery C: 100 shot, 430 percussion shell, and 68 fuse shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery G: 110 percussion shell and 935(?) fuse shell for 3.67-inch rifles.
  • Battery H:  10 shot for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery I: 103 bullet shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery L: 300 percussion shell, 200 fuse shell, and 200 bullet shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery M:  70 shot, 340 fuse shell, and 270 bullet shell for 3.80-inch James.

But… we are not done with the Hotchkiss.  Moving to the next page, which I’ll break down by section for ease of presentation, we find more Hotchkiss projectiles:

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Canister for everyone! Well at least for four batteries:

  • Battery C:  250 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery G: 100 canister for 3.67-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 60 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery M: 70 canister for 3.80-inch James.

And note, with underlines, the ordnance department and the battery in the field carried the 3.67-inch rifles and their ammunition separately from the James rifles.  These weapons looked the same on the outside.  The bore diameter was just over a tenth of an inch different.  But for accounting and handling, these were different weapons.  The Ordnance Department associated the 3.67-inch caliber with Wiard.  But I don’t think we should read too much into that.

Moving to the right, we skip Dyer’s columns for the James-type projectiles:

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Everything in 3.80-inch caliber:

  • Battery C: 7 shot, 24 shell, and 2 canister in 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery D: 45 shot, 203 shell, 64 case, and 60 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery H: 125 shot, 267 shell, and 214 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery I: 121 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery L: 300 shell and 128 canister for 3.80-inch James.

Next we have the Parrott columns. Battery I had a pair of those, and here’s what they could fire:

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  • Battery I:  119 shell, 233 case, and 46 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

And to be sure we are tracking, those were Parrott-patent projectiles.  More in the same caliber, but Schenkl, are on the far right:

  • Battery I: 30 shot for 10-pdr Parrott.

Then off to the next page where there are more Schenkl columns to consider:

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But these are for James rifles:

  • Battery D: 64 shot and 128 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery I: 102 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

And looking to the right of those, we find some Tatham canister reported:

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More James caliber stuff:

  • Battery H: 33 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

So to summarize the rifled projectiles reported on hand for the 2nd Illinois Artillery…. a wide variety of types.

Lastly we move to the small arms:

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By battery reporting:

  • Battery C: Fourteen Army revolvers, fifty-one cavalry sabers, and six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Eight Army revolvers, thirty-two cavalry sabers, and forty-four horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Twenty-five Army revolvers and twelve cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Fifty-four Army revolvers, twenty-one cavalry sabers, and twelve foot artillery swords.
  • Battery I: Seven(?) Army revolvers, twenty-three Navy revolvers, and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: Twenty Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.

With that, we close the Second Illinois.  But we are not done with this state’s contributions for the second quarter of 1863.  Next up is the somewhat official Third Regiment and miscellaneous batteries.

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Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Second Illinois Artillery Regiment

You won’t find mention of any battery of the 2nd Illinois Artillery in the Gettysburg Campaign studies.  On the other hand, the gunners of the 2nd Illinois were very familiar with places in Louisiana and Mississippi as they played a role in the Vicksburg Campaign.  Not all of them, but a significant portion of the regiment did as most were under Major-General Ulysses S. Grant’s wide-spread command.  Looking at the first quarter, 1863 summaries, we find eight of the twelve batteries had recorded returns.  But only six reported cannon on hand:

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Two of these batteries were assigned duty as siege & garrison artillery, explaining their lack of field guns:

  • Battery A: Listed as “siege battery” at Helena, Arkansas.  No cannon reported. Captain Peter Davidson’s battery received orders to become a “field battery” later in the spring, assigned to First Division, Thirteenth Corps.
  • Battery B: Also listed as “siege battery” but posted to Corinth, Mississippi.  No cannon reported. Captain Fletcher H. Chapman commanded.
  • Battery C: At Fort Donelson, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain James P. Flood’s battery would shortly after this report receive a transfer to the Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Battery D: At Grand Junction, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain Charles S. Cooper replaced Lieutenant Harrison C. Barger in command of this battery during the winter. The battery was assigned to First Division, Sixteenth Corps, covering Memphis at the time.
  • Battery E: No report. In January this battery, at the time commanded by Sergeant Martin Mann, became part of Sixteenth Corps, guarding the railroad lines outside Memphis. Lieutenant George L. Nipsel resumed command later in the spring.
  • Battery F: Reporting at Lake Providence, Louisiana with two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. Attached to Seventeenth Corps, Captain John W. Powell was the commander at the end of March 1863.
  • Battery G: No report. Captain Frederick Sparrestrom commanded this battery, assigned to Third Division, Seventeenth Corps, at the time either at Milliken’s Bend or Lake Providence.
  • Battery H: Another posted to Fort Donelson.  Reporting two 6-pdr field guns and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Lieutenant  Jonas Eckdall’s battery was part of the “rear echelon” in Grant’s command guarding the communications and logistics lines.  But later in the spring the battery was transferred to the Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Battery I:  Reporting at Nashville, Tennessee with two 12-pdr Napoleons, two 10-pdr Parrotts, and two 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain Charles M. Barnett commanded this battery.  It was assigned to Fourth Division, Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland.  Changes later in the spring sent the battery to the Reserve Corps.
  • Battery K: No report. The battery was also part of the push on Vicksburg.  Specifically Fourth Division, Sixteenth Corps.  Cpatain  Benjamin F. Rodgers commanded.
  • Battery L: Listed at Barry’s Landing, Louisiana (which again, matches to a placename that I think was in Arkansas) with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Part of Third Division, Seventeenth Corps, Captain William H. Bolton commanded.
  • Battery M: No report. This battery remained in Chicago through the reporting period.  It was reforming after its surrender at Harpers Ferry the previous fall.

Take note.  With eighteen on hand, the 2nd Illinois’ artillerymen were familiar with the James Rifles. Only two Napoleons and two Parrotts in the whole regiment.  Just how it was out in the western armies.  Of course, that simplifies some of the projectile tables, right?

Let’s look first at the smoothbore ammunition reported:

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Just three reporting quantities on hand:

  • Battery F: 188 shot, 163 case, and 46 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 120 shell, 145 case, and 30 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery H: 186 shot, 160 case, and 42 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery I: 27 shot, 53 shell, 112 case, and 42 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Please note, I’m of the mind that the 12-pdr canister columns (last two on the right) are somewhat ambiguous based on use.  We see 12-pdr field howitzer canister listed at times on either column, despite the labeling.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, we start with Hotchkiss and find three batteries reporting:

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No surprises here, these are feed for the James Rifles (Again, Hotchkiss-pattern for James Rifles):

  • Battery C: 100 shot, 450 percussion shell, and 68 fuse shell for 3.80-inch rifle.
  • Battery H: 10 shot and 150 percussion shell also for those 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery I: 45 shot in 3.80-inch.

But wait!  There’s more Hotchkiss to consider, along with a lot of other patterns on the next page.  Let’s break those down to reduce squinting:

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Three batteries again, but notice we drop off I and add L:

  • Battery C: 250 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery H: 120 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery I: 76 canister for 3.80-inch James.

Moving to the James pattern columns we see, as one might expect, a lot of ammunition tallies:

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Looks like everyone got something here!

  • Battery C: 7 shot, 24 shell, and 2 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery D: 45 shot, 220 shell, 64 case, and 56 canister for 3.80-inch.
  • Battery H: 125 shot, 262 shell, and 214 canister for 3.80-inch.
  • Battery I: 56 shot and 123 canister for 3.80-inch.
  • Battery L: 14 shot, 376 shell, and 144 canister for 3.80-inch.

Again, those are James projectiles for James rifles.  Remember the redundancy there.

Now we had one battery reporting a pair of Parrotts on hand.  What did they feed those Parrotts?

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And that battery had:

  • Battery I: Parrott pattern – 122 shell, 240 case, and 46 canister for 10-pdr; and 17 Schenkl shot for 10-pdr.

To make this one of the most diverse listing of rifled projectiles we’ve considered, we move to the other Schenkl columns:

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Two batteries reporting:

  • Battery D: 64 shot and 123 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery I: 97 Schenkl shell for 3.80-inch.

Also note:

  • Battery H: 32 Tatham canister for 3.80-inch rifle.

All of these quantities must have made for busy ammunition boxes during the spring.

Lastly we turn to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery C: Fourteen Army revolvers, fifty-one cavalry sabers, and six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Twenty-five Army revolvers.
  • Battery H: Eight Army revolvers, ten Navy revolvers, and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Twenty-five Navy revolvers and sixteen horse artillery sabers.

The most significant observation for the 2nd Illinois Artillery’s summaries for this period is the diverse ammunition, in just one caliber, issued to the batteries.  Later in the spring and summer of 1863, those James rifles would sent Hotchkiss, James, Schenkl, and Tatham rounds down range.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 2nd Illinois Artillery Regiment

Like the First Regiment Illinois Artillery, the Second Regiment of the state’s artillery was serving almost exclusively in the Western Theater as of the end of December 1862.  However, the summary of equipment in use by the 2nd Regiment was far less complicated.  As usual, let us start by reviewing the postings of those batteries and their cannons (Standard declaration here – yellow lines are the “rules” across the data entry lines; red lines are the “cuts” needed to make these presentable for discussion):

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First thing we notice is the lack of information filed for several batteries (thus, perhaps, greatly simplifying the summary).

  • Battery A:  No report.  This battery was on duty at Helena, Arkansas as part of the Department of Missouri.
  • Battery B: Corinth, Mississippi. No field artillery reported.  Notice the addition of the word “siege” in the regiment column.  The battery was part of the Thirteenth Corps, Army of the Tennessee.
  • Battery C: Fort Donelson, Tennesse. Four James 3.80-inch rifles.  Also part of the Thirteenth Corps, but posted to hold vital posts in the rear.  These artillerymen were destined to be garrison troops for most of the war.
  • Battery D: Decatur, Alabama.  Four James 3.80-inch rifles.  Also with the Thirteenth Corps.
  • Battery E: No report.  Battery E began the war as Schartz’s Missouri Battery.  In December 1862, they were part of the Thirteenth Corps and saw service in Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign.
  • Battery F: Lake Providence, Louisiana.  Two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr howitzers. This battery was part of the Thirteenth Corps, and was actually campaigning with Grant in Central Mississippi at the close of December 1862.  They would, however, be posted at Lake Providence in January.  So the location and tallies may be “as of” the moment the return was written (April 1863).
  • Battery G: No report.  Also in Thirteenth Corps and posted in Mississippi at the end of December.
  • Battery H: No report. If my sources are correct, this battery was at Clarksville, Tennessee.
  • Battery I: Nashville, Tennessee.  Two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  Part of the Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland.  Battery I missed the battle of Stones River, but later joined the army forward at Murfreesboro.
  • Battery K: No report.  Another Thirteenth Corps battery and was assigned to the District of Jackson, Tennessee.
  • Battery L:  “In the Field” in Louisiana.  Four James 3.80-inch rifles. This may be another “as of this report” status. Battery L was with the District of Jackson, Thirteenth Corps, and Logan’s Division, Right Wing, of the Corps for Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign.  Shortly into the new year, Battery L was at Lake Providence, Louisiana.
  • Battery M: No report.  This battery surrendered at Harpers Ferry on September 15.  They were still un-exchanged, on parole, at the end of December.  Their guns, of course, were under new ownership.

There is a lot of “missing data” that I’d expect to see here.  Excepting Battery M, these batteries were in Grant’s command.  I’ve used the “easy out” of saying they were in Thirteenth Corps. Those knowledgeable of Western Theater operations recognize that as somewhat ambiguous.  Perhaps to clarify, I will post something on the lineage of the Thirteenth Corps and the formations it spawned through the winter of 1863.  If nothing else, would help to clarify the service assignments of these batteries!

The 2nd Regiment Illinois Artillery had but two batteries with smoothbore cannons:

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  • Battery F: 6-pdr field gun – 188 shot, 163 case, and 46 canister.  12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shells, 145 case, and 31 canister.
  • Battery I: Had only 259 12-pdr shot for their Napoleons.

Moving on to rifled projectiles, find most of the entries are for James projectiles for those fine bronze James rifles:

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Remember, these were listed by “Patent” pattern, then by weapon type and caliber.  Such as “Hotchkiss” for “James” of 3.80-inch”:

  • Battery C: James (Patent) 3.80-inch – 119 shot, 425 shell, and 125 canister.
  • Battery D: James 3.80-inch – 109 shot, 215 shell, 64 case, and 60 canister.
  • Battery I: James 3.80-inch – 368 shot.  Parrott 10-pdr – 440 shells.  This needs some explaining.
  • Battery L: Hotchkiss Patent for James  3.80-inch – 76 canister; James Pattern 3.80-inch – 14 shot, 376 shell, and 144 canister.

Remember that Battery I had 10-pdr Parrotts along with their two Napoleons.  Neither of which used 3.80-inch caliber projectiles. So what were the James shot being used for?  I recall some reference to Battery I having turned-in some James rifles earlier in the fall.  But I need to track that down to verify.

And one more rifled projectile entry for us on the next page:

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Battery D with 128 Schenkl Patent James 3.80-inch shells.

Lastly, the small arms:

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With all the missing reports, we have scant data here:

  • Battery C: 20 Army revolvers and 58 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: 4 carbines and 16 horse artillery sabers.

Earlier when I was constructing these snips and cross-referencing notes, I wanted to dig further to fill in the missing data.  In particular, cite the types of weapons on hand.  Many of these batteries were involved with the Vicksburg Campaign.  And the guns they pulled through Mississippi are known.  But I thought better of including that here for the moment.  This is a “snapshot in time” of the batteries, reflecting what was reported for December 1862 as opposed to what the batteries might have had months later.  That said, for now I prefer to leave the open spaces as they are.  There will be time later to fill in those blanks.

“Land Between the Rivers” Iron Ore: An irreplaceable loss to the Confederacy

When we think of the “twin rivers” campaign of early 1862, the most obvious result noted is the opening of river corridors directly into the Confederate heartland.  Indeed access to the Tennessee River allowed Federals to outflank the “Gibraltar of the West” at Columbus, Kentucky and reach down to the northern borders of Mississippi and Alabama.   But there was more than just real estate changing hands.

In the mid-19th century a fledgling iron industry grew in a belt extending from western Kentucky through central Tennessee.  Other than coal, all resources needed for iron production were found near the surface, with little need for deeper extraction mining.  Furnaces in the area used the charcoal-fire method, just as seen in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to the east.

Stewart County, in which Fort Donelson lay, is a good example of the iron industry within this belt.  A marker standing in Dover today notes the locations of some twenty-three furnaces and forges inside the county operating during the 19th century (not all within the Civil War years of course).  Taken in context, raw iron production in the county was substantial – roughly 7% of the output of the entire U.S. in 1854.

In addition to the Cumberland Iron Works in Stewart County, the proximity of these furnaces to the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers offered ample routes to market pig iron.  Just upriver from Dover, ironworks at Clarksville and Nashville used Stewart County iron.  When the war broke out, one of those works, T.M. Brennan & Company, turned to cannon production.  Brennan delivered over seventy field pieces between November 1861 and February 1862. But beyond those local production facilities, the Stewart County iron could easily feed ironworks elsewhere given a decent railroad system.  Or perhaps a better way to put it, the iron might PROVIDE the means to strengthen a limited rail system.

But with the fall of Fort Donelson in February 1862, the Confederacy lost this source of iron.  The loss of this “land between the rivers” iron caused irreplaceable damage to the Confederate war effort.

There is another aspect of this story which we should also consider.  The iron industry of the time was labor intensive.  Yet western Tennessee and Kentucky were not populous areas.  A significant portion of the labor force was slave.  Over four-hundred slaves worked the Cumberland Iron Works in 1859.  In the years before the war, the Great Western Furnace temporarily closed due to a slave insurrection. Indeed, the iron industry of Stewart County demonstrates that slavery was not “on its last legs” as some would have you believe.

Now with the arrival of Federal forces, what happened to that labor force?  How many fled to freedmen camps?  How many, perhaps, joined the USCT?

150 Years Ago: The Guns of Fort Donelson

Happy Valentine’s Day.  But in 1862, Valentine’s Day wasn’t such a pleasant day.  I yesterday mentioned the engagement on the Savannah River between Federal batteries and Confederate gunboats.  The respective seats changed along the Cumberland River where the Federal Mississippi River Squadron rounded the bend (seen below) to engage Confederate batteries at Fort Donelson.

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View Downriver from Fort Donelson

This naval battlefield has changed somewhat over time, with the creation of Lake Barkley.  But the geometry to the main channel is easily visualized today.

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Confederate 10-inch Columbiad pointed down river

The Confederate defenders arrayed their river-side defenses in two groups – the Upper Water Battery and the Lower Water Battery – named for the location with respect to the river flow, and not in regard to elevation. Eight 32-pdr guns and one 10-inch Columbiad armed the Lower Water Battery on the downstream facing of the fort.  The Upper Water Battery contained two 32-pdr carronades and a 6 1/2-inch rifled Columbiad (likely a 10-inch Columbiad bored out as a rifle).

Captain Joseph Dixon commanded the fort’s batteries.  But on February 13 during a one hour duel with the USS Carondelet, a shot from the Federal gunboat disabled one of the fort’s 32-pdrs and killed Dixon.  Captain Jacob Culbertson assumed command of the batteries.

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View from the 32-pdrs on the Lower Water Battery

Captain Ruben R. Ross commanded a detachment from the Maury (Tennessee) Artillery manning the Upper Water Battery.

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Replica 10-inch Columbiad in the Upper Water Battery

The gunners in these batteries exchanged “iron valentines” with the Federal gunboats on the 14th, with the Federals getting the worst end of the deal.  Eric, over at Civil War Daily Gazette, has a good accounting of the action.  And “That a Nation Might Live” has a brief podcast discussing the battle of Fort Donelson, to include the Confederate breakout attempt and surrender.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield has several anniversary events scheduled through this week.  But for those of us unable to break away from work, let me offer up a virtual tour of the cannons displayed on the battlefield today:

Fort Donelson has one of the best collections of surviving 32-pdr guns within it’s mix of field, siege, and secoast guns.  Enjoy!

150 Years Ago: A star rises from the Federal Ranks

On January 30, 1862, Major General Henry W. Halleck, commanding the Department of Missouri, issued orders setting in motion the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson.  As every Civil War student knows, Halleck placed Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant in command of the expedition.  This effort, supported by a naval force under Flag-Officer Andrew Foote, generated the first major victories for the Federals.  Within weeks, the interior of Tennessee lay open to the Unionists.

Typical for Halleck, the order provided details of the selected troops, particulars of the enemy’s (suspected) disposition, and suggestions for movement.  But there’s one sentence in that order which deserves note, as it marks the arrival of a new actor who would figure prominently as the war in the West progressed:

Lieutenant-Colonel McPherson, U.S. Engineers, will immediately report to you, to act as chief engineer of the expedition.”

A 1853 graduate of West Point, McPherson attended alongside notable class-mates John B. Hood, Philip Sheridan, and John Schofield.  After graduating at the top of his class, McPherson went on to teach at West Point for a while.  The eve of war found him supervising construction of fortifications at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, California.  Transferred eastward, McPherson was assigned to Halleck’s staff in late 1861.  When Grant needed an engineer for the expedition, Halleck forwarded McPherson.

It was a fortuitous assignment in many ways.  After the fall of Fort Henry, McPherson mapped out the roads east to Fort Donelson, making several reconnaissances.  At Fort Donelson, McPherson continued to provide able service.  Later in the campaign, McPherson supervised placement of new siege lines on ground gained in the evening of February 15.  On the following morning, Grant could press his famous ultimatum in part because of McPherson’s work.  For this and later work on Grant’s staff, he received notice… and promotion.

McPherson was a star on the rise.  By the end of the year he was a Major General in command of the Seventeenth Corps.   He lead that Corps in the Vicksburg Campaign, showing great ability, particularly in the siege operations.  By the spring of 1864, McPherson commanded the Army of the Tennessee, as General William T. Sherman prepared to drive on Atlanta. McPherson’s star had reached its zenith.   McPherson would not complete that campaign.  He was shot by Confederate skirmishers during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864.

Of McPherson’s death, Sherman related,

History tells us of but few who so blended the grace and gentleness of the friend with dignity, courage, faith, and manliness of the soldier…. the country generally will realize that we have lost not only an able military leader, but a man who had he survived, was qualified to heal the national strife which has been raised by designing and ambitious men.

Privately to his wife he wrote, “I lost my right bower in McPherson.”

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James Birdseye McPherson’s name is in the news today.  More so because of the location his men, the veterans of the old Army of the Tennessee, chose to honor him.   But 150 years ago today, he was a star on the rise.

Model 1861 6-pdr Field Gun: The Ultimate Form, But a Little too Late

In American service the 6-pdr field gun, as a class of weapon, progressed from an “iron age” to a series of bronze guns (Model 1835, Models 1838 and 1840), evolving into the definitive Model 1841.  Through this evolution the ordnance officers paid some attention to the external form, so the exterior retained moldings with many sharp angles.  As I’ve pointed out in earlier posts, some experimental and non-regulation types introduced smoother exterior forms.  But the Army officially retained the moldings for regulation guns.

That changed at the eve of the Civil War as ordnance officers began crafting a new Ordnance Manual (actually published in 1862).  For the “Models of 1861” the manual prescribed the following form:

The bore, a cylinder terminated by a semi-ellipsoid, the chamfer [sic].  The breech: the cascabel, the knob, the neck.  The body of the gun: the reinforce, the chase, the muzzle, the face, the trunnions, the rimbases.  For rifled guns, vent-piece, wrought copper, screwed in.

The manual continued with “Moldings. – None.”  The desired form was a sweeping and blended exterior, which some contemporary accounts (and certainly we today) would call a “bottle-shape.”  Historians have taken the manual’s description to define the “ordnance shape” seen on many guns in different calibers produced through the Civil War.

For the 6-pdr class, the new manual did not offer particulars for a 6-pdr gun using this “Model of 1861” form, instead offering the data for the standard Model 1841.  However, Ames Manufacturing Company received an order for six “new model” 6-pdrs in the fall of 1861.  Two facts argue that the “new model” was indeed a batch of Model 1861 6-pdrs.  At the time Ames had contracts for Model 1841 6-pdrs, and such were annotated differently.  And even more convincing, six surviving guns at Shiloh National Battlefield, numbered one through six, bear the Ames stamps and 1861 dates.  (The one pictured below stands next to the marker for Roberts’ Arkansas Battery on Ruggles Line.)

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6-pdr Model 1861, Ames #2 at Shiloh

Casual observers might mistake this gun for a James 3.8-inch rifle, Type 2.  The smoothbore 6-pdr is only an inch shorter than the rifle.  For comparison, the chart below offers the particulars for the Model 1841 and 1861 6-pdrs along side those of the James Type 2 and the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  The last three, of course, sharing the “ordnance shape.”

Weights varied with different metals, but all three “ordnance shape” guns had similar exterior dimensions.  All four gun types used the same basic carriage as indicated by the trunnion diameter and rimbase space.

Since Ames Manufacturing also produced all James Type 2 rifles, the logical conclusion is the company used the same casting pattern for both the Model 1861 smoothbores and the rifled guns – transitioning from the Model 1841 pattern form used with the James Type 1 rifles in the fall of 1861.  Some sources identify the Model 1861 6-pdrs as “James Smoothbores.”  I disagree with that nomenclature.  Such alludes to a connection with Charles James that is not documented (and likely did not exist).  I would argue the only connection is the use of the Model 1861 form by some of the James rifles.

After the six delivered in November 1861, Ames shifted field gun production to the rifles and Napoleon 12-pdrs.  But later the State of Connecticut ordered several 6-pdrs from Ames.  The last delivered sometime in 1864, likely these were the last 6-pdr smoothbores produced in the United States.

One of those “Connecticut” guns sits on Matthews Hill at Manassas today.  So keeping with the “Bull Run” focus for the 6-pdr discussions, here’s a walk-around that gun.

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Model 1861 6-pdr at Manassas

The breech of the gun offers a familiar profile.

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Breech of Model 1861 6-pdr

The 6-pdr lacks the sight socket and retaining screw hole seen on the James rifles.  I would point out that the Connecticut guns lack the tap holes for the hausse seat (see the first photo above from Shiloh).  The hausse seat is still on one of the guns at Shiloh which were produced for Federal contracts.

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Hausse Seat on Model 1861 6-pdr at Shiloh, Ames #4

The absence of the screw holes on the Connecticut gun may indicate the weapon was never configured for service – perhaps only used for ornamental or ceremonial purposes.

Above the vent is the inscription “State of Conn.”  On the Manassas gun, this is weathered.  Its sister gun at Fort Doneslon is a bit less worn.  Note also the vent bushing seen here.

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"State of Conn." Stamp

The weight stamp of “862” appears below the knob.

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Weight Stamp on Model 1861 Gun

As per the practice of the time, Ames’  stamp appears on the right trunnion.  By this time the company went by the name “Ames Co.”, adding “founders” and the location of “Chicopee, Mass.”

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Right Trunnion of Model 1861

The left trunnion bears the year of manufacture – 1862.

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Left Trunnion of Model 1861

The trunnions attach to rimbases which blend into the barrel with a very gradual curve.  Over the trunnions of the Connecticut guns are the initials “W.A.B.”  This may stand for William Alfred Buckingham, wartime governor of Connecticut.

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Middle, over Trunnions, of Model 1861

Looking at the muzzle, the lack of blade sight and rifling provide other discriminators when separating the Model 1861 from James Type 2 rifles.  The Federal Model 1861 guns have the inspectors stamp and registry number on the muzzle.  Those apparently were left off for the Connecticut guns.

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Muzzle of Model 1861

The Model 1861 6-pdr (don’t call it a James!) was the last of the line for it’s class.  Perhaps the ultimate refinement of 6-pdr guns in American service dating back to the Colonial era.  But the caliber was obsolete by the Civil War.  The legacy of the Model 1861 was providing an exterior form for rifled guns that saw widespread service during the war.

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.