It has been an unusual time of silence for the Enfilading Lines blog page over the past several weeks. I have had some busyness issues for sure with kids going back to college, but more than that, I don’t have any major topics to write about for my current primary focus on looking back “150 Years Ago Today.” I have several times stated that my regular writing on this (with the bulk of the 240 posts or so that I’ve done since the sesquicentennial season began) has served to give me a unique “feel” for the duration of time between events. It has made it come alive (not to overuse a term) by lifting it off of the flat landscape of a printed page and placing into a sense of elapsing days and weeks.
The recent quietness (relatively speaking – as there are regular daily skirmishes and smaller-scaled events almost every day in August of 1863) speaks to the mutual exhaustion in the wake of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Fatigue and resource deprivation prevailed on all fronts and all sides. A missed opportunity (that I will someday research and study further) would have been to weigh in heavily on the issue of the criticism of George Meade for not attacking and moving more aggressively to destroy Lee’s army – particularly as it was pinned down in Williamsport, which is my town! I’ve read much and listened to lectures that approach this topic, and I have honestly not landed strongly enough at this point. My fellow of particular study and interest – Abner Doubleday – was among the most vocally critical of Meade. The two certainly did not care for each other! A day will come when I give the final and officially accurate conclusion upon the matter!
The Latter Half of August 1863
Beginning on the 17th, the first great bombardment of Fort Sumter commenced in Charleston Harbor. Continuing for multiple days, by the 23rd over 5,000 shells had been fired from land and sea by the Union forces. Less than a handful of Confederate guns were able to fire back, as the brick installation was reduced to a pile of rubble. Yet Sumter remained resolute and unassailable.
An unusually large gun called the “Swamp Angel” was used on the 21st and 22nd to fire shells into Charleston itself. An 8-inch Parrott seacoast rifle with 11 rifle grooves, the barrel was 13.5 feet in length with a 16-pound powder charge. It could throw a shell 8,000 yards! However, on the 36th shot that it fired, the breech broke and it was useless from that point. The barrel, sent to Trenton, NJ in 1871 to be melted down, was recognized as the Swamp Angel and preserved. It sits today in a local public area named Cadwalader Park.
The Next Big Thing Just Over the Horizon
Chickamauga is the next really big campaign and battle to come – to be fought on the 19th and 20th of September. It will be the bloodiest two-day battle of the war. It was on the 16th of August that Gen. Rosecrans Army of the Cumberland began moving in Tennessee toward Chattanooga, while General Burnside’s forces in the Lexington, Kentucky area also started in the same direction. This would be the start of the Chickamauga Campaign. By the 9th of September, Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee had evacuated Chattanooga.
Looking ahead, the battle will be a Confederate victory, though Bragg will not fully capitalize on it given the numbers of casualties. General George H. Thomas’ stout defense of 25 or more attacks would add to the hollow nature of the victory.
The Battles of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge on November 23-25 would give the Federals a convincing victory in the region, hence opening the heart of the South. Chattanooga would serve in the next spring as a supply base for Sherman’s march on Atlanta and to the sea.
Here is a really cool picture of the Battery B artillery of Antietam from this weekend. Some of the Antietam Battlefield Guides work with this, and our friend and bookstore worker Sharon Murray took the picture.