Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – 5th Regiment, US Regulars

At the start of July, Colonel (Brevet Brigadier-General) Harvey Brown commanded the regiment.  An 1818 graduate of West Point, Brown served in the Black Hawk, Seminole, and Mexican American Wars.  At the start of the Civil War, he turned down a volunteers commission with a star, opting instead for the colonelcy of the newly formed 5th US Artillery.

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Success at Santa Rosa Island, Florida, defending Fort Pickens, in October 1861 earned Brown a brevet to Brigadier-General and duty commanding the defenses of New York.  And in July, Brown led troops suppressing the New York Draft Riots.  But at the start of August, Brown came up on the retirement list.  Though his retirement date was August 1, Cullum’s Register indicates Brown was “awaiting orders” and “was retained until the close of the war in the command of Ft. Schuyler, and on other duties.”

For ten days (August 1 through 10), Lieutenant-Colonel George Nauman held temporary command.  Colonel Henry S. Burton was formally named to command the 5th on August 11, thus completing the transition.

Despite this change of command, for the third quarter of 1863, the 5th US Artillery offered a laudably complete set of returns, as reflected in the summaries:

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An entry for every battery.  And a line for the adjutant to boot!

  • Battery A: At Portsmouth, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant James Gilliss’ battery remained with Getty’s Division, in the Department of Virginia and North Carolina.
  • Battery B:  Reporting at Martinsburg, West Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Under Lieutenant Henry A. Du Pont, the battery was rushed to the Department of the Susquehanna during the Gettysburg Campaign. As the campaign closed, the battery remained as unassigned artillery in the Department of West Virginia.
  • Battery C: At New York City, with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Though still allocated to the 1st Brigade of the Artillery Reserve, the battery was detached to New York after Gettysburg.  Lieutenant Gulian V. Weir remained in command of this battery, though Captain Dunbar R. Ransom accompanied to command all artillery dispatched to quell the Draft Riot.  By the end of September, the battery was at Camp Barry, Washington, D.C.  Later in the fall, the battery rejoined the Army of the Potomac with Lieutenant Richard Metcalf in command (with Wier going to Battery L).
  • Battery D: Reporting from Culpeper, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Lieutenant Benjamin F. Rittenhouse remained at the post he assumed on July 2, after Lieutenant Charles Hazlett’s death at Little Round Top. The battery supported Fifth Corps.
  • Battery E: At Chambersburg, Pennsylvania with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant James W. Piper was in command.  Dispatched in June to Pennsylvania, the battery remained in the Department of the Susquehanna.
  • Battery F: At Warrenton, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Lieutenant Leonard Martin remained in command this battery.  The battery was assigned to Sixth Corps.
  • Battery G: Port Hudson, Louisiana with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant  Jacob B. Rawles remained in command of this Nineteenth Corps battery.
  • Battery H: At Chattanooga, Tennessee with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  This was “flip” from the previous quarter, but an accurate adjustment of the records.  Captain George A. Kensel became artillery cheif for First Division, Fourteenth Corps.  In his place Lieutenant Howard M. Burnham commanded.  Burnham was killed when the battery was overrun on September 19.  Lieutenant Joshua A. Fessenden stood in his place. At Chickamauga, the battery lost two officers, 25 men, battery wagon, forge, and all their caissons.  Refitting in Chattanooga, the battery had sufficient limbers and caissons for the Napoleons, but only enough limbers for one Parrott.
  • Battery I: Reporting at Camp Marshall, D.C. with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.    Lieutenant Charles C. MacConnell remained in command of this battery, which was transferred from the Army of the Potomac for refitting and replacements.  Most references indicate the battery was assigned to Camp Barry.  And at least for a month Battery I was combined with Battery L for training.  In November, the battery was combined with Battery C.
  • Battery K: At Chattanooga, Tennessee with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant David H. Kinzie, remained in command.  The battery transferred, with the rest of the Twelfth Corps, from Virginia to Tennessee in October.
  • Battery L: Also reporting at Camp Marshall, D.C., though Camp Barry is listed on returns, and with two 6-pdr field guns. Lieutenant Edmund D. Spooner’s battery recovering from the disaster of Winchester, earlier in June.  Spooner would soon head west to take command of Battery H at Chattanooga. (Wier of Battery C transferred over to Battery L.)
  • Battery M: At Stonehouse Mountain, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain James McKnight’s battery transferred from Yorktown to the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, in late July 1863.  I like this placename, as it prompts me to search through correspondence with Bud Hall.  Stone House Mountain (note the space) appears on Captain William H. Paine’s excellent map of the Culpeper area.  It is  close to Griffinsburg, west of Culpeper Courthouse.
  • Adjutant: Reported from Fort Hamilton, were the headquarters was located.  I’d like to put a name to this line.  Lieutenant Henry A. Dupont had been the regimental adjutant up until July, when he took command of Battery B.  However, Heitman’s Register indicates he was still officially the adjutant.  Lieutenant Thomson P. McElrath was the regimental quartermaster, and also appeared on correspondence from August and September 1863 as adjutant.

Overall, these are the cleanest set of administrative details and reported cannon from any regimental summary thus far.

The smoothbore ammunition table is, as we would expect, full:

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Seven batteries reporting:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 192 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C: 61 shot and 112 case for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery E: 192 shot, 64 shell, 192 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery G: 290 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 11(?) canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H: 142(?) shot, 64 shell, 171(?) case, and 100 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery L: 96 shot, 56 case, and 48 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery M: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Only two batteries with 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  So not many Hotchkiss lines to account for:

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  • Battery B:  209 canister, 296 percussion shell, and 164 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery I: 50 canister for 3-inch rifles.

For the next page, we can focus down on the Parrott columns:

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Three batteries reporting quantities:

  • Battery D: 193 shell, 360 case, and 160 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery F: 480 shell, 480 case, and 144 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery H:  54 shot, 240 shell, and 94 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

The last page of rifled projectiles has Schenkl types:

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We see a mix of 3-inch and 10-pdr calibers… which differed by a tenth of an inch:

  • Battery B: 221(?) shell and 513 case for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery D: 599 shell for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery F: 120 shell for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery I: 318 case for 3-inch rifles.

With ammunition out of the way, we move to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery A: Twenty-seven Army revolvers and sixty-four horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Fourteen Army revolvers and 135 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: Three Army revolvers, one Navy revolver, and nineteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Thirteen Navy revolvers, fourteen cavalry sabers, and thirty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Twelve Army revolvers and 107 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Nineteen Army revolvers and twenty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Twenty-one (?) horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and thirty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery I: Nine Army revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: Fifty-two Army revolvers and sixteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: Nothing….. for the second straight quarter.
  • Battery M: Twenty-four Navy revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Adjutant: Twenty-seven horse artillery sabers.

In addition, the adjutant reported six nose bags, twenty-seven saber belts, eight bridles, five currycombs, six girths, six halters, five horse brushes, five lariats, four picket pins, six Model 1859 pattern saddles, six sweat-leathers, two surcingles, six artillery-type saddle blankets, six sets of spurs, and six screw-drivers.  And as mentioned above, Lieutenant P. McElrath was likely the officer accounting for those items – either as the adjutant or the quartermaster.  And once again…. all government property was accounted for.

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Anatomy of an Ordnance Return: Battery B, 5th US Artillery, December 1863

A common line of inquiry I receive is in regard to identifying the history of a specific artillery piece.  As we can often read the registry number, along with manufacture and inspection details, there is a tantalizing lead to start with.  It’s the paper trail for what happened after that origin that we need.  And unfortunately, that’s where the trail usually goes cold.

We find, from time to time, registry numbers or other identification information in official reports, letters, or diaries.  For instance, a report of weapons captured at Reams Station leads us to a handful of survivors of that action.  But that is generally the exception and not the rule.  The most important piece of the paper trail that we look for, and is most often missing, would be the ordnance returns from a specific battery.

You might ask… what is an ordnance return?  Well, the Army’s Ordnance Department, being a bureaucracy which needed paperwork to survive, required all batteries to submit a periodic report (quarterly in most cases) that detailed all equipment on hand.  Kidding about the bureaucracy aside, these served a valuable purpose – providing raw data from the field that the ordnance officers could use to determine the durability and other properties of the procured materials.  And one of those data points that the officers considered was the durability of the cannons.  The tracked the number of rounds fired from each cannon, by registry number.  That, by itself, makes the returns useful for those inquiring about a specific weapon’s history.

But there’s more to the return than just a registry number and rounds fired.  Let me walk through an example.  I’ll pull up some snips from an ordnance returned filed on December 31, 1863 for Battery B, 5th US Artillery.  I cannot recall who sent this return my way.  But of the several I’ve collected over the years, it is the best to present the form.   And it was written by 1st Lieutenant Henry A. duPont, making it a nice bit of history by itself.

Let’s start with the header.  The return started as a circular sent out from Washington.  The header in this case briefly lays out the purpose for the return:

B 5th US_1

You see this particular circular went out under the authority of Brigadier-General George Ramsay, Chief of Ordnance at the time.  And as seen in the last line, Ramsay pressed the need for “full, accurate, and reliable” returns.

In the next section, the battery commander provided his unit information:

B 5th US_2

As this does not have a date received in Washington, this might be a copy that duPont retained for his records.

The next section is the “cool” part for those looking for cannon histories:

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So Battery B had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at this time in the war.  All were from early production lots – 1861 and 1862.  And the registry numbers – 36, 158, 278, 309, 362, and 381.  For those looking, #36 is at Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania.  #158 is now part of a gate at Fort Washington, Maryland.  And #381 is at Gettysburg.  I should post some pictures of these… but I’m being lazy… .

But beyond the registry numbers, take note of the number of rounds fired.  DuPont must have taken care to “balance” his activities between the guns.  Keep in mind what sort of activity that Battery B saw in the last three months of 1863.  They were posted in the Department of West Virginia.  So not as much campaigning and action as, say, their fellow 5th regiment batteries attached to the Army of the Potomac.

That section also had a set of questions about the vents:

B 5th US_4

As mentioned a time or two here on this blog, vent erosion was one of the durability constraints with Civil War artillery.  And the last inquiry invited the Lieutenant’s opinion about the guns.  Favorable, as one might imagine.  I would point out that this was a return from one battery, reflecting one officer’s opinion.  And, one would hope, also the opinion of the other battery officers.  While it is tempting to take some comments from this return and apply across the board, keep in mind (particularly for the later sections) we are seeing opinions from just a few.

What did the guns set upon?  Carriages, which received their own table:

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And what pulled those carriages?  Caissons:

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We know, based on this information, who produced the rolling stock, where it was issued, and who was the issuing officer.

The return continued with general questions about the other rolling stock supplied to the battery:

B 5th US_7

Notice the focus of the questions here are towards the durability of the wagons.

Leaving the “wheeled” equipment, the return asked about ammunition:

B 5th US_8

Again, my intent here today is not to revel in the wealth of details, but rather demonstrate the format of the return.  But by all means, these are worth reading.  And again, remember that du Pont is reporting his personal experiences with the shells and fuses in this particular time frame for the return.  Very likely a large portion of the shells fired were during live fire drills.

This section also asked questions about the friction primers, powder, and ammunition chests:

B 5th US_9

I think it is important to consider the source of the primers and powder – particularly if any defects are noted.  None are mentioned here.

The last sections of the return asked about implements, harnesses, and tarpaulins:

B 5th US_10

A lot more questions about the harnesses than anything else.  I would submit that is because harnesses were vital for mobility of a field battery, yet the most likely item to wear out.  And these questions were scoped to find out about durability.

The last question in the return asked “have you lost any guns?”

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du Pont had not, and signed his return.

There are several variations I’ve seen for ordnance returns, but this is a typical format.  There was a different format for batteries assigned to fixed fortifications.  Obviously the lack of rolling stock and horses changed the questions.

Ordnance returns were one of those “necessary evil” forms that had to be completed.  Otherwise the guys in Washington didn’t know if the items they were procuring were sufficient for the rigors of the field.  The ordnance return was a common chore for all battery commanders during the war.  So there were hundreds of these filed during the war.

But, perhaps because these were so common and deemed routine most of the returns were discarded after they were compiled.  Every time I do research in the Ordnance papers in the National Archives,  there is some hope that the “long lost stash of returns” will be found in some forgotten section.

In the mean time, my focus has been on a product the ordnance officers complied from these ordnance returns.  That would be a roll-up of materials showing all items assigned to a specific battery.  Sort of a large spreadsheet indicating how many cannons, carriages, caissons, and… even buckles and screws, by battery.

A few years back, my friend Bret Schulte passed along a digital copy of the microfilm of those from the National Archives, so I’ve been able to browse those sections without having to make the drip to downtown DC.  I’ve found it useful to confirm what batteries had which types of guns at particular points in time.  Although, I would still point out that a lot of data is missing from those compilations.  And the long, wide sheet format is difficult to follow. Still, it is useful for what it does offer.  Seeing that useful information is a good thing to share, I’m going to package up some of that data – particularly the cannons reported by battery – for posting here on the blog.