an expression taken directly from the French word abattis, simply meaning the “felling or clearing of trees,” but which in military parlance was applied to a crude type of defense, usually extemporized in the field by cutting trees down parallel to one another, then dragging and arranging them with their interwoven branches pointing outward from a defensive position, in the direction of an enemy’s projected line-of-attack or -approach. Around established forts or major field-entrenchments protected by an encircling glacis, an abatis could also be laid down in concealment beyond the defense’s outer fringe so as to surprise and entangle an assault-column of besiegers, as well as be affixed against the counterscarp of the ditch itself as a further hidden obstruction, as shown in the attached view.
For a glimpse of an actual abatis guarding a Civil War fortification, please click on the accompanying video-link
a staff officer selected by a Colonel from among his regimental subordinates, to manage the communication of his orders and instructions to all companies, receive correspondence and reports, prepare tables of strength, etc.
an administrative position in any large military organization, whose principal duty is to effectively communicate orders. According to 19th-Century regulations, the U.S. Army’s Adjutant-General had to be a Colonel in rank and was appointed “chief of a bureau of the War Department,” seconded by a Lieutenant-Colonel who acted as Assistant Adjutant-General. Their office was furthermore charged with the recruiting service, in addition to other customary bureaucratic obligations such as:
- publishing orders in writing;
- drawing up written instructions and transmitting them;
- receiving and filing reports and returns;
- forming tables to show the state and position of all units;
- regulating details of service;
- corresponding with the appropriate departments relative to the wants of troops in the field;
- methodical arrangement and preservation of records.
There were a further dozen assistants drawn from the ranks of Majors or Captains, to supervise the more active responsibilities of the Adjutant-General’s office in far-flung regions, such as:
- the establishing of camps;
- visiting guards and outposts while on duty;
- mustering and inspecting troop detachments;
- directing the conduct and control of prisoners and deserters;
- forming parades and lines of battle; etc.
name given to a second ditch sometimes excavated beyond a fort’s encircling glacis, its inner scarp deliberately removed so “that an enemy might find no shelter” once they jumped into this advanced ditch, but rather would remain exposed to the defenders’ gunfire being directed unimpeded down the slope of the glacis; and as shown in this Glossary’s first entry above, an advanced ditch might also contain a concealed abatis
a general term in military engineering for any defensive structure located beyond the protective glacis immediately encircling a fort, yet still within range of the garrison’s covering-fire
a figure-of-speech expression used by 19th-Century U.S. Army officers and soldiers, whenever referring to promotions
title for an extra staff-member allowed to senior commanders in the U.S. Army, defined by the 1864 Military Dictionary as “confidential officers selected by general officers to assist them in their military duties.”
Such aides were most often young relatives or personal friends of the commander, who were to act as his representative and only receive orders directly from their General, and be largely employed in conveying special instructions — either verbally or in written form — to subordinate commanders in person. In times of war, American Lieutenant-Generals were permitted four such additional aides-de-camp on their staff; Major-Generals were allowed two; and Brigadier Generals, one. See also general officers
designation for a prearranged place for a garrison or company to rally, in case of being surprised by an unexpected attack
Latin expression meaning “friend of the court”, reserved for civilian lawyers or advisers invited to attend a military court-martial, yet who were not otherwise permitted to directly address the tribunal or participate in its proceedings. For example, on the occasion of his first court-martial in April 1844, the disputatious Braxton Bragg was assisted in his defense by consulting with his older brother John, a lawyer and U.S. Congressman
a general term broadly defined in Colonel Scott’s 1864 Military Dictionary as: “a term which comprehends gunpowder, and all the various projectiles and pyrotechnical compositions and stores used in the service”
angle of fire
an adjective derived from a combination of the Latin words ante meaning “prior to,” and bellum meaning “war,” which in conjunction produces an expression that literally means “before the war” — but which in the United States has come to be exclusively applied to the era immediately prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861
jesting, yet defiant euphemism for artillery rounds, used by Southern secessionists. When the English correspondent William Howard Russell was departing Wilmington, North Carolina, aboard its cross-river ferry en route toward Charleston on April 16, 1861, he wondered aloud about the shot and shells which he could see stacked on the quay. “They’re anti-abolition pills,” a fellow passenger told him. “They’ve been waiting here for two months back, but now that Sumter’s taken, I guess they won’t be wanted.”
for 19th-Century military officers, a term applied to the network of trenches dug obliquely by a besieging force, so as to permit their soldiers to edge close enough in safety to a fortified position as to plant charges, and eventually mount an assault upon its defenders
in military architecture, a generic term for a sloping or inclined outer defensive feature beyond a fort’s walls, intended to deflect flat-trajectory bombarding-fire upward.
However, in 19th-Century U.S. Artillery regiments, it was also the gunners’ nickname for a piece of sheet-lead or heavy leather temporarily draped or strapped over a cannon’s vent-hole, as protection against grit, moisture, or other windborne elements, whenever its more permanent metal vent-cover had been unhooked. See also vent-cover
another name for strong liquor or alcoholic drinks during the 19th Century
designation for a skilled technician or serviceman who was trained in the manufacture, cleaning, and repair of artillery-pieces and firearms
a factory or workshop for the manufacture, stockpiling, and repair of arms and ammunition. As early as March 1860, the establishment of such an industrial complex had been proposed to the Governors of South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, so as to produce weaponry through a joint subscription of funds for the South (which would otherwise be obliged to import them from overseas), at the suggestion of the retired U.S. Artillery officer and arms dealer, Roswell S. Ripley
a building or compound, usually fortified for security, where military ordnance could be stockpiled and maintained. By 1860, the U. S. Army had a total of 23 arsenals, armories, and depots scattered around several different states. A new Arsenal had been built by the Federal government in 1841 at Charleston, near the intersection of Ashley Avenue and Mill Street. Its position within the city proved disadvantageous less than twenty years later to Fort Moultrie’s small garrison, isolated on distant Sullivan’s Island when the Secession Crisis broke.
In the agitation following Lincoln’s election in early November 1860, South Carolina’s Gov. Francis W. Pickens stationed militia troops around Charleston’s Arsenal, so as to prevent any withdrawal of Federal armaments. And after Maj. Robert Anderson snuck his U.S. garrison out of Moultrie into Fort Sumter on the evening of December 27, 1860, Pickens ordered the Arsenal seized two evenings later, due to the “excited state of the public mind.” This order was carried out next morning by a detachment of twenty South Carolina militiamen of the Scottish Union Light Infantry under Capt. David Ramsay, which the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Storekeeper, Capt. Frederick C. Humphreys (later a Confederate officer), did not resist
in 19th-Century military parlance, a special non-commissioned rank in U.S. Artillery regiments, held by soldiers promoted because they could prepare charges and effect repairs, for which distinction they also received extra pay. Six months after arriving at Fort Moultrie in mid-November 1827, Edgar Allan Poe — who had enlisted in Company H of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment under the pseudonym “Edgar A. Perry” — would be promoted from private to artificer, his salary doubling to ten dollars a month, plus “one ration of whiskey, or rum per day”
ancient architectural term derived from the Greek and Latin word for “vertebra,” which was commonly applied to the rounded, beaded decorative-molding that encircled the top or bottom of most columns — each astragal in turn being furthermore edged with a flat plane on one or both of its sides, known as “fillets.” The expression astragal and fillets came to be expanded over the centuries to also include similar devices or adornments added during the manufacture of furniture, woodwork, doorways, ironwork, etc.
For antebellum U.S. Artillery officers, the name “astragal” referred specifically to a small, decorative “convex moulding used in the ornamental work” of an artillery piece, usually around its vent or as its chase-band. The addition of such refinements fell into disuse during the Civil War years, as an unnecessary nicety during the mass-production of heavy cast-iron weaponry. See also fillet
slang expression among 19th-Century American artillerymen, for the first shot fired in any cannonade. However, the English-born correspondent Thomas Butler Gunn also recorded in Volume 15 of his personal diaries how during an evening visit on February 1, 1861 to Charleston’s Arsenal — then occupied by the Calhoun Guards — he found among these militia volunteers:
... a huge, good-humored, rather chuckle-headed fellow, very nearly seven feet high, whom they chaffed and slapped on the back and denominated (I know not why) a “baby-waker”
a word taken directly from the French, being a generic expression in that language for any low ledge, bench, or platform running along a wall. When transposed into military parlance, it was applied to any step or walkway along the base of a trench-wall or parapet, where defenders could stand so as to fire at their enemies, later dubbed a “fire step” during World War One; but for 19th-Century artillerymen, banquettes were the special wooden steps or platforms temporarily positioned beneath their gun-muzzles, so as to help them load and fire their elevated cannons
style of artillery emplacement, derived from the French practice whereby cannons were raised behind a protective wall so that only their gun-barrels protruded above its parapet, allowing crews to work in relative safely from any flat-trajectory counter-fire. Its curious French nickname had apparently originated from the observation that such guns, when seen from afar, seemed to bristle atop a rampart like dark stubble from a barbe or “beard”
in practice, the name jointly given to a wheeled gun-carriage (sometimes called the top carriage) seated atop a wooden chassis, which was designed to support and rotate this entire combined structure in an arc, so as to fire its weapon from behind a protective wall or parapet. The heavy wooden barbette-carriages in Fort Moultrie measured more than 6 feet in height, 15 feet in length, and each weighed a ton — even before any iron cannon was balanced on top of them. For a more detailed description of their construction and operation, see the Barbette Carriages page
base of the breech
technical expression used by 19th-Century ordnance or artillery officers for the solid, convex or slightly-rounded portion of a gun’s butt-end or “breech,” which constituted the back of all muzzle-loading cannons before the invention of breech-loaders. For a visual example, view the video under nomenclature
technical term for a hypothetical line traced around any gun, circling around its tube or barrel just to the rear of its firing-vent
for 19th-Century artillerymen, a projecting band of metal marking the outer edge of a muzzle-loading cannon’s solid breech-base, usually constituting the widest diameter-point along the gun’s entire barrel-length. See video example under nomenclature
a point projecting out from the corner of a fort’s ramparts, usually in an arrowhead design with two faces and two recessed flanks, so as to facilitate close-range defensive fire along its adjoining scarp-walls. A square or rectangular fort with arrowhead-shaped bastions at all four corners, was said to have a properly geometrical “bastioned trace”; the 1864 Military Dictionary furthermore added that when “standing in a bastion and looking towards the country, the face and flank on the right hand are called the right face and flank; and on the left hand, the left face and flank.”
Fort Moultrie only had a single arrowhead-shaped bastion at its northeastern tip, also know as a “full bastion” because its interior was solidly filled in with material right up to the level of its elevated terreplein. The northwestern point was classified as a “hollow” or “empty” demi-bastion, as its center was unfilled down to ground-level so as to enclose the Magazine, and it lacked a left flank. The engineer Capt. John Foster sought to compensate for this defensive deficiency by adding a small bastionet to its tip in late 1860, so as to furnish extra covering-fire for the fort’s western postern-gate. See also empty bastion, hollow bastion, and full bastion
a small defensive appendage inserted into a fort’s ramparts, so as to provide additional flanking-fire along a vulnerable portion; its original French name is sometimes misspelled in North America as bastionette, an incorrect feminization of a masculine noun.
At Moultrie, the “bastionet for musketry constructed at the northwest angle” of this beleaguered outpost by Capt. John Foster of the U.S. Corps of Engineers in early December 1860, to cover its western wall and postern-entrance, can still be seen and visited today
in the broadest sense, any united concentration of cannons, although the U.S. Army’s 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual applied the term simply to “one or more pieces, or to the places where the pieces are fired.” In active artillery units, the term usually indicated a predetermined group of guns or mortars assigned to operate under the direction of a single officer, so as to maintain proper fire-discipline and targeting.
At Moultrie, for example, the four 24-pounders at Positions 4 through 7 along its western face had been designated as the “Oblique Battery” and placed under the command of Lt. C. W. Parker prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861, while the nine guns along its Southwest Angle had been organized into two distinct batteries under separate commanders, Lts. Alfred Rhett and John Mitchell
generic term in military engineering for the uppermost part of a fort’s walls, from which a garrison could defend their stronghold
bear in the fence
19th-Century American colloquialism which meant to suspect some underhanded purpose, being equivalent to the modern expression of “smelling a rat.” When the 4th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment was garrisoning Fort Corcoran atop Arlington Heights, Virginia, during the spring of 1862, an African-American woman made numerous visits into this base wearing a large hooped skirt, until:
... a suspicion arose that there was “a bear in the fence.” On being ushered into the guard-house and examined, about a dozen pint flasks of whiskey were found suspended beneath her skirt, and she was turned back.
name taken directly from the French, for the narrow pathway running around a fort between the bottom of its scarp-wall, and the inner edge of its defensive ditch; see also chemin des rondes
generic term taken directly from the French word for “shielding,” which 19th-Century American sappers used to describe stout wooden screens erected and reinforced with earth or rubble so as to protect advance siege-works, trenches, magazines, cisterns, etc.
Blakely rifle gun
a powerful new type of cannon, with a rifled barrel made of iron encased in steel, designed by an innovative 34-year-old retired Captain in Britain’s Royal Artillery, T. Alexander Blakely. Charles K. Prioleau, a South Carolinian “resident in Liverpool,” purchased one of his early prototypes and shipped it to Charleston, so that three days before Fort Sumter was bombarded, Gov. Francis W. Pickens of South Carolina was able to write to the Confederate Secretary of War on April 9, 1861:
There has just arrived on the bar a fine rifled cannon from Liverpool, of the latest maker (Blakely gun), an improvement upon Armstrong, of steel rolls or coils, with an elevation of seven and one-half degrees to a mile. It throws a shell or twelve-pound shot with the accuracy of a dueling pistol, and only one and one-half pounds of powder. Such, they write me, is this gun, and I hope to have it in position tonight.
The Blakely did indeed prove outstandingly accurate and effective, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard himself writing glowingly only a few days afterward: “We have a remarkable rifled cannon, 12-pounder, superior to any other here.”
Blakely would supply several hundred more to the Confederate Army over the ensuing four years of conflict, in numerous different calibers and models, although he did not actually manufacture the weapons himself, but rather contracted the work to larger firms. He would continuously refine and update his designs, his original 3.5-inch, 12-pounder rifled gun eventually being made in at least eight other variants, while his later creations came to include enormous 13-inch cannons. See also rifling
for 19th-Century U.S. Army personnel, a stout two-story refuge or observation-post built out of thick, squared logs, intended to protect infantrymen inside from equally lightly-armed foes outside, and according to the 1864 Military Dictionary possessing the following general characteristics:
Height of each story, ten feet; loopholed; the upper story projecting all round, beyond the ground story, as machicoulis. Hatches should be made in the roof for the escape of smoke, and be grated.
blue as blazes
19th-Century American colloquialism for something very bad; for example, during the last few anxious days prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumter, a correspondent for the New Orleans Daily Picayune newspaper reported from New York City on April 9, 1861:
Wall Street is as blue as blazes today; confidence seems clear gone, for no one can tell what an hour may bring forth. The street itself has not one-quarter the bustle usually observable during business hours, and at one time it appears more like a holiday than a moment for dollars and exchange, cotton and real estate. Indeed, I cannot call to mind a day when there was such an utter feeling of despondency and want of confidence, as is perceptible at this hour.
Less than a month later, a young soldier of the newly-mobilized 8th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment named Charles Wright Wills wrote home on Sunday morning, May 5, 1861, from the crowded Union encampment at Cairo, Illinois: “It has been raining like blue blazes since I commenced this, and the boys are scrambling around looking for dry spots on the hay and trying to avoid the young rivers coming in.”
in military architecture, a verb used to describe the deliberate elimination of a salient point from a fort’s design, in favor of an obliquely-angled rampart; for example, Moultrie’s two seaward extremities, commonly known as its Southeast and Southwest Angles, had each been “blunted” during its original design-phase into pan-coupés
in the U.S. Army, a group of officers empanelled to examine or investigate certain matters, such as the:
- Boards of Examination, which were “instituted to determine upon appointments” made in military regiments or to the medical staff;
- Boards of Inspectors, who sat to “determine upon the fitness of recruits for service”;
- Boards of Survey, whose function was “to examine injured stores, &c., [as well as] to take an inventory of the public property in charge of a deceased officer”; and the
- Ordnance Board, who decided upon “the models and patterns of all ordnance and ordnance stores for the land service of the United States.”
specialized term used by artillery officers for a foothold incorporated into the design of a heavy gun’s carriage, so as to allow gunners to climb up and more easily work their muzzle-loading weapon. For example, the U.S. Army’s 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual directed that during the reloading of a tall 10-inch seacoast mortar, one cannoneer was specifically assigned to clamber up “upon the right cheek and bolster” of the mortar-bed, so as to be able to reach down into the weapon’s bore and use his wiper to ensure that its chamber was left completely free of residue, before inserting the next powder-cartridge
19th-Century designation for any hollow iron artillery-round, designed to be filled with explosive powder so as to detonate upon impact, or shortly thereafter by means of a timed fuse
19th-Century designation given to any edifice, shelter, or dugout within a fortified position, specifically reinforced or strengthened so as to provide additional security or refuge against hostile artillery-shelling. Fort Moultrie’s small old service-magazines and Western Postern tunnel, for example, were expanded and buried under extra mounds of sand during the summer of 1863, so as to provide “bomb-proof shelters” for its defenders against constant Union long-range fire
nickname for the heaviest U.S. Artillery ordnance during the mid-19th Century, in honor of their original designer — Col. George Bomford — most of whose early iron guns had been cast at Henry Foxall’s “Columbian” foundry at Georgetown, on the Potomac River outside of Washington, D. C. For more details on Fort Moultrie’s arsenal of 8-inch Columbiads, click here
the hollow cylinder inside a gun barrel, which was literally bored out when its iron tube was first cast, so as to provide a chamber to pack a powder-cartridge and round at its bottom, to be fired out along its length. For a visual example, view the video under nomenclature
Bormann time-fuseClick here to view a larger still image of the Bormann Time-Fuze. Information on more Civil War artillery munitions will soon be available
on our Artillery Munitions page.
designation for a small self-contained detonator for an explosive-packed shell, designed to ignite its bursting-charge during flight, which was invented in 1840 by the Belgian military engineer Capt. Charles G. Bormann. It first entered into service with the U.S. Artillery a dozen years afterward, and was described in the 1861 Ordnance Manual as consisting of a small:
... circular disk of soft metal containing an annular space charged [i.e., loaded] with mealed powder. The outer circumference of the disk is chased with the threads of a screw, to secure it into the shell. The annular space for the composition is concentric with the outer circumference, and connects at one end by a hole with a small magazine in the center of the disk, filled with rifle-powder and closed on the outer surface by a thin disk of tin. The fuse is charged [i.e., loaded] from the under side, by pressure, and a ring of the same metal is pressed firmly on the composition.
The completed time-fuse would measure only 1.65 inches in diameter, and 0.45 inches thick, about the size of a stack of four modern poker-chips.
named for the re-enlistment inducement offered to U.S. Army regulars according to an Act of Congress passed on March 2, 1833, intended to encourage prolonged military service and which declared that: “Every able-bodied musician or soldier, re-enlisting in his company or regiment within two months before, or one month after the expiration of his term of service, shall receive two months' extra pay, besides the pay and allowances due him on account of the uncxpired period of his enlistment”
19th-Century nickname for the rocky breakwater extended out from the beach in front of Fort Moultrie during the late 1830s, to help avert the creeping erosion causing inroads along this particular stretch of shoreline of Sullivan’s Island.
Capt. Alexander H. Bowman of the U.S. Corps of Engineers built a system of groins by burying a “grillage” or cribs of palmetto logs along this shore as a stabilizing foundation, then filling in their interior with blocks of granite and sand, which allowed seawater to flow through without this structure losing its shape or strength. Bowman’s Jetty still remains in place today, although submerged over time, so that this section of beach is now more commonly referred to simply as “the Grillage”
uncommon name taken directly from the French word for “tube” or “intestine”, and applied by military engineers to any deep, winding or zigzag trench which led to a magazine, between two siege-works, or to some other significant point; sometimes called “boyaus [or boyaux] of communication.” For example, during the Army of the Potomac’s investment of the Confederate defenses outside Yorktown, Virginia, Union Brig. Gen. John G. Barnard would report how on the night of April 27, 1862:
... a parallel was run across from the head of ravine in one night to the York River (or rather to the edge of bluff), and on the night of the 29th a branch or boyau was run from this to a point 200 yards more advanced on the bluff, from which the whole area between us and the fortress was seen, the gorge of the first redoubt taken in reverse, and the Red Redoubt plunged into.
a small tunnel dug from a listening gallery within a besieged fortress, so as to intercept enemy miners underground, before they could plant explosives or ignite incendiary devices to undermine the garrison’s outer walls
generic term for a rupture made by besiegers in a fortification’s defenses, either through bombardment or mining, so as to facilitate a direct assault into its interior. Not to be confused with breech, meaning the butt-end of a heavy gun
19th-Century nickname for the Southern disease more commonly known today as dengue fever, an acute viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes, which included among its symptoms: headaches, fever, prostration, swollen glands, blotchy rashes, and such severe muscle and joint pain as to give this disease its unique, yet exaggerated name. No bones were actually broken, although the pain seemed equally intense. Slaves in the colonial West Indies had dubbed dengue the “dandy fever,” because of the contorted postures and gait of its sufferers. In America, it was confined to the warmer climes of the South, whose winters were not severe enough to kill off the mosquito population; and although only fatal in a small percentage of cases, it often left patients weak and depressed for weeks thereafter
military designation for a low defensive bulwark, literally erected chest high, behind which soldiers or gunners could be protected from flat-trajectory fire while loading or reloading, then replying over top of its adjoining parapet against an enemy beyond. Moultrie’s parapets were sloped gently upward from its granite-edged cordon, until they met the supportive breast-height wall which rose perpendicularly out of its terreplein, and was anchored at regular intervals around its circuit by brick gun-platforms, banquettes, and pintles.military designation for a low defensive bulwark, literally erected chest high, behind which soldiers or gunners could be protected from flat-trajectory fire while loading or reloading, then replying over top of its adjoining parapet against an enemy beyond. Moultrie’s parapets were sloped gently upward from its granite-edged cordon, until they met the supportive breast-height wall which rose perpendicularly out of its terreplein, and was anchored at regular intervals around its circuit by brick gun-platforms, banquettes, and pintles.
In 1872, Major Q. A. Gillmore of the U.S. Corps of Engineers reported to Washington how maintenance work was proceeding on the fort, which by then had lain derelict for more than five years, stating that he hoped to soon expand such labors to its main Magazine, although “omitting the platforms, breast-height wall, and high parapet ...”
general designation for a hastily-constructed fortification, usually thrown up in the field
defined by the 1864 Military Dictionary as the “mass of solid metal behind the bottom of the bore of a gun, extending to the rear of the base ring”; the 1861 Ordnance Manual referred to it as the “mass of solid metal behind the bottom of the bore, extending to the cascabel.” For a visual example, view the video under nomenclature
naval designation for a special length of heavy cable, which would be securely attached to a wooden warship’s bulwarks on either side of a gun-carriage, and then loosely run through rings on the heavy iron piece and its wooden mount so as to prevent the weapon from recoiling excessively whenever fired in the cramped confines aboard ship, or breaking loose in heavy seas. To facilitate such requirements, thousands of 32-pounders ordered by the U.S. War Department for joint Navy and Army use during the 1830s featured a ring cast directly atop their cascabels, to accommodate a breeching — although this practice would be phased out as unnecessary for Army ordnance during the decade-and-a-half immediately prior to the Civil War. Most of Fort Moultrie’s 32-pounders nonetheless retained the distinctive “breeching” ring of older Model 1829 guns; for a more comprehensive description of these weapons, please see our 32-pounders page
see ring surmount
name for a special metal device used by artillerymen to aim a 19th-Century cannon from atop its rear or “breech” end, being an upright sheet of brass with a graduated scale of tangents, and a movable slider in its center that could be tightened down at any chosen point along its length, so as to lock in a specific range. Breech-sights also featured a circular band, which allowed them to be rested atop the base-ring of a heavy piece during aiming, which was done in conjunction with a front-sight rising from near the gun’s muzzle. See also pendulum-Hausse sight and tangent-scale
term derived through the French language from the Latin word breve or “brief”, originally signifying a parchment or writ containing an annotation or notification. In 19th-Century military circles, this term was used to indicate a temporary promotion, subject to final confirmation from the high command at national headquarters. U.S. Army officers who received brevet commissions in the field during the 19th Century, often had to wait years for affirmation of their new grade. Maj. John L. Gardner, for example, was brevetted as a Lieutenant-Colonel on April 18, 1847, for his services at the Battle of Cerro Gordo during the Mexican-American War, and even rose to brevet Colonel four months later — yet did not attain the regular rank of Lieutenant-Colonel until five more years had elapsed in the peacetime army, on August 3, 1852. See the biographical entry for John L. Gardner on our Personages page
a French word with several different applications in that language, one of which meant “part of a harness”. For U.S. field-artillery regiments, a bricole was a special 18-foot harness used by the men themselves to haul their guns, whenever horses could not be hitched up to draw their weapons in difficult or constricted circumstances
in the mid-19th Century U.S. Army, the rank next below major-general, being usually an officer in command of a brigade consisting of two infantry or cavalry regiments, and entitled to the additional appointment of a single aide-de-camp on his staff
a French noun literally meaning a “break,” but which in military architecture was a technical term applied to any segment where a rampart deviated from its general orientation by having a salient inserted — such as where a bastion jutted out from a curtain-wall, so as to have a flanking-position installed up above.
Although Fort Moultrie only had a single bastion and a demi-bastion included at its northern extremities, several other salients — with corresponding brisures — were nonetheless featured as well, protruding elsewhere around its enceinte
nickname for a wooden keg covered with a leather draw-bag, found almost exclusively “in forts and batteries” according to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, which was specifically intended to hold extra cartridges for an individual cannon-crew during live-fire exercises or in battle.
Stoutly made of oak staves, banded with four nailed sheet-copper hoops, a budge-barrel typically stood only 20 inches high, and because of its volatile contents, was normally kept “at the safest and most convenient place in the rear of the piece” whenever its gun-crew was in action. The small barrel’s top opening was furthermore loosely enclosed with a voluminous, conical leather bag, 18 inches high and 40 in diameter, which was snugly nailed down around the barrel’s upper edge so as to help keep the powder-cartridges inside dry, and protected from any floating embers or debris
slang expression in the 19th-Century U.S. Army for alcoholic stimulants. The chorus of a popular ditty described the woes of an immigrant Irish soldier who had gotten drunk, and was languishing in the guardhouse:
O’Reilly's gone to Hell,
Since down the pole he fell.
He drank up all the bug juice
The whiskey man would sell.
Oh, they rammed him in the mill
They’ve got him in their still.
His bobtail’s coming back by mail,
O'Reilly's gone to Hell.
a generic word of medieval origin broadly used by military engineers to describe any wall, earthwork, or embankment raised as a defensive or protective measure
technical term employed among artillery and ordnance officers, for a predetermined amount of explosive inserted into a fragmentation shell (varying according to its caliber), so as to detonate this shell during flight by means of a timed fuse, or upon impact with a concussion- or percussion-fuse; see also case-shot and fuse
among other meanings, a 19th-Century Southern colloquialism signifying a “cheer” or “hurrah.” For example, the Charleston Mercury reported in its January 7, 1861 edition, how when news of recent secessionist gains had been carried into Fort Moultrie’s Confederate garrison, they had responded “with buzzes that made the welkin ring” (the latter being an Old English expression which means to make the “heavens” or “sky” echo to the sound of loud cheering)
technical name taken directly from the French, for a special type of underground charge requiring only “about 10 lbs. of powder, sufficient to compress the earth all around it, without disturbing the surface of the ground.” These small mines were planted in the wall or side of an enemy sapper’s tunnel, so as to collapse it before their tunneling effort could reach and undermine the main defenses of a fortified position; for an anti-personnel mine, see fougasse
canister-shell or can-shell
a specific type of 19th-Century scattershot projectile used as an anti-personnel round, in which a hundred or so cast-iron balls would be packed with sawdust inside a closed tin-canister, and then nailed atop a tapered wooden spacer known as a sabot. Thrust down a gun-barrel after a powder cartridge had already been inserted, it would be blasted out at close-range (250 yards or less) against any cluster of enemy troops, often to devastating effect.
When Union Brig. Gen. John G. Barnard made a surprise inspection of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment during the late summer of 1862, as it was performing garrison-duty in Fort Ethan Allen outside Washington, D.C., he testingly demanded of a gunnery Sergeant what kind of rounds his 42-pounder gun used, and was promptly told: “Solid shot, grape, and spherical can-shell.” For another photograph of a prepared canister-shell, see also Loading & Firing on our24-pounders page
official designation for a rank-and-file artilleryman in the mid-19th Century U.S. Army, according to the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual and other sources; sometimes spelled as “cannonier,” having been taken directly from the French word canonnier. Only the noncom in charge of a gun-crew was technically referred to as its gunner or chief of piece, but it became increasingly commonplace to refer to all artillerymen as “gunners,” while the older term “cannoneer” faded into disuse; see also chief of piece
technically, a term taken directly from the French word caponnière (in turn having originated as a phonetic rendering of the earlier Spanish expression caponera), being a name given to a temporary screened-passageway allowing for safe transit between two fortified positions; sometimes, a banquette might be added to one or both sides of such a passage as well, for the caponniere to also serve as a supplementary defensive position.
However, in military architecture, the term “caponniere” came to specifically denote a more permanent extension or projection from the main body of any fort, for purposes of providing additional flanking-fire through gun-ports — particularly at a blind spot, such as a ditch. For example, at beleaguered Fort Moultrie in late 1860, the engineer Capt. John G. Foster had access-tunnels dug directly down through its terreplein which emerged into two new caponnieres built out of solid masonry, which he attached to its outer scarp-wall at both the Southeast and Southwest Angles, so as to better sweep the fort’s main ditch with howitzer-fire in the event of a surprise infantry-assault. Although long since removed, the outlines of both of these caponnieres can still be plainly seen on the fort’s outer walls today
specialized term used by 19th-Century American artillery and ordnance officers, for the contoured metal plates fastened over top of a gun’s trunnions and cheek-plates, so as to more securely hold the weapon in place atop its carriage. For heavier pieces, cap squares were usually bolted firmly to the top of their adjoining carriage-cheeks, although leather straps were used to fasten cap squares onto lighter ordnance. Once the Civil War became fully joined, it was not uncommon to see entrenched siege and garrison artillery in photographs taken in the field, without any cap squares affixed
rank in the 19th-Century U.S. Army between major and first lieutenant
early-19th Century type of incendiary-round, usually a specially-contrived hollow shell filled with highly-flammable contents (such as pitch) and bored with extra fuse-holes on top in large 3-inch diameters, so as to facilitate ignition of its contents directly upon being fired out of a mortar. Typically, carcasses had been fired at long-range into an enemy town or compound crowded with wooden buildings or materials, intended to soar ablaze during flight and burst open upon impact, so as to spill their inextinguishable contents all around and spark a general conflagration; however, they were so difficult and potentially dangerous to handle under battle–conditions in the field, that the U.S. Army had discontinued their use prior to the Civil War
generally defined as an agreement between two hostile forces, for a mutual exchange of prisoners
a specially-cut and –shaped piece of wood, sometimes inserted between a projectile and its powder-cartridge inside a gun’s bore, so as to ensure a snug fit at the back of the chamber and consequently, a full discharge of the round. For example, the 1861 Ordnance Manual directed that: “Cartridge-blocks are required for the Columbiads, model 1844, and the sea-coast howitzers, when firing with reduced charges”
for 19th-Century artillerymen, the designation for the rounded metal protrusion extending from the solid rear-breech of any muzzle-loading cannon; this term had originally derived from the 17th-Century Spanish name for small hand-held bells, which featured similar extensions so as to be held suspended and rung from between a person’s fingers. Cannon-cascabels were included as a permanent design-element whenever their barrels were being cast, and usually consisted of a narrow “neck” extending from the breech, capped off with a larger “knob”. This shape allowed a rope to be wrapped around the cascabel in order to help hoist the barrel onto its gun-carriage, and also to help restrain the bucking from any recoils when fired in certain circumstances. With the advent of modern breech-loading weaponry, this term has faded into disuse. See video example under nomenclature, as well as related definitions under mushroom cascabel, ring surmount and tube pouch
a designation in military architecture taken directly from the French, although the ancient origins of this word remain obscure, and it is sometimes mistakenly rendered as “casement.” The term was applied in the early 19th-Century to vaulted chambers built on top of one another, constructed out of reinforced masonry so as to together constitute the ramparts of a major fortification. Each individual enclosure protected a single encased artillery-piece and its crew, whose weapon could be aimed and fired out through a small embrasure in the fort’s outer scarp-wall, while each casemate’s rear was left open so as to allow smoke from discharges to escape into the air.
Moultrie did not feature any casemates in its design, being an older Second-System fort with all its cannon mounted en barbette, but Sumter — under construction a mile away during late 1860 as a new replacement harbor-defense — rose three stories high, its two lower tiers being comprised of rows of the new casemated gun-emplacements, with only its exposed upper-level artillery being mounted en barbette. Under siege, casemates could furthermore serve the defenders as sleeping quarters, service magazines, etc.
specially-designed hoist, reduced in height compared to other contemporary 19th-Century gins, so as to be better able to lift and maneuver heavy guns around within the limited confines of low-ceilinged casemates; see also gin
name for a sturdily-constructed, low-slung wooden cart used for moving heavy guns in and out of casemates, or though postern-tunnels
case-shotClick here to view a large still image of this Case-shot. Information on more Civil War artillery munitions will soon be available
on our Artillery Munitions page.
more properly called “spherical case-shot,” the designation for a specific type of explosive artillery-shell intended as an anti-personnel round, because of the number of lead balls or slugs contained within its “case” or outer shell. According to the 1861 U.S. Army Ordnance Manual, the interior of a case-shot was to be filled with 0.69-caliber balls, which were then secured in place by pouring in melted sulfur. Once cooled, a space called a “well” was to be bored down through the embedded balls, creating a cavity where a bursting-charge could then be inserted and ignited by a fuse affixed on top. The latter would be sparked by the cannon discharge and timed so as to burst during flight, scattering the shot’s contents over or among an enemy formation.
Unlike longer-range high-explosive shells, which were packed with powder to damage or destroy large targets at a distance, case-shot — like grape-shot or canister shells — were intended to be fired off as scattershot rounds at relatively close range, against clusters of enemy troops. For this reason, case-shots were most commonly manufactured in smaller calibers for use by light guns of the field-artillery, and only rarely in large calibers for seacoast guns. The 1861 Ordnance Manual furthermore suggested that all case-shot should be painted red in color, immediately upon receipt by an artillery unit. See also a 3D Spin-Diorama with interactive cutaway section on our Artillery Munitions page.
a generic term in military architecture, used to identify any fortified place which also served as a residence for a monarch or nobleman
general designation for a firing-platform raised higher than a fort’s other works, most commonly atop a bastion or curtain, where an artillery-piece might be temporarily emplaced so as to better command the immediate surroundings. On December 22, 1860, the engineer Capt. John G. Foster reported to his superiors in Washington how he had strengthened Moultrie’s exposed eastern rampart by raising “solid merlons, two barrels high, and in three positions to a greater height so as to serve as cavaliers”
for artillery or ordnance officers, the name given to the rounded or conical portion at the very back of a gun’s bore, where a powder-cartridge would become compressed by the loading of a round, in order to be pierced and its explosive contents ignited through its vent
generic term for beveling or smoothing off a sharp edge, which for 19th-Century U.S. Ordnance officers meant grinding or chamfering newly-cast gun mouths “to a depth of 0.15 inch to 0.5 inch (varying with the size of the bore), in order to prevent abrasion and to facilitate loading”
Charleston Zouave Cadets
an antebellum militia company formed “for military and social purposes” by well-to-do teenage volunteers early in 1860, who soon boasted their own armory, gymnasium, and reading room near Queen Street. When South Carolina seceded from the Union that same December 20, 1860, the Zouave Cadets paraded through the city with other units, to publicly offer their services to Gov. Francis W. Pickens at his headquarters on Meeting Street. They were sent across to Morris Island on New Year’s Day 1861, to assist in installing and defending its seashore battery, which prevented the entry of the Union relief-steamer Star of the West eight days later. After returning into their Charleston homes, the Zouave Cadets were once more employed as infantry support on Sullivan’s Island from March 8 to April 19, 1861, witnessing the bombardment of Fort Sumter from a distance. They were then detailed to guard Union prisoners housed briefly in Castle Pinckney from September-October 1861, staying on in that small fortress as its artillery garrison until the company was finally disbanded in late January 1862, its members becoming dispersed into other Confederate regiments. For the origin of this unique name, see Zouaves
specialized artillery term for the conical part of a gun — tapering outward from the narrowest portion of its tube or barrel — so as to join its muzzle to its reinforce, which then continued to flare back toward the thickest portion along its barrel-length. For visual examples of both a “chase” and a “chase band”, view the video under nomenclature
technical designation for the metal ring around a cannon’s tube or barrel, at the front end of the segment known as its “chase,” which separated it from the muzzle. For visual examples of both a “chase” and a “chase band”, view the video under nomenclature
designation given by artillery and ordnance officers, for the semi-circular iron hinge bolted atop a wooden gun carriage, into which a gun’s trunnion was to be seated and rotated up and down so as to elevate and depress the weapon, an arrangement secured in place by being affixed with a cap square
nickname for the thick timbers making up both triangular sides of a heavy seacoast artillery-carriage, atop which was seated the gun-barrel itself. Technically, the barrel’s trunnions rested atop a triangle formed by sturdy uprights supported by braces, jointly constituting both “cheeks” of the gun-carriage itself.
“Cheek” was also the term employed by military engineers for the side of an embrasure; in writing a report to his superior in Washington from Fort Sumter on January 21, 1861, the U.S. engineer Capt. John G. Foster praised the sandbag merlons recently added to Moultrie’s western parapets by its Confederate garrison, but added that the “cheeks of the embrasures are of timber, apparently set on end like palisades, which I think is objectionable.” See also embrasure and merlon
chemin des rondes
an alternative term for “berme,” taken directly from the French phrase meaning “sentries’ path” and referring to a narrow border running around a fort, between the foot of its outer scarp-wall and the top inner-edge of its defensive ditch. The 1864 Military Dictionary stated that such pathways sometimes featured an additional quickset hedge or low wall, “over which the defenders can fire and throw hand grenades into the ditch” — although this would not be the case at Fort Moultrie, whose ditch filled in so regularly with sand, that sentries instead patrolled atop the edge of its scarp-walls. See also berme
chief of piece
official designation for the non-commissioned officer directly in charge of a gun-crew manning a heavy cannon during the 19th-Century U.S. Army, according to the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual. The duties of this individual, usually a sergeant, included coordinating and directing the movements of his four (or six) subordinate cannoneers, in addition to his own gunnery tasks, which were to physically aim the weapon and prime its charge, in anticipation of receiving the order to fire from the battery commander.
As such men grew familiar with their guns, they became experienced and invaluable specialists. The regimental history of the 4th NY Heavy Artillery Regiment recorded an amusing incident highlighting their worth, which came during a live-fire demonstration at Fort Ethan Allen in September 1862, witnessed by the visiting Inspector-Gen. John G. Barnard and the new regimental commander for the 4th, Col. John C. Tidball. The chief-of-piece for a particular 42-pounder — Sgt. S. I. More of Company B — had just sighted his gun:
... and was about to fire, when Captain Charles Morrison came up, evidently much excited, and asked: “Have you got that right, Sergeant?”
“I have, sir,” answered More.
“Let me see,” said the Captain anxiously. Looking through the breech-sight, he turned the elevating screw down two threads, saying: “Now, Sergeant, it is alright; let ‘er go.”
The command to fire was given, and the shot sped wide of the mark, going completely over the target.
Turning to the Captain, Colonel Tidball said: “Keep away from that gun, Captain Morrison, or you will get your damned old United States head blowed off. Let your chief of piece fire.”
The Sergeant again sighted the gun, and hit the target.
generic name for a small, strong fortress or keep located within or near a city, intended to provide a final refuge so as to prolong resistance if the city’s outer defenses should be breached by an attacking enemy. However, Capt. John G. Foster would also note in his annual report how prior to the evacuation of Fort Moultrie by its Federal garrison on the evening of December 26, 1860, its Guardhouse had been strengthened and “loopholed for musketry, so as to serve for a citadel”
common 19th-Century name for a horseshoe-shaped iron hitch, which could be fitted over top of a seacoast mortar’s ear-lug and attached with a bolt, so as to hoist this heavy weapon aloft with a gin
artillerymen’s nickname for a portable bronze mortar, small and light enough at 164 pounds to be carried into an advance position by four gunners on foot, and fired at relatively close range against a select target; such weapons retained the name of their original 17th-Century Dutch designer, the famed military engineer Menno van Coehoorn. The smallest artillery-pieces listed among the inventories of antebellum U.S. Artillery regiments, were Coehorn mortars with a bore of only 4.62 inches, capable of firing a powder-filled, fused shell weighing a mere twelve pounds; see also mortar
engineering term for a trench included at the bottom of a dry ditch, so as to help facilitate its drainage; see ditch
unlike the regular-issue garrison flags flown at a permanent U.S. Army outpost such as Moultrie, which remained part of that fort’s allotted furnishings even as different units were rotated in and out, colors were the flags carried by each individual regiment, and according to the General Regulations for the Army of 1834:
Each regiment of artillery shall have two silken colors: the first or the national color, of stars and stripes as described for the garrison flag, the number and name of the regiment to be embroidered with gold on the center stripe. The second or the regimental color, to be yellow, of the same dimensions as the first, bearing in the center two cannon crossing, with the letters U. S. above and the number of the regiment below: fringe, yellow. Each color to be six feet six inches fly [i.e., wide], and six feet deep [i.e., high] on the pike. The pike, including the spear and ferrule, to be nine feet ten inches in length. Cords and tassels, red and yellow silk intermixed.
rank in the U.S. Army between brigadier general and lieutenant-colonel
nickname for the heaviest piece of U.S. Artillery ordnance during the mid-19th Century, so called in honor of the 7.25-inch, 50-pounder originally designed in 1811 by Col. George Bomford, while serving as Superintendent Engineer at Governor’s Island, New York. It is believed that most of these early iron guns were cast at Henry Foxall’s “Columbian” foundry at Georgetown on the Potomac River, hence this nickname being retained for all subsequent models.
Production of these heavy weapons resumed in 1844, in two new designs: a smaller 8-inch model, which weighed 9,240 pounds and could fire a 65-pound projectile more than two-and-a-half miles; and a 10-inch model weighing 15,400 pounds, whose 128-pound shot had a range of over three miles. Fort Moultrie received its allotment of ten of the smaller 8-inch “Bomford Columbiads” by late September 1859, which were fully installed some six weeks later; for further details, click here
in the 19th-Century U.S. Army, all officers — from junior Second Lieutenants up to senior Generals — received formal written commissions along with their appointments, signed on behalf of the President of the United States, and so were known as “commissioned officers.” The exact date of an officer’s appointment to a particular rank, furthermore determined his seniority against other officers of equal status. When South Carolina began organizing its own state-army of regulars in early 1861, many of its first commissions were mistakenly dated on the same day, so that when the young subaltern Thomas A. Huguenin reported to his regiment on Sullivan’s Island, he found a complete lack of hierarchical structure:
All the Captains and 1st and 2nd Lieuts. were of the same date of commission, and there was constant confusion in regard to rank. I regret to say that our Colonel [Richard H. Anderson] seemed entirely oblivious to the importance of a prompt and decisive course of action, until one evening Lt.-Col. [Barnard E.] Bee appeared upon the scene, having been detained by a long overland journey from Texas where he had been in service [before resigning from the U.S. Army]. He at once grasped the situation and before going to bed that night, every officer drew by lot his rank, and was assigned to his proper company.
course of bricks laid atop a fort’s inward-facing brick revetment, so as to cap its interior parade-wall; the exterior course running around a rampart’s outer edges consisted of tougher stone, such as granite, and when bullnosed so as to protrude outward was called the “cordon”
term used by military engineers for the course of thick, bullnosed stone wall-caps cemented atop a scarp revetment, intended to provide a fort’s exterior rampart-edge with greater strength against bombardments, and a protruding lip against weathering. The cordon was furthermore considered to architecturally mark a fort’s “magistral” or principal outline, defining its entire configuration
flotation-vest provided to certain 19th-Century U.S. Army soldiers, such as scouts, to cross a river or body of water on a reconnaissance, etc.
technical term in military architecture, for a type of buttress used within a fortification’s interior to bolster and strengthen its revetment walls
underground tunnel excavated by defenders for the purpose of intercepting the mines of besieging forces and destroying their works. From these listening galleries could be excavated.
counter-scarp or counterscarp
engineering term for the retaining wall, sometimes made of masonry, found on the far side of a fort’s defensive ditch — i.e., the opposite bank or slope of a fort’s ditch, facing back toward the fort’s outer scarp-wall. The term counterscarp was not only applied to the retaining wall itself, but on occasion to all of the features sitting atop it as well, such as the covered way, its parapet, and glacis.
Peacetime Moultrie by early 1860 no longer featured a counterscarp around its perimeter, its ditch having been filled in by drifting sand-dunes decades earlier. As tensions escalated during the Secession Crisis that same autumn, though, Capt. John G. Foster of the Corps of Engineers deployed scores of laborers to dig out a new ditch and erect numerous other defenses. A contemporary newspaper article described this new ditch’s counterscarp as “substantially built of plank, and spread with turf.”
19th-Century military term signifying “password.” For example, when South Carolina militiamen surrounded the U.S. Arsenal in Charleston on December 28, 1860, its military storekeeper Capt. Frederick C. Humphreys telegraphed his superiors at the Ordnance Bureau in Washington, DC:
A body of South Carolina military now surround the arsenal, outside, however, of the inclosure, but denying ingress or egress without countersign. The officer in command disclaims any intention of occupancy, and the United States flag is undisturbed. I await instructions.
coup de main
expression taken directly from the French to describe a sudden, swift attack which relies on speed and surprise to achieve its objective, in a single strike. An earlier 18th-Century French definition of such a “blow with the hand” was recorded as any military attack “by direct assault, rather than by artillery”
specialized term for a broad pathway leading around the outer edge of a fortification’s encircling ditch, along which defenders of a fully-developed work might be additionally protected from besiegers’ fire by a raised glacis. Most covered ways were about a dozen yards wide, and in larger works encircling major strongholds, they often featured some kind of a parapet as well, at the foot of which was a banquette enabling lookouts to observe enemy dispositions, and riflemen to fire at unwary besiegers. In addition to its function as an outer line of defense, a covered way could also serve as a place for columns of defenders to assemble unseen, in order to launch a surprise sortie
an unmanned, advance work comprised of two low bulwarks forming a wedge or salient angle, thrown up some distance in front of important bastions or ravelins, but separate from them, so as to better protect the face-sides of these defenses against flat-trajectory artillery fire
name for the gap left between two merlons atop a parapet, from where individual defenders could observe, aim down, and fire at their attackers; however, when this opening was used as the aperture for a fixed artillery-piece, it became known as an embrasure
special name for the additional defenses extemporized atop Moultrie’s ramparts in early 1861 under Lt.-Col. Roswell S. Ripley’s direction, created by laying down large “cribs” or containment-forms of interlocked palmetto-trunks, then filling up their interior spaces to a considerable height with shoveled sand topped off with stacked sandbags. In 1872, Major Q. A. Gillmore of the U.S. Corps of Engineers reported to Washington how he had ordered the following features removed from Fort Moultrie, which by then had lain derelict for more than five years: “The old platforms, the flagging of terreplein, the breast-height parade, and tie-walls, the palmetto crib-traverses on the terrepleins, and the heavy wooden bomb-proofs on the parade and adjacent to the scarp-wall ...”; see also traverse
a generic noun which has numerous different meanings, depending upon its context. In architecture, it can simply mean a “forked support,” or a projection from a wall or pier (usually triangular in shape) on which a lamp or some other heavy object can be suspended, so as to serve as a bracket. There are several additional military applications of this word as well, the technical engineering term crotchet du glacis referring specifically to the pathway circling around an indentation “in the glacis of the covered way, at a point where a traverse is placed”; see also covered way and traverse
name for a particular stretch of seashore on Sullivan’s Island, described as “a low and narrow place” directly north of Drunken Dick Shoal used by long-billed curlews as a stopover during their annual migrations, where John James Audubon famously studied and painted these birds during the 1830s
section of a fort’s outer scarp-wall, that is recessed and runs between the flanks of two adjoining bastions, which provide it with additional protective fire from up above against any infantry assault.
Fort Moultrie’s main gates and Guardhouse, for example, stood at the center of one curtain extending between the flanks of its Northeast Bastion and Northwest Demi-Bastion; the same was true of another curtain where its Eastern Postern tunnel had been inserted
a specialized instrument screwed on the end of a wooden staff for inspecting newly-cast artillery pieces, to determine the trueness of their barrels. According to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, it would be “pushed gently to the bottom of the cylindrical part of the bore and withdrawn; it must go to the bottom, or the bore is too small”
a 19th-Century euphemism for dengue fever; see break-bone fever
dead angle or dead ground
defined as any quadrant or expanse which could not be seen “from behind the parapet of [a] fortification,” and thus a blind spot which could not be adequately covered or defended by its garrison. However, when Brig. Gen. James Simons of the 4th Infantry Brigade of South Carolina Militia submitted a report and diagram of recently-occupied Fort Moultrie to Gov. Francis W. Pickens on New Year’s Day 1861, the General specifically noted that the westernmost salient of its Southwest Angle constituted “a dead angle of about 15° or 20°” — in this particular instance, meaning that the artillery-pieces on its adjoining two faces could not be traversed around sufficiently to overlap this narrow quadrant with their arcs-of-fire
taken directly from the generic French noun déblais, meaning rubble extracted from any dig or excavation; in 19th-Century military usage, it referred to the earthen filler shoveled out of the adjacent ground and then tamped down between two brick revetment-walls, so as to create a fort’s ramparts — usually by drawing upon material being simultaneously dug out while cutting a defensive ditch, so that both amounts of earth were roughly equal. For the similar term for “backfill”, see remblais
in military architecture, “defilade” is both a noun and a verb used to describe the best possible disposition of a fortification’s layout, so as to minimize the effects of enemy fire or observation — such as by taking advantage of nearby hills or ridges as additional protection against long-range bombardment, or by planning out the defenses in such a tactical manner as to prevent enfilade-fire or plunging siege-fire from commanding any exposed portion or position.
The word “defilement” has also been applied as a synonym by military engineers, being defined as the “act of defilading a fortress, or of raising the exterior works in order to protect the interior”
a bastion in a fortified position with only one flank defense. Fort Moultrie’s northeastern point constituted its only full bastion with a classic arrowhead configuration, while its northwestern point (enclosing its main Magazine) was a “half-bastion” or “demi-bastion,” with but a single epaulement or shoulder to provide extra covering-fire for the Main Gate along that front. Consequently, Captain Foster would add a bastionet to its northwestern tip, so as to better protect the vulnerable Western Postern-Gate entrance against any surprise assault; see also epaulement or shoulder of a bastion
depression or depress
for artillerists, the noun or verb used to describe the lowering of a gun-muzzle below its level plane, so as to fire downward at an enemy who has drawn in close
in general, a military term for any outer defense beyond range of covering musketry-fire from a fort, yet still functionally related to its defensive strategy
highly-technical ordnance term taken from an old word for a “split” or “deviation,” applied by artillerists to “the difference of the semi-diameter of the base-ring and the swell of the muzzle, or the muzzle-band” found at opposite ends of heavy guns. Since 19th-Century pieces had to be aimed visually, an additional sight (sometimes called a “front sight,” “dispart sight” or “muzzle sight”) would have to be screwed in or otherwise attached near the mouth or trunnions of a weapon, at a height “to make the line of sight parallel to the axis of the bore” in order for the gun to be aimed properly
a wide, deep trench dug around a defensive work to impede infantry assaults; whenever even partially filled with water, such an obstruction was termed a “wet ditch”, otherwise it was called a “dry ditch.” The interior side of the ditch nearest to a fort’s ramparts was known as the ditch’s scarp, while the farther side opposite was called the ditch’s counter-scarp.
On December 13, 1860, the U.S. engineer Capt. John G. Foster reported to his superiors in Washington how his 120 workmen were completing a 15-foot-wide ditch around Fort Moultrie, dug down to groundwater level, whose seepage had consequently transformed its bottom into quicksand “like a quagmire, and therefore [made] a good obstacle.” A picket fence furthermore encircled this wet ditch’s outer border, and its covered-way path was “protected from fire by a small glacis in front of it”
a “blackface minstrel” song first performed in New York City on April 4, 1859, and attributed to the composer Daniel Decatur Emmett of Ohio (who did not publish a version to establish his copyright until June 21, 1860). The original performance was a slow “walk-around” dance-song, with a lead singer backed up by a group acting out its lyrics, who then joined in to help lead the audience through the choruses. Its verses, penned in an exaggerated African-American dialect, recounted a freed slave’s supposed nostalgia for life on his old plantation — although the exact locale of “Dixie’s Land” has never been clearly established.
The song proved instantly popular, and in an age before mass-media, was slowly spread throughout the country by travelling troupes of entertainers. Dixie had reached New Orleans by March 1860, proving especially popular throughout the South. Aside from its self-serving view of slavery, it had a catchy tune and easy refrain, so that it soon became adopted as a secessionist anthem. The English-born correspondent Thomas Butler Gunn, for example, recorded in his diary how a night of carousing with Capt. Dan Miller’s Richland Rifles company on Sullivan’s Island ended about midnight on Sunday, January 27, 1861, with “an uproarious and universal Dixie.” Its tempo increased into a quickstep, Dixie was even played on innumerable official occasions as well, such as at South Carolina’s vote of secession on December 20, 1860, and at Jefferson Davis’ inauguration as Confederate President on February 18, 1861. By May of that latter year, the Confederate propagandist Henry Hotze would be lamenting prophetically:
It is marvellous with what wild-fire rapidity this tune “Dixie” has spread over the whole South. Considered as an intolerable nuisance when first the streets re-echoed it from the repertoire of wandering minstrels, it now bids fair to become the musical symbol of a new nationality, and we shall be fortunate if it does not impose its very name on our country.
Conversely, Emmett reportedly told a fellow minstrel that same year of 1861 that: “If I had known to what use they were going to put my song, I will be damned if I'd have written it.”
technical expression used by ordnance or artillery officers, for a metal lug cast directly atop heavy seacoast mortar-barrels, so as to act as a lifting-point or handle for a hitch known as a “clevis and bolt.” Some artillery shells were furthermore fitted with so-called “ears” as well, being described as special “holes for the points of the shell-hooks, 0.5 inch in diameter, bored on opposite sides of the fuse-hole, their axes perpendicular to the axis of the fuse-hole”
generic technical term for a rounded molding, derived from the architectural feature commonly found on ancient Greek columns; but for 19th-Century ordnance specialists, it referred to a rounded edge on a ring or other separating element of an iron cannon
see entry under “see the elephant”
designation for the threaded iron shaft inserted beneath the rear-end of a mid-19th Century gun-barrel, so as to raise or lower the muzzle at its front end, thus better directing its angle and accuracy of fire.
Each barbette-mounted heavy gun at Fort Moultrie featured a cast-iron plate fastened by four iron bolts and nuts to a five-inch thick wooden “elevating bed,” which in turn was affixed at the rear of its top-carriage transom. A threaded iron “stem” or shaft — measuring twelve inches in length, 2.625 inches in diameter, and weighing eighteen pounds — protruded upward to the underside of the gun’s base-ring from this bed, over which was fitted a brass bevel-wheel and nut with four handles, so as to crank the shaft up and down into a cavity within the elevating-bed by turning the screw-handles. (The stems for casemate carriages were slightly different, being thirteen inches in length, yet of a smaller 2.375-inch diameter, therefore weighing only fifteen pounds apiece.)
Elevating-screws for mortars were unique in that they were fitted beneath the front end of their barrels, resting atop the front transoms of their mortar-beds.
for artillerists, the angle at which a gun-barrel had to be raised or lowered, so as to help regulate the range and fall of its shots. Firing with an elevation of 1° 30’ was considered to be point-blank shooting for a heavy cannon; 5° was the standard elevation; while 8° the highest elevation which barbette carriages would allow, and -4° the lowest angle of depression
in military architecture, a drawing or diagram of a fort or building seen from its side, which represented its height, length, depth, and details in proper proportion “when the plane of projection is parallel to the face”
in military architecture, any opening in a wall or a gap atop a parapet, through which cannon could be fired at an enemy outside. The sides of an embrasure generally splayed outward from a narrow point known as its “throat,” the embrasure-sides being called its “cheeks,” while its bottom was known as its “sole.”
Peacetime Fort Moultrie, with its artillery mounted en barbette, had no embrasures in its original design until a committee of four South Carolinian engineering and ordnance officers had recommended on January 10, 1861 “that the dismantled battery at Fort Moultrie be restored, and protected by merlons; in other words, make of it an embrasure battery.” Major Ripley’s gunners were consequently to be protected by additional sand-bag merlons erected atop their fort’s parapets, which then solidified into a permanent feature along its sea-front during the Civil War era. These embrasures have since been removed, during the restoration of the modern fort
classification used in military architecture, for any bastion whose interior space was hollowed out down to ground-level. Fort Moultrie’s northwestern demi-bastion was classified as “empty” or “hollow”, because it enclosed the Magazine; see also bastion and full bastion
style of heavy-artillery arrangement, whereby cannons were mounted atop tall wooden carriages or platforms behind a protective wall, so as to be loaded and fired over top of its parapet by crews who could thus work behind its protection in relative safely, without being exposed to any flat-trajectory counter-fire; a military expression derived from the French (see barbette)
another style of heavy-artillery emplacement developed during the early 19th-Century, whereby cannon were mounted in tiers and each gun enclosed within its own protective casemate, consisting of a sturdy roof and thick walls so as to better preserve their crews from high-explosive counter-fire. Three-storied Fort Sumter, which was nearing completion by late 1860 so as to replace Moultrie as the main defensive work guarding Charleston Harbor, bristled with guns mounted en casemate around its two lower levels, with only its open-air third level on top still having pieces mounted en barbette (see also casemate)
a military term taken directly from this same French noun, and in turn derived from the Latin incincta meaning “encompassed” or “surrounded closely.” In military engineering, the word enceinte was applied to describe the entire physical boundaries of a fort — the continuous circuit of defensive ramparts which enclosed its garrison, and protected them from external enemies.
This French noun enceinte should not be confused with its use as an adjective in that language as well, being a gynecological term for “pregnant”
military term for any gunfire directed from the side down the exposed length of a formation of troops, or the ditch, parapet, wall, etc., which provides them with defensive cover; also known as “flanking fire,” or “raking fire” in naval warfare
commonplace name for the specialized U.S. Army regulars more formally known as sappers
taken directly from the French word épaulement, a noun generally used to describe a “retaining wall” or buttress for an architectural feature. In fieldworks, it was often applied to the simple ridge of earth thrown up protectively in front of a gun-emplacement, and lined or “revetted” along its inner face with sandbags, logs, or gabions so as to help retain its shape.
In more formal military fortification, epaulement was also a specialized term applied to the “shoulder” of a bastion, representing the corner-angle where one of its long outer face-walls and shorter flank-walls met and thrust out defensively from the ramparts. The term “epaulette” for an officer’s shoulder-strap insignia was also derived from this same general origin; see shoulder of a bastion
one type of attack employed against forts, in which an assault-force — rather than engage in a protracted siege — would suddenly storm a vulnerable point by surprise or under cover of darkness, heavy rains, etc., and use ladders to scramble quickly over the outer scarp-wall and into its interior. Fort Moultrie’s undermanned Federal garrison feared just such an assault by South Carolinian secessionist militiamen as the year 1860 drew to a close
a general term in military architecture, defined by Griffiths’ 1859 Artillerist’s Manual as “a space of even ground, cleared of buildings,” extending between a town and its defensive citadel
designation for a cache of powder and ammunition kept near a battery which was being actively employed or engaged, for quick replenishment
term applied by military engineers to a steep earthen incline on the outer edge of a rampart in a field-work, connecting its superior slope to the berme bordering its protective ditch. As a permanent fortification, though, Moultrie’s superior slope instead ended at its scarp-wall, capped by a granite cordon atop a scarp-wall revetment
face of the bastion
technical expression in military architecture for that section of any bastion extending between its tip and a protruding epaulement or shoulder, from which point its wall then jogged inward to meet the adjoining curtain. Moultrie only included one such regular arrowhead-shaped bastion in its original design, at its northeastern extremity, whose two faces met at the arrowhead tip to form a salient or flanked angle; see also flank of the bastion
face of the piece
designation used by artillery and ordnance officers for the flat mouth of a cannon, or more technically described as the “plane terminating the gun at the muzzle” (in the words of the 1861 Ordnance Manual)
the lightest of three major classifications in mid-19th Century U.S. Artillery units, being furthermore subcategorized into horse artillery — which generally operated with the cavalry, its cannoneers being mounted on horseback — and the mounted artillery, which marched beside their guns along with the infantry, and only rode on top of their ammunition chests “when necessary.”
On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, the American field-artillery’s peacetime armament usually consisted of three 12- or 6-pounders per battery, along with a single 24-pounder howitzer; for heavier branches of ordnance, see seacoast artillery and siege or garrison artillery
field of fire
generic technical term used to describe the expanse which could be covered by traversing a gun to left or right from its central position, as well as elevating or depressing its barrel for maximum to minimum range, so as to be able to strike any object which might be targeted within this particular area. 19th-Century U.S. Army artillery and ordnance officers also used the expression “vertical field of fire” to describe the maximum and minimum elevations of a gun-barrel, although this specialist term later gave way to the more commonplace “vertical arc of fire”
word which, among several other meanings, generally referred to a “narrow strip of any material” that acted as an ornamental separator between different segments of an object, such as the “thin flat molding” used in architecture to encircle the tops and bottoms of ancient columns, etc.
For 19th-Century U.S. artillery or ordnance officers, though, fillet was the specific name for a ring or band of small, flat moulding used to decorate a cannon barrel at identifiable points, such as its chase-band or base-ring. In antebellum years, two fillets were often cast in combination with a convex moulding in between both, known as an astragal
another name for a service-magazine
a small, stuffed-leather pad which a chief of piece would wear suspended from his wrist during live-fire drills or action, to be slipped over his middle-finger to protect his palm against heat whenever he “stopped the vent” — i.e., blocked the gun’s vent so as to prevent sooty air or smoldering debris from gushing out through it during the weapon’s sponging-out procedure. See also stopping the vent
common name for an artillery-emplacement which was extemporized early in 1861 on orders from South Carolina’s authorities, being carved out of the seaside beach east of the Curlew Ground on Sullivan’s Island and north of Drunken Dick Shoal, during the initial peacetime mobilization of state forces. This temporary position was intended to deny passage for any Federal vessels which might attempt to enter Charleston Harbor through Maffitt’s Channel, and reinforce the Union garrison isolated inside Fort Sumter. The battery’s armament consisted of five barbette-mounted 32-pounder guns relocated out of occupied Fort Moultrie, which were initially manned as of late January 1861 by volunteers from Capt. George H. Walter’s Washington Artillery militia company, so that this emplacement would also become known for a brief spell as the Walter Battery
nickname for a distinctive cluster of palmetto trees on antebellum Sullivan’s Island, which stood amid the summer homes of this 19th-Century seaside resort, not very far from Fort Moultrie on the sandy street leading from the ferry-landing toward the distant Moultrie House Hotel. As a noted local landmark, this grouping was recorded one peaceful afternoon in the early summer of 1860 by the Charleston photographers James M. Osborn and Frederick E. Durbec, and were to even be featured next year in a curious fictional tale published once Civil War hostilities had erupted, on Page 798 of the December 14, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly.
Post-war photographs would suggest that few of these five trees, or their surrounding dwellings, survived the conflict intact
expression used by artillery and ordnance specialists, the verb fix in this context meaning to “prepare” or “arm” projectiles and cartridges so as to be fired off as live rounds. Some solid round-shots, for example, might be attached with tin straps to a cartridge block or sabot; hollow shells might be filled with gunpowder and primed; etc. A small stockpile of such prepared or “fixed” ordnance was to always be kept on hand during times of war, although the 1861 Ordnance Manual admonished that this practice did not include filled shells as “powder is not well preserved in them,” and furthermore noted:
Fixed ammunition should not be put into powder-magazines, if it can be avoided; it should be kept in a dry place, above the ground-floor if practicable; the store-rooms should be always aired in fine weather; the piles should be taken down and made up again every six months at most, the bags examined and repaired, and the damaged cartridges broken up.
fix your flint
mid-19th Century slang expression intended as a threat, later superseded by “fix your wagon” — the verb fix in this particular instance being used in its inverse sense, with bitter irony, meaning to maliciously disable the flint of someone’s weapon so as to render it unable to fire.
When Col. Michael Corcoran of the 69th New York State Militia Regiment was being transported by rail as a prisoner-of-war to internment at Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor in early September 1861, he was menaced during a layover at Gaston, North Carolina, by an angry Southern civilian brandishing a knife. A young woman from the crowd bravely intervened on the Colonel’s behalf, and this ruffian thereupon turned upon her as well and growled: “I always told the neighbors you was a damned Unionist, and I’ll fix your flint yet for you, mind I tell you!”
flag of truce
ritual for two contending forces to communicate with one another during time of war. According to recognized U.S. Army protocols, the side wishing for a parlay was to halt all offensive movements, cease fire, and then send a single officer accompanied by a trumpeter, displaying a white flag and bearing the written or verbal message intended for the opposing commander
flank of the bastion
a technical expression used by military engineers, for that particular small section of a bastion which lay recessed between its outward-looking face, and the curtain-wall of the main fort; from this angled insert, a gun or riflemen could lay down flanking-fire along the length of the adjacent curtain, as well as cover the flank and face of the other bastion opposite. See also face of the bastion
technical engineering term for the very tip of a bastion or ravelin, formed by the meeting of its two faces; such a tip was also more commonly called the “salient” or “point of the bastion.” See also epaulement
designation for a simple type of V-shaped fieldwork, taken directly from the French word for “arrow”; such defenses were usually extemporized before action by quickly throwing up a pair of breastworks, extending backwards at an angle from a single strong-point as its salient
strictly speaking, a noun in the 19th-Century military lexicon for the “hay, corn, fodder, and oats required for the subsistence” of a unit’s horses
everyday headgear issued to regular U.S. Army troops, officially known as the Model 1858 Forage Cap because of the date of this particular design’s introduction, and also widely known by their French name of kepi. Handy and comfortable because of their small size and snug fit, such caps featured a sloping visor; a welt around the crown during pre-war years in the individual service-branch color (red for U.S. Artillery Regiments, such as the companies stationed at Fort Moultrie); plus a leather chin-strap held on by two small eagle-buttons, and a loop consisting of two leather slides and a brass buckle. Inside, the top of each cap had a cardboard stiffener, while its sweatband consisted of an inner reinforcing-layer made of buckram, covered in a lining of black Silesia cloth, both enclosed in leather. As hundreds of thousands of forage caps began to be manufactured during the Civil War years, numerous variants in design and decoration emerged; see also kepi and Hardee hat
early 16th-Century slang expression taken from the Dutch verloren hoop, for any group of soldiers entering upon a perilous enterprise, such as venturing forward as advance-scouts to find hidden enemy positions, or charging in the vanguard for an assault against a fortified position
technically defined as a military work erected for defense of any significant strategic position or geographic feature, such as:
- a land or maritime frontier;
- an approach to a city or town;
- a pass through mountainous terrain;
- a harbor-entrance or river-crossing, etc.
Although the term “fort” had originally denoted any small fortification garrisoned by troops, in North America its usage came to be expanded into a designation for virtually any kind of establishment — civilian or military — associated with protection from adversaries, regardless of whether any actual fortifications (as defined in military architecture) were included in its design or construction
generally speaking, the art or science of building military works for defense from attack, intended to enable their garrisons to resist assaults by superior forces for an extended period of time. There were three broad styles of fortification recognized by 19th-Century military engineers:
- regular, in which a fort was laid out in a symmetrical polygonal shape, with extremities and faces roughly corresponding to one another in size and shape;
- natural, in which a stronghold was adapted so as to take advantage of its geographic setting or terrain, being considered “to be naturally fortified, when it is situated on the top of a steep hill, or surrounded by impassable rivers, marshes, &c.”;
- and irregular, in which a proportional design was deliberately forsaken because of “the nature of the ground or other causes” — although Colonel Scott’s Military Dictionary went on to add: “irregularity, however, does not necessarily imply weakness.”
Fort Moultrie had been laid down in 1809 as an irregular, single-tiered fort with its guns mounted en barbette
designation taken directly from the French, for a 19th-Century anti-personnel mine which was buried in a pit or otherwise concealed underground, often beneath an abatis or natural obstacle which would cause an advancing enemy to pause. The fougasse’s powder-charge could then be ignited from a distance by pulling on a loaded musket-trigger tied to a hidden cord or wire; by employing a buried angot or casing-tube; and sometimes by planting a thin tube containing acid directly on top of the mine, which would break open whenever stepped upon and spew its contents to detonate the charge.designation taken directly from the French, for a 19th-Century anti-personnel mine which was buried in a pit or otherwise concealed underground, often beneath an abatis or natural obstacle which would cause an advancing enemy to pause. The fougasse’s powder-charge could then be ignited from a distance by pulling on a loaded musket-trigger tied to a hidden cord or wire; by employing a buried angot or casing-tube; and sometimes by planting a thin tube containing acid directly on top of the mine, which would break open whenever stepped upon and spew its contents to detonate the charge.
Moultrie’s Federal engineering officer, Capt. John G. Foster, deceived the South Carolina authorities into believing that he had planted mines around his fort in December 1860, when in fact he had resorted to no such expedient — although he would later help defend Fort Sumter with at least two fougasses “of 12 feet diameter, charged with 50 pounds of powder ... against the foot of the scarp wall, one in the center of each half gorge”
name of the slender brass cylinder containing a single primer-charge of powder, which was to be inserted into a loaded gun’s vent-cover and ignited on the command to fire, thus detonating the cartridge and blasting the round down its barrel. Each tubule contained a small quantity of gunpowder, which was topped with a cup containing the actual friction-powder: a mixture of two-thirds potassium chlorate to one-third antimony sulfide. A small iron hook at the end of a lanyard was affixed to the brass slider holding this tube, which — when this slider was pulled out — exploded the charge and fired the weapon. The 1864 Military Dictionary further added that if “injured by moisture, the [friction] primers become serviceable again when dried, and they have the great advantage of portability and certainty of fire”; see also tube pouch
an architectural element passed down from classical times, generally meant to describe a plain or decorated horizontal band added along the uppermost part of an exterior wall, or used to join an interior wall to the cornice at its ceiling.
However, Fort Moultrie also features a distinctive deviation in its outer scarp-walls, whose sloped lower-portion abruptly rears up into a few feet of vertical masonry at the top, ending directly beneath and in support of the cordon; this break was furthermore highlighted during the 19th Century with a pair of ornamental fillets, which have since fallen away. The historical architect John C. Garner, Jr., in his Historic Structure Report of December 1973 for the National Parks Service, referred to this unique architectural element as the “frieze of the cordon,” commenting about Moultrie’s scarp walls:
... it appears that they were stuccoed and painted ocher by at least 1829; and either ocher-washed or grey-washed during the remainder of the period up to 1860. Traces of lime-oyster shell stucco or heavy lime-wash can be found on all vertical surfaces pre-dating 1860. These traces are particularly evident in the frieze of the cordon.
An extremely rare term, “frieze of the cordon” is sometimes rendered as “cordon frieze”
front of a fortification
technical expression used generally by military engineers to describe two half-bastions of a fortification and the curtain running in between them, although this definition had been expanded by the mid-19th Century to encompass all of the various interlocking works — faces, flanks, curtains, ravelins, etc. — which might constitute a single side of a polygonal fortification: thus, one front of a bastioned fort would be considered to consist of two half-bastions, the curtain extending in between them, plus any related outworks in front of them.
Because of its irregular shape, Moultrie was considered to have six fronts — three land-fronts and three shoreline-fronts — none of which actually matched any other front around its perimeter; see also fortification
technical term used in military architecture, to describe any bastion whose “interior space is filled up to the level of the terreplein of the rampart”; thus Fort Moultrie’s northeastern bastion would be classified as a “full bastion”, while its northwestern demi-bastion was not, as it instead enclosed the ground-level Magazine. This distinction was significant in that the thickness and bulk of a full bastion would be better able to resist a prolonged bombardment by a besieging force, as compared to the thinner ramparts of an “empty” or “hollow” bastion. See also bastion and hollow bastion
term for a leave of absence granted to enlisted noncoms and soldiers, believed to have originated in the early 17th Century from the Dutch word verlof, signifying “leave” or “permission”.
According to U.S. Army regulations, a regimental Colonel could issue furloughs to non-commissioned officers or soldiers “in such numbers, and for so long a time, as he shall judge to be most consistent with the good of the service;” subordinates such as Captains holding independent command over isolated outposts or detached companies, could also grant furloughs “for a time not exceeding twenty days in six months, but not more than two persons to be absent at the same time, excepting some extraordinary occasion should require it.” Furloughed men would be noted on regimental returns as “absent, with leave”
designation for the combustible material enclosed within a small tube inside a high-explosive shell, inserted whenever such a projectile was to be fired, so as to detonate its contents in flight or upon impact. Antebellum U.S. Artillery regiments employed three different types of fuses (or “fuzes”, as their name was oftentimes spelled during the 19th Century):
- timed fuses, with a “burning composition” material encased inside a paper, wooden, or metal sleeve, cut to a predetermined length depending upon the anticipated flight of the shot;
- percussion fuses, created by simply affixing an explosive cap to the tip of a shell, so as to explode directly upon contact; and
- concussion fuses, designed to detonate from the simple force of landing on a hard surface
fuse-cutter or fuze-cutter
name for the small special tool, a 3.5-inch steel chisel topped with a wooden or brass half-handle, used by artillerymen to punch a hole into the tin casing of a Bormann time-fuse at the appropriate time-setting (ranging from one to five seconds), so as to detonate the shell’s explosive contents at that precise moment during its flight; also called a “fuse punch” or “fuse gouge”
fuse-mallet or fuze-mallet
designation for a light wooden hammer made out of a single piece of dogwood or oak, specially provided so as to minimize sparks while setting a Bormann time-fuse or doing other light hammering around a live shell. According to the 1861 U.S. Army Ordnance Manual, such mallets were to have heads measuring 5.5 inches in length and 4 inches in diameter; handles 7.5 inches long and 1.25 inches in diameter; weighing a total of 2.75 pounds
fuse-punch or fuze-punch
see “fuse-cutter” above
fuse-setter or fuze-setter
name for a small, cylindrical brass tool with a wooden turning-handle on top, and a shallow cup measuring 2.1 inches wide with a countersunk recess 0.3 inches deep at its bottom, which could be used to hold and screw a Bormann time-fuse into a shell hole, thus affixing it as an in-flight detonating-charge. Different models of fuse-setters, that substituted a simple flat top for its larger and more elaborate pre-war recessed cup, would be produced during the Civil War years
name derived from the Italian word gabbione (meaning “big cage”), for a crude cylindrical container woven out of wicker and left open at both ends, its mesh being light and flexible enough to be easily carried into position and stood erect, so as to then be filled in with shoveled earth or rubble as a defensive supplement. Such a line of tightly-packed, staggered gabions could prove remarkably strong, creating an extemporized bulwark called a “gabionade.” Gabions were to be frequently employed in the erection of Civil War fieldworks, but less commonly in established forts such as Moultrie
for military engineers, the designation given to passageways radiating underground, the ones created by a fort’s defenders often being lined with masonry and measuring “about six feet high and four-and-a-half feet wide.” Capt. John G. Foster had two such tunnels or galleries dug down from Moultrie’s terreplein, providing access into the caponnieres which he added to its external defenses in early November 1860
19th-Century U.S. Army classification for medium-sized, wheeled guns that could be transported overland and emplaced in strongholds, broadly defined by the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual as pieces “employed in the defence of forts, more especially those of the interior”; Fort Moultrie’s main armament, however, consisted entirely of the heavier-class seacoast artillery, mounted atop barbette carriages. For comparisons between these other categories, see also field artillery, seacoast artillery, and siege or garrison artillery
during the 19th Century, when telescopes were the only means of identifying a formation or stronghold at a distance, garrison flags measuring 20 by 36 feet were the largest standards available to U.S. Army outposts, specifically intended to be identifiable from several miles away and thus flown only on special occasions. For everyday use, forts were issued smaller “post flags” measuring 10 by 20 feet, plus still smaller “storm flags” of only 4 by 8 feet, to be raised in extreme weather. A specialized term for any flag’s width is its “fly”, while height is described as its “hoist”; see also post flag, storm flag, and colors
broad categorization of all 19th-Century U.S. Army officers above the rank of colonel
derisory 19th-Century expression for any cheap, showy, or tasteless object or gewgaw. For example, the April 6, 1861 edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper printed an apocryphal story of two young Northern-born seamstresses who were working in a King Street store in Charleston, and supposedly — upon being directed to create some secessionist standards — virtuously refused to sew a single stitch of any “flags of the gim-crack Pro-Slavery Confederacy”
during the 19th Century, a name which (among various other meanings) was applied to any machine used “for hoisting or moving heavy objects,” being derived from the same Middle English or Old French root-origin as the word “engine.”
The standard “garrison gin” employed by US Artillery companies in antebellum forts was a formidable and vital piece of equipment, without which it would have been impossible to reposition or replace any of their heavy ordnance. For example, when Lt.-Col. Roswell S. Ripley was ordered by Confederate Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard to shift some of Moultrie’s guns into a new shore-side emplacement on Sullivan’s Island, prior to the outbreak of hostilities, Ripley responded in writing on March 6, 1861: “I have no means at my disposal to send the 32-pounders from this post to the five-gun battery this evening, nor have I a gin to dismount or [re]mount them”
originally a generic French word for any gentle slope or incline, but which in military terms came to mean a broad earthwork artificially raised or leveled just beyond a fort’s outer perimeter, so as to keep an advancing enemy exposed to unremitting defensive fire until they were halted by the edge of its ditch. A glacis furthermore afforded extra protection against bombardment of the outer scarp-walls, by deflecting flat-trajectory shots from enemy siege-guns upward. In December 1860, Capt. John G. Foster of the U.S. Corps of Engineers used his work-crews to transform the sand-dunes encroaching on Moultrie’s eastern and southeastern faces, into a glacis — which he then furthermore covered in deep muck, so as to slow down any hostile infantry-charge
a synonym for “throat,” believed derived from the Late Latin word gurga, but which in military architecture came to be applied to the main access-point into any fort, usually a narrow reinforced gate sheltered protectively in its rear. Moultrie’s entrance, however, was very seldom referred to as its gorge, one of the few exceptions occurring when Dr. S. Wylie Crawford joined its garrison in September 1860, and later recorded: “In its rear or gorge, two stories high, were its sally-port, its guard-house, and its offices.” Fort Sumter’s Gorge Wall, by way of contrast, was to become much more famous, as a result of its repeated bombardments over the next few years
a specific class of 19th-Century scattershot artillery rounds, in which a dozen or so orange-sized iron balls would be stacked and packed together into a cluster, to be fired at medium range so as to spread out before striking on and all around their intended target
see “Bowman’s Jetty”
common expression in 19th-Century America for a drinking establishment. During the March 1859 court-martial of Dr. Bernard M. Byrne, the U.S. Army surgeon at Moultrie, one prosecution witness — Lt. Francis A. Shoup of Company H, 1st Artillery — was asked if there were any grog-shops located near the fort, to which he replied:
There is one within a few hundred yards of the garrison. They are all within convenient walking-distance, and from a quarter to three-quarters of a mile of the garrison.
a stronghold or strategic position within a fort or military compound, which served as its administrative headquarters, an assembly-point for its sentinels, a jail, a storage place for weaponry and vital supplies, etc. Moultrie’s original, stand-alone Guardhouse had sat atop its northern rampart-edge until merged with its Gatehouse into a single, imposing edifice during the major reconstruction following the hurricane of October 1842, joined together by a new slate roof enclosing two additional upper-level storerooms “accessible by a stairway erected on the outside and leading from the parapet.” During the Federal garrison’s uneasy confinement within Moultrie in late 1860, the engineer Capt. John G. Foster had further strengthened its Guardhouse’s defenses by adding loopholes and a covered bridge from the North Barracks opposite, so as to transform it into a final refuge
strictly speaking, a cannon-barrel was first seated on a supportive base called a “carriage,” because it was intended to then wheel or “carry” this weapon over terrain; but heavy seacoast artillery-pieces such as Fort Moultrie’s were so ponderous, that their triangular bases were made of thick wooden timbers, with only a single forward-axis for wheels that could barely roll it a few-dozen yards. Given such limitations, having been designed primarily to be hoisted atop a barbette-chassis so as to slide this weapon up and down its inclined iron-rails while being loaded, aimed, and fired, it became commonplace to refer to this particular combined structure — both carriage and chassis together — as a barbette-carriage
gunner’s level or gunner’s perpendicular
a small sheet-brass plate used by artillerymen, cut in a curving crescent-shape across its bottom and with a “spirit level” containing mercury or some other such liquid attached across its center, plus a sliding scale fastened perpendicularly to its vertical axis. This instrument would be employed to mark corrected points-of-sight, for a heavy gun or mortar whose firing-platform was not entirely level; infrequently required at Fort Moultrie, whose gun-positions were permanently established, but commonly used by the field-artillery and siege-artillery
name for a leather bag normally kept suspended in readiness from the knob of a cannon’s cascabel, containing the chief gunner’s “level, breech-sight, fingerstall, priming wire, gimlet, vent-punch, and chalk” — everything necessary for him to properly aim and fire the weapon. See also tube pouch
originally a medieval nautical term, probably derived from the Anglo-French verb haler or “haul,” which came to be applied to any rope used to hoist and lower a flag or other object attached to a pole. Moultrie’s 75-foot flagstaff had witnessed many such ceremonies over the decades, every morning and evening, before it was covertly cut down and its Federal garrison evacuated across to Sumter on the morning of December 27, 1860. And the Charleston Mercury newspaper would melodramatically conclude its editorial of January 24, 1861, calling for the creation of a Confederate government, with the words:
... let us be ready for war, and when we have driven every foreign soldier from our shores, then let us take our place in the glorious republic our future promises us. Border Southern States will not join us until we have indicated our power to free ourselves — until we have proven that a garrison of seventy men cannot hold the portal of our commerce. The fate of the Southern Confederacy hangs by the ensign halliards of Fort Sumter.
smaller version of a sling cart, mostly employed by work-gangs to reposition a lesser piece within a fort or battery, by pulling it around through sheer manpower. According to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, such conveyance:
... should not be used habitually for weights of more than 4,000 lbs; but a 24-pdr. or 32-pdr. gun may occasionally be transported a short distance. It is made entirely of iron, except the pole, which is of oak.
Larger weaponry such as Columbiads would have been virtually impossible to move with such a device; see also sling cart
sturdy wooden shafts, squared at the bottom and with rounded handles on top, used during the 19th Century to move or shift heavy objects through sheer brute-force leverage. U.S. heavy artillerymen were provided with handspikes that were roughly six feet long and weighed about eight pounds apiece, to be wedged beneath different points of a carriage so as to move or traverse its gun
officially designated as the U.S. Army’s Model 1858 Dress Hat because of its original issue-date, it had been nicknamed in honor of its reputed designer — long-serving William J. Hardee, Commandant at West Point and U.S. Cavalry officer — but would come to sometimes be called a “Jeff Davis” hat during the subsequent Civil War years. Its introduction had been greeted with considerable skepticism among the rank-and-file. For example, a teenage musician in the 2nd U.S. Infantry Regiment named Augustus Meyers, would later recall how while serving at the remote frontier-outpost of Fort Randall on the Missouri River in 1858:?
There was an absurd change from the old uniform hat to a strange and unmilitary design. The new creation was made of stiff black felt with a broad brim and a high crown. The brim was looped up on the right side and fastened with a brass eagle, otherwise it would have interfered when the soldier had his gun at “shoulder-arms.” On the front was a brass bugle with the regimental number in the centre of it, and a brass letter of the company above it. Around the hat was a worsted cord with tassels of light blue for the infantry. A single black feather or plume was fastened on the left side of the hat, which few of the soldiers knew how, or cared to keep curled neatly. In damp weather it looked like a drenched rooster’s tail-feathers.
Made of heavy black felt, artillery officers’ hat-brims were edged with the “best black ribbed silk” binding, while enlisted gunners’ were double-stitched. The artillery officers’ Hardees featured permanent “gold embroidered cross-cannon” ornaments on a “black velvet background” at their front, with the regimental number in silver “at the intersection of the cross-cannon;” for ceremonial occasions, they would be further “dressed” by adding gold cords with acorn-shaped tassels around their bands, while brims had “to be looped up on the left side,” and three black ostrich-feathers worn on the right.
Enlisted men’s Hardees featured permanent “badges of yellow metal” for their branch of the service and company’s initial: thus artillerymen at pre-war Fort Moultrie featured crossed guns at the center of their hat-fronts, with the regimental numeral “1” in silver directly below it, and company initials “E” or “H” above. Their hat-crowns would furthermore be adorned with red worsted-wool cords (representative of the Artillery) and a single ostrich-feather. For everyday use, Hardee hats could be worn in an “undressed” fashion, yet were commonly substituted on work-details by the more functional forage-caps
in the mid-19th Century, the designation for a hollow cannonball cast of iron, with a one-inch aperture known as a “fuse-hole,” through which powder could be poured so as to be sealed up inside, and then detonated on impact. The French military engineer Col. Henri-Joseph Paixhans had produced the first functional, flat-trajectory HE shells during the late 1830s, and they would continue to be refined throughout the Civil War years
expression used in military architecture, for any bastion whose interior space was partially empty down to ground-level. Fort Moultrie’s northwestern demi-bastion was considered as “empty” or “hollow”, because it enclosed the Magazine; see also bastion, and full bastion
brick oven lined with iron racks, specifically designed to heat solid cannonballs to a red-hot intensity, so as to be fired as incendiary-rounds against wooden targets, such as sailing ships. These projectiles, upon embedding into dry wood (often weatherproofed during the 19th Century with varnish or other similar combustible resins), would quickly cause it to burst into flames.
Hot-shot rounds from Moultrie and the other Confederate batteries which bombarded Fort Sumter in April 1861, eventually set fire to its barracks and hastened the surrender of Major Anderson’s garrison. For a more detailed description, see the Hot-Shot Furnace page
generic name for a lighter classification of artillery-pieces, cast so as to be more easily conveyed overland. The heaviest guns used by the U.S. Army during the 19th Century were designated as “seacoast artillery,” which had to be prepositioned with a winch atop firmly fixed gun-pads in a fortified emplacement, before they could even be operated. The second-heaviest class, “siege artillery,” also consisted of heavy weapons which could only be moved slowly overland by oxen-teams, to be installed into prepared positions for a protracted bombardment. Howitzers, in comparison, were cast with thinner breeches and muzzles so as to weigh less, making them easier to draw overland with horses
hurter and counter-hurter
specialized artillerist terms for the raised wooden curls at either end of a barbette-chassis’ rails, designed to brake the carriage-rollers from running too far, and thus preventing the heavy gun above from toppling off. This word had apparently descended directly from the medieval French verb hurtour or hurtoir, used to describe anything which knocked or struck together
expression used by 19th-Century U.S. artillerymen, to indicate when a heavy piece had been run down to the tip of its barbette-chassis and thus into “the proper position to be fired,” according to the 1851 Instruction manual. This was also the standard “at rest” position for guns, whenever not in use. In order to fire a weapon, it would first have to be levered backward up its inclined rails so as to be loaded, then pushed back down to its original starting “in battery” position to be fired. Whenever such live-action or exercises ceased, the gun would have to be “placed in battery” once more, before its crew could retire. Peacetime Moultrie’s guns typically rested in this position year-round, enclosed within their protective pent-covers
generic term with various engineering and architectural applications, but which U.S. artillery and ordnance officers used to specify the pre-set angle or tilt of a barbette-carriage, whose slight forward-incline was intended to help absorb the recoil backwards upon firing its mounted piece. For example, in describing the various designs available for under-carriages of seacoast or garrison guns, the 1861 Ordnance Manual declared: “The inclination of the chassis-rails is the same in all the carriages: 3°.”
legal term in military courts-martial, for any civilian formally lodging a complaint against a member of the U.S. Army
in fortification, the designation given to the defensive trench or depression closest to a fort’s enceinte, separated from a second outer ditch or network of defenses
the inner portion of a fort’s parapet or one of its outer defensive-works, generally connecting the superior slope of such a bulwark with a retaining wall in front of its banquette. On December 22, 1860, the engineer Capt. John G. Foster reported to Washington on his strengthening of beleaguered Moultrie’s defenses, mentioning how its seafront glacis had:
... assumed fine proportions, and is in fact nearly completed. One-half of the interior slope is well sodded, and half of the glacis slope covered with muck six inches thick.
in 19th-Century military parlance, a verb used to describe the initial measures taken prior to besieging a town, such as securing every road or trail leading into it, so as to prevent entry or exit
common name for the standard-issue U.S. Army forage cap, taken directly from the French term képi — itself a phonetic derivation of the original German word Käppi or “little cap,” being the diminutive form in that language of Kappe or “cap.” This distinctive yet practical style of headgear had proven so popular among French units because of their snug fit during the North African campaigns of the 1830s, that its usage had spread to other armies; see also forage cap
archaic word of Dutch or Germanic origin, for an ornamental knob; sometimes still used in the early 19th Century to describe a gun’s cascabel
the side of a coastal fort facing inland, supposedly laid out and fortified so as to resist any enemy encirclement and assault from that direction, by a disembarked infantry-force. Peacetime Moultrie was considered to have three land-fronts — facing Moultrieville to its west, the U.S. Army Reservation and cove to its north, and Moultrie House Hotel and other civilian dwellings to its east — plus three water-fronts covering Maffitt’s Channel, the Main Ship-Channel, and facing toward Sumter. Most of Moultrie’s heaviest artillery was consequently concentrated along its seaside batteries, with lighter armament to its rear on its land-fronts
generic term believed to have entered 15th-Century English as “lanyer” or “lainere”, from the French lanière for “thong” or “strap”. Over the centuries, it had become generally applied to any short length of rope useful in lashing lines or objects together, or any cord for carrying items such as a knife or whistle suspended from one’s neck.
In 19th-Century artillery ranks, the term lanyard had come to be specifically applied to a length of sturdy cord strung out so as to allow a gunner to discharge a heavy weapon from a safe distance, with a single tug. The U.S. Army’s 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual even directed that each seacoast gun’s 12-foot lanyard was to be kept “wound in St. Andrew`s cross upon its handle,” in the leather bag which also contained its friction tubes; see tube pouch
name among artillery and ordnance specialists for the small, narrow paper-tubes used to accelerate the burn-rate of quick-match
rank in the U.S. Army below colonel, and above major
19th-Century nickname for a geared screw-jack with a cap-plate on its top and “a projecting foot at its lower end”, used for raising heavy weights and maneuvering large artillery-pieces along with a crank, cast-iron stand, reinforced wooden bed, etc. The US Ordnance Manual for 1861 described the standard lifting-jacks employed by Army engineers as being the “same size and pitch as the elevating screw” used in Artillery regiments for casemate carriages, although their foot-long iron screws were slightly more slender than regular elevating-screws, weighing only fifteen rather than eighteen pounds
line of defense
the line extending from an angle in the exterior polygon of fortification, or flanked angle of the bastion, to the opposite flank. It determined the position of the face of the bastion relative to the flank which would defend it.
line of sight
19th-Century phrasing of what is today more commonly known as a sight-line, an unobstructed view from a fixed point or position toward a distant object. For example, the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual noted how 32-pounder seacoast guns had “no natural line of sight, as the swell of the muzzle is not visible from when the eye is on a level with the base-ring”
name for the extra edging of metal cast around a smoothbore cannon’s mouth, as a bit of additional strengthening against glancing gouges from unevenly-exiting rounds. For a visual example, view the video under nomenclature
term used by ordnance and artillery officers during the 19th Century for the small, raised section of metal cast directly atop a gun’s barrel, near to its base-ring, for a hole to be drilled down into its chamber to serve as its vent
technical term unique to 19th-Century artillerists, used to describe a problem caused by repeated firing of a cannon, resulting in “a compression of the metal on the lower side of the bore, at the seat of the shot, caused by the pressure of the fluid in escaping over the top of the shot.” Such distortion in the iron would cause a fired round to oscillate while travelling down the gun’s barrel, striking and cracking its sides over time, eventually threatening a rupture
defined by the 1864 Military Dictionary as “that branch of the military art embracing all details for moving and supplying armies,” which included “the operations of the ordnance, quartermaster's, subsistence, medical, and pay departments”
19th-Century euphemism for the grave. Capt. Andrew J. Grover of the 76th New York State Volunteers, for example, wrote a description for his hometown newspaper of the regiment’s arrival in Washington, D.C., at midnight on January 31, 1862, where they were to be given lodgings in a hall called the Soldiers’ Rest and so:
...were marched into a large room which we were told was the place where the Regiment was to rest for a time. After supper — for supper was in readiness, even at the late hour — the men made their arrangements for sleep; and after a little, the floor — the bare, dirty, muddy floor — was actually covered with only one layer of sleeping soldiers. For a few days the men enjoyed, or rather endured, this fatiguing rest, many of them contracting the disease which has since sent them to their long home.
distinctly sustained drumbeat, played to direct 19th-Century soldiers to stand to their arms. Thomas A. Huguenin, a youthful Confederate Captain in Fort Moultrie when a squadron of Union ironclad monitors bore down upon the harbor entrance on April 7, 1863, later recorded:
We were at dinner when the long-roll was sounded and soon every man was at his post, ready for the fray, the first of the kind, ironclads against forts. The first shot was fired by the orderly Sergeant of my Company, Wm. C. Snipes, an 8” Columbiad, and broke to pieces as it struck the leading Monitor; the action soon became general and in few minutes the flagstaff of Moultrie, which stood on the right of my battery, was shot down and fell across the bomb-proof on which I was standing giving orders.
a small opening in a brick wall or wooden stockade, through which small arms such as muskets or pistols could be aimed and fired at enemies outside. Months after Fort Moultrie had been evacuated by its Federal garrison, its engineer officer Capt. John G. Foster recorded how among the many defensive measures which he had implemented, had been opening communication “through the quarters, a bridge built, connecting them with the Guardhouse, and the latter loopholed for musketry, so as to serve for a citadel”
a generic term for any crescent-shaped object, derived from the French language and most often applied by 19th-Century military engineers to a detached field-fortification with its rear side left open. However, for officers and gunners in U.S. Heavy Artillery regiments, lunette was the specific designation for an iron ring permanently affixed to the rear of a gun-carriage’s heavy transom and axle-tie, appearing much like a modern bumper-hitch and providing a sturdy lifting-point whenever the weapon had to be hoisted aloft with a gin
lying out of quarters
a court-martial offense in the U.S. Army, for any officer or soldier who slept outside his base or encampment without specific leave from a superior
designation for a special type of defensive work erected by military engineers, a word taken directly from the French mâchicoulis or “projecting gallery.” In the 19th Century U.S. Army, this name came to refer to an enclosure which was built so as to extend over the edge of a rampart-wall like a balcony, with apertures in its flooring to drop down explosives or fire upon an assaulting force. Capt. John G. Foster reported to Washington on December 2, 1860, how his ongoing efforts to strengthen Fort Moultrie would include:
Before taking down the temporary bastionette at the southeast angle and commencing the permanent one, I shall, for the greater security of the small garrison, run out a wooden machicoulis gallery over the angle of the wall, and also complete the pointing of all large crevices in the scarp.
in general military terms, a place for the storage of gunpowder, arms, provisions, or goods, but most especially applied to a building or strong-room in a fortified position where its stock of ammunition is kept. The name is derived from the Arabic word makhazin, the plural of makhazan or “storehouse.”
Because of the ever-present danger posed by its explosive contents, Moultrie’s main Magazine was situated in its rearmost corner, protected from enemy shells by thick walls and a stout traverse made of solid masonry. During action, small allotments of gunpowder would be distributed to various lesser service-magazines recessed into the fort’s inner parade-walls, for cartridges to actually be prepared in them by artificers, and relayed up above to the working gun-crews
technical term for an L-shaped iron bar bolted to the lower rear-edge of a barbette-chassis’ main central beam or tongue, so as to provide a solid gripping-point for tugging the carriage to left or right on its traverse circle
among other meanings, a common name for a heavy, long-handled sledgehammer (often with a wooden head) used with two hands to drive stakes, piles, or wedges, or to split logs or rails; when written as a noun, sometimes spelled as “mall”
in military architecture, the name for a solid upright section extending between two gaps or embrasures atop a parapet or crenellated battlement. In January 1861, Lt.-Col. Roswell S. Ripley would employ work-gangs to erect large merlons made out of stacked sandbags atop palmetto-log frames, so as to raise the defensive bulwark for his gun-crews serving the pieces along Moultrie’s Southwest Angle, against any anticipated counter-fire from Sumter. These merlons would later be extended along the fort’s other major ramparts, and remain a characteristic feature of Moultrie’s silhouette until the very conclusion of the Civil War. See also embrasure and crenel
ancient name for any association by military personnel to share communal meals, as well as the physical room or space where they were actually consumed; originally derived from the medieval French word mes or mets, meaning simply “a course of a meal put on a table.”
In the 19th-Century U.S. Army, officers often combined with their colleagues to pool their allotted funds or rations into a joint mess, commonly organized as either a “closed” or an “open” mess. The former was available to its members only, while the latter (more usual in larger garrisons) permitted all officers to pay a small monthly stipend, and then purchase meals on an individual basis. For example, when junior First Lieutenant William T. Sherman shipped out from New York City in July 1846 aboard the converted sloop USS Lexington to serve in California, he and his fellow subalterns approached the ship’s surgeon and “caterer of the mess,” jointly giving him a cash advance so as “to lay in the necessary mess-stores” for a closed mess during their forthcoming voyage
according to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, a small mirror could be employed to inspect the bore of an artillery piece “by reflecting the sun's rays into it from the mirror; or, if the sun be obscured, by a lighted candle or a lamp placed on the end of a rod and inserted into the bore”
distinctive variant on the traditional combinations of lime, sand, and water used to create this rugged exterior-coating since ancient times. In Charleston and West Indian islands where sugar was abundant, the cheapest residue of boiled-off molasses was often infused during the preparation of stucco as an additional adhesive or binder, resulting in a building-cover which has been described as “the color of onion and okra.” This unique, yet inexpensive mixture was applied to the main buildings at 19th-Century Fort Moultrie, prompting John De Forest to observe that they were “covered in rusty stucco”
artillery piece with a short, thick iron barrel designed to lob a hollow “bomb” or round fused-shell packed with powder in a high arc, so as to soar beyond enemy walls or fortifications, and detonate upon landing. In 1860, the U.S. Army classified their mortars by bore-size, ranging from the largest of 13 inches to small, portable Coehorn mortars of only 4.62 inches in bore-diameter. Primarily intended for siege work, mortars had to be levelly mounted on sturdy wooden or iron beds in order to be fired. Moultrie did not feature such a piece among its allotted peacetime armament, but a single 10-inch seacoast mortar was apparently kept unguarded in the open-air compound behind the fort, known as its Reservation; the usual method of storing a mortar outdoors was to stand it on its muzzle atop some thick planks, with its firing-vent sealed up. For a more comprehensive description of its design and operation, click here
Moultrie House Hotel
a large antebellum resort built by a group of nine investors led by Henry W. Conner, designed by the rising young Charleston architect Edward C. Jones, and opened to the public as of July 8, 1850. Erected some distance to the east of Fort Moultrie, at a cost of $32,000 on an eight-acre seaside plot, this broad, brown wooden building — two stories high and crowned with a towering observatory — measured 256 feet in width and 40 feet in depth. It boasted a 16-foot-wide piazza all around its exterior, making for “a delightful promenade” for its couple of hundred paying guests, and furthermore enclosed a grand ballroom, billiards room, bowling alley, shooting gallery, and many other amenities. A quaint horse-drawn railway even brought passengers who had disembarked at the Cove Inlet ferry-landing, directly to the hotel’s doors.
The Moultrie House had been created so as to attract and accommodate the growing number of civilian tourists travelling the Atlantic Seaboard by mid-19th-Century, and its presence would help to transform Sullivan’s Island into a popular resort, as many wealthy Carolinians also owned summer-homes nearby and used this luxurious new hotel as their social center. “I never saw anything like it before,” the author William Gilmore Simms would write that same year, when describing its stylish furnishings and service in a whimsical short story entitled Flirtation at the Moultrie House. Its large edifice managed to withstand the hurricane of September 1854, although surging waves broke into its first floor and almost brought down the building, and it was noted after this storm abated that the structure sat noticeably lower in the sandy terrain.
The hotel usually operated from late spring until early October every year, when the holiday-season ended, and it would remain closed over the winter months (although the outbreak of yellow fever on Sullivan’s Island in the summer of 1858 caused an immediate exodus, leading to its early closure that year). And in the week after Maj. Robert Anderson’s Federal garrison had evacuated Fort Moultrie for Sumter on the night of December 26-27, 1860, the empty hotel was commandeered by South Carolina’s authorities to help house the hundreds of militia troops being sent across to Sullivan’s Island, so that by early next year the Moultrie House would be thronged and surrounded by bivouacs. During the subsequent bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12-13, 1861, the Union Capt. Abner Doubleday would fire a couple of heavy rounds “through the whole length of the building, among the clapboards and interior partitions” — which he later jokingly justified by saying that he had been given “a wretched room there one night,” and this was his only opportunity to get even
nickname for the thicker, stronger cascabel designed by the U.S. Ordnance officer, Col. Thomas J. Rodman, so as to be able to hoist his new generation of heavier muzzle-loading artillery-pieces.
The need for such an enhanced feature had been revealed after the casting of a 15-inch prototype gun at the Fort Pitt foundry in December 1859, whose 50,000-pound weight sheared off the smaller “split-button” cascabels that had previously been affixed on the breech of large guns, such as 10-inch Columbiads. Rodman therefore developed a cascabel that was almost as wide as the base of his new oversized piece itself, protruding from its reinforce and including a narrow encircling groove, so as to more securely contain any lifting-tackle. This “mushroom” design became characteristic of many heavy guns produced by Rodman during the Civil War years, and was also copied by Confederate artillerists. See also cascabel
according to the 1864 Military Dictionary, the musicians who made up the bands of U.S. Army regiments remained classified as enlisted soldiers, performing in their musical capacity under the direction of the regimental adjutant, but “not permanently detached from their companies, and [still being] instructed in all the duties of a soldier”
designation for the reinforcing band of metal added around the muzzle of some 19th-Century artillery-pieces, so as to strengthen this aperture against any violent contact from unevenly-discharged rounds; see also swell
euphemism for the soldiers’ graveyard beyond Fort Moultrie, which actually featured myrtle bushes, the area east of Moultrieville having been known since the early 19th Century as “The Myrtles” and feared because of its insalubrious marshes. When yellow fever first appeared among the fort’s newly-replaced garrison in September 1858, a worried Lt.-Col. John L. Gardner later testified how he had sternly addressed his men “and told them if they did not leave off drinking, we should have half of them in the myrtle grove”
nickname for a seldom-used artillery round with an iron pin protruding from it, so as to prevent it from turning within the gun’s bore
expression used by artillery and ordnance officers for the narrowest point along a gun’s barrel-length, usually found close to its muzzle, between the swell and chase-band. The thickest point was at the edge of its rear breech, marked by the base-ring
19th-Century name for saltpeter or potassium nitrate, a naturally-occurring white crystalline compound employed in the manufacture of gunpowder, among other uses
word taken from the Latin term nomenclatura, signifying the “listing of names”, nomenclator being the ancient Roman appellation for any slave whose specific duty was “to remind his master of names.” In modern times, the term nomenclature has come to mean a set of designations unique to any particular object, discipline, or field of study — such as the “nomenclature of zoology,” being the internationally-recognized system of standardized New Latin names used in biology to identify different kinds and groups of animals or plants.
But for19th-Century U.S. Artillery officers, charged with training unschooled or foreign-born recruits in garrisons such as Fort Moultrie, the word (often pluralized into “nomenclatures”) was applied to the identification of individual parts and segments of a heavy gun and its surrounding defenses. The objective was not only to instill a “soldier-like habit” into these cannoneers for working their piece, but more importantly “an accurate understanding of all the elements necessary to the efficiency of its fire.”
Therefore, the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual enjoined any officer charged with such training to use rest-periods between drills to:
... minutely instruct the men in the names and uses of the implements, and in the nomenclatures of the piece, its carriage or bed, and of the parts of the fortification near the battery. In the course of the instruction, he will require every man to point out and designate by name all the parts enumerated in these nomenclatures, and to answer questions relative to the service of the piece; such as the weight of charge, the manner of making cartridges and wads, of heating shot and throwing hot shot, of laying platforms, pointing, &c.
The accompanying video identifies typical parts of a 32-pounder seacoast gun, although — being intended for modern classroom usage — its narration substitutes the current expression “barrel” for the more apt 19th-Century designation of tube, and includes a ring-surmount or breech-ring on this particular M.1845 gun, although this feature had actually been phased out on contemporary Army models
a contraction of the military title “non-commissioned officer,” which in the 19th-Century U.S. Army meant all grades below warrant officers: i.e., (in descending order) quartermaster-sergeants, sergeant-majors, ordnance-sergeants, sergeants, and corporals, all of whom had been promoted from among the enlisted ranks of privates.
Officers, on the other hand — from junior Second Lieutenants all the way up to full Generals — received formal written commissions along with their appointments, signed on behalf of the President of the United States, hence were known as “commissioned officers.” The exact date of an officer’s commission furthermore determined his seniority, when compared to other officers of equal rank
a broad military term for weaponry and ammunition, as well as the equipment and tools required to operate, transport, store, and repair such armaments. The very first words of the U.S. Army’s 1861 Ordnance Manual read: “All ordnance for the land service is made by private contractors, under the direction of officers of the Ordnance Department.”
in military parlance, a general term for any defensive work situated inside the glacis surrounding a fort, but outside the main body of the stronghold itself
nickname for a new class of heavy guns introduced during the second quarter of the 19th Century, with thick butts that tapered smoothly toward their muzzles, and which had originally been developed to fire high-explosive shells by the French military engineer Col. Henri-Joseph Paixhans.
This designation came to be used rather broadly as time progressed; the civilian John De Forest, for example, who visited Moultrie early in 1861, would later record about its armament:
Four eight-inch Columbiads, carrying sixty-four pound balls, pointed at Fort Sumter. Six other heavy pieces, Paixhans, I believe, faced the neck of the harbor.
In fact, all ten such heavy pieces in the fort’s inventory were American-cast Columbiad guns, installed less than two years previously
architectural term taken directly from the French, literally meaning a “cut section of wall” (pan de mur being a “section of wall” in that language), but an expression which could more accurately be translated into English as a “cut-off corner.” It is a term applied when two walls being laid down at right-angles, are foreshortened so as to be joined obliquely or “blunted” by a third tangential wall, rather than allowed to meet at their natural intersect-point. Moultrie’s Southeast and Southwest Angles are both of a pan-coupé design, a feature deliberately included when their foundations were being laid, so as to allow their batteries wider play across the mouth of Charleston Harbor
an area, usually centrally located in a military base, where troops could assemble for drill and inspection. Moultrie’s parade-ground was enclosed by the juncture of its West and North Barracks, from where its gunners could witness the daily raising and lowering of its flag, and be addressed by their officers. However, the open space in the U.S. Army Reservation directly behind Moultrie was also sometimes referred to as “the Parade” as well
the wall or side of an enceinte next to the parade ground.
in 19th-Century fortification terms, a sloping work of earth and/or masonry forming a protective barrier atop a rampart, over which defenders could fire their weapons. In Moultrie’s case, its parapets rose gently upward from the granite cordon-edging of its outer scarp-wall, until they leveled off and finally abutted against the perpendicular wall which enclosed the terreplein, known as the breast-height wall
name for special ropes four inches thick, twelve feet long, and with a hook and loop at opposite ends, used by gunners to haul small pieces and howitzers in the field
a copper-based, emerald-green powder that can be used to make an indelible paint or pigment, but which is also highly poisonous; a compound that had allegedly been used to poison rats in the sewers of Paris, hence its name. Yet despite its toxicity, Paris green was to be employed quite extensively in American residential products during the early 19th Century, such as wallpaper to repel insects, fungi, and rodents. It was the most common color applied to outdoor shutters, even being believed to repel airborne diseases. Paris green was listed in Fort Moultrie’s supply-inventory, and painted on the shutters with louvered slats of the officers’ quarters, among other applications
pas de souris
an amusing expression taken directly from the French, literally meaning the “mice’s steps” and used by military engineers to refer to a covert flight of very small and narrow steps leading up from a fort’s protective ditch to its external covered way, so as to allow defenders to make ascents or retirements unseen by enemy besiegers; see also covered way
name given to the small wooden container, usually made out of white pine with a hinged lid and fastened by a brass hook, which an individual gunner would carry by its wooden handle so as to bring back live cartridges from a service-magazine to his piece, dryly and securely. Because of the more exposed operational-conditions experienced by field-artillery and siege-artillery units, their pass-boxes were more practical leather bags or cylinders, slung over the courier’s shoulder with a strap
in the words of the 1864 Military Dictionary, the “click or detent which falls into the teeth of a ratchet-wheel, to prevent its motion backward”
an improved brass instrument for aiming field-pieces, being a free-swinging brass device with a lead-filled bulb at its bottom, allowing the scale to remain in a vertical position regardless of any uneven terrain or positioning. The actual readings were taken from a movable slider, which traveled up and down its graduated scale; see also breech-sight and tangent-scale
measurement used by 19th-Century American artillery and ordnance officers, to gauge the effective firepower of their heavy weaponry and ammunition. For example, pre-war testing had indicated that a 65-pound solid shot fired from an 8-inch Columbiad at a range of 200 yards, would penetrate two feet into concrete.
While under fire within Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Capt. John G. Foster would coolly record in his official engineering-journal how these same-caliber rounds — launched at a range of 1,250 yards against that stronghold’s masonry walls by the Confederate battery at Cummings Point — had penetrated “eleven inches at the first shot.” However, he went on to note how the penetration by the much smaller “twelve-pound bolt” being fired by the adjacent 3.5-inch Blakely rifled gun:
... was the same, as ascertained by measurement. The latter, however, threw its shot with greater accuracy, and with less time of flight, than the former.
The very opening salvoes of the war had therefore confirmed the greater penetrating-power and accuracy of rifled ordnance over older smoothbore guns, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard himself confirming this a few days later when he wrote to the Confederate Secretary of War: “We have a remarkable rifled cannon, 12-pounder, superior to any other here.” See also rifling
pent-cover or pent-house
special names applied in 19th-Century peacetime U.S. Army garrisons, for a large wooden enclosure, custom-built so as to fit over individual cannons and protect them from the elements. The 1861 Ordnance Manual described a typical “pent-house” as:
... a covering of thin boards, framed together to protect the wooden barbette-carriages from the weather. It is made in several separate pieces, which can be readily put together or taken apart.
To enclose a gun, the weapon first had to be run up to the breast-height wall “in battery,” and its wheels removed and set “upon the chassis in rear of the axle[,] resting against the top carriage.” The muzzle was thereupon depressed to about 5°:
... so that the chase shall fit in the circular cut made in the front end and roof. Lay the sills across the chassis in front and in rear of the top-carriage; place the tenons of the sides in the mortises of the sills; put on the roof and hook it to the sides; place the ends and key them; put on the chassis-covers and hook them.
The pent-covers for antebellum Moultrie’s artillery-pieces were more durably constructed and numbered specifically for each gun, being later used by Capt. John G. Foster to line the parapets and be filled in with sand, as a protective screen against sniper-fire
a line located at the center of a side of a polygon of fortification, drawn inward, on which a measurement is established to determine the position of the lines of defense.
name taken directly from the French word pétard, whose ancient origin meant to break wind, or a “loud discharge of intestinal gas.” In military circles, it had been rather derisively applied to a small hand-held, bell-shaped bomb or explosive device which could be ignited, rushed forward and attached to a heavy door or other target, hopefully to blast it open without detonating prematurely; but because of their instability, the expression “hoist by one’s own petard” became a popular English idiom, taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and signifying “to blow oneself up with one's own bomb, be undone by one's own devices.”
By the mid-19th-Century, U.S. Army petards were being “made of gun-metal, fixed upon a board, and containing about nine pounds of powder,” although the 1864 Military Dictionary went on to add that in “an attack upon a fortification, leathern bags containing fifty pounds of powder have been found more useful”
generic name in architecture for a roofed, arcaded passageway; a veranda; a colonnade; or a gallery attached to the exterior of a residence or building, so as to provide shade as well as to facilitate direct access to all its upper and lower rooms. Such structural enhancements were particularly welcome in the heat and humidity of South Carolina’s summers, so that the first piazzas were added to Moultrie’s barracks as early as November 1828 (when Edgar Allan Poe was serving at the fort), and these additions were subsequently covered over with tin roofs fifteen years later
nickname for a liquid mixture used to scrub down rusted iron objects, concocted by adding “equal parts of nitric and muriatic acids” to “ twelve times their joint volume of water”; any iron item could then be immersed in this solution for “about 4 hours, or until all the scales can be rubbed off.” See also rust
slang expression, used as a euphemism for artillery rounds. When the English correspondent William Howard Russell visited Fort Gaines on Mobile Bay in May 1861, a young Confederate soldier asked him when he “thought them damned Yankees” might be coming, as this volunteer “wanted to touch off a few pills he knew would be good for their complaint.” See also anti-abolition pills
an upright metal pivot-pin, firmly embedded into the ground and enclosed within a strong gun-platform, from which a carriage-chassis could then be set on top and remain firmly anchored as it was being swiveled from side to side, so as to aim and fire its overhead weapon at a distant target. Moultrie’s 32- and 24-pounder guns were mounted on front-pintle barbette-carriages, while its newer Columbiads rotated atop center-pintle granite platforms
a term sometimes employed by Civil War-era artillerymen, to describe a center-pintle mounting and platform for a heavy gun. For example, the 10-inch Columbiad nicknamed “Lady Davis” in the Confederate defenses at Port Hudson, Louisiana, was noted as being emplaced on a “pivot carriage on Riverfront”
expression used by 19th-Century U.S. Army officers for a town or city, these latter terms being “but little used in military parlance,” according to Col. Henry L. Scott
plane of fire
technical term used by artillerists, for the general direction in which a heavy piece was to be aimed and fired
for artillery or ordnance officers, the name for a gun-base set on firm, level ground, usually directly behind a protective parapet, where a heavy artillery-piece could be mounted and worked by its crew; technically defined by the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual as the “support upon which a piece is manœuvred when in battery”. For example, the engineer Capt. George W. Cullum reported to Washington in the summer of 1857, regarding the state of repairs at Fort Moultrie: “Nothing has been done at this work during the past year, except procuring the cut granite for the Columbiad platforms, designed to take the place of lighter guns now on the channel fronts of the fort.” See also traverse platform
naval term for the knob of a cascabel
a sliding timber or iron grate which could be raised and suspended above a fort’s gateway, so as to be quickly lowered in vertical channels to close the entrance in case of emergency. Moultrie did not feature a portcullis at its Guardhouse entryway
a cylindrical paper case prepared by 19th-Century artillery or ordnance specialists, filled with a slow-burning composition of nitre, sulphur, and mealed powder which could take up to ten minutes to burst into flames, thus allowing time for a safely-controlled detonation of a charge. One typical application came during the proving-phase of any new iron cannon, the test-firing directives from the 1861 Ordnance Manual declaring that:
... after pricking the cartridge, prime with powder or a tube, and place over the vent a piece of port-fire, set in clay or putty, long enough to permit the man who fires it to reach a place of safety before the charge explodes.
It was furthermore added that because of the delayed action possible with such portable incendiary-devices, port-fires were often “used for firing rockets” as well, which were notorious for their unpredictable launches and erratic flights
ancient Anglo-Norman name for a small rear- or side-gate to a castle, often reserved for private access, sometimes even featuring a concealed entrance. Military forts retained such covert access-points in their design for centuries, both to facilitate sallies by their defenders against any besieging forces, as well as to provide an avenue of escape. Moultrie had two such vaulted postern-gate passageways built into its ramparts, discreetly positioned on its eastern and western faces, and which still survive today
standard measuring 10 by 20 feet, issued to U.S. Army garrisons for everyday use; smaller “storm flags” of only 4 by 8 feet, were to be raised during inclement weather, while the largest “garrison flags” of 20 by 36 feet were reserved for ceremonial occasions. A specialized term for any flag’s width is its “fly”, while height is described as its “hoist”; see also garrison flag, storm flag, and colors
“Pound Cake” Regiment
derisory nickname applied by other Confederate units to the 1st South Carolina Rifles (Orr’s) Regiment, which after being constituted at Sandy Springs on July 20, 1861, was given the enviable task of garrisoning Sullivan’s Island — a famous pre-war resort — over the next nine months. This regiment was eventually transferred away from this easy assignment into Virginia in April 1862, where it endured very heavy losses.
However, the term was also commonly used throughout the South for other units as well. For example, the 5th Georgia Infantry Regiment, whose ten companies had all been raised and outfitted in May 1861 by various different towns around Macon, would be called the “Pound Cake Regiment” upon first being deployed into Pensacola, Florida in September 1861 — because no two of its companies were uniformed or equipped alike.
And a Confederate officer of Evans’ Brigade would describe how the 20th South Carolina Volunteers also acquired this same nickname, but for yet another different reason in May 1863:
When we got off the train at Rantowles, this regiment had preceded us and was in line at the station. As it was a strange regiment to our brigade and was a fine-looking, well-clad body of men, our fellows would naturally ask them: what regiment is this? Their reply was: the “Pound Cake” Regiment.
But when large numbers of the 20th South Carolina Volunteers subsequently began collapsing during a forced march a couple of days later, the veterans of Evans’ Brigade would call out to them teasingly as they trudged on past:
“Pound cake is mighty poor grub to march on, better try hard tack and bacon.” And at Rantowles there were so few of the Twentieth in ranks, that the officers of our brigade had to restrain the men from howling the inquiry: “I wonder were is our Pound Cake Regiment?”
common designation appended by mid-19th Century U.S. artillerymen to identify their ordnance classifications, ranked according to the particular weight of solid round-shot fired off by each category of smoothbore gun: a standard 24.4-pound projectile being used in all 24-pounders, a 32.6-pound solid shot discharged by 32-pounders, etc. Only the new generation of heavier Columbiads being introduced at Fort Moultrie and other American garrisons during the 1850s, were known by their 8-inch and 10-inch diameters (rather than for their 65- and 128-pound shots, respectively).
Once the Civil War erupted and the advantages of rifled gun-barrels over smoothbores rapidly made themselves apparent, the term pounder would grow somewhat more confusing, as these new weapons fired elongated — and therefore heavier — projectiles out of tubes or gun-barrels whose bore-diameters remained the same size. For example, pre-war bronze Model 1841 6-pounder field-pieces were converted from smoothbores through the application of a system of re-bored internal rifling developed by Capt. Charles T. James, so as to fire projectiles weighing almost twelve pounds out of their same original 3.67-inch bore — thus becoming incorrectly known to some people as “12-pounders”
specialized expression used by ordnance and artillery officers, for the difference in weight of a cannon behind its trunnions, as opposed to in front of them. It was a figure literally determined by suspending the necessary amount of weight from the muzzle, so as to balance the barrel evenly on its trunnions: for example, the preponderance for a typical 32-pounder seacoast gun was 466 pounds, while that of a 24-pounder was only 255 pounds
lowest rank in the 19th-Century U.S. Army, applied to common soldiers
among various other more commonplace uses, a technical term in military architecture, formally defined by a 19th-Century U.S. Army engineer as “the outline of a vertical section of a work,” but which could more simply be described as a side-view of any fortification from a fixed central point, showing its configuration in silhouette
see swinging prop
defined by the 1861 Ordnance Manual as hard, stiff “cotton yarn, of several strands, saturated and covered over with an inflammable composition: it is used for communicating fire from point to point.” A yard of quick-match would burn in 13 to 22 seconds, depending upon the retardants included in its composition; when enclosed within tubes, quick-match burned even faster, most rapidly of all in small paper-tubes called leaders. See also slow-match and port-fire
technical term for the wedge inserted beneath the breech of an artillery piece, and mechanically shifted in or out so as to elevate or depress its gun barrel
in antebellum seacoast-artillery units, the name for the iron runners bolted atop wooden beams, together comprising the “rails” on either side of a wheeled chassis on which a gun-carriage could then be mounted, so as to be rolled back and forth along its length to facilitate the loading and firing of its weapon. Each rail was installed at a fixed inclination of 3°, and according to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, the condition of a barbette chassis’ rails could affect and even regulate the amount of recoil whenever its heavy piece was being discharged, for “if there be not sufficient recoil, clean the rails and add a little oil; if the recoil be excessive, sprinkle a little sand on the rails.” As the Civil War progressed and artillery began to mushroom in size, wooden rail-beams soon came to be supplanted by wrought-iron I-bars, which were much stronger
a blunt-ended, lengthy wooden shaft used to thrust a cartridge, cannonball, and sometimes a wad down the barrel of a cannon, so as to be packed together tightly into the chamber at the back of its bore for firing. According to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, the head of a rammer was to be:
... made of ash, maple, birch, beech, elm, gum, or other tough woods; the head is bored ⅔ of its length with a hole 0.25 inch less than the diameter of the staff, which enters with a tenon. The staff is driven into the head and fastened with a,pin of hard wood 0.3 inch diameter: the neck has a copper band 0.5 inch wide and 0.05 inch thick, fastened with 3 copper nails.
When not in use, an artillery-rammer was leaned parallel to the right-hand side of its piece, its butt-end resting atop the protective parapet and its head “supported upon a prop,” so as to help keep it clean. For a more detailed description of its use, see Loading & Firing on the 24-pounders page
generic architectural designation for a stone or earth wall surrounding a castle, fortress, or fortified city for defensive purposes, or to protect any enclosed area from artillery fire, as well as to elevate defenders into a high position that commanded the approaches to a fort. Griffiths’ 1859 Artillerist’s Manual declared that a rampart usually consisted “of an interior slope, terreplein, banquette, parapet, and an exterior slope or escarp”
17th-Century Dutch name for a type of lifting-mechanism, used since early times, which secured heavy objects temporarily in place by having a pawl or detent slip into a notch, thereby holding this position during lifting or lowering.
For U.S. Artillery officers in the 1850’s and 60’s, ratchets-and-pawls were not only an integral component of their gun-hoists or gins, this mechanism also replaced under-strength elevating-screws for raising or depressing the barrels of a new generation of heavier pieces, represented by 10-inch and 8-inch Columbiads.
in its broadest sense, a general term for any entrenched stronghold, retreat, or refuge. In the narrower 19th-Century military definition, an isolated defensive work — usually of a temporary or supplementary nature, typically an enclosed square or polygon without any flanking defenses, such as bastions — where outnumbered defenders might hold onto a significant position
engineering term taken directly from mathematics, in which field of study it is used to describe an “interior angle of a polygon that is greater than 180°”, and is also called a “re-entrant angle.”
In military architecture, this designation came to be applied to any defensive angle which pointed inward, toward the interior of a fort and with its apex turned away from any external besiegers. Moultrie featured five such reentering or re-entrant angles in its configuration, the most notable being on the parapets overlooking its Eastern- and Western-Postern entrances. For the opposite of reentering angle, see salient or salient angle
specialized term in military architecture, for any inward-facing angle of a fortification; the opposite of a salient
reentering place of arms
a space along the covered way formed outside the reentering angle of the counter-scarp, by providing a salient in the parapet. Its function was to provide space for forming sorties and a means for flanking defense of the glacis.
amongst numerous other general uses and applications for this term, the noun “reinforce” was a technical expression employed by 19th-Century artillerists for the extra-thick layer of metal cast around the rear-end of any heavy gun during its manufacture, directly in front of its base-ring, so as to better withstand the repeated concussions from firing off large-caliber rounds. According to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, “if there is more than one reinforce, that which is next to the base-ring is called the first reinforce; the other, the second reinforce”; view the accompanying video for examples of increasingly thick “reinforces” on a 24-pounder, a 32-pounder, and an 8-inch Columbiad gun
the French term for earthen backfill is remblai, such as in terre de remblai, meaning an “embankment”. A 19th-Century military earthwork or defense might therefore be strengthened on one or both of its sides by piled-up remblai; however, earth shoveled in as filler between two parallel walls or revetments was called deblais
word taken directly from the 17th-Century French command réveillez, a pluralized imperative form of the verb to “awaken,” roughly equivalent to “wake up!” According to U.S. Army Regulations, just before daybreak in every fort or outpost in 1860, the sergeant on duty (known as the “sergeant-of-the-guard”) and two soldiers would remove the folded flag from its repository, and formally start hoisting it up the flagstaff upon the very first note of a drumbeat known as the reveille, so as to announce “the beginning of the duties of another day”
technical expression used by 19th-Century artillery officers, defined as “fire directed over the near side of a work from the opposite side, or to the rear of a line”
highly-specialized term employed in military architecture, applied to a counter-scarp gallery fitted with loopholes for riflemen in a fort or fortified position
term derived from the French noun revêtement, literally meaning the “re-clothing” or “re-covering” of an object. In military architecture, it usually refers to a “retaining wall” erected out of blocks or masonry so as to provide a firm perpendicular shape to a permanent defensive work, the remainder of this bulwark being otherwise filled in with earthen materials.
Moultrie’s sloped ramparts featured brick revetments on both its exterior (scarp) and interior (parade) faces, which enclosed a packed mass of earth, sand, and rubble in between them, called remblais. When originally constructed, triple courses of heavy masonry bricks had been laid down parallel to each other on a firm foundation, and the intervening gap between both scarp- and parade-revetments gradually filled in with filler as they rose higher. Upon reaching the desired height, both the outer and inner walls or revetments were capped with coping-stones, thereby completing Fort Moultrie’s ramparts.
During the Civil War, temporary earthen field-fortifications would often feature revetments less formally made, by employing stacked sandbags, gabions, or fascines, backed up by shovelled earth
technique employed by 19th-Century artillery officers, of deliberately firing a round with a lesser charge so as to skip it off a surface before striking its target — an especially destructive method whenever a solid round-shot was glanced off a body of water, as it seemingly added speed and heft to the resultant force of impact. When Capt. John G. Foster noted the presence of the Confederate floating-battery off Moultrieville in the early dawn of April 11, 1861, he noted with some concern in his journal:
Her position gives her the advantage of sweeping with her guns the whole of the left flank of the fort [Sumter], and thus rendering it impossible for any vessel with supplies to lie anywhere along this flank, while the [stone] breakwater in front protects her from our ricochet shots.
spiral or helical grooves added to the bore of a gun-barrel, causing a fired projectile to emerge rotating with a gyroscopic effect that would stabilize its flight and accuracy, as well as augment the round’s force upon impact.
Moultrie (like Sumter) featured only smoothbore artillery pieces, but a rifled Blakely gun purchased in England by Southern sympathizers arrived in Charleston Harbor on April 9, 1861, to take part in the bombardment of the Union garrison only three days later, with remarkable effect. Over the next few years of warfare, smoothbore cannons and masonry forts would be rendered obsolete by this new generation of enhanced weaponry
technical term originated with British artillery or ordnance specialists, for the iron loop cast at the top of a 32-pounder’s cascabel. Such a feature had begun as a naval enhancement, intended to allow a “breeching” (the maritime designation for a type of sturdy rope) to be passed through it and attached to ring-bolts, to better secure the gun aboard ship, so that this attachment was often referred to as a “breeching ring” in naval circles, as well as a “breech ring” or “breech loop” in military ones. See the video under nomenclature
according to the 1864 Military Dictionary, a “uniform beat of [a] drum, without variation for a certain length of time,” to signal soldiers during a military exercise or on the battlefield; see also long-roll
a problem for 19th-Century iron guns, in that any buildup inside the bore would tend to diminish its diameter, affecting windage and overall performance. Consequently, the 1861 Ordnance Manual recommended that cannon-bores be regularly greased with a mixture of oil and tallow, or tallow and beeswax, so as to minimize any penetration into their metal by moisture. Barrel exteriors were also to be waterproofed at least once a year, by applying a new coat of black lacquer; such treatments apparently adhered to the metal best when applied during hot weather.
All metal objects and equipment were subject to this same problem, especially in a warm and humid station such as seaside Fort Moultrie. Thus for example, it was also recommended that artificers’ tools and files should be stored in a dry place and “sprinkled with powdered charcoal, or fine quicklime, to protect them from rust.” And in his post-war book Reminiscences, Capt. Abner Doubleday would relate — with some bemusement — a curious sequel to the evacuation of Moultrie by its Federal garrison on December 26, 1860:
All cannon-balls used in the Army, and exposed to the weather, are coated with a varnish of coal-tar, to protect them from rust. Many of those we left behind [upon abandoning Moultrie] were in piles near the guns, and when their carriages were burned, the tar melted, ran down in streams, and coagulated in lumps. It was immediately reported that before leaving, we had taken great pains to tar the balls, to render them useless.
word taken directly from the French for a primitive type of “wooden shoe” or clog, or any simple footwear with wooden soles and leather tops. For 19th-Century artillerists, though, it was a term specially applied to the conical blocks of wood attached to the bottom of canister- or spherical-case shells, so that they would seat snugly into the chamber at the back of a cannon-bore, and thus receive the full benefit of its compressed powder-cartridge when fired. According to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, sabots were to be cut and machined from seasoned “poplar, bass-wood, or other light, close-grained wood,” and those intended for attachment to solid round-shot or spherical-case shot were to be concave and have a single groove carved around their base, while those for flat-bottomed canister-shells were to be flush and feature a double groove. See also fixing ammunition
salient or salient angle
term taken directly from the Latin salient, which means “springing” or “leaping,” and in military terminology was applied to any projection which thrusts outward from a position or intrudes into another, such as a forward line pushed into enemy-held territory. But for engineers, salient angle meant any architectural feature which projected outward from a fort or other defensive position at an angle of less than 180°; thus Moultrie had eleven salient angles in its configuration. A land grant which was made on Sullivan’s Island in 1878, to set aside a plot of land to erect a public jetty, specifically mentioned as the starting-point for this survey “the magistral of the northeast salient angle of Fort Moultrie.” For the inverse of “salient angle,” see reentering angles
salient place of arms
highly technical term defined as “a space along the covered way, formed by rounding the trace of the counterscarp opposite the flanked angle of the bastion”
a passage, either open or covered, from the covered way to the country; or a passage under the rampart, usually vaulted, from the interior of a fort to the exterior, primarily to provide for sorties.
a specialized branch of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, created as of May 1846 and more usually called “engineers” or “engineer soldiers,” who were employed in performing or directing heavy-construction jobs for the U.S. Army. A typical sapper-company was commanded by a Captain of Engineers and “composed of ten sergeants or master workmen, ten corporals or overseers, two musicians, thirty-nine privates of the first class or artificers, and thirty-nine privates of the second class or laborers.” During peacetime, their principal duties were:
... to serve by detachments in overseeing and aiding laborers upon fortifications or other works under the Engineer Department, and in supervising finished fortifications as fort-keepers, preventing injury, and applying repairs.
During wartime, they served as road- and pontoon-builders to facilitate the movement of armies, as well as miners in the breaching of fortified strongholds. As a young 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of West Point, John G. Foster had been attached to the first such U.S. sapper-company in 1847 and saw distinguished service in Mexico. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Corps of Engineers consisted of only 43 officers and a single company of 100 engineer soldiers
see shoulder scales
originally derived from the Italian word scarpa for a steep slope or embankment, in military architecture it came to be applied to the inner side of any defensive ditch dug directly below a fort’s ramparts; thus Moultrie’s outer defensive wall or revetment was known as its “scarp wall.” This term is also sometimes spelled as “escarp”; for a visual example, view the video under exterior slope
the heaviest category of guns in the 19th-Century U.S. Artillery inventory, broadly defined in the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual as pieces which could not be moved any appreciable distance overland while mounted atop their carriages — unlike smaller field- or even medium-sized siege-artillery pieces, specifically designed so as to be drawn behind teams of horses or oxen. Moultrie’s 8-inch Columbiads were quintessential seacoast-artillery guns, their barrels alone weighing 9,280 pounds — even when dismounted — but its 32- and 24-pounders could also not be moved very far from their fixed emplacements within the fort, even across its level flagstone terreplein; see also field artillery and siege or garrison artillery
expression sometimes used by U.S. Artillery officers, instead of the official designation of “seacoast” for the heaviest class of guns. For example, in his report on the distribution of Union siege-artillery around Yorktown, Virginia in early May 1862, Maj. Alexander Doull of the 2nd New York Artillery Regiment (in his capacity as “Ordnance Officer to Siege Train”) informed the commanding Colonel of the 1st Connecticut Artillery, how this deployment included:
- Ten 13-inch sea service mortars (1861), at Battery No. 4, manned by Batteries F and G, commanded by Maj. E. S. Kellogg.
- Six 10-inch sea service mortars (1841), at Battery No. 6, manned by Battery C, commanded by Captain R. S. Burbank.
- Ten 10-inch siege mortars, at Battery No. 9, manned by Batteries D and E, commanded by Captain S. H. Perkins.
designation given to the national effort under Pres. Thomas Jefferson to erect a new generation of seacoast fortifications, amid concerns about America’s weakened state of peacetime defense as revealed by the Chesapeake-Leopard incident of June 1807. In all, some 50 forts were built or refurbished over the next few years, including Fort Moultrie. This Second System saw many foreign-born engineers supplanted by a new generation of American graduates from West Point, who applied common standards to all of their structures and armaments, so as to reduce dependence on imported materiel
see the elephant
19th-Century American idiom meaning to learn a hard lesson, or in military circles, to experience combat for the first time. This expression was first recorded as early as 1835, and was used during the Mexican-American War; many examples would emerge during the Civil War era as well, as tens of thousands of young men experienced battle for the first time. Even before these hostilities erupted, though, an editorial entitled “Seeing the Elephant” was published in the March 1, 1861 edition of The New York Times, offering the following comments on the secessionist volunteers challenging the Federal garrison holding out in Fort Pickens at the mouth of Pensacola Bay:
We have all our little troubles in this life, and for those who are not too proud, to use a popular phrase, it may be added that we have all our elephants to see. It is narrated of a certain farmer that his life’s desire was to behold this largest of quadrupeds, until the yearning became well nigh a mania. He finally met one of the largest size, traveling in the van of a menagerie. His horse was frightened, his wagon smashed, his eggs and poultry ruined. But he rose from the wreck radiant and in triumph. “A fig for the damage,” quoth he, “for I have seen the elephant!”
A gallant fire-eater, now among the besiegers at Pensacola, appears to have his desire as yet ungratified. Somewhat apprehensive, yet “bound to see it out,” he writes: “If Pickens opens fire upon us, with her tremendous batteries, we shall see the largest kind of an elephant.”
Let us trust that he may be disappointed. He wants, of course, to see the animal — to have his little experiences in war, to tell his story — but it would be much better for him to try the experiment on a smaller scale at first. So with the gallant men of Charleston. The fact is, that the whole Secession party presents the spectacle of a body of impulsive gentlemen who are extremely desirous of seeing an elephant, and who, could they once feel him kick, or get a moderate toss from his trunk, would go home perfectly satisfied. Some of them have already had quite a satisfactory peep at the animal; others, in one form or the other, will undoubtedly soon get one. It is not positively an eternal Gun-Cotton-dom which they crave, but simply to see the elephant — to have a great time, and retire. Now that some of them have seceded, and done enough to talk about, let them come back. They have smashed their eggs quite sufficiently, and no one will deny them the glory of having seen the elephant.
a way-station where gunpowder and projectiles could be brought in small allotments from a main Magazine, so as to be prepared in relative safety and then relayed to the gun-positions to be fired; sometimes also known as a “small magazine or filling-room.” Fort Moultrie originally featured six such service-magazines, ensconced at various points around its interior Parade wall, and which were later converted into bomb-shelters
19th-Century expression, used as an adjective to described any weapon loaded with a live round. For example, in the weeks prior to the Civil War, during a drill at one of the newly-installed Confederate batteries on Morris Island aimed against Fort Sumter, one particular gun on March 7, 1861:
... supposed to be charged with a blank cartridge, was ordered to be fired. To the astonishment of the officers in command, it was found to be shotted. The ball struck Fort Sumter. For a while it was thought that Major Anderson would return the compliment in kind. Major P. F. Stevens was dispatched, under flag of truce, to apologize for the accident, [which] was accepted ...
technical term used by military engineers, specifically for the interior angle formed by the meeting of a flank and a face on the outer scarp-wall of a fort’s bastion or other defensive work. Capt. John G. Foster, for example, recorded in his journal while under bombardment within Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861: “The guns bearing on Fort Moultrie were two 42-pounders, situated on the right face, and one at the pan-coupé of [Sumter’s] right shoulder angle”
shoulder of a bastion
a literal translation taken from the French word épaule or “shoulder,” which in military architecture referred to the side-corner of a bastion, formed by the intersection of one its long outer face-walls and shorter flank-walls; see also epaulement and face of the bastion
official designation for a pair of detachable brass epaulettes, which could be carried in the kit of rank-and-file soldiers until they were needed to be worn on ceremonial occasions. They could then be temporarily attached to uniform coats or jackets by a tongue on the bottom of the scale, which slid through a brass attachment called a “scale slide” sewn onto the coat near to its shoulder, then fastened by a second piece called a “scale button” which was added close to its collar, so as to be turned to lock the scale firmly into place. Scales were issued in three different patterns, those for sergeants featuring a bottom section that fitted it closer to the shoulder, while those for privates, corporals, and musicians were unfinished and flat along their bottoms. Scales quickly became considered an unnecessary nuisance by many regiments during the Civil War years, especially when campaigning for extended periods in the field, and so were gladly done away with
siege or garrison artillery
the middle of three classifications for mid-19th Century U.S. Artillery regiments: the heaviest seacoast class operated weighty, long-range pieces that were almost never removed from their fixed emplacements; the lightest field-artillery were mobile units whose small guns wheeled about a battlefield behind teams of horses; while the siege or garrison artillery manned medium-sized weapons (such as wheeled 24-pounders), which could be slowly drawn overland and dug into field-fortifications, to defend or bombard a position over an extended period of time. The 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual succinctly stated that siege artillery “is used in the attack of places; and as it follows armies in their operations, is mounted upon carriages which serve for its transportation”; see also field artillery and seacoast artillery
see line of sight
name for a pair of specially-built, oversized wooden limbers (often used in tandem), to suspend a heavy artillery-piece in between and transport it overland. By the mid-19th Century, even relatively small 32-pounder gun-barrels weighed almost four tons apiece, and the size and weight of such iron weaponry would only escalate further during the Civil War years. To move such ponderous items with the limited means of locomotion available, ever-larger sling carts had to be custom built with double-spoked broad tires, and their maneuvering whenever fully loaded required careful planning, teams of oxen, and hundreds of men. For a more extensive description of their construction and operation, see the Sling Cart page
defined by the 1861 Ordnance Manual as “prepared [hemp or flax] rope [of three strands, slightly twisted] which is used to keep and carry fire: it burns slowly with a firm, hard coal, and is not easily extinguished.” Slow-match would burn at a rate of about 4-5 inches an hour, depending on the ingredients used in its composition; see also port-fire and quick-match
another name for a service-magazine
generic adjective used to describe older firearms, which during the first decades of the 19th Century did not feature any rifling within their barrels, as this enhancement would not become widespread until the Civil War years. All of Fort Moultrie’s antebellum artillery-pieces were smoothbore cannons, which — soon after that conflict erupted — rapidly began to grow obsolete with the advent of this new, advanced type of rifled weaponry; see rifling
derived from the French word for “exit,” in military terms it meant a sudden attack launched by troops from inside a fort or other defensive work, against more numerous besiegers outside, the defenders’ objective usually being to exit quickly and destroy any siege-works which had been erected, so as to delay any final assault against their walls; also called a sally
technique to quickly disable an artillery-piece, rendering it unserviceable against the prospect of passing under enemy control. According to the 1861 Ordnance Manual, the most direct method for spiking was to hammer “a jagged and hardened steel spike with a soft point, or a nail without a head” into a gun’s vent, breaking it off flush. Another was to wedge a shot wrapped in felt at the bottom of its bore, or pound a round home with an iron bar. Even more destructive recourses included:
- filling a loaded cannon’s bore with sand, then firing it so as to burst it;
- firing one piece muzzle-to-muzzle against another, or muzzle against the chase of another;
- breaking off the weapon’s trunnions; or
- deliberately bursting a gun by firing it with an excessively heavy charge, full of shot, and at a high elevation.
Maj. Robert Anderson would write to the Adjutant-General in Washington on the same evening that he had evacuated his garrison into Sumter on December 26, 1860, that he had left orders behind with his engineer Capt. John G. Foster “to have all the guns at Fort Moultrie spiked, and the carriages of the 32-pounders, which are old, destroyed.” It appears as if Foster did indeed spike most of the heavy weapons, then next morning burned the wooden barbette-carriages of eleven guns (at Positions 12 to 22), leaving their barrels strewn amid the ashes on its terreplein. See also unspiking
a bulbous cleansing-wad attached to a lengthy wooden shaft “made of elm or poplar,” designed to be pushed into a gun-barrel and rotated by two cannoneers every time before loading their weapon, so as to clear away any debris or residue inside. The sponge’s head was to be bored out along two-thirds of its length so as to be able to insert the wooden staff and secure it with a pair of hardwood pegs, after which the wooden head “should be saturated, when new, with linseed oil, to prevent splitting from alternate wetting and drying in service.”
The sponges themselves were “made of coarse, well-twisted woollen yarn, woven into a warp of strong hemp or flax thread, after the manner of Brussels carpet,” according to the 1861 Ordnance Manual. When not in use, the artillery-sponge was to be laid parallel at the right-hand side of its piece, the butt-end resting atop the parapet and the sponge-head itself “turned from the epaulment, and supported upon a prop” so as to keep it clean. And when stored away, sponges were to be enclosed within individual bags made of Russia duck, “marked in black with the caliber of the gun”
a less-drastic implement used for temporarily incapacitating a gun in the face of imminent capture, being a specially-designed iron insert “having a shoulder to prevent its being too easily extracted” from the vent-hole, so that the lost gun could not immediately be brought back into action by an enemy — yet which could later be removed without damaging the vent too extensively, once the artillery-piece had been recuperated, so that the recaptured weapon might soon be rendered operational by its original crew once again. See also spiking and unspiking
a specialized military instrument with four steel sockets, which could be slid into a gun-barrel on the tip of a wooden rod, so as to measure any deviations or irregularities along the length of its bore
beyond its obvious meanings, this verb was used by 19th-Century artillery specialists to describe a premature and problematical movement of a shotted round inside its bore. A gun was loaded during this era by first raising its muzzle, so that after pushing a powder-cartridge down into the chamber, a solid roundshot would follow and be compressed firmly on top of this charge with a rammer. However, if the barrel was then depressed back down too much, below a minimum elevation of 1° 30’, or if there were depressions worn into the gun’s bore, the loaded round might roll or “start” forward slightly away from the powder-cartridge before being fired, thereby reducing the strength, range, and accuracy of its flight
stopping the vent
artilleryman’s phrase for temporarily closing off or plugging the vent at the rear of a recently-fired gun with a finger-stall, so as to prevent the pressure from its subsequent sponging-out from clogging this tiny aperture with unexpelled bits of hot residue. Not only might such a cleansing action — which entailed pushing a tight-fitting sponge down the barrel from the muzzle, acting like a piston — obstruct this vital firing-hole before the next discharge, it could also drive some smoldering ember up into the vent “which would retain fire in the gun, and cause premature explosion” whenever the next powder-cartridge was thrust down the bore into its chamber.
The albumen-print accompanying this entry shows a gunner from the 4th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (soon to be reconstituted as the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery Regiment) at Fort Richardson near Arlington, Virginia, posing in the act of “stopping the vent” of a 24-pounder as it was being sponged out, sometime late in 1861.
smallest standard issued to U.S. Army outposts during the 19th Century, measuring only 4 by 8 feet and specifically intended to be flown during violent weather. For everyday use, forts were issued “post flags” measuring 10 by 20 feet, plus still larger “garrison flags” of 20 by 36 feet, for ceremonial occasions. The specialized term for any flag’s width is its “fly”, while height is described as its “hoist”; see also garrison flag, post flag, and colors
strapped shot and shells
nickname used by 19th-Century U.S. Artillery and Ordnance Department officers for the practice of affixing wooden sabots or cartridge-blocks to projectiles, so that they would seat snugly into a gun’s chamber to be fired. Round-shot were typically attached or “strapped” by two criss-crossing tin strips, while four strips were usually required for shells, although these applications varied; see also fixing ammunition and sabot
originally a British military term for any commissioned officer under the rank of captain, which was also so applied in the 19th-Century U.S. Army, although it has since fallen into disuse in the latter organization. Believed to have been derived from the Latin word subalternus, meaning a “lower-rank alternate”
the top surface of an earthen rampart, which slanted downward from the breast-height wall toward the outer cordon-edge of a fort, being sufficiently inclined so as to allow its defenders to cover all the ground beyond the ditch with their gunfire. Technically, this term was most commonly applied to the span between a field-work’s “interior slope” or breast-height wall, and its outward-facing “exterior slope”
for 19th-Century artillery and ordnance officers, the gradual bulge in a gun-barrel’s taper near its muzzle, a deliberate thickening included during its design and subsequent casting-process so as to strengthen this aperture against any glancing ricochets from unevenly-discharged rounds. See video example under nomenclature, as well as a related definition under muzzle-band
special name for the wooden brace which hung suspended from a hinge beneath the rear of a barbette carriage, an important support whenever its heavy weapon was being discharged. In early March 1861, the Confederate ordnance officer William R. Boggs was sent with the engineer W. H. C. Whiting to inspect occupied Moultrie, and would afterwards report:
At Fort Moultrie, the small but important omission of putting the swinging props under the tails of the gun carriages had caused the guns to dismount themselves when fired with shot. Anderson no doubt removed these props before he abandoned the fort ...
tangent-scale or tangent-sight
a pre-Civil War device for aiming an artillery piece, cut out of a small piece of sheet-brass — with a curved and flanged bottom for resting it atop a gun’s base-ring — plus a series of steps cut into its right-hand edge, with degrees marking the known ranges for that particular weapon at different degrees of elevation. Tangent-scales were used in conjunction with the front sight of a piece for aiming, but required absolutely level trunnions, so that they would soon be superseded by the breech-sight or pendulum-Hausse sight
in military terms, the drum ceremony performed at retreat, marking an end to the day. Tattoos had originated among British regiments during the Thirty Years War in The Netherlands, when drummers were sent marching at 9:30 p.m. every evening through their base’s civilian surroundings, signaling that tavern-keepers were to doe den tap toe or “turn off the tap” of their beer-kegs. By the time this tap toe or tattoo march concluded at 10:00 p.m., all soldiers were supposed to be back in barracks. It became customary to refer to the beginning of this march as the “first post,” and its conclusion half-an-hour later as the “last post.”
Tattoos were naturally part of the daily routine at peacetime Moultrie, and when its outnumbered garrison became beleaguered and began standing to their arms overnight late during 1860, Capt. Abner Doubleday would later note:
It was of little use, however, to have our armament in readiness, unless the approaches to the fort could be carefully watched. This it was impossible to do by the ordinary system of guard duty; but I suggested a plan which enabled us to have an ample number of sentinels, without exhausting the men. It was done by placing each man on guard for a single hour, between tattoo and reveille, allowing him to sleep for the remainder of the night.
specialized term used by military engineers (taken from the French word for “pincer”) to describe a small, low work erected as an additional outer defense, in a ditch between a fort’s bastions so as to protect the curtain-wall behind the tenaille from being directly battered by enemy cannon-fire. Typically, there were three types of tenailles: the first having faces like a bastion, but which were much lower in height; the second having full faces, flanks and curtains; and the third having only faces
terreplein, terre-plein, or terre plain
a French expression meaning “level ground,” which technically described the expanse of flat earth atop the inner portion of any rampart, extending between the vertical protection afforded by its raised parapet, and the coping-edge of the rampart on top of its interior parade-face. However, in most 19th-Century American forts, such terrepleins for gun-platforms were usually paved over — at least partially — with either bricks or (as at Moultrie) with flagstones
shaken by America’s vulnerability to British seaborne attacks during the War of 1812, Congress appropriated $800,000 the very year after this three-year conflict had ended, to begin financing a new nation-wide effort to erect stronger coastal defenses. Pres. James Madison appointed a Board of Engineers for Seacoast Fortifications, headed by French specialists, which began surveying certain ports as early as 1817 and soon recommended that 50 new forts be built, many of them multi-storied. As their designs and armaments were to all be standardized, this national building program became known as the “Third System.”
Charleston Harbor was not inspected until February 1821, and it was decided a few years later that its existing Second System defenses — Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, and Fort Johnson — should be supplanted by a much more powerful Third System stronghold, which would eventually be personified by Fort Sumter.
variants of the original French term tampon, meaning a stopper. In 19th-Century military parlance, a tampion or tompion was a wooden plug inserted into the muzzle of any gun to prevent dust, debris, or moisture from fouling its barrel. The heaviest cannons, rarely ever removed from their fixed emplacements, often boasted finely-turned and decorated wooden tampions which could be easily drawn out of their muzzles by a hand-ring; lighter field-artillery, constantly on the move over dusty or muddy terrain, were obliged to use cruder tompions pounded securely into their gun-muzzles, so as not to work loose
among numerous other applications, the nickname in heavy-artillery regiments for the main central beam of a wooden barbette-chassis, designed to support a sliding gun-carriage on top
slang expression for any large and heavy knife, such as a Bowie knife, which were commonly used in the 19th Century as both a tool and weapon. Their steel blades could reach a foot or more in length, and measure one-and-a-half to two inches in width, being carried in a sheath.
When the writer John De Forest tried to cut a memento from the shattered stump of Moultrie’s flagstaff during his visit to the fort on January 26, 1861, he later recorded that his pocket-knife could make no impression on its “exceedingly tough pitch-pine,” so that one of his South Carolina militia escorts had obligingly drawn “a toothpick a foot long, and did me the favor”
specific name for the separate, wheeled gun-carriage hoisted atop a wooden barbette-chassis, so as to jointly support and rotate a heavy seacoast artillery-piece in an arc, to be aimed and fired from behind a protective wall or parapet. For a more detailed description, see the Barbette Carriages page
common way of referring to Charleston, by residents of that city as well as throughout coastal South Carolina, during the 19th Century
in military architecture, a generic term used to describe the basic “footprint” or outline delineated on the ground occupied by a fortification, as defined by its outermost scarp-walls or enceinte. See enceinte
a generic word with several meanings, but for artillery or ordnance officers, the term used to describe a line of loose gunpowder sprinkled out so as to be ignited to act as a detonation-fuse for an explosive charge.
For example, the Confederate Secretary of War wrote warningly to Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard on March 20, 1861, prior to the commencement of hostilities:
Sir: The probability is, if there be any reliance on rumors semi-official in their character, that Fort Sumter will be shortly abandoned. Of course, it would be proper to afford Major Anderson and his men a safe conduct out of the harbor; but before this is done, you must feel perfectly assured that there are no mines laid with trains within the fort. This might be individually accomplished by informing Major Anderson that you intended immediately on its abandonment by him to occupy it, and to take possession of everything left behind; that you did not desire to do this, except upon an inventory to be made out by yourself and one of his officers, and the proper officer to be detailed by him to perform this duty would be Foster, the Engineer.
Should he reply to this proposition that he cannot consider what course you may pursue after his abandonment of the fort, and therefore decline to assist in the inventory, it will be your duty to communicate to him the existence of the rumor, and to demand from him such assurance of its falsity as shall fully satisfy you. If he declines to give this assurance it will be your duty to prevent their departure. It is hardly probable that he will decline either of these propositions, but should he decline both you must pursue the course herein indicated, and keep him where he is.
L. P. Walker
an ancient word believed to have originally sprung from the Latin transtrum, generally applied to cross-beams or bars installed for sectional support, such as the horizontal members commonly featured above modern doorways or below windows. However, for 19th-Century artillerists, it was also a specialized term for the thick wooden cross-members bolted in to help strengthen barbette-carriages, mortar beds, wagons, etc.
noun: name for any additional protective work erected crossways within a fort, trench, or other defensive position, so as to prevent enfilade-fire from raking its exposed side or length out of an unexpected angle. Usually, traverses were extemporized out of sandbags or other temporary materials, as the need arose. For example, when a hidden battery of four Confederate guns was suddenly unmasked on Sullivan’s Island on the morning of April 8, 1861, the Federal engineer within threatened Fort Sumter — Capt. John G. Foster — noted in his journal that it was “a matter of importance to provide traverses to intercept the fire” from these newly-revealed weapons, which might otherwise “enfilade the terre-pleins” and so he:
...commenced to prepare (for want of sand bags) a large double curb of boards and scantling, to be elevated upon the top of the parapet at the right shoulder angle, and being filled with earth hoisted from the parade, to serve for a traverse to protect this flank.
In some cases, permanent additional structures were incorporated into the inner defenses, such as the thick brick-wall in front of Fort Moultrie’s main Magazine — its Traverse, which still looms immovably today — and was added ca. 1820 as an extra protective measure against any chance shells that might whistle in over its southern ramparts, and strike the vital powder-room behind. See also crib traverse and enfilade
verb: to swivel or rotate an artillery-piece horizontally, so as to aim it at a moving target, or to shift fire from one target over onto another
a semi-circular metal track, usually embedded into the ground at a carefully-measured distance from a heavy gun’s pintle, on which the wheels of its barbette-chassis could then be rolled to left or right so as to shift its aim
name given to the solid base, usually made of bricks or concrete, which firmly anchored an artillery-piece’s pintle into the ground, close to its protective parapet. The gun-carriage in turn rested directly over top of this platform, while seated atop its barbette-chassis, which then extended back from the pintle and could be rotated in an arc from its rear end. See also pintle and platform
a specialized artillery term, defined by the 1861 Ordnance Manual as the difference between the “true diameter” of a gun’s bore, and that of the round being fired down it; see windage
in military usage, an artillery term believed to have derived from the medieval French word trognon or “stump,” referring to the two cylindrical protrusions on either side of a cannon-barrel, which allow it to be rested evenly and swiveled up and down atop a gun-carriage, thereby controlling its elevation and range. Such a matched pair of projections had to be finely calculated in the casting of 19th-Century weapons, so as to produce a piece which was sufficiently well-balanced in weight around its center of gravity, as to permit its muzzle to be easily cranked up and down from this central pivot-point. Typically, the diameter of a trunnion was equal to that of the gun’s bore; for a visual example, view the video under nomenclature
name given to the leather bag containing several friction tubes, as well as the lanyard “wound in St. Andrew`s cross upon its handle,” all of which were necessary to actually discharge a cannon’s loaded powder-cartridge. Normal practice in mid-19th Century U.S. Artillery drill was to leave this pouch, along with the gunner’s pouch, suspended from the knob of a gun’s cascabel, ready for instant use whenever the piece was manned and rounds were actually ordered to be shotted; for an example of such live-fire practices, read the “Gun-Crew & Equipment” description on our 24-pounders page
the U.S. Army’s 1861 Ordnance Manual recommended several different methods for clearing a gun, depending upon how it had originally been incapacitated. If its vent contained a hammered spike that was “not screwed in or clinched,” this intrusive object might be simply blown back out by inserting into the piece’s bore:
... a charge of powder of 1/3 the weight of the shot, and ram junk wads over it with a handspike, laying on the bottom of the bore a strip of wood with a groove on the underside containing a strand of quick-match ...
then igniting this charge in hopes of blasting the spike loose. If several such attempts should fail, though, the plugged vent would have to be more laboriously drilled out, and a new one drilled in its place.
A shot wedged into the bore could sometimes be removed by unscrewing the vent-piece, then using a wedge or small powder-charge to loosen this obstruction from inside the tube; or as a last resort, a hole could be bored through the thick bottom of the gun’s rear-breech itself, so that an iron rod might be inserted and hammered to pound the shot loose, after which this hole could be closed up with a repair-screw. And under desperate circumstances, a spiked gun could even be fired, although by the perilous method of inserting:
... one end of a piece of quick-match in the cartridge, allowing the other to project out of the muzzle of the gun. Apply the fire to the quick-match, and get out of the way.
in military architecture, an arched work made of masonry so as to form a strong roof over top of a fort’s casemates, galleries, or other enclosed spaces and passageways. Among the types of vaults which are generally recognized as constituting this category are barrel, parabolic, and groined vaults, depending upon their shape. Moultrie featured no casemates in its original design, having been laid down as a single-tiered fort with guns mounted en barbette, but its Guardhouse and two postern-tunnels were all constructed as barrel vaults, with groined vaults at both ends so as to allow their heavy wooden doors to swing open and shut
velocity of sound
method employed by some 19th-Century officers for estimating distances, based upon the time taken for a sighting to be followed by its report. For example, when a spurt of gunsmoke was seen in the distance, its range could be roughly calculated by counting the number of seconds until its blast could also be heard, according to the assumption that sound travelled at 1,090 feet per second at 32° Fahrenheit. The 1864 Military Dictionary even went on to add: “For any higher temperature, add 1 foot for every degree of the thermometer above 32°.”
singular: name for the small opening (about one-fifth of an inch in diameter) atop the rear of a cannon-barrel, through which a gunner could pierce a loaded powder-cartridge, insert a friction-fuse, and then ignite the charge by pulling a lanyard so as to actually fire the weapon. Repeated discharges (500 or more) would eventually widen the vent-hole, to the point where it had to be replaced — such wear occurring about twice as fast in rifled guns, as in smoothbores
name for a metal plate or bowl, routinely fastened — whenever a gun was not in regular use — over the small firing-hole or vent atop the butt-end of its barrel, so as to prevent moisture or grit from fouling this vital aperture; see also apron
plural: in military architecture, the designation for a flue or any other type of vertical opening from an enclosed casemate gun-position, intended to allow gun-smoke to escape from this confined area whenever rounds were being repeatedly discharged; see also casemate
technical expression used by artillery officers, to describe a high arching-flight or “lofty curve through the air” attained by their projectiles when discharged at a high angle of elevation; in the words of the 1864 Military Dictionary, “such is the fire from mortars”
the 1851 Instruction for Heavy Artillery manual stated that the use of wads in shotting a gun was “not generally necessary, except when firing at angles of depression; and then only one is used, and that on the ball.” Normally, a wad would be formed by looping a length of coarse hay-rope into a ring measuring “the full diameter of the bore”, and then tied together crosswise “with two pieces of strong twine” at right angles so as to hold its shape. In the event that a cannon had been fired so often that a problematical lodgment was being worn into its bore, it was recommended using “wads differing in length, according to the position and extent of the lodgment, between the shot and the cartridge.” The wads themselves could:
... be made by twisting hay into a rope of about one inch in diameter, folding it together of any desired length, and then winding the folds from one end to the other, leaving the wad a little longer than the bore.
Whenever firing heated rounds, wads had to first be soaked in a tub of water for at least ten or fifteen minutes, then any excess water squeezed out before inserting one into the bore; clay wads were also sometimes employed, and customized rope-yarn for making wads was also manufactured during the Civil War. See lodgment
originally, the short-lived name for a five-gun emplacement extemporized on orders from the South Carolinian authorities during their initial peacetime mobilization early in 1861, by having an epaulement dug out on the seashore east of the Curlew Ground and north of Drunken Dick Shoal on Sullivan’s Island, so as to deny passage for any Federal vessels which might attempt to enter Charleston Harbor via Maffitt’s Channel. This new redoubt was armed with five barbette-mounted 32-pounder guns withdrawn from occupied Fort Moultrie, and manned as of late January 1861 by volunteers from Capt. George H. Walter’s Washington Artillery militia company — who spontaneously named this position the “Walter Battery” in honor of their commander. A few weeks afterward, the correspondent William Waud would visit its gunners and sketch the battery for publication in the February 23, 1861 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.
This very same day (February 23, 1861), the Vigilant Rifles militia company of Capt. Samuel Y. Tupper relieved Captain Walter’s artillerymen, so that the position once again became more commonly known as the Five-Gun Battery. And a few months after the Civil War erupted in April 1861, the Washington Artillery was split into two separate contingents: one comprised of individuals who were willing to serve outside of their native-state, and so campaigned in Virginia as “Hart’s Battery” in Hampton’s Legion, while the other contingent remained behind to serve in South Carolina as “Walter’s Battery.”
according to U.S. Army regulations, every company was allowed a maximum of four washerwomen, who received the same daily ration as enlisted soldiers
a long-established militia company in antebellum Charleston, commanded in late 1860 by Capt. George H. Walter. It was one of four units (along with the Lafayette, German, and Marion Artillery Companies) totaling 170 men, which were led aboard the steamer General Clinch by Lt.-Col. Wilmot G. DeSaussure and departed Charleston at 7:00 p.m. on December 27, 1860, to occupy abandoned Fort Moultrie. Shortly thereafter, Harper’s Weekly would publish a woodcut representing the uniforms of the Washington Artillery, describing it as “the largest and most efficient corps in this branch of the service among the citizen-soldiers of Charleston, having a roll of one hundred and fifty active members.”
After the subsequent bombardment of Fort Sumter and eruption of Civil War hostilities in mid-April 1861, the Washington Artillery split off a detachment known as “Hart’s Light Battery” in June 1861, comprised of men willing to serve outside South Carolina, who would go on to fight for the Confederacy in Virginia as part of Wade Hampton’s Legion. The main segment of the Washington Artillery, henceforth known as “Walter’s Light Battery,” remained on duty around Charleston, being stationed on Bull's Island from July 18 to August 6, 1861, then reorganized and transferred into Confederate service as of February 1862. This unit was variously assigned to Adams Run and Johns Island, until Charleston was finally evacuated in February 1865, and Walter’s Battery joined the surviving Confederate forces in North Carolina, just prior to the capitulation
Washington Light Infantry
name of a militia company first organized at Charleston during the summer of 1807, amid heightened fears of war against Great Britain following the Leopard-Chesapeake incident off the Virginia coast. The company duly served in South Carolina throughout the ensuing War of 1812, without seeing any action, and also sailed to help protect St. Augustine in 1836 after the outbreak of the Second Seminole War. In 1842, the Washington Light Infantry were instrumental in helping to establish the South Carolina Military Academy, today known as the Citadel; and a few years afterward, a W.L.I. company formed part of the Palmetto Regiment which penetrated as far as Mexico City under Gen. Winfield Scott.
Immediately following South Carolina’s secession and the consequent abandonment of Fort Moultrie by Maj. Robert Anderson’s outnumbered Federal garrison on the evening of December 26, 1860, Gov. Francis W. Pickens summoned the volunteers into service. That very next afternoon, Col. James Johnston Pettigrew and Maj. Ellison Capers departed Charleston’s waterfront with the Washington Light Infantry and Meagher Guards aboard the small harbor-steamer Nina, to occupy the empty U.S. outpost at Castle Pinckney. They arrived there by 4:00 p.m. and finding its gates locked, used scaling-ladders to gain entry and signaled their success back into Charleston by hoisting a red flag emblazoned with a single white star, borrowed from the steamer captain. Over the subsequent course of the Civil War, three companies of Washington Light Infantrymen were to be raised — a total of 414 men, of whom 114 are recorded to have died during those four years
legally, the rank of a newly-created officer who had not yet received his official commission into the 19th-Century U.S. Army, and thus exercised authority only through a written warrant. All West Point graduates were considered to be “warrant officers” upon first joining their regiments; however, it was accepted that even with this temporary status, they could not be subjected “to corporeal punishment or reduction to the ranks.” See commissioned officer
general designation used by artillery officers and military engineers, for a fixed gun-emplacement installed along the edge of a seashore or river-bank, so as to command the adjacent body of water. The term was sometimes employed rather loosely; for example, the original layout of Fort Moultrie in 1809 included a separate “water battery with emplacements for seven guns” along the southern rim of its defensive ditch, although this detached subsidiary fortification was soon filled in by encroaching sand-dunes. Subsequently, Moultrie itself would be referred to on occasion as a “water battery”: the Charleston Mercury newspaper describing it in a December 1860 editorial as “an inclosed [sic] water battery,” while its resident U.S. Army medical officer, Capt. S. Wylie Crawford, would remember it as “a low water battery built of brick” in his memoir, Genesis of the Civil War.
a wide, deep trench dug around a fortified position to impede infantry assaults, which when its bottom was allowed to fill in with groundwater — even partially — provided a still-greater impediment for any attacking force; see ditch
old English name for a small door cut into a fort’s main wooden gate, so as to allow access for individuals once it had been closed, without having to unbar and swing open the heavy gate itself.
Moultrie featured such a low-seated hatch in one of its outer doors, as a soldier named James Chester would years later recall how a lone man had been left standing guard outside the evacuated fort’s closed entry at midday on December 27, 1860, when about 1:00 p.m. the “little wicket opened, the sergeant’s face appeared and called the sentinel,” who thereupon withdrew inside and “the wicket was reclosed” so that these last few members of its garrison could make good their escape
for 19th-Century artillerists, “the difference between the true diameters of the bore and the ball” being fired down its barrel, factors which could affect the discharged round’s range, force of impact, etc.; the tighter the fit, the more of a charge’s explosive gases would be caught by the projectile, increasing its range and power. Also known as true windage
a cloth, usually a square-yard of tow, issued to mortar crews for reaching down into their piece and cleaning its bore and chamber before loading a round, as well as wiping smooth the actual shell as it was about to be inserted
Col. Henry L. Scott’s 1864 Military Dictionary offered the following succinct description, of the most useful timbers to be found in the United States:
- ... the hickory, which is very tough and inflexible;
- white oak, tough and pliable;
- white ash, tough and elastic;
- black walnut, hard and fine-grained;
- white poplar, soft, light fine-grained wood;
- white pine and other pines, for building;
- cypress, soft, light, straight-grained, and grows to a large size;
- dogwood, hard and fine-grained.
- The timber growing in the center of a forest is best.
special iron implement shaped like a corkscrew, ending with a sharp curled point, which was riveted to a ten-foot wooden staff, to be rotated slowly down a gun’s bore during maintenance work so as to scrape away any encrustations or adhesions. The standard inventory for a fort such as Moultrie, would include one worm for every six of its artillery-pieces
greatly-feared disease for 19th-Century America, before it was learned that it is actually caused by a minute virus carried in the saliva of Aedes aegypti (stegomya) mosquitoes, which infect humans while puncturing their skin to drink tiny quantities of blood. The virus remains dormant for an incubation period of three to six days, then begins to multiply and move through the body’s lymphatic system into major organs. Initial symptoms include fever, backache, headache, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
If a person is healthy and properly attended, most will experience an improvement in their condition after three to four days, and make a full recovery. However, some patients suffer a recurrence of the fever, at which point their skin turns yellow with jaundice — hence the name of this dread disease. Bleeding can thereupon ensue from the mouth, nose, or eyes, as well as vomit darkened with blood; many patients who reach this phase die within ten to fourteen days, yet survivors emerge with an immunity to re-infection, and if no fresh blood-source is provided to the carrier-insects, the outbreak will dissipate locally.
Warm-climate seaports such as Charleston have historically experienced many outbreaks, because of repeated disembarkations of fresh pools of non-immunized individuals, providing local mosquitoes with hosts for a new strain of the virus. For example, two months after Companies E and H of the 1st U.S. Artillery reached Fort Moultrie from Florida in mid-June 1858, the first case of yellow fever struck, eventually felling 49 soldiers and claiming the lives of 28; see “June 6, 1858” and ensuing entries under General Timeline
a weather-resistant and relatively-inexpensive admixture for painting brick exteriors during the 19th-Century, made by dissolving one pound of “pulverized copperas” in eight gallons of water, stirring occasionally over the next 24 hours and then using this solution:
... for slaking the lime, and thinning it to the consistency of ordinary whitewash; add hydraulic cement equal in quantity to the lime used, and of clean sand ½ gallon to 15 gallons of wash. Stir it frequently to prevent the sand from settling.
When applied to brick walls, such yellow-wash was “known to last for fifteen years without requiring renewal.” Moultrie’s buildings and ramparts had first been yellow-washed as early as November 1828, and this distinctive coloring was sporadically renewed and maintained until the fort was mostly buried under a protective layer of sand during the early 1860s
originally the name for Berber tribesmen from Algeria in North Africa, who had proven such brave and daring auxiliaries to the French during the colonial wars of the 1830s, that an entire regiment was raised by the French Army, uniformed in their traditional garb of bright baggy trousers, short jacket, and fez. After their distinguished performance during the Crimean War, similar elite units began to be created by other nations as well, such as in Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, even the Papal States.
Yet no country embraced the “Zouave craze” as fully as the United States. Before and during the Civil War, more than 50 such all-volunteer regiments were formed, mostly in the Union states of the Northeast, although South Carolina also raised its own youthful company; see the Charleston Zouave Cadets
designation for any smooth-bore cannon designed to fire a solid iron round-shot weighing 24 pounds; by the mid-19th Century, such standard U.S. Artillery pieces typically featured a barrel measuring 10 feet, four inches in length, with a bore 5.82 inches in diameter, and weighing almost 5,800 pounds. Moultrie had sixteen such older pieces lining its parapets, mostly along its secondary fronts; for a more extensive description of the placement and operation of its 24-pounders, click here
smooth-bore cannon designed to fire solid iron round-shots weighing 32 pounds, with a barrel measuring 10 feet, 5.2 inches in length; a bore 6.4 inches in diameter; and weighing 7,200 pounds. Moultrie had fourteen such weapons among its inventory, mostly along its Main Channel Battery; for a more complete description of their design and operation, click here