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 “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?





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.





Bull Runnings Fall Tour – October 20, 2018

1 08 2018

 

Well, if you haven’t guessed by Brick Tamblin’s statement above, the topic for the next Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour will be – artillery! If big guns are your bag, you won’t want to miss a day at Manassas National Battlefield Park retracing the steps of the Union and Confederate artillerists during the First Battle of Bull Run with widely regarded expert Craig Swain and your humble host, me. Same game plan – no fees, everything is on your own (food, lodging, transportation). We’ll meet up at 9 AM on October 20, 2018 and head out onto the field. Dress appropriately – tour is rain or shine.

Expect to discuss all aspects of artillery: gun manufacture and capabilities, tactics of the day, and the action. We’ll also discuss some of the personalities involved. Here’s a little info about Craig:

Craig Swain is a graduate of Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, with a BA in history. Commissioned in the Army after college, he served in Korea, Kuwait, various overseas postings, and finally outside Savannah, Georgia. After leaving the Army, he continued his studies at Missouri State University. He is author of numerous articles appearing in Civil War Times, America’s Civil War, Artilleryman, and other magazines. His blog, To the Sound of the Guns, covers various aspects of the war, but with focus on artillery and the Charleston theater of war. Craig is presently an information technology consultant, working in Washington, D.C.

I’ve set up this Facebook event page where you can express your interest in attending, or you can leave a comment here, or you can send me an email at the address to the right. Keep an eye out hereand on Facebook for updates, reading lists, handouts, and other fun stuff.





Water and War’s Friction

26 06 2018

Back in September 2017 I ventured down to Virginia to give a presentation to the Brandy Station Foundation. The day before, I climbed aboard Clark “Bud” Hall’s little red pickup that definitely could and did, along with friend Craig Swain, for a tour of the Brandy Station Battlefield and environs. For those who are unaware, Bud is the authority on, and savior of, the battle and battlefield. At one point we stopped on Beverly’s Ford Road at the site where on June 9, 1863, Lt. Henry Cutler of the 8th New York Cavalry became the first man KIA in the Gettysburg Campaign (read about it here). And there Bud snapped this overwhelmingly handsome photo of Craig (R) and me (L):

Before

Well, NoVa, like many other places, has been getting a whole lot of rain this Spring, and this past weekend Mr. Hall sent me this photo of the effects of the rain and waterway flooding at this particular site:

Flood

In this next photo, also provided by Mr. Hall, you can see the residual indication (the “mud-line”) of the extent of the flooding of nearby Ruffin’s Run:

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Craig commented on this last photo: “Wow! That demonstrates well the difficulties faced just crossing a small stream. Think back to the cavalry raid in conjunction with the Chancellorsville Campaign. I think many historians wave off the impact of heavy rains and focus on the mistakes made (by Stoneman and others). Yet they don’t see the realities that faced Stoneman.”

Pretty much every account I’ve read on Stoneman’s Chancellorsville operations make a note of the heavy rains, and pretty much all of them ultimately discount them. All too often post-mortem analysis of operations (not just this particular operation) revert to what I’ll call theory, despite giving lip service to practical difficulties. I’m reminded of a passage I’ve quoted before (here, precisely), concerning theory and “the friction of war.” This is from the official British military history of the Allied operations at Salerno, Italy, in 1943, as provided in Rick Atkinson’s The Day of Battle (bold underline mine):

In the land of theory…there is none of war’s friction. The troops are, as in fact they were not, perfect Tactical Men, uncannily skillful, impervious to fear, bewilderment, boredom, hunger, thirst, or tiredness. Commanders know what in fact they did not know…Lorries never collide, there is always a by-pass at the mined road-block, and the bridges are always wider than the flood. Shells fall always where they should fall.

 





Upton and First Bull Run

8 08 2014

Friend Craig Swain recently reminded me that I haven’t written much about Upton and First Bull Run. I don’t know what Upton has to do with First Bull Run, but hey, Craig’s pretty smart, and he knows his big guns, so here’s what I found.

Kate Upton

Oh, he meant Emory Upton? Ah well, back to the drawing board.