Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chief Topographical Engineer's After Action Report, September 30, 1863, Madison, CT, "Battle of Bauer Park."

General McKay,

   Thank you very much for your informative AAR.  Well done!

   I would like to add one visit to our Engineer's Field Office that I had not had the opportunity to brief you on.

   On Sunday, just prior to the noonday meal, I had the very distinct pleasure to receive a visit by President Lincoln.  After making the introductions of Lady Webster and Lt. Goodhue, I set to the task of demonstrating the process of map making and map reproduction,and explaining in detail what our job is as Topographical Engineers and how we may be an asset to the commanding staff.  I was able to use numerous map displays to make my points for the President which I believed was very well received.  I then also explained our numerous "infernal devices" to him, to which he was especially interested, as well as our engineering field fortification displays.   

  After about a forty minute visit, the President thanked us collectively as Engineers for our hard work and went about his rounds of the camp.  

  It was a very pleasurable visit from our Commander in Chief.


Major Greg Webster (by brevet)
Commander, NETE

From: James Mathews <JLMTopog@comcast.net>
To: TopogEng@yahoogroups.comunicorn628@comcast.net; USNLP <email@usnlp.org>; Ulysses Grant <samgrantusa@yahoo.com>; NECW_Federals@yahoogroups.comCivilWarEvents@yahoogroups.com; marc Bassos <Marc183@comcast.net
Sent: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 6:48 AM
Subject: [TopogEng] Topographical Engineers, AAR, Madison, CT, Sept, 2013

>>>> Chief Topographical Engineer's After Action Report, September 30, 1863, Madison, CT ---- “Battle of Bauer Park.” <<<<

General U. S. Grant 
Army Commander

Colonel Paul Kenworthy
New England Brigade

Major Greg Webster
Northeast Topographical Engineers (NETE)

Major Don Erickson
U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers

Respected Sirs;

I beg your very kind indulgence to receive my Engineering Report for the above named encampment and battle.

My staff and I left Fort Trumbull by dispatch schooner early on the morning of September 27, after receiving orders from General U. S. Grant's headquarters to be present at Bauer Park near the seacoast village of Madison, CT.  There to set up a complete Topographical Engineering Office together with the Northeast Topographical Engineers (afterwards NETE) to provide area maps, field re-con. of the area, and any and all further assistance to the New England Brigade that could be rendered.  In addition, a special request from the event coordinator for a complete engineering display in the farmhouse at Bauer Park to acquaint all interested in the tactical aspects of Topographical Engineering.  This private request was approved by Gen. U. S. Grant's Headquarters.  The dispatch craft was loaded, early that morning and we got underway immediately, following closely the coastline westward until reaching the Port of Madison, CT  where we were met by an army wagon.  We transferred our cargo at that point into the provided wagon and after the short trip North to Bauer Park we arrived in the mid afternoon and met the NETE, and immediately set up the requested display field office in the farmhouse there. The weather was warm and bright, and the grounds of the park were dry from a few days of good weather.  The lower rooms of the farmhouse had been cleared for the use of the Engineering Staff.  The Union encampment was down the road and behind the farmhouse in a mown field.  Bauer Park contains two extensive ponds joining closely to each other and surrounding by a lush deciduous forest.  The skirmish field was newly mown and the event coordinator Marc Bassos was kind enough to take me for a short wagon ride around the park showing me all of the fields and aspects of the park, including the access roads and the Union Camp.  This wheeled survey helped greatly in producing a sketch map of the area for the New England Brigade Commander to make his battle plans.  The production of the park's sketch maps was further enhanced by the close ground survey conducted by Major Gregg Webster, Commander of the NETE.  Once the army wagon was unloaded and the engineering display materials had been moved to the farmhouse where the display was to be laid out in the morning, Lady Mathews and I then returned to the offered lodging a few miles East of Madison and there spent the evening.

I arrived in the park, early the next morning.  The weather was clear and cool.  No clouds in the sky with a slight breeze over the parkland.  I met in the morning hours with all the engineers and we laid out our plans for the day.  Lt. Col. Duarte would assist me with the layout and management of the weapons display, and I would maintain the main engineering office, instrumentation and models.  Major Webster, would undertake all required field and ground surveys, produce a set of sketches as required by the Brigade Commander, and maintain his own office under canvas nearby.  He was joined in this by Lady Webster, a contracted artist who would join him in producing some sketches of the surrounding area.     

My first action of the day was to fill out and send in the Topographical Engineers Morning Report, together with Major Websters two battlefield sketches for the Brigade Commander’s use, which I had reviewed and approved.  Officer’s Call was sounded and Major Webster attended for the engineers.  This was followed by my putting together a proposed project which would protect the small passage bridge across the shallow marsh that divided the skirmish field.  This proposal consisted of a small two gun redoubt in front of the bridge with a single gun emplacement fifty yards to either side of the redoubt.  These guns would be placed so as to have a crossing fire in the middle of the small bridge (see the sketches provided).   At this point, a letter was delivered by a dispatch member from Gen. U. S. Grant's Headquarters:

>>> Letter Contents <<<

War Department
Washington City, Sept. 28, 1863

Major Webster, Commander, (NETE)
Brig. General of Engineers, Ian McKay, CE, 25th Corps
Lt. Col. J. Duarte, Adj. (NETE)


When you are in Madison, CT, I would like you to check if we could use the Port facilities, in town, as a depot for our supplies for New England.  

We are currently using Boston, Mass., Newport, RI, and New York City.  It would be nice if we had a place in the middle.

I would like to have a map and draft of the harbor.  Can we put a ship in at low tide?  Will this be a safe port from southern raiders?

General U. S. Grant's Headquarters

General U. S. Grant  

 My response to the General's questions was that;  based on a map of the Madison Harbor produced by Lt. Col. Duarte, the depth of water at low tide around the Madison pier was only 15 feet, which in my estimation would only be suitable for a small to medium sized vessel.  However, the water depth around the Tuxis Island in Madison harbor was 24-25 feet in depth.  In considering the island as a possible landing site for larger vessels, the engineers would be required to build a pier and stowage facilities on the island, as none are currently available.  In answer to his last question; is the Madison Harbor open to possible rebel attack from the sea, in my estimation, such an attack from a Confederate Raider vessel was very possible, and that in order to be able to use the harbor with confidence, I would strongly suggest a two to three gun battery on the island, and a similar battery along the coastline with the ability to cover both piers and the main channel into the Madison Harbor Facilities.   The above response was sent by telegraph to Gen. Grant's headquarters. A copy of the chart of Madison Harbor was sent by military courier to the General's Headquarters as well. I then turned to drawing a map of the whole of Bauer Park, both for the unit (NETE) mapping files of the 25th Corps as well as the map files of  of General Grant.  

I then returned to the task of designing, a sketch map of the proposed defenses of the Southern portion of the Bauer Park skirmish field. In the afternoon Major Webster reported to me that the approved field fortifications had been set up on the skirmish field, two "Cheveau Des Frise", a set of baseless Frazee, and a line of "tulips."  He also reported that a letter had been found on the battlefield obviously lost by a Confederate soldier.  The letter contained both a rough map of a past battle and some valuable descriptions of the Confederate's field tactics.  He asked what should be done with the information, and I suggested that perhaps the information that the letter yielded could be used by the Brigade Commander in possible future engagements with the Confederates.  I further suggested that he should provide the Brigade Commander, not only with the information, but also a plan by which the information could be used in the foreseeable future. 

In the early afternoon Master Marc Bassos, the encampment master came by to take me by wagon to the skirmish field.  In a previously made agreement I had indicated that I was willing to narrate the battle scene at the skirmish field for the expected spectators, the skirmish battle scheduled to take place on Saturday.  I replied that I should be pleased and honored to do so, and carried out the effort with dispatch on both occasions.

The skirmishes both followed a usual plan or pattern:
--Skirmishers (trained and experienced infantry) advanced from both ends of the battlefield.  Their purpose was to locate the enemy force if possible and estimate the enemy strength to be provided to the brigade commander;
--The skirmish was followed by an Artillery barrage which attempted to “soften up” the enemy and to break up the enemy guns and wagons on the field.  Two union guns were available for this activity;
--The Union infantry force was divided into three wings, each of which approached the skirmish field using the three access roads / trails to the area.  Each wing engaged the Confederate forces in turn and then withdrawing to regroup and form an attack posture again as needed.,  The skirmishers rejoined their individual forces.  Both volley firing and independent firing are used against the enemy forces following a stiff artillery barrage directed against the Confederate Artillery Line..  The Confederate artillery replied in force.  The battlefield was smothered in both gun and pyrotechnic smoke.  The Confederate forces often split their battalion into smaller groups in order to try to flank the enemy and force him to direct his fire in more than one direction;
--Both sides pushed each other back and forth and finally the Union force, outnumbering the Confederates significantly, finally forced them back against the forest line and limits of the skirmish area and received the Confederate Surrender.

During the day there was a steady arrival of spectators wishing to talk with the engineers and review both detailed engineering displays.  The items of the display which seemed to attract the most attention were the period pistol display and the field fortification and bridging models.   

On Sunday morning we got into camp, again at an early hour, and found that Lt. Col. James Duarte had preceded us and we again settled in to greet and serve as docents for the engineering displays laid out in the farmhouse.  I was again asked to narrate the Sunday skirmish and was pleased to do so.  Later in the morning Major Webster brought 2nd Lt. Goodhue to the farmhouse. He was just fresh from his previous field assignment and joined the Topogs for the day.  He would be involved in a ground survey assignment with Major Webster and would then assist with the field fortifications as needed.  The remainder of the morning I spent in completing my sketch maps of Bauer Park and Environs.  Following the afternoon skirmish, in which the Confederates prevailed, the crowds again began to filter through camps for the last hour or so, and when the last of them had left the park,  the Brigade and the Engineers broke camp and prepared the transport wagons to move to the next scheduled encampment (Worcester, Mass.) which was planned and scheduled to end with the departure of the last of the spectators.  I must also mention that Ladies Webster and Mathews were a very important part of the engineering activity.  Lady Webster did an excellent job of explaining the features of Major Websters engineering displays when the engineers were otherwise engaged, and she also showed me two rough sketches she had made of the surrounding area.  I approved both of them and am eager to see the finished copies of each.  Both ladies worked very hard in laying out the engineering displays, and in breaking camp and loading the wagons.  Lt. Col, Duarte was extremely valuable in his management of the engineering weapons display and Lt. Goodhue was a big help in assisting the engineers break camp and get all the engineering equipment packed in the wagons.  FRom this point the dispatch boat crew took over the wagons and drove them back to the schooner, loaded the materials aboard and set sail for New London, CT. and Fort Trumbull. 

After breaking camp and packing up the engineering displays and leaving the Bauer Park area, we (The Topogs) settled on a dinner at a local inn which we knew.  After a sumptuous supper at a new hotel adjacent to the Madison Port Facilities, Major Webster proclaimed another engineer encampment to be fully successful and thanked all who were in attendance.  This encampment from my view  was very successful and not only were we able to learn from our attendance, but we again carried away from the encampment not only our memories of a very good time but we have also increased our map files and our proposals to the Brigade as well as the replies to the needs of General Grant and his future planned campaigns.  Were I and my staff invited again to be a part of the encampment planned and carried out by Marc Bassos and his staff, we should be pleased to attend and do whatever possible to make such an encampment as pleasant and interesting as this years encampment at Bauer Park.  From my aspect the weekend was well planned and carried out.  Well Done to all who made the event as much fun as it was.  

Very Respectfully;

Ian McKay, BG, CE, TE
Corps Engineer, 25th Corps,
Chief Engineer
Chief of Staff (acting)
Lt. General U. S. Grant’s Personal and Military Staffs

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