of trees felled in the direction of the enemy with the smaller branches removed,
the remainder sharpened to a point to create a defensive obstacle against advancing
located beyond the glacis, but still within musket or rifle range of the main
to the basic equipment of the infantry soldier; such as the cartridge box,
belts, bayonet scabbard, haversack, knapsack, canteen, etc. When a soldier
is under arms, he is said to be armed and accoutered.
device consisting of a three to four foot long “rope,” made from twig fibers,
and attached to a gad and an anchoring picket. This was used to secure the
fascine to the parapet wall.
stake driven into the parapet as it was built to tightly hold the ropes or
anchoring gads, which held fascines, gabions, and hurdles in place as revetments.
lines of entrenchments or ditches by which besiegers approach a fortified position.
The principal trenches are called the first, second, and third parallels.
storehouse where arms were stored and repaired. The individual who made repairs
to the weapons was called an armorer.
body of troops of various corps (infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers)
organized and commanded by a general.
facility where arms were made, repaired, and stored, along with other types
of military equipage.
term includes all kinds of military cannon, mortars, howitzers, etc., and all
munitions and implements required for their operation.
type of movement upon the enemy. In siege warfare the term attack implies the
works constructed by the besiegers. When an assault was partially made, with
the intent of deceiving the enemy and diverting attention, it was called a
false attack or a feint.
inside step at the base of a parapet wall that allowed a soldier to stand,
load and fire over the crest of the parapet while being sheltered.
access ramp to the banquette.
(referred to as guns) were said to be in barbette when they were mounted so
as to be able to fire over the crest of the parapet, providing a wide range
of fire. In this position the firing angle of the guns was not limited, as
in firing through embrasures. The disadvantage of firing in barbette was the
increased exposure of the artillery crew to direct enemy fire.
obstruct the avenues of access, as roads, streets, etc. This was accomplished
by overturning wagons, placement of large stones, abatis; and ditches.
projection from a main work (or field fortification) containing two faces and
two flanks that provide flanking fire to the front of the main work.
polygon work with bastions at the corners. These eliminate dead spaces and
angles in the main work.
area of the work between the capitals of two adjacent bastions.
consisted of approximately 500 men or one half the strength of a 1000 man infantry
regiment. The term battalion was used loosely during the Civil War. Occasionally
two companies (200 men) were referred to as a battalion, while the whole regiment
was often mistakenly called a battalion. It was commonly accepted, however,
that a regiment was composed of two battalions.
contest between two large bodies of hostile troops. The term battle usually
applies to a larger and more significant contest than a skirmish or an affair
area over which two large bodies of hostile troops engaged in combat. During
the Civil War military site surveys conducted in Tennessee, battlefields were
divided into two categories, small or large engagements. Small engagements involved a relatively small number of troops, while large engagements were fought by units the size of a division or greater, approximately 12,000
troops or more.
the use of tactics, the order of battle referred to the arrangement or formations
of troops drawn up in a line of battle, ready to meet the enemy. The theory
of military formations was defined in all the U.S. and Confederate drill manuals
of the day and was derived almost exclusively from translations of French manuals
dating back to the Napoleonic era. Scott’s Infantry Tactics of 1835 was updated by Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics in 1855, and in 1862 both of the above were combined in Silas Casey’s, Evolution of a Brigade and Corps D’Armee. Casey’s manual soon became the most popular on the subject. The usual order
of battle began with a skirmish line, generally two companies, deployed 400
to 500 yards in front of the main line of battle. These were positioned at
wide intervals and were used to locate the enemy or protect the main line from
surprise. As the war progressed, frequently half of the regiment would form
as skirmishers. The main line of troops (usually composed of six companies)
was next in line and was drawn-up in two lines or ranks, for both attack and
defense. The double line formation allowed the maximum number of muskets to
fire and made it possible for officers to better control their men in the confusion
of battle. A brigade might occupy less than 500 yards of front. To the rear
of the main battle line (300 yards) two companies were placed in reserve.
narrow shelf between the parapet and the ditch (or exterior slope and the scarp),
which prevented the parapet from collapsing into the ditch.
temporary encampment for one night or longer with troops using tents or other
types of hastily constructed shelters or lean-tos of wood branches or other
types of available natural cover.
Tennessee, blockhouses were wooden defensive structures that served primarily
to guard railroad trestles. They were constructed of heavy vertical timbers
and incorporated flat overhead ceilings of heavy timber, usually covered with
a thick layer of dirt and capped with sloping board and batten roofs to shed
water. The exterior walls contained loopholes for the firing of weapons, and
these were located just above an embankment made from dirt removed from a surrounding
ditch. As the war progressed, horizontal timbers were added to double the thickness
of the walls to enable them to withstand artillery fire. Most of the blockhouses
constructed in Tennessee were square, rectangular or cross-shaped.
structure built of wood and earth that could withstand artillery fire.
siege work fortifications a boyau trench was constructed to allow troops to move from one parallel trench to another.
They were usually made in zigzag form to provide protection from enemy fire.
opening in an enemy wall or position usually made by artillery fire, for the
purpose of allowing entry by attacking troops. During the Battle of Franklin,
Tennessee in 1864, Confederate infantry, without the aid of supporting artillery,
breached the federal entrenchments.
sod revetments, each layer of sod overlapped the joints of the prior layer,
adding strength to the sod wall.
hastily constructed parapet that was breast high and usually did not include
a banquette or step at the base of the parapet.
work composed of one or more redans or bastions that protected a bridge from
enemy fire. It was also known by its French name, the tete-du-pont.
military unit, ideally consisting of four regiments, or approximately 4,000
soldiers, though during the Civil War actual numbers varied. Brigades were
commanded by brigadier generals.
temporary place for the repose of troops, whether for one night or a long period
to the quartering of troops in temporary structures, sometimes distributed
among towns or villages, or when placed in huts at the end of a campaign.
imaginary line that bisects the salient angle, dividing a work into two symmetrical
work projecting perpendicularly from the main work to provide flanking fire
in the ditch and along the front. The work could also be bomb proofed and contain
loopholes and serve as a line of communication or a passage to another work.
bombproof structure made of timber and earth and constructed of post and beam
form, used to house artillery. In permanent fortifications it could also be
used as quarters for the garrison, a powder magazine, a hospital, or as a last
place of refuge within a fortification if overrun by the enemy.
elevated artillery position within a fort, commanding its interior and the
surrounding countryside. This was sometimes constructed on the terreplein of
a bastion or curtain.
refers to the sides of an embrasure and was often revetted with fascine, gabions,
or sand bags.
obstacle made of a wooden shaft or body from which wood projections or spears
radiated in four directions. They were used to obstruct passages, protect a
breach in the line, or form an impediment to cavalry.
small and strongly enclosed work, located in the interior of a fort, used as
a final place of defense. Sometimes referred to as the keep.
United States Navy created these vessels as their first operational ironclads.
They were designed with a single paddle wheel located mid-ship and enclosed
within the protection of the ship’s armament. There were a total of seven ironclads
built by the U.S. during the war and all of them were named after cities. They
were also known as “Pook’s Turtles” (after the designer) or sometimes as “Eads
Ironclads”(after their builder).
smallest tactical unit of soldiers, usually containing 50 to 100 men, commanded
by a captain.
position that overlooked another position or surrounding country and enabled
an army to give a plunging fire.
military unit of two to four divisions, commanded by a major general in the
Union armies or by a lieutenant general in the Confederate armies.
Union and Confederate vessels were given extra protection by stacking cotton
bales on their decks as barricades against small arms and light artillery fire.
Larger vessels were known to have carried over 900 bales. Some Confederate
“cottonclads” used compressed layers of cotton between the heavy walls of their
gundecks. Most of the Confederate cottonclads were reinforced on the bow and
also carried an iron prow for ramming.
wall located on the far side of the parapet ditch, opposite the exterior slope
and scarp wall of the parapet. If the entrenchment is constructed with a glacis,
the counterscarp wall will also include a banquette, interior slope, covered
way and glacis slope. Most of the entrenchments constructed in Tennessee were
built without the use of a glacis.
permanent fortifications, a narrow walkway between the counterscarp and the
glacis that covered troop movements and provided an outer line of defense for
infantry. Very few of these entrenchments were constructed during the war.
Union Fort Negley in Nashville was the largest inland masonry fortification
built during the war, and it contained covered ways.
or Indented Line:
zigzag line of field fortifications. This type of earthwork was placed between
two advanced works that were too far apart to protect each other as well as
the space between them.
or cannon fire delivered from two or more directions against the same target
or point of ground in front of a work.
star-shaped obstacle (also called Caltrop) made of iron prongs that radiate
in all directions. When placed on the ground, at least one point will always
point upward, forming an obstacle for troops and especially cavalry. They appeared
in warfare as early as the Bronze Age and are still in use.
small ditch within the main ditch that acted as a drain or run-off for water.
section of the rampart that existed between two bastions and connected the
flanks of the bastions.
Angle or Space:
angle or ground in front of a fortification that could not be covered by musket
or artillery fire.
process of constructing the profile of a parapet to protect its interior from
enfilading and plunging fire. Defiladement of fortifications consisted of either
raising the parapet, constructing traverses, or excavating the terreplein below
the line of sight of the enemy, located on a commanding height. A work constructed
in this manner was said to be defiladed.
narrow passage or road.
French engineers term meaning half moon. Such works were often constructed
in early Renaissance defenses. The demilune was a crescent-shaped outer work
created to protect a bastion or a fort’s curtain wall. In later fortifications,
demilune became synonymous with ravelin, a v-shaped outer work.
constructed beyond musketry or rifle range of the main work but serving as
part of the overall defenses of the main work.
fire perpendicular to the curtain wall or line of works; to fire into the front
of an enemy.
excavation made in front or behind an earthwork providing the earth for that
work. When the ditch is located in the front it serves as an obstacle to an
attacker and when dug in the back, it affords the defender a secure position.
military unit consisting of approximately three brigades or 12,000 men. As
with other units, actual numbers varied during the course of the Civil War.
generic term applied to fortifications that were built for temporary use, especially
those constructed of earth.
opening in a parapet wall through which an artillery piece or other weapon
could be fired.
battery that fired through embrasures in the parapet wall and provided more
protection to the guns and crews than barbette style batteries. The drawback
was a severely reduced field of fire for the guns.
arrangement of cannon to fire over the parapet wall and not through embrasures.
This provided a wide field of fire but afforded little protection for the gun
crew (see Barbette Battery).
place where troops temporarily camped. Civil War troop movements resulted in
numerous short-term encampments of over night or several days duration. Long-term
encampments are considered to be camps with durations of weeks, months, or
sweeping rifle or artillery fire delivered along the length of the parapet
from a direction that was parallel to the front of the target so that it crossed
the target from one flank to the other.
1861 the engineers of the Union army were organized in two small but highly
professional bodies – the Corps of Engineers and the Corps of Topographical
Engineers. In 1863 these were merged and became known collectively as the Corps
obstruction, usually abatis. Occasionally telegraph wire “entanglements” were strung close to the ground
to trip attackers. Wire entanglements were created by union troops to help
deter Confederate attacks on Fort Sanders in Knoxville in 1863.
temporary fortification or fieldwork composed of a ditch and parapet.
earthen wall constructed on the open ends or flanks of a battery fortification
to protect the flanks from enemy fire. Some sources use the term to denote
both the front and flanks of the parapet of a battery.
ditch on the outer side of the parapet, between the parapet and the enemy.
outer side of the parapet that faced the enemy. The exterior slope extended
from the superior slope to the berm.
two sides of a work that converge to form a salient angle. The faces of field
works were the stretches of parapet extending from one angle in the work to
the next and were designed to provide a direct fire on an attacking body of
troops as they advanced up the glacis.
long cylindrical bundle of closely-bound thin saplings. The saplings were usually
referred to as green brushwood and were approximately one to two inches in
diameter. Fascine was used as revetment for sustaining the slopes of a battery
or parapet wall or to cover excessively wet ground. The most common type of
fascine (one of three types below) was called battery or long fascine (also
called saucissons) and was made in bundles 18 feet long by ten inches in diameter, weighing about
140 pounds. Trench fascine was made four to six feet long and was used for
crowning a line of gabions in a sap or trench. These were made by sawing the
long fascine into three parts. Water fascine, used as cover for marshy ground,
was 18 inches in diameter and six to nine feet in length. Fascine could also
be used as fill for crossing an enemy ditch during an attack. Five men could
construct long fascine in one hour, including the cutting of wood.
device composed of two five-foot-long wooden poles with one end of each connected
to a chain and used to tighten the fascine into bundles by looping the chain
around the saplings and tightening with leverage from the poles. The fascine
were then tied with tough withes or gads, prepared by twisting small sapling
so as to render them flexible or easily bent into knots.
“machine” used to hold saplings in a bundle to form fascines. Driving stakes
into the ground, obliquely, in pairs so that each pair crossed at the same
height made the horse. They were then firmly lashed together to form an X-shaped
support and repeated every eighteen inches until the desired length of the
horse had been attained.
practice of making temporary military fortifications and military roads, the
planning and construction of military bridges, and the attack and defeat of
military works. This included all the various duties of engineer troops, either
in the operation of a campaign, or in the dispositions on the battlefield.
fortification was the art of engineering and strengthening a position for temporary
use with available materials. Military engineers developed field works along
the same principals as permanent fortifications, but were given greater latitude
in their application in the field.
field works were commonly called entrenchments during the Civil War. These
were temporary fortifications constructed of available materials and used to
defend important positions, or bodies of troops, against a sudden assault from
superior forces. Field works were usually confined to a single campaign and
used to strengthen positions that were to be occupied for short periods of
time. Most field works could be constructed by troops in a single day. Field
works can be divided into two major categories: Major field works were constructed to serve as both protection and as an obstacle, while minor field works were intended only for protective cover. The primary distinguishing feature
was the placement of the ditch. Major field works contained a ditch around
the exterior of the parapet, whereas minor works usually had no exterior ditch
or a ditch on the interior of the parapet. As per the regulations of the day
major works included redans, lunettes and redoubts, while minor works usually
referred to rifle pits, blockhouses, and stockades.
right or left side of a position or body of troops. Flanks are also the re-entering
sides of a lunette or bastion.
floating vessel (usually some type of wooden raft) that was propelled from
one bank to the other by the current of the stream. The usual procedure to
create a “ferry” of this kind was to attach the head of the boat, by means
of a cable and anchor, to some point near the middle of the stream. By steering
obliquely to the current, the boat could cross from shore to shore along the
to the rapid construction of the type of siege trenches referred to as saps.
enclosed work of higher class than a field work, consisting of either a detached
work or a work constructed within the framework of a large fortified area.
During the Civil War the term was often used to mean any important position,
no matter what type of military engineering was used in its construction.
military art of strengthening a position to resist an attack from a superior
force. If the fortification was to be placed in a position of great importance
and the materials were of durable quality, it is called a permanent fortification;
if not it is called a field or temporary fortification. A position can be strengthened
by the use of natural resources such as rivers, forests and hills or by artificial
means using earth, timber, and stone for temporary or permanent works.
was a small mine placed in a pit or shaft dug in the ground. It could be hidden
in the ditch of a work with a thin covering of dirt or debris. It could also
be placed and detonated anywhere advancing troops were forced to cross. An
obstacle was often placed over it, such as chevaux de frize or abatis, in order that the attackers were occupied long enough for the charge to be
detonated by means of a long fuse. Sometimes a fougass was made by using several
loaded artillery shells placed in a watertight box with a charge of powder
under them. Another type of mine used during the war was the contact mine.
It consisted of a small powder charge with a mercury fulminate detonator arranged
to explode under the pressure of a man’s foot. The term “torpedo,“ as it was
used in the 1860s, referred to another type of explosive mine fired by use
of mechanical or electrical detonators. Both sides denounced mines as illegal
and immoral at different times but continued to use them, though few were ever
fortified town or city, or any large fortification so strongly fortified as
to be capable of resisting a large and sustained attack. Fortress Rosecrans
in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was one of the largest earthen fortifications in
the state and contained over 200 acres within its walls.
A Civil War Fraise in Petersburg, Virginia.
fraise is an obstacle formed by means of constructing a palisade, placed horizontally
or slightly inclined at the edge of the berm of a ditch, so as to be concealed
by the counter scarp crest.
rough, cylindrical baskets, open at top and bottom used to revet the interior
slopes of batteries or the cheeks of embrasures, to form the parapet of trenches,
and to form free-standing defensive works. Gabions were made of various dimensions
and heights according to their use. The open-end basket was woven from twigs
and small branches and was filled with dirt.
fieldwork constructed of gabions.
were also called withes and were used to tie fascine bundles. They were made
of tough twigs or sapling rods and were to be “no smaller than your little
finger and no larger than your thumb.” They were prepared by twisting by hand,
in order to make them supple, then “tying” them around the fascine bundles.
covered passage way usually in the counterscarp and used as a ditch defense.
The gallery was about six feet high and four feet wide.
mound of earth placed in front of the ditch. The function of raising the ground
in front of the rampart was to eliminate any dead space and to allow a sweeping
fire form the parapet. The Glacis also caused shots from enemy cannons to ricochet
over the main works. It was seldom used in field works due to the time and
energy needed for construction.
open-ended side of the rear of a lunette or redan or the opening in an enclosed
work. If the work was detached or isolated, the gorge may have been fortified
with a stockade wall.
term gunboat was used broadly during the Civil War to describe any armed vessel
that was not a ship of the line, a frigate, or a sloop. The term included all
ocean-going ships and steamers that could operate for long periods of time
at sea. It also included Union and Confederate ironclads and monitor class
vessels with V-shaped hulls of the ocean going type. These ships were handicapped
by not being able to sail far from the protection of a friendly harbor. The
term gunboat also includes all of the flat-bottomed armored ships that navigated
the inland waterways and were predominately propelled by either side wheels
or stern paddle wheels.
placed horizontally on top of an earthwork and raised three to four inches
above the work allowing a soldier to fire a rifle through the opening without
exposing his head to enemy fire. Log supporting struts were often placed beneath
the head log and back across the top of the trench to keep the head logs from
rolling into the trench if hit by enemy artillery fire. This type of defensive
work was used with deadly effect by entrenched federal troops at the Battle
of Franklin, Tennessee.
to buildings or field sites occupied by commanding officers and their staff
for one night or up to several months.
wicker or woven sapling wall, 3 to 4 feet high and 6 to 9 feet long, constructed
between upright poles. Hurdles were used as revetments in temporary works,
and were placed on the steep interior slope or used on the walls of traverses.
Hurdles were also used to form a dry footing in trenches during wet weather.
or Cremaillere Line:
continuous line of alternating (zigzag) long and short faces constructed perpendicular
to each other. The reenterings were arranged so as to provide for crossfire
in front of them.
inundations were created by damming streams that passed in front of a field
fortification. This type of obstacle was rarely used during the Civil War,
but at Knoxville, Tennessee, sections of the Federal defenses were partially
protected by damming several creeks.
angle of the parapet wall extending between the superior slope and the banquette.
ship or boat that was sheathed in thick iron plate. Ironclad ships were in
use in Europe before 1861, but not until the American Civil War did any ironclad
vessels fight one another.
final stronghold in the interior of a complex fortification. Often referred
to as the citadel.
openings in a wall through which a weapon could be fired. Most frequently seen
in blockhouse and stockade construction.
earthen fortification similar to a redan in construction and function, with
the addition of two flanking walls on either side of the open gorge.
bombproof compartment designed to safely store and contain gunpowder and fixed
portion of the parapet wall between two embrasures.
military crest of a ridge is a position that allows troops to see all the ground
in front of them. The topographical crest of a ridge is the highest point on
the ridge and allows for a favorable position for distant observation but would
not allow troops to see the foreground and fire upon an enemy. Therefore, on
a convex slope, the military crest is below the topographical crest.
were used for the manufacture of cast iron or bronze cannons or other metal
military products, such as munitions, small arms, swords, and belt buckles.
In Tennessee several civilian foundries were converted into military use by
the Confederacy, the T. M. Brennan Foundry in Nashville being one of them.
the surveys of Civil War military sites in Tennessee, military hospitals were
categorized as short term and long term. The first refers to buildings that were used as temporary hospitals following
a battle, as well as tent hospitals, known as “brigade depots” or “forward
dressing stations.” The latter were located as close as possible to battle
fronts, and the wounded from the field were brought there by stretcher-bearers.
Soldiers treated in these front line hospitals were often placed in ambulance
wagons or train cars and transported to larger field or divisional hospitals
further in the rear. Wounded soldiers from brigade depots or divisional hospitals
were often transported to “general” or “base” hospitals, which were usually
permanent buildings located in larger cities.
depots usually consisted of collections of warehouses built for the storage
of large quantities of military goods. Supplies were shipped by river, train,
or wagon to these depots, usually located in larger cities and guarded by extensive
fortifications. During the Civil War, Nashville, Johnsonville, and Murfreesboro,
Tennessee, became major Federal storage facilities.
military controlled mining operation for extracting saltpeter from the floors
of caves. This material was refined and became a major component in the manufacturing
War era military shipyards were designed for the construction and maintenance
of vessels such as gunboats, transports, and barges. Most were located in large
cities on major waterways. In Tennessee, important military shipyards were
located at Nashville, Johnsonville, Chattanooga, and Memphis.
name for a priest cap or swallow tail earthwork.
narrow opening of an embrasure at the interior slope of a parapet.
embrasure that intersects a parapet at an acute angle.
device or material, such as abatis or chevaux-de-frise, placed in front of a fortification or a passage to hinder attackers by breaking
up the orderliness and momentum of an attack. It delayed enemy troops at a
point in the field where defenders could most effectively sweep the enemy with
stakes placed in the ground at an angle facing the enemy. The stakes were 6
to 8 inches in diameter and 6 to 10 feet long. A small ditch, about 2 feet
6 inches in depth and width, was dug for the palisade line. A large lintel
or beam, called a riband, was nailed to the bottom of the palisade stakes,
sunk into the ditch, filled with earth, and packed. When finished, at least
7 feet of palisade was angled above ground. Another riband was sometimes attached
to the upper portion of the palisade stakes, about 18 inches from the pointed
ends, to provide additional strength. The palisade was usually placed in front
of a ditch or the base of a slope, as an obstacle. Today the terms stockade
and palisade are sometimes used interchangeably, but during the Civil War,
palisade referred to the above described angled defensive configuration, while
stockade referred to vertical post defenses.
pan coupe was constructed by modifying a lunette or redan fortification by
the addition of a small face (or flattened point) constructed across the salient
angle, allowing a wider range of fire.
constructed parallel to enemy works to contain reserve troops and artillery
during a siege. Successive parallels were dug, each being nearer to the work
and connected by saps.
wall of the rampart that troops stood behind to defend the fortified position.
In field works, the height of the parapet was recommended at about 7 feet,
the thickness of the parapet varied according to the kind of fire it was intended
to resist. If the parapet was out of the range of enemy artillery (about 800
yards), then it was constructed to resist only musketry or rifle fire, a thickness
of 2½ feet. To withstand artillery fire the thickness of the wall was 6 to
designed for long-term occupation and constructed of durable materials. Fort
Negley in Nashville and Fortress Rosecrans in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, are
stake driven through fascine or other forms of revetment in order to secure
them to the interior slope of the parapet wall.
equipped with axes, saws, spades, mattocks, pickaxes, billhooks and other tools
for clearing the way before an advancing army or to entrench. Pioneers were
sometimes detailed from different companies of a regiment and formed under
a non-commissioned officer.
form of sun-dried brick revetment made of ordinary earth mixed with clay and
sometimes with chopped straw. The mixture was kneaded with water and laid wet,
12 inches thick by 2 feet broad and well packed. To protect the face from weathering,
grass seeds or oats were sown, but were not to be cut when the stalks matured.
imaginary line sighted by an engineer that represented the converging enemy’s
fire into the interior of a work.
foundation, usually built of timber, which supported an artillery piece and
kept it from miring into the dirt surface of the terreplein.
downward slope of the superior slope of the parapet; also the downward slope
of the sole or floor of an embrasure.
annihilating fire from a high or commanding position. River batteries were
often positioned on high ground to obtain a plunging fire that would strike
the vulnerable and unarmed decks of gunboats and other river transportation.
construction of temporary military bridges or ferries by engineers, aided by
a detachment of sappers. The bridges were made using wooded pontoon skiffs
(called bateau by French engineers), which were transported on carriages, or by using wooden
raft frames covered with a vulcanized India rubber canvas. During the Civil
War these devices were generally called pontoons, but the engineer corps continued
to refer to them by the older spelling “pontons.”
covered passage beneath the rampart that provided communication from the interior
into the ditch. The passage from the covered way into the surrounding countryside,
usually in front of the works, was called the sally port.
earthwork resembling the capital letter “M,” having an indented salient that
forms two small redans. It was seldom used as a detached work, but was often
constructed at the end of a main line of defenses. One example of this type
fortification is recorded in Tennessee.
wooden outline, or frame of poles and laths nailed together, usually constructed
on the ground and raised to a vertical position to simulate the dimensions
of the desired earthen fortification to be built. Dirt would then be excavated
from the ditch and thrown back into the profiled framework and compacted until
it filled the dimensions of the profile. The parapet was then ready to be finished
with a suitable revetment.
refers to posts that protected vulnerable points along the rail system such
as bridges, trestles, or depots. These were often defended using stockades,
blockhouses, or earthworks such as redoubts and entrenchments.
ship or boat equipped with an armored prow for ramming another ship was called
inclining passage from the interior of a work to the terreplein, allowing troops
and artillery access to the parapet wall.
broad wall or embankment forming the main body of a fortification and consisting
of a terreplein and a parapet.
part of the rampart that is visually in line or in the same plane as a point
in the rear of the work and the commanding heights in the front of the work.
The plane represents the converging fire along the length of the rampart.
side of the rampart between either the banquette or the terreplein and the
rear of the work, constructed with a slope of forty-five degrees.
large V-shaped outwork composed of two faces forming a salient angle, constructed
outside the ditch. It was used to cover the curtain wall, the gate, or the
flank of a bastion. It was sometimes referred to as a demi lune . Two ravelins were used in the construction of Fort Negley at Nashville.
earthwork that is enclosed on all sides. The overall configuration may be square,
polygonal, or circular. Redoubts on level ground were generally square or pentagonal.
On a hill or rising ground their outlines often followed the contour of the
summit of the hill. Tennessee redoubts were often relatively small detached
works used to fortify hilltops or to strengthen main lines of defense.
V-shaped earthwork, open at the rear, the opening being referred to as a gorge.
In Tennessee examples occur both as detached works and as portions of defensive
angle or line that points inward or toward the interior of the work. Almost
all flanks joined faces of field works at re-entering angles.
military unit composed of ten or more companies, usually about 1,000 men at
the start of the Civil War. Regiments were commonly thought to consist of two
battalions. As the war progressed regiment size was often under strength, with
considerably less than 1,000 men, in some reported instances as low as 375.
height of the work. High or bold relief refers to a tall or commanding work;
low relief refers to a work that is low in height.
retrenchment was a parapet or trench constructed in the rear of the forward
parapet of a field work that defending troops could fall back to when driven
from the outer works. It was a second line of defense that could be used to
prevent enemy forces from entering the interior of a field fortification or
penetrating through a line of works. Retrenchments were used in the works at
the Battles of Franklin and Nashville and at other Civil War sites across Tennessee.
fire that strikes the rear of a work or a fire that hits the interior slope
of a parapet at an angle greater than thirty degrees.
used to sustain an embankment when the slope is steeper than the natural slope.
Revetments were constructed with materials such as wood, stone, sandbags, sod,
gabions, or fascines, held in place with wooden picket stakes.
thick plank or log nailed horizontally to the base of a row of palisades and
placed in the ground to strengthen the palisades. Another riband was sometimes
placed about 18 inches from the pointed ends or tops of the palisades to also
provided more stability.
artillery fire was delivered at a low elevation toward a parapet so that shot
would pass over the parapet wall and bound along the interior of the work.
pits were relatively simple to construct, requiring no engineering expertise.
They could be thrown up quickly almost anywhere and provided fairly efficient
protection against small arms and some light artillery fire. Some of the entrenchments
had an interior or exterior ditch, but it was not intended as an obstacle for
the enemy. Rifle pits can be subdivided into two distinct types of works defined
by their lateral extent (rather than their profiles) and function. Skirmish pits were small, detached works providing cover for one or two or small groups of
troops. They were placed on the flanks of a fortified or unfortified position
to provide cover for skirmishers or pickets. Rifle trenches were extended lines of rifle pits that were used to connect major field works
and cover the front of infantry troops deployed in a position. The term rifle
pit was a “catch-all” phrase used during the war, and its true definition was
commonly misinterpreted when describing types of infantry field works. Both
subdivisions were used in many locations throughout Tennessee. Fort Donelson
National Battlefield in Dover, Tennessee, contains excellent examples of both
types of rifle pits as described above (see also “Entrenchment”).
of a work that projects outward from the main work.
projection of a work that forms an angle.
opening in a work that allowed access into the work and was used by troops
to make a sally or sortie out of the work.
canvas bag (sometimes tarred) measuring roughly 14 inches by 30 inches an d
filled three-fourths full with earth to form a quick defensive structure or
advanced on enemy works by the construction of approach trenches, referred
to as saps, the work being carried out by sappers (the term sap derives from
the French word sappe, meaning spade or shovel). A large sap roller was placed at the head of the
sap (or trench) and advanced foot by foot as gabions were placed on the side
towards the besieged work and filled with dirt. These protected the workmen
from enemy fire. When enemy fire was slack many gabions could be placed and
filled at the same time, this procedure being known as a flying sap. If two
gabion parapets were placed one on each side of the trench, this was called
a double sap.
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a system of siegecraft was developed
by French Field Marshal Vauban that provided a systematic approach for attackers
and their artillery to enemy fortifications by means of entrenchments. Under
the cover of artillery fire, the attacking troops dug “saps,” or approach trenches,
toward the enemy (thus the origins of the word “sapper” for certain kinds of
engineers). During the American Civil War, detachments of sappers, miners,
and pontoniers were used in advance of the infantry to open and repair roads,
establish pontoon bridges, and occasionally to lay siege to fortified positions.
is a general term applied to the operation of forming trenches, along which
troops may approach an enemy work without being exposed to enemy fire. Construction
of the trench could be carried out night and day without cessation.
device that was placed at the head of the trench being dug by a squad of sappers
and pushed ahead of them (using specialized tools) to provide cover from enemy
fire. It consisted of two large concentric gabions, 6 feet in length, the outer
one having a diameter of 4 feet, the inner one a diameter of 2 feet 8 inches.
It was made shot proof by filling the space between the gabions with small
pieces of hardwood, cotton, straw, or some similar type material.
largest type of fascine measuring 10 inches in diameter and 18 feet long, used
in constructing batteries and magazines.
small-sized timber for construction, similar to a stud or rafter.
inner slope of the ditch under the berm.
vessel propelled by steam-powered paddle wheels on either side of the hull.
located on prominent hilltops, signal stations were set up to form an interlocking
grid throughout the theater of war. Their primary function was to pass messages
by semaphore (or “wig wag”), but their localities also offered ideal views
of enemy movements. Most of the signal stations had signal towers of wood or
used large trees to support observation platforms. In a few cases strategically
located buildings, such as the Tennessee State Capital building in Nashville,
were occupied as signal stations.
trench constructed on ordinary soil beyond the range of the enemy’s artillery
grape shot was called a simple sap or ordinary trench. The earth was thrown
up on the side towards the enemy, so as to form a kind of parapet to cover
the men in the trench. The work was done by working parties detached from various
military units, supervised by engineer troops.
were used in advance of the main body of advancing troops. They fought on open
ground, taking advantage of the terrain. When formed into line of battle, a
regiment might fight with all its companies abreast, forming one long double
line of men, or one or more companies might be held back as reserves. One or
more companies were usually sent forward as a skirmish line. In a divisional
attack, whole regiments might be assigned as skirmishers. As the war progressed
skirmish lines grew heavier, in some cases consisting of half the regimental
strength, the remainder being held in line of battle as reserves. Skirmish
lines might be 400 to 500 yards in advance of the main formation.
obstacle made of pickets or sharpened branches two and a half feet long and
driven into the ground one foot apart in quincunx order.
or turfs used for the formation of the interior slopes of parapets and the
cheeks of embrasures. The sod was to be cut from good grass, with thickly matted
roots, and was to be mowed and watered before it was cut. Sod was cut in two
sizes with the typical pattern consisting of headers that were 12 inches square
by 4½ inches thick and stretchers that were 18 inches long by 12 inches broad
and 4½ inches thick. For the first layer the sod was laid horizontal, grass
side down, with two stretchers and one header alternating and packed firmly
with a mallet. When this was completed a second layer with the grass side up
was laid on the first, positioned so as to cover the joints. In hot weather
the revetment was to be watered frequently.
bottom or floor of an embrasure.
widening effect of an embrasure.
secret movement of troops made by a strong detachment of troops in a besieged
position, to destroy or retard the enemy’s approaches.
enclosed work composed of salients and re-entering angles. It was an ineffective
design for defenses as the flanks did not receive sufficient flank protection.
art of creating a plan of campaign, combining a system of military operations
to attain certain goals, such as the character of the enemy, the nature and
resources of the country, and the means of attack and defense.
flat-bottomed steamer propelled by a single paddle wheel located in the stern
of the vessel.
or picket, was an early frontier term that described a relatively simple enclosure
designed in a German cross or square shape, often with bastioned corners. Vertical
log walls usually contained loopholes for firing. Troops often dug outer ditches
and heaped the earth against the exterior walls to add strength to the stockade.
Before blockhouses became common in Tennessee in 1864, Federal troops relied
primarily on stockades to protect railroad trestles.
top of the parapet extending from the interior slope to the exterior slope.
priest-cap or mitre type of earthwork.
opposed to strategy, tactics is the art of handling the movement of armies
upon the battlefield within sight of the enemy.
loop-holed stockade with two faces forming a salient angle, constructed to
defend the gorge of a small field work or to guard the doorways of a fortification
or fortified building.
built for a battle or a campaign and constructed of available materials; usually
constructed in a single day.
name given to the floor or level ground surface inside a fortification, located
between the banquette slope and the interior slope of a rampart.
detached fortification designed primarily to cover a bridge, usually constructed
as a redan.
river gunboat that was minimally armored with thin sheets of iron plating no
more than 5/8 inch thick. Some tinclads were reinforced by two layers of plating
but were still only protected from small arms fire and were susceptible to
artillery shells that sometimes penetrated entirely through the vessel. Most
tinclads were stern-wheelers and the exposed wheel could be disabled if hit
by enemy fire. This flaw soon lead to a new class of vessel, the “city-class
earthen wall or embankment, perpendicular to the main rampart wall, that provides
protection from enfilading fire. In the construction of artillery batteries,
splinter-proof traverses were placed alternately between the cannons to limit
the destructive effect of a shell exploding within the battery. These rectangular
earthen traverses were usually reveted with fascine, gabion or sand bags.
top platform of the banquette.
common name for a parapet and ditch; also the parallels or zigzags constructed
by besiegers in an attempt to capture enemy works.
bridge (for infantry):
bridge principally used for crossing a small stream not more than eight feet
in depth. In shallow water, they also served to connect floating bridges with
Bridges of the American Civil War were usually constructed with unskilled laborers,
supervised by officers trained in such construction, using materials obtained
on or near the site. The illustration depicts a military railroad bridge in
Virginia that was 80 feet high and 400 feet long. A Civil War era guide to
building military railroad bridges (Military Bridges: Designs for Trestle and Truss Bridges, 1864) was published by Colonel Herman Haupt, Chief of U.S. Military Railways.
obstacle consisting of a sharpened stake placed in an inverted pyramid or cone-shaped
pit, some six feet in diameter and about the same number of feet in depth.
They are usually placed in “checkerboard” rows a few yards in front of the
ditch and concealed by some type of slight covering. An identical type of defensive
tool, substantiated by recent archaeological findings, was used by Roman legions
in 52 BC at the siege of Alesia in Britain. Trous de loup derives from the French, meaning wolf holes.
mortars generally used vertical fire to reach their targets. Fire was said
to be vertical when it was delivered at a high angle.
twigs twisted together to form a rope for tying a fascine, also known as gads
term works was commonly used by Civil War era military personal in reference
to any type of earthen field works or field fortifications.
line of defiladed approach trenches, built by besiegers in an attempt to move
toward enemy works while under the protection of a parapet. The zigzag trenches
could eventually lead to the capture of the besieged position.