Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 1st Missouri Artillery

As a “westerner”… or dare I say “Trans-Mississippian”… from my youngest days, it was impressed upon me, through my own studies and the words of others, that nothing regarding Missouri and the Civil War is straight forward.  Such is certainly the case with respect to Missouri’s artillery batteries serving the Federal army during the war.  While the state provided two “on paper” organized regiments of light artillery, there were in addition several independent batteries, militia batteries, and other sections and detachments.  And within that loose structure, there were oddities and questions in terms of administrative arrangements and issued equipment (which we’ll focus on here).

Looking at the aggregate listing for the second quarter, 1863, you can see the clerks opted to consolidate all the Missouri batteries, violating alphabetical order, onto the bottom of the page for this section of the summaries:


As our focus this round is just the 1st Missouri Light Artillery Regiment, we shall trim that list down:


While an improvement, in terms of completeness, over the previous quarter, we see that most of the returns were not received in Washington until late summer or fall of 1863.  And two returns were not posted until 1864.  The rundown:

  • Battery A: Reported at Iuka, Mississippi with two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  Captain George W. Schofield remained in command.  And the battery remained with Twelfth Division, Thirteenth Corps.  As such, the location given is at odds with the battery service record.  In June 1863, the battery was at Vicksburg, part of the besieging force.  In October 1864, when the report was received in Washington, the battery was at Carrollton, Louisiana, having transferred to the Department of the Gulf.  Iuka does not fit into the time line for this battery.
  • Battery B:  No return.  At the start of the spring, this battery was assigned to the Second (Brigadier-General Francis J. Herron’s) Division, Department of Missouri during the quarter.  Captain Martin Welfley returned, from his staff assignment, in late May.  Then in June the battery moved, with it’s parent organization, to Vicksburg and was assigned to the Thirteenth Corps.  Arriving at Vicksburg on June 14, the battery fell in on a 32-pdr gun during the siege in addition to their own 12-pdr Napoleons and field howitzers.
  • Battery C: Reporting from Vicksburg, Mississippi with two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  Captain Charles Mann remained in command, with the battery assigned to Sixth Division, Seventeenth Corps.
  • Battery D:  At Corinth, Mississippi, with two 6-pdr field guns (a reduction from four the previous quarter), two 12-pdr field howitzers, and two 3-inch rifles.  The battery, under Captain Henry Richardson was assigned to Corinth, part of the Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery E: At Vicksburg, Mississippi with four 10-pdr Parrotts and two “Fawcett Rifled Iron Gun, Cal. 3.5.”  Note the designation change from a generic “English Guns” the previous quarter.  In late May, Captain Nelson Cole’s battery moved to St. Louis, and with their parent division (Herron’s) then moved to Vicksburg.
  • Battery F: Carrollton, Louisiana with two 3.80-inch James Rifles and four 3.5-inch Fawcett Guns. The location reflects a reporting date of September 1863.  Battery F, like Batteries B and E, was part of Herron’s Division sent to Vicksburg in June 1863. Captain Joseph Foust remained in command.
  • Battery G: No return.  Captain Henry Hescock’s battery was assigned to the Third Division, Twentieth Corps. Hescock was also listed as commander of the artillery brigade supporting the division.  As of the reporting date, they were on the Tullahoma Campaign.
  • Battery H: At Corinth, Mississippi with two 6-pdr field guns, one 24-pdr field howitzer, and two 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Frederick Welker’s battery was part of the garrison at Corinth, under the Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery I:  Reporting at Pocahontas, Tennessee (a railroad stop northwest of Corinth), with two 6-pdr field guns, one 12-pdr field howitzers (down by one from the previous quarter), two 10-pdr Parrotts, and one 4.62-inch rifle (cited as a 12-pdr James, see mention below).  Captain Benjamin Tannrath commanded the battery, assigned to the Sixteenth Corps, under the Corinth Garrison.
  • Battery K: At Helena, Arkansas with four 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Stillman O. Fish was in command.  The battery was part of the District of Eastern Arkansas.
  • Battery L: At Rolla, Missouri with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.67-inch rifles. Captain Frank Backof’s Battery, remaining with the Department of the Frontier, was with a portion of Herron’s Division not forwarded to Vicksburg.
  • Battery M: At Vicksburg, Mississippi with four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain Junius W. MacMurray’s battery remained assigned to Seventh Division, Seventeenth Corps.

So of the twelve batteries of this regiment, half at Vicksburg. Four other batteries were indirectly supporting that campaign.  Battery G was on the Tullahoma Campaign. Leaving only Backof’s Battery in their home state.

The variety of armament should excite readers.  Naturally the mention of Fawcett guns is noteworthy.  But we’ve seen those reported from previous quarters.  It’s the 12-pdr James rifle, with Battery I, which stands out for this summary.  The column header (part of the form) clearly calls this out as a bronze weapon.  And specifically 4.62-inch caliber.  We can’t dismiss this simply as transcription error because, as we will see below, the battery also reported ammunition in that caliber.  So either a lot of transcription errors…. or a bronze 12-pdr rifle was with the battery.  Certainly not the rifled 12-pdr Napoleons that are seen at Gettysburg.  Those were only used for tests.  Rather, the leading candidate is a 12-pdr field gun, heavy, that had been rifled to the James system.  Several of those survive today. And with Battery I posted to guarding a railroad, form seems to follow function.  Until I find more information, I’d still rate that tentative.

Turning to the smoothbore ammunition, we find the need to extend the table to include those 24-pdr howitzer rounds:


Listing by battery:

  • Battery A:  66 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 16 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers
  • Battery C: 65 shot for 6-pdr field guns; 124 shell, 96 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery D: 182 shot, 50 case, and 87 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 119 shell and 38 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers; and 162 case for 12-pdr Napoleons (which may be a transcription error).
  • Battery H: 130 case and 28 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 69 shell, 53 case, and 60 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery I: 15 shot, 195 case, and 109 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 49 shell, 36 case, and 71 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery L: 184 case and 80 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.

The limited number of rounds for Battery A stand out in particular. Just canister… for the siege of Vicksburg.  Go figure.

Turning to the rifled projectiles, Hotchkiss is first:


We have a short list, but with notes:

  • Battery D: 40 canister, 98 percussion shell, 152 fuse shell, and 270 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery F: 12 shot and 86 percussion shells for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 280 shot and 270 percussion shell for 3.67-inch rifles.

Once again we see those in the field, and those in Washington, make distinction between the 3.80-inch “James” and the 3.67-inch “Wiard” calibers.  We should not read into the latter identification, as that was simply tied to a caliber of gun, though not specifically the inventor’s gun.  In this case, Backof’s battery had rifled 6-pdrs.

That distinction remains for carry-over columns of Hotchiss on the next page (which I’ll break down by section for clarity):


Two reporting:

  • Battery F: 88 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery L:  100 canister for 3.67-inch rifles.

Now we can move to the James-patent Projectiles:


And as mentioned above, we have either a lot of transcription errors, or something to fire from a rifled bronze 12-pdr:

  • Battery I: 10 shot, 8 shell, 25 case, and 30 canister for 4.62-inch rifles.

The next section covers Parrott-patent projectiles:


Five batteries reporting:

  • Battery E: 420 shell, 175 case, and 75 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery H: 163 shell, 137 case, and 137 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery I: 48 shell, 44 case, and 64 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery K: 160 shell, 340 case, and 120 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery M: 265 shell, 473 case, and 130 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

Lastly we turn to the Schenkl columns:


A lot of shot of that type:

  • Battery E:  130 shot for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery I: 54 shot for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery K: 92 shot for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery M: 126 shot for 10-pdr Parrott.

There are no further Schenkl entries on the next page.  So we can move to the small arms:


By battery:

  • Battery A: Fourteen percussion pistols, twenty Navy revolvers, and ninety-three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: Three (?) Army revolvers and four cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and thirty cavalry sabers.
  • Battery E: Seventy-seven Army revolvers and forty-four cavalry sabers.
  • Battery F: Ten Army revolvers and eighteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Eight Army revolvers and forty-eight (?) cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Seventeen Army revolvers, 113 cavalry sabers, and one horse artillery saber.
  • Battery K: Three Navy revolvers and twenty-five cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Eleven Navy revolvers and thirty-nine cavalry sabers.
  • Battery M: Four Army revolvers and seven cavalry sabers.

Other than the percussion pistols, no oddities among the small arms.  There are a lot of reenactor impressions “taking a hit” right now.

We will pick up with the 2nd Missouri Artillery next.


A Study of Initiative: Prairie Grove December 7, 1862

As you may have guessed, I excelled somewhat in the formal professional military history classes while in the Army.  Often in my zeal to impress, I’d pick obscure (to the audience) battles to reference when asked for examples.  Visiting Prairie Grove last week, I had flash backs to a paper written about initiative as a principle of war.

Initiative, on the battlefield, is to present a series of threats to the enemy which they must respond to.  Initiative is not just bold aggressive moves.  It can, contrary to some notions, include occupying and fortifying a key terrain feature.  To “take the initiative” a commander changes the current state of affairs in such a way that his opponent must respond in a somewhat predictable manner.  (And conversely to “lose the initiative” is to alter the current state in a way that gives the opponent more options.)

The American Civil War is filled with great examples of initiative applied in tactical, operational, and strategic contexts.  Think of Chancellorsville and Joe Hooker at first “taking” then “losing” the initiative.  The word initiative rolls off the tongue when discussing Jackson’s ’62 Valley Campaign.   And you cannot discuss either Grant or Lee without saying a paragraph or two about initiative.

Another less cited example of initiative played on the stage of northwest Arkansas in the late fall of 1862.  In November of that year, Brigadier General John M. Schofield split his Army of the Frontier with one division forward near Fayetteville, Arkansas under Brigadier General James G. Blunt and the remainder at Springfield, Missouri under Brigadier General James Totten.  In the last week of November, Schofield took ill and command temporarily fell to Blunt.  Logically, Blunt should have returned to Springfield, suspending operations for the winter.  But he didn’t.

Hearing Confederates were massing forces near the village of Cane Hill, Arkansas, Blunt marched 35 miles southwest to strike Confederate General John S. Marmaduke on November 28.  As result of the all day fight, Blunt was exposed deep in enemy country, but he was also in a position that General Thomas C. Hindman, overall Confederate commander, could not ignore.

Hindman tried to seize the initiative for himself, moving behind Blunt, figuring to defeat Blunt then any reinforcements sent in piecemeal fashion.  Hindman outnumbered his adversary on paper, and intended to translate that into a stunning victory.  But Hindman had not closed all options to his enemy, and did not fully gain the initiative.

From Cane Hill, Blunt sent orders to Totten on December 2: “… I desire you to move as much of your force as possible, especially the infantry, to my support as I do not intend to leave this position without a fight.  You should move by forced marches via Fayetteville….” [Official Records, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, page 805].

But Totten didn’t receive the message.  He too was on leave (something in the water I guess), but his replacement General Francis J. Herron, responded adding, “Will keep you well posted of my movements.”   [OR, Serial 32, page 807] Something every commander loves to hear.   And Herron didn’t just move, he moved with all haste.  In a march that would make the Stonewall Brigade wince, Herron covered over 100 miles in three days (in December, in the mountains, during some of the shortest days of the year).

Herron’s arrival near Fayetteville changed the game.  The initiative balance had teetered between the two sides, now tipped firmly to the Federals.  Hindman picked a good ridge line on which to defend astride the main road through the area and began consolidating his command – at an area known locally as Prairie Grove.  However, his posture left open maneuver room for the Federal commands.  Maneuver, of course translates into options.

On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1862 (history has a funny way of hitting some dates over and over, you know), Herron encountered Hindman’s defenses.  Herron interpreted that to be only a portion of the Confederate force, and attempted to push through to Blunt.  After two organized assaults, Herron’s command was for the most part spent.  However, his artillery kept the Confederates at bay.

Realizing Hindman had slipped by him, on the morning of the 7th Blunt fell back north to Rhea’s Mill, about five miles from Herron’s position.  There, Blunt changed his direction, “…when I heard the discharge of artillery in a northeast direction, and immediately moved rapidly, with the Second and Third Brigades, in the direction of the firing….” [OR, Serial 32, page 74].   Or in more romantic form, he “moved to the sound of the guns!”

When Blunt’s division arrived on the field in the afternoon, the Federals still held the initiative, partly due to artillery superiority.  Blunt launched an attack on the left flank of the Confederate defense at about two in the afternoon.  Stubborn defense, and the early December sunset, checked Blunt’s attack.  While tactically both sides were at a stalemate, operationally Hindman had shot his wad.  The Confederates began a retreat that night (and used the cover of a truce in part to gain further distance from pursuit).   A costly battle, certainly one of the bloodiest in the Trans-Mississippi theater, Prairie Grove tipped the operational and strategic initiative to the Federals.

Three times in the campaign, Blunt could have fallen back citing caution, and history would not have judged him wrong.  Yet three times he chose to act in a way that would force his adversary to choose particular courses of action, and keep them reacting.  Not all of Blunt’s actions were the mark of a great commander, but his use of the initiative was remarkable.  I would argue that Blunt shaped the situation, through his own actions and orders, to make it predictable.

A co-worker of mine from years past often said, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, if you can predict how that limb is going to break.”  Perhaps that is the kind of logic that passed through Blunt’s mind on those fall days of 1862.

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