Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – First Illinois Artillery Regiment

Assignments for individual batteries in the 1st Illinois Light Artillery Regiment for the first quarter, 1863 reflected the reorganizations completed during that winter for the western armies.  When the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Corps reorganized into manageable formations, the batteries shifted with their supported infantry brigades to serve under new corps banners.  To grasp these changes, one must dig past the basic details offered in the summary pages.  A third of the regiment reported at Young’s Point, Louisiana, just up the river from Vicksburg:

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Here they joined an assembly of forces under Major-General Ulysses S. Grant arrayed to capture Vicksburg. Historian Marion Bragg, charged with recording the historic place names along the Mississippi River, described Young’s Point in 1977:

Youngs Point, on the Louisiana side of the river just above Vicksburg, is today one of the most tranquil places imaginable.  Nothing disturbs the quiet of the rural countryside but the occasional throb of a diesel towboat gliding past the point, or the chug of a farmer’s tractor in one of the nearby bean or cotton fields.

In 1863, Youngs Point was literally covered with thousands upon thousands of Federal soldiers, and a whole fleet of Union Navy vessels were tied up in the willows along the shore….

A contrast in times. Those four Illinois batteries were but loops in a spring being coiled that winter.

OK, so I got to foist one of my unused sesquicentennial post illustrations upon you to preface this post.  Let’s get back to the battery summaries:

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Again, we must look below the surface of the administrative details to see the changes from the previous quarter:

  • Battery A: At Young’s Point with four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. Captain Peter P. Wood commanded this battery.  As part of the transformation of Thirteenth Corps, it remained under Sherman’s portion of the army, assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps.
  • Battery B: Also reporting at Young’s Point, but with five 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer. And this battery was also assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps with the reorganization.  Captain Samuel E. Barrett commanded.
  • Battery C:  At Murfreesboro, Tennessee with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Assigned to Sheridan’s division under the old Fourteenth Corps, the battery followed that division to become part of the Third Division, Twentieth Corps (NOTE: An earlier designation separate from the merged corps from the Army of the Potomac in 1864.)  Lieutenant Edward M. Wright commanded.
  • Battery D: Reporting at Berry’s Landing, Louisiana.  I place this landing just upriver of Helena in Arkansas, rather than Louisiana.  But, of course, there could be several landings by that name.  The battery reported four 24-pdr field howitzers. With the reorganization of Thirteenth Corps, Captain Henry A. Rogers’ command went to Third Division, Seventeenth Corps.
  • Battery E: Another reporting at Young’s Point, this battery with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  A reduction from six rifles reported the previous quarter.  Captain Allen C. Waterhouse commanded.  With the reorganization, this battery went to Third Division, Fifteenth Corps.
  • Battery F: No report. The battery was stationed at Memphis through the winter of 1863, presumably still with James rifles.  However, it was under First Division, Sixteenth Corps.  Captain John T. Cheney commanded.
  • Battery G:   Serving as siege artillery at Corinth, Mississippi. Lieutenant Gustave Dechsel commanded the battery.
  • Battery H: At Young’s Point with two 20-pdr Parrott Rifles. Lieutenant Francis De Gress’ battery was assigned to Second Division, Fifteenth Corps.  The battery retained two 20-pdr Parrotts.  And those big Parrotts would see much service during the war.
  • Battery I: No report.  Captain Edward Bouton commanded this battery which was assigned to First Division, Sixteenth Corps.
  • 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.  Lieutenant  Isaac W. Curtis’ battery was assigned to the Sixteenth Corps and would later see action in the cavalry operations of the Vicksburg Campaign.
  • Battery L: New Creek, (West) Virginia, with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain John Rourke commanded this battery, assigned to First Division, Eighth Corps.
  • Battery M:  Reporting at Chattanooga, Tennessee (reflecting location when the return was received in February 1864) with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The battery was posted to Franklin, Tennessee during the winter of 1863.  Captain George W. Spencer commanded.

The guns of the 1st Illinois Artillery would make an impact later in the spring and summer months during the Vicksburg Campaign.  So what ammunition did they report on hand?  Starting with the smoothbores:

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Yes, we have some of the extra columns here, reflecting ammunition for the big howitzers:

  • Battery A: 375 shot, 314 case, and 117 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 122 shell, 153 case, and 36 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery B: 450 shot, 430 case, and 133 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 30 shell, 110 case, and 17 canister for their lone 12-pdr field howitzer.
  • Battery C: 132 shell, 180 case, and 50 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery D: 336 shell, 225 case, and 83 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery L: 70 shot for 6-pdr field guns; 136 shot, 192 shell, 554 case, and 132 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons. Why 6-pdr shot? Well, my guess is those were used with the James Rifles.
  • Battery M: 50 shot, 150 shell, and 200 case for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Moving next to the rifled projectiles, we start with the Hotchkiss-patterns:

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Three lines to report:

  • Battery C: 234 canister, 95 percussion shell, 210 fuse shell, and 242 bullet shell in 3-inch rifle caliber.
  • Battery L: 156 shot, 40 percussion shell, 156 fuse shell, and 28 bullet shell in 3.80-inch (James) caliber; Also reporting 150 fuse shell in 3-inch.  And I still cannot offer an explanation for the later type in this battery.
  • Battery M: 450 shot, 168 canister, and 250 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

On the next page of the summary, we can focus on just the James and Parrott columns:

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Again, three batteries to consider:

  • Battery E: 480 shell and 160 canister of James-patent in 3.80-inch rifle caliber.
  • Battery H: 114 shell, 48 case, and 73 canister for 20-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery L: 320 shot, 36 shell, and 19 canister of James-patent for 3.80-inch rifles.

And the last page of rifled projectiles:

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One line:

  • Battery L: 316 Schenkl shells for 3.80-inch James rifles; 172 Tatham canister for 3.80-inch rifle.

Now on to the small arms:

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Considering by battery:

  • Battery A: Three Army revolvers, forty-four Navy revolvers, and four horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Twenty-seven Navy revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: Eight Navy revolvers and thirteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery E: Ten cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Thirteen Navy revolvers and nine cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Twenty-two Burnside’s Carbines and 101 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Smith’s Carbines, Twenty-eight Army revolvers, and 148 cavalry sabers.

Those last two lines deserve some discussion.  Battery K served alongside cavalry.  Battery L, on the other hand, was guarding the railroad in West Virginia.  Interesting to see those batteries reporting quantities of carbines.

Keeping in sequence, we’ll turn to the 2nd Illinois Light Artillery next week.

150 years ago: The burning of Hopefield, Arkansas

Major-General Stephen A. Hurlbut was tired of dealing with Confederate guerrillas operating just across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee. On the night of February 17, 1863, Captain James H. McGehee’s unattached Arkansas cavalry attacked the tug Hercules as it lay off Hopefield. McGehee captured the tug and several coal barges, but had to burn them due to heavy fire from the Memphis side of the river.

This was not the first time McGehee had raised havoc using Hopefield as a base. On January 6 his troopers captured the steamboat Jacob Musselman, ran her up river, and burned her. The raiders returned on January 11 to attack another steamboat, the Grampus No. 2. They scored another, more beneficial target on February 16, thirty miles below Memphis, in the form of a flat boat loaded with medical supplies.

From the Federal perspective, Memphis and Hopefield were in the rear area. The residents of Hopefield had taken the oath of allegiance, as had those in many other river ports along the Mississippi. Yet, Confederate guerrillas continued to operate along the river. On more than one occasion, rifle fire from a river town prompted the Navy to harsh measures. Guerrillas attacked the steamer Catahoula, which was not even involved with military business, in October 1862. The incident prompted Major-General William T. Sherman to order an expedition “to destroy all the houses, farms, and corn fields” downstream from Hopefield in order to dissuade the guerrilla bands.

However, up to December 1862 the guerrilla bands seemed more the irregular sort which takes advantage of the chaos of war. But now McGehee’s activities seemed a bit more regular than irregular. Hurlbut’s Sixteenth Corps was charged with the security of west Tennessee, particularly Memphis which served as a base for Major-General U.S. Grant’s operations downstream. That in mind, Hurlbut decided to clear out the “shelter for guerrillas” opposite Memphis. He ordered Brigadier-General James Veatch, commanding the District of Memphis, to cross a force and burn out Hopefield on February 19.

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Veatch dispatched four companies of the 63rd Illinois Infantry, under Captain Joseph K. Lemon, to performed the duties. Lemon later reported:

… I proceeded with four companies of the above-named regiment viz, Company C, commanded by Captain [W. M.] Boughan; Company D, commanded by Lieutenant [J.] Isaminger; Company E, commanded by Captain H. H.] Walser; Corn puny F, commanded by Lieut. A. Davis, and the gunboat Cricket, to Hopefield, Ark.; placed a strong guard around the village, and, after giving the inhabitants one hour’s notice of the destiny of their village, the lighted torch was applied and the place was consumed. There were no depredations committed, neither were any insults offered to the inhabitants. In the livery stables I found 15 head of horses, 9 mules, and 10 saddles, and, as they were said to be owned by citizens of Arkansas, I took them under charge. I turned over 15 head of horses and 9 mules to the quartermaster, Captain Walker. One fine horse was kept by Lieutenant Cook, of General Hurlbut’s staff, by order of Major-General Hurlbut.

From the far shore, Hurlbut reported a large explosion when the fires reached a barn with a stash of gunpowder. With the presence of gunpowder, fine horses, and saddles, the Federal’s fears were confirmed – Confederates were not only operating from Hopefield, but being supported by those living there. Lemon offered to transport the citizens of Hopefield back to Memphis. But, if accounts written after the war are true, none took that offer.

The destruction of Hopefield did curb Confederate activities opposite Memphis. While irregular forces continued to operate, after February 1863 the pressing concern of Federal commanders was smuggling activities.

Certainly the burning of Hopefield fits into the hard war approach which Federals increasingly turned to by mid-war. But before anyone starts talking about the devilish Yankees who burned out everything, we should consider the full context. Much in the same way the presence of Brigadier-General William Barksdale’s Mississippi sharpshooters triggered a destructive reaction from Federals at Fredericksburg in December 1862, the presence of McGehee’s cavalry in Hopefield served a catalyst for the Federal reaction in February 1863. We might debate the conventions of war in regard to civilian property, as those existed in the 19th century. But the situation at Hopefield that winter defied those conventions, leaving a story every bit turbid as the muddy waters that flowed by that river town. And Hopefield was not a singular occurrence.

After the war, Hopefield was rebuilt. But railroad bridges over the river, changes to transportation patterns, and changes in the river itself eventually left it a ghost town.

Hopefield, which no longer exists, was opposite Memphis, roughly where the Interstate-40 “DeSoto Bridge” crosses into Arkansas.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, page 232.)

Memphis Rifles: 3-inch bronze guns from Quinby & Robinson

In February 1862, Major William Richardson Hunt approved receipt of over $2500 of ordnance from the Memphis firm of Quinby & Robinson.

The third item listed on the receipt records “1 6 pdr 3 in Rifle Gun” received on February 6 at a cost of $687.43.  (Recall the nomenclature used for other Confederate 3-inch rifles incorporated similar references to the base 6-pdr caliber.)  The 3-inch rifle was one of only a handful, perhaps only three, produced by Quinby & Robinson before the fall of Memphis that spring.  Remarkably two of the guns survive today in Petersburg National Battlefield.

One is on display near the visitor center.

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3-inch Q&R Rifle #33 at the Petersburg Visitor Center

The other is located at Colquitt’s Salient opposite Fort Steadman.

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3-inch Q & R Rifle #34 at Colquitt’s Salient

At first glance the gun presents a clean appearance, with minimal moldings confined to the base ring and knob.  The cylindrical rimbases attach directly to the gradually tapering barrel.  Small numbers on top of the breech (#33 on the piece in front of the visitor center and #34 on the gun in the field) should correspond to a foundry numbers. The stamps on the right trunnion indicate the guns are indeed from Quinby & Robinson.

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Right Trunnion of #34

The year stamped on the left trunnion of each piece, 1862, puts the guns  are in the range corresponding to the receipt shown above.

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Left Trunnion of #34

The thickness of metal at the muzzle suggests the original casting pattern was intended for a larger caliber weapon.

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Muzzle face of #34

The bore features twelve left-handed twist lands and grooves.  Remarkably, neither gun exhibits significant wear of the rifling.

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Bore of #34

The bore measures out at the prescribed 3-inches.

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Bore measure of #33

The breech profile incorporated a base ring, rounded breech face, and a rounded knob with rather thick fillet connecting to the breech.

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Breech profile of #34

The gun sight mounts are no longer attached.  But the fittings indicate the use of a standard hausse seat in the rear and a spike front sight above the muzzle.

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Muzzle of #33

Of the pair, #33 definitely has more “character.”

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Scar on #33

The divot under the lower left of the barrel looks like a battle scar.  But it could also be the result of mishandling.  But it sounds so much more exciting to say some Yankee solid shot ricocheted off the barrel in the heat of some artillery duel.  The damage deformed the interior of the gun and actually warped the bore.

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Bore of #33

Needless to say, #33 won’t be firing any more rounds.

Up until the recent refurbishment of the Petersburg artillery display, #33 sat on the rails between a James Type 2 14-pdr rifle and a Wiard 2.6-inch rifle, allowing for convenient comparison.

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Three field rifles in the old artillery display. #33 in the middle.

The Confederate rifle measures 61 inches long, compared to 74 inches for the James rifle and 52.5 inches for the Wiard.

The external appearance of these two Quinby & Robinson rifles, even if breaking with established patterns, is not unique.  Another pair of 3-inch rifles at Petersburg, produced by A.B. Reading and Brother, from Vicksburg, Mississippi.  I will examine them next.

For want of a nail: McCombs and Company of Memphis

I enjoy browsing through the Confederate Citizens Files online with Fold3.  Before these were placed online, my research was directed to specific folders … usually cannon manufacturers.  But now, with easy access from my home office, I can spend time casually browsing the records.  Sure, it is the boring, gritty details of the war.  Stuff about purchases, receipts, invoices, and payments.  Like this invoice from McCombs and Company of Memphis, Tennessee:

This may be Jim Schmidt’s field, because I read that as “Dr. R. Potts,” the medical director, receiving two wood saws, a hand saw, and a dozen scissors.  Cost the Confederacy $11.75.  The Confederates paid promptly in 1861.  Here’s the check, cut the next day:

As seen from McCombs and Company’s letterhead, the vendor specialized in hardware.  Their business was at the corner of Main and Madison in Memphis (the place has changed a bit in 150 years).

The records might hold other minutia details with more stories to tell.  In April 1862 when McCombs sold a file for a buck and a quarter, they struck through the name of “Hawks, Smith, & Co.” from a few blocks over.

Hard to say if this was because McCombs ran out of stationary, or if this was perhaps referral business.  Or perhaps the purchaser made some switch.  We don’t know what kind of file this was.  But we know it was for an artillery battery.  Oh, and it cost $1.25.

I’d offer, only half in jest, that one could reconstruct the entire Confederacy by way of these records.  Detailed bookkeeping, mind you.  So don’t believe the line that the Confederacy didn’t have the administrative organization that would produce proper records.  Imagine a database tracking purchases and transactions.  Good grief, we could ascertain all the material shortages of the Southern cause down to the tack!

Indeed, when the Confederacy found itself in want of a nail…

… the purchase was recorded.

Why would General Polk need this gun?

Consider this receipt from Tredegar dated October 17, 1861.

The last itemized line in the receipt is “1 – 8in rifle gun” at a cost of $9500. The document further stipulates the gun was intended for General Leonidas Polk in Memphis Tennessee.  The first waypoint on that trip was the Richmond & Danville Railroad depot.

So why would General Polk need such a large rifled gun way out in the western theater at this early stage of the war?

And more directly to the topic of my blog, what design did Tredegar use for this large caliber rifled gun?  Prior to the Civil War tests of large caliber guns (smoothbore and rifled) had met with only limited success.  So what designs did Tredegar borrow from?

First correct answer to these questions wins…. well… wins….