“Walker’s and Long’s are exhausted”

Following along with the last post on the Confederate ammunition supply here is another item from the same period. Please excuse the quality of the scan.

Letter from Pendelton to Alexander evening of May 18, 1864.

Letter from Pendelton to Alexander evening of May 18, 1864.

The interesting point here is that Alexander is being called on to move guns to support the Third Corps. Pendelton expressing the opinion that both the Second and Third Corps reserves are exhausted. Also that if Alexander couldn’t find Lindsey Walker, he could go directly to the battalion commander in the area, Richardson and work out the details.

Also that the artillery commanders of all the corps, along with Martin Smith, were cooperating at least to some extent on the defenses.

An interesting document which tells us a bit about the stress the army was under during those days.

 

Posted in artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Artillery used like shotguns – the Confederate Ammunition Supply at Spotsylvania

View from the left of the East Angle.

A peaceful view today. The view the Louisiana troops would have had from these works.

It has been said that at Spotsylvania the Confederates used their artillery like giant shotguns. Short ranges and the need to add power to the infantry line necessitated just that. The guns by and large were in the trenches, firing against massed infantry at generally only a few hundred yards.

Perhaps the records can shed some light on this one way or another. Below is a table, taken from the Official Records, showing the amount of artillery ammunition remaining in the ANV ordnance trains on May 18, 1864.

What is interesting about this table is the distribution of rounds, by type, remaining in each Corps trains. Remember this is not the number at the actual batteries. We can assume that the ammo chests for those guns were kept as full as possible. We can also assume that each battalion had a supply of sorts on hand. What that supply consisted of,if it existed at all, we do not know. But once those rounds were fired, whats listed in this table is all that’s available until a new supply arrived from Richmond.

Artillery Ammunition in ANV Ordnance trains May 18, 1864.

Artillery Ammunition in ANV Ordnance trains May 18, 1864.

In addition remember that this table is for May 18th. At dawn of that day, the Federals launched an attack with two army Corps against the Second Corps new line behind the Harrison House. This attack was quickly repelled almost entirely by the artillery. We can imagine that the 29 guns employed by General Long that morning used up a significant amount of ammunition.  At the same time the Third Corps guns had a substantial artillery duel with their opposite numbers on the Federal side. Whether this table was made before or after the batteries sent back for resupply after those actions we do not know.

Regardless, what we can surmise from looking at this table is not the number, but the type of ammunition that was being used during the battle. For the sake of argument we will assume that each Corps  started out with roughly the same number of say, Napoleon shot, when the campaign began. So what would cause a difference between Corps in the number of rounds remaining? The most logical answer would be either the terrain, shorter ranges mean more canister, or the preference of the Commander for one type over another..

The Second Corps numbers could be skewed by the loss of so many guns and their ammunition on May 12, but that would mean fewer guns to consume ammo afterwards. Also its worthwhile to note that those guns were predominantly 3 inch rifles, not Napoleons.

The thing that jumps off the page to us is the shortage of canister. 24 rounds of Napoleon canister, all in 1st and 3rd Corps. 54 rounds of 3 inch rifle canister which was all in 3rd Corps.

And of course Alexander in the 1st Corps was a strong proponent of the howitzer, thus the numbers for howitzer ammunition.

Additionally it should be noted that when the Confederates were expecting an attack on their right on the 19th, Alexander was asked to supply guns as support. The reason being that the artillery of both the Second and Third Corps was “fought out.”

I would think that one of the tasks Confederate Artillery commanders had to contend with at this point of the campaign was fire control.  Making sure that the batteries weren’t wasteful of ammunition. How much if at all it effected the battle we will probably never know.

 

Posted in American Civil War, artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Bloody Angle, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, May 12, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864, Uncategorized, West Angle | Leave a comment

Artillery used like shotguns – the Confederate Ammunition Supply at Spotsylvania

View from the left of the East Angle.

A peaceful view today. The view the Louisiana troops would have had from these works.

It has been said that at Spotsylvania the Confederates used their artillery like giant shotguns. Short ranges and the need to add power to the infantries line necessitated just that. The guns by and large were in the trenches, firing against massed infantry at generally only a few hundred yards.

Perhaps the records can shed some light on this one way or another. Below is a table, taken from the Official Records, showing the amount of artillery ammunition remaining in the ANV ordnance trains on May 18, 1864.

What is interesting about this table is the distribution of rounds, by type, remaining in each Corps trains. Remember this is not the number at the actual batteries. We can assume that the ammo chests for those guns were kept as full as possible. We can also assume that each battalion had a supply of sorts on hand. What that supply consisted of,if it existed at all, we do not know. But once those rounds were fired, whats listed in this table is all that’s available until a new supply arrived from Richmond.

Artillery Ammunition in ANV Ordnance trains May 18, 1864.

Artillery Ammunition in ANV Ordnance trains May 18, 1864.

What we can surmise from looking at this table is not the number, but the type of ammunition that was being used. For the sake of argument we will assume that each corps  started out with roughly the same number of say, Napoleon shot, when the campaign began. So what would cause a difference in the number remaining?

The Second Corps numbers could be skewed by the loss of so many guns and their ammunition on May 12, but that would mean less guns to consume ammo afterwards.

The thing that jumps off the page to us is the shortage of canister. 24 rounds of napoleon canister, all in 1st and 3rd Corps. 54 rounds of 3 inch rifle canister that was all in 3rd Corps.

And of course Alexander in the 1st Corps was a strong proponent of the howitzer, thus the numbers for howitzer ammunition.

I would think that one of the tasks Confederate Artillery commanders had to contend with at this point of the campaign was fire control.  Making sure that the batteries weren’t wasteful of ammunition. How much if at all it effected the battle we will probably never know.

 

Posted in American Civil War, artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Bloody Angle, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, May 12, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864, Uncategorized, West Angle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Wasn’t the Only Time

The perception is that the withdrawal of the bulk of the artillery from General Johnson';s line on the evening of May 11th was a unique event.IMG_00000038However, this is not the case at all. All five of the artillery battalions spent some time along the lines of either Rodes or Johnson’s divisions. Generally speaking after two days they were replaced by another battalion. These reliefs were generally, although not always, made in the early morning hours.

But on the afternoon of May 10th Upton’s attack so threatened Nelson’s battalion,which held positions between the West and East Angles, that the guns were withdrawn during the action to prevent their capture. Even though Upton was repulsed the batteries  went back to the camps behind the Courthouse for the night. The removal of these batteries from their positions while the infantry from Steuart’s and Jone’s Brigades were simultaneously being moved from the right of the Salient to positions near or along the McCoull Lane caused a lot of confusion and delay.

The following morning the batteries returned to their original positions.

One has to wonder whether the experience played a part in the decision to withdraw the two battalions out that afternoon before Johnson’s infantry moved.

Posted in 1864, American Civil War, artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Battle of the Muleshoe, Bloody Angle, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, May 12, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864, Page's Battalion, Steuart's Brigade, Upton's Charge, West Angle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Statement that has kept me up at night. (slight clarification)

In all my studies of Spotsylvania there is one statement that I keep returning to. Two sentences that could unlock so much, yet never will. They were written in a letter from Wilfred Cutshaw to James McDowell Carrington in 1905. You will remember that Carrington commanded the Charlottesville Artillery in Cutshaw’s battalion. His battery along with Tanner’s,  both of which were in Cutshaw’s battalion, was along the line of Johnson’s division on the morning of May 12.

Looking down the works at the Mule Shoe.

Looking down the works at the Mule Shoe.

So lets see what Cutshaw had to say.

“Why only one Battalion was ordered back after 12 o’clock at night and why they did not go there until the enemy was just about to break over the works it is difficult to say. There are points which could be discussed if we were together that might account for this, but it is not possible to clear it up in the brief comment on the account as you have it.”

So there you have it. He is of course referring to the fact that two battalions, Page’s and Nelson’s were withdrawn from the center and right of Johnson’s line, yet only one, Page’s was ordered to return. And that in took far too long for it reach its intended positions.

Obviously he knew something about the causes, but apparently he carried it to his grave. All of his superiors except Thomas Carter, as well as most of his peers, of the time had already died, and Cutshaw himself would die in 1907.

 

Posted in 1864, American Civil War, artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Battle of the Muleshoe, Bloody Angle, Carrington's Battery, Cutshaw's Battalion, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864, Tanner's Battery, West Angle | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charlottesville Artillery aka Carrington’s Battery

Contrary to what some people may think there were actually two batteries left along the line of Edward Johnson’s division on the night of May 11/12, 1864. Both Carrington’s battery and Tanner’s battery were with Cutshaw’s battalion and had been placed in the line on the afternoon of May 11. Unfortunately neither battery was in a position to bear on the Federals as they assaulted on the morning of the 12th.

The Sergeant Major of Carrington’s battery left us a sketch of his batteries position that morning. If you visit the battlefield today you can find the remains of most of these positions to the right of the McCoull Lane.

scan0005

You may note that like many of the participants he identified the East Angle as the “Bloody Angle”. We today of course call the West Angle by that title.

The sketch shown is printed here with the permission of the University of Virginia Library system.

Posted in artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Battle of the Muleshoe, Bloody Angle, Carrington's Battery, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, Johnson's Division, May 12, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864, Tanner's Battery, West Angle | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just a Look

One of the things that makes the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse so fascinating is the contradictions. So as a hint of an upcoming article I give you this excerpt from a well-known work.

The threatening attitude of Hancock’s attacking column, as indicated by the noise of the preparations going on in front of the salient during the night, had not been communicated to General Lee. The announcement of the disaster was the first news which came to him of this movement of the enemy.

entiresalientline

This is from “General Lee in the Wilderness Campaign” by Charles S. Vernable, Lieutenant-Colonel, C.S.A., of General Lee’s Staff

Of course Col. Vernable would have wanted to protect Gen. Lee’s reputation, but how does it fit with the story of that fateful 24 hours?

In the article we will probably notice more conflicting accounts.

 

Posted in American Civil War, artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Battle of the Muleshoe, Bloody Angle, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, May 12, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864, Page's Battalion, West Angle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment