108th Day of the Siege – Enemy Opened Fire : 2nd Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter

On this day in 1863, around 12:30 PM, the Federal batteries on Morris Island along with two monitors in the main ship channel, opened a massive bombardment of Fort Sumter.  As detailed back during the sesquicentennial, that eruption marked the start of the Second Major Bombardment of the fort.  Those “major” and “minor” bombardments, along with “desultory” bombardments, were defined by the Confederates on the receiving end.  Though the periods track well with Federal operational accounts.  And this “major” was indeed a rather substantial bombardment by any measure. Between October 26 and December 6, the Federals fired over 18,000 rounds at Fort Sumter.  That’s not counting shots fired at other points in and around Charleston during the same period, which was no small number.

The following morning, subscribers to the Charleston Courier saw this lead on the second column of the front page:

CharlestonCourier_Oct_27_63_Vol_LXI_Issue19607_P1_Col2

Notice how this news was titled and categorized.  This was the 108th day, going back to July 10, of the siege of Fort Sumter and for all practical purposes Charleston itself.  This is a point I drive home in presentations about the war around Charleston.  The siege of Fort Sumter was the longest battle of the war, running from the summer of 1863 through February 1865.  And by extension, the campaign against Charleston was the longest of the war, if we take into account the blockade operations beginning in May 1861.  The citizens of Charleston, the Confederates defending Charleston, and the Federals on Morris Island all counted those days.

The full article read:

News from the Islands.

One Hundred and Eighth Day of the Siege – Enemy Opened Fire

The enemy on Morris’ Island having completed his preparations, about half-past 10 o’clock, Monday morning, opened a vigorous fire from Batteries Gregg and Wagner, with seven guns mounted in the former and four in the latter, all of heavy calibre, being mostly two and three hundred pounder Parrotts.  The heaviest fire was directed on Fort Sumter.  Out of one hundred and eighty-eight shots fired from Morris’ Island at Fort Sumter during the day, one hundred and sixty-five struck the fort and twenty-three passed over.  Two of the guns on Battery Gregg devoted their entire attention to Fort Johnson, which also received an occasional shot from Battery Wagner.

Forts Moultrie and Johnson, and batteries Marion, Simkins and Cheves, kept up a spirited reply.  The firing on both sides ceased about dark.  The enemy threw some ten or fifteen shots and shells from a twelve pounder Parrott, mounted on Gregg, at Battery Bee and Fort Moultrie, but did no damage.  Two monitors, which rounded Cummings’ Point, were also engaged, and fired some ten shots at Sumter.  No casualties to the garrisons or injuries to the works are reported at any of the forts or batteries.

The fire from Fort Moultrie and the batteries upon the advanced Monitors and the enemy’s works, was excellent, and it is believed did considerable execution.  It was reported that one of the enemy’s guns burst in Battery Gregg early in the action Monday morning on the third or fourth trial.

The firing is expected to be renewed this morning.  With the exception of the two Monitors engaged there was no change in the position of the fleet.

The newspaper report is noteworthy in the details.  However, Federal sources insist the bombardment began around noon, and not earlier.  And there is not mention of a burst gun on that day from Federal accounts (although, one is recorded as bursting the following day).  Usually, and I doubt this day’s report was any exception, the Courier’s writers blended information obtained from Confederate officers along with what their reporters saw first hand.  After all, the war was happening, day and night, right outside their windows.

On the other side of the battle line, the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery was very active, handling the big guns. From their regimental history:

Please notice the handling of one of those guns.  The piece has just recoiled from the last firing, and is out of battery; it is instantly depressed to a level; up step the spongers; back and forth, with a rolling twist, goes the sponge, and it is withdrawn; up rises the great bag-like cartridge and is entered; quickly the rammers drive it home to the clean, moist, but warm chamber; stout men lift the great conical shell and pass it into the black lips of the monster; and again the rammers bend to their work and drive back the projectile upon the powder; now the gunners heave the piece into battery; the sergeant looks to and adjusts the training, right or left; now he turns to secure again his proper and exact elevation, and makes his allowance for windage; the primer is entered; the lanyard is attached, and the gunner, standing behind the traverse, waits order.  The officer cries: “Ready!  Fire!” Hold your ears.  Note the smoke – an aerial maelstrom and cataract, with voice of an earthquake.  See that black spot traveling on its parabolic journey.  Ha! How smokes and tumbles the rebel wall.  Up go the loyal cheers and the boys pat their gun.

This work would continue, shot after shot, day after day, through the first week of December.  Some days the fire would slack to only a hundred or so rounds, particularly toward the first week of December.  But in those early days of the Second Major Bombardment, the tallies often reached 900 or 1000 rounds a day.

Such was the start of a loud phase in a long battle.

(Citations from Charleston Courier, October 27, 1863, page 1, column 2; 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 195.)

 

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Fortification Friday: Some Landscaping for the fort- Revetments of Sod

Over the last few weeks, we’ve moved beyond just planning an earthwork into the practical aspects of actually constructing those works to the specifications, derived from the plan.  Assuming your digging project worked out as expected, the fortification would now have bare earth frowning upon any potential attacker.  While achieving the defensive needs, bare earth is hard to maintain.  Readers are likely aware of the natural forces that act here.  To reduce the wear and thus reduce the maintenance needs, Mahan prescribed revetments:

A revetment consists of a facing of stone, wood, sods, or any other material to sustain an embankment, when it receives a slope steeper than the natural slope.

In field works revetments are used only for the interior slop of the parapet and for the scarp; for the first sods, pisa, fascines, hurdles, gabions, and plank, are chiefly used; and for the last, timber.

Keep in mind here the specification of “natural slope” being at or shallower than a 45° grade, the natural slope at which loose dirt will pile.  Loosely speaking, we might assert that any slope might need revetments if use extends beyond a short time.  But let us for now focus on the notion of temporary fortifications and, thus, temporary arrangements.  Anything steeper than that natural angle is going to start falling down over night.  So we put up a revetment to avoid a morning chore.

Notice also the list of material we might use.  It is built, somewhat, in descending order of preference.  So let us take a look at sods:

Revetments of Sods. Sod work forms a strong and durable revetment. The sods should be cut from a well-clothed sward, with the grass of a fine short blade, and thickly matted roots. If the grass is long, it should be mowed before the sod is cut.

Sods are of two sizes, one termed stretchers, are twelve inches square, and four-and-a-half inches thick; the others, termed headers, are eighteen inches long, twelve inches broad, and four-and-a-half inches thick.

And we have a diagram depicting these stretchers and headers:

PlateIIIFig20

Mahan continued:

The sod revetment is commenced as soon as the parapet is raised to the level of the head of the banquette.  A course of sods is then laid, either horizontal or a little inclined from the banquette; the course consists of two stretchers and one header alternating, the end of the header laid to the front.  The grass side is laid downward; and the sods should protrude a little beyond the line of the interior slope, for the purpose of trimming the course even at the top, before laying another, and to make the interior slope regular.  The course is firmly settled, by tapping each sod as it is laid with a spade or a wooden mallet; and the earth of the parapet is packed closely behind the course.

So a matrix of sorts with these blocks of sod.  Notice the arrangement in Figure 21, below:

PlateIIIFig21

A second course is laid on the first, so as to cover the joints, or, as it is termed, to break joints with it; using otherwise the same precautions as with the first.  The top course is laid with the grass up; and in some cases pegs are driven through the sods of the two courses to connect the whole more firmly, which is, however, by no means necessary to form a strong sodding.

As with all things, there are some fine points to consider … which the experienced instructor was willing to impart to his students:

When cut from a wet soil, the sods should not be lain until they are partially dried, otherwise they will shrink, and the revetment will crack in drying.  In hot weather the revetment should be watered frequently, until the grass puts forth. The sods are cut rather larger than required for use; and are trimmed to a proper size from a model sod.

While I am not much of an expert on landscaping, and cannot provide some analysis of the sod and soil properties, I do dabble a bit with old photos.  Particularly old photos of old, sometimes no longer existing, forts that were in some hot climates.  Recall this photo from our tour of Fort Johnson, circa 1865?

FJ5_03127a

We see lots of sod “bricks” on the face of Fort Johnson.  Particularly on the exterior slope (and do keep in mind this was a “permanent” fortification of sorts, so the rule above need not directly apply to the use of sod only on the interior).  In some sections, it appears stretchers and headers were used:

FJ5_6b

In other faces, there seems no pattern:

FJ5_6a

Perhaps we see here where the grass has grown so well as to “break” over the joins of the sod courses.

On other views of the fort, it appears only twelve-inch square stretchers were used:

FJ4_6

If we go over to the other side of the harbor, Battery Marshall’s sod appeared much worse for the exposure to the ocean breezes:

FortMarshall1_1A

Just does not look like those are 4½ inches thick.  Mahan might have called these out as an example of what not to do.

Next week, we will look at some other forms of revetments.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 36-37.)

 

Fortification Friday: What is a profile?

I often incorporate accurate terminology to describe the fortifications.  But some of those terms have either fallen into dis-use, carry new meanings today, or simply may not be clear to all readers. And why would an artillery guy be worried about fortifications?  Well I look at it this way – on the battlefield the antithesis of artillery is fortification.  Artillery came into being as a means of destroying fortifications.  Fortifications evolved further as a means to counter the use of advanced artillery.  So we have a yin-yang relation going on with artillery and fortifications.   Anyone seriously considering one must take into account the other (keep that in mind when considering “tactics” books out there today).

Back during the sesquicentennial, I dabbled with the idea of a recurring series focused on this fortification terminology.  But sesqui being sesqui, there was always too many “on this day” stuff to write about and little room for general studies.  That said, the 150ths of the war are over and I am revisiting that premise.  So let me re-launch “Fortification Friday.”

One more point of order before “launching” into this “vocabulistics” study.  Years ago a great site existed which did just what I’m embarking upon.  The web site is dark now, but the “Civil War Field Fortifications Website” held a “Dictionary of Fortification” that provided “A lexicon of significant and arcane terminology applicable to the study of the art and science of fortification as it was practiced during the middle period of the nineteenth century.”  A fabulous resource that got right down to the details.  Sadly, the webmaster (PE McDuffie) stopped updating in about 2007, and the last time the site rendered was in 2010.  While I am not going to resurrect that body of knowledge, I would offer that up, by way of the Internet Archive, for readers to continue exploring this subject.

OK, introduction aside, let me offer up a term I’ve used often before – PROFILE.

McDuffie’s web-dictionary define profile as:

… a cross section of the parapet and ditch taken along a line perpendicular to the general direction of the interior crest of the parapet or from the interior side of the parapet exterior side of the work. It shows, basically, a vertical slice of the work and graphically describes the elevation, thickness and general arrangement of the various elements of the work. Profiles of all major field works included two basic elements: the parapet and the ditch.

From an American-centric point of view that is, Dennis Hart Mahan is “the source” for both theory and practice of fortification.   Mahan also explained profiles in context with the parapet and ditch:

To enable troops to fight with advantage, the intrenchements should shelter them from the enemy’s fire; be an obstacle in themselves to the enemy’s progress; and afford the assailed the means of using their weapons with effect.  To satisfy these essential conditions, the component parts of every intrenchement should consist of a covering mass, or embankment, denominated the parapet, to intercept the enemy’s missiles, to enable the assailed to use their weapons with effect, and to present an obstacle to the enemy’s progress, and of a ditch, which, from its position and proximity to the parapet, subserves the double purpose of increasing the obstacle which the enemy must surmount before reaching the assailed, and of furnishing the earth to form the parapet….

The general form of a parapet and ditch, to fulfil the above conditions, will be best understood by an examination of the profile, which is a section of the intrenchment made, by a vertical plane, perpendicular to the general direction of the intrenchment.

Mahan offered this figure to illustrate a profile showing the “textbook” layout of the parapet and ditch.

Plate1Figure1

This would be the profile of a “classic” fortification. Mahan’s annotation pointed out the parapet defined as points A-B-C-D-E-F.  The ditch was from G-H-I-K.  Beyond that, the glacis was points L-M-N.  There are a dozen other terms called out within this profile – banquette slope, interior slope, superior slope, exterior slope, scarp, and counterscarp, to name a few.  But the basic element was, as Mahan pointed out, the parapet and ditch.

The profile, along with the line of the works, defines the fortification itself and allows the engineer to depict the three dimensional nature of the fortification onto a two dimensional diagram. Engineers had to depict the arrangement of parapet and ditch, in the vertical plane, in order to relate the details of their plan.  You know, the old “measure twice, cut once” rule?  Or in this case, draw it out before you start shoveling. Every fortification, permanent or field, has a profile, even if the elements of the parapet and ditch don’t match up with the “classic” form.  When discussing the photos of Fort Johnson, I cited these profiles drawn by Federal engineers as they surveyed the Confederate works:

Profiles

We really don’t see a “ditch” in these profiles, do we?  Well that’s because the “ditch” of Fort Johnson was for all practical purposes the waters of Charleston Harbor.  And I argue that Fort Johnson’s ditch served the purpose very well from April 1861 to February 1865.   We also see a lot of details within the parapet beyond just slopes and scarps.  Earthworks were not just simple forms.  Each was tailored, by the plan, to fit the situation.  Each plan factored the needs and resources on hand.  In that light, consider the “profile” as a component of the language in which the engineer related the plan.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 1-2; And Civil War Field Fortifications Website, linked above.)

Fort Johnson Photo Analysis, final installment: Landscape lost… and found?

Let me wrap up the “tour” of Fort Johnson by bringing you forward 150 years.  I closed yesterday’s post with a satellite view of the fort as it appears today:

Yes, nothing stands out in the overhead view that would indicate there was once a massive complex of earthworks around that point jutting into the harbor.   The 20th century improvements to the site have apparently swept away those of previous centuries.  But on the ground there are a couple of structures that indicate some of the 18th and 19th century activity at Fort Johnson.   Visible from the satellite view are a couple of round structures that used to be cisterns:

Charleston 4 May 10 283

While it would be nice to think one of these is the same seen in photo FJ8, I don’t believe that to be the case.  I believe these are post-war.  These cisterns are too far inside the fort’s interior.

On the other hand, there is one structure that was definitely part of the Confederate Fort Johnson still standing today:

Charleston 4 May 10 273

This is the old powder magazine.  According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination documents, this structure dates back to 1765.  Yes… 1765, not 1865… making this of Colonial, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War interest.

And, we have a “sestercentennial” anniversary of sorts to observe here.  The fort itself was named for Sir Nathaniel Johnson, one of the colonial governors of South Carolina.  In the same year attributed for the magazine’s construction, the British stored stamps brought from England in Fort Johnson, much to the ire of the colonists.  In 1775, South Carolinians took over the fort and, in an act to be repeated some decades later, raised the state flag (for the first time according to the nomination).  The fort remained in caretaker status through the early 19th century.  During the War of 1812, state militia placed two batteries at the fort.  But not until the 1820s did the US Army begin work at the fort, as part of the overall improvement of Charleston’s defenses.  And, of course, readers are well aware of the fort’s role in the secession crisis of 1860 and the bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861.

Now the magazine itself is important to “fixing” the location of wartime (as in Civil War-time) Fort Johnson.  When the Confederates took over Fort Johnson, one of the improvements made was to incorporate the magazine into a bombproof.  The magazine remained buried until the 1960s.  At that time, the last major parts of the Confederate Fort Johnson was removed to reveal the Colonial-era magazine.

Knowing the history of that structure and using the magic of Google Earth, let me overlay one of the wartime surveys on the view today:

FtJohnsonOverlay1a

Let me stress, this is my “best guess.”  As such it is a work in progress to be improved and refined.  So please please take it as such… and a grain of salt.

The magazine’s location is not depicted with any annotation on the wartime survey.  But it should have been (logically) in the large bombproof on the interior of Fort Johnson.  The water battery stood on the north side of the Grice Marine Laboratory building.  The drive up to the point is roughly on line with the wartime road to Secessionville.  And from that I think the wharf’s location is at the circle at the end of the drive.

With that, let me be bold and throw in the diagram showing the photo perspectives:

FtJohnsonOverlay2

Looking closer:

FtJohnsonOverlay2a

Again, take it with a grain of salt.

While Fort Johnson has faded, with the exception of the old magazine, with time, the placename and history remain.  We might stand there today and look across the harbor to replicate some of the wartime views.  But the earthworks and massive artillery pieces are not there today (though some of those guns sit across the harbor at other locations).  Though we can use the photos and surveys from the end of the Civil War to “paint” in our minds what Fort Johnson did look like in 1865.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Fort Johnson Photo Analysis, Part XII: The Fort, the Wharf, and the harbor beyond

Our last stop on the virtual tour of Fort Johnson by way of wartime photos a view that promises the most interesting of all.

FJ10_BatteryRipley

This view looks across the interior of the fort to the north with several features to the front of the water battery in view.  The perspective is depicted on the diagram below, designated as FJ10.

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation2

NOTE: Going back to review the diagram for this post, I realized points FJ7 and FJ8 were a bit out of alignment.  Those points have been corrected on my diagrams.

Unfortunately, for all that promise this photo’s preserved state lets us down.  I’ve never seen a digital copy of this photo from either a high resolution print or the original glass plate (if one exists… I’d love to see it!).  So what we are left with are grainy glimpses of what would be an incredible view of Charleston harbor.  But let’s work with what we have.

To the front left we see the chimneys and “pavilion”:

FJ10_1

The points from which FJ7 an FJ9 were taken are in view, or at least close to the left side of this view.  We also see the pyramids of 10-inch projectiles and the stack of boxes containing 7-inch Brooke bolts.  Panning to the right of that stack of boxes, we see more of the familiar pyramids and also the cistern:

FJ10_2

The bucket is on the opposite side of the cistern, as compared to the view from FJ8.  But we get a better perspective to see it’s layout.  A large circular stone structure with a square wooden platform on top.

Still further to the right, we see the tent featured in several of the other photos:

FJ10_3

From this side, we see the rails used to anchor some of the lines.  We also see the tent has a wooden door, doorstep, and door frame.  In other words, further confirming this tent’s status as a deluxe model for its day.  Notice also to the extreme right the pyramid of bolts for the Brooke.

In all of those crops, we see the interior feature of the earthworks.  Several cuts seen in the works are the entrances to the gun galleries.  Looking to the first 10-inch Columbiad’s position, we see the “V” shaped cut.

FJ10_4

Looking beyond the works, just beyond, we see a the large wheels of a sling cart.  That should be the same sling cart seen at the edges of FJ4.

Extending out to the upper right of frame in that crop is a jetty which intersects at the fort’s wharf.   So let us pan slightly to the left and out to consider the wharf… to look across the harbor:

FJ10_5

The wharf itself is worthy of note.  A lot of history occurred at that wharf, when you consider the war from its first days right up to the end.  I cannot identify the steamer tied up there, given the resolution.  But it appears to be a typical light draft paddle wheel type.

What lies beyond is even more interesting.  Consider the perspective offered in relation to the harbor charts:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation4

As this looks right across to the north, the camera gave us a view of Fort Ripley, an artificial structure built by the Confederates during the war.  Somewhere in the fuzzy distance is Castle Pinckney.  A historic anchorage to say the least.  I’d be interested, if a better digital copy emerges at some point, if this photograph captured a glimpse of the obstructions in the harbor.  Such would add a visual to go with Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren’s written observations.

Since we are looking beyond the fort for the moment, let me mention the other vistas offered in these Fort Johnson photos:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation5

I’ve flipped FJ10 to yellow in this diagram.   FJ1, with angle of view in light blue, is representative of three photos looking across the front of Fort Johnson with Fort Sumter in the background.  And FJ4, with perspective indicated in green, looked back towards Charleston with a teasing glimpse of White Point.

This concludes the photos from this set.  Again let me emphasize the coverage offered by these photos:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation3

Fort Johnson was “front line” from the start of the secession crisis, throughout the war, and right up to the end of hostilities… well a couple months shy.  These works were a cornerstone to the Confederate defenses of Charleston.  Likewise Fort Johnson was an important tactical objective for the Federals.  And these photos provide us a magnificent examination of the fort to include structure, armament, and fixtures.  Scarcely an inch of the fort escaped the camera lens.

And this is important.  You see, Fort Johnson is sort of a “lost landscape” from the Civil War perspective:

As I mentioned at the start of this series, the surveys and photos taken at the end of the war serve us well when studying this site.  They show us “what was.”  That said, I’ll conclude this series in my next post by looking at the past and present views of Fort Johnson.

Fort Johnson Photo Analysis, Part XI: All those projectiles stacked up in the fort… and a paper trail

On to our next stop in the virtual tour of Fort Johnson, by way of wartime photos, as we proceed through the interior.  Our next stop is this photograph:

FJ9_03122a

This photo was taken from the location FJ9, as indicated on the diagram below:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation2

We can pinpoint that location by referencing the tent, which is seen in several other photos:

FJ9_1

As pointed out in earlier photo analysis posts, this tent has amenities to comfort those stationed at the fort.

FJ9_3

The canvas sits snugly over the brick chimney.  And there is a platform to give the dwellers a proper floor above the sand.

And there is a railing to each side of the tent, providing an anchor point for the lines.  We’ve seen those railings on several other photos.  All providing us a three-dimensional appreciation for this tent.

FJ9_2

And notice the stack of 7-inch Brooke bolts, which we examined from another perspective in FJ6.

Looking behind the tent, we see the crib and the bombproof entrance mentioned in FJ8.

FJ9_4

Speaking of that previous post, I highlighted the line of the parapet of the fort.  Again we see that in play in FJ9:

FJ9_5

Also notice here the “cuts” for the entrance to the galleries where the guns are mounted.  The number of entrances helps place this photo’s perspective for the diagram.  The photographer was standing directly behind the first 10-inch columbiad’s entrance, looking towards the second columbiad position and then to the Brooke Rifle’s beyond.

Speaking of the columbiads, we see several piles of ammunition for those big weapons, all at the ready.

FJ9_6

Nothing extraordinary about these.  I’m pressed to say if these are shells or shot.  We don’t see holes for the fuse or other external features.  But then again, the shells, if empty, would have been stacked with the holes down to reduce moisture accumulation.  On the other hand, Fort Johnson’s big guns needed solid shot should the Federal monitors gain the harbor.

What we can see in these photos are fine surface details of these projectiles:

FJ9_7

Notice the casting seam running the circumference of some.  Also the spotty or streaked exterior:

FJ9_8

Colorize those in your mind. A mix of black paint and rust, perhaps?

One of the pyramids has fallen down.  It’s the one that lacks wood rails or braces, second from the camera:

FJ9_9

We’ve seen this from another perspective in FJ8:

FJ8_17

Not enough change in the stack to determine “before or after” in this case. But as you can tell, those projectiles made a handy seat.

Beyond the columbiad projectiles, there is a stack of ammunition crates:

FJ9_10

The resolution of the digital scan allows us to zoom down and read what is on those crates.  So what are they?

FJ9_14

Each apparently contains (or did contain) “1 42-pdr Rifle Bolt”.  The hand painted marking below that stencil is worth considering.  I think it indicates the weight of the projectile, packing material, and box.  It looks like a “Wt. 116lbs.”

The next box up in the stack also has marking to consider:

FJ9_13

I cannot make anything worthwhile out of these markings, except for what appears to be “Bolt” and “Wt. 115lbs.”

And where did these come from?   Next crate up tells us that:

FJ9_12

From Charleston Arsenal in 1864.

OK, want some more?  The crate on top tells us who was responsible for these bolts:

FJ9_11

The stencil was applied over a seam in the wood…

FJ9_11A

But I read that as “Cpt. Ingraham.”

Captain H. Laurens Ingrahm was an ordnance officer assigned to the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  He spent most of the war in Charleston, at the depot.  And there are ample receipts indicting Ingraham handled projectiles of this caliber:

FJ9_11Receipt2

Or in some cases, annotated as 7-inch rifle shells or bolts:

FJ9_11Receipt1

Always nice to get a positive name match.

There’s a lot more to the story of Ingraham and his war-time service.  But I’ll save that for another day.

For the moment, let me bring this installment to a close, looking up at at the flag over the fort:

FJ9_15

Tomorrow we will celebrate American Independence Day.  It will be the 239th anniversary of the event.  This photo takes us back 150 years to a time when Americans were looking forward to the first such Independence Day after four years of Civil War.  Those four years were in many ways the most destructive the United States has ever seen.  The flag, and thus the photo, speak to me today as a symbol of both the country’s independence but also wisdom in reconciliation following that war.

Fort Johnson Photo Analysis, Part X: Structure of the fort from the interior

Our next stop on this virtual walk around Fort Johnson, by way of photos taken at the end of the Civil War, is a point which looks across the interior of the fort at the walls on the east side of the fort.

FJ8_35194u

The digital copy I am working from is a scan of a print and not one of the glass plate.  So you might see some distortions related to that type of media in the crops that follow.  For reference, this photo was taken with the camera standing at the point annotated as FJ8 on the diagram below:

FortJohnsonPhotoLocation2

The angle of the camera is centered across to the angle of the fort’s wall where the epaulement on the left of the water battery joined the wall facing Morris Island.  This was a very important section, as it was the structure which prevented the Federals from skipping shot and shell into the back of the gun positions.

As related in the earlier discussion, photo FJ7 was taken from a point next to the ruins inside Fort Johnson.  Somewhere on the extreme right of this crop, next to the chimney:

FJ8_1

So imagine the camera tripod somewhere between the base of the chimney and the pile of bricks on the right:

FJ8_3

That said, I’m more interested in the limber conveniently parked in our view.  We see all the fixtures associated with this important piece of equipment.  We can see the joins in the wheel.  As well the dove-tail joins in the chest atop the limber.

Looking to the left of the limber, and through the pavilion of sorts built around the ruins, there appear to be a pile of logs or other rubbish.

FJ8_4

I find this interesting, as it brings to mind a “burn pit” or sorts.  Also note the mixed styles of vertical beams for the pavilion.  Some square beams.  Others are round poles. Sort of a “use what you have” structure. Oh, and notice the grass growing there.  Clearly this structure had been around a few years.

Looking at the roof of the pavilion, we see shingles.  And we also see bricks and wood laying on top:

FJ8_5

Compare the pavilion roof to that of the shed directly behind.  (And yes that is the shed seen in FJ7, earlier in our “walk”).

Looking above the shed, there are a couple vents sticking out of the fort’s wall:

FJ8_6

These vents tell us the wall wasn’t just a pile of earth, but was in fact built over a bombproof.  Panning back to the left, we see the entrance to the bombproof:

FJ8_7

This is something the photos tell us that the survey diagrams do not accurately, or shall I say fully, depict. The wall is drawn, but the details of this bombproof were below the level of detail offered by the surveys.  The bombproof was just to the side of the sectional diagrams offered by the Coastal Survey team.  Without the photos, we might not know it existed.

However one structure seen on the survey diagrams is right in the middle of the photo.  The fort’s cistern:

FJ8_2

Here’s a closer view of the platform that sits over the cistern:

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You must keep the three-dimensional aspect in mind here.  The stacked logs behind the cistern are in fact the “crib” mentioned in FJ7.  So there is some distance between the cistern platform and those logs.  Notice the large stones on which the platform rests.  And… particular attention to the bucket:

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There are shadows of the planks on the right. But directly under the bucket, the wood is discolored as if moist.  So we have a leaky bucket at Fort Johnson?  Or someone has been sloppy with the water?

Looking back for the moment, this view also provides a fine study of a sling cart:

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This cart has just been used for some work, as the chains are still laying across the tree.

If we look close beyond the wheels, we see the tent mentioned in FJ7.

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Notice the posts and rail on the left side of the tent. That rail is seen in photo FJ6.  See how this all pieces together nicely?

But what I like the most about this photo is that we have a couple of soldiers taking a break from their duties:

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A couple of USCT resting on the stacked ordnance. The projectiles are 10-inch caliber for the columbiads.  Note crumbling pyramid on the left… we’ll see that one again.  Also note the stacked boxes:

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We’ll see these from another perspective.  The markings are easier to read from that view. But for now just consider those faces and body language.  No martial pose.  Sort of an “Are you done with the photo?” attitude.  But as there is little blur, we might presume the photographer had requested they sit (or remain seated) at that point.  Perhaps a study in the fortunes of war… these USCT, former slaves, now tending a former Confederate fortification.

Also demonstrating that change in ownership is the United States flag over the ramparts:

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As related in the earlier posts, the particulars of the angle from which the flag is seen in the photos, we can determine the flag staff was on the outside face of the fort.

We think of these works in terms of “offense” and “defense.”  We saw the offense in the form of four heavy guns.  Now we need to asses the defensive side, particularly how it protected the vulnerable areas in the fort’s interior.

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As mentioned above, this portion of the wall was particularly important as it protected the gunners and some of the sensitive portions of the fort from the Federals on Morris Island.  But we don’t see Morris Island or anything beyond the fort’s walls.  That’s how high these were constructed to serve the defensive purpose.

One other particular we should note about these walls.  Look at the line across this view.  Or allow me to emphasize that with yellow lines:

FJ8_14a

See how level these are?  We have the main line (lower) that demonstrates the height of the main works.  Then there is a “crest” at the point of the works, which we’ve seen in other views, with erosion at the edges, which stood a few feet higher.  Again, these are details we can pull out from the surveys, but the photographs provide a three-dimensional verification.

Another component the photos bring to us is the reality of what the fort’s interior looked like…..

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And maybe what it smelled like?

Next stop… we are going to look at that ammunition stacked on the left of this view.