Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 3rd Regiment, US Regulars

The wartime service of the 3rd US Artillery was, in my opinion, “cushy”.  Several batteries remained on the west coast.  No doubt a vital assignment, ensuring the gold of California remained secure (and that’s not said with any sarcasm).  But since so much of the regiment served as garrison artillery, that left little to report in the Ordnance Returns. Thus a lot of white space for the 2nd quarter of 1863:

0168_1_Snip_3rdUS

We find only four batteries reported having field artillery tubes on hand!

  • Battery A – At Albuquerque, New Mexico with two 12-pdr field howitzers and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Same as the previous quarter.  And, updating my own notes here, Lieutenant John B. Shinn was in command of this battery (brevetted to captain for his service on the initial campaigns in New Mexico).
  • Battery B – Given the annotation “Infy. Stores.”  The battery remained at Fort Point, San Francisco, California.
  • Battery C – No location given, but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Part of the Second Brigade of the Horse Artillery, Army of the Potomac.  Lieutenant William D. Fuller was in command.  The battery was not on the field at Gettysburg (and thus often left off some order of battle listings) but was with the Second Brigade, Second Division, Cavalry Corps at Westminster, Maryland.
  • Battery D – At Alcatraz Island, California with the annotation “Infy. Stores.”  Captain William A. Winder, of the 3rd US Artillery, commanded the garrison of Alcatraz at this time of the war.  Under his command were Batteries D, H, and I (which we will mention below).
  • Battery E – No return. Serving in the Department of the South, posted to Folly Island, South Carolina at the end of June.  Lieutenant  John R. Myrick was in command.
  • Battery F – At Warrenton Junction, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The location is certainly in error for the June 30th date, but accurate for August when the report was received in Washington.  This battery, combined with Battery K (below), was assigned to the 1st US Regular Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, under Lieutenant John G. Turnbull.  So the location was somewhere between Frederick, Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Battery G – Fort Turnbull, Connecticut  but without any assigned cannon. The battery had been disbanded the previous fall and was being reorganized with new recruits.  Eventually, Lieutenant Herbert F. Guthrie would command, but I am not certain as to the date of his assignment.
  • Battery H – “Infy. Stores” with location as Alcatraz Island, California.
  • Battery I – Also “Infy. Stores” and at Alcatraz Island.
  • Battery K – Annotated as “with Battery F”.  See that battery’s notes above.
  • Battery L – At Columbus, Kentucky with six 10-pdr Parrotts. Combined with Battery M, below.  Captain John Edwards in command.  The battery was assigned to First Division, Ninth Corps.  At the start of the spring was posted to Kentucky.  In early June, the battery moved with its parent division to reinforce Vicksburg.  And after the fall of Vicksburg the battery was part of the pursuit to Jackson, Mississippi.  So a well-traveled battery.
  • Battery M – “With Battery L” at Columbus.  — At Lexington, Kentucky with six 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Lieutenant – “Stores in Charge.”  This line tallied various implements and supplies, apparently assigned to a lieutenant of the regiment, but with no location indicated.

So the service details out of the way, we turn to the ammunition reported on hand, starting with smoothbore ammunition:

0170_1_Snip_3rdUS

Two lines to consider, but not without some notes:

  • Battery A: 148 shot, 112 case, and 216 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 170 shell, 240 case, and 88 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers; and 24 shells for 12-pdr field guns.
  • Battery F & K: 360 shot, 96 shell, 198 case, and 104 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Battery F’s quantities, though with a rather high number of solid shot, are within reason.  But Battery A, out there in New Mexico, held on to ammunition for a pair of 6-pdrs that were no longer on hand.  I’m not going to say the 12-pdr shells there in Albuquerque were for Napoleons or the old 12-pdr heavy field guns.  Regardless, their listing here raises an unresolved question.

Moving to rifled projectiles, we have to consider Hotchkiss types first:

0170_2_Snip_3rdUS

Two batteries up again:

  • Battery A: 96 canister, 144 percussion shell, 110 fuse shell, and 288 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery C: 30 canister and 50 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

We can trim the next page to focus only on the Parrott columns:

0171_1A_Snip_3rdUS

That much traveled battery out at Vicksburg:

  • Batteries L & M: 618 shell, 435 case, and 265 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

And we have but one entry to consider for Schenkl:

0171_2_Snip_3rdUS

  • Battery C: 18 shells for 3-inch rifles.

That last entry fills up, somewhat, the allocation for Battery C.  But one expect to see more.  The report arrived in Washington in November, 1863.

We move last to the small arms:

0171_3_Snip_3rdUS

Hopefully those numbers are legible.  The original lacked clarity in the column lines. And overall the sheet’s quality diminishes towards the bottom of the page.  Here’s what I transcribe:

  • Battery A: Thirteen carbines, eighty-six Army revolvers, seventy-six Navy revolvers, and eighty-seven horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C: One carbine, twenty-six Navy revolvers, thirty-five cavalry sabers, and 172 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F & K: Thirteen Navy revolvers and forty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G: Eighty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L & M: Fifteen Army revolvers and forty-five horse artillery sabers.

I can understand Battery A, out in the far west and given many non-artillery duties, would need carbines, pistols, and sabers.  But Battery C?  That’s a lot of sabers… even for a data entry error!

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August 10, 1864: Big guns going to… not Charleston… not Petersburg… but San Francisco!

Maybe this sesquicentennial stuff is limited to east of the Rocky Mountains and mostly even east of the Mississippi at that.  Yes, most of the Civil War was fought in what we’d consider today the “eastern” United States, with relatively little activity in the “west” of the modern definition.  But as all good Civil War buffs know, there was indeed activity in the western part of the country… and in particular California played a critical role in the Federal war effort.  There’s that four letter word – G-O-L-D.

Follow that gold, and the path led to San Francisco.

SanFrancisco1855Map

Or more specifically passage through the Golden Gate.  Today we think of this:

But during the Civil War, the Golden Gate looked like this:

SanFrancisco1859bMap

And this, looking over Fort Point at the narrows of the Golden Gate:

Fort Point was, at that time, the main defense of the passage.  Rushed to completion early in the Civil War, the work reflected military thinking of the pre-war era.  After three years of war, that Third-System brick fort was considered inadequate.  The fort’s designed armament consisted of older seacoast guns and pre-war Columbiads – and little of that was in place.  She lacked more powerful Rodman guns or large caliber rifles.  The pressing threat was steam powered Confederate raiders, which might make the passage before a few rounds were fired from the fort.  But the most dangerous threat was an ironclad like this one:

Stonewall-Kotetsu.jpg

Intended to be the CSS Stonewall, the ship had a interesting history beyond the Civil War… but that’s for another day.  Ironclads armed with powerful rifled guns cold stand in the channel and render Fort Point inert, with immunity from all but the largest cannons on shore.  And that threat came from both Confederate and possibly foreign flagged warships.  If the Europeans intervened in the Civil War, San Francisco was more likely a target than New York.

Major-General Irwin McDowell, exiled to the Department of the Pacific (which was probably about as “cushy” a job as one might get in the Civil War, by the way), described the particulars of the Golden Gate passage from a military perspective in a letter to the Engineer Corps, in Washington, on July 27, 1864:

The charts of the harbor will show you the islands, the width of the channel, and depth of the water, but will not inform you of the prevailing winds which blow from the sea right into the gate; nor of the fogs which for a large part of the year enable vessels (as was the case when I arrived) to get quite inside before being seen. The Golden Gate is about as wide as the Narrows at New York, but the gate here opens right at once upon the broad ocean and not into a lower bay. On account of the width of the channel at the Golden Gate and the deep water at Lime Point, the work at Fort Point, about the size and kind of Fort Richmond, would be no barrier against steam vessels. Lime Point is a cliff with water at its base so deep and so swift that a lead has never (Captain Elliot, engineer, says) found bottom.

The point, which McDowell amply described, was that steamships could make a relatively fast passage, through deep waters and gain San Francisco.  And if timed right, fog and other factors would work against the defenders.

All of this was known by authorities in Washington.  In 1856 a survey of the terrain brought back numerous recommendations to fortify the bay. Those included additional batteries to supplement Fort Point and located on Alcatraz, Yerba Beuna, and Angel Islands, Point San Jose, and, most important to the Golden Gate, Lime Point opposite Fort Point.  I’ve highlighted some of those on a snip from the 1859 coastal survey map (which, by the way, indicates that someone had “cast a lead” into those waters to figure out the depth):

SanFrancisco1859aMap

By 1863, none of these options advanced far, as the Department of the Pacific lacked resources – chiefly heavy guns.  In August 1863, a board of officers suggested focused effort – and funding – for batteries on Lime Point, Point San Jose, and Angel Island, with the caveat that Lime Point would be a costly endeavor.  A year later, McDowell made the same comment about Lime Point:

To blast this cliff and build up a castle-work of masonry on the shelf is the labor of years at a cost of a million. It would not meet the existing emergency to do anything with it, and I would not in the present exhausted condition of the country advise its being even commenced.

However, McDowell offered another option:

 Within a few hundred yards seaward of Lime Point, between it and the light-house, is a little valley–a recess in the line of cliffs–where a water battery could be constructed in a few days, and which, if suitably armed and the overhanging heights properly occupied, would do all that could be done to give immediate strength to the first line of works. This valley is a couple of hundred yards farther off from Fort Point than is Lime Point, and should have heavy guns, some of them rifled.

McDowell went on to suggest other points, further into the harbor, where batteries were needed.  Somewhat like Beauregard at Charleston, McDowell wanted to build a ring of batteries to prevent any safe anchorage within the bay. But McDowell had much more, and deeper, water to cover.

Regardless of the placement of these batteries, McDowell needed guns.  On August 10, 1864, Chief Engineer Brigadier-General Richard Delafield responded to McDowell in regard to the defenses of San Francisco:

The effect of building and arming these batteries would be to bring a certain portion of the bay under fire which is not now under fire. But the vessels could find many other places to anchor, and still be out of reach of any batteries we might establish. A board of engineers has within a year considered the subject of additional defenses at San Francisco, and has come to the conclusion that it is best to bring a certain belt, or part of the harbor, through which all vessels entering it from sea must pass, under as heavy fire as practicable at the earliest day, in the first place, and after this is effected the subject of covering other portions of the bay with fire is to be undertaken in connection with floating defenses. This appears to me to be a prudent policy, and the most that we can undertake while our supply of ordnance suitable for these purposes is so very limited.

In short, he preferred to arm the Golden Gate.  Delafield went on to suggest imposing an administrative solution in the near term – forcing all foreign vessels to anchor at points under the existing defenses prior to entering the bay.

But help was on the way:

A due proportion of such ordnance as we have been able to obtain has heretofore been allotted to San Francisco, and, upon notice just received from the Ordnance Department that there are now some guns available for distribution, I shall ask to have sent to San Francisco the following: Three 15-inch guns, ten 100-pounder rifles, two 200-pounder rifles.

So in the middle of 1864, with commanders in active theaters such as Mobile Bay, Charleston, Petersburg, and Atlanta calling for heavy ordnance for use in siege operations, the Ordnance Department was to allocate fifteen of their largest and finest weapons to defend San Francisco.  And more such heavy guns would follow.  By the end of the Civil War, San Francisco would boast some of the heaviest coastal defenses in the Pacific.  Justifiably, after all.  It was the GOLDen Gate.

UPDATE:  I should point out, this image from 1908 demonstrates both the fears expressed in 1864 while at the same time the ultimate resolution of the military defense of San Francisco:

You must click and zoom in to get the full effect.  That’s the US Atlantic Fleet making a call at San Francisco in May 1908. No getting around it, the US needed a two ocean navy.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 50, Part II, Serial 106, pages 921-2, 936-7; Base maps used above are “From San Francisco Bay to the northern boundary of California,” 1855 and “Entrance to San Francisco Bay, California” Coastal Survey of 1859; “Stonewall-Kotetsu“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.; other images from WikiCommons or Library of Congress collection, where linked. )