Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

New York’s contribution to the Federal war machine was not just a “cog” in a wheel.  Rather we might say the Empire State provided a whole wheel.  And part of that was of course a number of artillery batteries.  I could well spend several posts discussing the various formations – heavy artillery, light artillery regiments, independent batteries, independent battalions, National Guard batteries, etc…. oh, and don’t forget some rocket batteries.  But for the Fourth Quarter 1862 summaries we need focus on four groups – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment, 3rd New York Light Artillery Regiment, 1st New York Light Artillery Battalion (sometimes cited as the “German” battalion), and numbered independent light artillery batteries.  There’s one additional line for reporting artillery assigned to a volunteer cavalry formation.  And we should also mind the German battalion’s batteries were later assigned independent battery numbers.  But that was the future.  For December 1862 we have two regiments, one battalion, thirty-two (minus four that were at the time in the battalion) independent batteries,  and one “other” line to consider.

So let us start with the 1st Regiment, New York Light Artillery… Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s boys:

0059_Snip_Dec62_1NY_1

The clerks posted information from seven of the twelve batteries, most being received in 1863.  At this time of the war, most of the 1st New York batteries supported the Army of the Potomac in the east.  The breakdown by battery:

  • Battery A: No return.  This battery’s guns were captured earlier in the year at Seven Pines.  Most of the surviving men were transferred to other batteries while Captain Thomas Bates went about recruiting and reorganizing.  So in December 1862, there was no equipment to report.
  • Battery B: No return. Captain Rufus D. Pettit’s battery was part of Second Corps, having just participated in the Fredericksburg Campaign with six (or four?) 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery C: At Falmouth, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This was Lieutenant William H. Phillips’ battery assigned to support Fifth Corps.
  • Battery D: Fredericksburg, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery assigned to Ninth Corps and under Captain Thomas W. Osborn.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign, Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery at this reporting interval.
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery was part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.
  • Battery G: No return. This was Captain John D. Frank’s battery supporting Second Corps with four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H: Fort Keys, Gloucester Point, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Also assigned to Fourth Army.  Captain Charles E. Mink commanded this battery.
  • Battery I: Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Michael Weidrich’s battery supported Eleventh Corps.
  • Battery K: Brandy Station, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This location is obviously in error for December 1862.  It was correct for January, 1864, when the return was received in Washington.  Backing up a year and a month, Battery K was with the Twelfth Corps for the 4th Quarter, 1862.
  • Battery L: No location given but with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain John A. Reynolds’ battery supported First Corps, which was near Fredericksburg at the time.
  • Battery M: No return. This battery was also part of Twelfth Corps in December 1862.  Lieutenant Charles Winegar commanded the battery at the time, with Captain George W. Cothran on leave.  I believe it was equipped with 10-pdr Parrotts.

 

Of note here is the listing for Battery K with the discrepancy indicated with regard to reported location.  Often in correspondence (present day correspondence, that is), folks will eagerly inquire about these summary statements.  The perception, which I held when first looking them over, is we have a gold mine of “facts” to work with.  Not entirely true.  What we have are a lot of numbers that must be shaken down for some useful information.  The example seen here, with Battery K, one of the many issues that demonstrate the data is not “clean”.    The summaries are far short of the sound foundation of facts that might lead easily to solid information.  Though those summaries are a bit firmer than clay, I would quickly point out.

At the December 1862 reporting time, I believe Battery K was commanded by Lieutenant E. L. Bailey.  It was part of a battalion commanded by Captain Robert H. Fitzhugh, the battery’s former commander.  Batteries K and M constituted 2/3rds of the battalion. And it was part of Wainwright’s regiment.  Wainwright who, as we know from his diary, was very particular about keeping up with his paperwork.  Yet, this battery didn’t give a fourth quarter, 1862 report until over a year later.  And when that report was registered by the Ordnance Department, an erroneous location was recorded.

One would think such tardiness wouldn’t be allowed.  And one would rightly supposed Battery K’s officers would report on time and accurately.  Our impression is the chain of command above Battery K would insist on timely reporting.  Furthermore that the clerks in Washington were efficient and never lost such important paperwork.  Yet, the record indicates otherwise.

So we have reason to dispute one column for Battery K, why not the rest?  Was the clerk entering the 1862 data with just one cell (location) incorrect? Or is all the other data now suspect?  Enter that discussion with ample salt…. With that salt applied, let us walk through the reported ammunition quantities, starting with smoothbore:

0061_Snip_Dec62_1NY_1

The only smothbores among the reporting batteries were the Napoleons of Battery D.  That battery reported 288 shot, 96 shells, 238 case, and 96 canister.

We have more rifled guns to feed. Those projectiles start with the Hotchkiss Patent listings:

0061_Snip_Dec62_1NY_2

Four batteries reporting Hotchkiss projectiles on hand:

  • Battery C: 102 canister, 40 percussion shell, 235 fuse shell, and 576 bullet shell all in 3-inch caliber.
  • Battery F: 80 canister, 80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 430 bullet shell of 3-inch.
  • Battery I: 120 canister, 290 fuse shell, and 651 bullet shell in 3-inch.
  • Battery K: 97 canister, 117 percussion shell, 118 fuse shell, and 54 bullet shell also 3-inch.

We might attach some significance to the proportionally larger numbers for “bullet shell” or what I prefer to call case shot.

One battery reported Dyer’s patent projectiles:

0062_Snip_Dec62_1NY_1

Battery H had 140 shells, 576 shrapnel (case), and 164 canister, all in 3-inch caliber.

There are a couple of entries for the Shenkl patent projectiles:

0062_Snip_Dec62_1NY_2

Battery H had 285 3-inch shells and Battery I had 116 of the same.

None of the batteries known to have Parrott rifles had a return complied.  So we are certainly missing more than a handful of pieces to the puzzle.  And I would point out that while Battery K’s data did not include any projectiles, the other pages indicate the battery had other supplies accounted for in the belated report.

Finally, the small arms:

0062_Snip_Dec62_1NY_3

By battery:

  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers, and fourteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Nineteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Seventeen Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: One Navy revolver and eight cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Army revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

In summary, and to reinforce the point made above in the battery details, we cannot take this summary as a clear, clean “snapshot” of what equipment was on hand at the specified time.  Even here for a set of Eastern Theater units, very close to Washington, we see easily recognized errors in the data.  So we are obligated to ask questions and search for answers that validate… or invalidate.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Maine’s Batteries

The next listing in the fourth quarter, 1862 summaries is Maine.  The Pine Tree State provided seven field batteries and one heavy artillery regiment for the Federal armies during the war.  The 18th Maine Infantry became the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery in early January 1863, and remained part of the Washington defenses.  That unit did not report any field artillery and thus falls outside the scope of our study.  Of the light batteries, only the first six were formed as of December 1862.  Maine numbered its batteries, although letter designations are often seen in reports and other documents.  I’ll stay with the Ordnance Department’s convention today and call the batteries by their numbers.

Counting reports for the quarter, we see the men from Maine were somewhat negligent, as only two of the field batteries provided returns.  In addition, the 9th Maine Infantry provided a return for artillery in their charge:

0051_Snip_Dec62_ME_1

Let me attempt to fill in some of the blanks here:

  • 1st Battery: No report. The battery was part of the Department of the Gulf at this time and at Thibodeauxville, Louisiana.  Later in the winter, official reports indicated the battery had four 6-pdr rifled guns and three 12-pdr howitzers.
  • 2nd Battery: At Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  The indicated date of report was December 14, 1862.  This stands at odds with official reports that have Captain James Hall’s battery in action at Fredericksburg supporting the First Corps, Army of the Potomac!
  • 3rd Battery: No report. This battery had an unconventional history.  Through the fall of 1862, the 3rd Battery served as pontooneers.  When reassigned to the Defenses of Washington, the battery was at first attached to the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery.  It is possible the mention of the 2nd Battery (above) at Camp Barry refers instead to the 3rd Battery.
  • 4th Battery: No report. This battery was detached from the Third Corps, Army of the Potomac and posted to Harpers Ferry.  Captain O’Neil Robinson’s battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • 5th Battery: No location given.  Armed with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  This battery was with the First Corps (outside Fredericksburg) in December 1862.
  • 6th Battery: No report.  The battery supported the Twelfth Corps at this time and was posted to Dumfries, Virginia.  Captain Freeman McGilvery’s battery had last reported (September) a mix of Napoleons and Ordnance Rifles.
  • 9th Infantry:  Fernandina, Florida with one 24-pdr field howitzer and one 10-pdr Parrott. The annotation indicates this was a section in Company F of the regiment.  The howitzer may have been captured from Confederate forces.

Given the scant reports recorded, we have very little in the way of projectiles on hand to deliberate on:

0053_Snip_Dec62_ME_1

The 5th Battery had 355 shot, 111 shell, 272 case, and 96 canister for its 12-pdr Napoleons. And down in Florida, the 9th Maine Infantry reported 29 shells, 48 case, and 20 canister for that big 24-pdr howitzer.

On to rifled projectiles, for the Hotchkiss patent types:

0053_Snip_Dec62_ME_2

The 2nd Battery had 20 canister and 100 fuse shells for the 3-inch rifles.

For Parrott projectiles, we go back to Florida:

0054_Snip_Dec62_ME_1

The 9th Infantry had 30 shells, 34 case, and 30 canister for its lone 10-pdr Parrott.

No other projectiles mentioned in the summary for the Maine batteries.  So on to the small arms:

0054_Snip_Dec62_ME_2

Just three lines to review:

  • 2nd Battery: 17 Army revolvers and 16 cavalry sabers.
  • 5th Battery: 16 Army revolvers and 17 cavalry sabers.
  • 9th Infantry: 74 muskets of .69-caliber, 15 Army revolvers, 15 cavalry sabers, and two horse artillery sabers.

I suspect the entry for the 9th Maine Infantry included all the small arms assigned to Company F of the regiment. I would further note that the 9th Maine would go on to serve, the following summer and fall, on Morris Island. There, as did many of the infantry units, the Maine soldiers did their turns tending the heavy siege artillery.  This is somewhat a counter-point to the point I made yesterday about artillery serving as infantry or cavalry.  In this case we see infantry pressed into service with the big cannons.

Sherman’s March, May 14-17, 1865: Passing through old battlefields and crossing the Rappahannock

The last important river barrier for the armies of Major-General William T. Sherman in their march to Alexandria, Virgina was the Rappahannock River.  To gain crossing, the armies would cross through Spotsylvania and Stafford Counties, with one column traversing Orange and Culpeper Counties.  That area of Virginia was the stage for so much of the war in the east, with numerous battles fought.  For some members of Sherman’s command, this was a return to fields contested just a couple years earlier.  For most, however, this was a chance for the “Westerners” to see where the “Easterners” had fought.

The four corps fanned out in their march north, each taking a separate line for the most part:

VAMarch_May14_17

The Right Wing used the direct route to Fredericksburg.  The Fifteenth Corps remained east of the Richmond & Potomac Railroad, generally using the Stage Road (the officers in Sherman’s command referred to this as the “Fredericksburg Road”).  Meanwhile, the Seventeenth Corps marched on the west side using the Telegraph Road.  Major-General Mortimer Leggett was in temporary command of the Seventeenth Corps, with Major-General Frank Blair at the time in Washington. Of these administrative marches, the commanders filed mundane reports of movement.  Typical was that of Major-General William B. Hazen, commanding Second Division, Fifteenth Corps, for May 16, 1865:

I have the honor to report that this division broke camp at 7 a.m., moving in the center of the column, the First Division being in advance and the Fourth Division in the rear, and went into camp about five miles from Fredericksburg at 4:30 p.m., having made a distance of twenty-two miles.

Yes, somewhat more distance than Sherman had preferred.  But the march was made over terrain familiar to military movements and where roads were well prepared.  While Hazen camped outside Fredericksburg that evening, Major-General Charles Woods’ First Division held a camp on the north bank of the Rappahannock River.   I believe the camp location used by Woods’ men was in proximity to the “Slaughter Pen” of the December 1862 battlefield.  But the records I have defy exact positioning.

The following day, Major-General John Logan officially assumed command of the Right Wing.  The Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps crossed the Rappahannock using a pontoon bridge left by the Army of the Potomac at Franklin’s Crossing… yet another place name harkening back three years.  But only wagon traffic delayed the progress of the men as the Army of the Tennessee bounded the Rappahannock with relative ease, compared to crossings by Federal forces earlier in the war.

The Left Wing had a wider line of march.  To avoid congesting the roads through the Wilderness, the Fourteenth Corps took a route through Orange County to Raccoon Ford and thence into Culpeper County.  This route took the Fourteenth Corps, under Major-General Jefferson C. Davis, through one of the most heavily contested areas of the Civil War.  But the soldiers were not sight-seeing.  For them, a camp outside Stevensburg on May 15 was just one of over a hundred camps they made during the long war.   But it was the last made during the war in Culpeper County…  which had also seen hundreds of such camps.

The following morning, the troops marched north to Kelly’s Ford to cross the Rappahannock.  Again, lost on the soldiers on the march was the significance of that point on the map.  Armies had fought over and crossed that ford repeatedly over the four previous years.  The Fourteenth Corps was the last military command to splash through.  Just another river crossing for the soldiers, but a significant mark in the passing of the war.  The corps continued its march through places named Bristoe Station, Manassas Junction, Centreville, and Fairfax Court-house.  All of which were simply waymarks of the march home for these men.

Either by design or by serendipity, the men of the Twentieth Corps – formerly the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps – marched through Spotsylvania.  Major-General Alpheus Williams, commanding First Division, Twentieth Corps, recorded the progress:

May 14, the division having the advance marched, the same hour as yesterday, crossed the North Anna on pontoon bridge, and took a circuitous route toward Spotsylvania Court-House.  The Mat, Ta, and Po, and several other smaller creeks were crossed during the day’s march; encamped south of Spotsylvania Court-House after a march of sixteen miles.  Many officers and men embraced the opportunity to visit the famous battle-fields in this vicinity.

Yes, the Twentieth Corps’ men had reason, by connection, to be sight-seeing.  The next day’s march traversed Chancellorsville. Williams, who’d commanded a division of Twelfth Corps during the fighting there in May 1863, noted more “sight-seeing.”

May 15, the division moved out at 5 a.m. toward Chancellorsville.  The route was a portion of the section known as the Wilderness.  At Chancellorsville the division was halted for three hours upon the battle-ground to enable the officers and men of the division to visit the scenes of that memorable contest in which most of the regiments took part.  The division encamped for the night at United States Ford; marched fifteen miles.

Sherman himself traveled over to visit the Twentieth Corps that day, with Major-General Henry Slocum providing some orientation.

The next day, the Twentieth Corps crossed the Rappahannock at United States Ford… in different circumstances from the last time those men had crossed at that point.  The remainder of the march toward Alexandria took the Twentieth Corps through places such as Hartwood Church, Brentsville, and Fairfax Station. In more ways than one, the Twentieth Corps was going home.

On May 19 the Armies of the Tennessee and Georgia reached their designated camps outside Alexandria.  There, near the banks of the Potomac, the Great March which had started in Atlanta came to its last pause.  The last short march required of these soldiers was a Grand Review in the nation’s capital – a formal closure to the march… and the war.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, page 605; Part III, Serial 100, page 509.)

Elevating Gear for your 30-pdr Parrott

I’ve used this photo a few times now. It is a 30-pdr Parrott rifle at Lee’s Hill at Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 051
30-pdr Parrott, registry #341, on Lee’s Hill at Fredericksburg

The carriage is a metal reproduction, replacing a wooden carriage which had badly deteriorated (and left the 4200 pound gun in an unsafe condition). The carriage is a close copy of a siege carriage. You see the rest or cradle on the stock and the traveling trunnions on the cheeks, which were used to situate the gun to the rear of the carriage while on the move. Notice also the carriage lacks the loop at the base of the trail, seen on the smaller field gun carriages. But there’s another fine point of detail to note about this carriage mounting.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 056
Side view of the Parrott showing the elevating screw and gear

This Parrott carriage lacks the standard elevating screw and four handled head that is seen on most reproductions. Instead there is a long threaded screw, offset to the left, and a single crank.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 052
Elevating gear on 30pdr Parrott

Notice how the screw is fixed with a single bolt to an eye on the carriage trail (bottom of this view). The single arm and handle at the top of the screw provides clearance for the gunner. The screw rotates through a brass nut. That nut has a pin fitting directly into a piercing within the knob of the gun.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 053
Right side of Parrott Breech

Very simple in concept. Turn the elevating screw and the travel of the nut will impart elevation on the gun. The Navy and Army used elevating screws of this type on heavy guns. A good example of such wartime use is this photo from the Washington defenses.

The Parrot rifle on the left has the single handle elevating gear offset to the left.

Just a fine detail point to consider on your next visit to Fredericksburg. My contribution to the “how did it work” file for the day.

Fredericksburg Battlefield by Cannons

As I’ve done thus far throughout the sesquicentennial, allow me to offer a “tour” of the Fredericksburg battlefield’s cannons.

Fredericksburg battlefield features a small, but varied, set of guns. The largest are four 32-pdr seacoast guns in the National Cemetery, serving as memorials. As for those in the “field” there are two impressive 4.5-inch Rifles at Chatham.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 201

Being on Chatham Heights, a visitor can take license and say they represent the guns that bombarded the city during the battle. But these are the type seen in wartime photos entrenched upon the heights in 1863.

In a position to “duel” with these are two 30-pdr Parrotts on the other side of the Rappanannock.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 056

In between are 3-inch Ordnance, 3-inch Confederate, 12-pdr Confederate Napoleons, and several James Rifles. I’ve included an iron 6-pdr gun located downtown. Although it is not setup on a battlefield display, it is on the battlefield… as is this fellow…

Fredericksburg 19 Feb 11 002

… that I must leave off the list.

It’s all about the foundry numbers: 30-pdr Tredegar Parrotts at Fredericksburg

In a post last month discussing weapons shipped to Vicksburg, I closed off with a photo of this big 30-pdr Parrott at Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 051
30pdr Parrott on Lee’s Hill, Fredericksburg

The gun is a 30-pdr Parrott of Federal vintage used as a “stand in” representing weapons of the same caliber, but produced for the Confederacy by the Tredegar Iron Works. Ells’s Georgia Battery manned two such Confederate 30-pdrs during the battle of Fredericksburg. There are only three known surviving Confederate 30-pdrs. So this is a necessary and acceptable substitute.

The story of those Confederate Parrotts is well known. In Ironmaker to the Confederacy, Charles Dew summarized the story from the perspective of the guns:

The Army of Northern Virginia received a few Parrott rifles in time to answer the mighty Union cannonade that descended on Fredericksburg in mid-December. For two months prior to the battle, ordnance officers had been urging Anderson and Company to speed up delivery of these powerful rifles. Four 20-pounder Parrotts were turned over to the Ordnance Department in October and two 30-pounders were completed late in November. Lee ordered the 30-pounders to the front immediately. On the evening of November 28, thirty Tredegar slaves labored for almost five hours … loading the two cannon on a special train and filling two box cars with ammunition. The guns arrived at Fredericksburg the next day, were tested, and put into previously prepared emplacements on Marye’s Heights. When Union troops attempted to storm the naturally strong Confederate position on December 13, the two Parrotts went into action. Confederate artillerists used the heavy guns with devastating effect on the assaulting Federals for several hours, but both guns burst during the battle, one on the thirty-ninth round, the other on the fifty-fourth. Lee, Longstreet, and other high officers were standing near one of the cannon when it exploded, but miraculously all escaped injury.1

The story matches well to the notion that the Army of Northern Virginia was making a desperate stand against an overwhelming enemy force. On face, it sounds plausible. But were the Confederates so hard pressed as to ship untested guns to the front?

To start with, Tredegar began producing 30-pdr Parrotts well before November. Here’s a summary of foundry numbers and casting dates based on the “Foundry Book” entries for entries in 1862:

  • No. 1631 – July 26
  • No. 1637 – July 26
  • No. 1645 – August 13
  • No. 1649 – August 19
  • No. 1662 – August 27
  • No 1673 – October 11
  • No. 1690 – November 12
  • No. 1698 – November 252

At first glance, yes, there were two of the big Parrotts produced in November of that year. So would those be the two guns in question? Maybe not.

Well first bit of documentation to consider is the hauling tally sheet mentioned in the previous post3:
Page 636b

This, as cited by Dew, leaves no doubt when two guns were loaded and shipped to Fredericksburg. But there are no foundry numbers recorded.

The next document to consider is a listing of guns received by the Ordnance Department in December 1862. Leading the list is a set of entries for December 3:

Page 670a

Clearly annotated is “4.2 rifled gun 30pdr No. 1690”. But not only is the date incorrect, but also the recorded destination. The gun was among a shipment bound for General Theophilus H. Holmes, Little Rock, Arkansas. (And yes, remarkably Tredegar gave away a water bucket at “no charge.” Wonders never cease!)

But… there’s a discrepancy. The same foundry number shows up again on a list of weapons received in February 1863.

Page 699b

Um…. did Tredegar sell the same gun twice? Or was there a duplicate foundry number issued? Is this a single digit transcription error, where #1698 was supposed to show? Your guess is as good as mine. The Tredegar Gun Book is known to have errors with respect to foundry numbers. So it’s certainly possible to see transcription errors for the receipts. Regardless these two documents rule out #1690 as one of the Fredericksburg guns.

Looking further at the tally sheet for February 1863 deliveries, one of the other 30-pdrs shows up on the list:

Page 699a

So #1662, cast in August, was not delivered until February, sent to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Another of the Tredegar 30-pdrs, #1645 also cast in August, shows up on a receipt for guns received in January 1863…. January 9 to be exact.

Page 656a

So of the eight Tredegar 30-pdrs produced between July and November 1862, at least three (maybe four) are accounted as delivered after the battle of Fredericksburg. Those three include at least one of the two November guns. The other two guns, delivered in 1863, were cast the previous summer.

It is possible that #1698 was cast on November 25, 1862, then three days later loaded onto the rail car. But how likely is that occurrence with at least two 30-pdrs cast in August, if not more, still at Tredegar? Or is it more likely that the two Fredericksburg guns were actually two from castings prior to November? If Tredegar was setting on cannons, maybe ordnance officers had good reason to urge delivery. That of course leads to the next logical question – why would Tredegar delay deliveries?

Regardless of the exact manufacture date, the guns almost struck a blow worse than the Stockton Gun. Throughout the war, Confederate manufactured (or modified) cannons exhibited a nasty failure rate. A burst Tredegar gun nearly killed General Leonidas Polk at Columbus, Kentucky in 1861. A burst gun, a modified 32-pdr, played a significant role in the fall of Fort Henry. And that 30-pdr at Fredericksburg nearly changed the course of the war in the east.

——————————————————————–

NOTES:

  1. Charles B. Dew, Ironmaker to the Confederacy: Joseph R. Anderson and the Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1999, page 187
  2. “Table of Cannon Cast at J.R. Anderson & Company,” Larry Daniel and Riley Gunter, Confederate Cannon Foundries, Union City, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1977, pages 98-99.
  3. The sections of the receipts and tally sheets are from the Tredegar Folder, “Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65,” Record Group 109, NARA.

150 years ago: The Guns of December

So December is here.  For us 21st century-folks, our focus might be on gift lists and scheduling of festive events.  Of course just over a figurative hill are wars, in some cases held by cease fires.  We don’t see much in the way of major battles.  But that’s the nature of counter-insurgency, one might argue with respect to Afghanistan.

That was not the case in 1862.  News of battle after battle came nearly every day.  This was in the face of contemporary military wisdom that armies should “go into quarters” at the onset of winter.  Yet, there were several active campaigns resulting in important (if not major) battles:

  • Prairie Grove – December 7
  • Fredericksburg – December 11-15
  • Foster’s Raid (North Carolina) – December 13-20
  • Chickasaw Bayou – December 26-29
  • Stones River – December 31 – January 2

Taken in isolation, this activity might not be so noteworthy. Just another month in a major war.

But the activity in December happened after a very, very active late summer and early fall season.   Two major Confederate invasions, not to mention several smaller campaigns, drained the resources of both armies.  Again, under conventional military wisdom, following a major campaign armies would rest, recuperate, resupply, reorganize, and rest.  And yes, the respective armies on both sides did just that.  But in compressed cycles.  Sixty days after the invasions fizzled out, the respective armies lined up for another round of battles.

Reviewing the list of campaign activity, the odd one of the set is Prairie Grove – being the result of a Confederate offensive move.  At the theater level at least.  The others were result of Federal offensives from Virginia to Mississippi.  And even Prairie Grove, one might argue, was a function of the aggressive Federal stance.  By holding the northwest corner of Arkansas, the strategic flanks of forces operating along the Mississippi were more secure.

New commanders – Burnsides, Rosecrans, and Banks – with offensive oriented orders.  Existing commanders likewise given orders to press the Confederates.  Activity across one thousand miles from the Chesapeake to the tributaries of the Arkansas River (if I said Illinois River, folks would be confused).

What objective would prompt political leadership to issue such orders?  Think about it.