Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Guns of USS Harriet Lane

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 15, 2018
[This replaces an earlier post.]
Possible Gun Arrangement 3
A friend working on a model asked me recently about the guns of USS Harriet Lane, the former revenue cutter captured here in the Battle of Galveston on New Years Day 1863. Determining the armament is straightforward, as it’s listed in the naval Official Records (Series I, Vol. 19, p. 745) as
  • One 30-pound rifle
  • One X-inch pivot
  • Two IX-inch guns on Marsilly carriages
  • Two 24-pounder howitzers.

I’m presuming that the rifle is a Parrott rifle, and IX- and X-inch guns are Dahlgrens, both of which were standard armament types aboard U.S. Navy vessels.


I was initially uncertain about exactly how these guns were arranged aboard the ship, but my friend and colleague Mark F. Jenkins reminded me of the account of Phillip Tucker, published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly in 1918. Tucker wrote that


her batteries were strengthened as follows: one four-inch rifled Parrot gun as pivot on the forecastle deck; one nine-inch Dahlgren gun on pivot forward of the foremast; two eight-inch Dahlgren Columbiads [sic] and two twenty-four-pound brass howitzers on ship carriages, aft. . . .​

Tucker is, in fact, one of the more detailed and generally reliable sources for the battle and, aside from the terminology he uses to describe the guns, his description matches the U.S. Navy’s report quite well. Therefore, based on Tucker’s description, here’s my revised graphic showing the positions of the guns. This arrangement would require removable or folding bulwarks forward to clear the arc of the X-inch Dahlgren, but that would hot have been a difficult thing to do.



7 Responses

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  1. David Kent said, on March 16, 2018 at 7:15 am

    I just happen to be reading A T Mahan’s book, The Gulf and Inland Waters United States Navy, Volume 3, and it lists the Harriet Lane as a side-wheel steamer of 619 tons, which had been transferred from the Revenue Service. The Battery of it was three, IX inch, small bore guns. It’s was commanded by Lieutenant Jonathan M. Wainwright. It was Porters flag ship at the surrender of New Orleans, and the terms were agreed to, and signed on it. A true piece of history.

  2. Richard Lott said, on April 1, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Any idea how the gun ports were set up on the Harriet Lane?

    • Andy Hall said, on April 1, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      At the time of her capture? I don’t. I credit Tucker’s account with being probably correct in the broad strokes, but the details of the ports, I don’t know.

    • Andy Hall said, on April 1, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      As it happens, I found this Library of Congress image today of a Brazilian corvette of similar size to HL at Washington in Dec 1862 — here’s how they dealt with the big pivot forward:

  3. Katy said, on April 15, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Hi Mr. Hall. We are doing a school project on the battle of Galveston (recapture) and you seem to be very knowledgeable about the subject. We were wondering if you know how many soldiers fought on each side and how many people died. We have found varying numbers. Thank you.

    • Andy Hall said, on April 15, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      Katy, I’ll try to respond later this evening.

    • Andy Hall said, on April 22, 2018 at 7:20 pm


      Please forgive me for not responding earlier. I got sidetracked by other things, and I apologize for being tardy with this.

      As you can probably imagine, the answer to some of these questions are “it depends.” Specifically, it depends on what units or groups are counted in the total, because a number of units never actually got into combat and played no direct role in the battle (e.g., the crew of USS Westfield).

      Going from a variety of sources, this is my rough estimate of the forces involved on each side. Please understand that this is just a guess, but I think it’s more or less in line with reality.

      Bayou City 250
      Neptune 250
      Lucy Gwin 100
      John F. Carr 100
      Infantry Assault 300
      Artillery 300
      Cavalry 200
      Logistics 300
      Total 1800

      United States
      Westfield 120
      Harriet Lane 110
      Owasco 120
      Sachem 120
      Corypheus 80
      Clifton 120
      43rd Mass 250
      Total 920

      The numbers for the United States do not include crews of several unarmed transports in the harbor, that played no part int he battle but were nearby. For TOTAL numbers, I’d say 2000-2500 for the Confederacy, and 1200-1500 for the United States.

      Casualties are better known. Magruder’s report sad he lost 26 killed and 117 wounded. The United States probably had fewer numbers in each category, but lost 109 prisoners from Harriet lane, and about 250 prisoners from the soldiers on shore.

      I hope this is useful for your project.


      Andy Hall

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