Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Batteries from Massachusetts

We turn the page – page in the ledger, that is – with this installment on the summaries and find the next recorded state set is Massachusetts.

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There are a few administrative snags here which we must navigate around.  Three returns were not posted. And several of those posted offer incorrect locations.  And we have two “missing” batteries to mention. You will notice two themes here with the locations – Gettysburg and Port Hudson:

  • 1st Battery: Reported at Manchester, Maryland with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The battery was assigned to Artillery Brigade, Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac. Captain William H. McCartney commanded.  According to McCartney’s brief reports, the battery was “moving in a northerly direction through Maryland each day until July 2.”  He reported firing only four solid shot at Gettysburg.
  • 2nd Battery: No return. Captain Ormand F. Nims commanded this battery, assigned to the Fourth Division, Nineteenth Corps, Department of the Gulf.  The battery may have retain six 6-pdr rifled field guns mentioned earlier in the year. The battery was part of the force laying siege to Port Hudson in June 1863.
  • 3rd Battery: Indicated at Warrenton, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons from an August 24, 1863 posting date.  Assigned to the Artillery Brigade, Fifth Corps. When Captain Augustus Martin assumed command of the brigade, Lieutenant Aaron F. Walcott took command of the battery.  June 30 found the battery moving through Maryland with the parent formation.  Two days later, the battery was in action at Gettysburg.
  • 4th Battery: At Port Hudson, Louisiana with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch ordnance rifles.  This battery was assigned to the Third Division, Nineteenth Corps.   Captain George G. Trull was in command of the battery.  But the nature of service had sections detached (and under the lieutenants of the battery).  The previous quarter this battery’s guns were identified as 3-inch steel rifles. The most likely scenario is improper identification from the previous quarter, as often was the case with wrought iron guns.
  • 5th Battery: In Washington, D.C. with six 3-inch rifles.  That location does not match with any specific assignment for the battery.  After Chancellorsville, 5th Battery was reassigned to the First Volunteer Artillery Brigade (Lieutenant-Colonel Freeman McGilvery), Artillery Reserve.  Captain Charles A. Phillips remained in command.  So we’d place this battery near Taneytown, Maryland as of June 30.  Thrown into the Peach Orchard sector to shore up the lines on July 2, the battery was heavily engaged.  Phillips wrote,  “During the two days I fired 690 rounds; lost 1 officer, wounded; 4 men killed and 16 wounded, and 40 horses killed and a number disabled.”
  • 6th Battery: At Port Hudson with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr field howitzers. The battery was assigned to First Division, Nineteenth Corps, under Captain William W. Carruth (however, Lieutenant John F. Phelps was listed as commander in the corps returns… and Carruth mustered out later in the fall).
  • 7th Battery: Indicated at White House, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance rifles.  Assigned to First Division, Seventh Army Corps,  the battery was commanded by Captain Phineas A. Davis.  At the start of July, the battery was among the forces employed for an expedition from White House to the South Anna River.
  • 8th Battery: No return.  Mustered out the previous November at the end of a six-month enlistment.
  • 9th Battery: Warrenton Junction, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons, as of the August 23, 1863 report. The 9th Battery was assigned to the First Volunteer Artillery Brigade, Artillery Reserve in mid-June.  So their actual location for the end of the quarter was Taneytown.  Captain John Bigelow commanded.  Along with the brigade (and the 5th Battery), the 9th Battery was rushed towards the Peach Orchard on July 2.  When Bigelow was wounded, Lieutenant Richard S. Milton assumed command.
  • 10th Battery:  Report dated August 18, 1863 placed this battery at Sulphur Springs, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The battery supported French’s Division, Eighth Corps, Middle Department (which would soon be folded into the Army of the Potomac).  Sent to Harpers Ferry in mid-June, the battery was among those forces withdrawn to Frederick, Maryland at the end of the month. Captain J. Henry Sleeper commanded.
  • 11th Battery: Indicted as “not in service.”  This battery mustered out of service on May 25, 1863.  After turning in equipment, the battery returned to Massachusetts where it remained in the state militia.  Captain Edward J. Jones remained as commander.  That said, the battery did see “action” that July… suppressing riots in Boston.  The Battery would return to Federal service the following winter.
  • 12th Battery:  At Port Hudson, Louisiana, with four 6-pdr field guns and two 3-inch Ordnance rifles. Listed as unattached in the Nineteenth Corps.  Actually, this battery was split into sections at this phase of the war.  Captain Jacob Miller commanded the battery, from Fort Banks near New Orleans.  Sections of the battery were forwarded to Port Hudson in support of the siege of that place, under Lieutenant Edwin M. Chamberlin.

Not mentioned in this list, the 13th Massachusetts Light Artillery was not only in service but also “in action” at the end of June 1863.  Captain Charles H. J. Hamlin commanded.  After troublesome and delayed passage from Massachusetts, the battery arrived at New Orleans on May 10.  There, the 13th was assigned garrison duties, with its horses turned over to the 12th Battery (see above).  On June 5, the men of the battery moved by steamboat to Port Hudson.  There, they served in two detachments – one under Captain Hamlin, the other under Lieutenant Timothy W. Terry – manning siege mortars.  Not acclimatized, the men of the battery suffered heavily during the siege.

The 14th and 16th Massachusetts would not muster until months later.  But the 15th Massachusetts Light Artillery may be included here.  The 15th left Boston in March 1863, for New Orleans, under Captain Timothy Pearson.  The battery arrived in May, but turned in equipment and horses (needed for the other batteries).  For the remainder of the year, the 15th Battery served garrison duties around New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

Moving past this lengthy administrative section, we turn to the ammunition.  These batteries reported a number of Napoleons.  No surprise we see a lot of 12-pdr rounds reported:

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Five batteries reporting:

  • 1st Battery: 287 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • 3rd Battery: 192 shot, 96 shell, 387 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • 4th Battery: 269 shell, 147 case, and 55 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • 6th Battery: 198 shot, 106 shell, 150 case, and 58 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons; 90 shell, 136 case, and 40 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 9th Battery: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Notice the 12th battery reported no ammunition for the 6-pdrs.

Turning to the rifled projectiles, since we saw 3-inch Ordnance rifles on hand we can expect Hotchkiss rounds in the chests:

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Five batteries reporting quantities:

  • 4th Battery: 39 canister, 265 percussion shell, and 60 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 5th Battery: 121 canister and 322 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 7th Battery: 168 canister, 188 fuse shell, and 486 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 10th Battery: 115 canister, 110 percussion shell, 220 fuse shell, and 500 bullet shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • 12th Battery: 30 shot, 34 canister, 60 percussion shell, 70 fuse shell, and 112 bullet shells for 3-inch rifles.

We don’t often see solid shot reported from the field. But the 12th Battery had thirty.

Moving to the next page, we find entries for Dyer’s patent projectiles:

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Three batteries reporting:

  • 5th Battery: 550 shrapnel for 3-inch rifles.
  • 7th Battery: 221 shrapnel for 3-inch rifles.
  • 10th Battery: 240 shrapnel for 3-inch rifles.

What may, or may not, be a correlation here, the three batteries were all Eastern Theater.  Though their service was varied.

We find those same three batteries reporting Schenkl projectiles:

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  • 5th Battery: 211 shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 7th Battery: 290 shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 10th Battery: 15 shell for 3-inch rifles.

To close out this lengthy examination, we turn to the small arms:

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  • 1st Battery: Eleven Army revolvers, twelve cavalry sabers, and five horse artillery sabers.
  • 3rd Battery: One Army revolver, eight cavalry sabers, and twenty-four horse artillery sabers.
  • 4th Battery: One breechloading carbine, seven Army revolvers, and thirty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • 5th Battery: One Army revolver and thirty-three horse artillery sabers.
  • 6th Battery: Ten Army revolvers and eight cavalry sabers.
  • 7th Battery: Eighteen Army revolvers and 142 horse artillery sabers.
  • 9th Battery: Fourteen Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • 10th Battery: Seventeen Navy revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • 12th Battery: Eighteen Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.

It seems the Massachusetts batteries received a healthy issue of horse artillery sabers. Perhaps proud products of Ames Manufacturing, of Chicopee, Massachusetts.

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Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Vermont Batteries

For the fourth quarter of 1862, the batteries of Vermont got no love from the clerks at the Ordnance Department.  For the first of 1863, at least the batteries received mention:

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A small state, Vermont provided only two light batteries up to this point of the war (a third would be mustered in January 1864).  Both active batteries served in the Army of the Gulf.  Likewise, both would play parts in the campaign against Port Hudson, Louisiana later in the spring and into summer.  The receipt date for both batteries is within bureaucratic tolerance – August and May of the reporting year, respectively.

  • 1st Vermont Light Battery: Listed at New Orleans, Louisiana with six 3-inch rifles. In January, Captain George W. Duncan resigned. Captain George T. Hebard assumed command of this battery at the start of the spring.  The battery was assigned to Second Division, Nineteenth Corps.
  • 2nd Vermont Light Battery: Placed at Baton Rouge, Louisiana with six 3.67-inch rifles. Assigned to Third Division, Nineteenth Corps under Captain Pythagoras E. Holcomb.

When attempting to identify the specific type of cannon assigned to these batteries, I have to pause to offer simply the calibers reported.  I’m most certain the six 3.67-inch rifles of the 2nd Battery were Sawyer 6-pdr Steel Rifles.  But, we see here those are reported as bronze rifles.  With so many case where columns were “re-purposed” by the clerks, why not one more.

And for the 1st Battery, the weapons assigned were specifically identified as steel rifles. However, there is much inconsistency in the reports, correspondence, and records in regard to “steel rifles”.  Some times standard wrought iron Ordnance Rifles were so identified.  However, the identification leaves open the possibility that Sawyer rifles, or even Wiard rifles, in that caliber were used by the battery.  And that would be just a short list of possibilities.  I would like to think, given 2nd Battery’s association with the Sawyer rifles, that 1st Battery also had weapons of that origin.

Moving past the speculation about the guns, let us find out what they fired.  No smoothbore weapons on hand, so no smoothbore projectiles.  So we skip forward to the Hotchkiss rounds:

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And allow me to add to that snip the continuation columns on the next page:

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The total tally for Hotchkiss projectiles looks as such:

  • 1st Battery: 120 canister, 444 percussion shell, and 625 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 939 fuse shell and 347 canister for 3.67-inch rifles.

The batteries did not report any Dyer’s, James’, or Parrott’s on hand.  Nor any Schenkl.  So we move directly to the small arms:

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Of the two:

  • 1st Battery: Eighteen Army revolvers and thirty-three horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Eight Army revolvers and fifty-eight cavalry sabers.

Aside from the precise identification of the cannons, the two Vermont batteries offer a simple report to interpret.

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – New York Independent Batteries (Part 2)

Continuing with the first quarter, 1863 summaries for the New York Independent Batteries, the second batch consists of batteries numbered 13 to 24:

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Compared to the first twelve batteries, the second set exhibits more variation in armament… just a little:

  • 13th Independent Battery: At Brook’s Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain  Julius Dieckmann commanded.  Battery assigned to First Division, Eleventh Corps.
  • 14th Independent Battery: No return.  As related for last quarter’s return, this was more a paper designation, which was never fully activated.  Personnel of the battery were distributed for service in other batteries at the time.  The battery  would not be officially struck until the fall of 1863.
  • 15th Battery:  Reporting at Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.   The battery was assigned to the Artillery Reserve, under Captain Patrick Hart.
  • 16th Battery: In Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. with six 10-pdr Parrott Rifles. Originally Dickinson’s Light Artillery, this battery was under Captain Frederick L. Hiller and posted to the Artillery Camp of Instruction.  The battery would transfer to Seventh Corps in April.
  • 17th Battery: Minor’s Hill, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain George T. Anthony’s battery was part of Abercrombie’s Division, defending Washington.
  • 18th Battery: At Opelousas, Louisiana with six 20-pdr Parrotts.  Assigned to Second Division, Nineteenth Corps at the time.  Captain Albert G. Mack retained command. The battery was around New Orleans at the start of spring 1863.  Opelousas was their location the following summer, corresponding to the report’s receipt date of August 1864.
  • 19th Battery: Another battery in Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. Reporting six 12-pdr Napoleons.   Posted to the Camp of Instruction under Captain William H. Stahl.
  • 20th Battery: No report. Captain  B. Franklin Ryer’s battery was assigned to Fort Schuyler, New York.
  • 21st Battery: Indicated at Port Hudson, Louisiana with four 3-inch steel guns. Actually, in the spring of 1863, this battery was in New Orleans, under Captain  James Barnes, on garrison duty.  I am at a loss to definitively identify the 3-inch steel guns. Perhaps, Sawyer 3-inch rifles?
  • 22nd Battery: Indicated as “Attached to Ninth Artillery.”  By February the battery became Company M, 9th New York Heavy Artillery.
  • 23rd Battery: Washington, North Carolina with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The redesignation from Battery A, New York Rocket Battalion was not official until February 1863. Captain Alfred Ransom was in charge of this battery, assigned to the Eighteenth Corps, Department of North Carolina.
  • 24th Battery: At Plymouth, North Carolina with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Likewise, Battery B of the Rocket Battalion was not “officially” the 24th Battery until February 1863.  This battery was under Captain J. E. Lee and was also assigned to the Eighteenth Corps.

Turning to the ammunition reported, first the smoothbore types:

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All 12-pdr ammunition:

  • 17th Battery: 269 shot, 107 shell, 236 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • 19th Battery: 268 shot, 88 shell, 272 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • 24th Battery:  194 shot, 91 shell, 288 case, and 168 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Notice that I am “calling” the 24th Battery’s shells as a data entry error – to be 12-pdr field gun shells, vice those for 12-pdr field howitzers.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, first the Hotchkiss:

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Four batteries reporting quantities:

  • 13th Battery: 120 canister, 120 percussion shell, 340 fuse shell, and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 15th Battery: 365 percussion shell and 720 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 21st Battery: 80 canister, 480 percussion shell, and 240 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 23rd Battery: 197 canister, 129 percussion shell, 269 fuse shell, and 564 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Moving to the next page of projectiles…

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Let us break this down into sections for clarity.  We find some Dyer’s projectiles reported:

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One entry:

  • 15th Battery: 120 Dyer’s canister for 3-inch rifles.

And over to the Parrott columns:

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Two lines here:

  • 16th Battery: 456 shell, 625 case, and 135 canister, of Parrott-type, for 10-pdr Parrott rifles.
  • 18th Battery: 302 shell, 336 case, and 308 canister, Parrott patent, for 20-pdr Parrott rifles.

And one column on this page for Schenkl, but let us combine that line with those on the next page:

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Just one battery reporting Schenkl:

  • 18th Battery: 100 Schenkl shot and 230 Schenkl shell for 3.67-inch bore, which corresponds to 20-pdr Parrotts.

Moving lastly to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • 13th Battery: Fifteen Navy revolvers and twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • 15th Battery: Eighteen Navy revolvers and sixteen cavalry sabers.
  • 16th Battery: Fourteen Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • 17th Battery: Twenty Army revolvers and thirty (?) horse artillery sabers.
  • 18th Battery: Four Springfield .58 caliber rifles, three Army revolvers, and twelve horse artillery sabers.
  • 19th Battery: Twenty Army revolvers and fifty horse artillery sabers.
  • 21st Battery: Eighteen Army revolvers and eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 23rd Battery: Sixty Army revolvers and seventy-five cavalry sabers.
  • 24th Battery: Fifty-three Army revolvers.

So we find those former rocket batteries assigned to North Carolina with a larger quantity of small arms than expected.  Might be a reflection of the unit’s previous organization.  Might be due to the assigned garrison duties.

Next we will look at the last set of these New York Independent Batteries, 25th and above.

April 1862… a pivotal month of the war

Today marks the 155th anniversary of the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, generally called the “start” of the American Civil War.  I don’t know what to call the 155th other than just “155th.”  Likewise, I have no smart name for the 151st anniversaries of the surrender at Appomattox (last Saturday) or Lincoln’s assassination (coming Thursday).  Having just experienced the sesquicentennial years, I trust we are all aware that April 1861 and April 1865 serve as convenient bookends of the Civil War.  And thus we see a number of good, scholarly works aimed to explain the events from those months. That is, in my opinion, a focus well spent.  Yet, there is a lot of “in between” laying between those two Aprils which is also due focus.

One “in between” that has always struck my fancy is April 1862.  Just a lot of moving parts in that spring month.  Consider –

  • April 4- Major-General George McClellan lead the Army of the Potomac up the Peninsula toward Confederate defenses at Yorktown.
  • April 6 – General Albert Sidney Johnston’s army struck Major-General U.S. Grant’s force camped around Pittsburg Landing.
  • April 7- Major-General John Pope landed a force at Watson’s Landing, on the Tennessee shore below New Madrid, Missouri, and behind Island No. 10.
  • April 10 – Federal batteries directed by (then) Captain Quincy Gillmore opened fire on Fort Pulaski.
  • April 12 – James Andrews hijacked the locomotive General at Big Shanty, Georgia.
  • April 17 – Major-General Nathaniel Banks occupied New Market, Virginia, with Major-General Thomas Jackson’s command falling back to the vicinity of Harrisonburg.
  • April 18 – Federal fleet under Commodore David Farragut began bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip downstream from New Orleans. Days later the fleet would run past those forts.
  • April 26 – After a month long siege, Confederates surrendered Fort Macon on the North Carolina coast.

Those being, mostly, start or end points of longer campaigns or operations.  The conclusions seen were:

  • A prolonged siege at Yorktown.
  • Over 23,000 casualties and a major Confederate reverse at Shiloh.
  • Some 7,000 Confederates captured at Island No. 10 and the Mississippi laid open south nearly (Fort Pillow) to Memphis.
  • New Orleans lost to the Confederacy – both as a port and manufacturing center.
  • Savannah mostly closed as a port.
  • The coast of North Carolina, save Wilmington, under Federal control.  As were large portions of the Shenandoah Valley, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

I added the Great Locomotive Chase entry as it had some impact on the Confederate logistic system at the time.

Furthermore, in a era without the benefit (or handicap) of the 24-hour news cycle, the timing of that raid reminds us how these events were connected in time. Imagine the newspaper headlines each morning, as the events unfolded.  In learning about the war, we approached the initial study by chapters… nicely defined chapters covering specific campaigns.

But unfortunately a format that failed to give us that appreciation for how those events were experienced – real time.  Those of us who waded into the sesquicentennial gained much from “real time, 150 years after the fact” following.  And I do hope that added to the perspective of many.  However I think in general that historians have not done enough to demonstrate the connection between these events and how such factored into the course of the war.  Nor have us students done enough to bring out those connections in our studies.  Thus several logical, time-line groupings of events have not received due attention.  There were several pivotal weeks and months in which the course of the war turned.

April 1862 was one of them.  The war entered its first mature campaign season… from the plains of Kansas to the Atlantic Ocean (and beyond).  And given the victories cited above, April 1862 might have been a turning point sending the Confederacy to an early end.  As a “western theater guy” I am fond of saying the Confederates lost the war at Shiloh on the night of April 6, 1862 and the Federals won the war atop Missionary Ridge on November 24, 1863.  Easterners will disagree, but the fact is defeat at Shiloh broke the back of the Confederate army in the west.  Shiloh set-up Vicksburg.  Vicksburg set-up Chattanooga and that Missionary Ridge thing.  Missionary Ridge set-up Atlanta.  And from Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, and Fayetteville … and set-up Appomattox. The long way around, to be sure.  But that’s how my “western-centered” perspective views it… feel free to disagree.

Yet from the opposite side of the coin, April 1862 was also an important set-up for the Confederacy. Consider the closures… or results… from some of those Federal actions:

  • The Army of the Potomac invested Yorktown, not taking that place until the first days of May.
  • Major-General Henry Halleck took direct control of the advance toward Corinth, Mississippi, concentrating forces across the western theater for a slow pursuit.  The Crossroads of the Confederacy would not be in Federal hands until the end of May.
  • Major-General Samuel Curtiss, due to logistic constraints and in spite of a victory at Pea Ridge in March, fell back into Missouri.

This turn of events, again happening concurrently, gave openings and created angles which the Confederates could exploit. One of those, of course, being Jackson’s Valley Campaign.  That campaign, and actions on other fronts, setup six months in which the Confederacy would reach its zenith… and take the war onto northern soil.

Maybe April 1862 was not the turning point it could have been.  And maybe it was not the most important thirty days of the Civil War.  But I submit it was a pivotal month in the course of the war.

The Mortar Schooners: Bombarding the Mississippi Forts

Continuing the discussion of 13-inch mortars in action, I’ve posted an article on the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial blog detailing the Navy’s mortar schooners used below New Orleans.   The piece complements a series of cross-posts between the CWN150 blog and the Civil War Monitor’s Front Line blog, all focused on the campaign to take New Orleans.  The posts thus far also include a look at how the sketch artists covered the action.

As I indicate in the post, the mortars failed to meet expectations.  That continued a trend seen at Fort Pulaski and at Island No. 10.  Were the mortars simply inadequate or defective?   I wouldn’t go that far.  A better way to put it – heavy mortars alone could not bring about the reduction of enemy works, but provided a valuable component to any besieging force.   And while the physical damage was not as extensive as predicted, perhaps the psychological effect made up for the shortfall.

150 Years Ago: Defending New Orleans

One-hundred and fifty years ago, Admiral David Farragut faced the difficult task of reducing or bypassing Confederate defenses to capture New Orleans.  The Confederates inherited an extensive network of fortifications constructed under the “Third System” by the U.S. Army from 1815 to 1860.  As such, the defenses provide a good study of the seacoast defense theory of the antebellum years.

The scheme of defense for New Orleans contained the lessons learned from the War of 1812, considering the British attempts to take the city in 1814-15.   During that war, an old colonial fort, Fort Saint Philip, successfully prevented British Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane from moving directly up the Mississippi River.  Instead the British moved by way of the backwaters southeast of the city.  After a delaying action by Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones (you may be more familiar with his nephew Catesby ap Roger Jones of the CSS Virginia), the British moved through Lake Borgne and a series of bayous to reach a spot downstream of New Orleans.  Had the British ground commanders moved quickly, they might have captured the city.  Instead, indecision and a spoiling attack by General Andrew Jackson bought time for the Americans to establish defenses just outside New Orleans.  Admiral Cochrane proposed using Chef Menteur Pass to reach Lake Pontchartrain and outflank the Americans.  But he was overruled.  I’ll let Johnny Horton pick up the story from there….

Military minds realized even in victory, Andrew Jackson’s success revealed many weak points in the defense of New Orleans.  As result, the lower Mississippi River received much attention from those planning coastal defenses in the antebellum period.  Instead of a single point defense, as might be employed at a harbor entrance, New Orleans required a system of defenses covering the waterways leading to the city. The bayous connecting Lakes Borgne and Pontchartrain required special attention.  Technology of the time provided 24-, 32-, and 42-pdr guns with practical ranges of around 1500 yards.  The expected opponent in the most likely scenario was a European navy, using wooden, sail-powered warships (meaning for riverine purposes, good old muscle power via oars or capstans).   Such forces, unable to “run” the batteries as later steam-powered ships might, would lay at anchor and bombard the shore defenses.  Furthermore, the defense assumed a long lead time, given the travel time from Europe, in which Americans could activate the militia and concentrate (or constitute) naval forces.

To start with, immediately following the War of 1812 the Army improved the defenses of the Mississippi River itself.  Old Fort Saint Philip received updates and a new mate across the river.  With Fort Jackson on the west bank, any attacker faced a gauntlet of fire along the river.

In the 1820s, Army efforts shifted east towards the route used by the British.  Battery Bienvenue grew from a few guns in 1816 to a twenty-four gun fortification by 1830.  (I’ve mentioned this fort in relation to some rather rare guns.) This covered the juncture of two bayous leading back to Lake Borgne.  Further down, in Tower Dupre, completed in 1833, blocked one entrance from the lake to Bayou Dupre.  Another tower, not complete at the time of the Civil War, blocked another pass between Lake Borgne and Bayue Dupre at Proctor’s Landing.

But the main effort went towards two very similar forts sealing off the passes between Lakes Borgne and Pontchartrain.  Completed in 1827, Fort Pike covered the Rigolets, a northern channel between the lakes.  The Army completed Fort Macomb the same year, covering Chef Menteur Pass to the south.  Engineers laid out both forts with triangular traces using an arc of casemates to optimize the number of guns facing the channel, while offering no blind angles to any waterborne attacker.  Terrain and topography allowed the Army to dispense with elaborate outer works for these forts.  Any besiegers would fight the water table in addition to the fort’s defenders.

After completing defenses to address the eastern approaches, the Army turned to those west of the river.  Construction on Fort Livingston, to cover the main entrance to Barataria Bay, began in 1835.  Work at that isolated location proceeded in spurts.  The fort was barely completed before the Civil War, and never properly armed.

As weapons technology improved, the Army was able to extend the system of forts further out.  In 1858, the Army started construction of a fort on Ship Island, Mississippi, to protect Mississippi Sound.  That sound connected to Lake Borgne and to inland waterways around Mobile, Alabama.  A battery of heavy columiads, or better still those heavy Rodman guns undergoing tests, could command a wide expanse of water from that fort.  The Confederates briefly held the incomplete fort in 1861, but the Federals seized it back in September that year.  Fort Massachusetts, as it came to be known, then became a base of operations along the Gulf Coast.

So in April 1862, the defense of New Orleans was a series of strong points covering the likely avenues of approach:

The Confederates added a few batteries along the Mississippi to supplement the system they inherited.  But the existing forts remained the heart of the defense.

In retrospect, we would be hasty to claim this defensive strategy was flawed.  As designed within the construct of a national defense, the system might have worked.  I disdain “alternate histories,” but if we flip history on its head considering a repeat of 1814, an American defense (benefiting from a larger manpower and industrial base) compares well with potential adversaries.  But reality is the Confederates didn’t have a concentrated “blue water” navy, “Pook’s Turtles”, Rodman’s guns, or legions of mid-western militia to aid in the defense.  I contend the very things the defensive strategy depended upon became the force undoing of the Confederate defenses of New Orleans.

So how’s that for a War of 1812 bicentennial and a Civil War sesquicentennial cross thread post?

Cannons for the Private Market: John Clark

Many surviving Civil War cannons that I encounter have some markings or symbols by which a pedigree is established.  Rarer, but often enough to make such research worthwhile, documentation exists to match the cannon to a production order.  In some cases, particularly with some Tredegar invoices, one might trace an individual cannon from the casting date, through delivery, to payment. Likewise for most Federal orders one can trace the contracts, inspections, and credits.

But those are cannons for government orders.  The trail for cannons produced on militia or state orders offers a less defined path.  Particularly in the early war period, orders by southern citizens opting to equip batteries out of pocket, there’s a story with limited documentation, lots of circumstantial evidence, and unmarked cannons.  Take for instance this note found in the Confederate Citizens File:

Dated about a month before the Battle of Shiloh, someone at John Clark & Co. wrote to General P.G.T. Beauregard touting the company’s ability to produce cannons for the Confederate cause.

Referring to your proclamation in regard to the want of cannon, we beg leave to advise you that we are prepared to turn out six guns per week complete, provided we have the material.  We want copper, block tin, or bells.  We have already furnished over one hundred guns to various corps and respectfully refer you to the Washington Artillery, Watson & New Orleans Guard Batteries as specimens of our workmanship.

In the modern contracting world, we’d call this an unsolicited proposal.  John Clark’s estimated rate of production, six guns per week, sounds unrealistic.  Tredegar, an established gun-maker, could sustain such rates.  But in John Clark’s defense, the firm did have the right equipment and space to perform such work.  As the letter indicates, with respect to experienced gunfounders the test might be the quality of work then in the field.

The figure of 100 guns, supplied at that point, is also worth examination.  Assuming six gun batteries, that would indicate over sixteen batteries equipped with Clark cannon.  The note mentions three (I would assume the “Washington Battery” refers only to the fifth battery which served in the west).  Beyond those, I could speculate about two or three more batteries.  But clearly the majority of John Clark’s customers were not only private, but also not associated with actual field formations.

In order to sustain that production rate of six guns per week, John Clark & Company needed metal.  Recall, as I mentioned in the discussion of the Leeds & Company guns, when the Federals occupied New Orleans they noted large numbers of bells earmarked for gun production.   So perhaps John Clark’s letter to the general was aimed at securing an allotment of those bells.

Regardless, John Clark’s estimate of six guns a week fell far short.  The problem was not securing sufficient metal, facilities or labor, but the occupation of New Orleans in April 1862.  Again, I am left contemplating the quantity of guns delivered by the various gunmakers in New Orleans, setting aside for the moment quality of the products.  If John Clark’s letter is accurate and the firm produced 100 guns in just over a year, how much would the Confederacy have benefited had the “Big Easy” remained in their hands for another campaign season?