Showing posts with label Mortars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mortars. Show all posts

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Diary of 5th Sergeant Osborn H. Oldroyd: Sunday, June 14, 1863

No bells to ring us to church. I wish we had one day in seven for rest and freedom from care; but there is no such thing now for the soldier. It is shoot, shoot, dodge, dodge, from morning to night, without cessation, except when we are asleep. When the time comes, we can lie down and sleep soundly all night, right under our cannon, firing over us all the time, without disturbing us in the least. But let the long roll be sounded—every man is up at the first tap-for that sound we know means business for us. 

Occasionally the rebs plant a mortar in some out of the way spot and drop a shell or two into our midst; but a few well directed shots from our big guns at the rear soon settle them. These rebels obey very well. 

We have several large siege guns, lately planted in the rear of our division, which it took ten yoke of oxen to haul, one at a time, to their places. I had been told that the balls from these guns could be seen on their journey, and could not believe it until I put myself in range of the monsters, just behind them, when I found I could see the balls distinctly, as they flew across the hills towards Vicksburg. These guns are nine-inch calibre and they are about twelve feet long. They are monsters, and their voices are very loud. 

Sunday is general inspection day, and the officers passed through our quarters at 10 A. M., finding our guns and accoutrements bright and clean. If any young lady at the North needs a good housekeeper, she can easily be accommodated by making a requisition on the 20th Ohio. In fact we can all do patchwork, sew on buttons, make beds and sweep; but I do not think many of us will follow the business after the war is done, for the “relief” always so anxiously looked for by the soldiers must then come. 

I heard one of our boys—a high private in the rear rank-lament that he was 

“Only a private, and who will care 
When I shall pass away?” 

Poor lad, he was in a sad way! But it was mere homesickness that ailed him. If dissatisfied with his position as a private, let him wait, for if he survives the war, he will, no doubt, have a chance to be captain of an infantry company. 

SOURCE: Osborn Hamiline Oldroyd, A Soldier's Story of the Siege of Vicksburg, p. 53-4

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Diary of 5th Sergeant Osborn H. Oldroyd: May 22, 1863

Mortar from the river in front. “During the siege
of Vicksburg, sixteen thousand shells were thrown
from the mortar gunboats, and naval batteries
into the city."Hamersly. 
Last night mortar-shells, fired from the boats on the river in front of the city across Point Louisiana, fell thick over all parts of Vicksburg, and at three o'clock this morning every cannon along our line belched its shot at the enemy. Nothing could be heard at the time but the thundering of great guns—one hundred cannons sent crashing into the town —parrot, shrapnell, cannister, grape and solid shot—until it seemed impossible that anything could withstand such a fearful hailstorm. It was indeed a terrible spectacle—awfully grand.

At ten o'clock we had orders to advance. The boys were expecting the order and were busy divesting themselves of watches, rings, pictures and other keepsakes, which were being placed in the custody of the cooks, who were not expected to go into action. I never saw such a scene before, nor do I ever want to see it again. The instructions left with the keepsakes were varied. For instance, “This watch I want you to send to my father if I never return”—“I am going to Vicksburg, and if I do not get back just send these little trifles home, will you?”—proper addresses for the sending of the articles being left with them. Not a bit of sadness or fear appears in the talk or faces of the boys, but they thought it timely and proper to dispose of what they had accordingly. This was done while we awaited orders, which (it last came in earnest, and in obedience to them we moved up and took our place in the rifle pits within a hundred yards of Fort Hill, where we had orders to keep a diligent watch, and to tire at the first head that dared to show itself. The air was so thick with the smoke of cannon that we could hardly see a hundred yards before us. The line to our right and left was completely hidden from view except as revealed by the flash of guns, and the occasional bursting of shells through the dense clouds. About eleven o'clock came a signal for the entire line to charge upon the works of the enemy. Our boys were all ready, and in an instant leaped forward to find victory or defeat. The seventh Missouri took the lead with ladders which they placed against the fort, and then gave way for others to scale them. Those who climbed to the top of the fort met cold steel, and, when at length it was found impossible to enter the fort that way, the command was given to fall back, which was done under a perfect hail of lead from the enemy. The rebels, in their excitement and haste to fire at our retreating force, thrust their heads a little too high above their cover,—an advantage we were quick to seize with well aimed volleys. In this charge a severe loss was met by our division, and nothing gained. What success was met by the rest of the line I can not say, but I hope it was better than ours. Thus ended another day of bloody fight in vain, except for an increase of the knowledge which has been steadily growing lately, that a regular siege will be required to take Vicksburg. This day will be eventful on the page of history, for its duties have been severe, and many a brave patriot bit the dust under the storm of deadly fire that assailed us.

SOURCE: Osborn Hamiline Oldroyd, A Soldier's Story of the Siege of Vicksburg, p. 31-2

Sunday, June 18, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: March 18, 1862

Near Point Pleasant, Mo., March 18, '62.

You see we are creeping along down the river surely if the motions are a little slow. This is about 12 miles below Madrid and said to be 75 or 80 below Cairo. It is said that the Rebels have between a dozen and 20 steamboats above here, and I think the object in occupying this point and planting artillery here is to make the assurances we have of catching them, doubly sure, for the river is considerably less in width here than where our guns are at and near Madrid. We received orders to march about sunset last night and started at tattoo. 'Twas a beautiful ride. The road lay for nearly the whole distance right along the river bank. 'Twas warm enough without overcoat or gloves and Commander Foote added to the interest of the ride by his sleep-disturbing music up at Island 10. The river makes a horseshoe bend here and Island 10 lays almost directly east of here across the peninsula. The neck is very flat, and we could plainly see the flash of every gun and see the bombs burst in the air when more than 20 or 30 yards from the ground. The roar of the 13 and 16-inch mortars is truly terrific. There was no difficulty in distinguishing their reports from the cannons. The evidences of an earthquake having performed in this country are visible when pointed out. The natives will show you a swamp and say that was once inhabitable, and then they'll point out sand ridge about four feet nearer heaven (the surface of course)! and say that was a swamp. Well, we arrived here: at 2 o'clock last night and moved nearly two miles back from the river to be out of range of a battery the enemy have planted on the opposite shore. This two miles, after deducting about 300 yards where the road runs through the little town, was a swamp of mud and water to the horses' bellies. I noticed our flag flying On the river bank over an inverted Rebel rag. The flag staff was in front of a store that had received three cannon shots from the Rebels in their efforts to cut down our flag. Nearly every house in town has had one or more doses of heavy iron and several have been burned by shells: General Palmer is five miles below here with his brigade, He was lucky enough yesterday to disable two Rebel gunboats out of three that attacked him. I am very anxious to get out of this country and into Tennessee if possible, or if we have to stay on this side, enough below the swamps to make it a little more pleasant. That ride of last night was delicious. The order was to march without any unnecessary noise, and after 10:30 (it was 2 when we got here), the boys were all perfectly quiet, many of them asleep, and I believe I enjoyed myself better than I ever did before m my life Can’t begin to tell you precisely why, except there might have been some air-castle building, but 'twas very pleasant. I hear to-night that Island 10 was evacuated last night. Think maybe Foote has his hands full up there, and doubt the evacuation idea some. Gracious how it rained last night, commenced  just after we got here, with some awful heavy thunder and don't know how long it lasted. 'Twas raining to kill when I went to sleep. We had no tents with us and every fellow provided for himself. I Went to bed with a lot of bacon and a barrel under a tent fly and slept a la log. To-day it has been real warm. Shirt sleeves and shade were in requisition. Well I’ll write you a little every day until I can send letters.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 69-71

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant John S. Morgan: Thursday, April 6, 1865

The Rebs in front of us fired but little during the night, they shelled our working party at the 6 gun battery close by us from the mortar battery. In the Afternoon, I worked the men some. The Rebs were quieter than usual all day, our batteries give them a few rounds in the evening. After dark the mortar battery of the Rebs opens on our working party again. Several bombs are thrown at it by our mortar batteries. Some think by the signs of the times that the Jonnies are silently leaving the place, the news from Grant Sherman & Thomas is good, in honor of which successes by order of Genl Canby a salute of 100 guns is fired by the Gunboats & the land batteries. I am told by those who had an opportunity to know, that during the cannonading the evening of the 4th something blew up in Spanish fort throwing 5 men 10 or 15 ft above the work. Men on picket that night say they said 16 men carried out of the same fort & buried. The battery men say the cannonading killed & wounded 100 rebels. I don't know how they get their information. I am relieved at 8. P. M. by co "C" & march the co to camp, find supper ready. Temp & I put up our tent gather bedding and retire at 11. P. M. at which hour shells are flying freely on the right & centre.

SOURCE: “Diary of John S. Morgan, Company G, 33rd Iowa Infantry,” Annals of Iowa, 3rd Series, Vol. 13, No. 8, April 1923, p. 584-5

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant John S. Morgan: Tuesday, March 28, 1865

Working parties return at daylight at which time the ball opens again The Enemy were reinforcing last night from Mobile, a little bolder & give us a shell occasionally & quite a no of minnie balls fly over our heads, one of the 35th Iowa is killed in camp near us while packing his Knapsacks At 9.30 Cos. "G" & "B" ordered out as sharpshooters & skirmishers had to advance 100 yds through fallen timber exposed to the fire of the enemy, while advancing, Martin Walraven was wounded in the right fore arm. gain our position within 100 yds of the Fort & throw up earth works to protect us, were relieved at 3.30 by co K, in coming away John Mety, is wounded in the left shoulder & Jo. Dungan in the back passing into the thigh, K Co is to stay until morning. Our Gunboats get up close enough to lift a few shells into the main fort this P. M. When this is seen the boys raise a shout for we all depend a great deal on the Monitors. All the Regts build earthworks from 6 to 10 ft. high to camp behind, 1 man of the 50th Ind Killed by a shell while in camp some guns in our camp broken by a shell. The 1st Ind heavy artillery is reported to have arrived at the landing with 72. Mortors & heavy Parrot guns. It is rumored that our gunboats sunk one & disabled one transport for the enemy. 4 rockets sent up from the fort & it is rumored that the Infty is being transported to Mobile.

SOURCE: “Diary of John S. Morgan, Company G, 33rd Iowa Infantry,” Annals of Iowa, 3rd Series, Vol. 13, No. 8, April 1923, p. 581

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Diary of Sergeant George G. Smith: June 8, 1863

Guns all in position — one 10-inch mortar, three 8-inch mortars, one a 32 pound Parrot rifle, and two brass field pieces. These guns occupied about half a mile in the line. Other guns were interspersed along the line, but of these I know but little. The mortar firing was grand in the extreme, notably the 10-inch one. The gun is fixed permanently with an elevation of 45 degrees. The shell is seen as soon as it leaves the gun on account of the burning fuze. It mounts, and mounts, until it seems to be among the stars, it then ranges along like a meteor until it begins to describe the other half of the parabola. It then descends to the ground, burying itself many feet in the earth and explodes with a deep muffled roar, sending dirt and stones many feet in the air.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 68

Monday, October 31, 2016

Diary of Sergeant George G. Smith: June 1, 1863

First Louisiana relieved by the 8th Vermont Infantry. After dark it fell back to the rear about half a mile, into a ravine. The rebels shelled us tremendously all night, but did us no harm. Our business here proved to be to protect a mortar battery that was to be planted on high ground in front of us. Guard duty coming only once a week, eating and sleeping turned out to be our chief occupation. The trees in that camp were mostly large Magnolias, and being in full bloom at this time of year, the air was loaded with their fragrance.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 67

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lieutenant-Colonel Theodore Lyman to Elizabeth Russell Lyman, May 31, 1864

May 31, 1864

Last night, what with writing to you and working over some maps of my own, I got to bed very late, and was up tolerably early this morning, so to-day I have passed a good deal of time on my back fast asleep; for the General has not ridden out and has sent out very few officers. As I implied, to-day has been an occasion of Sybarite luxury. What do you think we mustered for dinner? Why, green peas, salad, potatoes, and fresh milk for the coffee! Am I not a good forager? Yes, and iced water! The woman (a fearful Secesh) asked two dollars for half a bushel of ice; upon which I, in a rage, sent a sergeant and told him to pay only a reasonable price and to take what we needed. But, in future, I will not pay for ice; it costs these Rebels nothing, and they can't eat it. For food I will always pay the scoundrels. They have usually plenty of ice for the hospitals, and the bands are kept there to play for the wounded, which pleases them. The Sanitary are doing, I believe, a great deal of good at the rear, between this and Washington. There is room for any such people to do good, when there are such multitudes of wounded. I was amused to read a letter from one of the Sanitaries at Fredericksburg, who, after describing his good works, said that, for eight days, his ears were “bruised by the sound of cannon.” To me, Fredericksburg and Montreal seem about equally far away!

The armies lay still, but there was unusually heavy fighting on the skirmish line the whole time; indeed there was quite an action, when Birney, Barlow, and Wright advanced and took the front line of the enemy. We used, too, a good deal of artillery, so that there was the noise of battle from morning to night. We took in some cohorn mortars, as they are called. These are light, small mortars, that may be carried by two or three men, and are fired with a light charge of powder. They throw a 24-lb. shell a maximum distance of about 1000 yards. As these shells go up in the air and then come down almost straight, they are very good against rifle-pits. General Gibbon says there has been a great mistake about the armies of Israel marching seven times round Jericho blowing on horns, thereby causing the walls to fall down. He says the marching round was a “flank movement,” and that the walls were then blown down with cohorns. Some of the heavy artillerists of the German regiment were first sent to fire these mortars; but it was found that they could give no definite account of where the projectiles went, the reason of which was that, every time they fired, the officer and his gunners tumbled down flat in great fear of Rebel sharpshooters!

"Baldy" Smith arrived, by steamer, at Whitehouse, from Bermuda Hundreds, with heavy reinforcements for this army. The Rebels, on their side, have been also bringing up everything — Breckinridge from the valley of the Shenandoah, Hoke from North Carolina, and everything from the South generally. . . . General Wilson's division of cavalry was sent out towards our rear and right, to cover that quarter and to continue the destruction of the railroads below Hanover Junction. General Sheridan, with the remaining cavalry, swung round our left flank and pressed down towards Shady Grove and Cool Arbor (this name is called Coal Harbor, Cold Harbor, and Cool Arbor, I can't find which is correct, but choose "Arbor" because it is prettiest, and because it is so hideously inappropriate). In vain I try to correct myself by the engineer maps; they all disagree. The topographical work of the engineers is rather uphill in this country. Before we opened the campaign the engineers prepared a series of large maps, carefully got up from every source that they could come upon, such as state, county, and town maps, also the information given by residents and refugees, etc., etc. In spite of all this the result has been almost ludicrous! Some places (e.g. Spotsylvania) are from one to two miles out of position, and the roads run everywhere except where laid down. I suppose the fact is that there was no material whatever wherewith to make a map on a scale so large as one inch to a mile. It is interesting to see now how the engineers work up the country, as they go along. Topographers are sent out as far as possible in the front and round the flanks. By taking the directions of different points, and by calculating distances by the pacing of their horses, and in other ways, they make little local maps, and these they bring in in the evening, and during the night they are compiled and thus a map of the neighborhood is made. If the next day is sunny, photographic copies are taken of this sketch and sent to the principal commanders, whose engineers add to, or correct it, if need be, and these corrections are put on a new sketch. Much information is gotten also by the engineers sent with the cavalry. . . .

SOURCE: George R. Agassiz, Editor, Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, p. 134-7

Friday, February 28, 2014

Major General George B. McClellan to Abraham Lincoln, April 20, 1862

 Head-Quarters, Army of the Potomac
Camp Winfield Scott, April 20 1862
His Excellency The  President

My dear Sir

I enclose herewith a copy of the first reliable map we have prepared of this vicinity – it will give you a good general idea of positions. In a day or two we will have one on a larger scale which will be more satisfactory to you.

I will soon send you one of the immediate front of Yorktown on which I will mark the batteries now being constructed & send such information as will enable you to put down the new works as they progress.

We are now actually at work, & nearly through, with 6 batteries for guns, have commenced a series for 10 13" mortars, & commence tomorrow morning another gun battery. As soon as these are armed we will open the first parallel & other batteries for 8" & 10" mortars & more heavy guns. Everything is going on admirably & we shall soon open with a terrific fire. I hope to hear hourly of the arrival of Franklin's Division, & shall lose no time in placing him in position. I hope the Galena will be here to assist us very soon. Gnl Robt Lee is in command in our front – Johnston is under him! I learn that there has been quite a struggle on the subject between Davis and his Congress, Davis insisting upon Johnston. I prefer Lee to Johnston – the former is too cautious and weak under given responsibility – personally brave and energetic to a fault, he yet is wanting in moral firmness when pressed by heavy responsibility & is likely to be timid & irresolute in action.

The difficulties of our position are undeniable, that is the enemy is in a very strong position – but I never expected to get to Richmond without a hard fought battle, & am just as willing to fight it here as elsewhere – I am confident of success, not only of success but of brilliant success. I think that a defeat here substantially breaks up the rebel cause.

They are making great efforts – enforcing the conscription with the utmost vigor, & now have their regiments full – whether the infusion of raw & perhaps unwilling men will benefit them remains to be seen – I doubt whether it is a disadvantage to us.

I am, sir, most respectfully
and sincerely your friend

Geo B McClellan