Lou's Place in Cyberspace
From Colonel Serrell's official report:
Headquarters Department of the South,
Morris Island, S.C. Eng. Office,
Major, I have the honor to report that, Agreeably to orders from the commanding general, I have examined the battery on the marsh, and find that the foundation, parapet, and system of piles, including the gun deck, in fact, everything, excepting the gun and its parts, are in perfect order.
The arrangement of parts that prevented the wooden platform from sliding on the gun deck, having been removed by some persons, to me unknown, the gun and all its parts down to the deck, have slidden to the rear some twenty inches.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, E. W. Serrel Col., and Asst. Engineer, Dept. of the South."
The problem of the slipping gun was remedied by spiking heavy cleats on the gun deck to prevent the gun carriage from moving backwards from the guns powerful recoil.
OFFICIALS FROM CHARLESTON
While the inspection of the gun was taking place, a steamer came from the city of Charleston under a flag of truce. On board were Charleston city officials and British foreign consuls, who had come to deliver a protest to General Gillmore on the bombardment of the city.
The officials carried a note from General Beauregard that expressed his dismay at the use of the incendiary shells; "Your firing a number of the most destructive missiles ever used in war into the midst of a city taken unawares and filled with sleeping woman and children will give you a bad eminence in history."
General Gillmore refused to receive them, but responded by giving them notice he would refrain from firing until 10 o'clock the following night, the 23 of August, (the amount of time required by the engineers to complete the repairs to the battery), assuring them that the firing would be resumed at that time unless the demand for the surrender of Fort Wagner was complied with.
On the night of August 23, having received no official response from General Beauregard, the Swamp Angel was ordered to again open fire on the city of Charleston.
General A. J. Turner, Chief Of Artillery, stated in an article written after the war that, "Both incendiary shells and shells filled with "Greek Fire" were used. The latter worked very poorly, nearly every one prematurely exploding; and it is not determined whether any shell containing "Short's Solidified Greek Fire" ever reached Charleston."
A report filed by Captain Mordecai on the use of the "Greek Fire" states:
"It was furnished in tin tubes, closed at one end, about three inches long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter. These tubes were covered with one layer of paper, such as commonly used for cartridges. The paper was folded down over the ends of the tube, that part covering the open end having upon it a priming of powder and coal tar.
The directions for using this fire were furnished from the manufactory, and were as follows:
"As many of the cases containing this composition must be dropped into the shell as it will hold, with as much powder as can possibly be shaken among them."
After the failure of a number of shells filled in this manner to give satisfactory results, Mr. Short visited Morris Island. He altered the manner of filling the shells, putting several inches of powder in the shell before inserting the cases.
He also covered some cases with several layers of thick cartridge paper, and others with several layers of muslin. Into all the shells he filled he placed powder first, and this may have caused the premature explosion."
Thus the Swamp Angel was the first gun used during the Civil War to fire incendiary shells into a populated city.
It was noted years later by one Doctor Joseph Leidy, a Lieutenant Colonel during World War One, and an instructor in self-defense against poisonous fumes and fire in warfare, that the Swamp Angel was responsible for firing the first gas shells in warfare.
"We shuttered when we heard of the Germans sending over gas against the Canadians. Yet Northern Troops attempted it in the Civil War.
In February, 1863, Mr. Mallory, Secretary of the Confederate Navy, drew up plans for an attack upon the Union monitors in Charleston Harbor. This was a detailed plan of attack to consist of boarding parties provided with turpentine and camphene in glass vessels, which were to be used as grenades to be followed by inextinguishable liquid fire. When the hour for the attack arrived it was found that the monitors had left the bar. It is singular that both the Union and Confederate attempt at gas and liquid fire in warfare should have been tried out in the some locality."
During the second bombardment, on the night of August 23, as the 36th round was touched off, there was a tremendous explosion of the gun. The force of the explosion blew the Swamp Angel out of its carriage and up onto the parapet. The men manning the battery were thrown to the floor as a tremendous shock wave radiated across the marshes. To everyone's surprise, after the smoke from the explosion had cleared, no one was hurt or injured. The Swamp Angel had burst on the 36th round, completely blowing off its breach, the break being about an inch to the rear of the vent. (Ignition hole) There can be little doubt that the gun had been weakened by the premature explosions of a number of incendiary rounds that went off in the gun barrel. (Fig.12)
After an inspection, it was obvious that the gun was no longer usable as the complete breach section had blown out, leaving the distinctive Parrot reinforcing bond intact around the lower end of the gun. Most of the breach section under the band had blown out towards the rear, becoming a secondary projectile.
Since the Parrott rifle was a relatively new weapon, it's use during the siege of Charleston was a trial period, and each gun was closely monitored as to it's performance. It was found that the majority of the larger 200-pounders had problems with bursting in the area of the reinforced breech. Of the six 200-pounders that had burst, four had burst under the breech reinforce, and two had blown apart ahead of the breech. Of the seventeen I 00-pounders that had burst, only two had burst under the breech reinforce. According to General Gillmore, "As a rule, the wrought-iron reinforce was not broken or split open by the bursting of the gun, but retained its form and dimensions." It was found that when a gun blew apart under the reinforce, the reinforcing band "remained intact upon the front or largest piece in all cases except one, a 100-pounder, where it adhered to the breech and was detached with it, without breaking."
Lieutenant Wadlie, the officer who originally mounted the gun, was ordered to hide the remains of the Swamp Angel, and he had it buried under piles of sandbags taken from the parapet.
After the Swamp Angel burst, no new pieces were mounted in the "Marsh Battery" until after the surrender of Fort Wagner on September 7. Two mortars were then mounted in the Marsh Battery and these were called the "Marsh Hens." They were "10- inch seacoast" types and were used in subduing the fire from James Island, and particularly from a Confederate gun dubbed the "Bull of the Woods" by the Union troops. The Marsh Battery was never completely abandoned until after the war.
After the bombardment of the city, newspapers ran eyewitness accounts of how "the shell from the "Swamp Angel" were seen to rise to the heavens," or how the shells went "through the air with a rush and a yell. With a screech and a roar went the howling shell. As we lay on the sand hillock watching its flight it seemed to go up and among the very stars, and its burning fuse lit up its track as it descended on its course of destruction," but this was an error caused by the viewing angle of the spectator.
The shells fired from the Swamp Angel were all percussion shells and had no fuses to give off sparks or light. The shells which many of the soldiers reported seeing that night in later accounts of the event, were actually shells being fired at the Swamp Angel from mortars in Confederate Fort Johnson, and were not being fired from the Swamp Angel.
ORIGIN OF NAME
How did the Swamp Angel come to be known by that name? Regarding the origination of the name, Lieutenant Wadlie states:
"Returning to my quarters in the early morning after a night spent in mounting the gun, and looking badly battered being covered with mud and jaded with labor, Captain Handerson New Hampshire 3rd with two strange officers were in front of my tent, as I came up the Captain said, in a burlesque style:
"Gentlemen let me make you acquainted with the "Swamp Angel." And a few days later I heard the soldiers apply the name to the gun, but my comrades still call me the Swamp Angel."
The gun was also called the "Marsh Croaker" and the "Mud Lark" by the soldiers serving in the area.
PURCHASED FOR SCRAP
After the war, contractors from all over the country scoured the former battle sites buying up surplus materials and scrap iron from the war department. In Charleston, a foundry man from Charles Carr Iron Works of Trenton New Jersey, purchased all the remains of condemned and damaged cannons or "old iron" from Morris Island, and had it shipped back to Trenton to be recast for items useful in peacetime.
After the shipment arrived at the Carr’s Iron Works yard and had lain around for some weeks, someone noticed that among the collection of scrap cannon, one was marked "Swamp Angel."
This was brought to the attention of the owner of the Iron Works and he contacted several veterans and made it known to the citizens of Trenton, asking if anyone was interested in the remains of the gun. The gun lay about in the Carr yard several years and was finally due to be recast. The owner did not want to see the historic gun lost forever and finally was able to find a group of veterans who would take it off his hands. The Swamp Angel was purchased from Carrs Iron Works at the "old iron" price by a group of men, headed by the Honorable John Hart Brower, Ex-Congressman, residing in Trenton," who planned to honor it, and set the Swamp Angel up as a monument in the city of Trenton, New Jersey.
When the gun was taken from the foundry yard it was in a "mangled condition," with its breach off, and its reinforcing band partially removed. The reinforcing band was damaged mostly by handling of the gun in transportation, and not from the actual explosion, which caused a clean break of the breach section from the rest of the gun.
It was decided that the damaged "ragged and jagged" reinforcing band be knocked off, to give the gun a better appearance. It is unfortunate that this band was knocked off at the foundry, especially for those interested in authentic accuracy, because this act forever changed the appearance of the gun from that of a Parrott Rifle, to that of an Ames gun.
Before the gun was mounted as a monument, the breach section was restored to its original position, minus the reinforcing band, by a long iron bolt that ran up through the bore from the breach section. This bolt was secured to the inside of the barrel by a crosspiece set several inches back from the muzzle opening.
MONUMENT IN TRENTON, NEW JERSEY
When the restoration was completed, the Swamp Angel was finally mounted on a pedestal as a monument in the city of Trenton, New Jersey at the corners of Perry Street and North Clinton Avenue, in February 1871. The contract for the construction of a "suitable" monument was awarded to Messers. Keeler, Skirm, and Company of Greenburg N.J. (?). The lower part of the monument or bed " was to be of Ohio stone and the main column of Ewing granite. The inscription stone was to be of Connecticut brownstone."
The original cost of the monument was $450 and was designed as a stone column five foot square, by 20 foot high. On either side of the gun were two ornamental light posts holding three lamps on each side and a water fountain at its base.
The Swamp Angel was mounted horizontally on top of the stone column, and there were two plaques describing the gun's history, placed at street level front and rear. The plaques were inscribed without any punctuation marks because it was said that the letterer’s contract stipulated a price per letter only and did not include punctuation, so he left the punctuation out!
The original plaques read:
THE FIRST GUN
AN EIGHT INCH PAR
ROTT RIFLE OR 200
POUNDER FIRED FROM
THE MARSH BATTERY
ON MORRIS ISLAND SOUTH
CAROLINA AT THE CITY OF
CHARLESTON 7000 YARDS
WEIGHT OF GUN 16500 POUNDS
AND OF PROJECTILE 150 POUNDS
CHARGE OF POWDER 16 POUNDS
GREATEST ELEVATION USED 35
AUGUST 21 1863
BURST AT 36 ROUND
The Swamp Angel sat in peace on its pedestal at the corner of North Clinton Avenue and Perry Streets for some 15 years until sometime in 1892, when a group of veteran officers who had served during the siege in the Department of the South, visited the gun and questioned its identity as to being the original Swamp Angel. Several officers who had been on Morris Island during the war claimed that the gun they saw mounted in Trenton did not took like the gun they saw in action that August of 1863.
Eventually these stories concerning the guns identity reached Mr. Daniel Eldridge who was then living in Boston, Massachusetts. During the war he had served as Captain Daniel Eldredge of the Third New Hampshire Volunteers, and was one of the original "Marsh Battery" staff.
Eldredge had known for several years that the gun was mounted in Trenton, New Jersey, but did not see a photograph of it till after he had begun writing his history of the Third New Hampshire Regiment. From a photograph sent to him regarding the identity of the gun, Eldridge saw what looked like "an Ames gun and scarcely resembled the famous "Swamp Angel"--a Parrott gun."
Eldredge too had his doubts and was determined to find the truth. Eldredge decided to travel to Trenton New Jersey in June of 1892, and settle the question of its identity personally.
It so happened that serving as New Jersey's Adjutant-General in 1892, was former Major William S. Stryker, Aid-De-Camp To Major General Quincy A. Gillmore during the siege of Charleston, and then a resident in the city of Trenton. Stryker was a paymaster on Morris Island during the war. Stryker had written an account of the Swamp Angel for the original "Century War-Book," his article appearing in the beginning of Vol. 4 of that series.
Stryker said he had seen "every shot fired" by the gun while serving on the Generals staff, and was convinced of its identity. He had even compared the fracture of the breech with the drawings and descriptions in General Gillmore's book on Artillery and Engineering operations against the city of Charleston, which Gillmore had published in 1865.
Stryker, in an 1895 newspaper article, tells the story of a visit from Daniel Eldredge that occurred in June, 1892; "One morning Captain Eldredge, late of the New Hampshire Volunteers, called at my office, asked me to go with him to see the gun, and told me that he had in his pocket the number of this particular 8-inch Parrot rifle. We got a ladder, he scratched off the paint and found that the number was correct." The numbers on the muzzle, and the foundry number, (No.585), matched the original foundry numbers on record for the gun.
Eldredge recounted that same trip to Trenton, in a subsequent article for the Boston Journal, stating that he had gone in his own person and "procuring a ladder, sat on the gun, looked into its mouth, partially picked out its long stopped-up vent, stood on its trunnion, measured its various parts, carefully examined its breech, picked out the rust from the parts of the letters and figures yet remaining, and was satisfied." He went on, "During the examination, which occurred last June, many persons gathered to see what was the matter, as the proceeding was very unusual. They were jocosely given to understand that the piece was being examined by an expert with view to ascertaining whether it would be safe to fire a salute from it on the approaching Fourth of July."
Though the missing characteristic Parrott banding had broken off at the Carr foundry, causing the gun to look like an Ames gun, the identifying numbers stamped in the muzzle and the measurements taken verified its authenticity. By 1895, any questions about the guns pedigree were resolved. It was indeed the original Swamp Angel.
Eldredge went on to say that he had also visited Morris Island in September of 1892 and "viewed the "Swamp Angel" location from the top of the lighthouse at the lower end of the island. All that was visible was a disturbance in the grass. The spot is in an exact line from the lighthouse to Fort Johnson."
The original monument was rededicated December 3, 1915, at a ceremony celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
The Swamp Angel remained at the intersection of North Clinton and Perry street for 90 years until the gun was moved to its present position in Cadwalader Park, Trenton, and again rededicated on April 12, 1961, the I00th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War.
In its present site, near the main entrance to the park, the gun rests on part of its original stone column, but reduced to five and three-quarter feet in height, and the gun given a new metallic plaque stating its brief history, complete with punctuation, though it too has inaccuracies. (Fig.14)
On several occasions since the Civil War it was rumored that the State of South Carolina tried to get the Swamp Angel brought back to the city of Charleston and mounted there as a monument, claiming that it was more significant to the history of that city than to the city of Trenton, New Jersey.
Supposed attempts were made to secure the gun for South Carolina in 1926 and 1930, but in a newspaper article from the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser dated November 1, 1942, a story relating to the history of Trenton clarifies those earlier stories. The only purpose of the investigation and interest by the state of South Carolina in the Swamp Angel was to gain material for a special article in the Charleston Evening Post, "To let the people of the South know what had become of the old relic."