"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Moving the Guns

One hundred and forty-nine years ago, during the latter half of April through the beginning of June, the soldiers of the First Georgia Volunteers were battling boredom, mosquitoes and heat at their camp near Fort Barrancas, outside of Penascola, Florida. Sent to Florida to bolster General Braxton Bragg’s forces in preparation for a possible assault on Union-held Fort Pickens, the Georgians spent most of their time on picket duty, building fortifications and moving cannon from one place to another.

“I can tell you we have plenty of work to do,” wrote Private Archibald Sneed to his wife, “even on Sunday last we were hard at it filling up sand bags and caring them about 100 yards into Fort Barrancas. Today, the boys were at the same kind of work and this morning this afternoon they hauled a canon about a half a mile as they started very soon after breakfast.”

The photograph above is a vew taken from the fort’s sally port, and comes from Volume One of The Photographic History of the Civil War. The image was snapped in February of 1861 by photographer J. D. Edwards of New Orleans, two months before the arrival of the First Georgia, and shows some of the ordnance being moved into the fort by Confederate troops. While taken a couple of months before the arrival of the First, one can see the difficulties inherent in moving heavy guns in and out of the forts. Below is a photograph I took on a visit to Fort Barrancas, looking down the steep ramp into the sally port. Edwards camera would have been set up just inside the arched entryway.

Another construction project involved building “sand batteries”, which were gun emplacements in the dunes and near the beaches positioned to bear on Fort Pickens. In a letter to home, a private in the Oglethorpe Infantry described how the batteries were fabricated:

“The sand batteries are built by digging a square pit in the sand some twenty feet square, then taking the sand and fill bags and fascines with it. You then take the bags and pile them up some three or four feet high, and sixteen or eighteen bags thick, and fill the cracks between the bags with sand. There are places about four feet wide left between the piles of bags to run the muzzle of guns out. In the pit there is a passage dug and boarded up with sand bags piled up around it, and perfectly protected with sand, for the magazine. The balls are piled up in the pit near the guns. On the out side in the rear, protected by sand bags, is a trench some five feet wide by three or four feet deep, for the men who are not at work at the guns to lay in.”

In early June, the First was ordered to Richmond. After two and a half months of manual labor on the Gulf Coast, the soldiers’ appearance had undergone a decided transaction. Wrote one soldier from Augusta: “Give my love to all at home; tell them we are all well and hearty, and terribly sunburnt, and look as rough as old rammers.”

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