The Third System of Coastal Defense, 1816-1867

Lubliner

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I didn't realize that - Thanks! I have spent a lot of time in the Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers each year. That gives similar, but different, information. I also have spent a lot of time at NARA College Park where they have drawings submitted by the engineer on site showing the level of completion. The annual reports also include armament charts which give the numbers of each type of weapon at each fort, and which ones are mounted and which ones are not. Very interesting.
I will look at the Official Records for the grading that you mentioned. That sounds like it will be very interesting!
These may be the same reports. I have a two-disc set of the Official Records, and the second disc is in at the moment. It covers the Volumes 32 to 53, all parts, of Series 1. There are 4 series. Series 2 covers prisoners of war in 8 volumes, including sections. I looked there for memory sake and it wasn't found. It was soon after Floyd had vacated his office in Washington, and when shipments of armaments due south were being challenged by northerners. If you need help in locating it, I can change discs and locate it. Just let me know. As far as I can remember it is possibly the new Secretary of War requesting the information from the Chief Engineer. In my quick search of Series 2, Volume one, I came across the Fort Warren, Boston Harbor location as a prisoner depot, where negotiations were made to ship the prisoners south to Norfolk for exchange, page 77.
Lubliner.
 

jrweaver

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Great! I'll see if I can find the OR and dig into them. If I can't find the grading, I'll let you know. I really appreciate this information. It's always great to find new, original sources!
 

Lubliner

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Series 3, Volume 1 shows an Inclosure on the number of serviceable muskets and rifles on hand at each armory and arsenal, made by the Colonel of Ordnance, H. Craig to John Floyd on November 12, 1859 [page 1]. This is the Volume the other information should be located in. Cornell has a site with the O. R. but their charts are always skewed during reproduction.
Lubliner.
 

jrweaver

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Thanks! I'm headed back to bed, I need to get up in a couple of hours for church. When your wife is the pastor, being late is not an option! :smile:.
 

Lubliner

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From Series 2, Volume 1, pages 47-48;

“Tabular list of the forts belonging to the United States, with statement annexed of their actual garrison and also of their appropriate garrisons, the latter as originally set forth in a report of the Colonel of Engineers dated November 1851, and which was prepared in answer to a call of the House of Representatives made on the 3d of March of the same year."

From that point on in the series it covers the reports by Totten to Holt requested by the Senate Select Committee on Military Affairs, January 1861. This has the list beginning on page 49.
Good Night.
Lubliner.
 

jrweaver

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From Series 2, Volume 1, pages 47-48;

“Tabular list of the forts belonging to the United States, with statement annexed of their actual garrison and also of their appropriate garrisons, the latter as originally set forth in a report of the Colonel of Engineers dated November 1851, and which was prepared in answer to a call of the House of Representatives made on the 3d of March of the same year."

From that point on in the series it covers the reports by Totten to Holt requested by the Senate Select Committee on Military Affairs, January 1861. This has the list beginning on page 49.
Good Night.
Lubliner.
Yes, that's the report that I have. It is referred to as Totten's 1851 Report. Simon Bernard wrote the report in 1821 that comprised the founding of the Third System, often called Bernard's Masterpiece. Totten's 1851 Report was at the same level - a great update on what Bernard had put in motion. Those two reports are considered classics.
 

jrweaver

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Yes, but Totten's experiments showed that iron is the real solution. There was talk about adding iron shields to the fort walls, but the cost was prohibitive. The 1870s Modernization was much more cost-effective, and although not as durable as masonry forts, was able to stand up to large rifled and smoothbore artillery. The important factor was that you could mount large-bore artillery that would not fit in the casemates.
 

jrweaver

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Totten preferred the polygonal forts over the bastioned system that was Bernard's preference. If Fort Pulaski would have had bastions, the breach would not have occurred! When Totten used bastions, they were generally smaller - so-called tower bastions. He often used pan coupe as he did at Pulaski and Sumter. In several instances he used counterscarp galleries rather than bastions and a few times used caponiers.
 

jrweaver

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During the first half of the Third System, Texas was not an American possession. Once Texas became a state, planning started for a fort on Pelican Spit in Galveston Harbor, but before construction began - there was a gathering of materials and some foundation work - Texas seceded from the Union. Confederate engineers built a sand battery on a portion of the foundation, but a fort was never built there.
 
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Irishtom29

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Totten preferred the polygonal forts over the bastioned system that was Bernard's preference. If Fort Pulaski would have had bastions, the breach would not have occurred!

I don't think bastions themselves would've prevented a breach; bastion faces were often the most exposed part of a fort to breaching fire. for instance at Badajoz Wellington breached two bastions and the curtain between them.

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Carronade

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Seeing your list emphasizes what a massive investment the country made in developing its defenses. Shows a level of determination and commitment, doesn't it?

Roy B.

If we were going to fortify harbors, we needed to fortify every one that might potentially be used by an enemy as a base or landing point. If some ports were well defended, but not others, what would an invader do?
 

DaveBrt

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If we were going to fortify harbors, we needed to fortify every one that might potentially be used by an enemy as a base or landing point. If some ports were well defended, but not others, what would an invader do?
You need to fortify those that protect something important, like a major city, a naval base or a transportation center. Galveston and some other locations were none of these. In fact, it would have been just fine if a European enemy (the ones against whom the system was built) had landed its army on the Texas coast. What could that army do to defeat the US? Everything of importance is at least as far away as New Orleans and armies of the 1830's through WW1 found it difficult to supply armies on long marches -- much easier to land near the target.
 

jrweaver

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I don't think bastions themselves would've prevented a breach; bastion faces were often the most exposed part of a fort to breaching fire. for instance at Badajoz Wellington breached two bastions and the curtain between them.

View attachment 384555
The way Bernard designed bastioned forts, the bastion faces were earth-filled; only the flanks were casemated. That means if the scarp was destroyed, that left a steep earthen slope that still provided a strong defense. The pan coupe that Totten used were fully casemated and therefore could be breached. Breaching the curtain would not have given the same clear path to the magazine - that open path is was caused the surrender. I've stood at the curtains on either side of the pan coupe and looked at the angle and think that I've got it right.
 

jrweaver

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If we were going to fortify harbors, we needed to fortify every one that might potentially be used by an enemy as a base or landing point. If some ports were well defended, but not others, what would an invader do?
That was the genius of Bernard's 1821 Report. He designed a system of defense, of which fortifications were only a part. He stated that a strong navy was the key, a communication system that would allow the lifting of a siege within 14 days, militia artillery to man the forts during wartime, and finally, fortifications.
He also had several priorities regarding fortifications. They were as follows (I quote directly from the report):
«To close important harbors to an enemy, and secure them to the navy of the country.
«To deprive an enemy of strong positions, where, protected by his naval superiority he might fix permanent quarters in our territory, maintain himself during the war, and keep the whole frontier in perpetual alarm.
«To cover the great cities against attack.
«To prevent as much as possible the great avenues of interior navigation from being blockaded by a naval force, at their entrance to the ocean.
«To cover the coastwise and interior navigation, and give to our Navy the means necessary for protecting this navigation.
«To cover the great naval establishments.

Looking at these priorities in light of the Civil War - and taking into account the fact that we were not fighting a foreign invader and the limited resources of the Confederacy - the strategy appears to have been sound!
 

Irishtom29

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The way Bernard designed bastioned forts, the bastion faces were earth-filled; only the flanks were casemated. That means if the scarp was destroyed, that left a steep earthen slope that still provided a strong defense. The pan coupe that Totten used were fully casemated and therefore could be breached. Breaching the curtain would not have given the same clear path to the magazine - that open path is was caused the surrender. I've stood at the curtains on either side of the pan coupe and looked at the angle and think that I've got it right.

Many if not most breaches in artillery forts were through solid earth walls or earth walls with a revetment of masonry. For example the breaches at Cuidad Rodrigo and Badjoz. When the wall was pounded enough that the slope could be scrambled up it was considered practicable and worthy of assault. Such assaults were often bloody affairs.

A diorama of the failed British assault on a breach on the face of the Trinidad Bastion at Badajoz, Spain in 1812. The bastion was taken in the rear by British troops who scaled unbreached walls elsewhere.

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jrweaver

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The goal of the breach at Pulaski and other Third System forts was not for an infantry assault - those were thought to be too costly in terms of manpower. The goal was to threaten the magazine. Federal forces had drawings to know where the magazine was, and they knew if it was threatened, the fort would surrender rather than risk the death of the entire garrison.
 

Irishtom29

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Kent, Washington
The goal of the breach at Pulaski and other Third System forts was not for an infantry assault - those were thought to be too costly in terms of manpower. The goal was to threaten the magazine. Federal forces had drawings to know where the magazine was, and they knew if it was threatened, the fort would surrender rather than risk the death of the entire garrison.
Are you John R Weaver II? If so I have your book, I bought it about 15 years ago in a NPS bookshop on the on Mississippi Gulf coast. Excellent book.
 

jrweaver

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Thank you! I have a second edition out that is much better. It is full color, almost twice as long, 440 illustrations, and hard cover. It's a lot more pricy than the first one, though, at $64.95. The color really drives up the printing cost.

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