Discussion Battlefield Recovery

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
In "Ten years in the ranks, U.S. Army by Augustus Meyers"

At Petersburg he isa sergent, detailed to help the (regular) Brigade ordonnance officer.
(I believe after this fight: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Globe_Tavern)

The losses in the Fifth Corps, during the three days' battle, were about thirty-six hundred in killed, wounded and captured. On the night of this day I got a fair amount of sleep and felt much refreshed the next morning. The enemy had retired for some distance and our pickets were advanced a mile beyond our breast-works, leaving us in possession of nearly all the ground they had occupied.

Lieutenant Pond, who had reported for duty, ordered me outside of the breast-works during the afternoon of this day with wagons and a large detail of men to collect the abandoned arms on the battle-field. The wounded had been removed and the dead buried; only dead horses remained. After dark I was sent out again to the picket line on the ground of the first day's battle. There we collected a large number of arms, remaining until approaching daylight warned us to depart and avoid drawing the enemy's picket fire. On the following night this was repeated under a heavy, soaking rain. I collected upwards of fifteen hundred fire-arms, of which more than half were those of the Rebels. There were rifles, muskets and carbines; also bayonets, swords, belts and cartridge boxes. The arms were rusty from having lain on the field during several days' rain.

It was necessary to classify these arms, make a report of them and turn them over to the ordnance depot at City Point. This work kept me, with the assistance of the ammunition guard, occupied for several days. Arms that were charged had to be fired, or the charges withdrawn, which was difficult in their rusty state. This work proved interesting to me and coincided with my own observations when in the ranks with my company in battle. I found that the ram-rods were missing from a considerable number of discharged guns, and a greater number had failed to be discharged on account of defective caps, or a befouled nipple. Some were doubly charged, and an occasional one had three, or even four, cartridges in the barrel, indicating that the soldier continued to load without noticing that his piece had not been discharged. Others were bursted at the muzzle, showing that the tompion had not been removed before firing. There were some with stocks broken by violence, probably by cool-headed men taken prisoners, who thoughtfully rendered their arms unserviceable. Such of the guns as had more than one charge in the barrel were fastened to a tree and, after fresh priming, we pulled the trigger with the aid of a string, at a safe distance. A few that could neither be drawn nor discharged, we buried in the ground. It has been said that it takes a man's weight in lead for every soldier killed in battle. I am inclined to almost believe that, from my own observations and from the amount of ammunition I knew to be expended on the battle-field of the Weldon Railroad, where I noticed innumerable bullet marks on trees standing on level ground, at height that could only endanger birds.
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Note that the colleting is done in the dark...
 

redbob

Major
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Location
Hoover, Alabama
While the recovered weapons and equipment were being loaded onto barges at City Point for transfer to the Washington arsenal, on August 9th, 1864 a mysterious explosion occurred (reportedly done by a Confederate agent) on an ammunition barge causing massive damage and loss of life. For a number of years, these sunken barges were a true "honeyhole" for divers/relic hunters.
 

lelliott19

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It has been said that it takes a man's weight in lead for every soldier killed in battle. I am inclined to almost believe that, from my own observations and from the amount of ammunition I knew to be expended on the battle-field
Wow. Never thought about that before. Thanks for sharing this account @thomas aagaard
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Bear with me on this, but you can filed it under plus ca change plus ca meme chose.

While battlefield recovery was probably a thing long before Hannibal was a Private, I thought of what I'd first read 40 years ago about North Africa - where both Germans and the Commonwealth wreckers would haunt battlefields after dark vacuuming up anything the could be reused/recycled/put back in the line.

This was considered diametric heresy from what was US Army policy in the late 20th/early 21st century, in that "cannibalization will not be tolerated".

*Uh huh*, said a skeptical I back then.

Just now, I wondered what was the reality.

This from Tunsia, April 1943 (and probably with some guidance from the Commonwealth's Desert Rats) -

"During the El Guettar-Maknassy operations Colonel Medaris began to use a new type of company that he put together from men and equipment of the 188th Battalion calling it the Provisional Ordnance Collecting Company. Its job was to go into the forward area, whether the actual field of battle or ground over which combat troops had merely passed, and bring back all the Ordnance matériel it could find, Allied or enemy. This was a pioneer effort at battlefield recovery and evacuation. An Ordnance evacuation company (TOE 9- 187) had been organized in the United States in November 1942 but it had not yet arrived in the theater; besides, it was mainly for evacuating armor from collecting points to the rear, being equipped with tank transporters rather than wreckers and trucks. Theoretically, combat troops cleaned up the battlefield, bringing damaged matériel to division or corps collecting points where Quartermaster troops picked it up, sent it back to depots, and if it was repairable turned it over to the technical service that had supplied it.47 Experience in Tunisia showed that the combat troops did not have the time, manpower, or equipment to clear the battlefield. It took 4-ton and 10-ton wreckers, plenty of 2½-ton trucks, and men with special skills—riggers, tank mechanics, welders, and drivers who could handle tank transporters and other special vehicles. To get these, Medaris robbed the maintenance companies of his 188th Battalion, pooling all evacuation and recovery equipment in his collecting company. This was hard on the maintenance companies, but the collecting company recovered a tremendous amount of supplies that might otherwise have been lost, and many of the items were promptly returned to service. On one occasion the equipment of an entire battery of 90-mm. guns, badly shot up by enemy artillery, was collected between 1700 of one day and 0600 the next, and taken to an Ordnance maintenance company, which repaired it and got it ready for action by 1600 of the following day."

p.143-144. There's more, for those curious.
The Ordnance Department - On the Beachhead and Battlefront
See https://history.army.mil/html/books/010/10-11/CMH_Pub_10-11.pdf
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
On 2 March 1863 Brigadier General Gorgas issued his third instruction to Confederate ordnance officers in the field, requiring that “Any new or remarkable projectiles found upon the battle fields should be preserved apart [from other ammunition collected], and forwarded to the Ordnance Bureau, Richmond, with such remarks as may be needed to explain the circumstances under which they were found.” A similar requirement should be found in the intelligence and ordnance manuals of any competent modern army.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

redbob

Major
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Location
Hoover, Alabama
As the War wore on and the South became shorter on raw materials , two examples of ordnance "recycling" were the recovery of unexploded artillery shells which would be reworked and returned to the field. An example of this is this 3" Schekl shell which has been recovered, reworked and returned to be refired. An iron pin (barely visible on this corroded shell) would be placed through the tail to hold a wooden sabot on (wood as the South was unable to perfect the Union's paper mache' sabot). The fuse would be removed and a fuse adapter (either wood or metal) would be inserted so that a paper time fuse could be used. Another example of "recycling" was during the Petersburg campaign, the South offered their men a leave from the trenches for men collecting a certain number of pounds of fired lead bullets so that they could be melted down and recast into more bullets. Examples of desperate men doing desperate deeds.
Schenkl4.JPG
Schenkl 3.JPG
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Behind the lines of Viking battles there were forges set up to repair weapons. Dropped weapons or personal equipment would be refurbished & reused. Iron was very valuable. The metal was also relatively soft. Spear points & swords were bent & broken from the shock of blows. On the positive side, the iron of that period was very easily forge welded.

A forge weld is the strongest weld that can be made. Us modern blacksmiths have to be very careful & humble when forge welding. The Viking smith, on the other hand, only had to get his metal to forging color & it would stick together like sugar. I know a Smith in England who does historic preservation work. He says that great care must be taken to prevent accidental attachments.

During the second day of the Battle of Stones River, instead of riding the field organizing his next movements, Bragg sat in his tent adding up tallies of captured arms.
 

redbob

Major
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Location
Hoover, Alabama
Behind the lines of Viking battles there were forges set up to repair weapons. Dropped weapons or personal equipment would be refurbished & reused. Iron was very valuable. The metal was also relatively soft. Spear points & swords were bent & broken from the shock of blows. On the positive side, the iron of that period was very easily forge welded.

A forge weld is the strongest weld that can be made. Us modern blacksmiths have to be very careful & humble when forge welding. The Viking smith, on the other hand, only had to get his metal to forging color & it would stick together like sugar. I know a Smith in England who does historic preservation work. He says that great care must be taken to prevent accidental attachments.

During the second day of the Battle of Stones River, instead of riding the field organizing his next movements, Bragg sat in his tent adding up tallies of captured arms.
There is an excellent book discussing recovery and refurbishment of American armored vehicles in the ETO in WWll and it surprised me that unless a tank was burned out, it could usually gotten back in service pretty quickly.
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
After Gettysburg it became impossible for the corps commanders to do recovery as Meade had previously ordered. Captain William Smith of Halleck's staff and Captain Henry Blood of the Quartermaster Department were ordered to clean up and guard the battlefield . Captain Rankin of Ingall's staff had proven to be incompetent . There was a lot of work to be done;burying the dead , dealing with Confederate prisoners and salvaging government equipment from the battlefield . Huge amounts of weapons , wagons , blankets etc. were recovered . The surgeon John Brinton who had treated General Armistead described how a farmer had concealed a cannon barrel down a well . Locals had concealed all kinds of government equipment and houses were searched and items were recovered . I would highly recommend Greg Coco's "A Strange and Blighted Land" for indepth coverage of this.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
There is an excellent book discussing recovery and refurbishment of American armored vehicles in the ETO in WWll and it surprised me that unless a tank was burned out, it could usually gotten back in service pretty quickly.
I was acquainted with a man who had been in a 3rd Army vehicle rebuilding unit. He said that it was impossible to remove “the smell “ from inside some tanks… food for thought.
 

redbob

Major
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Location
Hoover, Alabama
After Gettysburg it became impossible for the corps commanders to do recovery as Meade had previously ordered. Captain William Smith of Halleck's staff and Captain Henry Blood of the Quartermaster Department were ordered to clean up and guard the battlefield . Captain Rankin of Ingall's staff had proven to be incompetent . There was a lot of work to be done;burying the dead , dealing with Confederate prisoners and salvaging government equipment from the battlefield . Huge amounts of weapons , wagons , blankets etc. were recovered . The surgeon John Brinton who had treated General Armistead described how a farmer had concealed a cannon barrel down a well . Locals had concealed all kinds of government equipment and houses were searched and items were recovered . I would highly recommend Greg Coco's "A Strange and Blighted Land" for indepth coverage of this.
An excellent read
 

redbob

Major
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Location
Hoover, Alabama
Behind the lines of Viking battles there were forges set up to repair weapons. Dropped weapons or personal equipment would be refurbished & reused. Iron was very valuable. The metal was also relatively soft. Spear points & swords were bent & broken from the shock of blows. On the positive side, the iron of that period was very easily forge welded.

A forge weld is the strongest weld that can be made. Us modern blacksmiths have to be very careful & humble when forge welding. The Viking smith, on the other hand, only had to get his metal to forging color & it would stick together like sugar. I know a Smith in England who does historic preservation work. He says that great care must be taken to prevent accidental attachments.

During the second day of the Battle of Stones River, instead of riding the field organizing his next movements, Bragg sat in his tent adding up tallies of captured arms.
The ancestors on my Mother's side came from Norway and Denmark and when the Civil War came he was a blacksmith of some renown in Western Tennessee, so this makes sense to me.
 
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