Artillery ammunition

MikeyB

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During the artillery duel preceding Pickett's Charge, Hancock wanted strong counter-battery fire, but had to be talked down by Hunt who wanted to conserve ammunition for the pending infantry advance. He also structured the guns to slowly reduce fire to try to deceive the Confederate into believing their barrage was destroying guns.

My question is - was long range artillery ammunition really that scarce at this point in the battle? Was there no reserves? Meade was expecting this attack, so one would think he would have started provisioning his center, including w/ long range ordinance.

So was ammunition really unavailable? Or was it just provisioned too far away to arrive in time, and Meade or Hunt or whoever overlooked moving it closer?
 

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redbob

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The Union's Artillery Supply Train had been used very little at this time and they had plenty of ammunition of all types left. It was Hunt's nature to be very conservative with his rounds and this led him afoul of Hancock who wanted heavy return fire for Hunt was looking long term and not just at just this particular moment. If you wish to get a better view of Hunt's nature and disposition, may I suggest The Man Behind the Guns by Edward G, Longacre. Hunt's most famous quote may be the one where he chastised a Union Lieutenant by telling him not to waste ammunition, that each round cost the Government $1.87.
 

MikeyB

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The Union's Artillery Supply Train had been used very little at this time and they had plenty of ammunition of all types left. It was Hunt's nature to be very conservative with his rounds and this led him afoul of Hancock who wanted heavy return fire for Hunt was looking long term and not just at just this particular moment. If you wish to get a better view of Hunt's nature and disposition, may I suggest The Man Behind the Guns by Edward G, Longacre. Hunt's most famous quote may be the one where he chastised a Union Lieutenant by telling him not to waste ammunition, that each round cost the Government $1.87.
Thanks for the post. Once the artillery bombardment started, was there time (and was it practical given the fire) to move long range ammunition from the supply train and refill the guns on Cemetery Ridge?

So, was Hancock actually right here, and there was very little danger of the guns running out of ammunition to use against the infantry advance, even if they went all out in counter-battery fire? Maybe Hunt was being a little too conservative?

Did Meade have anything to say about this at the time?
 

redbob

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Thanks for the post. Once the artillery bombardment started, was there time (and was it practical given the fire) to move long range ammunition from the supply train and refill the guns on Cemetery Ridge?

So, was Hancock actually right here, and there was very little danger of the guns running out of ammunition to use against the infantry advance, even if they went all out in counter-battery fire? Maybe Hunt was being a little too conservative?

Did Meade have anything to say about this at the time?
The artillery ammunition train wasn't far away and the Union had enough batteries that weren't committed that if ammunition ran low, fresh batteries with full chests could be summoned.
Hancock was acting like an infantry officer and not an artillery one. Hunt had a much better overall view of the situation than Hancock did.
Hunt was such a capable artillery officer that no one really ever questioned him and I believe that Meade knew that Hunt knew what he was doing.
Rule #1 of being a good commander: put capable officers in places where they belong and then let them do what you pay them for.
 

Tom Elmore

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Meade as well as Hunt, continually expressed concern during the battle about the waste of ammunition, whether by his infantry or artillery. The initial reason with regard to the artillery was a spot shortage, which Hunt described: Early on 2 July, Meade informed me that one army corps had left its whole artillery ammunition train behind it, and that others were also deficient, notwithstanding his orders on that subject. He was very much disturbed there would not be sufficient ammunition to carry us through the battle. I had on my own responsibility formed a special ammunition column attached to the Artillery Reserve carrying 20 rounds per gun, over and above the authorized amount. (Hunt, Battles and Leaders)

The situation was considerably alleviated by the morning of July 3: Lt. Gillett, ordnance officer of this command, was engaged the entire night of 2 July in issuing ammunition to the batteries of the several corps, as well as those of the Artillery Reserve. Seventy wagons were unloaded, which were sent to the rear on the morning of 3 July. (Robert Tyler, Official Report, Artillery Reserve)

On July 3, Hancock actually ignored Hunt and had his batteries fire away most of their long-range ammunition (he tried to get other batteries like those under McGilvery to do likewise, but met with only limited success). When the Confederate infantry advanced, the guns of Cushing and Arnold were silent. They simply loaded their short-range canister and waited. Woodruff in Ziegler's Grove had just a little long-range ammunition left and then his guns fell silent for the time being as well. Fortunately for the Federal cause, there were many more artillery batteries off either flank that had long-range ammunition, which they used very effectively for 10-15 minutes upon the advancing Confederates, while Hancock's guns stood idle.

Federal artillery ammunition was not unlimited, particularly for specific types of ammunition that fit specific cannon. Lt. William Wheeler of the 13th New York battery checked the Artillery Reserve toward the close of the fight on July 3 and found very little if any 3-inch ammunition left for his 3-inch Rifles. There were 22 such Rifle batteries in the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg. When Wheeler took his battery back to Cemetery Hill late on July 3, Meade was there and asked him if he had a full supply of ammunition. Informed that only a limited supply could be found at the Artillery Reserve trains (upon request by his Eleventh Corps artillery chief, Major Osborne), Meade exploded, saying: "You must have ammunition; the country can’t wait for Major Osborne or any other man. Go immediately to the Artillery Reserve and order General Tyler to send up a wagon load." Wheeler made a show of going and ducked out of sight, not wishing to face Meade's wrath, but he had just come from the Artillery Reserve and knew the situation there. [Letter from William Wheeler, 13 NY Battery]

More ammunition was available at Westminster, Maryland, but that took a considerable amount of time to retrieve at the pace of an ammunition wagon, and the distance would only increase as Meade pursued Lee westward.
 

MikeyB

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Meade as well as Hunt, continually expressed concern during the battle about the waste of ammunition, whether by his infantry or artillery. The initial reason with regard to the artillery was a spot shortage, which Hunt described: Early on 2 July, Meade informed me that one army corps had left its whole artillery ammunition train behind it, and that others were also deficient, notwithstanding his orders on that subject. He was very much disturbed there would not be sufficient ammunition to carry us through the battle. I had on my own responsibility formed a special ammunition column attached to the Artillery Reserve carrying 20 rounds per gun, over and above the authorized amount. (Hunt, Battles and Leaders)

The situation was considerably alleviated by the morning of July 3: Lt. Gillett, ordnance officer of this command, was engaged the entire night of 2 July in issuing ammunition to the batteries of the several corps, as well as those of the Artillery Reserve. Seventy wagons were unloaded, which were sent to the rear on the morning of 3 July. (Robert Tyler, Official Report, Artillery Reserve)

On July 3, Hancock actually ignored Hunt and had his batteries fire away most of their long-range ammunition (he tried to get other batteries like those under McGilvery to do likewise, but met with only limited success). When the Confederate infantry advanced, the guns of Cushing and Arnold were silent. They simply loaded their short-range canister and waited. Woodruff in Ziegler's Grove had just a little long-range ammunition left and then his guns fell silent for the time being as well. Fortunately for the Federal cause, there were many more artillery batteries off either flank that had long-range ammunition, which they used very effectively for 10-15 minutes upon the advancing Confederates, while Hancock's guns stood idle.

Federal artillery ammunition was not unlimited, particularly for specific types of ammunition that fit specific cannon. Lt. William Wheeler of the 13th New York battery checked the Artillery Reserve toward the close of the fight on July 3 and found very little if any 3-inch ammunition left for his 3-inch Rifles. There were 22 such Rifle batteries in the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg. When Wheeler took his battery back to Cemetery Hill late on July 3, Meade was there and asked him if he had a full supply of ammunition. Informed that only a limited supply could be found at the Artillery Reserve trains (upon request by his Eleventh Corps artillery chief, Major Osborne), Meade exploded, saying: "You must have ammunition; the country can’t wait for Major Osborne or any other man. Go immediately to the Artillery Reserve and order General Tyler to send up a wagon load." Wheeler made a show of going and ducked out of sight, not wishing to face Meade's wrath, but he had just come from the Artillery Reserve and knew the situation there. [Letter from William Wheeler, 13 NY Battery]

More ammunition was available at Westminster, Maryland, but that took a considerable amount of time to retrieve at the pace of an ammunition wagon, and the distance would only increase as Meade pursued Lee westward.
Thanks for the excellent post. Random question - does Hunt technically only have direct authority over the artillery reserve? Clearly he couldn't overrule Hancock's orders in this situation.

In practice, would corps artillery command respond to Hunt's orders unless overruled by their corps leaders?
 

rpkennedy

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Thanks for the excellent post. Random question - does Hunt technically only have direct authority over the artillery reserve? Clearly he couldn't overrule Hancock's orders in this situation.

In practice, would corps artillery command respond to Hunt's orders unless overruled by their corps leaders?
Technically, Hunt's position was administrative but Hunt, while a talented administrator, was not one to sit on his hands when action was brewing, especially when his boys were going into the fight. In practice, battery commanders gave Hunt a lot of authority and listened to what he had to say. In addition, Meade gave Hunt a lot of leeway in his responsibilities.

Ryan
 


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