According to the last official U.S. Army inventory summarizing Fort Moultrie’s main armament prior to the Civil War — compiled and submitted on December 21, 1860 (five days before its evacuation) by Capt. William Maynadier, the officer in charge of the Ordnance Bureau in Washington, D. C. — its garrison’s mixed assortment of weaponry included fourteen 32-pounder guns, in addition to ten newer and bigger 8-inch Columbiads, as well as sixteen older-model, smaller 24-pounders. The latest pieces which had been received at the fort, the powerful Columbiads, had been strategically installed little more than a year earlier at Moultrie’s Southeast and Southwest Angles so as to sweep the entrance into Charleston Harbor, with seven 32-pounders comprising the Main Channel Battery in between these two heavy concentrations, as well as seven other 32-pounders distributed as individual pieces or in pairs around other sectors along the eastern and southern parapets (see the accompanying diagram).
The sixteen older-vintage 24-pounders were no longer even considered by the War Department as part of the heaviest classification for U.S. ordnance — known as seacoast artillery — and instead had been relegated to the medium-weight category of siege or garrison artillery, weapons which could more easily be withdrawn from their positions and moved overland behind horse-teams as part of an army’s siege-train. As a result, Moultrie’s remaining 24-pounders were mostly pointed inland along its secondary fronts, where no serious military threat to its garrison was ever anticipated. [For a more comprehensive description of these lighter pieces, please see our 24-pounders page.]
In contrast, the U.S. Artillery’s heaviest seacoast class consisted of such ponderous, longer-range pieces that they could only be transported overland while suspended beneath a large-wheeled sling cart, usually hauled by oxen, to then be precariously hoisted atop specially-built barbette-carriages with the aid of a “gin” or hoist and gangs of workers. Aimed from a rotating chassis affixed to an anchored pintle, the common practice was for this largest class of guns to be permanently installed into coastal fortifications like Moultrie, so as to dominate a broad expanse of adjoining water or shoreline, and from where they could only be removed and repositioned with a great deal of careful planning and preparation.
According to the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Manual issued in 1861, 32-pounders were the lightest weight of guns still retained within the heavy category of “seacoast artillery,” whose other pieces were as follows (listed in descending order):
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- 10-inch (cast-iron) ..... Model Year 1844
- 8-inch ......................... Model Year 1844
- 42-pounder ................. Model Year 1841
- 32-pounder ................. Model Year 1841
- 10-inch ....................... Model Year 1841
- 8-inch ......................... Model Year 1841
- 13-inch ....................... Model Year 1841
- 10-inch (cast-iron) ..... Model Year 1844
Just two months before the Civil War erupted, the 42-pounder gun and 10- and 8-inch howitzers would all be suppressed as U.S. Army weapons, by a reorganizational order dated in Washington on February 9, 1861.
Early American 32-pounders
Originally, 32-pounders had been employed almost exclusively aboard large European warships or in coastal fortifications, as their size and weight made them difficult to move overland with the limited means of locomotion then available. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Britain’s Royal Navy featured 32-pounder “long guns” weighing 5,500 pounds apiece and measuring nine-and-a-half feet in length, as the main armament along the lower decks of their largest ships-of-the-line, as well as in their principal overseas naval bases. The fledgling U.S. Army and Navy both acquired such 32-pounder guns for their own use from a variety of manufacturers and sources, domestic and foreign. By the early 1800s, this class of American weapons was comprised of roughly-standardized pieces that:
- measured 128 inches or 10 feet, 8 inches in length,
- weighed approximately 7,000 pounds apiece, and
- had a bore measuring 6.5 inches in diameter.
However, for the decade-and-a-half following the conclusion to the three-year War of 1812, the high command of the American Army — constrained by peacetime budgetary limitations — had shifted their purchasing policies over so as to acquire only 24-pounder guns as new ordnance for their Artillery branch, thereby allowing its larger calibers to fall into abeyance. The U.S. Army regulations for 1816 omitted any mention of 32- or 42-pounders altogether, although a few dozen of these heavier pieces nonetheless still remained scattered about in various different arsenals, where they had already been installed and continued to be employed locally.
Initial U.S. Army Prototype: Model of 1829
Because of the complications which had arisen from this incompatible mixture of ordnance during the War of 1812, the War Department had subsequently confined its small peacetime allotments of funds toward designing and buying large quantities of a single standardized 24-pounder gun, designated as the “Model of 1819” or M.1819. Then a decade later, after a further reappraisal of U.S. Artillery inventories and practices during the late 1820s, it was decided to also begin manufacturing 32-pounder guns to a single standardized design as well, producing a weapon which would furthermore serve the combined purpose of providing a heavy piece for both the Army and the Navy.
The resultant “Model 1829” or “M.1829” 32-pounder gun was elegant in its design, despite being a quarter-foot shorter (at 125 inches) than previous versions, while weighing almost 500 pounds more because of its reinforced thickness toward the rear or breech-end of its iron tube. This new weapon had a total weight of just under 7,500 pounds, and featured:
- a single reinforce which extended forward to eight inches beyond its trunnion rim-bases;
- a raised lock-piece which protruded from atop its barrel, for drilling vent-holes down into its firing-chamber;
- and a distinctive ring grafted directly onto its cascabel.
This latter feature had been appended for naval purposes only, so that a thick cable known in maritime circles as a “breeching” might be run through its aperture and secured by rings to a warship’s wooden bulwarks, on both sides at the front end of the gun-carriage. (It would also be incorporated two years later into the similarly-configured American M.1831 42-pounder gun.) This special harness or restraint was necessary so as to prevent a piece from recoiling excessively within the cramped space available on deck during action, or breaking loose in heavy seas, as well as for helping to slew or manhandle it around while loading and aiming below decks. Technically designated as a ring-surmount by naval ordnance officers, this additional feature would become more commonly known as a “breech-ring”, “breeching-ring”, “breech-loop”, “breeching-loop”, “ring-knob”, etc., among Army officers — who almost never had occasion to use one, instead employing the maneuvering loop attached at the rear-end of their lengthier wooden barbette-carriages to help traverse their guns horizontally.
Nonetheless, this breeching-ring would remain a distinctive feature of all M.1829 32-pounders supplied to the U.S. Artillery as seacoast guns throughout the 1830s, and this particular model would become one of the most plentiful pieces of heavy ordnance produced during the Antebellum era: at least 1,222 are known to have been ordered for the Army alone over the decade between 1829-1839 (plus perhaps a few-dozen more which have gone unrecorded). Virtually every major American fort or arsenal, boasted M.1829 32-pounder seacoast guns prior to the Civil War, as part of their allotted inventories — including Moultrie, although it is unclear exactly how many of its fourteen 32-pounders dated from this particular model-year of 1829.
Experimental Pattern of 1839 or Model 1841
When the U.S. Army began another overhaul and upgrade of its artillery during the late 1830s, two experimental new 32-pounder prototypes were ordered built: one from Cyrus Alger’s foundry in South Boston, Massachusetts, and another from the West Point foundry at Cold Spring in the Hudson Highlands, about 60 miles north of New York City. Known as the “Pattern of 1839”, these two initial pieces served as test-models for a redesign aimed at reducing this weapon’s overall weight to 7,000 pounds by:
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- casting its reinforce in two tapering segments, and
- phasing out its ring-surmount (which would henceforth only be featured on guns provided to the Navy).
The first few of these new Pattern of 1840 smoothbore guns were ordered by the Army as of January 7, 1841, and fifty had been delivered from three different foundries to various military installations by 1843 — with another nine pieces being rejected or their manufacture cancelled — when the Army finally halted all purchases of these M.1841 32-pounders, and yet again set about revising this weapon’s design.
U.S. Army Model of 1845
By late 1844, another new order was placed with the Tredegar Iron Works of Richmond, Virginia, to produce sixty more 32-pounder pieces which would become variously known as either Model 1844 or Model 1845 guns, depending on the source. The changes made to this latest version of the 32-pounder included:
- a one-inch increase in the diameter of the previous base-ring, from 22.5 to 23.5 inches;
- a 22-inch diameter at the end of its first reinforce;
- and a second reinforce which stopped only five inches beyond the trunnion rim-bases, rather than the previous eight inches,
so that the total weight for this new version of the gun had been scaled back up to approximately 7,250 pounds. The lock-piece for its vent was also connected directly into its newly-enlarged base-ring, rather than protruding on its own above the barrel as before. Tredegar fulfilled its delivery of this initial consignment of 60 guns by 1846, after which another 122 pieces were ordered from a variety of foundries, before the production-run for this M.1845 or M.1846 version was halted as of 1853. Henceforth, the development of more powerful 8-inch and 10-inch Columbiads, meant that they would come to displace 32- and 42-pounders as the preeminent seacoast guns in all major U.S. Army installations, including Fort Moultrie.
Comparative cutaway-views of the 1829 and 1845 versions of the U.S. Army’s 32-pounder seacoast guns, cycling between both profiles so as to demonstrate how — despite the designers’ shift in preponderance toward the weapon’s rear end, in order to thicken and strengthen its iron breech — the inner bore-dimensions nonetheless remained exactly the same, so as to still be capable of firing the standard rounds stockpiled in American forts and arsenals.
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For despite the minor external differences between these varied generations of 32-pounders, they could all meet one important criterion: being iron cannon with bores uniformly cast at 6.4 inches in diameter, so as to be able to effectively discharge a spherical round with a caliber of 6.25 inches, weighing slightly more than 32 pounds. The guns themselves measured roughly 10 feet, five inches in length and weighed approximately 7,200 pounds apiece, being designed to be seated atop a wooden gun-carriage that was identical to those used for the next smallest class of 24-pounders.
And just like these lighter pieces, the 32-pounder and its gun-carriage then had to be evenly balanced atop a barbette-chassis made of thick wooden beams, this whole towering structure:
- standing slightly more than six feet high;
- measuring 15 feet, four inches in length; and
- weighing almost a ton of wood, bolts and wheels, not including the 32-pounder itself.
Because of their size and combined weight of more than four-and-a-half tons, such heavy cannons mounted on barbette-carriages had to be emplaced upon a firm, level surface known as its platform. At its front, an iron pintle would be driven deep into the ground, from which fixed point the gun could be aimed (with considerable effort) by rotating the entire superstructure in an arc on a set of wheels at the rear of the chassis, rolling over an embedded semi-circular metal track known as a traverse circle.
|32-pounder M.1845 Seacoast Gun Dimensions & Weights|
|Length of tube or barrel||125.2 inches||6.25 inches||Diameter of shot or shell|
|Rear of base-ring to muzzle-face||114 inches||32.4 pounds||Weight of solid round-shot|
|Diameter of base-ring||23.5 inches||22.5 pounds||Weight of empty shell|
|Rear of base-ring to rear of trunnions||42.2 inches||1 pound, 5 ounces||Powder charge to fill a shell|
|Distance between rim-bases||20.7 inches||1 pound||Charge for ordinary service|
|Diameter of trunnions||6.4 inches||11 ounces||Powder charge to burst a shell|
|Length of trunnions||6 inches||16 pounds||Weight of spherical case-shot|
|Axis of trunnions to muzzle-face||68.6 inches||21.6 pounds||Weight of carcasse|
|Length of bore||107.6 inches||8.1 inches||Height of canister-shell (27 shots)|
|Diameter of bore||6.4 inches||37 pounds||Weight of canister-shell|
|Diameter of muzzle-swell||15.4 inches||8.2 inches||Height of grapeshot stand (9 shots)|
|Preponderance||466 pounds||39.75 pounds||Weight of grapeshot stand|
|Weight of barrel||7,200 pounds|
Range (maximum) with an 8-pound powder charge, at a 5° angle of elevation: 1,922 yards — almost 1.1 miles
Gun-Crew & Equipment
A detachment of four artillerymen and a non-commissioned officer (usually a sergeant or corporal), were required to work and fire a 32-pounder gun, the same as for most other heavy U.S. Artillery pieces of that era. The privates were officially designated as cannoneers according to War Department manuals, and the non-com in charge of each crew as the gunner or chief of piece, although all of these men were often collectively referred to as “gunners”.
For live-fire drills or action, two pairs of cannoneer privates would first be stationed along either side of the weapon, with the sergeant or non-com — the chief of the piece — to its left rear, so as to coordinate and direct the movements of his subordinates, in addition to his own gunnery duties. Long implements such as handspikes, and the even lengthier sponge and rammer, would initially be leaned against the parapet on the right side of the cannon, while rounds were piled near the banquette to its left, against the parapet, with any wads to be used resting atop these stacked balls. Fuses and sighting-instruments would be found suspended in leather pouches from the knob of the gun’s cascabel, out of harm’s way until the first word of command.
Loading, Aiming & Firing
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At the shout of “Take implements,” the chief of piece would clamber up onto the central tongue of the barbette-chassis and remove the gun’s vent-cover or apron, distribute the dangling pouches, and begin to level the barrel. The cannoneers would meanwhile seize their handspikes and bars, and assume their positions so as to begin pushing the weapon back from its at-rest “in battery” position against the parapet, in order to be loaded. At the command “From battery, heave,” each pair of cannoneers would insert iron bars into specially-bored holes on either side of the wheels, and slowly lever the gun backwards up the 3° barbette-chassis incline, away from the breast-height wall. When the muzzle had retreated about a yard past the parapet’s top edge, the order to “Halt” would be given, and chocks quickly wedged on the rails in front of the rollers so as to hold the piece in place.
At the command “Load,” the two forward-most cannoneers would insert the long-handled, tight-fitting sponge into the 32-pounder’s muzzle and together twist the sponge around several times so as to clean its bore, while a third ran with a pass-box to fetch live cartridges from the nearby service-magazine. The chief of piece would in the meantime be cranking the gun-barrel back upward once again with its elevating screw, so as to make it easier to roll the expected round down its length. When the cleaning sponge was withdrawn, a five-inch-wide cartridge would then be handed up to one of the forward cannoneers and introduced “into the bore bottom foremost, seams to the sides,” so as to be pushed home by his companion with the rammer. A ball subsequently followed (sometimes a ball and wad together), to be likewise rammed home.
The chief of piece thereupon pierced the canvas cartridge-bag wedged at the back of the bore, through the vent-hole with a sharp tool known as a vent-punch, so as to expose a few of its powder grains. Then, leaving a priming-wire inserted in the vent, he cranked the gun-barrel back down to its desired elevation. All four cannoneers would then remove the chocks from the rollers, and use their iron bars and handspikes to lever the piece back down the chassis toward the parapet, halting it in a position to be fired. Final adjustments so as to fine-tune the aim could be made by using the handspikes to traverse the chassis slightly to left or right, while the chief of piece peered along the sight-line through his brass breech-sight (which rested atop the base-ring), and made small turns of the elevating screw. Because of the thicker bulge of a 32-pounder’s reinforce, the tip of its muzzle could not be as easily discerned as on smaller pieces, so that an additional three-and-a-half inch metal sight (known as a “blade sight”) would have already been screwed into a threaded hole atop its muzzle-swell, in order to better align the weapon.
When the chief of piece was satisfied that his aim was true, he removed the priming-wire, loudly cried “Ready,” inserted the combustive friction-tube into the vent, and jumped off the chassis “to windward to observe the effect of the shot.” The crew of cannoneers had meanwhile crouched down beside the piece, except for the right-rearmost, who uncoiled the 12-foot lanyard from his pouch, clambered up onto the carriage and hooked it onto the trigger, before returning to ground and drawing the lanyard taut, then leaning away with his back to the gun while awaiting the officer’s final command to fire. It was customary to shout out the gun-number while barking this order, so as to minimize any confusion during action, as in: “Number one — fire!”
Immediately after the deafening discharge of the cannon, two of its gunners would reinsert the chocks onto the rails, so as to halt the gun in its recoiled position. The whole procedure of sponging out its barrel, and ramming home a fresh cartridge, ball, and wad would then be repeated, and continued until an order was eventually given to desist and stand down. The normal rate of fire for such a ponderous weapon was several minutes between each shot, batteries firing their individual pieces every ten or fifteen minutes if a continuous bombardment was required, so as to avoid confusion in observing and relaying information as to the accuracy of each round. Once the threat of action had ceased altogether, the piece would be secured, and its implements safely stored away for future use.
In order to load, aim, and fire a heavy 32-pounder cannon in a 19th-Century U.S. Army fort, a number of implements were essential, and always had to be kept available for instant use.
gunner’s pouch – a leather bag usually left suspended from the knob of a gun’s cascabel, which contained the chief of piece’s “level, breech-sight, fingerstall, priming wire, gimlet, vent-punch, and chalk” for accurately aiming the weapon before firing. Normal practice was to leave this pouch hanging from the knob of a 32-pounder’s cascabel, so as to be immediately at hand whenever a round was to be shotted
tube pouch – a separate leather bag, also found dangling from the knob of a gun’s cascabel, to hold several friction-tubes, as well as the lanyard “wound in St. Andrew`s cross upon its handle,” that were to be used to actually prime and ignite a loaded 32-pounder’s powder-filled cartridge, once the weapon had been properlyloaded and aimed
handspikes – sturdy wooden shafts, squared at the bottom and with rounded handles on top, roughly six feet long and weighing eight pounds apiece, which could be wedged beneath different points of the gun-carriage or chassis so as to move or traverse a cannon by the application of sheer brute strength. Each gun-crew was typically furnished with at least a half-dozen handspikes for use during drills or action, in case of breakage, while some longer handspikes were also available, for extra leverage whenever necessary, so as to be worked by a pair of cannoneers in unison
sponge – a bulbous cleansing-wad attached to a wooden shaft ten feet, eight inches long and weighing almost ten pounds, which had to be pushed into a 32-pounder’s tube or barrel and rotated by two cannoneers every time before loading the weapon, so as to clear away any debris or residue inside its bore and chamber. When not in use, the artillery-sponge was laid parallel to the piece at its right-hand side, the butt-end resting atop the parapet and the sponge-head “turned from the epaulment, and supported upon a prop” so as to help keep it clean
A seven-man gun-crew from the 4th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment, photographed during an exercise with a 24-pounder gun in Fort Corcoran near Arlington Heights, Virginia, sometime during the spring of 1862. Note the two handspikes leaned temporarily against the breast-height wall of the parapet at left, doubtless propped there by the two forward cannoneers who are pushing the sponge into the gun’s bore. The cannoneer directly below them is holding the pass-box used to fetch powder-filled cartridges from the magazine, while the two rear artillerymen are standing in the correct “at rest” pose with their handspikes. The chief of piece is in the act of stopping the vent, his gunner’s pouch slung over his shoulder to hang down beside his right hip, while the cannoneer behind him is holding the gun’s rammer erect. Finally, the cannoneer at right can be seen wearing the tube pouch around his waist, containing the friction-tubes and lanyard needed to actually fire the piece.
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rammer – a blunt-ended wooden shaft ten feet, eight inches long and weighing slightly more than eight pounds, used to thrust a cartridge, cannonball, and sometimes an accompanying wad down the barrel of a 32-pounder, to all be crammed together tightly at the back of its bore for firing. When not in use, a rammer (like the sponge) was leaned beside the right-hand edge of its piece, the rammer’s butt-end resting atop the parapet and its head “supported upon a prop” to help keep it clean
pass-box – a small wooden container used by an individual gunner to bring live artillery-cartridges back from a service-magazine to the piece, dryly and securely
budge barrel – a leather-hooded wooden receptacle to safely contain extra cartridges for a gun-crew in action, which — because of its volatile contents — was normally kept “at the safest and most convenient place in the rear of the piece”
chocks – simple wooden wedges, inserted as needed atop the barbette’s iron rails in front of a gun-carriage’s rollers, so as to prevent the heavy weapon from sliding back down the inclined chassis
broom – a seemingly innocuous item, yet a corn broom was considered essential whenever a gun was in action, so as to regularly sweep and clear its adjoining platform of any stray grains of gunpowder which might have fallen, and could become ignited by a chance spark or ember
vent-cover – once a drill or live-action had ceased and the weapon was returned to an at-rest position, a specially-shaped metal plate or bowl could be fastened over the small firing-hole or “vent” through the lock-piece atop the rear of a gun-barrel, so as to prevent moisture or grit from fouling this vital aperture while the piece was not in use
tompion – a wooden plug could also be inserted into the muzzle of an idled gun to prevent dust, debris, or moisture from fouling its inner bore and chamber. Heavy seacoast cannons such as Moultrie’s 32-pounders, which were rarely ever moved from their fixed emplacements, often boasted custom-turned and hand-painted tompions, which could be easily drawn out of their muzzles by a hand-ring
1862-10 officers 32pdr Wash DC defenses LC-DIG-cwpb-04296.tif
Normally, a standard charge of gunpowder was calculated as one-fourth the weight of the shot being fired; therefore, the normal charge for firing a 32-pounder was eight pounds. Range of a 32-pounder:
- at a point-blank elevation of 1° 30’, with an 8-pound charge of powder: 800 yards
- at a more standard elevation of 5°, with an 8-pound charge of powder: 1,922 yards
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When a breech-sight was rested atop the base-ring, its varying heights would indicate how much the 32-pounder’s barrel was being raised:
- at 1.95 inches, the elevation stood at 1°,
- at 5.87 inches, the elevation had reached 3°,
- at 9.80 inches, the elevation was 5°, and so on.
32-pounders in the Walter Battery, Charleston Harbor SC, February 1861
The January 28, 1861 edition of The Charleston Mercury reported how the Washington Artillery had been welcomed back into the city with a banquet that previous day, after their month-long tour of garrison-duty in Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. During this banquet, the company’s commander Capt. George H. Walter:
... also read the orders that a detachment of thirty men be detailed to take charge of the battery at the extreme end of the Island, having command of Maffit’s Channel. This announcement was received with vociferous applause; and on motion of Lieut. Salvo, the Battery was unanimously, and amid the deafening applause and cheers of the men, named “Walter battery” in honor of their popular and efficient commander.
The view sketched by William Waud was published as an engraving on the front page of the February 23, 1861 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (Volume XI, Number 274). His accompanying written description stated that the six-gun battery had “been dug out of the sand, to a depth sufficient to admit of the cannon just clearing the face of the sand embankment.”
32-pounders at Pensacola, Florida, late April 1861
As secessionist fervor rose throughout the South early in 1861, the bespectacled young First Lt. Adam J. Slemmer — acting commandant of the large U.S. Army military installation at Pensacola, Florida — withdrew his tiny peacetime garrison of 81 officers and men offshore on the morning of January 10, 1861, into the relative safety of Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, an isolated stronghold which commanded the harbor entrance and could be reinforced by sea. Two days later, several hundred Southern militiamen appeared out of the interior under Col. Tennant Lomax of Alabama, seizing the Navy Yard and all other remaining Federal installations on the mainland without opposition, thereby securing a considerable number of heavy guns and ammunition for Florida’s secessionist government. According to the last official U.S. Army returns which had been filed at the beginning of that year in Washington, D.C., the ordnance taken at Pensacola included:
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- 125 heavy “sea-coast and garrison cannon” in Fort McRee, among them three 10-inch and twelve 8-inch Columbiads; twenty 42-pounder guns; twenty-four 32-pounders; sixty-four 24-pounders; etc.
- plus another 44 guns either mounted or in storage at Fort Barrancas, including thirteen more 8-inch Columbiads and howitzers; two 10-inch mortars; eleven 32-pounders; ten 24-pounders; plus assorted older pieces and field-guns.
Slemmer’s force, however — despite being severely under-strength for such a large edifice as Fort Pickens — still retained control over the 201 guns at his disposal within that distant stronghold, constituted of four 10-inch Columbiads; four 10-inch mortars; fifty 8-inch and flanking howitzers; two 42-pounders; sixty-two 32-pounders; fifty-nine 24-pounders; six 18-pounders, and fourteen 12-pounders.
Shortly after having occupied the U.S. military and naval facilities ashore, the secessionist militia commanders — with more and more contingents of eager volunteer continuing to arrive in Pensacola — begin issuing orders to start preparing a few “sand batteries” along the shoreline opposite the harbor entrance, so as to be armed with captured Federal ordnance hauled overland and manhandled into these new positions. But observing these first amateurish efforts through his spy-glass from within Fort Pickens, the Union Lieutenant judged that these labors had been undertaken by the state authorities:
… more to keep the volunteers employed than for effective service. The distance is too great for breaching batteries unless heavy and rifled cannon were used, of which they have none now available. Shells could, however, be thrown into the fort [Pickens] from these batteries.
The lack of professional artillerymen among the militia volunteers nonetheless rendered most of their early works ineffectual. For example, the disgraced ex-U.S. Army cavalry Capt. Theodore O’Hara — now at the head of the South Alabama Rangers — had initially assumed command over strategic Fort McRee, located directly opposite the outnumbered Federal contingent across the harbour-mouth in Fort Pickens, where he set about extracting McRee’s guns from storage and mounting them, as well as commencing to lay out an adjacent “water battery.”
But O’Hara would be brusquely dismissed once the newly-commissioned Confederate Brig. Gen. Braxton Bragg arrived at Pensacola, to assume overall command of operations as of March 11, 1861 (and who reportedly found things in such a “deplorable condition” that he would deride O’Hara in his official correspondence to Montgomery as a “drunken loafer from Mobile,” whose regiment was so inept that “it took a week’s drunk” to simply get it organized). A former West Point-trained U.S. Artillery officer who had distinguished himself during the Mexican-American War, Bragg greatly improved the discipline among the various volunteer units — whose numbers soared within a month from 1,100 to more than 5,000 men — and furthermore directed the installation of properly-sited, well-constructed batteries around the sandy shoreline.
On April 10, 1861, twenty volunteer companies from Mississippi — which had been mustered at Mobile in anticipation of an imminent outbreak of hostilities — began reaching Pensacola as part of these reinforcements, encamping around Fort Barrancas over the next two days. Once news was received by telegraph that Fort Sumter had at last been bombarded on April 12th-13th in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, thereby inaugurating the conflict, these twenty companies were reorganized into the 9th and 10th Mississippi Infantry Regiments, and entered into Confederate service by Bragg as of April 14, 1861. The photograph immediately above shows one of these companies — believed to be the “Ben Bullard Rifles” of Itawamba County, now reconstituted as Company B of the 10th Mississippi — posing around a third M.1829 32-pounder gun mounted atop a barbette-carriage, in yet another unidentified shoreline emplacement opposite Santa Rosa Island. Four of this piece’s gun-crew can be seen standing at attention with their handspikes, in pairs on either side of their weapon, while the chief-of-piece stands at its left-rear, his gunner’s pouch buckled around his waist. A sixth member of this gun-crew may be the young soldier holding its pass-box at left, and a seventh the soldier holding its sponge at right. The remaining onlookers are extra company members, crowded into this scene so as to be photographed. The officer relaxing comfortably in the foreground may be Capt. James G. Bullard, a wealthy farmer from Fulton, Mississippi, who had raised this company in early February 1861 and named it for his brother, a member of the Secession Convention.
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All three photographs reproduced here above are believed to have been featured among the series of 38 or 39 prints which the New Orleans photographer J. D. [Jay Dearborn] Edwards travelled to Pensacola to record, and then began offering for sale in that Louisiana city as of May 15, 1861 (although his original ambrotypes have since been lost). The third image above — of “Ben Bullard’s Rifles” clustered around their 32-pounder in its sandy shore emplacement — was also published years afterward on Pages 16-17 of Volume 6: “The Navies” of the Photographic History of the Civil War (New York: Review of Reviews, 1911), edited by Francis T. Miller and Robert S. Lanier. The two newly-formed Confederate regiments would subsequently remain in Pensacola and continue to be employed in digging batteries, a member of the 9th Mississippi even writing to a Natchez newspaper later that same May 1861:
... all have learned the science of shovel and barrow pretty thoroughly. I and several others have the idea to establish ourselves as levee contractors when we return.
The exact positioning of the three individual guns recorded in this trio of photographs, cannot now be determined with any certainty, although they seem likely to have been installed among the sand batteries at the upper left-hand corner of the accompanying map, drawn by a Union engineering officer in June 1861.
32-pounder at Fort Gaines, Winter of 1861-1862
1862 officers 55th NY Inf Ft Gaines Tennalytown Wash DC NARA 111-B-486 or 524904.tif
1862ca 32pdr Ft Gaines NARA ARC 525035a or 111-B-627.jpg
1861-62 winter 32pdr 55th NY Ft Gaines Amer Univ Libs.jpg
1861-12 camp 55th NY Inf nr Tenallytown DC.jpg
According to McClellan’s official Order No. 18, dated on September 30, 1861, the Union work at Tennallytown [modern Tenleytown] was named “Fort Pennsylvania” (changed next year into “Fort Reno”), while the one “on the left of Tennallytown” was known as “Fort Gaines.” An albumen print preserved today in the American University’s Photograph & Print Collection bears the following handwritten inscription on its back:
"Red legged 55th" or "Garde de Lafayette" manned Fort Gaines during the winter of 1861-1862. [Régis de] Trobriand appears second from right.
32-pounders at Fort Pulaski, Ga. (1863)
In foreground of following picture:
taken looking westward from the Southwest Angle of this fort in 1863, showing an adjacent empty gun-platform; an M.1829 24-pounder; an 8-inch Columbiad; and a gunboat on the distant river. Image can be labelled 1863 SW Angle Ft Pulaski MOLLUS v21 p1049.jpg
32-pounder or Columbiad? Also shows sling-carts, hot-shot furnace. Should be labelled 1863 SW Corner Ft Pulaski 48th NY Inf MOLLUS v20 p984.jpg
32-pounders at Battery Magruder Outside of Yorktown, Virginia, June 1862
Positioned atop the York River bluff so as to contest the Federal advance, and named in honor of the Confederate defenders’ overall commander, Maj.-Gen. John B. Magruder. Although misidentified in the Library of Congress caption as the “Nelson House,” the building which can be seen in the background was actually Grace Episcopal Church, which still stands on the same spot today at 111 Church Street, although modernized.
32-pounders in Fort Federal Hill, Baltimore, 1862
1862 Union 8in 32pdrs Ft Fed Hill Md.jpg
1862 Union troops Ft Fed Hill Md.jpg
1862ca Ft Federal Hill Baltimore x Ed Sachse.jpg
1862ca Fort Federal Hill Baltimore Md litho x Sachse LC-USZ62-93524.tif
1862ca Ft Slemmer defense of Wash DC NARA NWDNS-111-B-628 or 525036.tif
In a detailed report on the state of all Union forts guarding Washington, D.C., published on Page 893 of Series 1, Vol. 36, Part 2 of The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, the Inspector of Artillery Brig. Gen. A. P. Howe described Fort Slemmer’s garrison and ordnance as follows on May 17, 1864:
Fort Slemmer, Maj. Charles Hunsdon commanding. – Garrison, one company First Vermont Artillery – 3 commissioned officers, 1 ordnance sergeant, 73 men. Armament: three 32-pounder barbette, one 8-inch siege howitzer. Magazines, one; dry and in good order. Ammunition: full supply and serviceable. Implements: full sets and serviceable. Drill in artillery, ordinary. Drill in infantry, ordinary. Discipline, ordinary. Garrison of sufficient strength.
This small stronghold stood just north of the site occupied today by Marist Hall of the Catholic University of America.
The soldiers posing with a 32-pounder (one sitting directly atop its barrel), are identified as a detail from Battery F of the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Regiment at Fort Lincoln, on Page 19 of George W. Ward’s History of the Second Pennsylvania Veteran Heavy Artillery (Philadelphia, privately printed, 1904).
Fort Ethan Allen
Officers of the 22nd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment posing on a 32-pounder barbette-carriage in Fort Ethan Allen or one of its outworks, in early October 1862?
Iron guns were to be waterproofed at least once a year by applying a new coat of black lacquer, and their bores greased with a mixture of oil and tallow, or tallow and beeswax. Such treatments apparently took best when applied in hot weather, according to the 1861 Ordnance Manual. Cannonballs were likewise to be lacquered black, although spherical case-shot were to be painted red.
32-pounders at Vicksburg’s Marine Hospital Battery, July 1863
In the spring of 1863, Union Maj.-Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 35,000-man Army of the Tennessee made a surprise thrust across the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg — well south of the City of Vicksburg — then drove deep into that State to capture its capital of Johnston by May 14, 1863. Grant thereupon veered quickly around and four days later approached Mississippi’s strategic river-port of Vicksburg out of its east, trapping Confederate Lt.-Gen. John C. Pemberton inside with 18,500 defenders.
However, this city’s hilly surroundings provided many commanding prominences on which to establish strong-points and formidable defensive entrenchments, so that Grant’s initial two assaults were bloodily repulsed. The Union commander consequently settled down for a protracted siege, his gunboats controlling the Mississippi River so that dozens of Federal steamers could dock safely up the Yazoo River and bring in huge amounts of supplies, as well as so many reinforcements that the besiegers’ numbers eventually swelled to 77,000 men in siege-lines that extended for twelve miles. The Confederate garrison remained inside their own 6.5-mile defensive perimeter, but were subjected to relentless bombardment and probes, while soon suffering the effects of malnutrition and disease.
Starvation eventually compelled Pemberton to surrender, According to Warren E. Grabau’s book Ninety-eight Days: A Geographer’s View of the Vicksburg Campaign (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000):
The Marine Hospital Battery, one of the most powerful in the Vicksburg defences, was located [200 yards south-]west of the Marine Hospital on a slight elevation 40 feet above the water, and mounted three 42-pdr smoothbores, two 32-pdr smoothbores, and two 32-pdr rifles. Unlike many of the others, the guns of the Marine Hospital Battery were mounted en barbette, which means that they fired over top of a smooth parapet, rather than through embrasures.
It is difficult to discern exact details on the most distant piece, beyond the obvious fact that it has no breech-ring on its cascabel, and features a chase-band near its rather thick muzzle-neck, all of which suggest that it was most probably an M.1840 or M.1845 42-pounder seacoast gun.
1863 32pdrs 42pdrs Marine Hospital Battery Vicksburg after siege.jpg
1863 Battery Sherman 8in 32pdr Vicksburg LC-DIG-ppmsca-35289.tif
1863 Battery Sherman Vicksburg x Civil War Thru Camera x HW Elson 321.jpg
1863 Confed guns Vicksburg x Civil War Thru Camera x HW Elson 317.jpg
An M.1829 32-pounder is preserved today at Fort Donelson, along with three M.1845 versions from the Tredegar Iron Works. Another M.1845 32-pounder is buried upright at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Fort Morgan also has at least one barbette-mounted 32-pounder.
... the shot that is thrown away
by carelessness in pointing,
had better not be thrown at all.
— 1851 Instruction for Heavy
Artillery, Page 88
32-pounders in Ft. Beauregard, Bay Point SC, November 1861
Amid the Confederate strategic discussions which had taken place immediately after the eruption of hostilities in late April 1861, Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard had given as his opinion that Port Royal Sound could not be adequately defended, as forts erected on opposite banks of its two-mile-wide entrance would be too far apart to provide mutual support. However, overruled in this matter by South Carolina’s Gov. Francis Pickens, Beauregard then made a subsequent coastal inspection-tour during which he visited Hilton Head Island on May 16, 1861, and shortly thereafter ordered that plans be drawn up so as to begin a pair of earthworks facing each other across the mouth of Port Royal Sound.
Eleven days later, Beauregard was called away to serve in Virginia, departing on May 27, 1861 while delegating the actual implementation of this Port Royal project to militia Maj. Francis D. Lee of the South Carolina “Corps of Military Engineers.” (An architect in civilian life, Francis Lee had already designed several of Charleston’s finest antebellum buildings and churches.) The order to actually commence breaking ground on this construction-effort was not given until July 1861, after which the South Carolinian artillery Lt.-Col. Roswell S. Ripley was promoted to Confederate Brigadier General next month, and succeeded Beauregard in command of the entire Department of South Carolina — while Governor Pickens took time away from his many other responsibilities to initiate a bureaucratic effort to procure the necessary heavy guns from Richmond, so as to eventually arm this new pair of strongholds.
The earthwork which had been commenced near the bluff on Coggins Point Plantation at the eastern tip of Hilton Head Island, would consequently be named “Fort Walker” in honor of the Confederate Secretary of War, Leroy P. Walker — allegedly in hopes of currying his favour, so as to help obtain the needed heavy ordnance from among the limited stockpiles available to the secessionist government. A similar fieldwork had also been started at Bay Point opposite, 2.5 miles away on the southern end of St. Phillips Island, which was to be named in honor of Beauregard himself. [Contemporary Union records most often referred to this point of land as simply “Phillips Island,” while Confederate sources identified it as “Edding’s Island”; both opponents furthermore sometimes confused St. Phillips Island with larger Saint Helena Island as well, which lies just to its north.] Work on these strongholds progressed only slowly, as slaves had to be requisitioned from local plantations to act as laborers, which owners would prove reluctant to provide during the busy summer months.
Both earthen forts were nonetheless ready to receive their first shipments of heavy armament by September 1861, although the South Carolinian authorities were thereupon disappointed to learn that instead of the powerful, long-range 10-inch Columbiads which they had requested, most of the weaponry that they were being allotted would prove to be older-vintage 32- and 42-pounder smoothbore naval guns — of insufficient range to even fully overlap the entrance of Port Royal Sound with their fire, just as Beauregard had predicted. Union warships could penetrate from the ocean unchallenged by simply steaming carefully up mid-channel, thereby avoiding being struck from either shoreline. The 52-year-old local estate-owner, Thomas F. Drayton — who had graduated from West Point three decades earlier, only to resign from the 6th U.S. Infantry Regiment as a Second Lieutenant a few years thereafter — was elevated into a Confederate Brigadier General and placed in command of this district by October 17, 1861, despite his military inexperience.
By then, Fort Beauregard was completed and armed as “an earthwork of four faces, all fronting on the water, and the guns were so mounted on each face as to command the approaches to [the] Broad and Beaufort rivers.” This new field-fortification’s main armament consisted of thirteen pieces mounted en barbette:
- a 10-inch Columbiad (“weight 13,226 lbs.”),
- a smaller 8-inch Columbiad,
- five smoothbore 42-pounder seacoast guns, “long and very heavy,”
- five smoothbore 32-pounder guns, “Navy pattern, 1845,”
- and a new 6-inch rifled gun.
In addition to its principal enclosure, there were two small outworks extending as well in an irregular fashion on either flank of Fort Beauregard, “connected with the main work by trenches.” The more distant of these outworks, its western battery, contained another three 32-pounder smoothbore guns “of 63 cwt., Navy pattern, 1845” with a hot-shot furnace, while two more 24-pounder smoothbores were located in the “sand battery” or redan just to Beauregard’s east. Its total allotted garrison numbered 640 men, while another 622 held 24-gun Fort Walker on the opposite shoreline.
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Two weeks later, the new Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin suddenly telegraphed Governor Pickens and General Drayton on November 1, 1861, to warn that a 14,000-man Union expedition was headed from Hampton Roads so as to attack Port Royal Sound. Its leading warship — Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont’s 44-gun flagship Wabash — appeared outside next day, his Union fleet slowly reassembling over the next couple of days, after having been scattered by a storm during their voyage. Soon, these reunited attackers would move over the Sound’s outer sandbar, reconnoiter its shorelines, and repair the marker-buoys in anticipation of effecting a penetration. Ashore, meanwhile, an additional 1,000 Confederate troops and two field-howitzers were rushed into this coastal district as reinforcements, while Brigadier Drayton (brother of the U.S. naval Cmdr. Percival Drayton of the Federal warship USS Pocahontas offshore) shifted his headquarters forward from Beaufort to Hilton Head on November 6, 1861. A tiny Confederate flotilla under Commo. Josiah Tatnall, consisting of three tugs and a converted river-steamer mounting two or three small guns apiece, also braced to offer the two forts their meagre support.
At 9 a.m. on November 7, 1861 — “a still, clear, beautiful morning,” as Drayton would note from within Fort Walker, “not a ripple on the broad expanse of water” — the ten Union warships weighed anchor, and seventeen minutes later came steaming into the Sound in a long column. Shortly before 9:30 a.m., the Confederate forts opened fire and the Federal warships replied, proceeding inside despite absorbing a number of hits in passing Fort Beauregard. Then at 10 a.m., Du Pont’s flagship doubled back, leading some of his squadron past Fort Walker for a bombardment-run at a shorter range of only 800 yards, so as to pummel its garrison with high-explosive shells. Tatnall’s overmatched Confederate flotilla had meanwhile retreated into the mouth of Skull Creek behind Hilton Head Island, as powerful Union warships began prowling inside the Sound at will, circling and firing upon both strongholds at a rate of two-dozen shells per minute.
Being low, single-tiered earthworks with guns mounted en barbette, their defenders lay completely exposed to this high-angled Union bombardment and enfilading fire, while the Confederate artillerymen — ill-trained and supplied with inferior-grade powder — made but poor execution against the steadily-moving Federal steamships. After another pass by Du Pont at a range of only 600 yards, during which Walker’s flagpole was felled by a shot at 11:30 a.m., only three guns remained operational within that fort and its garrison was left powerless to resist, despite having suffered only ten killed and twenty wounded.
Upon initiating a third pass with his heavy squadron, the Union naval commander received a signal from USS Ottawa that Walker lay abandoned, which was confirmed when Wabash stood in within 500 yards of the fort and fired both its powerful 11-inch pivot-guns directly into the compound, without receiving any reply. Brigadier Drayton had already given the order to evacuate, so that a party of U.S. Marines under Capt. John Rodgers was landed at 2:20 p.m. to temporarily take possession of that battered stronghold, while scores of naval boats began ferrying Union Gen. Thomas W. Sherman’s 12,000 troops ashore an hour-and-a-half later. By nightfall, they had fully secured Fort Walker, and next day would send detachments overland and upriver, encountering no organized Confederate resistance.
It would not be until November 10, 1861, that Brig. Gen. Isaac I. Stevens’s brigade — consisting of the 79th New York Highlanders and 8th Michigan — crossed over from Fort Walker to Bay Point and occupied Fort Beauregard, which likewise lay abandoned and empty.
32-pounders in Fort Totten, ca. December 1862
As the Civil War dragged on into its second summer, President Lincoln issued a call on July 1, 1862, for an additional 300,000 three-year volunteers to serve the Union cause against the secessionist insurrection. Vermont responded by promptly raising two more state regiments, whose companies of raw recruits began assembling at Camp Bradley outside of Brattleboro by August 15, 1862. Ten of these companies would be organized and mustered into service as the 11th Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment as of September 1, 1862, and six days later departed Brattleboro for Washington, D.C.
This green regiment arrived in the national capital by September 9, 1862, and because its troops were as yet unseasoned, the 11th Vermont was shortly thereafter assigned to replace the 136th and 137th Pennsylvania Infantry in training-exercises and construction-duties among the chain of forts encircling the city — in particular, several unfinished fieldworks intended to guard Washington’s rear on its northeastern outskirts. One of these strongholds would prove to be Fort Totten, an earthen work located four miles outside of the capital, whose construction had commenced as long ago as August 1861, yet was still being worked on by an unhappy detachment comprised of Companies B and K from the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Regiment. Situated atop an eminence only a half-mile northeast of the Soldiers’ Home, President Lincoln’s summertime residence, Fort Totten’s armament at that time was itemized in detail in a manuscript inventory [sold privately at auction in January 2008], as consisting of the following:
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List of Arms & Ammunition on Hand at
Fort Totten, September 11th, 1862.
- 11 Iron Guns, 32 Pounder, Good Condition, On Barbette Carriages;
- 3 Iron Guns, 24 Pounder, Good, On Barbette Carriages;
- 1 8-Inch Siege Howitzer, Good Condition, on 24 Pnd. Siege Carriage;
- 1 20-Pnd. Parrott, Good, No Implements or Ammunition;
- 2 30-Pnd. Parrott, Good, No Implements or Ammunition;
- 71 Austrian Rifles, 54 Cal.;
- 4 6-Pound Rifles;
- 1 Coehorn Mortar.
- 32 Pounder: 642 Shot, 165 Grape, 100 Strap, 291 Spherical Case, 1,175 Cartridge.
- 24 Pounder: 180 Shot, 45 Grape, 30 Strap, 40 Case, 567 Cartridge.
- 8-Inch Siege Howitzer: 60 Canister, 90 Shell, 124 Cartridge.
- 10-Pound Parrott: 100 Fuse Shells, 44 Canister Shot, 100 Cartridge.
- 30-Pound Parrott: 110 Shells, 75 Solid Shot, 150 Cartridge.
- 170 Hand Grenades;
- 500 Pounds Rifle-Powder;
- 100 Pounds Cannon;
- 100 Fuse, Assorted;
- Rifle-Ball Cartridges: 14,000, including those in Cartridge Boxes.
The main armaments on this list coincided with another 2nd Pennsylvania inventory which had been compiled only two-and-a-half weeks earlier, except that two more 8-inch howitzers had been included then, while the four 6-pound rifles and Coehorn mortar had since been added to the fort’s weaponry. Initially, only Companies E and K of the 11th Vermont Infantry were assigned as of September 27, 1862 to assist the 2nd Pennsylvania in their ongoing labors toward strengthening Fort Totten, while the other eight Vermont companies were distributed amongst five other nearby strongholds. Instructed in shifts as artillerymen over the next seven weeks, plus remaining employed in work-details, the 11th Vermont was at the end of this period entrusted with the entire duty of garrisoning Totten and its adjacent forts, when the 2nd Pennsylvania was officially relieved from this responsibility and rotated out on November 17, 1862.
On this very same date, Company E of the 11th Vermont was replaced at Totten by its Company A, so that Companies A and K would remain as this fort’s permanent garrison over the next sixteen months, under the command of 24-year-old Maj. George E. Chamberlin (an 1860 graduate of Dartmouth College, as well as student at the Harvard Law School when he enlisted in 1862). Furthermore, the Vermont regiment’s status was itself reclassified, becoming transformed from its original designation as an infantry unit, to instead be reconstituted as the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery Regiment as of December 10, 1862, at which time its members “assumed the red chevrons and shoulder-straps of the artillery arm, and added an artillery flag to its colors, crossed cannons on a yellow field.” Additional recruiting was also authorized, so as to raise the 1st Vermont’s strength to twelve companies of 150 men apiece, the standard size for an artillery regiment.
It is possible that the accompanying photographs were taken within Totten’s compound, shortly after these changes had been implemented, given the recently-dug appearance of the fort’s grounds, and wintery look of its surrounding landscape. Most of the noncoms and privates are shown still wearing their dress “shoulder scales,” a useless metal adornment which would become less and less commonplace amongst regiments, once truly active campaigning began. The original glass-negatives of these four photographs are today divided betwen the U.S. National Archives and Library of Congress, with silver-albumen prints being additionally conserved by various other institutions.
The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center’s “Photograph Card Database”, for example, identifies the holdings of its RG98s – Civil War Photos as follows:
Box 27.39, as containing a photograph of “32 Pdr. iron seacoast guns, mounted on wood, front pintle, barbette carriages in Fort Totten, part of the defenses of Washington, D.C.”
Box 65.88, as containing a “View inside the parapet of Fort Totten, Washington, D.C., showing four 32-Pounder, Model 1829 Iron Seacoast Cannon mounted on front pintle, Barbette carriages.”
The swinging prop on the barbette-carriage which can be glimpsed in the left foreground of the initial pair of pictures above, furthermore bears a stencilled notation which reads: “LT D. C. HOUSTON FORT TOTTEN ROCK CREEK CHURCH.” This would seemingly refer to First Lt. David Crawford Houston of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, who — according to his later biographical entry in Cullum’s Register — had been employed from May 13, 1861 until February 6, 1862 as “Asst. Engineer in the construction of the Defenses of Washington, D. C.”, after which he was transferred to supervise repairs on Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania, as well as to assume the duties of “Chief Engineer of 1st Army Corps.” Given that this notation is still quite legible beneath the gun-carriage in Fort Totten, it might very well have been stencilled on this prop sometime during the year 1862.
More to come ...
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