Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – 1st Illinois Artillery Regiment

If we just focus on the service of individual batteries from the 1st Illinois Artillery Regiment, we’d have a noteworthy and eventful narrative of service in some of the war’s great battles.  But the regiment’s contribution to the Federal war effort included some important and influential senior officers.  The regiment’s first commander was Colonel Joseph D. Webster, a regular Army officer, having resigned in 1854, and Mexican War veteran.  Webster served both as commander of the regiment and as General Grant’s chief of staff through the first year of the war – and through many of those early western theater campaigns.  After November 1862, Webster took a staff position managing transportation for Grant.  And later in the war, he would serve as Major-General William T. Sherman’s chief of staff.  With a promotion to brigadier-general in April 1863, Webster relinquished command of the 1st Illinois.

Ezra Taylor, with promotion from major to colonel, succeeded Webster in command.  But like many of the light artillery regimental commanders, Taylor did not directly command these subordinate batteries.  Rather, in relation to the batteries, the regimental command was more an administrative head than actual field command.  Instead, Taylor served as an artillery chief at divisional, corps, and army level.  While in command of the 1st Illinois in the fall of 1863, Taylor was also Sherman’s chief of artillery (Fifteenth Corps).  Later in the winter, Taylor became the artillery chief of the Army of the Tennessee. However, Taylor’s active service came to an end after a serious wound at the battle of Dallas, on May 28, 1864.

But all of that was in the future at the end of September 1863, and the returns of the 1st Illinois were still the responsibility, administratively speaking, of Colonel Taylor.  How well did he attend those details?

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We find returns for eleven of twelve batteries.  But that is a little deceptive, with three of those returns not received until 1864.  And one that was nearly two years late, arriving in 1865!  But at least that leaves us numbers to consider:

  • Battery A: Larkinsville, Alabama, with five 12-pdr Napoleons and one 10-pdr Parrott.  That is where the battery wintered in 1864, when the report was received at the Department.  In September 1863 the battery was still assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, with Captain Peter P. Wood in command.  After the fall of Vicksburg, the battery was part of the force sent to Jackson.  Then in late September, with the Fifteenth Corps sent to reinforce the beleaguered Army of the Cumberland, Battery A was en route to Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Battery B: On the steamer Atlantic, in the Mississippi River, with five 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer. Like Battery A, this battery was also assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps.  And Battery B was also heading to Memphis at the end of September, with ultimate destination of Chattanooga.  Captain Samuel E. Barrett received promotion to Major in August 1863.  Lieutenant Israel P. Rumsey was promoted to captain of the battery, with date of rank as August 13, 1863.
  • Battery C:  Reporting at Chattanooga, Tennessee with one 12-pdr field howitzers (down from three the previous quarter) and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles (down from four). The quantities reflected losses at Chickamauga, which also included a caisson and twelve horses.  Four of the battery were wounded.  Captain Mark H. Prescott returned in time to assume command from Lieutenant Edward M. Wright (who resigned on September 9), and lead it in the battle.  Remarkably, the battery only expended nineteen rounds at Chickamauga.  The battery remained with Third Division, Twentieth Corps.
  • Battery D: At Vicksburg, Mississippi with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, having turned in 24-pdr field howitzers. The battery was assigned to Third Division, Seventeenth Corps, and part of the occupation force at Vicksburg.   Lieutenant George P. Cunningham remained in command, though would not be promoted to captain until December 1864.
  • Battery E: Reported at Oak Ridge, Mississippi, (about half way between Vicksburg and the Big Black River) with five 12-pdr Napoleons and one 3.80-inch James Rifle.  Lieutenant John A. Fitch remained in command, and the battery remained under Third Division, Fifteenth Corps.
  • Battery F: No report. Captain John T. Cheney remained in command of this battery.  With reorganizations after the fall of Vicksburg, the battery moved from First Division, Sixteenth Corps to Fourth Division, Fifteenth Corps, and supported the move on Jackson. At the end of September, Battery F, like the rest of the Fifteenth Corps, moved to Memphis by boat and then started the march to Chattanooga.
  • Battery G:   Serving as siege artillery at Corinth, Mississippi, in Second Division, Sixteenth Corps.  Captain Raphael G. Rombauer remained in command.
  • Battery H: At Vicksburg with four 20-pdr Parrotts.  Assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps, Lieutenant Francis DeGress remained in command of this battery (he would receive promotion to captain in December).  At the end of September, the battery was in transit to Memphis to stage for the relief of Chattanooga.
  • Battery I: Also at Vicksburg, but with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. The battery transferred from the Sixteenth Corps to Fourth Division, Fifteenth Corps after the fall of Vicksburg.  After the siege of Jackson, the battery was assigned a positino on the Big Black River. Lieutenant William N. Lansing, then the commander, accepted a commission in the 2nd Tennessee Colored Heavy Artillery.  His replacement was Captain Albert Cudney.  Like the other Fifteenth Corps batteries, Battery I was in transit to Memphis at the end of September.
  • Battery K: Memphis, Tennessee with with ten Union Repeating Guns.  But as noted earlier, that column was likely being utilized by the clerks to track Woodruff guns. Captain Jason B. Smith resumed command.  As many will recall, the battery accompanied Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s raid in April-May, and then operated as part of the Nineteenth Corps.  At the end of July the battery moved back to Memphis and was assigned a post near Germantown, in the Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery L: In Washington, D.C., with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain John Rourke commanded this battery, assigned to Eighth Corps. The location given for the return is in question.  This battery was still in West Virginia through the fall and winter of 1863.
  • Battery M:  Reporting at Chattanooga, Tennessee with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Lieutenant George W. Spencer commanded this battery, assigned to the Second Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.

If we could summarize the service of the 1st Illinois Artillery at this stage of the war, the key word would be “Chattanooga” with the majority of batteries either holding that beleaguered city or part of the relief sent.

Moving to the ammunition columns, we have a lot to discuss with the smoothbore:

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Yes, extended columns here:

  • Battery A: 224 shot, 88 shell, 258 case, and 90(?) canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery B: 454 shot, 420 case, and 121 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 60 shell, 35 case, and 12 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery C: 42 case for 6-pdr field guns; 190 shell, 245 case, and 80 canister for 12-field howitzers.
  • Battery D: 177(?) shell for 12-pdr Napoleons; 128 case and 24 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery E: 43 shot, 119 shell, 246 case, and 158 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery L:  70 shot and 504 case for 6-pdr field guns; 519 shot, 639 case, and 923 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons; 189 shell, 48 case, and 25 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery M: 59 shot, 156 shell, 195 case, and 48 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Referring back to the quantities reported in the previous quarter, the anomalies with Battery C (6-pdr ammunition) and Battery L (6-pdr and 12-pdr howitzer) persisted.  Battery D switched from 24-pdr field howitzers to 6-pdr rifles during the summer months, and apparently was still turning in ammunition for their old howitzers.

Turning to the rifled columns, Hotchkiss are first:

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Four batteries reporting:

  • Battery C: 149 canister, 244 percussion shell, 189 fuse shell, and 301 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery E: 17 percussion shell and 93 fuse shell for 3.80-inch James Rifles.
  • Battery L: 504 canister, 115 percussion shell, and 1005 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles; 186 shot, 144 fuse shell, and 233 bullet shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 70 canister, 32 fuse shell, and 259 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Continuing speculation from previous quarters, I suspect Battery L was charged with maintaining a store of ammunition for their brigade, explaining the presence of 3-inch rifle rounds.

Turning to the next page, we’ll break these down for clarity.  One stray Hotchkiss column:

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  • Battery H: 49 canister for 3.67-inch rifles (20-pdr Parrotts).

Further to the right, one entry for Dyer’s patent:

  • Battery L: 880 shrapnel for 3-inch rifles.

Moving to the James columns:

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Three batteries reporting:

  • Battery E: 50 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery I: 64 shot, 214 shell, and 256 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 387 shot, 106 shell, and 19 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

Two batteries with Parrotts:

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And two batteries reporting Parrott rounds:

  • Battery A: 145 shell, 6 case, and 16 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery H: 240 shell and 96 case for 20-pdr Parrott.

The next page we have a couple of lines reporting Schenkl and Tatham projectiles:

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Schenkl first:

  • Battery L: 300 shell for 3-inch rifles; 282 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

Tatham canister:

  • Battery H: 40 canister for 3.67-inch (20-pdr Parrott) rifles.
  • Battery L: 268 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

Lastly, the small arms reported:

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By battery:

  • Battery A: Three Army revolvers, thirty Navy revolvers, and four (?) horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Sixteen Navy revolvers and two cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: Seven Army revolvers, ten Navy revolvers, and ten cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery E: Two cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Eleven Navy revolvers and three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Sixteen breechloading carbines and ninty-five (?) cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen breechloading carbines, twenty-eight Army revolvers, and 148 horse artillery sabers.

Very little attrition or loss among the small arms.  Then again, I suspect we don’t have a full report.  Perhaps only what the “federal government” had issued, not counting private purchase or that issued by the state.

We’ll move forward to the 2nd Illinois Artillery in the next installment.

 

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Coffee Mill Guns? Or Woodruff Guns? What did Battery K, 1st Illinois tote on Grierson’s Raid?

Last week I offered a non-committal entry discussing the weapons assigned to Battery K, 1st Illinois:

Battery K: Paducah, Kentucky with ten Union Repeating Guns (or the Agar “coffee mill” gun).  This is intriguing, as we most identify the use of this weapon in the Eastern Theater.

With the length of the overall post covering the 1st Illinois, I didn’t wish to delve into interpretation of the entry.  The intent is to present the summaries “as is” from the start, with obvious corrections and questions offered.  From there, where the correction or question requires more discussion, offer that as a follow up.  Well… here’s a follow up!

First off, let us go back to the entry… or the “snip” … in question:

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You might wish to click on the image above and open in Flickr to enlarge to see the fine details.  The line to follow across is 47.  The column in question is fourth from the right, or the first among the “Miscellaneous” sub-heading.  The column has a printed, not hand-written, name – “Union repeating gun.”  The summary indicates Battery K had ten of these on hand.

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As mentioned in my original interpretation, the Union repeating gun was an invention of Wilson Agar (or Ager).  I have an affinity to the “campfire” name for the weapon – Coffee Mill Gun.  The name derives from the nature of the cranking mechanism used in this proto-machine gun:

While these machine gun type weapons are a bit out of my lane as they are not artillery “stuff.” So I am not claiming to be an expert on their design, manufacture, and use.  But as these are “ordnance,” I’ve run across a lot of interesting source references.  Over the years, the most interesting is the use of these Coffee Mill Guns in Loudoun County during the spring of 1862.  So while rare, the Coffee Mill Guns saw some use in the Eastern Theater.  Not counting the entry for Battery K, scant few accounts reference the use of these weapons in the western theater.  The only one that comes to mind is an account indicating the Federal riverine fleet received a few for use on gunboats.

Now this Battery K entry is not exclusive to just the December 1862 summary.  The summaries into 1863 report the same ten Union repeating guns.  In addition, if we expand the snip out a bit to look at columns for “unservicable” weapons (which rarely have any entries), we see the battery had ten more items tallied:

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Again, you may wish to click and open in Flickr to see that next to last column.  If not, here’s a blow up of the header:

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Second column from the right.  This one is a mix of hand-writing and printed – “Carriages & limbers for Union repeating guns.”

Now keep in mind the general process for getting the numbers in the columns.  The battery in the field would complete a return and send that to the Ordnance Department in Washington. The return was reviewed in Washington.  A clerk (or team of clerks, more likely) would extract the data for entry into a very large ledger.  That became the “summary.”  And let me stress again, that was the “quick and simple” explanation here.

Bottom line, when we apply that process, is that clerks back in Washington were trying to put numbers into a standard, very detailed, yet rigid entry form.  There was not a lot of room for “other” within the form’s columns.  Yes there are blank columns in which we see hand written column headers.  But for the most part, it seems the clerks sought to use the printed entry columns.  What we see here, I think is an attempt to adapt the printed columns to contend with some out of the ordinary data entry need.

In this case, the entry for Battery K puts us in front of a lot of questions.  Readers may recall that within a few months of the report (which was apparently filed in December 1862), Battery K had left Paducah, Kentucky for Memphis, Tennessee.  In April 1863 the battery was selected for a special mission.  Along with the 6th and 7th Illinois and 2nd Iowa Cavalry, Battery K was part of a raid led by (then) Colonel Benjamin Grierson (which you might have seen dramatized in a movie…).  And on that raid, the men of Battery K toted along a set (six, though some say four) of 2-pdr Woodruff light cannons.

The Woodruff gun is another thread that deserves a separate post (if not several).  Allow me to give the short version here for brevity.  James Woodruff of Quincy, Illinois came up with the idea for a very light artillery piece that could be pulled by men if the horses were disabled. The gun measured three feet in length and weighed just over 250 pounds.  The gun’s bore was 2 ⅛, and was intended to use canister (seven one ounce lead balls) or small caliber solid shot (the caliber closely matching 12-pdr grape-shot sizes).  Later in the war a solid projectile resembling a large mine-ball was produced for the Woodruff.  Cited range for the gun was 700 yards.

The Greenleaf Foundry in Quincy made six of these guns for local defense.  The Ordnance Department, under some high level political pressure, ordered thirty, complete with carriages and limbers.  Assuming that was the full production run, these weapons end up referenced in a surprising number of locations.  Aside from use on Grierson’s Raid, the weapons are mentioned in use around Memphis, and still later in Missouri at Pilot Knob.

If you are looking for more information on the Woodruff, there is a lengthy, but now somewhat dated, article on the weapon in the May 1973 issue of Civil War Times.  The whole of which is posted on a website for The Turner Brigade, Missouri Volunteers:

So where does that have us with respect to Battery K?

Well let’s go with “Door Number 1”:  The battery had Coffee Mill Guns at Paducah, then were issued Woodruff Guns sometime in the winter or spring of 1863, prior to Grierson’s Raid.  But I’d counter that the Ordnance Department kept listing Coffee Mill Guns well into 1863.  Why wouldn’t they have substituted a hand written column for the Woodruff Guns in order to ensure the integrity of the entry?

OK, “Door Number 2”: Battery K had both Coffee Mill Guns and Woodruff Guns through the reporting period, but only the machine guns were tallied.  Well, that might sound plausible.  But such would require more men than Battery K was authorized.

Now “Door Number 3”:  Battery K had Woodruff Guns at Paducah.  The clerk performing the entries didn’t find an easy place to put the tallies.  Perhaps he was confused as to the nomenclature.  At any rate, the tally of ten weapons in the “Union repeating gun” column are actually “Woodruff Guns.”  Likewise, lacking a column to indicate a quantity of non-standard carriages and limbers, the clerk used the repeating gun’s unservicable column.

My thinking is we have a case of Number 3.  All of this, of course, brings the observation that all these entries in the summaries need be taken with a grain of salt.  And such is why I offer “as is” to be used in conjunction with other sources.

One last note on Battery K, as they were certainly not just a collection of cannons (or machine guns) and equipment.  Captain Jason B. Smith organized and commanded the battery.  Smith was born in South Carolina in 1805, but his family moved west during his teenage years.  Pre-war records indicate he lived in Pope and Johnson Counties, in the southern part of Illinois.  He was a blacksmith and a preacher – two avocations that some would argue go together… and perhaps two professions that provide a good skill-set for a battery commander in war.