“If these signatures could talk…” Innis House Graffiti


From: Eric Mink

Innis House

The Innis House – 2019

The Innis House is the last building along Fredericksburg’s Sunken Road to have witnessed the fighting that occurred there in 1862 and 1863. Built ca.1859, the small wood frame building is today an exterior exhibit, occasionally open to the public during the summer months. Visitors who walk along Sunken Road and stop to look through the windows of the house can see the lasting damage caused by two battles. The lead and iron missiles that filled the air in December 1862 and May 1863 passed into and through the Innis House, leaving their marks on the walls and the doors. Some bullets still remain lodged in the building’s framing timbers. The Innis House is a witness to the war and its appearance is an evocative display that conveys the destruction that twice visited Sunken Road.

Innis Interior

Interior first floor partition of the Innis House, showing the damage caused by the war – 2019

The National Park Service (NPS) acquired the Innis House in 1969. The agency stabilized the building in 1973 and four years later began the process of restoring and rehabilitating the house. Post-Civil War additions and vegetation were removed and a new wood shingle roof was added. In 1985 began the longer and more involved effort of returning the interior of the building to its wartime appearance. It was in the course of this work that park staff uncovered lasting evidence of the war.

Continue reading

Advertisements

A Rarely Seen Panorama of Fredericksburg, and the Pictorial Legacy of Henri Lovie


from: Harrison

Note: for magnifications, click the photos and maps below, scroll down to right corner of dark-screen version, then click on “View full size” link.

Among the contemporary drawings of the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, I find a little known panorama by artist-eyewitness Henri Lovie easily the most ambitious. With Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, he depicted in a single sketch the fighting at both ends of the battlefield that day–principal combat sites separated by four miles at the extremes. Lovie’s drawing measures four and one-half inches in height and nearly five feet in length. Beyond its own artistic power, it served as the main reference for a pair of grand-finale pictures in a striking sequence of eight wood engravings, or woodcuts, of the Fredericksburg campaign. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper published the eight over the course of five issues and four weeks, basing the other six woodcuts mainly on Lovie’s eyewitness sketches as well and even incorporating the pictures into its editorial critique of the campaign. I only recently noticed his December 13 drawing in the digitized collections of the New York Public Library. The Library’s link to it and the means to magnify or download a high-resolution copy are here.

The right end of the sketch includes the only known—to me, at least—eyewitness rendering that looks northwest at the fighting outside Fredericksburg and in front of Marye’s Heights. For orientation, I made preliminary, estimated identifications of selected landmarks:

Detail from Henri Lovie, Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Annotation and color contrast by Noel G. Harrison.

(I share this portion of the sketch, and those below, to advance the educational purpose of this blog, and in accordance with the New York Public Library’s posted belief that the item is in the public domain under the laws of the United States.)

The left end offers what I believe is the only eyewitness sketch of the fighting in the opposite, southern zone of the battlefield that includes, albeit faintly, the Confederate artillery defending Prospect Hill as well as many of the Federals confronting the hill from east of the Richmond Stage Road:

Detail of Henri Lovie, Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Annotation and color contrast by Noel G. Harrison.

Lovie (1829-1875, born in Berlin, Prussia) sketched from a vantage point on the edge of the bluffs on the Stafford County (east) side of the Rappahannock River and near the pontoon bridges at Franklin’s Crossing:

Detail of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Battle of Fredericksburg December 13, 1862 2:00-3:00 P.M., Map 4 of 5, Historical research by Frank A. O’Reilly, Illustrated by John Dove, Revised and produced by Steve Stanley (2001). Courtesy Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Directional arrow at upper left; north is toward right on map. Lovie-related annotation by Noel G. Harrison.

Continue reading

Unknown Until Now–The Ongoing Effort to Identify the Dead in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery


By Peter Maugle

The officer stood over the freshly exhumed grave with a pencil and ledger in his hands. He told others to search the remains as he struggled to decipher the crude etching on a weathered piece of wood. The lettering was faded and worn, but seemed to read, “W.A.W.” A worker called the officer’s attention to a hat badge that indicated the deceased was from New Hampshire. The other workers shook their heads to signify there was no additional identifiable information to be found. The officer then recorded in the ledger book, “Grave # 1221, W.A.W., NH, removed from O’Bannon’s Farm.” A pile of bones and decayed clothing was then placed into a rough wooden coffin for transport to the newly established Fredericksburg National Cemetery.
Wilderness dead in open field

The aforementioned scene was repeated over 15,000 times in Fredericksburg and Stafford and Spotsylvania counties from 1866 to 1868. During this period, United States Army reburial details scoured the region cataloging and reinterring the remains of Union soldiers. Sadly, over 12,000 of the graves were simply marked, “Unknown.” It was the result of no standard issue identification for the soldiers, no protocol for properly identifying or marking graves, and the sheer magnitude of casualties incurred on a landscape that witnessed four of the costliest battles of the Civil War.

carpenter-farm-graves-327-smaller

Union graves on the Carpenter Farm, 1866. Note the identification on the board nearest the camera–Richard Ross, today buried in the National Cemetery.

However, in some instances, surviving soldiers took it upon themselves to identify and mark the graves of their comrades. This would likely be a difficult process in the aftermath of battle. Locating remains among the detritus of war surely complicated things, not to mention the armies were still in the midst of active campaigns. If a deceased soldier’s body was actually found, the next challenge was how to effectively mark the gravesite. Usually it was a shallow, hastily dug grave, and the marker would consist of writing or etching on various materials such as wood, metal, or even pieces of leather equipment. Not knowing who (if anyone), would ever tend to these graves, the soldiers did the best they could considering the circumstances.

Depending on when the death occurred, these graves, and their improvised markers, could remain untended for several years. During that time, the elements, animals, or unsympathetic locals could damage, remove, or destroy makeshift markers. Thus, the noble efforts of the living were for naught, as any indication of the grave’s occupant was compromised or simply disappeared. Continue reading

“The Little Regiment”: Stephen Crane’s Little-Known Story of Fredericksburg, pt. 2


from:  Harrison

In Part One of this post, I described Stephen Crane’s Civil War short story, “The Little Regiment,” with an overview of the narrative, its match to the general setting and timeline of the December 1862 battle of Fredericksburg, the fictional regiment’s connection to the actual Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac, Crane’s visit to the battlefield in 1896, and the adaptation of the story for television in 1954. In Part Two of the post, let’s consider a possible source of inspiration for his tale.

Ahead of the spoilers below, I again encourage you to read Crane’s text as first published, in June 1896 in McClure’s Magazine (beginning on page two of the public-domain pdf here): The Little Regiment

Caroline then and now

For a trip report in 1891, five years before Crane’s visit to Fredericksburg, the veterans of a Second Corps regiment sponsored this photograph of a segment of Caroline Street, extending north from its intersection with Fauquier Street, that had hosted their billets in December 1862. (Tall pump at left may predate the Civil War, lamp suspended over intersection dates to after the war.) Source: Henry S. Stevens, Souvenir of Excursion to Battlefields… (Washington, D.C., 1893), p. 77. Modern-counterpart image: Google StreetView.

Crane’s story ends with its Union-soldier protagonists back in the debris-littered streets of a fictionalized Fredericksburg. When their attack could advance no farther, they had fired a volley at the enemy held heights and withdrawn to the town. Crane continues: “After this episode the men renamed their command. They called it the Little Regiment.”

On an advertising page of the magazine’s May 1896 issue, a McClure’s publicist had announced Crane’s forthcoming tale: “the story of a heroic charge at Fredericksburg wherein ‘The Little Regiment,’ which gives title to the story, suffered a devastation almost without parallel in the annals of war.” Perhaps the publicist consulted only a preliminary, long draft, or read it partially or not at all. As I described in Part One of this blog post, the Crane story that McClure’s actually published in June 1896 specified neither a particular, historical regiment from the annals of war nor a historical battle, although Fredericksburg residents, veterans, and historians would have recognized the setting and events as the December 1862 clash. And as I note below, Crane did not emphasize devastation of the ranks of his fictional regiment.

Crane May 1896 advertising publish

McClure’s advance publicity for “The Little Regiment,” May 1896 (p. iv).

But in a 1967 article analyzing the story, C. B. Ives sought to recover the closer, historical specificity that the McClure’s publicist had implied in May 1896, arguing that Crane derived its title and at least some of its plot from the record of the 69th New York State Volunteers. Ives noted the Second Corps connection and considered candidates from among its units. Ives included in the article a Fredericksburg casualties table for the five regiments of the second (“Irish”) brigade of the Second Corps’ First Division. Of those, he wrote, the 69th “had the highest percentage of casualties…and came out the battle the littlest of all these little regiments.” “After Fredericksburg,” he reiterated towards the end of his article,” it was a very ‘little regiment’ indeed.”

Linson portrait 1894 Wikimedia Commons

Detail of Corwin Knapp Linson’s portrait of Stephen Crane two years prior to his 1896 trip to Fredericksburg. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading

Corporal Edwin Morton Platts – A Boy Soldier Killed at Fredericksburg


From Eric Mink:

Platts headstone

The Fredericksburg National Cemetery contains the burials of 15,436 servicemen, women and dependents. Of that number 12,793, or 83%, are unidentified individuals. Each burial, each person, had a story. For those buried as unknown, we will likely never know their stories. For those fortunate enough to have been identified, we have over time come to know a few – their families, their fates. From time to time, while researching one topic we occasionally stumble upon information related to another. Recently, while digging into information related to a Union battery’s winter campsite, a few sources crossed and began to illuminate the story of one of its members who lies in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Edwin Morton Platts was a favorite within the 5th Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Battery (also known as Battery E, Massachusetts Light Artillery). His was the only death suffered by the battery during the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg and the loss was felt deeply by the members of the battery. They wrote about Edwin, his death and his burial. He is buried in Grave #2742. The fact that his grave on the battlefield was located and that he lies beneath a stone that bears his name is due to the care of his comrades. This is his story.

Edwin Morton Platts was born May 29, 1845 to John and Nancy Platts in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Nancy died during child birth two years later and in 1860 young Edwin worked as a “Store Boy” in Boston, living under the roof of Amos D. George, a salesman from New Hampshire. Edwin enlisted in the army on September 29, 1861 in Boston, at the age of 16, and agreed to serve three years. He was assigned to the 5th Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery. The cards in Edwin’s Compiled Service Record list him as 18-years old at the time of his enlistment, when in fact he was just four months past his 16th birthday. His service record also identifies him as “Edward” and not Edwin. Perhaps he boosted his age and provided a different name or perhaps it was simply a clerical error. Interestingly, his older brother John Franklin Platts served under the assumed name of Francis Poor in both the 4th Connecticut Infantry and the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery.

Edwin served through the spring 1862 campaigns below Richmond, Va., as well as at the Second Battle of Manassas. Edwin entered his final battle at Fredericksburg a corporal, having been promoted from private the previous month. On the afternoon of December 13 the battery crossed the Rappahannock River by the middle pontoon bridge. Private William Waugh, Edwin’s tent mate, remembered many years later encountering his friend while waiting to cross the pontoon bridge. The two had enlisted on the same day and had become quite close. Waugh remembered that while they waited to cross the river Edwin approached him and said “Now we are going into a hot place, look out for yourself.” Waugh responded with similar words of caution. “We talked to-gether for a short time when the bugler blew ‘Attention,’” recollected Waugh. “He left me to take his place. That was the last time I ever talked with him.” The battery pushed through the lower end of town and unlimbered its guns between the town’s poor house and John L. Knight’s brick kiln. The position was near the head of modern-day Dunmore Street, behind Walker-Grant Center. Captain Charles A. Phillips used the terrain to his advantage. He placed his guns behind the grade of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad.

Deeds_of_Valor detail

An early 20th century depiction of supporting operations for the final Union assault at Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862. The scene here may very well depict Captain Charles A. Phillips’ 5th Battery Massachusetts Light Artillery in action. From: Walter F. Beyer and Oscar F. Keydel, eds., Deeds of Valor 1: 108.

 we went into position on sloping ground where we were covered from the enemy’s fire from Marye’s Heights, the left of the Battery resting close to a two story brick building which had been the city’s asylum for the poor. Our right rested on a bank where the clay had been dug out for brick-making, and near the railroad, which passed near, curving past our front. The ground was cramped, the guns were in reduced intervals, close to one another. We could see the fight going on to our right over the plain, where Edward’s battery had been. The brick house stood on the side of the hill, the ground receding rapidly to its north front facing the city, thus forming a basement… We commenced firing at the rebel batteries with our rifled guns. After loading them, we would run them up the slope by hand, so the muzzles would clear the bank, take aim and fire, the guns running back to be reloaded. The enemy 1000 to 1200 yards away caught on to us, and opened their fire which was kept up till darkness closed the scene.” – Notes of 1st Lieutenant Henry D. Scott in History of the Fifth Massachusetts Battery (1902), 504

Continue reading

Armament of the Army of the Potomac During the Chancellorsville Campaign


110th pennsylvania

From Eric Mink:

The winter of 1862-1863 saw the United States’ Army of the Potomac restructure, refit, reform and emerge from its winter camps a stronger, confident and more effective fighting force. Army commander Joseph Hooker instituted numerous reforms that raised morale and also worked to improve the army’s efficiency of command and control. He abolished the grand divisions, an unwieldy and unnecessary additional level of command instituted by his predecessor Ambrose Burnside. Hooker brought all of the cavalry brigades together into their own mounted corps under a single officer, not scattered among the various infantry corps as had been the army’s tradition. The 9th Army Corps left the army for another theater of the war, but the loss of that command was replaced with the addition of the 11th and 12th Army Corps’ following the army’s defeat at Fredericksburg. Another area where the Army of the Potomac improved during the winter months was its armament. Between the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Chancellorsville Campaign, the army made nominal gains in better, more dependable and accurate weapons.

Commencing with the fourth quarter of 1862, ending December 31, the United States Army’s Ordnance Department compiled quarterly returns for all ordnance and ordnance stores on hand, as submitted by companies, regiments and batteries. These summary statements provide a good look at the armament of the armies in the field and the weaponry carried by their regiments and batteries. The fourth quarter 1862 returns for the Army of the Potomac how that infantry regiments were pretty well armed with the majority of the long arms carried classified as 1st Class weapons, dominated by the Springfield Rifled Muskets, model 1855, 1861, National Armory and contract and the British Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifled Musket. In the artillery, the most common gun with the army’s batteries was the Model 1857, Light 12-pounder Gun-Howitzer, nicknamed the “Napoleon,” while the New Model 1859 Sharps Carbine was found in the hands of most of the army’s horsemen. In the first three months of 1863, a slight improvement is evident in the weapons carried by the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac.

The months following the Battle of Fredericksburg allowed for regiments to replace losses in both men and equipment. A look at the returns suggests that some regiments also improved the quality of their weapons. For instance, the 24th New Jersey Infantry reported on its fourth quarter 1862 return that all of its companies carried the 2nd class imported “Belgian or Vincennes Rifles, sabre bayonet. Calibre .69 to .71,” but on the returns for the 1st quarter of 1863 the regiment had upgraded to the 1st Class British Enfields. Overall in the army, the 1st quarter of 1863 saw an improvement from 74% to 78% of all infantry weapons being classified as 1st Class. The returns also show the continued reliance on imported weapons, as they constituted 44% of the long arms in the army, an increase of 6% from the previous quarterly returns. In the artillery, the 3-inch wrought iron field rifle, commonly referred to as the “Ordnance Rifle,” emerged as the most common gun found among the army’s batteries. The Sharp’s carbine still dominated the cavalry’s armament.

Click here to retrieve the document.

The attached statistics come from: Record Group 156: Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance – “Summary Statements of Quarterly Returns of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores on Hand in Regular and Volunteer Army Organizations, 1862-1867, 1870-1876.” (Microcopy 1281, Rolls 1, 2 and 4). National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Eric J. Mink

Armament of the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg


2nd US Artillery

From Eric Mink:

The following post and attached transcript originally appeared in 2008 on the website for the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. After numerous updates and upgrades to that site, this information got lost and eventually bumped. By posting it here on the park’s blog, it will hopefully remain available and accessible.

In the spring of 1861, volunteers rushed to join companies and regiments forming throughout the north. Equipping the thousands of men who responded to President Abraham Lincoln’s call was no easy task. There were only two Federal arsenals at that time: one in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the other in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. On April 18, Virginia troops seized Harpers Ferry and removed the surviving weapons and machinery kept there. That left only the Springfield Arsenal to produce weapons for the growing forces of the United States.

The inventory of weapons on hand in the United States Ordnance Department revealed 437,000 muskets and rifles, 4,000 carbines, and 27,000 pistols. Of that number, only 40,000 of the muskets and rifles were of recent manufacture, the vast majority being older models and styles. This was an adequate supply should the conflict be a short one, but as the war dragged into the fall of 1861, and more men flocked to the army, it quickly became apparent that the demand far outreached the supply.

Federal authorities turned to both contractors and foreign sources to meet the demand. Firms such as Colt Patent Firearms Company and U.S. Providence Tool Company received government contracts to produce the most modern style of gun available, the Model 1861 Springfield Rifled Musket. Government buyers also traveled to Europe, where they competed not only with individual states but with Confederate purchasing agents, who also hoped to secure available arms. These foreign weapons were a mixed bag, with rusty, antiquated long arms often arriving in U.S. ports, as well as accurate more modern models. Imported in high numbers, and coveted by many who received them, were the British Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifled Musket and the 1854 Austrian Lorenz Rifled Musket.

For the cavalry, breech-loading technology offered a distinct advantage. Horsemen could load quickly and while on the move without fumbling with the cumbersome muzzleloaders. The most popular of these weapons was the New Model 1859 Sharps Carbine, manufactured by the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut. Large numbers of these carbines were purchased and it became the standard weapon for the Union cavalry during the war. Other breechloaders, such as the Merrill Carbine, Gallagher Percussion Carbine, and the Burnside Percussion Carbine supplemented the need for arms to supply mounted forces of the army.

Union foundries worked overtime to supply the armies with cannons for the artillery batteries. The Model 1857, Light 12-pounder Gun-Howitzer, nicknamed the “Napoleon,” was the most prevalent and popular type of gun during the first years of the war. It was light enough to be moved quickly around the battlefield and versatile enough to fire different types of ammunition. Later inventions surpassed the Napoleon, being lighter and having greater ranges. The Model 1861 3-inch wrought iron field rifle, commonly referred to as the “Ordnance Rifle,” was a dependable gun and a prized among artillerists. The Parrott Gun, first designed in 1860, also saw extensive service with the field batteries. It came in various sizes, but the most prevalent found on the battlefield were the 10 and 20-pounder models. With its reinforcing band around the breech of the gun, the Parrott was able to throw a shell 1,900 yards, surpassing both the Napoleon and the Ordnance Rifle.

Despite Northern production and imports, it wasn’t until 1863 that the government was capable of supplying first class weapons to outfit nearly the entire army. By the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, however, the Army of the Potomac still displayed a wide variety of issued ordnance. Some consistency existed within companies, but within regiments weapons of various makes and calibers were commonplace. For example, the 46th New York Infantry reported that within its ten companies it had eight different types of long arms of at least four different calibers. This surely made supplying ammunition difficult.

The attached document contains a breakdown by regiment of the type and number of weapons carried by companies, regiments, and batteries in the hands of the Army of the Potomac around the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg. This information is based on returns submitted to the Ordnance Department for the final quarter of 1862, ending December 31, 1862. The returns show that for the infantry regiments, the most common weapons carried were the Springfield Rifled Muskets, model 1855, 1861, National Armory and contract. Imported weapons made up 39% of the infantry’s armament, while only 11% of the guns were of the older smoothbore variety. Among cavalrymen, the Sharps rifled carbine was the most prevalent, while among artillerymen the Napoleon proved most common.

Click here to retrieve the document.

The attached statistics come from: Record Group 156: Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance – “Summary Statements of Quarterly Returns of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores on Hand in Regular and Volunteer Army Organizations, 1862-1867, 1870-1876.” (Microcopy 1281, Rolls 1, 2 and 4). National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Eric J. Mink