Monday, June 25, 2012

Small Cannon and a bit more about me.

This post has kind of an odd title, but I really could not think of a better one. I did not want to leave it at "Small Cannon", or "12LB Napoleon" as I did not want to disappoint someone looking for information about Civil War artillery. I wanted to arouse some curiosity though.
I operate a very small (and I do mean very small) welding fabrication and repair shop and I do not throw anything away if I think it can be used on a different project. Consequently I end up with a bunch of what most folks would call scraps and junk, stuff they would have thrown away long ago. That is a waste I say. That stuff comes in handy at times, especially on a weekend or after hours. People do not always break down between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. Another thing is I hate to pull down a 20 foot length of steel just for 6 inches worth, so I head for the left over pile. I usually save myself some effort that way.
Anyway, I have another use for that so called junk. When I get slow in the shop, I turn loose and create, well, art work. Steel sculpture, or it might be aluminum, brass, stainless steel or whatever. It allows me to keep myself occupied between jobs. I had some of that slow time over the last week and decided to do some dabbling.

I fabricate just about anything and this year I have built several custom mailbox posts, but they take more material than my leftover pile can provide. I always have enough of something to build a mailbox topper though!
That is a model of a 12lb Napoleon, Model 1857. My first hurdle to clear on this project was to find a full side view of one of these so I could scale how far the muzzle and breach protruded beyond the wheel. Most photos I found were off at an angle so it was difficult to judge. The photo I found also allowed me to judge how far above the center line of the wheel the barrel rode and how far back the trail extended. I am a little off on the trail length but it is OK, I think.

I got a little carried away with the carriage, and tried to shape it like the real deal. I liked the look of it but as you can see it gets lost in the overall scheme of things. You will also note that the wheel only has 8 spokes. 14 should be there but with that many it just looked "busy". Besides the carriage was completely covered by the spokes so I went with the 8 you see. I tried staggering the wheels to get more spokes in the picture but it just did not look right.
A couple of things I did do that I was glad of were on the barrel. The muzzle is flared. And there is a knob on the breech.

The barrel was made of 2 pieces of differing diameters, drilled and tapped on the mating ends, then TIG welded. How I tapered the barrel is a trade secret. Actually, the way I did it is not safe even for me, and I would rather not explain it to someone that has limited experience with machinery or tools. Suffice it to say I put a taper on the barrel! The flare on the muzzle was easy. I heated it up to orange and gently tapped the end until it looked right. The knob was a little more difficult. I drilled and tapped the breech for a 10-24 screw and ran the screw in to within 1/8th inch from the breech. I then TIG welded the screw in and filled the slot with weld. Then I did the dangerous thing again and got it close, then hand filed it the rest of the way.
There were a few things I would like to have added, like the elevation screw, trail loop, and rope cleats, but the size did not allow me to add them. They would have been lost in the overall picture.

The finished product is not painted to match the actual Napoleon. The paint was what I had on hand, although I really wish I had painted it correctly. It would have made a better post for you all to look at but I did want to share it with my loyal reader because I thought it was different. It is not like those black silhouettes you so often see, this one has depth and color, and incorrect paint or no, I think it came out pretty darn good! I do plan on making another one the next slack period I get. I learned a few things on this one that will make it easier to build and paint (correctly) next time!

And it has multiple uses!

There you have it. Just a wee dab more about me, mixing my livelihood with my love of the American Civil War. I could have been fishing! I do love fishing and hunting too!

The Picket

Photos by the author.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Not So Friendly Fire

Friendly fire casualties are frequent during wartime and the US Civil War had its fair share. Sometimes a defective artillery shell would reap a terrible harvest among friendly troops or darkness would lead to cases of mistaken identity. But the following does not fit into either category. In a way it might be said that it was not a “friendly fire” incident at all. It should never have happened and from what can be seen from three accounts it may be either a case of sweeping an ugly matter under the rug or more pressing concerns quickly taking precedence. In either case the occurrence is hard to grasp.

In the Spring of 1863 the Ninth Army Corps (John G. Parke) was in the process of transferring from the Eastern Theater to the west, bound for Cincinnati, and would soon be melded into Burnside's Army of the Ohio. They were treated cordially by the citizens along their route, even at Baltimore, and were provided with fine suppers and breakfasts. After detraining at Columbus, Ohio on March 30, they were dealt with very pleasantly by the citizens who provided for the troops another fine meal. The stop was not to be of long duration but it would be long enough to produce a very tragic incident that might have been forgotten save for the recollections of some regimental historians.

These particular trains were carrying members of the 21st Massachusetts, 51st New York, and the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry, the Second Brigade, Second Division, veterans of Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. They were not men to be trifled with, and they may have been perceived as an intimidating force to be handled sternly by five companies of the 115th Ohio Infantry assigned as Provost Guard at Columbus, should they get out of hand. The 115th was green, very green, and had only been in Federal service since September 18, 1862, the day most of these veterans were still waiting for Lee to make his next move at Antietam.
After the men had eaten their meals, some of them decided to explore the capitol of Ohio and admire some of the buildings. They had been allowed to travel freely in the other towns where they had stopped and they had no thought that Columbus would be any different. They were only taking in the sights and they bore no weapons which they had left on the cars.
They were soon met by men of the 115th and:

...without any notice having been given to the officers of the brigade that our men must be kept in the station, with arrogant an unnecessary force set to work to drive them back with the bayonet. Being met with good natured bantering,the cowardly recruits opened up with bullets and buckshot upon our unarmed men...” [1]

This is but one version, written in the History of the Twenty-first Massachusetts.

The account of the episode left us by the historian of the 51st Pennsylvania provides a little more detail. The men had set out on their tour and had not gotten very far when they met the Provost Guard:

...and were not allowed to proceed farther, as they had no pass; but the men seized the guns of the guards and threw them over a brick wall into a private yard, and as they were equal a fight took place, and the guards were getting the worst of it when another squad of guards came to their assistance and fired on the visiting men...”.

This account puts another face on the story, but it does not excuse the actions of the Ohio men.
The aftermath of this was the deaths of two veteran soldiers. Private Samuel Wright, 21st Massachusetts, a veteran that had been with the regiment since it was formed in August, 1861, died that March 30. The roster for Company I in the regimental history states flatly:

Murdered, at Columbus Ohio, March 30 '63. [3]

He was 25 years old and from Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The second man was Private Edward Quinlan who lingered until April 1 before succumbing to his wounds. He was also a veteran, a member of Company A, 51st Pennsylvania Infantry. The regimental history lists him as being:

Wounded March 30, 1863 at Columbus, Ohio. Died April 1,1863, from wounds.” [4]

He also had been with his regiment since the beginning, having enlisted in September 1861.

Both accounts relate how it was fortunate that the wills of the officers that encountered the scene prevented further bloodshed as the men rushed back to the train to retrieve their weapons. Vengeance was in the air and it was a herculean task to get the men back on the train. The good citizens of Columbus even backed the soldiers of the visiting regiments and stated that the Provost Guard had been the aggressors. Insults and even a few bricks would be hurled at the Ohio men, but no more. [5] The train would soon be on its way to Cincinnati and the row forgotten.

The Columbus Gazette reports a totally different scenario, stating that the 115th soldiers WERE FIRING BLANKS! And then after their patience was exhausted they turned to live ammunition which settled the matter and the crowd of soldiers dispersed back to the trains. The Gazette also said whiskey was involved on the side of the veterans. The Ohio State Journal claims that “several hundred troops of the Ninth Army Corps were rushing the guard” [6]
With all of the differing testimony it is hard to see the truth as to the actual cause of the disturbance, which will never be known. The newspaper accounts seem sensational, and if nothing else they blur the actual incident. If hundreds of Ninth Corps men indeed rushed the guard, it is doubtful the green men of the 115th could have stood for long. The guard was not the entire regiment to begin with, amounting to five companies and even without weapons the veterans would have done some real damage, and nearly the entire brigade was at hand.
The regimental histories, though similar, tend to put their soldiers in the best light and casts them as victims of a terrible offense. They also are at odds with the newspapers in regards to the citizens vouching for the conduct of the visitors as the histories claim.
It is unfortunate that the 115th Ohio does not appear to have a regimental history available as it would be interesting to see what they might say about the episode. Also the 51st New York does not appear to have one either. The last regiment of the Second Brigade, the 35th Massachusetts, makes no mention of the fight in their history. They were not involved and had apparently been on a different train and “passed through” the town at a later time.

It was most likely a case of a hot head on each side throwing insults at each other, and it got out of hand. It was another sad drama played out away from the battlefield that would add two more names to the death toll of the war.

The Picket

1- Walcott, Charles Folsom, History of the Twenty-first Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers in the War to Preserve the Union, 1861-1865, 1882, page 266
2- Parker, Thomas H., History of the 51st Regiment of P.V and V.V., 1869, page 292
3- Walcott, page 483
4- Parker, page 630
5- Ibid, page 293
6- Tebben, Gerald, “Columbus Mileposts: March 30, 1863: Union Soldiers Kill Comrades on City's Streets”, The Columbus Dispatch, March 30, 2012, retrieved from June 23, 2012.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Museum of the Confederacy Photos

Civil War era photography is known for the subjects rigid posture, un-smiling gaze, or scenes of battle and most generally in black and white, although some of the images would sport color. That would be hand painted on the image by the photographer before its delivery. Somewhere back of all of the photos there was a living soul that was alive and well at the time and cherished by someone. Quite often these images would find their way to battlefields and camps, only to be lost by the man who carried the dear ones in pocket or pack and through death or rapid “skeedaddle”. Sometimes a soldier from the opposing army would find it and it was carried away as a memento of a distant battlefield and subject of grand stories the veteran would spin for his grandchildren. Long after the stories faded the little keepsake would end up in attic or basement, the story of the person in the picture forever lost.

The Museum of the Confederacy has listed on their site eight such photographs from the war, some picked up on battle fields. They are asking the public to help in identify these people, although they confess that the likelihood of finding relatives 150 years beyond the war is slim. This is but one image from the MoC site, and the rest can be found here:

The Associated Press story of this collection and some background as to how they came to the museum can be found here:;_ylt=A2KJ3CcNItZPj2MAKGfQtDMD
If you can help send them an email.

This story dovetails pretty well with my interest in Civil War photos in general. Hand painting was common then and today there seems to be a rush to “colorize” the old pictures and I must confess I am not overly thrilled with the idea. For 150 years the old black and white images were just fine when used in a book to show the generals, soldiers, and yes, the carnage of the war. Do we really need them to be in color? If the idea behind coloring an old photo is to bring out details that are otherwise lost in a black and white image then I say great! Go for it! And I would also recommend going to if you have never visited that site. (click the link in the sidebar) There is a regular poster there that does some amazing things with photographs. His forte' is enlarging the photos to bring out the details and he can zoom in on areas that are obscured for whatever reason. He also has started the colorizing of photos and from what I have seen it is nice work. I also am confident his sole reason for colorizing is research. Just go to the photography forum and browse. There is a lot to see.

As for me I still like the black and white images, but if the photographers in 1862 hand colored some of their pictures, who am I to argue against someone doing the same thing in 2012?

The Picket

Photo from The Museum of the Confederacy, retrieved June 13, 2012

As an aside to civil war photos and hand coloring, I have a photo portrait of my grandmother, circa 1910 or 1911 and taken when she was maybe two years old. It is in black and white, and she is standing with her hand resting on a stool. What is unique about it is the photographer hand illustrated the stool and her body below the waist. No color mind you, but a tedious job and a tremendous amount of artistic talent on display.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

More YouTube Research

No! Really! I went to YouTube for real research! You see, several years back I heard a song by the Outlaws titled "Cold Harbor" and decided that one day I would compile an album[?] of songs that had a Civil War theme. Well, by extension this leads me to listen to the song for clues about battles, generals, and what a soldier is feeling. Many of them take artistic license with the lyrics and are not of much use for serious research, but they do tell good stories,  and I love a good ballad.Through the years I have heard many such songs and tonight I decided to wade around for some that I remembered. My only criteria  is that the song be produced sometime between 1940 to the present. That opens up a very broad range of musical genre's but I do not foresee any of the newer talents producing a song about the Civil War. But if they do I will at least listen to it even if it is not in line with my taste.

It is tempting to add some of the modern day renditions of songs that were popular during the Civil War, but that is a whole other project. Who doesn't like "Jine the Cavalry"?

I know I mentioned "Cold Harbor" at the top but I think I will change course a bit and show one for the Trans-Mississippi. This is a cover of "Ben McCulloch" which I feel is every bit as good as the original. Give it a listen! Steve Earle did the original and it is also on YouTube.

And if you have made it this far reading my post, here is "Cold Harbor" by the Outlaws. It is perhaps one of the most mournful songs I have heard. Its only drawback is the extended instrumental at the end but it is still a great song.

I wonder if there is a market for this album?

The Picket

Monday, June 4, 2012

The USS Cumberland

Midday of March 8, 1862 brought what looked to some to be “The roof of a very large barn, belching smoke as from a chimney on fire.” coming out of the mouth of the Elizabeth River and into Hampton Roads. The CSS Virginia was on the prowl, and churning its way across the Roads toward its targets, USS Congress and USS Cumberland anchored at Newport News. They were rapidly becoming part of a bygone era, and by nightfall that era would end. They were of wooden structure, and propelled by the wind in their sails. Today they would face Virginia, and her steam propulsion and her iron encased hull, and neither ship would last the day.

Three other Federal warships were anchored at nearby Fortress Monroe, the frigates Minnesota and Roanoke, also of wooden construction but with steam auxiliary power, and the St. Lawrence, strictly wood and sail. All would lend some weight to the fight this day, but Minnesota and St. Lawrence would run aground and Roanoke was immobile due to a damaged propeller. She gave long range “moral support” , if ineffectual, fire. Federal shore batteries would also add to the maelstrom.

Congress and Cumberland had seen the monster coming and had slipped their anchors and cleared for action. The two big ships maneuvered as best they could to bring broadsides to bear against Virginia, but had difficulty in doing so. Yet they poured a hot fire as best they could at the unwieldy beast. Virginia was no mosquito, and she, too, had problems bringing all of her guns to bear at once. Her fire was devastating to the wooden vessels where as theirs was of little effect on the iron skin of their foe.

Virginia ran by Congress, unleashing a broadside as she went, then plowed her iron beak into the starboard side of Cumberland. The two ships stuck together as Cumberland took on water and Virginia wrestled to wrench herself free. Finally the two separated only as Cumberland began to settle and Virginia's iron snout was broken off. Cumberland soon settled to the bottom, her gun crews at their pieces to the very last. Their last broadside blew the muzzles off of two of Virginia’s guns.

Virginia now turned her attention again toward Congress, now run hard aground in her attempt to get to water the captain suspected would be to shallow for Virginia to maneuver in, only finding the depth much to shallow for his own craft. Virginia closed in and poured devastating fire into the stricken ship. Congress finally struck her colors and hoisted a white flag.

At dusk the fight would end. Light was fading and the tide was ebbing, so Virginia retreated to the mouth of the Elizabeth River. Congress was burning and would explode near midnight. Cumberland was under the waters of the Roads. Minnesota, St. Lawrence, and Roanoke were helpless, or nearly so. March 9, 1862 would possibly see the end of the Yankee fleet at Hampton Roads. It must have been a long night for the men there. But a new day brought forth a new era in the form of a “cheese box on a raft”... the USS Monitor. [1]

The above is to give some background of the first day of the fight at Hampton Roads and is in no way intended to be a definitive history on the battle. I did feel that some idea of what took place there would help the reader appreciate the following poem more, or if you are a stickler for detail, less appreciation.
The poem was published in 1863 by one of the 19th century's literary giants, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and inspired by the fight put up by the Cumberland and her crew on the first day of the battle. It is interesting to see he chose this subject rather than the more glamorous fight between Virginia and Monitor. Although it was published in 1863, the poem likely was written sometime in 1862 and shortly after the battle.
The Cumberland
At anchor in Hampton Roads we lay,
On board of the Cumberland, sloop-of-war;
And at times from the fortress across the bay
The alarum of drums swept past,
Or a bugle blast
From the camp on the shore.
Then far away to the south uprose
A little feather of snow-white smoke,
And we knew that the iron ship of our foes
Was steadily steering its course
To try the force
Of our ribs of oak.
Down upon us heavily runs,
Silent and sullen, the floating fort;
Then comes a puff of smoke from her guns,
And leaps the terrible death,
With fiery breath,
From each open port.
We are not idle, but send her straight
Defiance back in a full broadside!
As hail rebounds from a roof of slate,
Rebounds our heavier hail
From each iron scale
Of the monster's hide.
"Strike your flag!" the rebel cries,
In his arrogant old plantation strain.
"Never!" our gallant Morris replies;
"It is better to sink than to yield!"
And the whole air pealed
With the cheers of our men.
Then, like a kraken huge and black,
She crushed our ribs in her iron grasp!
Down went the Cumberland all a wrack,
With a sudden shudder of death,
And the cannon's breath
For her dying gasp.
Next morn, as the sun rose over the bay,
Still floated our flag at the mainmast head.
Lord, how beautiful was Thy day!
Every waft of the air
Was a whisper of prayer,
Or a dirge for the dead.
Ho! brave hearts that went down in the seas!
Ye are at peace in the troubled stream;
Ho! brave land! with hearts like these,
Thy flag, that is rent in twain,
Shall be one again,
And without a seam! [2]
There are facts woven into the poem that have not been distorted by poetic license. Parts one would expect to be romanticized indeed happened such as; Franklin Buchanan, commander of Virginia on the 8th did demand Cumberland's surrender as she was sinking and was indeed met by a resounding “NO”. Also, when she went down she settled upright, and one mast bearing the Stars and Stripes remained above water. And finally, if not prophetically,
Thy flag, that is rent in twain.
Shall be one again,
And without a seam!”

The Picket

1) Catton, Bruce, Terrible Swift Sword, pages 193-199, 1963

2) Pictures retrieved from 4 June, 2012
3) Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1863, retrieved from, 4 June, 2012