Lieutenant Tresilian, engineer: wooden mortars & cotton-bale bridges. Who was this man??

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
1624149525441.png

From The Missouri Muse, https://mostateparks.com/sites/mostateparks/files/Winter 2014_1.pdf


I recently discovered a reference to wooden mortars, built on site and used in the siege of Vicksburg (and later other places as well). The Missouri Muse attributes them to Chief Engineer Lt. Peter C. Hains of the 13th U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, in The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Vol XV 1886. Vol 15 Chapter 27) they are attributed to the Irish engineer Stewart R. Tresilian, both in his report of the battle and in the report by Frederick E. Prime Captain of the Engineers and C.B. Comstock Captain of Engineers. (See quote below.) Tresilian himself, in his report, also mentions some cleverly constructed bridges made of cotton bales (of all things!), that he engineered. They apparently sustained the whole army over a river. Amazing.

I am trying to find more information about Stewart R. Tresilian and am having little luck. Does anyone have any rescources?




From Frederick E. Prime and C.B. Comstock's report, submitted November 29th, 1863:

1624150121910.png
 

Biscoitos

Corporal
Joined
May 14, 2020
From Find a Grave:

Stuart R. Treslian was an civil engineer who served in the 49th Illinois Infantry and later on the Staff of General Logan during the Civil War.

He came to the United States after the 1848 Irish Uprising, playing a prominent part in the revolutionary movement and having to flee Ireland.

After the Civil War, he was active within the Fenian Brotherhood and on the staff of General Thomas Sweeny (Robert's Wing) when the Fenians Raided Canada East in June 1866. Then later in 1867, he served as Chief Engineer on the Fenian Brotherhood's Erin's Hope Expedition in 1867 (O'Mahony Wing), which was trying to send arms to Ireland.

This trip, while unsuccessful since the Irish Uprising had already passed and failed, was able to unload some of the Fenian Soldiers, while some of the crew, along with Tresilian, returned to America without unloading their weapons and ammo. Most of the other men who departed the Erin's Hope were arrested and tried by British Courts for treason, but were eventually released after US Government intercession.

Tresilian moved to Hoboken, NJ were he was employed as an Engineer on the Hudson River Railroad. He died of consumption on January 6th 1869 and is buried in the Old Piermont Cemetery (Masonic Plot)

He is buried in Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, Rockland County, New York
 

Biscoitos

Corporal
Joined
May 14, 2020
View attachment 405316
From The Missouri Muse, https://mostateparks.com/sites/mostateparks/files/Winter 2014_1.pdf
He served in Company A, 49th Illinois Inf. A man of the same name (almost certainly the same man) also served in the 3rd Illinois Cavalry.
Unfortunately, the military records of Illinois soldiers have never been microfilmed and are therefore not found on Fold 3. Copies would have to be obtained directly from the National Archives.

I recently discovered a reference to wooden mortars, built on site and used in the siege of Vicksburg (and later other places as well). The Missouri Muse attributes them to Chief Engineer Lt. Peter C. Hains of the 13th U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, in The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Vol XV 1886. Vol 15 Chapter 27) they are attributed to the Irish engineer Stewart R. Tresilian, both in his report of the battle and in the report by Frederick E. Prime Captain of the Engineers and C.B. Comstock Captain of Engineers. (See quote below.) Tresilian himself, in his report, also mentions some cleverly constructed bridges made of cotton bales (of all things!), that he engineered. They apparently sustained the whole army over a river. Amazing.

I am trying to find more information about Stewart R. Tresilian and am having little luck. Does anyone have any rescources?




From Frederick E. Prime and C.B. Comstock's report, submitted November 29th, 1863:

View attachment 405317
 

Biscoitos

Corporal
Joined
May 14, 2020
From Find a Grave:

Stuart R. Treslian was an civil engineer who served in the 49th Illinois Infantry and later on the Staff of General Logan during the Civil War.

He came to the United States after the 1848 Irish Uprising, playing a prominent part in the revolutionary movement and having to flee Ireland.

After the Civil War, he was active within the Fenian Brotherhood and on the staff of General Thomas Sweeny (Robert's Wing) when the Fenians Raided Canada East in June 1866. Then later in 1867, he served as Chief Engineer on the Fenian Brotherhood's Erin's Hope Expedition in 1867 (O'Mahony Wing), which was trying to send arms to Ireland.

This trip, while unsuccessful since the Irish Uprising had already passed and failed, was able to unload some of the Fenian Soldiers, while some of the crew, along with Tresilian, returned to America without unloading their weapons and ammo. Most of the other men who departed the Erin's Hope were arrested and tried by British Courts for treason, but were eventually released after US Government intercession.

Tresilian moved to Hoboken, NJ were he was employed as an Engineer on the Hudson River Railroad. He died of consumption on January 6th 1869 and is buried in the Old Piermont Cemetery (Masonic Plot)

He is buried in Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, Rockland County, New York
References to his engineering duties and achievements during the Vicksburg campaign can be found in
ORA Volume 24 Part 1, pages 33, 87, 130, 635, and 643.
Also Volume 24 Part 2, pages 37, 173 (the page from which you quoted,) 179 and 198.
His own rather detailed reports dated June 1 and August 17, 1863 are on pages 203 - 209 of Volume 24 24 Part 2.
 

Biscoitos

Corporal
Joined
May 14, 2020
Tresilian apparently served in the 3rd Illinois Cavalry as well as Company A of the 49th Illinois Infantry.
Unfortunately the service records of Illinois troops, like those of Union troops from the other larger population states, have never been microfilmed and therefore are not available on Fold3.
Tresilian's records in the two Illinois units will have to be obtained directly from the National Archives.
This should be a good start to your search.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Doesn't help that his name is jacked up in the IL online records. Pro-tip / search on known service units, then scroll through to the first letter of his name.
https://apps.ilsos.gov/isaveterans/civilMusterSearch.do

Search Criteria: 49 IL US INF

Name
TRISILIAN, S R
Rank
PVT
Company
A
Unit
49 IL US INF

Personal Characteristics​

Residence
WATERLOO, MONROE CO, IL
Age
29
Height
5' 11 3/4
Hair
LIGHT
Eyes
BLUE
Complexion
LIGHT
Marital Status
SINGLE
Occupation
CIVIL ENGINEER
Nativity
IRELAND

Service Record​

Joined When
SEP 5, 1861
Joined Where
WATERLOO, IL
Joined By Whom
COL MORRISON
Period
3 YRS
Muster In
SEP 5, 1861
Muster In Where
CAMP BUTLER, IL
Muster In By Whom

Muster Out

Muster Out Where

Muster Out By Whom

Remarks
DISCHARGED MAY 5, 1863 BY ORDER OF ADJT GENERAL L THOMAS
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
...and that's the 3rd IL Cav (Consolidated)

August 24 (1864) the Veterans were consolidated into six companies and Captain Carnahan promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
https://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/history/c03cav.html

Search Criteria: 3 IL US CAV CON

Name
TRESILLIAN, STEWART R
Rank
PVT
Company

Unit
3 IL US CAV CON

Personal Characteristics​

Residence
ELM GROVE, TAZEWELL CO, IL
Age
33
Height
5' 9 1/2
Hair
LIGHT
Eyes
BLUE
Complexion
FLORID
Marital Status

Occupation
ENGINEER
Nativity
IRELAND

Service Record​

Joined When
FEB 24, 1865
Joined Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Joined By Whom
CPT KEYS
Period
1 YR
Muster In
FEB 24, 1865
Muster In Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster In By Whom

Muster Out
JUN 3, 1865
Muster Out Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster Out By Whom
CPT MONTGOMERY
Remarks
 

1stMS-Arty

Sergeant
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
There is a marker at the Vicksburg NMP denoting the use of wooden mortars...its near the 3rd LA Redan just off the parking area. I forget the exact wording but apparently it was used to lob shells into the redan.
Screenshot 2021-06-20 010113.jpg
 
Joined
Sep 3, 2015
...and that's the 3rd IL Cav (Consolidated)

August 24 (1864) the Veterans were consolidated into six companies and Captain Carnahan promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
https://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/history/c03cav.html

Search Criteria: 3 IL US CAV CON

Name
TRESILLIAN, STEWART R
Rank
PVT
Company

Unit
3 IL US CAV CON

Personal Characteristics​

Residence
ELM GROVE, TAZEWELL CO, IL
Age
33
Height
5' 9 1/2
Hair
LIGHT
Eyes
BLUE
Complexion
FLORID
Marital Status

Occupation
ENGINEER
Nativity
IRELAND

Service Record​

Joined When
FEB 24, 1865
Joined Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Joined By Whom
CPT KEYS
Period
1 YR
Muster In
FEB 24, 1865
Muster In Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster In By Whom

Muster Out
JUN 3, 1865
Muster Out Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster Out By Whom
CPT MONTGOMERY
Remarks
You can see a wooden mortar, like Stewart Tresillian made at Vicksburg, actually fire an exploding shell. Go to StarkvilleCivilWarArsenal.com and click on featured items. Look at Sweet Gum Mortar.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
You can see a wooden mortar, like Stewart Tresillian made at Vicksburg, actually fire an exploding shell. Go to StarkvilleCivilWarArsenal.com and click on featured items. Look at Sweet Gum Mortar.

Thread drift - American troops in the Philippines at the beginning of the 20th century encountered native forces with their own variation on this theme.

Banded bamboo barrel.
dcdc548eabe3a8a0176b9acf7ce8c57d.jpg

In the foreground, barrels from water pipe strengthened with timber.
https://criticsrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Filipino-cannon-captured-by-the-Spaniards.jpg

As recounted in the WW2 chronicle AMERICAN GUERILLA IN THE PHILLIPINES, loyal forces fighting the Japanese made the same sort of field-expedient direct-fire muzzle loaders.
 

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
You can see a wooden mortar, like Stewart Tresillian made at Vicksburg, actually fire an exploding shell. Go to StarkvilleCivilWarArsenal.com and click on featured items. Look at Sweet Gum Mortar.
That was unbelievably cool! Not only do you get to see the thing fire, but the (very knowlegeable) man who fires it also gives a lesson on how it was made, it's various drawbacks (smoothbore, gets inaccurate over time etc), and then (joy of nerdly joys!) how the usual fixed ammunition used in a 12 pounder is disassembled and used to fire it. Then BANG, CRACK! Ha ha! What's not to love? Thanks so much for sharing this.
 

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
...and that's the 3rd IL Cav (Consolidated)

August 24 (1864) the Veterans were consolidated into six companies and Captain Carnahan promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
https://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/history/c03cav.html

Search Criteria: 3 IL US CAV CON

Name
TRESILLIAN, STEWART R
Rank
PVT
Company

Unit
3 IL US CAV CON

Personal Characteristics​

Residence
ELM GROVE, TAZEWELL CO, IL
Age
33
Height
5' 9 1/2
Hair
LIGHT
Eyes
BLUE
Complexion
FLORID
Marital Status

Occupation
ENGINEER
Nativity
IRELAND

Service Record​

Joined When
FEB 24, 1865
Joined Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Joined By Whom
CPT KEYS
Period
1 YR
Muster In
FEB 24, 1865
Muster In Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster In By Whom

Muster Out
JUN 3, 1865
Muster Out Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster Out By Whom
CPT MONTGOMERY
Remarks
Thank you thank you. VERY useful. As was the lesson on how to use the site, which can be daunting.
I read somewhere that a lot of Irishmen came to fight in the Civil War as a way to get combat experience, in preparation to fight for a free Ireland. Guess he was a prime example.
 

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
References to his engineering duties and achievements during the Vicksburg campaign can be found in
ORA Volume 24 Part 1, pages 33, 87, 130, 635, and 643.
Also Volume 24 Part 2, pages 37, 173 (the page from which you quoted,) 179 and 198.
His own rather detailed reports dated June 1 and August 17, 1863 are on pages 203 - 209 of Volume 24 24 Part 2.
Thank you! Found them. I appreciate it!
 

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
Does anyone know enough about iron working to understand how the iron bands might be "shrunk" onto the barrels? Can't exactly get them wet, then put them into a hot dryer (haha)....
 

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
I found a book, available in two libraries (the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, and the Morrison Talbott Library):

Documentation of S. R. Tresilian's life in America, Monroe Co., IL to Hoboken, NJ by Geoffrey Satter.

Sadly, this is not available interlibrarby loan, or on any digital rescource I can find. Written in 1947, and the author no longer seems to be associated with any university that I can find. Not surprising, 70 years later... Sigh. I am hoping to recreate Mr. Tresilian and both of his cool engineering feats (sweetgum mortars and cotton bale bridges) in the "Vicksburg" section of my Civil War novel. Tresilian's height, eye and hair color, 29 yo unmarried etc, plus the other rescources offered to on this thread that folks have provided will really help. THANKS so much.
 

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
...and that's the 3rd IL Cav (Consolidated)

August 24 (1864) the Veterans were consolidated into six companies and Captain Carnahan promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
https://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/history/c03cav.html

Search Criteria: 3 IL US CAV CON

Name
TRESILLIAN, STEWART R
Rank
PVT
Company

Unit
3 IL US CAV CON

Personal Characteristics​

Residence
ELM GROVE, TAZEWELL CO, IL
Age
33
Height
5' 9 1/2
Hair
LIGHT
Eyes
BLUE
Complexion
FLORID
Marital Status

Occupation
ENGINEER
Nativity
IRELAND

Service Record​

Joined When
FEB 24, 1865
Joined Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Joined By Whom
CPT KEYS
Period
1 YR
Muster In
FEB 24, 1865
Muster In Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster In By Whom

Muster Out
JUN 3, 1865
Muster Out Where
SPRINGFIELD, IL
Muster Out By Whom
CPT MONTGOMERY
Remarks
Yeah, bunging up the name dosen't help, does it?
He is repeatedly referred to as "Private" in these records, but I was under the impression that he was elevated to lieutenant, and even captain. Would this be just his entering rank?
 

Lisa Murphy

Corporal
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
Thread drift - American troops in the Philippines at the beginning of the 20th century encountered native forces with their own variation on this theme.

Banded bamboo barrel.
View attachment 405368
In the foreground, barrels from water pipe strengthened with timber.
https://criticsrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Filipino-cannon-captured-by-the-Spaniards.jpg

As recounted in the WW2 chronicle AMERICAN GUERILLA IN THE PHILLIPINES, loyal forces fighting the Japanese made the same sort of field-expedient direct-fire muzzle loaders.
Yes, I imagine that the wooden mortar was not new, either, likely having been seen in Europe in earlier centuries as well.
 
Joined
Sep 3, 2015
Does anyone know enough about iron working to understand how the iron bands might be "shrunk" onto the barrels? Can't exactly get them wet, then put them into a hot dryer (haha)....
The iron bands were heated which made them expand. Then the bands were slipped over the wood and cooled with water which made them shrink on tight. The iron bands could be heated with just a simple camp fire.
 
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