Field Artillery Western Theatre

James N.

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photo by @Gettmore from https://civilwartalk.com/threads/kelly-field-chickamauga-battlefield.145205/#post-1799555

Hey yall, new member here. I visited Chickamauga recently for the first time. Something that stuck out to me was the prevalence of older 12lb and 6lb howitzers of the various Union and Confederate units engaged there. From the little I have researched thus far it seems older field pieces were prevalent in the Western Theatre. Was this intentional (Eastern Theatre given newer equipment first) or just happenstance? Any input and discussion would be greatly appreciated!
One aspect about Western artillery that so far hasn't been mentioned was the tendency among Western batteries - both Federal and Confederate - to use what are known as mixed batteries; that is, those which are composed of more than one type of gun. In Eastern units gun types within a battery were fairly quickly consolidated so that they became batteries of Napoleons, six-pounders (mainly horse artillery units), Parrotts, or 3" ordnance rifles - this made the problem of ammunition resupply much easier. However, in Western units it remained fairly common for batteries to consist of, for example, one or two sections (of two guns each) of 12 pounder guns or howitzers and one section of six-pounders. Or maybe, two of twelve-pounders and one of rifles, making ammunition much more a problem for the battery commander and commander of the ordnance train.
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
Friday I was at CCNMP, and decided to ask a question of the tubes, to Park Historian, JIM OGDEN.
The man states that there is ONLY one cannon on the battlefield that NPS has documentation of it being there
during the battle...
That's the difference. It's pretty easy to tell if a field gun probably was used in the Civil War. It's rare to confirm the use of one at a specific battle. You'll find the same generally true at Gettysburg. (Obviously, there are also replicas at these places.)
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
One aspect about Western artillery that so far hasn't been mentioned was the tendency among Western batteries - both Federal and Confederate - to use what are known as mixed batteries; that is, those which are composed of more than one type of gun. In Eastern units gun types within a battery were fairly quickly consolidated so that they became batteries of Napoleons, six-pounders (mainly horse artillery units), Parrotts, or 3" ordnance rifles - this made the problem of ammunition resupply much easier. However, in Western units it remained fairly common for batteries to consist of, for example, one or two sections (of two guns each) of 12 pounder guns or howitzers and one section of six-pounders. Or maybe, two of twelve-pounders and one of rifles, making ammunition much more a problem for the battery commander and commander of the ordnance train.
Good point. The Federals in the Western Theater were pretty much able to get uniformity of type/caliber by Spring 1864. That continued to be a challenge for the Confederates (as it still was in Virginia to some extent). And it was not only a headache for making sure batteries were equipped with the correct ammo - it also caused tactical issues where, for example, a battery might have two types of gun with significantly different "effective ranges", such as M1841 12 lb field howitzers and 10 lb Parrotts.
 

trice

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May 2, 2006
Good point. The Federals in the Western Theater were pretty much able to get uniformity of type/caliber by Spring 1864. That continued to be a challenge for the Confederates (as it still was in Virginia to some extent). And it was not only a headache for making sure batteries were equipped with the correct ammo - it also caused tactical issues where, for example, a battery might have two types of gun with significantly different "effective ranges", such as M1841 12 lb field howitzers and 10 lb Parrotts.
I haven't read it in a long while, but a really good book to look at when comparing the Eastern and Western armies is Two Great Rebel Armies: An Essay in Confederate Military History by Richard McMurry.

 

WScott

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May 6, 2021
I have studied the War of 1812 for many years and find that the Civil War in the West to be similar to the War of 1812 in the west. The geography, the frontiersman attitude and the lack of access to the latest and greatest in military equipment made the 6lb and 12 lb. howitzer a logical solution to a mountain fighting. The smaller howitzers could be disassembled and carried on mules / pack horses and the the howitzer could deal with the terrain and woods much better. While the howitzer was not the best solution to addressing the artillery needs of either the union or confederate army in the west these soldiers did well to work with what they had.
 

Georgian183

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Apr 17, 2021
One aspect about Western artillery that so far hasn't been mentioned was the tendency among Western batteries - both Federal and Confederate - to use what are known as mixed batteries; that is, those which are composed of more than one type of gun. In Eastern units gun types within a battery were fairly quickly consolidated so that they became batteries of Napoleons, six-pounders (mainly horse artillery units), Parrotts, or 3" ordnance rifles - this made the problem of ammunition resupply much easier. However, in Western units it remained fairly common for batteries to consist of, for example, one or two sections (of two guns each) of 12 pounder guns or howitzers and one section of six-pounders. Or maybe, two of twelve-pounders and one of rifles, making ammunition much more a problem for the battery commander and commander of the ordnance train.
This can clearly be seen across the entire Chickamauga battlefield at the different simulated Union and Confederate gun positions/markers.
 
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