Heavy Artillery Usage

The main purpose of heavy artillery was to defend and attack fixed fortifications. These fortifications were made of brick, stone, and mortar along the coast and, where newer fortifications were especially created to match the occasion as at around Washington or Richmond, of earth and sand bags, lit fact, the newer fortifications did better under fire from the heavy guns then available.

The siege of Fort Pulaski, Georgia, was a test of all types of heavy artillery of the period. The fort, defending the approach lo Savannah along a river leading into the city, was a single-story pentagon-shaped brickwork with a line of guns inside and a line en barbette (meaning exposed on the top of the fort's walls). Its construction had begun in 1829 and by 1847 ii could be said to be only "nearly complete." Essentially it, as were the other fortifications along America's seacoast, had been designed to withstand smoothbore artillery of the Napoleonic era. Its armament was to consist of 150 guns, none larger than a 32-pounder, of which there were 65, and which was still the heaviest gun in its garrison in I860. By November, 1802, ii had, en barbette, live 10-inch

The Confederates,

Columbiads, six 8-inch Columbiads, and two 10-inch mortars. The casements contained three 8-inch columbiads, two 42-pounder guns, 20 32-po under guns, and one 24-pounder gun, I ,ater, the Confederates were able to add imported British-made Blakely 24-pounder rifled guns to this garrison.

In May, 1861, lirit ish correspondent Lord Russell visited the post, which he thought was ill-suited for the day, noting that the Confederates "do not understand the nature of the new shell and heavy vertical fire, or the effect of projectiles from great distances falling into open works, however, felt that no siege artillery could smash through the fort's brick walls from the distances at which they would have to be placed.

The Union forces planned to take Fort Pulaski, the main defense of Savannah, as an entrance into Georgia, The chief engineer planning the siege called for a force often 10-inch mortars, ten 13-inch mortars, eight heavy rifled guns, and eight columbiads. These were to be placed in batteries ranging from 2,600 yards to 3,700 yards from the fort. In fact, 36 Union guns were to take part in this siege. These were placed as follows; three heavy 13-inch mortars at 3,400 yards from the fort; three heavy 13-inch mortars 3,200 yards away; three heavy 10-inch columbiads 3,100 yards away; three heavy 8-inch mortars 3,045 yards away; one heavy 13-inch mortar 2,750 yards away; three heavy 13-inch mortars 2,650 yards away; two heavy 13-inch mortars 2,400 yards away; three 10-inch columbiads and one 8-inch columbiad 1,740 yards away; five 30-pounder Parrotts and one 48-pounder James rifle, which had been rebored from a 24-pounder, 1,670 yards away; two 84r-pounder James rifles, rebored from 42-potmder smoothbores, and two 64-pounder James rifles, rebored from 32-pounder smoothbores, 1,650 yards away; and four 10-inch siege mortars 1,650 yards awav.

On April 10, 1862, the Union forces opened fire on the fort. At first the Union shelling seemed to their observers to have little effect. Confederate return fire was also ineffective, most of the shells falling short into the river or sinking into the marshes and exploding uselessly. Inside the fort, however, things were hot going well at all. The rifled shells, particularly from the James rifles, blasted brick dust everywhere. Within three hours, three casement guns were disabled. That evening, the Confederate commander examined his post and found, "It was worse than disheartening, the pan-coupe at the southeast angle was entirely breached while above, on the rampart, the parapet had been shot away and an 8-inch gun, the muzzle of which was gone, hung trembling over the verge. The two adjacent casemates were rapidly approaching the same ruined condition; masses of broken masonry nearly filled the moat, as was the interior of the three casemates where the dismounted guns lay like logs among the bricks,"

The Parrot! guns Were concentrated on exposed Confederate guns, and it was later seen

The Confederates,

Large Parrott rifles were prone to premature explosions which could hurl heavy chunks of metal some distance, such as on this gun photographed in the Union lines besieging Charleston, South Carolina.

Large Parrott rifles were prone to premature explosions which could hurl heavy chunks of metal some distance, such as on this gun photographed in the Union lines besieging Charleston, South Carolina.

The muzzle was blown off this 300-pounder Parrott rifle in Battery Strong, part of the ring of Union force facing Charleston, it exploded on its 27th round, losing some 20 inches of tube. The tube was then cut down and fired another 371 rounds before more cracks around the muzzle forced the gun's retirement.

Miners Union Gap

The Union position at Crow's Nest at Dutch Gap, during the Petersburg campaign, is outfitted with 10-inch mortars. (Library of Congress)

that 10 percent of Parrott pEcijer tiles tumbled end over end.

Firing continued through the night and into the nevt day, and by late morning the Union observers noted that several casemates had been entirely opened, in a hole big enough for a two-horse wagon, and the moat had been almost filled with bricks, masonry, and gun parts. Bv the end of the day, ii was clear that defense was impossible, and the

The Union position at Crow's Nest at Dutch Gap, during the Petersburg campaign, is outfitted with 10-inch mortars. (Library of Congress)

Confederates surrendered. The for IS hours hefore the surrender.

During the two-day bombardment. Union forces fired 1,394 shot and 3,923 shells for a total of 5,317 rounds. In all, 1.732 were mortar rounds, ! ,250 were fired from coluttibiads, 1,024 were James rounds, and 1,311 were fired from the Parrotts. Close examination showed that a single 84-pounder James shell, fired at *1 /■• with an 8-pound charge, penetrated 26 inches of masonry. A 30-pounder Parrott shot penetrated IS inches. A 128-pound solid shot from a 10-inch columbiad penetrated 13 inches: a 68-pound shot from an 8-inch columbiad penetrated II inches. A 42-pounder shot dug up to 12 feet into the earthen traverses between the guns en barbette. In all, 58 percent of the shot that penetrated the fort's walls was fired by rifled guns, with the rest from smoothbores. The result was a breach 30 feet wide with an adjacent scarp wall that was severely damaged across three casemates, hi all, 110,643 pounds of metal had been fired at this point to do so much damage.

Clearly, rifled pieces did the most damage, and most observers felt that they won the day. The smoothbore contribution was relatively small, and had the besieging force had only columbiads and mortars, the siege would have gone on a great deal longer. The chief engineer at the siege calculated that heavy smoothbore guns would have been effective il closer than 700 yards from the fort, but beyond that range rifled guns were vastly better in breaching masonry walls. According to him: "... good rifled guns, properly served, can breach rapidly at ls650 yards distance, A few heavy round shot, to bring down the masses loosened by the rifled projectiles, are of good service."

Mortars were of little value. Only 10 percent of their shells fell within the fort's walls. Their only real value was in silencing the guns en barbette and setting alight wooden buildings inside the fort. One mortar dug a hole seven feet deep on die fort's parade ground.

Confederate counterbattery fire had been totally ineffective, even before most of their guns were disabled.

The era of fortifications that had lasted from the days ofVaubaun were gone. A Union visitor after the surrender reported that rifled "steel pointed shot bored through the brick walls as if they were so much paper." Old-fashiôrted forts were suddenly obsolete, due to modern heavy artillery, and, "We must have iron forts and ironclad ships."

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