A 32-pounder columbiad gun in a casemate of Fort Delaware, typical of all prewar coastal defense forts build along the Atlantic coast of the United States.

Since heavy artillery made up the first line of defense of the United States, more attention was paid tb it, and money spent on it, than on field artillery. In 1855, for example, the Chief of Ordnance reported having acquired 54 10-inch columbiads and 68 8-inch columbiads. During lite same year, for comparison, the army only acquired ;i9 bronze field in ins and two bronze howitzers of all calibers. In all, the army installed 224 heavy seacoast and garrison guns, mostly in lite San Francisco area, although a number went to a new fort at Key West. In 1855, die U.S. Army's Ordnance park of 10-inch and 8-inch howitzers and seacoast howitzers numbered 2,519, with another 2,957 seacoast and garrison guns. There were also ¿69 mortars.

In January, 1860, there were til forts and batteries that defended America's coastal cities, However, very few of these were actually garrisoned, evert though the forts were armed and, in theory, ready for action. Of all the forts along the southern coast that would face takeover in 1861, only three were manned: Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida, had a garrison <>f .'i'J men: Fort Sumter, South Carolina, had a garrison of K9 men; and Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Florida, had a garrison of 59 men. The others had either only an ordnance sergeant or fort-keeper on hand to maintain ihe fort and its guns or were totally abandoned.

Many of the guns of the United States fell into Confederate hands when the undermanned forts along the southern seacoast were taken over by local authorities. As the U.S. Secretary of War reported to Congress in June, 1.86.1, "The Government arsenals at Little Rock, Baton Rouge, Mount Vernon, Apalacliicola, Augusta, Charleston, and Fay-etteville, the ordnance depot at San Antonio and all the other Government works in Texas, which have served as the depots of immense stores of arms and ammunition, have been surrendered by the commanders or seized b\

Mountvernon Barracks

The rear of Fort Delaware's 3£-pounder columbiad shows how the carriage can be pivoted to be aimed.

disloyal hands. Forts Macon, Caswell, Johnston, Clinch, Pulaski, Jackson, Marion, Barrancas, McRee, Morgan, Gaines, Pike, Macomb, Saint Philip, Livingston, Smith* and three at Charleston; Oglethrope Barracks, Bar-raneas Barracks, New Orleans Barrack^ Fort Jackson on the Mississippi; the batten1 at Bienvenue, Dupre, and the works at Ship Island, have been successively stolen from the Government or betrayed by their commanding officers." With the sea forts, especially, came large stores of heavy artillery pieces. The Confederacy would start off on fairly equal terms with the Union in the area of heavy artillery, a rare exception to all other areas in which the North largely predominated.

On April 20, 1861, the new Confederate Ordnance Department surveyed what they had acquired in their capture of federal forts. According to Major Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, their park included: "Ten-inch columbiads, 8; 8-inch columbiads, 41; 24-pounder guns, 191; 24-pounder guns (flank defense), 9; 32-pounder guns, 188; 24-pounder howitzers (flank defense), 37: 10-inch mortars, 19; 6-pounder field guns, 2; 42-pounder guns, 48; 18-pounder guns, 5;

12-pounder guns, 2; 8-incii sea-coast howitzers, 13; N-inch navy guns, 2;

13-inch mortars, 2; Coehorn mortars, 6, and 9-inch navy guns, 2; in fortifications, 375.

"At arsenals - Thirty-two pounder guns, 40: 24-pounder guns, 3; 24-pounder howitzers (for flank defense), 6, and 8- and 10-inch mortars, 5; total in fortifications and arsenals, 429."

These were not always the newest of guns, For example, Fort Macon. North (larolina, received its first iron 24-pounders in 1835-30, and these tubes were to be put to use in 1861, Over the years, the wooden gun carriages had rotted away, having received only minimal refurbishing. When the Confederates took over, they found four guns mounted on carriages rebuilt in 1844, while another 13 guns lay on skids on the fort's wharf. There would be much to do to get this, and the other Southern coastal forts into shape for defense.

On November 15, 1863, Gorgas, by then a colonel, reported that Southern sources had begun producing heavy artillery, the chief source being the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. By then, the Con federate army had received 31 heavy guns from Southern sources, and bought another 46 heavy guns from outside suppliers both in the South and abroad.

The army of Northern Virginia corps artillery chief. E. Porter Alexander, described a typical Confederate heavy artillery defense as a mixture of prewar columbiads and Southern-made big guns: "The heavy

The rear of Fort Delaware's 3£-pounder columbiad shows how the carriage can be pivoted to be aimed.

Defence Fort Sumter Allposters
A columbmd in a casemate under fire at Fort Sumter,

guns which defended the fames River against the enemy's fleet were principally the ordinary eigh t-i n c h a n d t p 11 -i n c h cohimbiads, and Brooke's rifles' of six and four tenths and seven inches caliber. These rifles only needed telescopic sights (which could not be made in the Confederacy) to be perfect arms of their class, their trajectories being more uniform than the sighting of the guns could be made by the eye. In addition to these rifles ('aptain Brooke also furnished some heavily banded smoothbores of ten and eleven inches caliber, to fire wroLight-iron balls with very high charges against the ironc lads, which would doubtless have been extremely effective at short ranges."

Even after losing all the guns it did to the seceding Southerners, the U.S. Army had a lot of heavy artillery remaining at its disposal and a much greater manufacturing capacity that could easily replace what it had lost and more. At the outbreak of hostilities, the U.S. Ordnance Department counted 544 siege guns on hand, and. by June 30, 1862, had added '211 siege guns, for a total of 755. Similarly, ii had 1,508 seacoast gnns at the beginning of the war, and by June 30, 1862, had acquired 302 more guns for a total of 1,810. A year later the U.S. Army had on hand 1,090 siege guns and 1.926 seacoast guns and mortars. During the vear between June 30, 1863, and June 30, 1864, the Ordnance Department reported issuing another 604 siege guns and 1.127 seacoast guns and mortars. Finally, on June 30, 1864. the Ordnance Department reported that a year earlier it had on hand 346 siege guns and mortars, had acquired another 424, issued 32, and had on hand 738 of these weapons. As to seacoast guns and mortars, it had 812 on hand a year earlier, acquired 612, issued 593, and had 831 seacoast guns and mortars left over.

Union forces had a different heavy artillery problem than did the Confederates, who merely had to use their heavy artillery for defense. First, Union forces needed their heavy guns in defensive fortifications, not only inland as around Washington, D.C., but. along the coast as at Fort Warren, Boston; Fort Jay, New York; and Fort Delaware, Delaware City. Second, Union forces needed heavy artillery to besiege Confederate forts.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment