Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 3rd New York Artillery Regiment

When we examined the 1st New York Light Artillery last week ago, it’s service at the mid-point of the Civil War was mainly within Virginia.  Or shall we say the Eastern Theater proper?  In contrast, the 3rd New York Artillery (which was a mix of heavy and light) spent the first half of the war serving in the Carolinas.  For the fourth quarter of 1862, we briefly looked at the origins of the 3rd regiment.  And for the first quarter of 1863, we noted the split of the regiment, with some batteries going to reinforce efforts against Charleston.  In addition to that move, over 500 two year enlistments came up in May.  This brought the overall regimental strength down to 889 men.  Men were transferred within the regiment to meet obligations to maintain field batteries at full manning.  Between May and June, the remaining men of Batteries A, C, D, and G were transferred to batteries B, E, F, H, I, and M.  Colonel Charles H. Stewart remained in command of the regiment, though as time progressed it was more so an administrative assignment.  And with Stewart’s administrative responsibilities, he received permission to recruit replacements (with the objective of a full 1,700 men).

That history in mind, we turn to the first page of the summary:

0201_1_Snip_NY3rd

As mentioned above, many of these batteries were not fully staffed.  And what did remain were either employed as garrison troops or other support roles.  Referencing Henry and James Hall’s Cayuga in the Field, we can fill in some of the blanks from the summary:

  • Battery A: No return.  Captain Charles White was in command of the battery when mustered out in Syracuse, on June 2.  The three-year men transferred to Batteries E, I, and K.
  • Battery B: Reported at Folly Island, South Carolina, with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain James E. Ashcroft commanded. Returns from the end of June had the battery assigned to Seabrook Island, but of course part of the force concentrating for the Morris Island Campaign.
  • Battery C: No return.  Ashcroft transferred to Battery B (above) on May 22, leaving Lieutenant Charles B. Randolph in charge of the two-year men.  They were mustered out on June 2.  The three year men from this battery moved to Batteries I and K.
  • Battery D: No return.  Captain Owen Gavigan was among the two year men mustered out in June.  Those with enlistments remaining went to Batteries E, I, and K.
  • Battery E:  At New Berne, North Carolina with four 20-pdr Parrott rifles.  Captain Theodore H. Schenck remained in command.  This battery was originally earmarked for South Carolina, but returned to North Carolina by April, part of Eighteenth Corps.
  • Battery F:  On Morris Island with six 12-pdr (3.67-inch) Wiard rifles.  The location was valid for September, 1863, when the return was received in Washington.  Lieutenant Paul Birchmeyer commanded this battery, then on Folly Island. Captain David A. Taylor was on detached service, with the Signal Corps.
  • Battery G: No return. Another battery mustered out in early June.  Captain John Wall rolled up that guidon.  Remaining men transferred to Battery K.
  • Battery H: At New Berne, North Carolina with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain William J. Riggs in command.  Assigned to Eighteenth Corps.
  • Battery I:  Also at New Berne and with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain John H. Ammon held command.
  • Battery K: No return.  Also assigned to New Berne at this time of the war. Captain James R. Angel was in command.  For the previous quarter, and the one that followed, this battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles on hand.  Likely that was the case for the second quarter.  This battery received many three-year men from the disbanding batteries.
  • Battery L:  As explained in earlier posts, this battery did not exist as part of 3rd New York Artillery at this stage of the war.  Near war’s end The 24th Independent Battery was assigned this title, somewhat retroactively.
  • Battery M: At New Berne with six 10-pdr Parrott Rifles.  Captain John H. Howell commanded.

The batteries mustered out at the start of June (A, C, D, and G) were replaced by new batteries with the same designations starting in the fall of 1863 running through the winter of 1864.  So we will see them again in the summaries.

One other note.  We have seen the Napoleons of Battery B

Napoleon_Battery1A

and the Wiards of Battery F

Wiard_Battery

in the photos from Morris Island.

Turning to the ammunition, we have to use the extended columns to handle the smoothbore rounds.  And we have a “problem”:

0203_1_Snip_NY3rd

Three Napoleon batteries and some “leftover” in Battery E:

  • Battery B: 678 shot, 382 shell, 872 case, and 406 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery E: 84 shells for 12-pdr Napoleons; 20 shell, 78 case, and 6 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers; 2 shell and 6 canister for 32-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery G (?): 396 shot, 87 shell, 439 case, and 160 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H (?): 294 shot, 150 shell, 303 case, and 136 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

First off, Battery E had heavy field howitzers on hand in the previous quarter.  And apparently the battery retained some ammunition for those big howitzers (awaiting turn in, perhaps).  But that does not explain the Napoleon shells on hand.

Battery G, as indicated above, mustered out in the first week of June.  And no return was indicated on the first page of the summary.  I offer this was a transcription error.  If so, did the clerk just move everything up one line?  In other words, what’s on line 60 being Battery H’s ammuntion; and line 61 that for Battery I?  No evidence, just expectations!

Moving to the rifled projectiles, we start with the Hotchkiss patent types:

0203_2_Snip_NY3rd

One, well stocked, battery:

  • Battery F: 100 shot, 1065 percussion shell, 300 fuse shell, and 650 bullet shell for 12-pdr / 3.67-inch Wiard Rifles.

And we know those projectiles were destined to be fired at Battery Wagner and, occasionally, Fort Sumter in the months to come.

Let’s split up the next page for clarity:

0204_1A_Snip_NY3rd

  • Battery F: 240 Hotchkiss canister for 12-pdr / 3.67-inch Wiard Rifles.

Moving to Parrott and Schenkl projectiles:

0204_1B_Snip_NY3rd

Two batteries reporting:

  • Battery E: 126 Parrott shell, 30 Parrott canister, and 402 Schenkl shot for 20-pdr Parrott, 3.67-inch caliber.
  • Battery M: 1203 Parrott shell, 57 Parrott case, and 134 Parrott canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

There were no tallies for any additional Schenkl projectiles or the Tatham’s canister.

So on to the small arms:

0204_3_Snip_NY3rd

By battery:

  • Battery A:  One Army revolver, thirteen Navy revolvers, and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Twenty-nine Navy revolvers, two cavalry sabers, and forty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Eleven Army revolvers and seven horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G (?): Four Army revolvers, seventeen Navy revolvers, and fifty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H (?): Ten Army revolvers, seven Navy revolvers, and forty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M:  Thirty Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.

As with the smoothbore ammunition columns, I offer that lines 60 and 61 were moved up by one.  So those should be Battery H and Battery I.  In the previous quarter, Battery H reported thirty-one Navy revolvers and fifty horse artillery sabers.  Battery I reported Ten Army revolvers, nine Navy revolvers, and forty horse artillery sabers.  Not a close match, but at least a little weight to consider.

We’ll continue with the New York batteries with consideration of yet another “straggler” line – some mountain howitzers in the 3rd New York Cavalry!

 

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Fortification Friday: Splinter proof shelter, from the wartime experience

Last week, we split all manner of hairs regarding shelters within fortifications. Some of this hair-splitting had to do with nomenclature – shot proof, shell proof, and splinter proof.  And we saw that post-war writings introduced differences between facilities designated magazines and those designated shelters.  We can read into this a shift in doctrine.  Not only fortification doctrine, but also that of the practice of artillery.  After all, there existed (and still exists) a direct relationship between fortifications and artillery.

Let us focus on the splinter proof shelter for the moment.  Prior to the war, Mahan mentioned splinter proofing as a means to protect the magazine entrance.  But after the war, he introduced a structure called splinter proof shelter:

Splinter proofs for trenches and enclosed works faced with timber from eight to twelve inches in diameter, and covered with a sheeting of thick boards, and from four to six feet of earth, which are supported by uprights at the back; having a board flooring as shown in the figure, have been recently used in our field works and trenches with great benefit in the saving of life.

And the illustration provided demonstrates such as structure:

MahanFig39bis

Note the dimensions of the interior of this splinter proof.  Eight feet tall at the entrance, slanting to six feet.  Shown as 3 ½ feet wide, with a plank floor.  The structure is open to the left, which would be the interior, or rear, of the line of works.  And it is partially sunk into the ground, roughly three feet deep.  The arrangement would protect the occupants from direct fire (from the right of view) and high angle fire (dropping on top).  Being partially sunk down, some protection was afforded against shells bursting behind (to the left) of the structure.  But clearly the solution balance ease of access against protection.

And notice the caption, “Shows a section of Splinter Proof used in the trenches at the Siege of Fort Wagner.”  Yes, we’ve seen this sort of structure before… many times:

MorrisIslandBatteries2

Looking to a handy example, right at the top is the a-a’ profile line, working from one of the splinter proofs forward through Battery Brown to the Howitzer Battery in the Second Parallel. For cross reference, this line runs through the red oval highlighted here:

BatteriesRight2ndParallel_A

A clean look at the profile:

BatteryBrownProfile

Looking to the left, we see a slightly more elaborate splinter proof shelter, with two supporting uprights.  But notice the Battery Brown splinter proof is at surface level, not sunk in.

Something closer to what Mahan illustrated stood just a few yards behind Battery Brown, indicated by profile d-d’:

InfantryTrenches2ndParallelPlan_dd

In profile:

InfantryTrenches2ndParallelProfile_dd

The walk-space is wider than on Mahan’s diagram. But the structure generally matches. We know from reading accounts from the campaign, the intent was to provide shelter for troops staged for work on the parallels.  The orientation of the trench provided protection from Confederate batteries further up on Morris Island, as well as those on James Island. The Confederate fires reaching this point of the Federal lines were typically large caliber weapons fired at higher elevations.  Though not high-angle as used with mortars, which were out of range to hit these Federal trenches, the columbiad shells arrived at an angle which would normally defeat standard parapets.  So a splinter proof provided some overhead protection.

So we see, documented with the maps, diagrams, and accounts from Morris Island, a shift in emphasis for field fortifications.  This is not to say overhead cover was not used prior to the Civil War. Nor is it to say splinter proof shelters did not appear on earlier battlefields.  What it does say is that field experience in the Civil War caused engineers to focus more attention on overhead cover, to the extent that more elaborate shelters were built.  A shift in doctrine, you see.

Keep in mind, these examples come from a field army engaged in a siege.  So field fortifications directed for offensive purposes, as opposed to defensive arrangements.  Certainly these sort of works continued to appear on Morris Island after the fall of Battery Wagner, as the Federal presence shifted more to garrison of the hard-gained foothold in front of Charleston.  But more to the point – field fortifications are “tools” that can be used for either defense or offense as the tactical situation demands.  (And thus we’ll see later “lessons” from Mahan on how to build fortifications in support of siege operations.)

Writing even later, Junius Wheeler would further refine wartime experience to suggest even more elaborate shelters, in particular using wartime experience building the defenses of Washington.  We’ll consult Wheeler’s lessons in turn… before then, we should consider another of those split hairs – shelters vs. magazines.

(Citation from Mahan, An Elementary Course of Military Engineering: Part 1: Field Fortifications, Military Mining, and Siege Operations, New York: John Wiley & Son, 1870, page 52.)

 

Fortification Friday: Applying what we know about fortification batteries

So we’ve defined and examined the different types of batteries used in field fortifications.  We know barbettes allowed the guns to fire over the parapet, while embrasures had the guns firing through the parapet.  And we also referred to rules for building platforms under the guns.

Lots of “book learning” but how does that apply out in the field?  Again, let us turn to one of the great primary sources we have for the Civil War – photographs!

First stop, a photo captioned “Company H, 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery at Fort Lincoln”:

04286v

Three Parrott rifles in view.  We’ll hold off discussing the 6.4-inch on the right.  It is the two 30-pdr Parrotts (correct me if I have the type wrong) in the center of view.  These are in barbette.  We see the classic layout as described by the textbook.  Note the raised earth, on which the engineers had platforms.  One platform for each gun, plus additional platform between the guns. Such leads me to consider this “beautification” of the works, to prevent a lot of wear and tear from foot traffic.  The parapet stands just higher than the axles of the carriages (siege carriages, by the way).  The gun on the left is at zero elevation (or at least darn close to it), with a few inches at the muzzle to clear the parapet allowing some declination… though without being there at that place and time, we don’t know for sure how much.  Lastly, note this battery one ramp directly behind the right side gun.  That is probably another ramp to the left of view (and there is likely another gun out of frame).  All in all a clean barbette battery.  Glad those heavies had time to keep the fort in order!

Now lets move over to Fort Richardson, where the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery had their guns firing through embrasures:

32726v

Six guns in view here.  The one on the distant left looks to be in barbette, but the rest are embrasure.  Those on siege carriages sit atop platforms. The nearest is at the level of the fort’s parade.  Platforms for the siege gun on the far wall and that at the bastion (far distant right) are elevated at least a slight bit.  From the photograph’s angle, we cannot make out much of the embrasure’s details – the sole and other features are out of view.  But we do see a well cut opening.  The nearest gun and the next over (on a garrison/seacoast carriage) are situated so that the line of the bore is right at the interior crest.  Part of the muzzle is above the crest.  So the embrasure did not provide complete protection for the crew. Just enough, perhaps.

Now those are “garrison” troops well to the rear with plenty of time to make the fortifications look good.  How about those on the front lines who are busy sending over hot iron?  OK, how about Fort Brady, outside Richmond:

03598r

Up front we have a big 6.4-inch Parrott firing through a well constructed embrasure.  Note the gabions and sandbags laid to reinforce the parapet.  And the parapet extends well above the line of the bore.  This crew had ample headroom…. but the embrasure is also rather wide.  Had we walked around the gun, we might find a shutter constructed in the embrasure to protect against sharpshooters.  Now this is not a field or siege carriage, but a wrought iron seacoast carriage adapted to the situation (and I think this gun is placed to cover an approach on the James… making it “seacoast” in function).  Note the shelf placed in front of the gun.  When hefting a 100 pound Parrott projectile, one needed a leg up… or two.

Behind that big Parrott are a couple of smaller brothers.  These also fire through embrasures.  We need to strain through the resolution to see the arrangements.  But there are platforms and the guns are given plenty of space to recoil.  All in all, this portion of the line looks well kept and orderly.  Almost like the crew knew they were to serve as an example 150 years later… yep!

A little less orderly, but still in good order, is a battery at Fort Putnam, on Morris Island:

35195r

Another couple of Parrotts on siege carriages firing through embasures.   These were aimed at Fort Sumter.  They share a platform.  Notice again the gabions used to reinforce the embrasures.  What we clearly do not see are any shutters.  We know some batteries on Morris Island employed iron shutters for protection, though not present here.  The field piece on the far left appears to be a Napoleon.  It has no parapet, but is sitting on a platform.  It is my interpretation that field gun is situated to provide close-in defense, should the Confederates attempt a raid.  As such, it was there in part to be “seen” more so than to be used.  Sort of like an alarm-company sign on the front lawn.

Elsewhere in Fort Putnam, the field guns out for defense were given better protection:

03201r

Talking about that on the left.  The gun is in barbette, though a stockade aligns to give more protection.  And of course to the right is another of those big Parrotts.  But this weapon is arranged to “super-elevate” beyond what the carriage was designed for.  Something seen often at Charleston in an effort to get maximum range out of the guns firing on the city or other points.  I call it out because, in a form follows function manner, the battery layout was altered from the textbook standards.  The gun fired over the parapet, but situated lower behind the parapet than a barbette battery.  In this case, the gunners were not concerned about direct fire.  Their iron blessings were sent indirectly to the target.

On this day… September 7, 1863 -Charleston learns Morris Island lost

Robert Moore ran a couple of “on this day” posts earlier, looking back at reports in Shenandoah newspapers.  After spending most of the sesquicentennial with “on this day” writing, I’ve gotten out of habit for the most part.  But I retain the historical mindset when looking at the calendar. So occasionally I’ll link to an old post on Facebook or Twitter as a way of mentioning anniversary dates.

But Robert’s use of newspaper accounts reminds me of the veritable mountain of source material that I’ve accumulated over the years when studying the war at Charleston, South Carolina.  And September 7 is an important anniversary date.  On that date in 1863 Morris Island was evacuated marking the end of a long Federal campaign to secure that barrier island outside Charleston.  Readers will recall the many posts about that campaign during the sesquicentennial.  I detailed the last three days of the campaign at that time.  On September 5, under protection of a withering bombardment, the Federal sap advanced towards Battery Wagner – just fifty yards short at around midnight.  The following day, Federals prepared to make a final assault, developing footholds just 100 feet from the battery parapet by 10 PM that evening. However, that final assault would not be necessary.  Overnight, the Confederate garrison withdrew, leaving Morris Island to the Federals.

Using that story (detailed in the links above), let’s step back and think of another perspective.  How did the citizens of Charleston, the Confederate “home front” so close to the fighting front, receive this news?

Granted, many could simply look across the harbor at Morris Island and Fort Sumter.  And the sound of cannons likely echoed into the streets at times (not to mention shells fired at Charleston itself, as way of showing the war was not very distant).  And of course there were always rumors and gossip spreading news. But for the “factual” news, Charleston had two primary newspapers – the Charleston Mercury and the Charleston Daily Courier.  I have reason to believe the Courier was a morning paper, while the Mercury was afternoon or evening. Perhaps confirming that cycle, the Mercury was able to break the news of Morris Island’s evacuation on September 7, 1863 (on the second page):

Evacuation of Morris Island

To sum up the events through which we have just passed, Battery Wagner has been subjected during the last three days and nights to the most terrific fire that any earthwork has undergone in all the annals of warfare.  The immense descending force of the enormous Parrott and mortar shells of the enemy had nearly laid the wood work of the bombproofs entirely bare, and had displaced the sand to so great a degree that the sally-ports are almost entirely blocked up. The parallels of the enemy yesterday afternoon had been pushed up to the very mouth of Battery Wagner, and it was no longer possible to distinguish our fire from that of the enemy.  During the entire afternoon the enemy shelled the sand hills in the rear of Battery Wagner (where our wounded lay) very vigorously.

Under these circumstances, and in view of the difficulties of communication with Cumming’s Point, the impossibility of longer holding Morris Island became apparent, and it was determined that strenuous efforts should be made at once to release the brave garrison of the Island, who seemed to be almost within the enemy’s grasp.  This desirable result was accomplished with the most commendable promptitude and success.

At about six o’clock, yesterday afternoon, the orders for the evacuation were delivered to Col. Keitt, commanding our forces on the island. Everything was at once made ready for the abandonment of Batteries Wagner and Gregg.  The dead were buried, and, at nightfall, the wounded were carefully removed in barges to Fort Johnson.  The guns, which, for so many weeks had held the foe at bay, were double-shotted, fired and spiked; the heavier pieces were dismounted, and the carriages rendered worthless. The preliminary preparations being thus completed, the work of embarkation was noiselessly begun, and the brave men of the garrison, in forty barges, were soon gliding from the beach they had held so stoutly and so long.  The evacuation was conducted by Col. Keitt, assisted by Major Bryan A.A.G.; and the success with which what has always been considered one of the most difficult feats of warfare has been performed is worthy of the highest praise.  Batteries Gregg and Wagner had both been carefully mined, with a view to blowing them up.  It was about one o’clock this morning when the last three boats – containing Col. Keitt and a number of his officers – left the island. The slow match was lighted by Captain Huguenin at Wagner, and by Captain Lesesne at Gregg; but, owing to some defect in the fuses, no explosion took place at either fort.

During the evacuation the enemy was not idle. A constant fire of shell was kept up against Wagner, and his howitzer barges were busily plying about this side of Morris Island, to prevent the retreat of our men. But fortunately the night was murky, and all our barges,with the exception of one, containing twelve or fifteen men, passed in safely.

Such is how the residents of Charleston learned of the loss of Morris Island on the evening of September 7, 1863.  Notice the narrative put some, not so unexpected, spin on the events.  In some ways to save face, to be sure.  At the same time to let readers know the Confederate soldiers had fought well and endured much.  A retreat could be justified with honor.

When we look back at this, knowing more so the 360° panorama of history, might offer more details to the story.  Certainly it is significant that US Colored Troops were at the fore of those efforts to take Battery Wagner.  Did the reporters for the Mercury know that? And did the residents of Charleston (white and black) know that?  I have a feeling the deeds of the USCT were indeed known, if not reported.  And we might imply some spin from just that alone.

Regardless, on this day in 1863 the residents of Charleston witnessed a grim turn in the war occurring at the mouth of their harbor.  Not surprisingly, on the second column of the first page ran a story, what we’d call today an op-ed piece, titled, “The Fate of Charleston if Captured.”

(Citation from Charleston Mercury, Monday, September 7, 1863, page 2, column 2.)

 

Fortification Friday: Crows-foot, Small Pickets and Entanglements could put you on the disabled list

A fine point about the functional nature of obstacles – determent value is measured in both the ability to impede and injure.  You might call it a philosophical nuance, in context of the military art, but the distinction is important when considering the application of obstacle types.  In practical terms, recall how the abattis and palisade were employed. These were designed, first and foremost, to slow the attackers’ forward progress, if not bar such entirely, by standing on the line of advance.  Granted, if the obstruction were oriented properly and the attacker approaches with a high rate of speed, there could be injuries.  An abattis is all fun and games until someone looses and eye!  But even with a chevaux-de-frise, with the specified iron points, an attacker would need to do something really… well… awkward to induce a blood-letting injury.  Their chief value lay in slowing or stopping the attacker just by being in the way.

On the other hand, there were obstacles that by nature were designed to draw blood.  One of those was the crows-foot.  Mahan described this obstacle as such:

The crows-foot is formed of four points of iron, each spike about two-and-a-half inches long, and so arranged, that when thrown on the ground one of the points will be upwards.  They are a good obstacle against cavalry, but are seldom used.

Crows-foot are called caltrop among audiences which prefer Latin.  Being an American, I eschew those fancy European terms where possible. Crows-foot sounds more “country.”  Any rate, here’s what we are referring to:

drevnosti_rg_v3_ill130c_-_caltrop

Despite Mahan’s lack of enthusiasm for the crows-foot, the obstacle type remains in use today.  The term is used to describe large concrete and steel obstacles designed to deter armored vehicles.  Or on the beach to stop landing craft.  To some degree it is an “offensive” obstacle… and in both senses of the word.  And for emphasis here, the crows-foot doesn’t actually block movement, it injures so as to debilitate – be that a horse, a man, or, in the modern sense, a vehicle.

The downside to crows-feet was the nature of emplacement.  Being sown, or basically scattered, and not pinned down, the crows-feet were not easily delineated for the defender’s convenience.  An alternative was a simple field expedient:

Boards, with sharp nails driven through them, may supply the place of crows-feet.  The boards are imbedded in the ground, with the sharp points projecting a little above it.

This, readers, is why soldiers need tetanus shots.  Embedded in the ground, the boards could be arranged in a pattern, identified for the defender, but with the nails concealed in the dirt or surface debris.  Junius Wheeler added another alternative in his post-war manual, mentioning the farmer’s harrow.

dscn1306

Buried upside down, the spikes of the harrow would likewise injure an unwary foot.

We don’t see many references to crows-foot or similar obstructions in the Civil War.  Not to say these were not used, but rather their use was not deliberately noted.  On the other hand, we see many references to small pickets with added entanglements.  We should start by explaining small pickets:

Small Pickets. This obstacle consists of straight branches of tough wood cut into lengths of two-and-a-half, or three feet.  They are driven into the ground, in quincunx order, about twelve inches apart, and project irregularly above it, not more than eighteen inches.

We have Figure 26 from Mahan’s manual to illustrate where the small picket might be used in the ditch:

PlateIIIFig26

Better yet, let us turn to Wheeler’s illustration:

WheelerFig70

The key point to latch on to here is the arrangement.  Unlike the stakes in military pits, these are arranged in close order with the aim to force the attacker to think about where his foot is placed, lest the small picket pierce the foot.  One might say the intent of the small picket was to discourage.  But the threat behind that discouragement was that of a skewered foot.   In function, the small picket was much like the punji stake from the Vietnam War:

punji_stake_pit

So again we see the obstacle could be “offensive” in application.  But in the Civil War context, booby-traps of this nature were not widely used.  The need was for an obstacle that would stop a massed attack, not a trail patrol.  So we read in many accounts of an enhancement to the small pickets:

Interlaced with cords, grape-vines, brambles, prickly shrubs, &c., they form an excellent entanglement.

And in the 1860s, engineers would add one readily available material to that list – wire. Wheeler described the arrangement as, “… made by driving stout stakes into the ground from six to eight feet apart and connecting them by stout wire twisted around the stakes.”  This was an easy obstacle to set up, with materials easily obtained.

WheelerFig67

Fine point of observation here – Mahan’s entanglements were offered as a means to enhance the small pickets.  Basically, the intent was to trip the attacker onto the small pickets.  In Wheeler’s entanglements, which reflected wartime experience, the tripping on the wire itself was sufficient deterrent.  Thus the pickets could be spread out more. An excellent description of such comes from Major Thomas Brooks in his extensive journal of operations on Morris Island in 1863:

This obstacle was made by setting stout stakes, 3½ feet long, 2 feet in the ground and 7 feet apart, in quincunx order, and in three lines.  Around the top of these stakes, from 12 to 18 inches from the ground, in notches prepared to receive it, No. 12 wire was securely and tightly wound, and extended from one to the other.

Brooks reported laying 300 yards of wire entanglement on Morris Island, requiring 13 coils of wire (length unspecified) and an additional 890 feet of loose wire.

The function of Brooks’ entanglement obstacle was to deter by the threat of injury – lest the attacker be bruised and banged up from tripping.  Perhaps a little nicer than Mahan’s little impaling stakes.  But still an obstacle designed to injure.  And of course, with the perspective of history, we recognize Brooks wire entanglement as an evolutionary step towards barbed wire of World War I and later concertina wire. In those forms, we see the obstacle designed not just to trip and bruise but to draw blood.  Either way around, bruised, banged, cut, or impaled, the soldier was thus a casualty… and if lucky just placed on the disabled list.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 48;  Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, page 173; OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 304.)

For the holidays, lets each rehabilitate some Civil War general… I call Schimmelfennig!

This being the season of giving, I ask what have we given back to the Civil War field of study?  We all “take” from our studies – reading primary and secondary sources, walking the battlefields, and receiving knowledge all around.   But what do we give back in return?  How this season we “clean up” some corner of Civil War study that need be straightened or otherwise put in order?

Consider… Throughout the Sesquicentennial discussions we heard about some major figures from the Civil War being “rehabilitated” by historians.  Most notable is George B. McClellan.  We even heard mention of Joe Hooker.  Though I still lean towards strict twelve step process for Little Mac… someone skipped a few steps with McClellan in my opinion.  This is not a new notion for historians.  During the Centennial, US Grant was “rehabilitated” to some degree, mostly by that magical prose from Bruce Catton.  William T. Sherman was moved but a few shades to the good side of Lucifer himself.  Though we really should recognize the work of British admirers decades earlier, who sort of threw a mirror in our American faces.  However of late Grant is being “un-rehabilitated” back to a mere mortal.

What I have in mind is straight forward and altruistic – pick a figure due “historical rehabilitation.”  Name any figure from the Civil War – general, politician, or other.  Pick a poor figure.  Someone you think has not gotten a fair shake through the historians’ collective pens. Then offer up a few paragraphs explaining why this figure is worth a second look.  Think about it… are there any persons who are completely nonredeemable?  Totally incompetent? Without any merit?  Well… maybe there are some.  But I’d submit that to be a small number within the larger sample set.  Besides, even H. Judson Kilpatrick, Alfred Pleasonton, and Franz Sigel had good days to speak of!

I’ll make the first offering.  This is my target for rehabilitation:

Alexander Schimmelfennig.  Like most, my introduction to Schimmelfennig was the butt end of many jokes about “hiding with the hogs” at Gettysburg.  Schimmelfennig’s stay at the Henry Garlach house has come to epitomize the failings and faults of the Eleventh Corps in the battle.

Over the years, I’ve learned not to add an extra n, making his name an active present tense verb, to Schimmelfennig. Though you might find more than a few cases where I’ve slipped and not corrected.  Furthermore, I’ve come to recognize my characterization of Schimmelfennig’s actions were but one of many collective misunderstandings (being kind… maybe collective ignorance?) about the actions at Gettysburg.  Indeed, our myopic view of that battle has caused no short list of misconceptions.  Schimmelfennig is one of many receiving short treatment, and outright insult, due to the intellectual white elephant, named Gettysburg, stuck to history’s charge.

Let us first be fair about Schimmelfennig at Gettysburg.  Certainly his July 1, 1863 on the field is not fodder for any great story about military prowess and proficiency.  Though it was not an example of bumbling incompetence.  Why was he in the Garlach back yard to start with?  Well it was because, unlike many of his peers and superiors, he was not emulating General Gates’ flight from Camden in search of “high ground” south of town.

And in the two years that followed that stay in the shed, Schimmelfennig demonstrated he was indeed a very capable field commander… in the oft overlooked Department of the South.  I’ve chronicled those activities during the Sesquicentennial… and will mention a few key points here.   Schimmelfennig first went to the department as part of Brigadier-General George Gordon’s 1st Division, Eleventh Corps, sent as reinforcements in late July 1863. The Brigadier-General led a successful demonstration in February 1864 on John’s Island; assumed responsibility for the front against Charleston through the spring and early summer 1864, directing several bombardments of Fort Sumter, and mounting demonstrations to aid the main operations elsewhere;  And played an important role in Foster’s July 1864 “demonstration” that nearly broke through to Charleston.   After returning from leave (recovering from malaria), Schimmelfennig was in command of the forces that captured Charleston on February 18, 1865.

Schimmelfennig readily adapted to situations and was innovative.  He successfully used of Hales rockets in an assault role and urged the troops to use rudimentary camouflage to disguise their activities.  To the many USCT regiments in his command, he offered fair and complementary leadership, advocating for pay equality.  The naval officers working with him, particularly Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, considered Schimmelfennig the better of the Army generals to work with at Charleston.

And we should remember, as if a name like Schimmelfennig would allow us to forget, that the general was not American-born.  Thus he faced much of the institutional bias within the Federal officer corps.  Schimmelfennig, a Prussian, was a veteran of the revolutions and wars of 1848.  Pulling on our historian sensibilities, Schimmelfennig was a bit of a military historian himself, providing context to the conflicts between Russia and Turkey in the years leading up to the Crimean War.

Oh, and I should add, Schimmelfennig “pioneered” the use of petrochemicals to ward off mosquitoes…. Um… by smearing kerosene over his exposed skin while on duty at Folly and Morris Islands.  Not exactly DEET, but you know.  Fine… he was a bit far short of a renaissance man.

At any rate, you get my point – Schimmelfennig’s service is done a dis-service by overly emphasizing those three days in July 1863… or even after weighing in his (and the Eleventh Corps) performance at Chancellorsville months before.  Maybe he was not among Grant’s Generals depicted in Balling’s painting, but Schimmelfennig served with distinction during the war.  He is at least deserving of more consideration than “a brigade commander at Gettysburg.”

That’s my proposed target for rehabilitation.  What’s yours?  And why?

“The treatment of the citizens was respectful”: Transfer of Savannah’s refugees at Charleston

After taking several days to organize and transport the refugees requesting relocation from Savannah, Captain Joseph Audenried arrived at Charleston to conduct the transfer.  The procedural details of this transfer were much like those of the prisoner exchanges conducted in December at Charleston.  The most important detail of this procedure was, of course, the cessation of fires from the batteries that ringed the harbor.  Here, Audenried met a snag in the execution of his appointed task.  When the steamer J.R. Spaulding, with the refugees, approached Morris Island, signals went up to halt the ship.  Brigadier-General Alexander Schimmelfennig, commanding the forces on the island, reported later:

At 9 a.m. I received a signal dispatch from Captain [Gustavus] Scott, the commanding officer of the fleet, stating that a Captain Audenried was at the fleet with some citizens of Savannah to be sent through our lines by a flag of truce at Cole’s Island.  He reported to me that my signal sergeant had made an error in the dispatch, which should have read Charleston Harbor instead of Cole’s Island; that Captain Audenried represented himself as being one of General Sherman’s staff, and that he was sent here for the above-mentioned business by the order of General Sherman. Captain Scott was unable to inform me whether the officer had any written authority or instructions, but suffered the steamer to pass the picket monitor to the rendezvous of exchange.  As I had received no instructions from Major-General [John] Foster in regard to the truce I acted on my previous orders, and at once stopped the steamer in its progress before it had communicated with the rebel tug.

I like this reaction from Schimmelfennig.  He didn’t care who Audenried represented.  Without something in writing, the cease fire was not going to happen. Well, that something in writing came down shortly.  Schimmelfennig dutifully sent his aide to confer with Audenried, “to discover whether he was clothed with any written authority.”  Audenried had no written orders in this regard.  His orders were verbal.  Likely, within the scope of the armies that Sherman directly operated for the previous year, Audenried was familiar enough that his word was easily interpreted as the word of his boss.  But Schimmelfennig was outside of that familiarity and didn’t know Audenried from Adam, and “Upon such authority I told him I could not permit it….”

But, shortly after Audenried arrived at Fort Strong to confer with Schimmelfennig, enlightening orders arrived…

…while conversing with him I unexpectedly received the desired instructions from Major-General Foster, and at once allowed him to proceed.  I regret to say that the dispatch referred to was culpably delayed in being forwarded to me by some now unknown parties, who, when discovered, will be severely punished.  The unfortunate delay caused by this neglect of the quartermaster or captain of the steamer lasted about one hour.

Woe to the man who caused this delay and incurred the wrath of Schimmelfennig!

With that, the transfer went about without incident.  The Confederate steamer Chesterfield met the Spaulding, and the refugees passed the lines. The following day, the Charleston Courier ran a report of the transaction:

The approach of the “Chesterfield” was greeted by a rush of the lady refugees to the side of the “Spaulding,” waving their handkerehiefs with every exhibition of delight at the prospect of so soon being restored to their own people and Southern homes. As the “Chesterfield” ranged alongside, the meeting of friends and acquaintances, the many happy recognitions and pleasing countenances, presented an intensely interesting scene.

Of note, as the Courier continued with the story, was the treatment of the refugees while in Federal hands.  The experienced was at the same time pleasant and distressing:

The refugees state that the treatment of the citizens was respectful. Sentinels were posted with orders to shoot down without taking him to the Guard House any soldier found molesting citizens or forcing an entrance into any house.  Many families, formerly in good circumstances, were obliged to take in sewing and work hard to procure the necessities of life.

The Courier did not state the total number of refugees exchanged, simply saying “A large number were distributed round among our citizens.”  The paper listed 23 individuals and families who were taken to the Wayside Home.

From Audenried’s perspective, as a staff officer, he’d completed the task.  He’d taken this refugee issue off his general’s list of chores.  And he had done so without incident.  Tag this as “good staff work.”

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, page 45; Charleston Courier, Friday, January 13, 1865, Page 1, Column 1.)