Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – Connecticut

As of December 1863, when the fourth quarter ordnance returns came due, the small state of Connecticut had mustered and sent to war two light batteries. A third would form in the summer and fall of 1864. Furthermore, the state had two heavy artillery regiments in service. From those heavies, two batteries (or companies, if you prefer) were employed as mounted siege artillery detailed to the Army of the Potomac. These were the long serving Batteries B and M, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, the last vestiges of the “siege train” originally deployed for the Peninsula Campaign. Thus, for the fourth quarter summary, we find four lines – two light batteries and two “in the field” siege batteries, reporting

  • 1st Light Battery: On Folly Island, South Carolina, with six 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain Alfred P. Rockwell remained in command, with the battery still assigned to Tenth Corps, Department of the South. The battery had been in reserve, on Folly Island, through most of the Morris Island campaign. And remained there during the Second Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter.
  • 2nd Light Battery: At Camp Barry, Washington, D.C., with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain John W. Sterling commanded this much traveled battery. Having seen action at Gettysburg (as one of the reserve batteries pulled out of the Washington defenses in June) and then sent to New York to suppress riots, the battery returned to Camp Barry in October. In January 1864, the battery would move again. This time by boat to New Orleans and the Department of the Gulf.
  • Battery B, 1st Heavy Artillery: At Brandy Station, Virginia, with four 4.5-inch siege rifles. Captain Albert F. Brooker commanded this battery assigned (as of the end of December) to the Second Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac. The battery was in reserve at Second Rappahannock Station. And thence went into winter quarters near Brandy Station.
  • Battery M, 1st Heavy Artillery: At Brandy Station, Virginia, with four 4.5-inch siege rifles. Also in the Second Volunteer Brigade, Captain Franklin A. Pratt’s battery participated in the action at Kelly’s Ford (November 7) and the Mine Run Campaign.

Expanding on the mention of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, the remainder of the regiment was in DeRussy’s Division, Defenses South of the Potomac, Twenty-second Corps. Colonel Henry L. Abbot commanded. Their assignment was to the Alexandria section of the line. Abbot corresponded frequently with Brigadier-General Henry Hunt in regard to artillery matters. Later, as the Overland Campaign began, the 1st Connecticut transitioned back into the army’s siege artillery and readied for use (as would be the case) around Richmond and Petersburg.

I’ll summarize the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery here so as to save a little space when we discuss the heavy artillery at the end of the quarter. The regiment originally organized as the 19th Connecticut Infantry during the summer and fall of 1862. The regiment, still as infantry, was assigned to the defenses of Washington in September of that year. Their assignment was on the south side of the Potomac. By the fall of 1863, the 2nd was brigaded with the 1st Connecticut (above). Given the nature of their duty, the regiment’s designation changed to “heavy artillery” on November 23, 1863 (though several documents suggest the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery designation was used during the summer of 1863). Colonel Leverett W. Wessells commanded the regiment from its formation. But in September 1863 he resigned. Lieutenant-Colonel Elisha S. Kellogg, who’d been the acting commander for much of the year, was then promoted to the colonelcy, effective January 24, 1864. Kellogg, unfortunately, would not see the end of that year. But that story, and the 2nd Connecticut’s service as one of the “heavies” fighting as infantry in the Overland Campaign, is for a later discussion.

We can skip the half-page starting the smoothbore ammunition, as no weapons of that type were reported. Turning to the rifled projectiles, we start with some Hotchkiss types on the far right of the page:

  • 1st Battery: 80 Hotchkiss time fuse shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery B: 48 Hotchkiss time fuse shell for 4.5-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 121 Hotchkiss time fuse shell for 4.5-inch rifles.

More Hotchkiss rounds on the next page, along with one column for James projectiles:

  • 1st Battery: 50 Hotchkiss percussion fuse shell, 360 case shot, and 190 canister for 3.80-inch rifles; AND 132 James pattern canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 360 Hotchkiss percussion fuse shell and 120 canister for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 40 Hotchkiss case shot for 4.5-inch rifles.

We then move all the way over to Schenkl:

  • 1st Battery: 758 Schenkl shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 394 Schenkl shell for 4.5-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 113 Schenkl shell for 4.5-inch rifles.

A few more on the next page:

  • 2nd Battery: 720 Schenkl case shot for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 332 Schenkl case shot for 4.5-inch rifles.

Next the small arms:

  • 1st Battery: Seventy-seven Colt navy revolvers, nineteen cavalry sabers, and forty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Sixteen Colt navy revolvers, twenty-five cavalry sabers, and twelve horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B: Four Colt army revolvers, four Colt navy revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: Eight Colt army revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, eight horse artillery sabers, and one foot officers sword.

Then cartridge bags for the artillery:

  • 1st Battery: 998 cartridge bags for 3.8-inch rifles
  • 2nd Battery: 1,300 cartridge bags for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B: 324(?) cartridge bags for 4.5-inch rifles.
  • Battery M: 241 cartridge bags for 4.5-inch rifles.

Now the rest of the cartridges along with fuses and other items:

  • 1st Battery: 1,550 paper fuses, 1,150 friction primers, 25 yards of slow match, and 24 portfires.
  • 2nd Battery: 1,800 friction primers.
  • Battery B: 400 navy revolver cartridges, 400 paper fuses, 1,220 friction primers, 55 yards of slow match, 400 percussion caps, and 10 portfires.
  • Battery M: 500 army revolver cartridges, 370 paper fuses, 440 friction primers, and 400 percussion caps.

That sums up the four batteries reporting for Connecticut. Twenty rifles. And a healthy amount of ammunition.


Rappahannock Station – a significant part of the battlefield… GONE

Back last November, just a couple days after the 150th anniversary of the battle, I walked the ground, as part of a tour group, over the battlefield of Rappahannock Station.  The tour covered the Confederate defensive position, held on November 7, 1863, and  assailed by Federal troops that day.  Roughly one third of the Confederate line lays within protected lands – managed by Fauquier County’s Parks and Recreation, with support from community organizations such as the Remington Community Partnership, Piedmont Environmental Council, and, of course, Civil War Trust.

But a significant part of the Confederate line – and thus a significant part of the battlefield – lay within private property… worse yet, property targeted for development.  For years the developer teetered back and forth on the project.  The down economy being a factor.  There were several times when it seemed a large portion would be preserved.  And we had high hopes on November 9, 2013, when we walked that ground considering advance of the 6th Maine and 5th Wisconsin Infantry made up the rise of ground in the photo below:


I’m glad we were able to walk that slope and appreciate the terrain.  Because, just a few months later, that ground is forever changed … altered.

Rappahannock Station 043

Soon to disappear under 71 new homes.

Rappahannock Station 045

A significant portion of the battlefield lost.

We will, unfortunately, have to log this as a “lost opportunity.”  I won’t name names at this point, but will say – figuratively and literally – a phone call went unanswered.  I’m not saying that’s all it would have taken.  But at least an attempt should have been made.  Better to have gone down swinging with a last minute effort, than to simply let a battlefield to go under the bulldozers without a word.

I know there are folks who will say we have enough preserved already.  Maybe this battlefield – being such a small action – was not worthy of setting aside.  That be the case, what have we gained with that sacrifice?  And how does that stack with the sacrifices given on November 7, 1863?  As my friend Mike Block is quick to point out, two Medals of Honor were awarded for action ON THAT GROUND.

Sadly, I believe we are, as we proceed through the last year of the sesquicentennial, the last generation which will have an opportunity to preserve these battlefields.  What started with five “military parks” in the late 19th century and grew to include hundreds of sites – federal, state, and local – is running out of time.  During the 150ths, we have been able to walk much of the ground over which the armies traveled and fought.  For the bicentennials, fifty years from now, the participants won’t be as lucky.  They won’t have all the same opportunities to “walk the ground.”  One of which – they won’t have the opportunity I, and my fellow visitors, had at Rappahannock Station.

Henry Benham, pontoons, and a lot of photos: What the engineers did over the winter

On January 25, 1864, Brigadier-General Henry W. Benham, commanding the Engineer Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, completed a lengthy report for Brigadier-General Joseph G. Totten, the Chief Engineer of the US Army.  The report touched upon several subjects, but largely concentrated on improvements to bridging techniques then in use. This was not a new round of correspondence.  Benham wrote a similarly lengthy and detailed letter to Totten in November 1863, discussing changes in the drill for pontoon bridging.

The reports, including enclosures from subordinate officers, include over fifteen pages total in the printed OR.  Far too much for a single blog post.  So I might examine in fine detail at another date.  Feel free to browse the November 1863 letter or the January 1864 report if I don’t get to that examination in short order.  I suspect a detailed examination would elicit a long sigh at the discussion anchor bolts, abutment sills, and claw-balks.  So let me focus on something less “engineer-y” and perhaps a bit into the historiography side of things.  At the end of his November letter, Benham mentioned some photographs sent along with the correspondence:

I have the pleasure of inclosing you, for the further explanation of the method of laying these bridges, some photographic views taken during the progress of construction.

No. 1 shows the pontoons ready with the material, and the boat squads ready for the construction (at foot of East Fifteenth street).

No. 2 shows the progress of construction of the raft after four to five minutes’ labor.

No. 3 shows the progress of the bridge raft after six to seven minutes’ labor.

No. 4 shows the bridge completed, with the bridge squads formed ready to march off. Parts of a trestle and canvas pontoon bridge across a cove along the shore are in view here.

No. 5 shows, from a nearer point of view, the pontoon bridge ready for service.

No. 6 gives the view down the Eastern Branch with pontoon bridge to beyond Navy-Yard Bridge, and oarsmen having oars raised ready to move the bridge for dismantling. Parts of pontoon balk-head used for laying the bridge raft are shown in foreground as it was placed to save the men from the water, though rather delaying than expediting the work. (emphasis added)

Believing that they would also be interesting at the Department, I have also added two other photographic views.

No. 7, showing the old or generally practiced method of laying bridges by successive pontoons.

No. 8, a view of the pontoon bridges laid by the engineer brigade under my command on the morning of April 29, 1863, at Franklin’s Crossing, 2½ miles below Fredericksburg. This shows in the distance the ruins of the villa of Mansfield, the site of General Bayard’s death.

Photo “No. 8” referenced by Benham may be one of those examined by John Hennessy and Eric Mink in 2011.   Of the others described (or is it “captioned”) by Benham, I’ve found no direct matches.  However this photo from the Library of Congress collection is a close match to “No. 6”:

This shows two pontoon bridges across the Anacostia River, looking from the Navy Yard.  Lots of neat stuff to discuss in this photo.  But for today, let’s just consider this as establishing Benham’s practice of using photographs to support his suggestion (and I bet Benham would have loved PowerPoint!).

That in mind, consider a section from the January 25, 1864 report:

The modification I propose (of which I inclose sketch) in the French pontoon is to take off 3 feet in length from the bow and 2 feet from the stern, while the “floor” remains of the same length, the ends to the depth of one plank downward to be of a thick plank or timber, with a shield or bunter which should slope about 3 inches outward.

Benham went on to say this modification would prevent some of the damage to the pontoons while on the march and make handling much easier.  Here’s the line drawing included with the report:


Fairly typical comparison diagram, using dotted lines to demonstrate the differences between the original and proposed modification.  Probably sufficient to demonstrate the particulars for an engineer of Totten’s experience.  But what do they say – “A picture is worth a thousand words”?  How about this picture, might it offer a thousand words comparing two types of pontoons?

Notice the difference between these two pontoons, particularly at the bow end.  While not precisely matching the dashed lines in Benham’s drawing, the pontoon on the right is close to his proposed modification.  Was this a photograph taken for the benefit of Benhan to demonstrate his suggested changes?

Working against my suggestion, the Library of Congress record for this photo does not provide a location.  The original caption on the back of the stero-view card does not mention any special nature of the two boats:

This view shows two of the boats (of which the army bridge is made) on wheels ready for the march.  Each pontoon wagon is drawn by six mules.  These pontoons were always getting stuck in the mud, and the soldiers, struggling along under their own burdens, were obliged to haul on the drag ropes, and raise the blockade.  Probably no soldier will see this view without being reminded of the time when he helped to pull these pontoons out of the mud, and comforted himself by searing at the mules.

Doesn’t sound as if this photograph captured a comparison of two type of pontoons. Maybe the studio felt the public would not appreciate the comparison, and thus offered a “pedestrian” caption.

However there are several other views of pontoons dated to the winter of 1864, taken at the Engineer Brigade camp at Rappahannock Station.  And some seem ready made for a comparison of the two types.  This photo carries the Library of Congress caption “Pontoon wagon and boat, 50th New York Engineers, Rappahannock (i.e. Brandy) Station, Va., March, (i.e. Feb.) 1864.”:

So the right time and place.  And this appears to be a standard “French Pontoon.”

Compare to this photo, also citing the 50th New York Engineer camp at Rappahannock Station in March 1864:

If not an exact match for Benham’s drawing, it does look like the pontoon on the right side of the photo above.  And another photo must have captured the same (or similar) boat from the front:

With more of these in the background… see them?

There’s even a photograph of a wagon without the pontoon:

And let’s not forget the canvas pontoon:

That photo, in particular, just stands out as if tailor made for illustrating some manual.  The men are in the background, not the foreground.  The subject here is the equipment, not the personnel.  These pontoon photos are like some “walk around” we would use today to demonstrate the particulars of a piece of equipment.

Maybe the photographer was just hanging out with the engineers taking in shots of the equipment.  But this is not some point-and-shoot camera we are talking about.   These were expensive (relatively speaking) glass plate photos.  So why waste a plate on some static equipment displays?  On the other hand, perhaps these and similar photos taken at the 50th New York Engineer camp were intended to help Benham illustrate his reports.

Something I’ve learned over the years – when studying Civil War photographs, it is just as important to know the “why” story as the “what” of the subject.

150 Years Ago: J.E.B. Stuart at Freeman’s Ford

After their retreat from the Culpeper County, elements of General John Pope’s Army of Virginia occupied crossing points on the Rappahannock River astride the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Several crossing points existed in the vicinity of Rappahannock Station (today’s Remington). One of those was Freeman’s Ford. Still smarting from the embarrassment from the Verdiersville raid, Confederate cavalryman General J.E.B. Stuart probed Freeman’s Ford some 150 years ago today:

On August 22 I moved early to Freeman’s Ford, on Rappahanock River, where I had a picket the night previous, to carry out instructions by effecting a crossing if possible. The ford was commanded by the enemy’s artillery and infantry, and four pieces of the Stuart Horse Artillery, under Captain Pelham, tried in vain to silence the enemy’s guns. Having advantage in position, he handled the enemy severely, though suffering casualties in his own battery. While this cannonading was going on General Jackson’s column passed just in my rear, going higher up….(OR, Series I, Volume 12, Part II, Serial 16, page 730).

Although he does not mention them by name, Stuart’s toopers and artillerists sparred with the independent brigade of General Robert Milroy at Freeman’s Ford. The action was inconsequential, but, as Stuart notes, did cover Jackson’s movements. More importantly, Stuart received additional instructions while engaged at Freeman’s Ford:

… I received a note from the commanding general that my proposition to strike with cavalry the enemy’s rear was approved, and at 10 a.m. I started to the execution of the plan with the main portion of Robertson’s brigade, except Seventh Virginia Cavalry (Jones’), and Lee’s brigade, except Third Virginia Cavalry–say about 1,500 men–and two pieces of artillery….

Stuart goes on to outline his route as he moved from the ford to through the town of Jefferson to Waterloo Bridge and Hart’s Mill; and then to Warrenton. Stuart’s map objective was the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, specifically Catlett’s Station. Of course another objective Stuart had in mind was revenge – for losing his hat and being surprised days earlier at Verdiersville.

150 Years Ago: A photo that speaks to us today

Often we can point to a spot on the battlefield, or a document, or in my case a cannon, and then make a direct sesquicentennial link. Today, let me turn to an iconic photograph taken on this day (August 19) in 1862:

Better details in the stero-view, although through the cracked negative:

John Hennessy discussed this photograph in detail on his Fredericksburg Remembered blog (here and here and here). This photo, among the most widely reproduced of the war, captures a scene at Tin Pot Run Ford on August 19, 1862. The Army of Virginia, under General John Pope, was in full retreat that day. According to those orders captured at Verdiesville, the Confederates aimed to capture or destroy the railroad bridge, seen in the background of the photo (or more accurately, the modern equivalent of), and cut off the Federal line of supply.

Timothy O’Sullivan took this photo during that retreat. But the soldiers at the ford are the side story. The focus of the photographer’s lens were the fugitives and their wagon. John Hennessy examined in detail the riders on the wagon and the boy on horseback. As he speculated, this could be a group of escaped slaves fleeing north; or a family of free blacks seeking to avoid the war. Are those the family’s belongings in the wagon? Or army material?

O’Sullivan composed (as I don’t think he “posed” this scene) the camera view to focus our attention on a particular subject. Although the technology was new, well established was the relation between pictures and 1000 words. While perhaps not the “photo essays” of later generations, the photograph speaks to us today. The reason this image appears in books and on blogs with regularity is the activity frozen in time. On one black-and-white glass plate, there is the cause and the result of the Civil War. The link between civil war and civil rights is rarely demonstrated with such proximity – at both physical and temporal levels.

So when my friend Clark “Bud” Hall mentioned a visit to the site where O’Sullivan took this photo, I was all in. While perhaps a minor, somewhat wonkish (if not obsessive) sesquicentennial occasion, the experience does connect directly to the past in a unique way. We timed our trip to around mid day. I figure, given the shadows seen in O’Sullivan’s photo, the original was taken sometime in the early afternoon.

Tin Pot Run Ford… 150 years to the day, if not hour and second, from the time the photo was taken:

Rappahannock Station 19 Aug 12 005

For perspective, here’s a copy of the O’Sullivan photo, held out by my pal Mike Block:

Rappahannock Sta 19 Aug 12 013

Update: Had to move the photos to Flickr for better viewing.  The down side to “mobile blogging”, given the current WordPress iOS software, is the photos are never well placed on the page.

Rappahannock Station Battlefield

Another example of the “good fight” for Civil War battlefield preservation.

At Remington, Virginia a portion of the Rappahannock Station battlefields are within the bounds of a county park.  The Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Department acquired the ground, supported by several groups to include the Piedmont Environmental Council.  A couple of years back, the department sponsored an archeological survey of the ground (summary posted here).

Now a local committee seeks to add interpretation and improve access to the Rappahannock Station battlefield. A presentation from their January meeting is on line.  As stated on the web site:

Fauquier County is in the process of preparing an implementable interpretive park plan and conceptual park site plan for 26 acres of publicly-owned land along the Rappahannock River located within the Rappahannock Station and Rappahannock II core Civil War battlefields. Fauquier County Department of Parks and Recreation and its community partners seek to develop a historically and environmentally sensitive river access plan meeting local recreational needs and cultural tourism goals. The planning process will involve and educate the local community regarding the ecological and historical significance of this site.

The corridor along modern US 15, the focus of “Journey Through Hallowed Ground“, features many historic sites including the scenes of Civil War battlefields such as Gettysburg, Brandy Station, and Cedar Mountain.  Adding interpretation to the Rappahannock Station site allows the connection of many threads in the Civil War story – the 2nd Manassas Campaign, Gettysburg Campaign (coming and going!), Army of the Potomac 1863-4 Winter Encampment, and the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.  In addition to the bugles and banners, the county park location is adjacent to the setting for one of the war’s most memorable photos.

I applaud the efforts of those involved with the project.  And I look forward to the day I can report about quality interpretive markers on the Rappahannock Station battlefields which orient and educate visitors.