The Wiard Guns on Morris Island: More field guns on the second parallel

In the earlier post, I pointed out that looking at the details in this photo showing Napoleon guns on the second parallel on Morris Island:


We see this:


And this (full size so you can pick out the details):


Notice the maneuvering handspike on the lower left. Those details show up on the right hand side of this photo:


Here’s another view of that ammunition chest:


The accouterments hanging on the earthworks in front of the wheel:


Having established the Wiards position on the second parallel as just to the left of the Napoleons, let’s look at the guns themselves. A great study of the Wiard Guns and their advanced, if non-standard, carriages.


For those unfamiliar, the trail of the carriage meets the axle below and not on top as with a standard Army field carriage. The placement of the trunnions on a high, arching cheek allowed for greater elevation – up to 35°. The rear sight hangs from a seat on the back of the breech.

The crew is loading the other gun in the pair. From this angle, we also see the wedges, a feature that counteracted shrinkage of the wooden wheel.


The gun crew wears an assortment of hats. According to the photo caption, these fellows were part of Lieutenant Paul Berchmire’s Battery F, 3rd New York Light Artillery. Aside from the hats, there’s a bit of contrast among those men.


Some look like they have yet to shave for the first time. Others seem to have avoided razors for years.

However, I’d point out my placement of these two photographs stands at odds with this photograph:


The right pair of howitzers seen here occupy positions used by those Wiard guns in the photo above. See, again, the cut from Major Thomas Brooks’ map, focusing on the “How. Battery” in front of Battery Brown:


But I think we are looking at the same section of the second parallel, but at different times. Brooks’ journal entry for August 6, 1863 provides a clue:

Made repairs in defensive howitzer battery on the right of second parallel. Two Wiard field guns now in position there have proven very destructive to platforms and embrasures; more so than any field guns which have come under my observation.

Perhaps some of the debris seen in the howitzer battery photo was the result of those “destructive” Wiards.


At any rate, if my figuring is correct, when the engineers first established the second parallel, two Napoleons and two Wiards anchored the line on the right. Later the Napoleons went to positions further to the left, as indicated on Brooks’ map. The Wiards likewise moved to the left, with one going on the far side of Battery Kearny. That Wiard gun position had embrasures for firing on both Battery Wagner and Battery Gregg – an arrangement not seen in the Wiard gun photo above.

So three photos. Two taken early in the siege. One taken later. All of the same general area.

Photo credits: Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs, ID Number 71MSS918_021.tif, 71MSS918_014.tif, and 71MSS918_020.tif.

(Citation from OR Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 282.)

Napoleons in the Second Parallel on Morris Island

There are a several other photos taken on Morris Island during the summer of 1863 which I’ll give mention. Some of these show the “rear area,” in particular the ordnance yard and camps. Others show Batteries Wagner and Gregg after Federal occupation. I’ll get to those in due time.

However, I should, from a chronological standpoint, discuss a couple of photos taken in the second parallel showing the use of field artillery on the line. We’ve already looked at a photo of the howitzer battery. In addition to those four howitzers, and the two placed out in the surf battery, between two and four 12-pdr Napoleon guns and two 3.67-inch Wiard rifles bolstered the defense of the second parallel.

A photo of two Napoleons shows what I think is the two gun position drawn on Major Thomas Brooks’ siege map:


Brooks called out two locations in the second parallel with the annotation “Napoleon in barbette.” Those appear to be single gun positions. But on the far right of the line, in front of the Requa position on the surf battery on Brooks’ map, is a two gun position:


For a brief time in late August, the howitzers from the surf battery were relocated there. I think the photo shows those two guns, and those two guns are Napoleons at an early time in the evolution of the parallel. Looking to the background of the photo, the position overlooked the beach. And directly in front of the battery are branches of trees, which may be parts of the abatis laid there.

The Napoleons were part of Battery B, 3rd New York Light Artillery under Captain James Ashcroft. As with many of the photographs of batteries on Morris Island, the photographers appear to have captured an “action” scene. The crew is loading the gun on the right.


And we know that Napoleon was produced by Ames, Alger, or Revere, since there is both a hausse seat and a baseplate.

Better view of those fittings on the gun to the left. Notice also the blade sight on the muzzle. The crew ran out the lanyard for this gun. They were, one might guess, ready to fire the gun for the photographer. But wait a minute…


… firing through the sandbags? OK, set this one aside as a posed photograph. Give some credit, however, as Sullivan’s Island is visible in the background. The photographer was indeed on the front lines, even if a quiet salient of that line.

Elsewhere in the photo were several empty boxes and other debris. The blur leaves no visible markings to determine the purpose of these boxes.


Half concealed on the left is an ammunition chest.


To the far left of the photo is the wheel of some other vehicle.


The hub and axle are not that of another Napoleon. And it is not a limber. It is a non-regulation wheel. I think you’ve seen one like it before:

Matching the wheel and the ammunition chest brings us to this photo:


So we’ll look at that photo next.

Photo credits: Hagley Museum and Library collection of Haas & Peale photographs, ID Number 71MSS918_021.tif and 71MSS918_014.tif. Library of Congress, reproduction number LC-DIG-cwpb-03639.

150 Years Ago: Tredegar wanted block tin for Xmas

On December 5, 1862, well before the battle of Fredericksburg, General Robert E. Lee voiced his displeasure about the artillery types supplied to his Army.  In a letter to Secretary of War James Seddon, he wrote:

During the past campaign I have felt, in every battle, the advantages that the enemy possessed over us in their artillery.  This arose in part from their possessing more experienced artillerists and better prepared ammunition, but consisted chiefly in better guns.  These advantages, I am happy to state, are gradually diminishing.  Our artillerists are greatly improving, our ammunition is more carefully prepared, and the efficiency of our batteries increased by guns captured from the enemy.  I am greatly in need of longer range smooth-bore guns, and propose that, if metal cannot be otherwise procured, a portion, if not all, of our 6-pounder smooth-bores (bronze), and, if necessary a part of our 12-pounder howitzers, be recast into 12-pounder Napoleons.  The best guns for field service, in my opinion, are the 12-pounder Napoleons, the 10-pounder Parrotts, and the approved 3-inch rifles.  Batteries composed of such guns would simplify our ammunition, give us less metal to transport, and longer and more accurate range of fire.  I urgently recommend to the Department the consideration of this subject, and that measures be immediately taken to improve our field artillery.  The contest between our 6-pounder smooth-bores and the 12-pounder Napoleons of the enemy is very unequal, and, in addition is discouraging to our artillerists. …

Lee went on to request four Napoleons immediately, along with 20- and 30-pdr Parrotts.  Again, this request came just before the battle of Fredericksburg.  Lee would get a few of the requested items.  But the problem was the Ordnance Department simply did not have the requested guns.  In response to Lee’s request, Colonel Josiah Gorgas offered agreement but cited the shortfalls:

I respectfully inclose copy of circular sent to all our arsenals, showing that I have already, some time ago, given orders which will meet the views of General Lee.  Recently Messrs. J.R.A. & Co., of the Tredegar Works, have been directed to work night and day to prepare guns of this description.  I have requested Colonel Baldwin, chief of ordnance of General Lee, to send down old guns to be recast.  In the mean time, however, we shall send to him these guns as fast as they can be made. None are now on hand.

Gorgas attached a note which directed production focus on 12-pdr bronze Napoleons along with 10-, 20-, and 30-pdr Parrotts of iron.  The directive, of course, only pertained to field guns, with larger caliber seacoast guns of several calibers still authorized.

Yet for all this “working day and night” Tredegar was only able to add four Napoleons, one 10-pdr Parrott, and four 20-pdr Parrotts during the month of December.  The foundry’s focus in the months prior were towards heavier seacoast and naval guns.  The production line took time to shake out for the new requests.  (Although I’d point out Tredegar produced eight Parrotts in the closing days of November, for good measure.)

One problem facing Napoleon production was raw materials.  Bronze, as used for casting guns, was an alloy of copper, tin, and zinc.  The Confederacy had none of these in great quantities (but the Yankees did!).  Earlier in the war the Confederate gunmakers turned to bells or even bronze intended for sculptures.  But calls went out from every gunmaker for more materials.

On Christmas Eve 1862, Colonel Thomas S. Rhett, ordnance inspector, intervened on behalf of Tredegar to request tin.

Page 570

Messrs J.R. Anderson & Co. are much in need of Block Tin to be used in casting Bronze Guns. Please inform me how much you could furnish them.”  The request is addressed to Major W.S. Downer in charge of the ordnance depots.  There is a small notation at the bottom – “3 or 400 lbs now“.  This may indicate what Tredegar wanted or, more likely, the quantity available from the depots.  (And this is why I like to see the digital copy of the original – transcriptions would miss this detail, and often you wouldn’t see it if reviewing the original in room lighting.)

Regardless of the supply of tin, within a month Tredegar needed more raw materials.  In a message dated Jaunary 23 or 24, 1863, the firm spoke for itself on the matter and asked to have more obsolete bronze guns fed into the pit:

Page 590

We are pushing ahead the Napoleons bronze guns & have remelted nearly the whole of the old Guns.  We will require at once either Copper or more old Guns.  We have some tin on hand & an order for more.”  So more old guns cycled from Lee’s batteries to Tredegar to become bigger guns in preparation for the 1863 campaign season.

On Christmas Day, 1862 outside Fredericksburg, General Lee and the artillerists of the Army of Northern Virginia might have welcomed a few shiny new bronze Napoleons under the tree.  But in Richmond, Joseph R. Anderson would have been ecstatic over a few carloads of copper and tin.

(Citations of Lee and Gorgas from OR, Series I, Volume 21, Serial 31, pages 1046-47.)