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Altanta Siege Artillery report

Discussion in 'The South & Western Theaters' started by trice, Sep 14, 2009.

  1. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    Elennsar,

    This is the report of the guy running the heavy siege artillery for George Thomas at Atlanta.
    =====
    HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH INDIANA BATTERY,
    Atlanta, September 14, 1864.

    I have the honor to submit to you the report of the part taken by Eleventh Indiana Battery in the operations of the past campaign.

    The battery consisted of four 20-pounder Parrott guns, two 24-pounder howitzers, and was designed to serve as a heavy field or also siege battery, under the special command of the chief of artillery, Department of the Cumberland. May 10, the battery left Chattanooga, Tenn. On arriving at Tunnel Hill I received orders to report to Major-General Howard for temporary duty, and was stationed by him on the crest of the hill with orders to shell the enemy on Rocky Face and the works in the defile. To accomplish the latter object, I was obliged to post one section of 20-pounders opposite the pass, where the guns did good execution. The firing ended on the morning of May 13. May 15, marched to Dalton and Resaca. Received orders to march in future with Reserve Brigade, headquarters Department of the Cumberland; also to draw forage and rations there. May 19, fired a few rounds near Kingston on the retreating columns of the rebels. May 27, came into position near New Hope Church. After the first day's engagement I received instructions to take a new position with the 20-pounders at a right angle with the one occupied first, in order to effectually silence the rebel batteries and to keep the valley in our control. Here we remained till June 4, when we were relieved by a 20-pounder battery of the Tennessee army. June 22, went into position before Kenesaw Mountain, feeling the batteries on the top of the mountain. No answer was received, although intrenchments could be seen. June 26, into position in front of the Fourth Army Corps (General Wagner's brigade), in order to strengthen the line and to enfilade the rebel works on our right. July 2, left this position. Marched through Marietta July 3. July 9, firing from Signal Hill, near Chattahoochee River, which I was obliged to discontinue, on account of some most miserable Parrott ammunition, for fear of injuring our own troops. July 11, ordered into position to the immediate right of railroad bridge on the river opposite three different works of the enemy. The practice here was very good, and the rebels were completely held in check by the accuracy of our fire. On the 22d of July we left this position, crossed the bridge, and arrived before Atlanta. July 23, into position before Atlanta, covering the Marietta road with the two 24-pounder howitzers, and posting the four 20-pounders immediately on their right, ready to engage the forts in front (three in number) or to shell the city. After a few rounds at the forts the bombardment of the city was ordered to commence. The regular standing order was for one shot every five minutes, and at this rate the fire was kept day and night for several days. Soon orders came for more rapid firing, often as rapid as three shots every five minutes. The fire was directed mostly toward the center of the town and the railroad shops. Several times we were obliged to engage the forts in front and on our right, the former being armed with 20-pounder guns, the latter with 12-pounders and one 64-pounder rifled gun. On the 9th day of August I received three 4 1/2-inch siege guns and had a position pointed out for them by the chief of artillery, Department of the Cumberland. On the evening of the 10th they opened fire on the city and kept it up day and night at the same rate as the 20-pounders. The ammunition for these guns was excellent and did splendid execution (Schenkl's patent).

    The firing of August 10, 11, and 12 was very severe, and on the evening of the 12th two 20-pounder Parrott guns became unserviceable, having the muzzles blown off. The remaining two fired very slowly from this time, merely when necessary to silence the forts in front. Soon, however, the constant firing told also on the 4½-inch guns, for after 400 rounds the vents showed slight signs of enlargement. After 800 rounds the size of the vents increased fearfully, causing a perceptible loss of power in the projectiles. After ten days' firing two 4 1/2-inch guns had become unserviceable, while the third, having been used somewhat less, continued firing till the new guns arrived. On the 20th of August the four new 20-pounder Parrotts arrived, and were put in position, two at the Marietta road, two with the 4 1/2-inch battery (situated some one mile and a half to left of Marietta road, in front of Colonel Ireland's brigade). August 22, we received three new 4 1/2-inch guns, which were all put in position near the Marietta road, the 20-pounders being sent to the other position. With good effect the fire was again kept up till the morning of August 25, causing fires in town every night. August 24, I was ordered to turn my battery of 20-pounders over to Battery K, Fifth U. S. Artillery; also to send my transportation, &c., back to the river, all of which was completed by noon of August 25. The howitzer section was ordered to march with the brigade in the movement that now commenced. September 2, marched through Jonesborough. September 4, ordered to return to Atlanta. Went into camp September 5.

    To the men, their faithful working, their endurance, willingness to work day and night (serving seven guns constantly), great praise is due.

    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    A. SUTERMEISTER,
    Eleventh Indiana Battery.
    Brig. Gen. J. M. BRANNAN,
    Chief of Artillery, Department of the Cumberland.
    =====

    Tim
     

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  3. Elennsar

    Elennsar Colonel

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    Very interesting.

    Not enough occasions of siege artillery in action in the Civil War for me to compare...but as an impression from what I do know, this guy is doing all that can be asked.

    And the issue of the guns not withstanding this much use is a real problem, it sounds like.
     
  4. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011 Honored Fallen Comrade

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    Tim, you 'hit a nerve' here, so to speak:

    The third ancestor, nineteen-year-old Private Whitfield Monroe Parker, was a Confederate from southwestern Virginia. Whit joined the 63rd Virginia Infantry in December 1863 at Dalton, Georgia and afterward fought with his regiment during the Atlanta campaign under Gen. Joseph Johnston. In the fall of 1864 Whit was traveling by wagon with Hood’s Army of Tennessee since having been released from Ocmulgee Hospital in Macon, Georgia. He had received treatment on August 11, 1864 for wounds brought by an exploding shell in defense of Atlanta on August 9.
     
  5. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    Hard to think of what it was like for the men and civilians caught in such places: Vicksburg, Petersburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta, etc. Not much you can do when defending in a siege, and a lot of that comes down to sitting there and taking it.

    Tim
     
  6. Elennsar

    Elennsar Colonel

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    Sieges have a long tradition of being unpleasant things for just that reason.

    You can do everything in your power to be chivalrous, and they're still ugly.

    War in general is ugly, but at least in open battle you can fight back. A siege...there's not really a lot you can do about a 4.5" siege rifle's projectiles without having equivalant artillery to shoot back.

    Out of curiosity, were the 11th Indiana raised as heavy artillery, or were they just picked as a good battery to man the big ones?
     
  7. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    That would be the 11th Independent Battery Indiana Light Artillery. They (or at least their officer) were given the 4.5" rifled guns when they were brought forward from Chattanooga. I don't know why, but my guess is that Sutermeister was good at his craft. He is listed on the unit roster with an occupation of teacher.

    Tim
     

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