Discussion RARE Confederate Artillery Letter Transcription Help Needed

ucvrelics

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I recently acquired this rare CS letter from D R Williams (inventor the Williams gun) to Gen Ruggles concerning cannons he wanted and the what was going on. It mentions Gen Polk and what he wanted. I can read most of it to make out the jest of the letter but need some help transcribing it all. Plus, How did the inventor of the Williams gun wind up in Richmond in 1864 making cannons. I can't find any info on him past the days in KY as and artillery commander.
rw williams gen ruggles.jpg
 
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Dear Sir - Just as we were ready to put up the guns for your requisition a report comes from Genl. Polk's Hd Qrts that he does not want any more of the "odd size" guns, as the ammunition is troublesome. We were prepared and should have had your battery of large size guns ready ^by^ next month had it not been for this withdrawal by Genl. Polk. Thinking it probable that Hd Qrts did not consult you, and that Genl. Polk did not know the character of the gun, I have deemed it proper to inform you of the cause of the delay, so as to give time to get your requisition through the Commandant of the Department in time to get the first battery that is finished. We are making them 2.25 caliber - the same as the (praised?) "Mountain Rifle" - and shooting the same ammunition; and will have them ready for service by the middle of May. (?????) that you may be successful in getting them all right.

I remain
Respectfully your Obt Servt
D R Williams
 

lelliott19

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so as to give time to get your requisition through the Commandant of the Department in time to get the first battery that is finished.
so as to give you time to get your requisition ...
We are making them 2.25 caliber - the same as the (praised?) "Mountain Rifle"
.....the same as the present "Mountain Rifle"
(?????) that you may be successful in getting them all right.
Hoping that you may be successful in getting them all Eight (?).

The last sentence may indeed be "Hoping that you may be successful in getting them all right." as @Grayrock Volunteer has provided, but the "r" in that place does not look like other "r"s beginning words in other places. Were there eight guns in the battery? If so, I'd day that last word is Eight instead of right.
 

Story

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@ucvrelics

Some suggestions.

When trying to find out why someone was 'where' (Richmond 1864), it can be helpful to look further down their lifeline.

Follow me on this - it looks like David R Williams was OLD by the time the war rolled around.
Like, 53
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/179669726/david-r.-williams
Found that here - https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Williams-59959

Also found this -
Captain David R. Williams of Covington invented the Williams machine gun, used with some success by the Confederacy during the Civil War. In 1872 Williams received a pair of patents for woodworking machinery. He built woodworking machinery as D. R. Williams of Paris, KY, as recently as 1872, then relocated to Covington by 1873. In Covington he used the name Williams Machine Co.
http://vintagemachinery.org/mfgindex/detail.aspx?id=901
So if he's 56 by 1864 but still useful, of course the CS Ordnance folks in Richmond are going to suck him into their orbit.

I don't have a FOLD3 account anymore, but someone who does can probably get a hit.

This guy, D R Williams Confederate Misc CMSRs
https://www.fold3.com/browse/hj9xf51478SkBhqXQmTVgp5Lm45YiFk1I_C8av1Qg
Or this David R Williams
https://www.fold3.com/browse/hj9xf51478SkBhqXQmTVgp5Lm45YiFk1IolgdtwB7
 

ucvrelics

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@Grayrock Volunteer, @JOHN42768 and @lelliott19 Thanks for the translation help.
Follow me on this - it looks like David R Williams was OLD by the time the war rolled around.
Like, 53
That make since. I have Fold3 and his KY records show him as a capt of Arty but the goes cold till Nov 1863 where there is a letter requesting a commission but I can't find anything after that. In the letter I just got and posted above if he had had any rank at all would he not have signed his name with that rank as he had done on this one?
View attachment 391557
 

Stone in the wall

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@Grayrock Volunteer, @JOHN42768 and @lelliott19 Thanks for the translation help.

That make since. I have Fold3 and his KY records show him as a capt of Arty but the goes cold till Nov 1863 where there is a letter requesting a commission but I can't find anything after that. In the letter I just got and posted above if he had had any rank at all would he not have signed his name with that rank as he had done on this one?
View attachment 391557
When was your letter dated, I can't make it out? Seems Williams was in Richmond several times during the war. The gun was tested in May 1862 and the gun was put in use with Pickett. Later captured Union Generals (Don't remember which battle) were all wanting to know about it, and asking Pickett about the rapid fire gun.
 

ucvrelics

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When was your letter dated, I can't make it out? Seems Williams was in Richmond several times during the war. The gun was tested in May 1862 and the gun was put in use with Pickett. Later captured Union Generals (Don't remember which battle) were all wanting to know about it, and asking Pickett about the rapid fire gun.
April 18th 1864.
 

connecticut yankee

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What was David Ranson Williams doing in Richmond in 1864? A possible clue is this: The "Williams Gun" was manufactured in Lynchburg, Va. by F. B. Deane, Jr. & Son. F. B. Deane had close ties to the Tredegar Iron Works as he once owned part of the land on which the iron works is located; in addition F.B. Deane for several years in the mid 1840's unsuccessfully managed Tredegar Iron Works, before moving westward to Lynchburg and establishing his own iron foundry. As a sidenote, Deane became quite successful and developed a series of contracts during the war to provide munitions to both the Confederate army and navy.

As @Story pointed out there is a second Dr. Williams letter in existence regarding generals ordering needed cannons. This second letter was written in February 1864 from Lynchburg. Note the O.P. letter is datelined "Richmond April 1864".

Conclusion: Dr. Williams was well aquainted with F.B. Deane and most probably through Deane's influence (and his own contacts) he also had close wartime ties with the Tredegar Iron Works. Between these two major foundries, Dr. Williams was pretty much ensured that he could deliver whatever armament was ordered by the Confederate government. In effect, Dr. Williams was a contractor doing business in both Richmond and Lynchburg in 1864.
 
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ucvrelics

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What was David Ranson Williams doing in Richmond in 1864? A possible clue is this: The "Williams Gun" was manufactured in Lynchburg, Va. by F. B. Deane, Jr. & Son. F. B. Deane had close ties to the Tredegar Iron Works as he once owned part of the land on which the iron works is located; in addition F.B. Deane for several years in the mid 1840's unsuccessfully managed Tredegar Iron Works, before moving westward to Lynchburg and establishing his own iron foundry. As a sidenote, Deane became quite successful and developed a series of contracts during the war to provide munitions to both the Confederate army and navy.

As @Story pointed out there is a second Dr. Williams letter in existence regarding generals ordering needed cannons. This second letter was written in February 1864 from Lynchburg. Note the O.P. letter is datelined "Richmond April 1864".

Conclusion: Dr. Williams was well aquainted with F.B. Deane and most probably through Deane's influence (and his own contacts) he also had close wartime ties with the Tredegar Iron Works. Between these two major foundries, Dr. Williams was pretty much ensured that he could deliver whatever armament was ordered by the Confederate government. In effect, Dr. Williams was a contractor doing business in both Richmond and Lynchburg in 1864.
Thanks and it does make sense that D.R. Williams had contacts but after the other letter I posted about his commission it just goes cold, so I guess he never got a commission in the CS Ord bureau so he went to work as a civilian.
 

Story

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Thanks and it does make sense that D.R. Williams had contacts but after the other letter I posted about his commission it just goes cold, so I guess he never got a commission in the CS Ord bureau so he went to work as a civilian.

Where did you look?
 

DixieRifles

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What was David Ranson Williams doing in Richmond in 1864? A possible clue is this: The "Williams Gun" was manufactured in Lynchburg, Va. by F. B. Deane, Jr. & Son. F. B. Deane had close ties to the Tredegar Iron Works as he once owned part of the land on which the iron works is located; in addition F.B. Deane for several years in the mid 1840's unsuccessfully managed Tredegar Iron Works, before moving westward to Lynchburg and establishing his own iron foundry. As a sidenote, Deane became quite successful and developed a series of contracts during the war to provide munitions to both the Confederate army and navy.
One source said there were 42 of the Williams Guns manufactured at three different locations. Some of this may be from an article in "The Artilleryman" magazine that was on-line and some info obtained from the US Army Ordnance Museum.
  1. Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA - Two batteries of 6 guns
  2. F. B. Deane Jr. & Son, Lynchburg, VA - Four batteries, Qty unknown
  3. Skates & Co, Mobile, AL - 4 guns. These were likely the ones delivered to Buckner Battery.
 

DixieRifles

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It mentions Gen Polk and what he wanted.
This letter was written in April 1864. Early in 1864, many of the regiments operating in Mississippi was turned over to the command of General Polk. This included Buckner Battery that was part of the cavalry division under the command of General James R. Chalmers. There is a table of General Polk's artillery in the OR's. Below is one that is dated Nov 1863.

OrdnanceTable-Nov63.jpg

Included in this List is the Williams Gun of Buckner Battery. The point being that General Polk was aware of this rare cannon. There is another list that describes the cannon as a "1.5625-inch" Williams Gun. The above only states a "10-ounce" cannon.

The other interesting piece in this letter is toward the end where he describes he is working on a new design of a 2.25 inch caliber. I have read where some have said D. R. Williams designed a "2-lb" version of the Williams Gun but no one had presented any documentation for this. Maybe it was built but never got past the testing phase.
 

Story

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In following the lead on Buckner's Battery, found this -

Buckner Battery was a small unit attached to General Chalmers' cavalry division. Other than the brief description provided by Rowland's history, the battery has no unit history and no roster. The following article was compiled based upon Official Records, NARA military service records and other resources.​

October, 1863, assigned to McCulloch's Brigade, Chalmers' Cavalry, one rifle gun added to the battery. November 28, twenty-eight men, four Willlams 10-ounce, only guns of the kind in the army, and one 2.9-inch rifle.

Now, here's the plot twist - we've seen time and time and time again on CWT where the mistakes of the past are repeated without any sort of digging or fact checking.

What if the Confederate Artillery Captain was not D R Williams (1808 - 1875) but his son R.S. Williams.


The designer's son, R. S. Williams, was authorized to organize an artillery company equipped with Williams Guns for operational tests.
Adjutant and Inspector Generals Office, Special Order No. 11, dated Richmond Jany 14, 1863.
Buckner_RSWilliam.jpg

[My note - source for that in the ORs Serial 128 p 0357 https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/128/0357 ]

See https://www.custermen.com/DixieBoys/BucknerBtry.htm

From the wikitree family tree note (link in my post above), that'd be
Children: Robert S. Williams, b ca 1833

aka Williams Battery
http://warriorsoftherebellion.shoutwiki.com/wiki/(Williams')_Kentucky_Artillery_Battery
My conclusion - the father David might have designed the gun, but the son Robert commanded the first four-gun battery. Somehow, these two men were blended into one by popular history.


........aaaaaaaaaaaand there's a reason his name is familiar to me
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/williams-breech-loading-cannon.128430/
 
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Story

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Here's the tale of how Reuben Patrick swiped the Williams gun that wound up in the Kentucky Military History Museum
http://us14thky.blogspot.com/2010/03/captain-reuben-patrick-and-williams-gun.html
Working off of that, there's this account
From THE CONFEDERATE VETERAN Vol XVI No 1 January 1908 (although I suspect this is from an issue later in the year)
p.581-582
https://books.google.com/books?id=y...e&q="R S Williams" Kentucky artillery&f=falseCONFEDERATE BREECH-LOADING CANNON.

BY CAPT. THEODORE F. ALLEN, CINCINNATI, OHIO.
In the VETERAN for October, 1908, referring to the Kentucky troops in the Confederate army, you mentioned that there were few batteries of artillery from Kentucky. You also state that R. S. Williams is reported as having had a battery of Kentucky artillery in the Confederate army, but there is no roll of the members on file or on record.

You are probably not expecting a Federal officer to post you on this subject of Williams's Confederate Battery; but as I happened to be in front of that villainous battery on one occasion, I am in a position to speak on the subject, and I want to tell you that Williams's (or, as it was most generally known, Schoolfield's) Battery comprised breech-loading cannon, and I fancy these were the only breech-loading cannon in the Confederate army, and I am sure the history of this battery, comprised of breech-loading artillery, should be recorded in the annals of the Confederacy.

My regiment, the 7th Ohio Cavalry, was in front of this battery in the battle of Blue Springs, East Tennessee, October 10, 1863. In this engagement we presumed we had Giltner's Cavalry Brigade in front of us, and we were expecting to have a lively tussle ; but when the engagement opened, we were greatly surprised to find a battery of artillery in our front, and the way they did let go at us was a caution. We were dismounted; and throwing ourselves flat on our bellies, we let the fire of this battery go over our heads. They did not hurt us. We had never run up against a battery of this kind before. It was Schoolfield's Breech-Loading Confederate Battery. These guns, one-pounders, were mounted on light wheels, and they could be put in action by one horse in shafts. We had heard artillery many times before, but we had never heard anything that made such a horrible noise as the shot from these breechloaders. We thought they were firing railroad spikes at us from the awful noise as the shot went over. In that engagement there was a large portion of Burnside's 9th Army Corps of Infantry, and these little breech-loading cannon sent a thrill of fear through every man over whom the shot passed.

Having been so badly scared by this battery, I took pains in later years to learn the history of these breechloaders.

Capt. R. S. Williams, of Covington, Ky., went to Richmond, Va., early in the war and induced the Confederate government to cast a battery of six breech-loading cannon of which he was the patentee. This was perhaps the only battery of breech-loading cannon in the Confederate army. During its period of service it was attached to Giltner's Cavalry Brigade, and the twenty-five young men who worked the guns were detailed or volunteered from Maj. Bart Jenkins's battalion of Kentuckians, the battery being much in service with the 4th Kentucky Cavalry. The twenty-five young men detailed from Maj. Bart Jenkins's Battalion were commanded by Capt. J. J. Schoolfield, of Jenkins's Battalion, and the battery, as stated above, was generally known as "Schoolfield's Battery," although it was "Williams's Battery" originally.

Captain Williams died a few years ago at Covington, Ky., but Capt. J. J. Schoolfield is still living. He is an attorney at law, and resides at Iuka, Ill. Captain Schoolfield tells me that so far as he knows this was the first battery of breechloading artillery ever used on any battlefield; that it required three men to handle a gun when in action: one to place the cartridge in the breech, one to cap it, and a third to sight it. This man (who sighted it) turned a crank that threw the breech out and it with one revolution.


These guns, as stated, carried a one-pound solid ball and had a range of about one mile. Captain Schoolfield regarded it as a very effective gun for those times, although “it was too light in metal, and sometimes when being very rapidly worked in action the breech would expand with the heat of firing until it would not return to its place in the gun.” The guns were about six feet in length. One of them is in possession of the War Department at Washington, and has been placed on exhibition as a curiosity "used by the Confederates during the Civil War." It has also been shown at expositions in different parts of the country. There is one other gun, which, I may mention, was stolen during the Civil War. Col. Tom Johnson, a Confederate officer, when on a scouting expedition in Eastern Kentucky with a small body of cavalry, took one of these guns along with a working squad. While in camp one night a Federal partisan named Captain Patrick made a quiet raid on Johnson's camp, got inside his camp without being discovered, and actually stole the gun and carried it away, and is still in possession of it. This feat of the Federal partisan excited a good deal of fun in both armies, and resulted finally in the story on Col. Tom Johnson that a Union woman visited his camp one afternoon, hid the little gun under her apron, and carried it off.

Captain Schoolfield a few years ago had occasion to write a letter of inquiry to another attorney in East Kentucky in regard to the title to some real estate that a client of his was interested in, and Schoolfield wrote to him to make the examination and charge the cost to him. This attorney made the examination desired very promptly and reported to Captain Schoolfield what he had done, and told Schoolfield that there was no bill for expenses for the reason that he had the little Schoolfield gun that Captain Patrick stole from Col. Tom Johnson, and that sometimes when they had a Republican victory in their county they used the Schoolfield gun to celebrate it, and they felt they were well repaid for any little favor they might do for him. Captain Schoolfield tells me that, while he infers that his correspondent and himself do not agree politically, he is disposed to call it even.

It is now about forty-five years to a day since I stood in front of Schoolfield's Battery in the battle at Blue Springs, East Tennessee; but I am pleased to be able to state that there are others living besides myself who survived the awful noise of this battery, and I may also state that on the Confederate side, among others I recall, still living are Capt. J. J. Schoolfield, of Iuka, Ill., Maj. Bart Jenkins (commander Jenkins's Battalion), of Umatilla, Fla., Rev. Capt. E. O. Guerrant, D.D., of Wilmore, Ky., and Capt. T. M. Freeman, of Houston, Tex.

Captain Guerrant was the adjutant general of Giltner's Brigade and knew this battery well, and I am sure the editor of the VETERAN will agree with me that these survivors ought to contribute their recollection of this breech-loading battery in the Confederate army and that the same may go on record; and if it proves correct, as Captain Schoolfield thinks, t':at this was the first breech-loading artillery used on any bat!lefield, then I am sure the records ought to be made now while the men familiar with the circumstances are still living.
 

Story

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But wait, there's more!

Two years later, the very same Theodore Allen writes -

1) Forty years after the war and the sound of the projectiles still haunt him.
The first shots went over our heads just high enough to miss even the tallest men in the regiment, but it was not the firing of the cannon which got on every man's nerves. It was the dreadful, fear-engendering noise that · "thing" just overhead produced which fairly took every man's breath away. We did not know, nor could we imagine what we had run up against, and with the continued rain of iron just overhead every man threw himself on the ground in the high grass. While we were hugging the ground this infernal battery fairly filled the air with a ceaseless rain of about two hundred shots a minute, but worst of all was the horrible noise produced by the "things," whatever they might be, going overhead. You, my readers, have no doubt heard the singing of a nail when it is thrown swiftly through the air. The noise produced by the missiles thrown at us was just such a noise multiplied ten thousand times and then some more. We concluded that the enemy had some new fangled machine for throwing railroad spikes at us. We could hear the missiles approaching, then overhead, and they continued to screech as they passed far to the rear. Screech is hardly the word to describe this sort of a wail of a lost soul (if anyone ever heard the wail of a lost soul) that greeted our ears as we clung to the bosom of Mother Earth.

2) The George below linked to the father David via FindAGrave https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/93685583/george-w-williams
"In 1880-81 I became acquainted with Capt. George W. Williams, Deputy Clerk of the Virginia Senate, who had served in Gen. John H. Morgan's Kentucky Cavalry Command during the war. In swapping reminiscences, I mentioned our little gun at Seven Pines and he informed me that his father was the inventor."

3) I think the tactical details are worth nothing, if only for the wargamers
Captain Schoolfield, who commanded this battery, is still living, he being an attorney at law at Iuka, Illinois. He tells me that these breechloading cannon were mounted on light carriages, each being hauled by one horse, in shafts, the driver using two buggy lines, sitting on the ammunition box. It required only three men to handle the gun; one to cap it, one to place the cartridge in the breech and the third man to sight it and to turn the crank which discharged it. The guns weighed about 275 pounds each, and were made at the Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia. Each gun with its carriage and ammunition box weighed about 1000 pounds. The carriage had four wheels, the gun on the hind wheels and the ammunition-box on the front. When in action the gun and the hind wheels were detached and the front wheels with the horse and driver sent to the rear, the box of ammunition having been detached from the carriage and placed beside the gun.

While only one horse in shafts was used to each gun, Captain Schoolfield says that two horses with a heavier carriage would have made the battery much more effective.

Each gun could be fired about forty (40) times per minute. It could not, of course, be sighted when fired so rapidly. Each gun was provided with a small crank which it was the duty of the man who sighted the gun to turn, one-half revolution throwing the breech out and the other half sending it back into the gun and at the same time discharging it. The gun was about six feet long, carried a one-pound ball and had a range of about one mile. Captain Schoolfield, commander of the battery regarded it as a most effective arm at the time, though too light in metal, and sometimes when being actively worked the breech would expand and would not return to its place, and an unpleasant wait was required to permit the gun to cool off a little.


p.440 onwards​

Military Service Institution of the United States Journal, Volume 44​

January, March & May 1909
https://books.google.com/books?id=z...e&q="R S Williams" Kentucky artillery&f=false
 
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