Tag Archives: Tredegar

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part II: 10-inch Confederate Columbiad and Fort Sumter

On Friday I opened this series by placing five photos of Fort Johnson, overlooking Charleston harbor, in context with surveys conducted at the end of the war.


There are five more photos I will bring up later.  And those look at the fort from the interior.  For now, let me focus on the exterior photos looking across the water battery.  Best start with the first, or FJ-1 on my chart above.


The obvious eye-catcher is the 10-inch Confederate Columbiad in the foreground.  Great study of the columbiad as mounted in barbette.


As mentioned in the earlier post, you can see the damage done by Confederate axes in order to render the weapon at least temporarily out of service.  Zooming in, you can see individual hacks on the wood:


The rear of the columbiad offers a view of the elevating mechanism.  Note the base for the rear sight on the knob.


Lots of implements around the position.  Some broken but most in good condition.  Apparently the Confederates, having no need for 10-inch Columbiad implements, just left them behind with the gun.

Unfortunately, the only markings visible from this angle are those on the left trunnion:


That gives the date of manufacture as 1862 or 1863.  Not much help as Tredegar and Bellona Foundries produced many guns of this type during those years.

But there may be a way to identify the weapon, if among surviving pieces.  Notice the rough line just in front of the point of taper, at the rear of the reinforce.  Also notice a rough line in front of the sight mass and trunnions.


J.R. Anderson’s preference to leave the guns un-turned with rough exteriors may aid us 150 years later.  There is a 10-inch Columbiad across the bay in the Confederate section of Magnolia Cemetery which has a similar set of rough lines:

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This is Tredegar foundry number 1678, cast on October 13, 1862.  The lines are indicative of casting seams, where parts of the cast met.  Guns using the same molding pattern would exhibit similar lines.  So this is not definitive, but tentative.  Just raises the possibility of finding a surviving gun in the wartime photos.

Looking beyond to the other guns (which we’ll discuss in turn), we also see the berm that was Fort Johnson’s rampart:


You can see the texture here in great detail.  Almost to the point that layers of sod can be counted.  We lose something here with the black and white photo.  This appears to us as a bland, but sharp, earthwork.  But was the grass green in April 1865?

Other implements stand in front of the fort’s walls.  This is a siege limber. Likely used with the 8-inch siege howitzer further up in the photo.


In front of the columbiad is a cannister round.  Notice the rivets up the side:


Other debris is hard to identify.  Is that an auger laying out on the sand?


Or just a section of rope?

Further up the line, there are another couple of canister rounds placed in front of the fort:


We’ll get to the 8-inch howitzer later on, as it appears for better study in FJ3.  For now, let’s consider those three posts in the waters beyond:


There is a break in that line of posts about mid way through the distance to Fort Sumter. Then a couple more:


During the long siege of Fort Sumter, the Confederates ran a telegraph line to the fort.  But most sources indicate that was submerged.  Aside from possible ranging points or navigation aids, perhaps these were used to anchor the submerged telegraph line.

This side of Fort Sumter was one unfamiliar to the Federals in the spring of 1865:


Most of their observations came from the side fronting Morris Island and the breaching batteries.  This profile indicates how effective those batteries were.  The old dock, which extended from the gorge wall, is just a dike extending from the ruins.  The new dock, built by the Confederates, extends from the harbor face wall, on the left of this snip.  You can make out the lighthouse, which had been erected by the Federals shortly after the fall of Charleston.

The mechanics of the photography come into play here a bit.  We see several blurs that were vessels in motion.  Not focused enough to make out any details, other than the masts of the vessel on the right of the fort.


Yes… it’s water… and constantly in motion.  So for the time of exposure, all we have is a level plain over the waters between the forts.  We don’t know if the waters were choppy or placid that day.  But we do see a thin white line extending across the photo.  Reminds me of the foamy channel of water that forms as the tide is running out.

As with all these photos, there are a wealth of details as we zoom down.  For many decades, we could see these photos in books but not examine those details very well.  Now, thanks to digitization of the original negative, we can see these photos for all their blemishes and treasures.

I’ll continue this set with more detailed examinations of the photos of Fort Johnson.

Guns of the CSS Atlanta: Part 2 – 7 inch Brooke Rifles

Moving up a caliber from yesterday’s post, now let’s look at the bow and stern guns of the CSS Atlanta.  At the time of capture, the Confederate ironclad mounted a 7-inch Single Banded Brooke Rifle in each position.  On the bow was number 1740 from Tredegar:

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7inch Single Banded Brooke – #1740

On the stern was Tredegar number 1652.

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7-inch Single Banded Brooke – Tredegar #1652

Just as with the 6.4-inch Brookes, the 7-inch rifles conformed to the Brooke form.  Tredegar stamped the foundry number on the upper muzzle face.

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Muzzle Face of #1652

The bore received seven groove Brooke style rifling.

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Bore of 7-inch Brooke.

The sight arrangements were the same as for the smaller guns.  Notice the two holes where screws fixed the front sight onto the sight mass.

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Sight Mass of 7-inch Brooke

The trunnions bear the stamp of “P” for proofed along with the initials of the inspector  – Alexander M. DeBree.

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Trunnion markings for #1740

Aside from being larger than the 6.4-inch rifle, the breech and bands have differences to mention. Notice the band fitted around the gun just in front of the start of the breech face, leaving a flat section between the band and the rear sight mass.

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Breech and band profile

Also note the radial lines on the band.  As with all Brookes, these bands are butt welded onto the gun.

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View over the Breech

Markings on the band include “T.F.” for Tredegar Foundry and “15162” for the weight. And that is the weight with the band… more on that in a minute.

After capture, the US Navy added two new sets of marks. First a trophy number stamp. In the case of number 1740, that trophy number is 4.

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Trophy number stamp

The other mark is a bragging inscription on the breech:

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Inscription on the Breech

On the left – “Brooke’s 7in Rifle (Rebel imitation of Parrott) from Rebel Ram Atlanta.”   We can dispute the inaccuracy of that statement, for sure.  And while we are at it, we might even contest that written on the other side – “Captured by US Monitor Weehawken Commodore John Rodgers.”  The USS Nahant was there too, just she didn’t fire a shot.

Now there is a small, perhaps trivial, detail with the Atlanta‘s 7-inch guns.  When first outfitted, she was issued Tredegar numbers 1641 and 1652.  As seen from the photos above, 1652 was captured with the ironclad.  But what of 1641?  Some defect prompted Commander Richard Page, in command of the Savannah naval station, to call for a replacement in May 1863.  As you might guess, the replacement was number 1740.  Correspondence between Richmond and Savannah called out the guns by foundry number. The only question is what the defect was.

A tally sheet from Tredegar indicates the sale of a 7-inch Brooke with foundry number 1740.  Notice the weight recorded – 14,425 pounds.  That is before banding.  Recall from above the total weight was 15,162 pounds.

Page 394a

A 7-inch Brooke Rifle cost $2,308 unbanded, with the cost of rifling and banding at $1,082.50.  That is in Confederate 1863 dollars.

Mr. A.W. Small escorted the 7-inch rifle to Savannah.

Page 379

The gun, and escort, arrived in Savannah on May 22.  So number 1740 went onto the CSS Atlanta, with 1641 going to the docks.  Not one to waste a cannon, no matter how defective or old, General P.G.T. Beauregard secured the weapon for use at Charleston.  At the end of the war, number 1641 was among those captured by Federal troops on Sullivan’s Island.  And today that gun is in the West Point trophy collection.

Guns of the CSS Atlanta: Part 1 – 6.4 inch Brooke Rifles

Back when this blog was “young” I posted about the CSS Atlanta and her guns at the Washington Navy Yard.  Time to revisit that topic and provide a bit more about the rebel ironclad.

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The CSS Atlanta’s guns – all in a row

Let me start with a walk around of the 6.4-inch Brooke guns that comprised the ship’s armament.  There are two 6.4-inch Brookes in the set.  These Brookes are singled-banded and match all the standard factors seen on Brooke Rifles. Tredegar foundry number 1610 was the starboard side gun on the CSS Atlanta:

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6.4-inch Brooke – Tredegar #1610

And Tredegar number 1587 was the port side gun:

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6.4-inch Brooke – Tredegar #1587

The foundry numbers appear on the top of the muzzle face (and can faintly be seen on the top of the breeching jaws).

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Muzzle face of 6.4-inch #1610

The rifling pattern shows seven grooves.  In a few places you can still see the ever slight lands of the Brooke-type rifling.

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Bore of 6.4-inch Brooke Rifle

Looking down the muzzle of #1587, two of the three sight arrangements come into view.  There is a hole for a muzzle sight blade.  Further back, over the trunnions, is a block for a sight.

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Front view of #1587

Note also the flared rimbases in the view above.  The trunnions are just over 7 inches long, and just over 7 inches in diameter.  Those dimensions are perhaps the left over vestige of the IX-inch Dahlgren gun pattern used in the earliest Brooke Rifles.  The trunnion marks are “J.R.A. & Co // T.F.” on the right and “1862” on the left.

Looking from the breech, there is another feature alluding to the Dahlgren design – the rear sight base.

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Band and rear sight base of Brooke 6.4-inch Rifle

The band is thirty inches long.  At the base of the band is the weight stamp – 9110 pounds in the case of #1587, 9120 pounds for #1610.

Here’s a better view of the band and breech in profile:

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Breech profile and Band

Notice the angles of the rear sight base and the hemispherical contours of the breech.  The blade type breeching jaws also come from the Dahlgren patterns.

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Breeching jaws and socket for elevating screw

These two guns are the only surviving single-banded 6.4-inch Brookes, from at least eleven produced.  These two guns were cast in June 1862.  In October they were shipped to Savannah.  They were joined by two 7-inch Brooke rifles the following month.  One of those two sits beside the 6.4-inch guns at the Washington Navy Yard’s Willard Park today.

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Four guns from the CSS Atlanta

But wait there are TWO 7-inch Brookes there.  And all four guns came from the CSS Atlanta, right?  Well there were actually three 7-inch Brookes shipped to Savannah for the ironclad.  In my next post on this subject, I’ll sort through the reason that three such guns are associated with that Confederate ironclad, though only two were captured with it.