Recap: Bull Runnings Artillery Tour 10/20/2018

28 10 2018

On Saturday, October 20, 2018, about 23 tourists (I think – my muster sheet slid down a storm drain in Winchester, VA on the way home…really) formed up outside the Manassas National Battlefield Park visitor center for a tour of the use of artillery at the First Battle of Bull Run. This was the third of what I hope will be many battlefield tours I’ve organized and will organize through this site, and I took a bigger role in guiding this one than I did in the first two, but the real artillery expert on hand was Craig Swain of To the Sound of the Guns. Craig and I really focused on laying this one out (we even used an OUTLINE!) and I think it turned out great. We even finished on time!

In brief, our format from stop to stop was for me, through the use of after action reports (AAR), letters, memoirs, and congressional testimony, to describe how the actors got to that spot and what they did there. Then Craig went into the deep detail of artillery tactics and use, gun production, and options available and not available. For that last bit, Craig provided graphics exhibiting elevations and ranges of what could and could not be seen (and therefore possibly struck) from various positions on the field.

We didn’t cover all the artillery involved, and focused on the Federal batteries of Griffin, Ricketts, and Reynolds and the Confederate batteries of Imboden and those comprising Jackson’s gun line.

We started of on Henry Hill (aka Henry House Hill). I gave a little overview of what we were going to talk about – and why – and in itinerary, which was pretty simple. We only had two driving stops off of Henry Hill. At Ricketts’s guns, Craig went over the different types of cannons used during this battle, the types of projectiles and how they worked and were used, and the overall “mission” of artillery. He also discussed the different manuals in use at the time (and shortly thereafter). After that, I talked about the opening of the battle with the 30 pdr Parrott rifle under the command of Peter Hains. (Click on the images for larger versions.)

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Pre-Tour Selfie on Henry HIll

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Craig makes a point (photo credit Paul Errett)

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I point (photo credit Paul Errett)

 

 

Next stop was Reynolds’s guns on Henry Hill. I read from a letter by a member of the battery, , and Craig described the notion of a Napoleonic “artillery charge,” the “staying power” of guns on line, and fire effect on infantry.

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We assemble at Reynolds’s guns on Matthews Hill

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Traditional Tour Group Photo – Reynolds’s guns, Matthews Hill

Then we went somewhere I had not been before, Dogan’s Ridge, which was the first position of Ricketts’s and Griffin’s guns. I covered the stories of Griffin and Ricketts, and then Craig broke out the graphics and discussed line of sight, training, projectile and fuse selection, and other position options available. I really enjoyed this part of the tour, and am pretty sure not too many artillery tours of First Bull Run have covered this spot. It’s a cool place with a great perspective – you should go there next time you’re at the field.

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We move from the John Dogan house (not the wartime house) toward the first positions of Ricketts and Griffin.

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The first position of the guns of Griffin and Ricketts, view east toward Sudley Rd and Reynolds’s guns beyond

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View south from Dogan Ridge to Henry Hill

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Craig addresses the group on Dagan Ridge

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Me, in my Butcher Bill t-shirt (photo credit Dan Carson)

After breaking for lunch, we reconvened on Henry Hill and walked to the wayside marking Imboden’s guns. I read from Imboden’s wonderful report (the full report you can find here, not the truncated version in the Official Records) and from a rejoinder published by Clark Leftwich, who commanded the two guns of Latham’s battery that were north of the Warrenton Turnpike. Then Craig discussed counter-battery fire and the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of rifled guns.

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Craig at Imboden’s guns

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Bill and me at Imboden’s guns (photo credit Dan Carson)

Then we took a walk to Jackson’s gun line. This  was the longest walk of the day – there wasn’t a whole lot of walking on this tour at all. Lots of stuff covered here: on my end, accounts from three AARs, one letter and one post-war memoir (everything I read from on this tour is right here on this site). Craig went into the use of masking terrain, massing artillery, and yes, the intricacies of James Rifles. I’m sure the attendees dreamed of James Rifles for days afterwards (I know I did). It was also here that we were joined by Manassas National Battlefield Park Superintendent Brandon Bies, who stayed with us for the remainder of the tour.

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We assemble at Jackson’s gun line

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Craig explaining the make and model, and probably what the foundry foreman had for lunch the day the gun was cast.

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Me, trying to recall what Craig just said, and what the heck kind of James Rifle is this anyway? (Photo credit Dan Carson)

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Craig explaining a production flaw in a tube manufactured by an inexperienced New Orleans Confederate contractor (photo credit Jared Mike)

We returned to Ricketts’s gunline, and Craig discussed infantry support and what said support was supposed to do, and the relative advantages and disadvantages of rifled versus smoothbore cannons. Supt Bies also discussed a new artillery adoption program to provide for cannon refurbishment. I completely forgot I had material to discuss here, but remembered by the time we made it to the next stop and presented Ricketts’s and Griffin’s JCCW testimony and Griffin’s AAR again, as well as an interesting 7th Georgia account of the capture of Ricketts.

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Craig pointing near one of Ricketts’s (representative) guns. MNBP superintendent Brandon Bies in uniform.

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Craig Swain (photo credit Paul Errett)

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Federal Parrott band/tube intersection (photo credit Paul Errett)

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Confederate “knockoff” Parrott band/tube intersection (photo credit Paul Errett)

Our last stop was at the famous section of Griffin’s guns that he detached and sent north. After making up for my mistake at the prior stop, I covered Griffin’s report and testimony once again. Craig discussed oblique fires and what to do when your battery is overrun. He also talked about reforms in the use of Federal artillery in the wake of First Bull Run.

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Craig making one last point at Griffin’s 2 gun section.

I think a great and educational time was had by all. We can of course conduct this tour again if demand is great enough.

One lesson I took away from this tour was that there is absolutely no relation between the number of people who say they are definitely attending a tour, or who say they are interested, and the number who actually show up. None. At. All.

Thanks to everyone who turned out. Sound off in the comments here with reflections, complaints, or suggestions.

Our next tour will be held on either May 4 or May 11, 2019. It will be epic. Stay tuned.





Bull Runnings Artillery Tour This Saturday!!

18 10 2018

It’s time! Our First Bull Run Artillery Tour with Craig Swain and your humble host is this Saturday. Just a few quick reminders, nothing new.

  • We meet at 9:00 AM at the Manassas National Battlefield Park visitor’s center parking lot. I think we’ll find each other OK.
  • The forecast looks pretty good, mid-60s and overcast. There’s a chance of AM showers, though it looks OK for most of the day. Be sure to bring rain gear, but again, umbrellas are discouraged.
  • Dress appropriately – hiking boots will make you happy. Bring water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And don’t forget to pack a lunch.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!





Bull Runnings Artillery Tour “Handouts”

15 10 2018

 

Here are Craig Swain’s handouts for our tour this Saturday, Oct. 20. Print them out, download them to a device, or ignore them. It’s your decision.

Order of Battle

Timeline

Really Important Stuff





Bull Runnings Artillery Tour Update

29 09 2018

 

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Be prepared and avoid looking like Larry’s daughter on October 20

Craig and I are working out the mechanics of the tour, and this one looks pretty simple.

Just a reminder on logistics. This is a free tour – you get what you pay for!

  • We’ll meet at the Manassas National Battlefield Park visitor’s center at 9:00 AM.
  • Remember, it’s rain or shine. Dress appropriately. Boots are recommended. Even though it’s late October, tick spray is recommended and shorts are discouraged.
  • Umbrellas are discouraged (can’t hear over the pitter patter), however guides may use them – they have to keep their powder (papers) dry.
  • This is a caravan tour. CAR POOLING IS NOT OPTIONAL – there is very limited parking at our stops. Yes, this means you, Mr./Ms. “I can’t ride in someone else’s car and they can’t ride in mine.”
  • We’ll have one crossing of Sudley Road – not sure yet where or how we’ll do that. I’ll have more on that later.
  • Walking will be moderate, over rolling terrain. But we’ll be standing still for periods, so if you want to bring one of those little portable stools, feel free.
  • Lunch is ON YOUR OWN, and brown bags are recommended (driving to and from a food joint, and getting served, takes time and we’ll move on schedule).
  • Keep an eye out for digital handouts. We won’t be providing paper handouts. Printing or downloading them to your device is your responsibility.
  • Don’t forget the reading list!
  • UPDATE YOUR STATUS ON FACEBOOK. Failure to do so may result in sending you to THE UPSIDE DOWN!!!

Everybody got that?





A Word on Bull Runnings Tours and Live Social Media

9 09 2018

I’ve been getting some inquiries on whether we’ll be providing online video coverage of the upcoming Bull Runnings Artillery Tour. The short answer is no, we will not. Let me explain.

s-l300First, but not foremost, I personally find the use of things like Facebook Live for battlefield programs disorienting and, frankly, physically uncomfortable. With Facebook Live, the floating hearts and smiley faces and comments overflowing the video, combined with shaky camerawork, are borderline seizure inducing. I don’t want to be anyone’s Mary Hart.

The main reason has developed in my noggin in the wake of a recent conversation with a friend and public historian, concerning why I don’t charge a fee for these tours. One of my big motivations in building this site, and in organizing these tours, is to raise the profile of the First Battle of Bull Run. In conjunction with that, I hope these tours raise awareness of the critical role that visiting the field plays in understanding the events that occurred there. You can gain an understanding of these events by reading about them, and looking at maps, but to really get a feel for what happened there, you have to walk the ground. Frankly, even among Civil War enthusiasts, the typical visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park consists of a brief jaunt around Henry Hill and taking a picture with Stonewall. (Maybe they head to Brawner Farm or the Railroad Cut, but those are the second battle.) It’s simple – I want more people to visit this battlefield. I don’t see how providing video coverage of these tours will help bring that about, even if viewership of that coverage might be ego boosting (or deflating, as the case might be).

So, for the foreseeable future, if you want to experience a Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour, you’re going to have to get up and go. Some of you can’t due to other commitments. There will be more tours, the Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise.

While we’re at it, I’d like any of you who intend to attend the upcoming tour on October 20 to please clearly indicate that intention either on the Facebook Event Page by clicking the Going button, or by letting me know via email if you “don’t do The Facebook.” Or leave a comment here. It helps us to plan things better and, well, it’s the decent thing to do.





Bull Runnings Artillery Tour: Reading List

24 08 2018

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Well, interest in the upcoming Bull Run Artillery Tour with guides Craig Swain and myself has thus far been very strong. It’s hard to tell from these numbers, but folks “interested” and “going” on the Facebook Event Page exceed 500. I do ask that if you’re sure you’re going or sure you’re not going, and have clicked the “interested” button there, that you update your status. This gives us an idea of how to plan for this thing.

Craig has provided a reading list for the tour. You should at least look at the bare minimum he suggests, that being Dean Thomas’s Cannons: An Introduction to Civil War Artillery. It’s quick, dirty, and cheap.

Advanced studies include:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Park, Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War; Ripley, Warren.,Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War.

And here are some of Craig’s blog posts that should help:

6-pdr field guns: https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/artillery/smoothbore-field-artillery/6-pdr-field-guns/
12-pdr field howitzers: https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/artillery/smoothbore-field-artillery/12-pdr-field-howitzers/
Parrott, James, and other rifles: https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/artillery/rifled-field-artillery/

These are Craig’s self described “gold nugget” posts on tactics and employment:

The Role of Artillery: https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/fa-role/
Horses and ammunition: https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/artillery-and-horses/
Barry’s proposal to reorganize artillery in August 1861 (BECAUSE of Manassas): https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/barry-aop-artillery-org-pt1/
In particular the proportion of guns to infantry: https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/barry-aop-artillery-org-pt2/

And if you’re a “manuals” type, here are the key titles, all in the public domain, and all available for free online:

Instructions for Field Artillery, 1861 version… though the 1864 version is acceptable, as it basically adds the technical aspects of rifled guns. Part I, Article I is probably sufficient for most in the audience. But browsing through the rest is advised.
The Ordnance Manual for the Use of Officers of the United States Army. This is the “technical manual”. Don’t recommend a deep read, just be familiar with the table of contents.
The Artillerist’s Manual by John Gibbon. This is a “tactics” manual, published in 1860, and consolidating a lot of “conventional wisdom” of artillery in one place. Recommend a browse reading.
The “other one” – Major Frederick Griffins The Artillerist’s Manual and British Soldiers’ Compendium…. Not of direct importance, but an example of the professional reading that was out there as of 1861, and which was used by men like Hunt, Gibbon, Barry as reference material.

OK, now get to work. There will be a test after the tour.





Custer’s Monroe

5 08 2018

Last week we took a family trip to Ann Arbor, MI – we watched Liverpool FC humiliate the hated Manchester, Utd. before a crowd of 101,000 in the Big House (capped off by a sweet Xherdan Shaqiri bike). On the way back home, we took a little side trip to nearby Monroe, MI, home to George and Libbie Bacon Custer. (I realize there are more Custer related sites to see in Monroe, and I realize there are other non-Custer related sites to see there, but this was a fly-by.) You can read young Custer’s memoir of the First Battle of Bull Run here, here, and here. Click on the images for full size versions.

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Entering Monroe

The Custer monument at Elm and North Monroe St.

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Woodlawn Cemetery, Custer-Reed Family Plot

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Marker to GAC’s Father, Mother, Brother

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Father

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Mother

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Brother Killed at Little Big Horn

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Nephew Killed at Little Big Horn

First Presbyterian Church, Washington St. Site of GAC’s marriage to Elizabeth (Libbie) Bacon on Tuesday, February 9, 1864. After the ceremony, the couple repaired to the General’s winter headquarters in Culpeper, VA. More on that place in another post to come. Read local coverage of the wedding ceremony here.

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