Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Heavy Artillery

Let me give the heavy artillery batteries, battalions, and regiments their due for this quarter of the summary.  While looking at each of the state sections, we’ve mentioned a few of these batteries.  But not the whole.  The omission, by those at the Ordnance Department, was mostly due to bureaucratic definitions than any overt action.

Briefly, the summary statements we are reviewing here are focused only on ordnance rated as “field artillery.” A further qualification is that only units assigned roles to use field artillery (as in for use as “mobile” artillery) are included.  So, IF a field howitzer was assigned to a fort’s garrison, AND that howitzer was considered part of the fort’s armament, and not part of the garrisoning unit’s property, THEN it was accounted for in a different set of sheets for accounting.  Such means a great number of field artillery pieces, not to mention the siege, garrison, and seacoast artillery, escapes mention in these summaries.  And we don’t have, to my knowledge, a full record for those anywhere in the surviving documents.  However, I would point out that in 1864 the Ordnance Department began using a common form to account for field, siege, garrison, and seacoast artillery.

But for the second quarter of 1863, that accounting is lacking in the known records.  We do have a handful of “heavies” that were assigned roles which required mobile artillery.  And those were mentioned as we proceeded through the summary.  For sake of completeness, let me list all the heavy units in service as of June 1863 and match those to summary lines where mentioned.  Keep in mind the varied service of these formations.  Traditionally, these were assigned to garrison fortifications.  But wartime contingencies would see the “heavies” employed as infantry or even cavalry were needed.  And those needs would evolve as the war continued.

By unit, ordered by state (these are regiments unless otherwise noted):

  • 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery:  As mentioned earlier, Batteries B and M served with the Army of the Potomac, in 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve.  They, and their 4.5-inch rifles, were left behind and missed Gettysburg (though were active in the pursuit which followed).  The remainder of Colonel Henry L. Abbot’s regiment served in Third Brigade of the Defenses South of the Potomac (DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps), defending Washington, D.C.  Regimental headquarters were at Fort Richardson.
  • 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery: Serving at this time as the 19th Connecticut Infantry (designation would change in November 1863) under Lieutenant Colonel Elisha S. Kellogg, and assigned to Second Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps.  Companies B, F, and G manned Fort Ellsworth; Company A assigned to Redoubt A (in that sector); Company D to Redoubt B; Companies C and K to Redoubt C; and Companies E, H, and I were in Redoubt D.
  • 1st Indiana Heavy Artillery: Assigned to the Department of the Gulf, the regiment was in First Division, Nineteenth Corps (having converted from the 21st Indiana Infantry earlier in the year).  We discussed Batteries A and E and their work at Port Hudson.  Colonel John A. Keith commanded, with detachments at Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
  • 1st Maine Heavy Artillery: Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps under Colonel Daniel Chaplin.  Batteries assigned mostly to the defenses on the west side of Washington, and along the Potomac.
  • 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery: Assigned to First Brigade of the Defenses South of the Potomac – DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps.  Colonel Thomas R. Tannatt commanded the regiment, and also commanded the brigade.
  • 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery:  Authorized in May 1863, this regiment, under Colonel Jones Frankle, would not complete formation until later in the fall.
  • 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Battalion: This battalion was formed with four previously independent batteries and served primarily at Fort Warren, Boston harbor.  The four companies were originally the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th unassigned heavy companies (becoming Companies A, B, C, and D respectively).  Major Stephen Cabot commanded this consolidated battalion.  In addition the 3rd and 6th unassigned companies also appear in the list of garrison troops around Boston.
  • 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery: This regiment, commanded by Colonel George A. Wainwright, would not officially form until later in July.
  • 2nd New York Heavy Artillery:  We discussed Colonel Joseph N. G. Whistler’s regiment while covering a lone entry for Battery L (which later became the 34th New York Independent Battery).  The 2nd New York Heavy was assigned to First Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, South of the Potomac.
  • 4th New York Heavy Artillery:  Under Colonel Henry H. Hall, this regiment formed the Fourth Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, Defenses South of the Potomac.  Detachments manned Fort Marcy and Fort Ethan Allen.
  • 5th New York Heavy Artillery:  Assigned to the defenses of Baltimore, Maryland, as part of the Middle Department.  Commanded by Colonel Samuel Graham, but with Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Murray in charge of two battalions then at Baltimore.  Another battalion, under Major Gustavus F. Merriam, appears on the returns for First Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, South of the Potomac.
  • 6th New York Heavy Artillery:  Assigned to the First Division, Eighth Corps.  Colonel J. Howard Kitching commanded.  The regiment was part of the Harpers Ferry garrison before the Gettysburg Campaign, and soon brought into the Army of the Potomac.
  • 7th New York Heavy Artillery: Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps under Colonel Lewis O. Morris (who also commanded the brigade).
  • 8th New York Heavy Artillery: Under Colonel Peter A. Porter, this regiment had garrison duty at Forts Federal Hill, Marshall, and McHenry around Baltimore, as part of Eighth Corps, Middle Department.  On July 10, the regiment moved forward to Harpers Ferry, staying there until August 3.
  • 9th New York Heavy Artillery: Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps under Colonel Joseph Welling.
  • 10th New York Heavy Artillery: This regiment was all of the Third Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-Second Corps.  Commanded by Colonel Alexander Piper.  One battalion (four companies) moved from the defenses of New York to Washington in June, joining the rest of the regiment. Their service was mostly on the southeast side of the perimeter around the Anacostia.
  • 11th New York Heavy Artillery:  We discussed their saga in an earlier post.  Colonel William B. Barnes’ regiment was still forming when thrust into the Gettysburg Campaign.
  • 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th New York Heavy Artillery:  These regiments were all authorized by the spring of 1863, but in various states of organization at the end of June.
  • 3rd New York Heavy Artillery Battalion: Also known as the German Heavy Artillery.  Under Lieutenant-Colonel Adam Senges, and assigned to Second Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-Second Corps, on the south side of the Potomac.  This battalion was, later in the year, consolidated into the 15th New York Heavy Artillery, and came under Colonel Louis Schirmer.  For some reason, Schirmer’s name is associated with the command as early as June 1863.
  • 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery: Lieutenant-Colonel Chauncey G. Hawley’s command garrisoned Covington, Kentucky as part of Twenty-third Corps, Department of Ohio.
  • 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery:  (the 112th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.) Under Colonel Augustus A. Gibson and assigned to First Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac.  Regimental headquarters at Fort Lincoln.
  • 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery: We discussed Battery H and their “impressed” service at Gettysburg. While that battery was on detached service (Baltimore, then pushed out to guard the railroad), the remainder of the regiment served out of Fort Monroe providing detachments for garrisons in the Department of Virginia. Colonel Joseph Roberts commanded.
  • 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery: We looked at this regiment, assigned to the Department of the South, in detail earlier.  Colonel Edwin Metcalf commanded the regiment
  • 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery:  Colonel George W. Tew commanded this regiment, serving in North Carolina, and being reorganized from an infantry formation.
  • 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery:  Colonel James M. Warner commanded this regiment, assigned to First Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Twenty-second Corps.  Batteries garrisoned Forts Totten, Massachusetts, Stevens, Slocum, and others.
  • 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery:  Only Battery A of this regiment was mustered as of the end of June 1863. Captain Andrew J. Langworthy’s battery was assigned to the defenses of Alexandria, within DeRussy’s Division, Twenty-second Corps.
  • 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent): I mentioned this regiment briefly at the bottom of the Tennessee section. Colonel Ignatz G. Kappner commanded this regiment, at the time more of battalion strength, garrisoning Fort Pickering in Memphis. The regiment later became the 3rd US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery.
  • 2nd Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent): Also mentioned in the Tennessee section, this regiment, under Colonel Charles H. Adams, was forming up in June 1863.  The regiment would later be designated the 4th US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery.
  • 1st Alabama Siege Artillery (African Descent): Organized from the contraband camps around LaGrange, LaFayette, and Memphis, Tennessee starting on June 20, 1863. Captain Lionel F. Booth appears to be the ranking officer in the regiment in those early months.  The regiment would later be designated the 6th US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery, and then later the 11th USCT Infantry.
  • 1st Louisiana Heavy Artillery (African Descent):  Later in the year designated the 1st Corps de Afrique Heavy Artillery.  And still later in the war becoming the 10th US Colored Heavy Artillery.  And at times, the regiment appears on the rolls as the 1st Louisiana Native Guards Artillery (a name also associated with another USCT formation).  This regiment served throughout the war in the defenses of New Orleans, in the Department of the Gulf.

Yes, a lengthy post.  But this summarizes the status of over thirty regiments.  As you might deduce from reading the entries, the service of the “heavies” was weighted to the defenses of Washington, D.C.  However, the “heavies” also garrisoned places such as Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, and other remote points.

Some other trends one might note – a good number of these regiments formed in the spring and summer of 1863.  We can, in some cases, link that to the draft and those seeking light service.  But at the same time, let us not “Shelby Foote” our way through these units.  At the time of mustering, the Army wanted troops for garrison defense.  And that was a valid requirement, given the posture at the time.

Lastly, it is important to also frame the context of the four USCT regiments listed above.  These were largely formed out of contraband camps.  And their duties were, for the most part, to provide garrison troops that would free up the white volunteers for service in the field.  But, as the course of events played out, one of those regiments would defend Fort Pillow in April 1864.

So much for easy duty in those heavy regiments!

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“I decidedly prefer the rope mantlets.”: Hunt and Abbot prepare for a siege

Yesterday, I made short reference to Colonel Henry L. Abbot’s suggestion to Brigadier-General Henry Hunt in regard to mantlets for the siege train at Petersburg.  To properly set this part of the story, let me step back to June 14, 1864 and a response from Major-General Delafield, the Army’s Chief Engineer (“Army” as in “all the Army” sense), to Brigadier-General John G. Barnard, Chief Engineer, Army of the Potomac.  The correspondence involved materials forwarded from Washington to Fort Monroe.  And one of the items discussed was mantlets:

Some further information is desired as to the armament for which these mantlets are intended. They were originally adopted for embrasures cut down into a parapet to suit guns mounted on ship truck carriages, which left a large opening to be covered over the gun. Now, in our siege batteries from the top of the 32-pounder, when in battery, to the crest of the parapet is only one foot nine inches to be covered by the mantlet, and with the siege 4½-inch ordnance gun, one foot four inches. This small space over the gun closed by rope gives but very little strength, in addition to which the rope is not musket or rifle proof at 200 yards. These considerations induced me to send you at Yorktown in 1862 wood and boiler-iron mantlets, with a box of chisels to cut the iron to suit your guns. A part of these old ones have lately been found by Stewart at Suffolk and sent forward; that may suffice for some fifty or sixty guns, giving me time to learn your wishes in regard to others to be forwarded and to learn the size of the guns. If made of rope you cannot alter them to suit guns of different exterior diameters, but it made of wood and iron you can enlarge the opening at pleasure. The splinters from the wood and iron are objectionable produced by artillery. During such a fire they would probably be withdrawn and used to guard against infantry fire only. While the rope would not give splinters, yet at the same time would not be proof against the rifle musket-balls. Advise me from Old Point by telegram; say “rope” or “iron and wood” and I will understand you. Also give diameters of guns, exterior.

To answer this question, Barnard turned to Hunt.  And Hunt consulted Abbot.

First off, you might ask what are mantlets?  Well let us start with what an embrasure is – “an opening made in the parapet for a gun to fire through.”

embrasure

The definition and illustration come from John Tidball’s 1891 Manual of Heavy Artillery.  Looking at Figure 4 – the right side and upper center – we see the cut through the parapet allowing the muzzle of the cannon an unobstructed line to fire out.  And we see Tidball offered views of direct, oblique, and high angle embrasures.  But, there are two tactical problems here.  First is maintenance.  The force and shock of firing would in time erode and enlarge the opening.  Since the embrasure faced the enemy, simply spading more dirt into place was not practical.  So common practice was to place raw-hide, gabions, or other reinforcement around the embrasure.  Tidball preferred iron plates to form a lining of the embrasure, as depicted in Figure 5 (to the left).

But that leaves us with the other problem – if the gun could fire out, the enemy could fire in!  In Figure 5, Tidball demonstrated the use of an iron plate as a mantlet, which he defined as “a shield placed over the mouth of an embrasure to prevent musketry bullets and fragments of shells from flying through and injuring those serving the piece.” (And recall the batteries on Morris Island used similar iron linings and mantlets, formed from the boilers of the blockade runner Ruby in 1863.) A door in the center, roughly a foot high and six inches wide, allowed the crew to pass a rammer through when loading, sight down the piece, and project the muzzle.  The preference was to make that opening as small as practical, still allowing for the service of the piece.

As alluded by Delafield, iron was not the only material that could serve as a mantlet.  Wood and iron, though resistant to blast damage and musket fire, had the disadvantage of producing splinters.  Rope, as Delafield stated, didn’t have the splinter problem, but was not considered stiff enough to resist musketry.  But what Delafield apparently didn’t take into account were experiments by Abbot to devise a better rope mantlet, as he advised Barnard about responding to Delafield:

I decidedly prefer the rope mantlets. I find by trial at twenty paces that the penetration of our Springfield rifle, elongated bullet, is between two and two and five-tenths inches. The mantlets are six inches thick and they are thus perfectly rifle-proof. Their dimensions are the following, which are very convenient in practice:

Abbot_Mantlet1

The opening can readily be cut larger if necessary. We have done so at least in one instance, to enlarge the traverse of the gun in an oblique embrasure. The men are afraid of splinters from a cannon-ball-and I think justly so–with the wood and iron mantlets. Moreover, the blast of a light 12-pounder has already rendered unserviceable one of the iron mantlets of this pattern.

Abbot_Mantlet2

I therefore entirely agree with yourself and General Hunt in thinking that only rope should be ordered. I think the dimensions cannot be improved. As to number required, my train proper, which is entirely distinct from my present guns, consists of forty-six guns requiring mantlets, and ten 8-inch siege howitzers which I think can hardly be used with them. I have here seventeen rope mantlets and twenty-three wood and iron, one of the latter unserviceable. As they are very liable to be destroyed, and moreover are quite useful even for light guns when sharpshooters are as troublesome as they have been here at times (I have had two men killed besides some wounded in my own regiment by them already), I think that about 100 could be safely ordered (besides those I have on hand). They should be made of tarred rope, like the old ones.

So with a thicker set of ropes, the gunners were better protected.

Turning back to Tidball’s post-war manual, he offered two illustrations of rope mantlets:

mantlets

Figure 2 above matches somewhat to the second illustration offered by Abbot in 1864.  The use of rope afforded some flexibility for those working at the muzzle with rammers and sponges. Tidball stated those mantlets weighed 400 pounds.  Figure 3 appears to be a more refined fitting, which I would question in regard to ease servicing the weapon.

Without mantlets, sharpshooters could reduce the efficiency of the guns, if not silence them completely.  Thus these relatively minor devices became rather important as the army transitioned into siege operations.  In fact, I dare say any work discussing the fortifications at Petersburg, at a tactical level, should include a proper discussion of mantlets… lest the author be accused of dealing with the subject lightly.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 40, Part II, Serial 81, pages 21, 223-4;  John C. Tidball, Manual of Heavy Artillery Service: For the Use of the Army and Militia of the United States, Washington, D.C.: James J. Chapman, 1891, pages 385-6, 399, and Plates 61 and 68.)

Where in the world is the Siege Train on June 18, 1864? Not where Grant wanted it to be!

When formed, or more accurately, reformed,  in April 1864, the siege train for the Army of the Potomac was intended as a resource to call upon as the army neared Richmond. When the initial assaults on Petersburg failed to gain their objective, it was time to call upon the siege train.  So was that “train” on time?

Colonel Henry L. Abbot, commanding the train, was more than qualified, with a record as a skilled artillerist and engineer.  The regiment constituting the manpower of the siege train, the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, numbered over 1,500 present. And as Abbot related to Brigadier-General Henry Hunt  before the start of the Overland Campaign, the Connecticut men had their cannons and considerable ordnance loaded on boats prior by the first days of May.

An over-strength regiment under a capable commander is something hard to leave on the shelf.  So with campaigns in motion all around Virginia, Abbot and his “heavy” were soon ordered to the front – but supporting the Army of the James instead of the Army of the Potomac.  On May 13, 1864, Abbot arrived at Bermuda Hundred and reported in with 1,700 men and 100 horses.  But guns?  No.  Abbot was told to leave the boats in Washington, D.C. as there were already weapons on hand at Fort Monroe and elsewhere with the Army of the James. So the siege train Abbot worked to organize was left behind as his men were employed with other weapons.

There was some small intrigue for a week or so, as several senior officers vied to pull the 1st Connecticut under their formation. Interesting, but a bit off the focus of this post.  So I’ll simply say that came to an end on May 17 when Abbot was placed in overall command of the siege train for the Army of the James.

By May 20, he reported having four 30-pdr Parrotts, eight 20-pdr Parrotts, two 8-inch siege howitzers, two 32-pdr howitzers, and one 24-pdr howitzer in the lines.  A powerful line, but that’s not what Hunt requested… or what Major-General George Meade directed… or what Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant expected.  On this evening (June 18) in 1864, the whereabouts of the siege train became a serious question. At 10 p.m., Meade related the status to Grant:

I am informed by General Hunt that the siege train which was ordered before leaving the Rapidan, although afloat at Washington, has not been brought to the James. I think it proper to advise you of this fact, as in case you contemplated using them it would take some time to procure them.

Grant, who certainly was contemplating using that siege train, soon inquired to Major-General Benjamin Butler, with the Army of the James:

Before starting in this campaign I directed a siege train to be put afloat subject to my orders. I understood that it came to Fort Monroe some time since, and was under the impression that it came up here. Do you know anything about it? Colonel Abbot was in command.

And that prompted a quick inquiry down from Butler’s staff to Abbot:

Can you tell me where your siege train is that you left at Washington? General Grant wants to know. Answer immediately.

Abbot, was, at the time, in charge of not only the Army of the James’ siege train, but also the engineering work of a substantial part of the line.  His response was short, and to the point:

My train is afloat at Washington Arsenal in charge of Capt. S.P. Hatfield, 1st Conn. Art’y. Gen. Hunt knows all details of its composition.

Worth noting, is that very evening Abbot sent a message over to his friend Hunt – in a rather familiar tone – discussing his dispositions.  In that message, Abbot suggested, somewhat knowingly in regard to the siege train still on the water back at Washington:

If the train is ordered forward it would be desirable to telegraph at once to General Delafield to supply a lot more rope mantlets as soon as possible. If you can do this it will save time.

And of course, later that evening, the orders came from Grant to Major-General Henry Halleck back in Washington – send the siege trains.  And shortly after, a flurry of messages about mantlets (which I’ll queue up for a follow on post).  In a matter of days the siege train would arrive for use at Petersburg, expedited south.

But in the mean time, Hunt had a need for some heavy guns.  Where would he get them?  On loan from Abbot.  Still, the Army of the Potomac would start the Petersburg siege with borrowed equipment.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 40, Part II, Serial 81, pages 158,198,  .)