Pontoons on the Rappahannock (Part 1)

With this blog, I begin a series of posts dealing with engineer support of the Union attack at Fredericksburg, VA on 11-15 December 1862. We normally tell the story of the battle from top down or from the General’s point of view. I will attempt to do the opposite, telling the story from the point of view of the engineers involved. This initially is told by Colonel (then Captain) Wesley Brainerd, Commander of C Company, 50th New York Continue reading

Posted in In the neighborhood, Pontoon Bridging | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

156th Anniversary and Remembrance Walk

This past weekend, December 8th and 9th, the National Park Service (NPS) Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park conducted its annual anniversary and remembrance program on the Battle of Fredericksburg. I volunteer at the park and am normally found at the Fredericksburg (NPS) Visitors’ Center on the third Thursday of each month. For this weekend, I assisted the ranger/historian team of John Hennessey, Frank O’Reilly, Greg Mertz and Beth Parnicza. I managed to capture images of the activities.  Saturday, while chilly, was clear. Sunday began as an overcast day, Continue reading

Posted in In the neighborhood, Remembering | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carlton’s Battery

The Washington Artillery (click here), positioned on Marye’s Heights, received recognition for its  role in helping to defeat the Union assaults during the battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. But what about the nearly two dozen other artillery batteries listed on the Confederate Order of Battle in Longstreet’s Corps sector? What was their contribution to the Union defeat during the battle?

Today, I focus on one of those two dozen batteries.  The Troup Artillery Battery from Athens Georgia was established in 1858 as the National Artillery under the leadership of Professor Franklin Hill who was their first captain.  The battery purchased its first gun in 1859 – an Ames Type1 James rifle. In December 1860 they received two Ames bronze 6-pounder guns from the State of Georgia. . On 2 January 1861 the battery changed its name to the Troup Artillery in honor of Georgia’s former Governor, George M. Troup.

Events leading up to the Civil War were moving fast. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln was elected President, South Carolina was the first slave state to secede. On 20 December 1860, South Carolina passed an Ordinance of Secession. They sent representatives to other slave states encouraging them to also secede. On 19 January 1861, Georgia took its Continue reading

Posted in Confederate Artillery, In the neighborhood, Terrain | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brick-Kilns and Clay Deposits

It may seem strange to look at a study of the geology of Fredericksburg to understand the battle which occurred there in 1862. But here we go!

Fredericksburg is located along the Fall Line of the Rappahannock River. Similar to other cities along the east coast of America, this location provided substantial commercial and economic advantages.  “The edge of the Piedmont/Coastal Plain, where various rivers cross from hard bedrock to soft sediments, is marked by a line of rapids and waterfalls called the Fall Line… That physical pattern of rapids/waterfalls blocked ships from sailing further upstream, limiting water-based transportation of the European colonists. The natural geologic barrier to shipping delayed European settlement of the Piedmont and shaped the location of major Virginia’s cities, including Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Petersburg.” Continue reading

Posted in In the neighborhood, Terrain | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Civil War Artillery (part 2)

I recently had a chance to visit the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. While there, I was particularly impressed by the artillery display located at the entrance of Chickamauga Battlefield National Park Service visitors’ center. What I found of note in this display, not only did they have all six of the most used western theater cannons, they also incorporated information relevant to each gun.


Model 1841, 12-pounder Howitzer


3-inch Ordnance Rifle


Model 1841, 6-pound Gun


12-pound James Rifle (Type 1)


Model 1857, Light 12-pounder Gun-Howitzer (Napoleon)


10-pound Parrott Rifle

The Western Theater during the civil war seems to have been at the end of the artillery supply chain. It received what no one else wanted. As such, its armies hung onto and made use of the 6-pound smooth bore and the 12-pound James Rifle much longer than the Eastern Theater. Better to use what you had than to go without. In the Eastern Theater following the battle at Antietam, General Lee requested that the 6-pounders be turned into Ordinance to be melted down into the 12-pound Napoleon. This was due to the range and strength of the Napoleon over the 6-pound smooth bore gun.

The James Rifle was born in part out of the desire on the part of the military to quickly enter the rifled gun era. Named after inventor and militia general Charles T. James, who worked with the Ames Manufacturing Company until his untimely death in October 1862. There were several models or types of James rifles. Most of these were cast in bronze and fired the James projectile. The Type 1’s were rebored 6-pounders with rifling. The challenge with rifling bronze is the rapid wear on the rifling soon led to inaccuracy of the piece and loss of power, hence range. The James projectile fell out of favor and was replaced by the Hotchkiss projectile. I suggest reading an excellent piece by Craig Swain, a fellow blogger, which provides information on the James rifle (chick here).

I purposely placed the photos of the 6-pound gun, the James Rifle and the 12-pound gun adjacent to each other to allow you to flip between the images. As you visually compare these three bronze guns remember that the James Type 1 began its life as a Model 1841 6-pound gun. The 6-pound gun was replaced by the Model 1857 12-pound gun/howitzer, commonly called the Napoleon.

Previous blogs on civil war artillery can be found: Civil War Artillery, Confederate Artillery Dominance.

Posted in Confederate Artillery, Union Artillery, Weapons | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment