Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Pennsylvania, Independent and other artillery

In the first quarter, 1863 returns, we had trouble with the Pennsylvania independent batteries as the clerks identified the units by the commander’s or organizer’s name.  But with some cross-matching we could at least tentatively identify seven of nine such batteries from the returns.  For the second quarter, we have but a fraction of that:

0217_1_Snip_PA_MISC

From the standpoint of accountability this is simply unacceptable.  A section of mountain howitzers assigned to a cavalry regiment and three independent batteries.  We should see eight batteries listed.   Furthermore, there was a battery from the heavy artillery which had a section detailed to the Army of the Potomac during this period. And, with the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania in June, we could also add in a good number of militia batteries called out to defend the Commonwealth.  Though, those batteries were not officially in the Federal army, just called out in defense of their state.  Still if we are counting all the gun tubes, those deserve mention.

Thus we have a lot of explaining to do and some blanks to fill in.  Starting with the first line on this section of the report, let’s consider those cavalrymen with the diminutive cannon:

  • 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry – The line read “Col. 11th Cav. Stores in charge.”  And among those stores were two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  The 11th was assigned to the Seventh Corps, Department of Virginia and spent an active spring with detachments posted around the Suffolk and Norfolk area. Colonel Samuel P. Spear commanded.  The regimental history has passing mention of “our” howitzers, but no specifics.  However, on a reconnaissance mounted towards the end of the month one howitzer, managed by Sergeant Stewart B. Shannon, of Company I, went along.

Moving down to the independent batteries, let us list what was… and match to what we see on the list.  :

  • Battery A:  Schaffer’s Battery.  Not listed. Commanded by Captain Stanislaus Mlotkowski.  The battery was posted to Fort Delaware, in the Middle Department, and serving as garrison artillery despite the light artillery title.
  • Battery B: Muehler’s Battery, but appearing as Stevens’ Battery (Line 36) on this summary, for Captain Alanson J. Stevens. “In the field” with four 6-pdr field guns and two 3.80-inch James Rifles.  The battery was assigned to Third Division, Twenty-first Corps, Army of the Cumberland. Thus “in the field” was part of the Tullahoma Campaign.
  • Battery C: Thompson’s Battery. Not listed. Captain James Thompson’s Battery was, at this time, consolidated with Battery F (below) and assigned to 1st Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.  Their six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles went into action at the Peach Orchard, at Gettysburg, around 5 p.m. of July 2, two guns facing west and four south.
  • Battery D: Durell’s Battery. Not listed. Captain George W. Durell’s battery was part of the well traveled First Division (having moved from the Second Division), Ninth Corps, taking in the summer at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
  • Battery E: Knap’s Battery. Appearing on Line 35 of this summary, as at Catlett’s Station, Virginia, with six 10-pdr Parrotts, as of August 5.  The battery was assigned to Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac. When Captain Joseph M. Knap resigned on May 16, Lieutenant Charles A. Atwell assumed command.  Atwell’s battery held an often underappreciated position on Power’s Hill at Gettysburg.
  • Battery F: Hampton’s Battery combined with Battery C (above) at this stage of the war.  Their monument is next to Battery C’s at Gettysburg. Lieutenant Nathaniel Irish was the ranking officer on the rolls of the battery at this time.
  • Battery G: Young’s Battery.  Not listed. Captain John Jay Young’s battery was also assigned to Fort Delaware.
  • Battery H: John Nevin’s Battery. Commanded by Captain William Borrowe and appearing as Line 34, at Alexandria, Virginia, with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery was assigned to the Defenses of Washington, serving south of the Potomac.
  • Battery I:  Getting ahead of ourselves… Captain Robert J. Nevin’s Battery would not form until December 1863.

So we can match the three lines in the summary to three of the independent batteries.  Though we are conspicuously missing two batteries in field service – Battery C and Battery D.

As mentioned above, there were several militia batteries called out for service in the summer of 1863.  However, let avoid undue length and work those in as a separate post.  Though I would like to call out two other batteries, which were listed in the order of battle during certain stages of the Gettysburg Campaign:

  • The Keystone Battery: Captain Matthew Hastings commanded.  Listed in Bate’s as a militia battery, the Keystone Battery was assigned to the Defenses of Washington in August 1862.  In June 1863 the battery was at Camp Barry.  Before mustering out in August 1863, the battery briefly served in the field with Third Corps.  Their muster out date (August 20) might explain the lack of report in this summary.
  • Battery H, 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery: The regiment’s batteries garrisoned several points from Baltimore to Fort Monroe (and perhaps we need a detailed posting on their service).  But Battery H, Commanded by William D. Rank, from Baltimore, had a section of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles sent forward to guard the railroad lines in Maryland.  That section was then caught up in the Gettysburg Campaign and saw serviced with First Brigade, Second Division, Cavalry Corps.  For more on this story, see Dana Shoaf’s video report.

With some of the blanks filled in and identification of what we do see on the summaries, let us turn to the ammunition reported:

0219_1_Snip_PA_MISC

For smoothbore ammunition:

  • 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry: 100 case and 36 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzer.
  • Battery H ( Borrowe’s): 288 shot, 96 shell, 292 case, and 103 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery B (Stevens’): 448 shot and 200 case for 6-pdr field guns.

None of these batteries reported Hotchkiss projectiles on hand.  And on the next page we can focus on the Parrott columns:

0220_1A_Snip_PA_MISC

One reporting:

  • Battery E (Knap’s): 480 shell, 600 case, and 144 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

Turning to the last page of ammunition:

0220_2_Snip_PA_MISC

Just one entry:

  • Battery B (Stevens’): 100 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

Lastly the small arms: 0220_3_Snip_PA_MISC

Of the three artillery batteries:

  • Battery H ( Borrowe’s): Fourteen Navy revolvers and sixty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E (Knap’s): Thirty-seven Navy revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B (Stevens’): Seven Navy revolvers, five cavalry sabers, and fourteen (?) horse artillery sabers.

In closing, we might complain the clerks “shorted” us four important batteries (if we include the Keystone Battery and Rank’s heavy artillerists).  But what was not listed provides us ample room for discussion.

And if you are keeping track, I “owe” a posting on the Pennsylvania militia batteries along with a full explanation of the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery’s dispositions.

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Canister and our silly notions about canister

It is my perception is that the average student of the Civil War latches on to some misconceptions about canister as used from field artillery.  And from that misconception, the student (buff, enthusiast, or even credentialed historian as it may be) carries forward to some misunderstandings as to how artillery was used on the Civil War battlefield.  Consider Paddy Griffith’s assessment:

The main effect of artillery came at what may be described as ‘canister range’ – the last 300 yards to the gun, sometimes extending to 500 yards. It was here that the flash and crash of the heavy Napoleons, firing two and a half pounds of powder with each detonation, could numb and stagger the enemy, even when they did not physically hurt him.

The sources provided for this observation is L. Van Loan Naisawald and Jack Coggins.  Now, Naisawald’s Grape and Canister is a good read on the artillery of the Army of the Potomac.  But it is dated (to be kind… I’ll leave it at that).  Coggins’ Arms and Equipment is a good premier for study, but not by any means authoritative on the subject of artillery.

I would say Paddy Griffith is not alone in this “weighted” assessment of artillery – and allow me to use “weighted” in two ways here.  Certainly weighted in the sense that canister was the artillery’s most effective projectile on the battlefield… and that the physical weight of the canister had some value against the infantry…. From that we see some historians attempt to devolve the tactical situation down to raw numbers:

Certainly the two Union artillery batteries had an impact, but the majority of fire came from the infantry. Artillery, even rapid firing double canister, would only be throwing 54 projectiles per tube per minute, (about 650 per minute for all twelve guns) and could keep that up only for a couple of minutes before they ran out of the proper ammo. 1000 infantry would add between 2000 and 3000 rounds per minute, assuming a normal rate of fire, and with 100 rounds apiece, and another 1000 men in support ready to step up when the front line emptied their boxes, the infantry’s fire could be sustained for a much longer time.

That quote is from a blog entry by Dave Powell from 2009.  In context, Powell was discussing a specific circumstance in the battle of Chickamauga in which the artillery was, due to the tactical setting, not employed in a location to take advantage of it’s full capabilities.  We might haggle over bad decisions by leaders on the spot, or discuss the finer points of the situation.  But that discussion starts with an assessment of what the artillery was there to do in the first place. That said, assessing the artillery’s potential killing power simply as a measure of the canister spread is to ignore 90% of the combat potential that artillery brought to the field.  And that, I would submit, is not how leaders of the time would weight their decisions regarding artillery employment.

Specifically toward that assertion, consider the standard load out of the 12-pdr Napoleon ammunition chest (since Paddy Griffith liked it) as configured according to Ordnance Department standards:

  • 12 solid shot
  • 12 spherical case (case shot as I prefer, but sometimes called shrapnel)
  • 4 shells
  • 4 canister

Multiply that times four, as a gun brought that number of chests into action between the limber and caisson, for a total of 128 rounds.  We see that canister constituted only 12% of the ammunition on hand, if we go by regulation.  However, we also know that in service many artillerists adjusted those quantities.  Henry Hunt, for example, before the Overland Campaign (and thus incorporating years of wartime service experience) suggested increasing the number of solid shot at the expense of case shot.  But at the same time he did not want an increase in canister.   So… if Henry Hunt, who we would all agree knew his business, felt that his gunners needed more solid shot, by a factor of four, than canister, what does that tell us about the preferences for projectiles on the battlefield? And furthermore, what does it say about how leaders wanted artillery to be employed?

Better still, let us turn to another authority on artillery… straight from the muzzle if I may … John Gibbon:

The kind of projectile to be used, will depend on circumstances.  Shot and shell should be fired against troops taken in flank or obliquely, against deep columns, and against artillery.  The horizontal fire should be used against troops advancing in mass to force a bridge or defile, or marching over very smooth ground.  Shot had better be used against infantry, and shells and schrapnell [case shot] against cavalry, as this latter arm presents the highest mark, and enables the pieces of the bursting shells to do more execution…. A charge, when within short range, may be received by firing from each piece a solid shot on top of which is placed a round of canister. the firing then as rapid as possible, sponging may be dispensed with, within 150 yards, and as the enemy approaches nearer, canister alone is used, pointing very low at very short ranges, so that the projectiles may ricochet and scatter more.  Canister should not be fired at distances greater than 300 to 400 yards. Shrapnell [case shot] should be used against troops deployed, or in column, by division or squadron.  Schrapnell and shells produce a greater moral effect, generally, than grape or canister.

Here we have clear guidance from one very well respected authority at the time.  We see “weighting” of the type of projectiles in the ammunition chest was indeed derived from the use preferences.  Those preferences were determined based on the intended employment of artillery on the battlefield.

Think about this – what was the artillery battery there to accomplish?

I’d submit that a short answer to that question is simply – to keep the enemy off targeted terrain.  Yes, the “ying-yang” of infantry and artillery.  Infantry was supposed to seize and hold terrain. Artillery was to keep the enemy off terrain (not necessarily to “drive him off” but where that tactical need was drawn…perhaps).  There’s more to it all, of course.  And I don’t wish to over-simplify where such carries perils.  But if we go back to the words of men like Hunt, Gibbon, Barry, and other artillerists from the war, we see that premise on exhibit.  Artillery was best used… intended to be used … in a manner to deprive the enemy of advantageous terrain.

We are coming up to an anniversary of a fine example of just how things “worked” in action.  Turn to June 30, 1862 and Battery G, 2nd US Artillery.  On that day, Captain James Thompson (another officer who knew quite a bit about how one uses artillery…) had orders to deploy his battery in what would become the battle of Glendale, or Frazier’s Farm:

In compliance with instructions from the general commanding the division the battery was posted on the right of the New Market road, supported by Berry’s and Robinson’s brigades, in order to be in position to open fire on the enemy advancing either upon the New Market road or upon the Central road.

Mission statement – Thompson’s battery would deny the use of those roads to the enemy. We may parse it all sorts of ways, but that is what the guns were there to do.  Not to hold ground.  Rather to keep the enemy from using specific terrain (roads) that would allow closer approach.

But… as in so much on the battlefield, not everything works according to plan:

About 400 yards in front was a dense wood, which approached within 100 yards on our right behind a small house. About 4 o’clock the enemy came upon us in line from this wood. I opened fire upon them with spherical case-shot, but they advanced to the débris of two fences I had caused to be thrown down in the earlier part of the day and about 100 yards in front. Canister was now used, and our supports opened fire on them with musketry, and they were stopped. The wood on the right was densely crowded with them in large force, and three successive charges to capture the battery were repulsed by the prompt and gallant supports deployed between the guns and by the murderous double canister from our guns, loaded without sponging.

So.. the Confederates were not so kind as to simply advance up the roads, but rather through the woods in front. But notice the selection of projectiles described.  Starting at 400 yards with case shot, the gunners only changed to canister when their adversary came within 100 yards.  It was self-defense range.  The frightful “double canister… without sponging.”

And the battery held its position, but not without great effort:

The battery was enabled to hold this position until about 8 p.m., after the capture of the battery on our left [Lieutenant Allen Randol’s Battery E and G, 1st U.S. Light Artillery, if memory serves], and until our supply of canister was exhausted, some guns having fired double spherical case-shot, cut to explode on leaving the gun.

To the point here, we can say canister was used with effect on that day.  But we also see that it was used for self-defense of the battery.  It was not the intent of Thompson, or any other artillerist on the field that day, to accomplish the primary mission by means of canister fire.  Just worked out the plan fell apart and weight of canister, along with some case shot, is what saved all but one of Thompson’s guns.

Likewise, we could roll forward one year and a few days to July 2, 1863 and consider several other batteries in tight situations using canister… some also employing double canister without sponging to speed the delivery.  But in all those cases we see a common underlying factor.  Like Thompson’s battery the year before, Captain James E. Smith’s 4th New York was not deployed on the Devil’s Den for the purpose of spewing canister at close range.  Rather it was placed with the intent to keep the Confederates off ground approaching the position.  Circumstances played out differently, as we well know.

Accounts from July 2 are filled with artillerists reporting canister at close range.  But that was an exceptional use on an exceptional day.  We need only say the words “Peach Orchard” and “Dan Sickles” to rejuvenate a 150 year old discussion of plans gone awry. You see, it was more exception than the rule that batteries would be “hard pressed” into self-defense using canister. Rather more often batteries would be employed to do as the artillery chief envisioned over longer ranges.  As such, the artillerists would accomplish their mission with shot, shell, and case. And, by design, that is what made up nearly 90% of the ammunition on hand.

(Citations, other than those linked above, are from  – Paddy Griffith, Battle Tactics of the Civil War, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989, Page 170; John Gibbon, Artillerist’s Manual, new York: D. Van Nostrand, 1863, page 359; OR, Series I, Volume 11, Part II, Serial 13, page 172.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Pennsylvania’s Independent Batteries and Miscellaneous Returns

Problems, problems, problems.  That’s what we have to sort out with the Pennsylvania independent batteries and the summary for fourth quarter, 1862.     Just look at these entries:

0075_Snip_Dec62_2_PA_1

These were “storied” batteries, some of which played important parts in great battles.  While tracking these batteries by the name of a commander or organizer will fit into those stories, there are some administrative inefficiencies to that manner of identification.  And as these summaries are more administrative in nature, there is some matching and sorting needed to ensure a complete and accurate assessment of the data.

We see thirteen entry lines on the summary page.  Of those seven returns are logged.  One of those seven returns, from the 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves, lists no guns.  Let us sort through the entries as they appear, then circle back to check that all the independent batteries are accounted:

  • Durrell’s Battery:  No return.  This was Captain George W. Durell’s battery, also known as Pennsylvania Independent Battery D.   This battery reported six 10-pdr Parrotts earlier in the fall.
  • Nevin’s Battery:  No return.  Here’s where the battery designation could have helped.  There were two Nevin’s Batteries.  Captain John I. Nevin’s battery, known as Pennsylvania Independent Battery H, was organized in late September 1862.  Captain Robert J. Nevin’s Pennsylvania Independent Battery I was not organized until June 1863 (with a six month enlistment).  So let us assume this to be John Nevin’s.  In that case, Nevin’s battery was at Camp Barry at the time.
  • Keystone Battery: At Union Mills, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. This was Captain Matthew Hastings’ battery, assigned to Casey’s Division and part of the Washington defenses.
  • Hampton’s Battery:  At Aquia Creek, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. This would be Captain Robert B. Hampton’s Pennsylvania Independent Battery F, assigned to Second Division, Twelfth Corps.
  • Illegible name in row 20: I cannot make out what the battery name is on this row.  At first I though “Isaac” but that does not match to any in my records.  At any rate, the line is blank with no return.
  • Knap’s Battery:  At Fairfax Court House with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain Joseph M. Knap’s efficient battery was also known as Pennsylvania Independent Battery E.  The battery was also assigned to Second Division, Twelfth Corps.
  • Shaffer’s Battery:  No return.  This, I think, is Captain Frank Schaffer’s Pennsylvania Independent Battery A, assuming there is a missing “c” in the name. If correct, then this battery’s location was Fort Delaware, where it spent the entire war.
  • Schooley’s Battery:  No return. The only match I have for this name is Schooley’s Independent Company Heavy Artillery, Captain David Schooley in command.  If that is the case, then the battery’s location was at Fort Lincoln, Washington, D.C. for the reporting period.
  • Thompson’s Battery: At Fletcher’s Chapel, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. This would be Captain James Thompson’s Pennsylvania Independent Battery C.  Assigned to Second Division, First Corps at this time.
  • Ulman’s Battery:  No return.  The name matches to Captain Joseph E. Ulman’s independent battery organized in February 1862.  This battery was not accepted as artillery and disbanded when told to reorganize as infantry, in March of that year.  Why it was still on the rolls is a 150-year-old question for the clerks.
  • Stevens’ Battery: At Murfreesboro, Tennessee with four 6-pdr field guns and two 3.80-inch James Rifles.  There was but one Pennsylvania battery at Stones River, and that was Lieutenant Alanson J. Stevens’ Pennsylvania Independent Battery B.  I’ve seen it mentioned in correspondence as the 26th Pennsylvania Battery, and Muehler’s Battery (after Captain Charles F. Muehler who organized the unit).  The battery supported Third Division, Left Wing, Fourteenth Corps.  Stevens reported expending 1,650 rounds during the battle, losing seven horses, two men killed, and seven men wounded.
  • 11th Cavalry stores in charge:  At Camp Suffolk, Virginia.  Reporting three 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company F, 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves: Reporting from Belle Plain, Virginia with no cannon but stores on hand.  I am not familiar with any association of this formation to an artillery battery. And this will be a significant amount of ammunition on hand.

This listing, somewhat out of order, gives us all of the lettered independent batteries save one.  Allow me to translate here in a quick list:

  • Battery A – Schaffer’s Battery
  • Battery B – Stevens’ or Muehler’s Battery
  • Battery C – Thompson’s Battery
  • Battery D – Durrel’s Battery
  • Battery E – Knap’s Battery
  • Battery F – Hampton’s Battery
  • Battery G – Young’s Battery – not listed above.
  • Battery H – John Nevin’s Battery
  • Battery I – Robert J. Nevin’s Battery (not formed until June 1863)

Looking a few months into the future, as it would be from December 1862, we know that Batteries C and F would later consolidate.  So there is one battery we might plug into that row 20 question mark.  Captain John Jay Young’s battery, organized in August 1862, spent the war at Fort Delaware (good duty if you can get it), to the chagrin of the War Department.

Another pair of batteries that deserve mention with respect to Pennsylvania batteries at this time in the war was Segebarth’s Battalion Marine Artillery, Batteries A and B. Those were also posted to Fort Delaware in December 1862.  That unit would become part of the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery later in the war.

So, after an administrative interpretation that was long enough to be a blog post by itself, let us go through the ammunition reported.  For convienence, I am going to use the name designations seen on the summary.  For smoothbore ammunition:

0077_Snip_Dec62_2_PA_1

Just two entry lines for discussion:

  • 11th Cavalry: 24 shell, 24 case, and 12 canister for 12-pdr field howitzer.
  • 2nd Reserves:  292 shot, 111 shell, 421 case, and 181 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Stevens’ Battery might be excused, having fired all those rounds at Stones River, from offering a quantity for their 6-pdr guns.

Moving to rifled projectiles, we few Hotchkiss projectiles in use:

0077_Snip_Dec62_2_PA_2

  • Thompson’s Battery: 82 canister, 16 percussion shell, 144 fuse shell, and 259 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Reserves: 400 fuse shell and 132 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.

Moving to the next page, we find Dyer’s, Parrott’s, and Schenkl’s patent projectiles:

0079_Snip_Dec62_2_PA_1

Starting from the left side columns and Dyer’s:

  • Thompson’s Battery: 216 3-inch Dyer’s shrapnel, 3-inch bore.

Now the Parrott pattern projectiles:

  • Keystone Battery: 684 shell, 339 case, and 319 canister in 10-pdr.
  • Hampton’s Battery: 120 shell, 480 case, and 144 canister of 10-pdr.
  • Knap’s Battery:  507 shell, 213 case, and 136 canister for 10-pdr.

For Schenkl:

  • Hampton’s Battery: 480 Schenkl shot for 10-pdr Parrott.

The second page of Schenkl projectiles has but one entry:

0079_Snip_Dec62_2_PA_2

That is Thompson’s Battery with 33 Schenkl shell for 3-inch rifle.

At last, the small arms:

0079_Snip_Dec62_2_PA_3

By battery:

  • Keystone Battery: Fourteen Army revolvers and 150 horse artillery sabers.
  • Hampton’s Battery: Twenty Navy revolvers, sixty cavalry sabers, and ten horse artillery sabers.
  • Knap’s Battery: Thirty-seven Navy revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Thompson’s Battery: Thirty-two Navy revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Stevens’ Battery: Eight Navy revolvers and eight cavalry sabers.
  • 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves: 2 horse artillery sabers.

Yes, a lengthy post for just a handful of batteries.  Consider, if you will, the problem confronting the clerk entering this information.  They have “friendly” names assigned that mention battery commanders.  But there was an official designation that the commanders in the field were using (at least in some correspondence and order of battle).  The clerk could not consult the “Alternate Designations” section in the back of the Official Records or search through Frederick H. Dyer’s Compendium.  Maybe we don’t have room to complain?