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This webpage reproduces an article in
Military Affairs
Vol. 10 No. 4 (Winter, 1946), pp16‑34

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

 p16  Rockets in Early American Wars

By Major Paul D. Olejara


[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders photograph, more or less three-quarters left, of a young man in a plain military uniform. He has an oval face, short hair, and a pleasant if somewhat worried look. He is U. S. Army Major Paul Duncan Olejar, the author of the article on this page.]

Paul D. Olejar

If any one weapon symbolizes the swift destruction of World War II, it is the rocket. All major participants used rockets. By end of the war, the German V‑2 weapon was known to all, and the Russian rocket barrages preceding assault were widely cited. American soldiers, sailors, and marines fired millions of rockets at the enemy. Tactical use advanced rapidly. Aircraft rockets, the bazooka, the naval rocket gunboats, and automatic and multiple rocket launchers for ground use widened horizons. Just before the war ended, the Army began training a new‑type combat team, the motorized rocket unit equipped with multiple-tube launchers. It was intended to further ground use of rockets, which already had important rôles in air attacks, in amphibious landings, and in submarine hunting. The total advance was spectacular, starting from scratch after war began.

And yet, rocket warfare is not new in American military annals. Just about 100 years ago, special American rocket troops campaigned actively in the War with Mexico. Led by officers whose names are synonymous with military success, these rocketeers participated in the rugged campaign of 1847 from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. Our experience with rockets goes back even farther, to the War of 1812, and perhaps a few years earlier to Indian campaigns in Florida. The British used them in the campaign that led to the burning of the city of Washington and the bombardment of Fort McHenry at Baltimore in 1814. We commemorate that experience today in our National Anthem when we sing of "the rockets' red glare, . . . ."

It is true that the rockets used today are different and undoubtedly far superior to those of 100 years ago. But the difference probably is not as great as that between the smooth-bore muzzle-loading cannon of the War with Mexico and the modern rapid-firing breech-loading rifled guns of today.

Although artillery use continued to advance, rocket use languished for eighty years. Various factors contributed to this decline. But in their heyday during early American wars, rockets had an interesting though erratic career.

 p17  The "fireworks" type of rocket entertaining Fourth of July throngs is familiar, but the rocket as an implement of war has a misty history. The Chinese generally are credited with adapting it to battle and recorded instances of its use date back to the thirteenth century. The rocket probably is older than the gun. For some reason, however, it failed to gain popularity and it is almost unmentioned in military annals for several centuries. Among early commentators on rockets were Biringucci Vanuccio, whose De la pirotechnia appeared in 1540, and J. Hanzelet, whose Traités militaires appeared in 1598. Hanzelet presented a method of employing the rocket in war. Casimir Simienowicz, lieutenant general of ordnance to the King of Poland, devoted considerable attention to the subject in his book on The Great Art of Artillery, translated into the English language in 1729. But his rockets admittedly were erratic incendiaries, uncertain as to performance.1 Another experimenter was General Desaguliers of the British army.

At the time Washington's little army was wresting American independence, western Europe was becoming excited over reports of the success with rockets achieved in India by native armies. Some years later, the British troops at Seringapatam, in India, were thrown into confusion by salvos of explosive containers rigged on long bamboo sticks, hurled by a special rocket corps of Hyder Ali, the Prince of Mysore. When accounts of this battle of 1799 reached England, Colonel William Congreve (later knighted) of the British army began a series of experiments until he developed similar missiles which became a vogue in several European armies.

The rocket was essentially a cylinder of compressed powder that was made "lazy" by altering the normal gunpowder proportions of charcoal, sulphur, and saltpeter to provide a slower rate of burning. Congreve first experimented with the pasteboard skyrocket type and in time improved its range to about 2,000 yards. Discarding paper in favor of iron, he improved the Indian adaptations and soon had various types and sizes of incendiary and explosive missiles ranging up to 32 pounds in weight. Since the ordinary skyrocket at best is uncertain in flight, its accuracy impaired by the off‑center guiding stick, Congreve developed better balance by placing the stick in the center of the rocket's axis. To the iron tube he attached the "head" consisting of the incendiary carcass or explosive bomb. In time he had a range of about 3,000 yards, exceeding that of most artillery pieces of the day. His 12‑pound rocket could penetrate a 20‑foot solid earthwork at 1,200 yards and then burst. A 12‑foot sodded work was considered safe from 12‑pounder field‑gun missiles.2

Discharge of the rocket was obtained by igniting the powder at one end. To increase the burning surface, there was a conical hole in the powder, called the core. The burning powder changed into highly compressed gas which escaped through the exhaust nozzle at high speed. Reaction of the escaping gas gave the impetus — that is, Newton's Third Law of Motion: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction," govern. The basic principle governs modern rockets, which differ from  p18 those of a hundred years ago only in engineering design, improvement of explosive qualities, and tactical application.

Congreve rockets had their first real test in 1806 when the French city of Boulogne was partly burned by a volley of 200 rockets. Then followed the burning of Copenhagen by 25,000 rockets discharged from war vessels in 1807. In the battles of Leipzig in 1813 and of Waterloo in 1815, rocket again were factors.3

Despite glowing predictions, striving on the part of European armies to perfect the new missiles, and organization of separate rocket corps in Austria, England, and Russia, evidence is lacking that the American army joined in the scramble. However, rockets were tested, and used to some extent.

Trials were made in 1813. Some were sent to the northern frontiers, but apparently they were not used although the American experimenters succeeded in giving them ranges equal to British rockets of similar dimensions. The Ordnance Department reported: "The only serious difficulty met with in the trials of Rockets was, the inaccuracy of their flight, at long ranges. This feature was not peculiar to our Rockets, but was found to attend those which the British used against us."4

The first recorded British use of rockets against American forces came during a naval engagement on June 1, 1814, during the War of 1812. British warships had driven American defenders from the lower portions of Chesapeake Bay and Commodore Joshua Barney's tiny fleet of barges charged with guarding the area had taken refuge in the mouth of the Patuxent River. A British barge advanced and discharged the new Congreve rockets, which did no damage. What impressed Commodore Barney, however, was the fact that their range exceeded that of his 24‑pounder guns. On June 8, Barney's barges were in St. Leonard's Creek, a better refuge, and British rockets again were discharged while shell from American guns fell short. A rocket killed one man and caused injuries to three more on one barge. The Americans were disconcerted, not because of rocket damage, but by the new kind of fighting which brought novel missiles whizzing about their heads. Barney sent an unexploded rocket as a curiosity to the Secretary of War. It had a stick 15 feet long. On June 10, when the main British attack was undertaken, rockets again played a part, setting one American barge afire, while shellfire sank another, but the Americans more than held their own.5

On June 26 the American barges, seeking escape from their position, attacked with support tendered by two long 18‑pounder guns brought from Washington by Colonel Decius Wadsworth, Commissary General of Ordnance, who commanded the land battery during the battle, and the blockade was lifted.

On Aug. 24 at Bladensburg, where the American troops had lined up to defend the city of Washington, a flight of the ungainly Congreve rockets caused two regiments to break and flee in disorder. The American flank was turned and the burning of Washington followed. Three weeks  p19 later the British fleet attacked stout little Fort McHenry at Baltimore, and again rocket-firing warships were among the armada. Their missiles caused little damage, but helped to inspire Francis Scott Key, who wrote what later became our National Anthem.

Perhaps it is significant to note that both at St. Leonard's Creek and at Bladensburg,6 the Commissary General of Ordnance was present in command of combat troops. That position had been established by act of May 14, 1812, to provide munitions for the army. Such Colonel Wadsworth also was the first chief of ordnance under the act of February 8, 1815, which is the basis of the Ordnance Department of today, his first‑hand experience in this campaign may have influenced later ordnance receptiveness to rocket use.

Progress apparently was slow. There were strong overtones of public opposition. Niles' Weekly Register in August, 1814, on the heels of the British campaigns, stated unequivocally that rockets were "unfair" and it was cruel to use them. The argument was not entirely one‑sided. The same publication in October, 1814, quoted the Boston Gazette as suggesting that a rocket battery be erected either on Fort Warren or Fort Independence.7

At any rate, Lt. Col. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George Bomford, Wadsworth's successor, reporting November 15, 1822, to the Secretary of War on his first year's activities, stated that 145 rockets had been fabricated at ordnance arsenals.8 Almost yearly thereafter rockets were mentioned, though manufacture was not extensive. However, evaluation of the number fabricated should be judged against the quantity of arms and ordnance stores then being produced for our army, which seldom numbered over 8,000 men, and not against the astronomical numbers associated with modern war production. In a report of December 24, 1835, Colonel Bomford listed among ordnance stores on hand a Congreve rocket case at Fort Monroe, a rocket carriage at Champlain Arsenal, and some 650 rockets of various kinds at other arsenals. These varied from 4½ inch down to 1 and ⁸⁄₁₀ inch. Rocket pots and rocket caps were also listed.9 However, there is difficulty in segregating the war rockets from signal or "fireworks" rockets.

The cautious approach in the United States was in contrast to the vigorous advocacy of rocket in Europe during the period. Congreve sanguinely imagined that they would completely alter the practice of artillery and urged that all arms — cavalry, infantry, and artillery — be supplied with the missiles, drawing elaborate plans and diagrams for their employment.10 Advantages of the rockets, he stated, were that their magnitude was unlimited (many weighed 300 pounds and were 10 feet high, and rockets of 1000 pounds were reported); they were easily portable; there was complete freedom from recoil; discharge was more rapid than possible with cannon; and the effects of fire in addition to the rocket propulsive force were devastating and terrifying. Their eccentricity he believed an  p20 advantage — the enemy could not judge where the explosion would take place. His lengthiest arguments stressed the economy of rockets compared to artillery.

Rockets ordinarily were launched from grooved channels or tubes; but often they were simply laid on the ground, connected by means of a quick-match and fired in what was called a "ground volley."11 Congreve devised "volley carriages," on which were mounted 20 tubes, so that 20 rockets could be fired simultaneously,12 but the rocket carriage was not used greatly.

Apparently there came a lull in American thought concerning rockets, but in 1839 the Ordnance Department informed the Secretary of War that a series of experiments had been ordered at Washington Arsenal. These were to start with "those of three inches diameter and proceeding to those of larger dimension, when the proper strength of cases and the compositions to give a suitable range shall have been found by trials."13

Nineteen months later the department reported that "the machines provided for the construction of War Rockets have been found to fulfil the required conditions, and it only remains, to fix the details of their fabrication by a series of trials, in order to realize all the advantage which such projectiles are capable of affording."14

The army as a whole was aware of rockets. A book issued in 1842 for use of the cadets at the United States Military Academy devoted seven of its forty‑one pages to rockets. The descriptions therein reflected the influence of the French army which still was looked upon in many quarters as the acme of military art.15 From this book the cadets learned that "the gas generated by the combustion of the composition, in its effort to expand, escaping at the orifice, acts upon the air, the reaction of the air causes the case to move in a direction opposite to the action of the gas and with a velocity corresponding to its intensity and the weight of the case."16 This may have been in keeping with the popular theory, but we know that it is an imperfect description of the principle of propulsion, for a rocket can readily travel in a vacuum, or underwater, or in the stratosphere, as witness the V‑2 bombs of Germany.

The text noted that English use of the Congreve rockets was successful "on several occasions, but after the first panic was over, they were viewed with less dread. . . . In most instances shell and bombs would answer a better purpose. . . . There are some edifices which will resist a bomb and are still too weak to overcome a falling rocket."17

The iron rocket cases of the day were lined with paper to prevent the composition from coming in contact with the iron.

Important evidence of ordnance interest in rockets came in 1841. In March of that year a report to the Senate by Secretary of War J. R. Poinsett forwarded the findings of a special board of ordnance officers which had spent the preceding year in Europe to observe the kinds of ordnance used,  p21 the manner of procurement and manufacture. Objective of the board was to suggest means of improving the system of artillery and many items were brought back including cannon, muskets, sabres, drawings, plans, and books collected in England, France, Prussia, and Sweden. But in the closing paragraphs of its report this board — consisting of Major R. L. Baker, Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.A. Mordecai, and Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Benjamin Huger of the Ordnance Department and Major W. Wade, a former army officer — there appeared a section entitled "War Rockets."18 It read:

In the arsenal at Metz the board saw cases of war rockets in progress of construction, and had an opportunity to examine them minutely. They are exactly similar to samples heretofore obtained. An experiment had been tried lately with these rockets, which had given favorable results.

It was thought they might be useful in the defense of a place; and a battery, representing a battery in breach, with three embrasures, was erected on the crest of a covert‑way near a bastion of the place. Thirty war rockets were fired at this battery from the main work, a distance of about 80 yards, and completely destroyed the battery.

The rockets were 2½ inches diameter. A pot, of rather larger diameter, was fitted over the head. This pot was about eight inches long, and terminated with a conical end, all made of sheet iron, and a small fuze communicated fire to a charge of powder in the pot. The rockets all took effect at this short distance, penetrating the gabions and fascines, and, by the explosion, throwing out the gabion and destroyed the battery.

The officers were much struck with the effect of these rockets in this first trial, and intended to prosecute the experiment further.

In all the countries visited, war rockets are made on a more or less limited scale. All nations make a secret of the details of their manufacture, but the secret appears known to all nations.

The board's report certainly must have contributed to official receptiveness when two factors created the proper conditions for more extensive rocket use. These were the War with Mexico, and the improvement in accuracy and efficiency of the war rocket developed by Mr. William Hale, of Woolwich Arsenal, England.

In the meantime, rockets were being made in slightly greater quantity. There were 250 rockets issued to American troops in 1843, 160 in 1844, and 544 in 1845.19

The following year the Ordnance Department's attention was called to the new Hale rockets and interest mounted.

Hale's improvements were concerned with obtaining greater stability in flight. Early attempts to keep a rocket on its course took such forms as attaching a chain to counterbalance the long guiding stick. Congreve improved stability by screwing the guiding stick into a hole in the center of the base plate of the rocket, thus shifting the weight to the longitudinal axis of the missile. However, the stick was a serious drawback in operations because of its length and dead weight. It was soon foreseen that accuracy of flight could be given only by imparting a rotary motion to the rocket. First experimenters attached wings or vanes to the case of the rocket. These failed. Hale found a way to rotate the rocket in flight without the vanes. He placed vents in the base of the rocket case at an angle to the periphery. Therefore, any flame escaping through them must impart rotary motion to the whole rocket. These tangential holes, however, allowed only a small portion of the gas to  p22 escape, the principal exit being the center hole where the stick, in an ordinary Congreve rocket, would have been placed.20 Thus the rocket received its normal propulsive power, but the gas escaping through the angled vents made it rotate along its longitudinal axis in the same manner as a rifle bullet spins.21 Later Hale included small metal vanes along the exhaust nozzle, but this change apparently did not occur until after the American army had begun to use his rockets. It is interesting to note that these principles are characteristic of many military rockets used today.

Further, there was developed in this general period and put into use the hydrostatic pressing method of filling rocket cases, and gradually the old monkey ramming method was discarded. By hydrostatic pressing, more composition was stuffed into the rocket case, making the rocket burn longer, and the filling operation became less noxious and less dangerous.22

Mr. J. B. Hyde, a duly authorized agent, brought some of Hale's rockets to this country in the fall of 1846 and entered into negotiations with the government.23 By this time the War with Mexico was well under way. The Battle of Palo Alto had been fought, General Zachary Taylor held possession of Monterey and Saltillo, and the northern sector of Mexico was under American control. It was apparent, however, that the war could not be ended unless the Mexican capital was taken and the government had decided to attack from the Gulf of Mexico rather than risk the long march from the north. The campaign involved storming the Mexican strongholds on the Gulf and in the Rocky Mountains and plateau of the interior. Records are niggardly on this point, but it is quite conceivable that some one saw possibilities in the use of rockets in this terrain, which was similar to that in which the Austrian army reported considerable success with rockets in mountain warfare against the Hungarians.24

Mr. Hyde was received and a joint army and navy board was appointed to prove the new missiles. Tests were held on November 24 and 27 at Washington Arsenal, located on the site of the present‑day National War College. Thirteen of Hale's own rockets of the 2¾‑inch size were fired and "the results were so satisfactory that, on the recommendation of the board, the right of using the invention was purchased by the government."25

The report of the board was dated December 1, 1846. It stated that rockets were fired on land and water and that the board concluded the range, force, and accuracy of the Hale rockets was "at least equal, and probably superior, to that of the ordinary Congreve rocket of the same size," and that being without the stick, this rocket had "incontestable superiority over the Congreve rocket, with respect to facility, convenience of service, and, especially, for use on board of armed vessels or boats."26 Signers were Col. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph G. Totten, Chief Engineer; Lt. Col. George Talcott, of the  p23 Ordnance Department, and Captain A. Mordecai, of the Ordnance Department, for the army, and Commodore L. Warrington, Captain Thomas ap C. Jones, Commandant K. M. Powell, Lieutenant A. B. Fairfax of the Navy, and Secretary of the Navy John Y. Mason.

Table of Ranges
(in Yards to First Graze)

Elevation
In Degrees

Hale's Rockets 12‑Pounder Mountain Howitzer*
2¼ inch 3¼ inch Shell

Spherical
Case Shot

Canister
0 . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 150 . . .
3 . . . . . . . . . . . . 637 500 . . .
4 500 to 600 500 to 600 785 700 250
5 500 to 600 500 to 600 1005 800 250
8 700  800 to 1000 . . . . . . . . . .
10 800 to 900 1000 to 1200 . . . . . . . . . .
15 1200 1200 to 1400 . . . . . . . . . .
47 1760 2200 . . . . . . . . . .

* ½‑pound charge used.

The military thereupon demonstrated that it could move with quickness and dispatch. On December 11, 1846, the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, acting jointly, made an agreement with Mr. Hyde to purchase the full plans and instructions for making these rockets, for $2,000. The joint army and navy board was called upon to manufacture experimentally "ten rockets of two inches and ten of three inches" from these plans "which shall perform as successfully" as the Hale rockets. If the test rockets proved satisfactory, an additional $18,000 was to be paid to Mr. Hyde for "the right to make and use the said war rockets, without interruption from or claim for compensation by said inventor, his assignee, or any other person whatsoever."27

The trials were held on January 5, 1847, at Washington Arsenal with Captain Mordecai of the Ordnance Department, and Commodore Warrington, of the navy, heading the American representatives. Fifteen 3‑inch rockets, two with shells in the "head" and 13 2‑inch rockets, four with shells, were fired satisfactorily, the board reported the next day.28

Even before the tests were started the Ordnance Department on November 19 sent a letter29 to General Winfield Scott, Major General Commander-in‑Chief, who the day before had been selected to lead the expedition on Vera Cruz and Mexico City. The letter read:

Sir: I respectfully propose (the sanction of the Secretary of War being first obtained) to gather at Fort Monroe Arsenal, partly by drafts from other arsenals and by enlistment of laborers of ordnance, a sufficient number of men to man a battery of mountain howitzers now at that post, and also to form a brigade of rocketeers, probably 100 men in all may suffice . . . .  p24 They will of course be commanded by ordnance officers.

Geo. Talcott

Lieutenant-Colonel of Ordnance

General Scott suggested two batteries of the mountain howitzers, approved the rocket-corps, and instructed the Chief of Ordnance and the Chief Engineer, Colonel Totten, to work out details. By November 27, the plan had been developed and received the approval of Secretary of War W. L. Marcy. Three days later Colonel Talcott requested official orders to send forward the battery of six pieces, already at Fort Monroe, and the rockets. Necessary orders were issued on December 3, 1846, eight days before the contract for rockets with Mr. Hyde was signed. A premium of two dollars was allowed for procuring recruits for the Ordnance Corps, the same amount allowed for all volunteering under the November 1846 requisition for active field service.30

The next day, December 4, Colonel Talcott forwarded a letter to ordnance arsenals and armories including an advertisement to be inserted in the newspapers and posted in handbill form in the neighborhood.31 The advertisement, in best recruiting style of the day, read:

War with Mexico!

Wanted one hundred active, brave young men to serve with rocket and mountain howitzer batteries, now preparing by the Ordnance Department for immediate departure.

In pay, provisions, and clothing, this corps will be superior to any other yet raised, and, from the kind of arms, will be constantly in the advance where the hardest fighting may be expected.

The highest character for courage and physical ability will be required for admission.

Apply to ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Two dollars paid to citizens for each recruit.

The complement of men duly gathered at Fort Monroe for training. Organization of a separate ordnance combat unit was justified on the ground that both the mountain howitzers and rockets were new developments requiring men of particular skills and experience to handle properly. Further, a new method of fixing ammunition had been developed.

In dealing with activities of this unit it is difficult to separate the howitzer and rocket portions, since they operated under one command, usually howitzer and rocket stands being placed in the same position. The 12‑pounder howitzers, made of bronze, stood about 27 inches high on their special carriages and weighed less than 500 pounds complete,32 compared to some 2,300 pounds for a 12‑pounder field howitzer. They were adopted between 1834 and 1839, apparently after French success with such a weapon in the mountains of Algiers.33 The Hale rockets, as indicated earlier, had just been invented, although the battery also used the Congreve style rockets.

Initial organization was under authority of the Secretary of War. Ordnance personnel was known as artisans, armorers, artificers, and laborer, and although fully-enlisted, held special status. The rocket and howitzer company apparently was at first an independent command under direct control of General Scott. After passage of the act of February 11 for recruitment and the act of March 3 for organization of volunteers enlisted for duration of the war,  p25 the company was attached to the Regiment of Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen, a peculiar combination of cavalry, infantry, and artillery.34

The voltigeurs theoretically were a regiment of 1,104 men and 47 officers composed of infantry and cavalry in equal numbers, and a battery of small guns that could be taken apart and transported on muless. The infantry was to be taken on the horses for celerity was desired. Actually, the regiment served as foot riflemen after it joined Scott's army in July, 1847, at Puebla.35 Meanwhile, the rocket company had taken part in the siege of Vera Cruz and subsequent battles.

To have the ordnance troops reach Scott in time, orders were issued December 28, 1846. First Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George H. Talcott (apparently no relation to the Chief of Ordnance), West Point graduate of 1827,b was given command of the battery. He later held the rank of major of voltigeurs.36 His subordinate officers were Brevet First Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Franklin D. Callender and Brevet Second Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jesse Lee Reno. Callender had been breveted in the Florida Indian Wars. He later was brigadier general in the Ordnance Department. Reno, a Virginian and 1846 West Point graduate, was holding his first commission in a military career that ended during the Civil War when, as a major general, he was killed on September 14, 1862, in the Battle of South Mountain, Maryland. Reno normally commanded the rocketeers.

The same orders had placed Captain Benjamin Huger, member of the 1840 board of ordnance officers that had reported on rockets, in command of the siege train. He was to serve as Scott's ordnance officer and win honors at Chapultepec, continuing in service of the Ordnance Department until the Civil War when he resigned and became a major general in the Confederate Army. His assistants were First Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Peter V. Hagner, and Brevet Second Lieutenants Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Josiah Gorgas and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles P. Stone. Hagner later became a brigadier general of ordnance; Gorgas was brigadier general and Chief of Ordnance of the Confederacy; and Stone served as brigadier general of volunteers in the Civil War.

The siege train was concerned only indirectly with the rocket and howitzer battery, although on one or two occasions the ordnance officers with the train were connected with the battery's activities. This train likewise was a special ordnance unit. Enlisted men of the train performed all echelons of maintenance and transported the guns with the army, but during battle served a number of the heavy guns and gunners and ammunition bearers, while artillery units served the remainder.37 Thus both ordnance organizations had combat duties, and both won high honors in the more important battles of this campaign.

General Scott wanted to complete his expedition in the lowlands of Vera Cruz before the opening of the season for the dreaded yellow fever, for which there was as yet no specific treatment. He left instructions that the entire ordnance party and equipment arrive by January 15 at the Brazos River, in Texas, where he had gone to organize his army.

 p26  After the brief period of training with their new equipment, the mountain howitzer and rocket battery, 105 strong, sailed from Fort Monroe February 1, 1847,38 aboard the bark Saint Cloud, carrying six mountain howitzers with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, and an initial supply of fifty 2‑inch Hale rockets. The number of rocket launchers carried is not shown in ordnance returns. Aboard also were other troops, and quantities of siege mortars, 500 barrels of powder, and other stores.39

In the meantime the Washington Arsenal, under Captain A. Mordecai, who had been a member of the artillery board in 1841, was busy turning out the new Hale rockets.40 The arsenal reported that 2,200 war rockets and 14 "conductors" were made to June 30, 1847.41 The Chief of Ordnance later reported that 1,328 war rockets had been issued to troops.42

Just where and when the mountain howitzer and rocket battery joined General Scott's forces does not appear in available records. Presumably it was at the Lobos Islands, off the Mexican coast about 200 miles north of Vera Cruz, the last week in February. The next rendezvous was at Anton Lizardo, a dozen miles from Vera Cruz. From there, the fleet proceeded to the reef and island of Sacrifios, less than a mile from the Mexican hillside and about three miles southeast of Vera Cruz. On March 9 the "first line" troops, with the rocket and mountain howitzer battery among them, landed on the mainland opposite Sacrifios. This landing was similar in many ways to the amphibious operations used so successfully in World War II. Naval gunboats and warships stood offshore, ready to rake the beach. Sixty-seven surf boats loaded with seventy to eighty men each, with sailors at the oars, swept forward in battle line while shellfire scattered concentrations of Mexican cavalry.43

"It was found very easy to get the battery complete, with the men, into three surfboats, and in thirty minutes after they struck the beach it was reported ready to move by hand, as we had no horses," Talcott recorded.44

Although Scott at this time kept the engineers, artillery, and cavalry under his immediate orders, the mountain howitzer and rocket battery for the landing was attached to Brevet Major General Worth's brigade of regulars which constituted the first wave. Two other waves followed and investment of the city began, the line of troops moving northward and westward to surround the city. The American troops were on a line about a mile from the city proper, moving through the drifting sand dunes which greatly hampered their operations.45 There was little actual fighting, as the Mexicans retreated behind their fortifications after a few skirmishes.

Following the current tactics of placing artillery in advance of infantry — customary  p27 since Napoleon's successful employment of this method — the next morning the rockets and one howitzer were moved forward. Several rounds were fired at the enemy "but from the distance the effects could not be ascertained distinctly" Talcott reported.46 Other accounts indicate the Mexican skirmishers fled.

The United States batteries were within 1,000 yards of the city, well in advance of the line of investment, near a cemetery on the southeastern side. They were protected by entrenchments. While Scott waited for his supplies — which had to be landed by surfboat on the beach since there was no port and no possibility of erecting a wharf — and fumed about the rest of his heavy siege guns which had not yet arrived,47 the men reconnoitered watchfully, tested the mettle of the Mexicans occasionally, and fought the sand flies, the drifting sand, and frequent "northers" — high winds which blew down tents, filled eyes and nose with sand and in general wreaked havoc with operations.

Most busily occupied with actual fighting were the trench guards and batteries. On March 24, with Lieutenant Callender in command of a position in advance of the "Limekiln," about 40 rockets "of the old kind" were thrown into the city. "Hardly had the first one been thrown when the fort of St. Iago opened upon us with round shot," Talcott reported, "throwing them very close, and the castle (San Juan) with light ball and shells. We, however, fired all the rockets and returned to camp without loss."48

At midnight on the 25th, from the same place, during bombardment by heavy naval guns brought ashore for the purpose of breaching the city's walls, Talcott threw ten of Hale's rockets into the city, but drew no fire from the fort. From St. Iago, however, there was a discharge of muskets into the surrounding ground as if a storming party was expected.49 Before morning the city sounded a "parley" and a flag was sent into the American camp. The negotiations that followed terminated in surrender of the city on the 29th.

Rockets were useful, but there is no evidence to show that they materially affected the outcome at Vera Cruz. The mountain howitzers had contributed a great deal more, as well as the heavy siege ordnance, though the number of pieces on hand were few. Nevertheless, the ordnance rockets were in the vanguard in most of the siege operations, and their duties "exceeded, I believe, in severity those of any other [company] present," Talcott reported.50

The rocket battery again was in the "first line" when the next phase began. Anxious to move his army out of the yellow fever zone, General Scott started General D. E. Twiggs' division of 2,600 men toward Mexico City April 8, and transferred the rocket and mountain howitzer battery from General Worth's to Twiggs'. The route led along the Mexican National Road — comfortably graded, sandy near Vera Cruz but cement-paved in parts farther inland, with handsome stone cut bridges. Rising from the coastal lowlands to the high plateau of the interior, the road emerged from the yellow fever zone near Jalapa, a beautiful city seventyfour miles  p28 northwest of Vera Cruz.

The march was hard. There were not enough mules and horses; many animals, having been requisitioned from the Mexicans, were untrained. In the blazing sun, at the fast pace set by Twiggs' horse, many men fell by the wayside the first day, not to rejoin their commands until days later. And many died. To what extent the Ordnance Corps suffered is not revealed, but the howitzers and rockets were with the division on April 11 when reconnaissance proved that guns commanded a pass at Cerro Gordo. This hamlet, eighteen miles from Jalapa, was at the top of a steep, circuitous, five‑mile ascent which finally put the National Road at sufficient elevation to remove it from the pestilential zone. Though not as good a position as one or two others closer to Jalapa, Mexican military experience had proved to Santa Anna, President and military commander, that its flanks were unassailable. Santa Anna felt that by holding it, he could force the Americans to remain within reach of the yellow fever.51

General Scott arrived on April 14 at the American camp a few miles below Cerro Gordo. Meanwhile additional troops had marched in from Vera Cruz. Reconnaissance showed that the Mexicans had placed many guns on three tongues of high land jutting along the south of the highway, and had some guns and troops on the left, particularly at a high hill known as El Telegrafo which commanded the entire position. The main Mexican camp was to the rear, close by Cerro Gordo. There were reported to be at least 12,000 men under Santa Anna, while Scott's army numbered about 8,500.

Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert E. Lee of the engineers found by night reconnaissancec that artillery might possibly be brought to the Mexican left flank and rear across the rough ground — thought impossible by Santa Anna, who believed the artillery could be brought up only over the highway.

The American plan was to gain the highway in the rear of the main Mexican camp, and then attack from the rear and possibly the front. On the morning of April 17, at 7 o'clock, Twiggs advanced, the ordnance troops with four mountain howitzers and the rockets a part of his column. The route lay over the path Captain Lee had found. A rough "road" had been cut the night before through oaks, mesquite, chaparral, and cactus, over almost impossible ground. About noon the command was in the vicinity of La Atalaya, a lower hill about 700 yards in front of El Telegrafo. Twiggs had been instructed to avoid a collision, occupy this hill, reach the Mexican left, and rest near the highway until the remainder of the army was brought into position. However, the Mexicans had observed the advance and La Atalaya was occupied only after stiff combat. An enthused company of Americans rushed down La Atalaya and began to ascend El Telegrafo. It was then in a desperate situation, as were the reinforcements hastening to its relief, until an ordnance howitzer discouraged the enemy sufficiently to allow the Americans to retire to La Atalaya, which they held despite counter attacks.

During the night two howitzers and one half the rocket battery, along with a 24‑pounder, were placed on the summit of La Atalaya. The ordnance men were aided by troops of a rifle regiment who attached ropes and by extraordinary exertion managed to drag the pieces through the woods and  p29 rocky gorges and up the steep and bristling hill. Lieutenant Reno was in command of this position, which was in advance of the infantry. "The enemy shortly after appeared forming in the ravine and on the slope of their hill [El Telegrafo] in large numbers as if to attack," Major Talcott later reported, "but a few well directed rounds from the howitzers scattered and drove them back in confusion to their entrenchments."52

The other two sections of the ordnance company, under Lieutenants Callender and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Gordon, were placed on the extreme right to command the gorge of the American route, and later were brought into the pursuit of the army.

Before 7 o'clock Sunday morning, April 18, the ordnance section under Lieutenant Reno opened the battle, and fired "with great effect till our troops had closed in on them — the rockets first towards the enemy's left, below the hill into the cover occupied by his advanced force, and then the howitzers, by direction of Colonel Harney, toward his right at troops in the hollow and a battery, while the First Brigade was so gallantly storming the heights in front."53

Thirty rockets and forty rounds of spherical case shot were fired in all by Lieutenant Reno "who deserves great credit for his judicious placing of the battery, and his cool and gallant conduct in so efficiently using it," Major Talcott reported. "The whole command behaved as was to be expected and we are fortunate to escape with but one man severely wounded."54 Reno was breveted first lieutenant for his conduct in the battle.

In his report General Scott stated that "Talcott's rocket and howitzer battery were engaged on and about the heights and bore an active part."55

The fighting at El Telegrafo decided the issue, although there was considerable action before the batteries along the national highway. The taking of El Telegrafo, while not part of the original battle plan, brought the desired result and the Mexicans fled in great confusion, not stopping at any of the other strong points near Jalapa. The action was over, except for the pursuit, by 10 o'clock.

That ended rocket and howitzer action until the final attacks on Mexico City. The intervening weeks were spent by the ordnance men largely at Puebla, Mexico's second city, about halfway between Jalapa and Mexico City. While there most of the volunteer regiments left Scott's army, their term of enlistment having expired, but new volunteers arrived during July, bringing the army to about 14,500 men. The ordnance volunteers remained, both with the rocket and howitzer battery and with the siege train, which was reinforced by arrival of new heavy guns during July, along with many other supplies. The voltigeur regiment arrived July 8 with Major General Pillow and his new regiments that had enlisted for duration of the war, with promise of a bounty of 100 acres of land or $100 in cash.

 p30  On August 7 Scott advanced with 10,738 men, the remainder lying sick in hospitals at Puebla and Perote. He had cut his communications with the coast — as a matter of fact they could not have been held with the force available against the guerillas — and marched up the mountains toward the capital, reaching a point 10,500 feet above sea level before dropping into the Valley of Mexico. This was a shallow, somewhat circular, basin about 36 by 46 miles in diameter, apparently an extinct volcano, with many marshes and lakes. The roads leading to the city were on narrow tongues of semi-solid ground, with causeways carrying more important arteries of traffic. The city proper was on solid ground, defended by garitas and walls.

Santa Anna had fortified an eminence on the national highway, Old Peñón, so heavily that Scott began a sidelong maneuver seeking an opening for attack. By the 17th of August advance American units were at San Augustin, about ten miles south of the city. The Mexican army shifted with them.

Upon the finding by Captain Lee and Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Beauregard of a possible route eastward to Contreras, on August 19 Pillow's division began to build a road in that direction for artillery, protected by Twiggs' division. At the top of a ridge a large force of Mexicans under General Valencia was discovered and General Pillow ordered riflemen to clear the ground. At the same time he sent his artillery, including the howitzer and rocket battery, including the howitzer and rocket battery, forward nearly a mile beyond the hamlet of Padierna without cover over almost impassable ground, there to duel with scores of Mexican siege guns, 68‑pounders, and other artillery at a range of about 900 yards. Lieutenant Callender was in charge of the howitzers and Lieutenant Reno of the rockets, their position selected by Captain Lee.

"Heavy shelling by big Mexican guns continued for more than an hour until compelled by the loss of officers, men and crippled pieces, our batteries were withdrawn," General Twiggs reported.56 Lieutenant Callender was severely wounded and Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George B. McClellan of the engineers took charge of the battery, winning Twiggs' recommendation and a brevet first lieutenancy for efficiency and gallantry. Callender later was breveted as captain for his part.

Twiggs added: "The coolness, and determination evinced by the officers and men whilst under this hot fire gave sure indications of the result of the coming conflict when all my command would get into position."57

Meanwhile other units attacked the Mexican flanks and as night fell the situation was at somewhat of an impasse, with an "impassable" ravine between the two forces. During night a severe storm arose during which Captain Lee won honors for crossing the pedregal, a sea of jagged lava, with plans from General Scott for retrieving the situation. The conflict, now known as the Battle of Contreras, was resumed the next day and the Americans drove the Mexicans before them. The victory was quickly followed by another at Churubusco about four miles to the right. Here the rocket battery, ordered forward with Pillow's men to assist, did not reach that battlefield until most of the fighting was over.

The American army halted for a fortnight while negotiations were under way during an armistice. The ordnance troops  p31 in part were disposed at San Antonio, and in part at Mixcoac, where a general depot was established. Ordnance men attached to the siege train carried on their less combative duties of repairing the ordnance and replenishing supplies of ammunition.

The armistice ending without result, General Worth's division was moved toward the city on the west, and took a powder magazine and foundry known as El Molino Del Rey on September 8.

The ordnance siege train, which had been active in all battles, took a major share of honors under the command of Huger, who was assisted by Captain Hagner, breveted at Cerro Gordo, and Lieutenant Stone. In the heavy cannonading, one ordnance private was killed, another wounded. The stone buildings were taken, and the Americans were within a half mile of the fortified college atop the mighty hill of Chapultepec. The rocket and howitzer battery accompanied Pillow's division on a feint toward the city itself, remaining for the most part in reserve near the village of Tacubaya, 1,000 yards away, through there was some supporting action.

Decision having been made at a staff conference to enter Mexico by way of Chapultepec rather than attempt to storm the causeways and garitas on the south of the city, Captain Huger prepared bombardment plans. These were approved by Captain Lee of the engineers. Heavy firing by the siege-train guns preceded the actual charge which is commemorated as one of the heroic episodes of American arms.

The rocket and howitzer battery was to play a prominent part. At 3 A.M. on September 12, General Pillow's division, to which the battery was attached, moved from Tacubaya to Molino del Rey. On the 13th, the howitzers passed through the houses and walls of the demolished mills. Lieutenant Reno placed them in battery "so as to aid me in driving the enemy from a strong detachment extending nearly across the front of the forest, and commanding my only approach to Chapultepec," General Pillow reported.58

While the battery was firing, four companies of voltigeurs advanced to the base of the hill, captured a redoubt and opened fire on the parapet of the fort while other units, including marines, joined in the attack. Lieutenant Reno's battery, firing from Molino eastward into the fields, covered them. With scaling ladders, the troops went upward, saved from destruction when Mexican mines planted on the hill failed to explode, and the blue flag of the voltigeurs was placed on the parapet — the first American flag there.

Lieutenant Reno again won commendation for his "extraordinary daring under fire from the whole line of entrenched enemy" in keeping fire on Mexicans to aid in driving them out of advanced positions. Then Reno ran forward with the pieces, "kept up with the storming column and at the very base of the height placed them in battery almost at the mouth of the enemy's cannon, and served them until he was disabled by wounds," General Pillow reported.59 Lieutenant P. G. T. Beauregard (later a Confederate general in the Civil War) took his place for the remainder of the engagement.

The Ordnance Corps won high praise from all sources. General Scott stated: "The mountain howitzer battery, under Lt. Reno of the Ordnance, deserves, also, to be particularly mentioned. Attached to the  p32 Voltigeurs, it followed the movements of that regiment and again won applause."60 General Pillow commended several ordnance enlisted men. First Sergeant W. Peat, who lost a leg in the battle, was mentioned for extraordinary courage, and Sergeants Depew and McGuire also won honors.61

Thus ended the most conspicuous use of war rockets by the American army prior to 1942. The ordnance rocket and howitzer company, reduced to 69 men, was discharged from service in the late summer of 1848.62 Mountain howitzers, which were adapted to transportation by pack horse, have since held a prominent place in the army in one form or another of pack-artillery. But the official record fails to establish that rockets were highly efficacious, though English sources reported they were "used with the greatest advantage."63 Neither does it reveal to what extent the Americans themselves were subjected to rocket fire, although ordnance returns listed Congreve rockets among matériel captured from the Mexican army.64 Nor does it indicate what superiority in combat over the Congreve type accrued from Hale's rockets. It may be concluded, however, that the army was reasonably well satisfied at this time because rockets were manufactured and issued for a number of years thereafter, and organization of rocket batteries was provided.

As pointed out before, rockets were fairly efficient missiles compared to the artillery projectiles of the day. Hale's rockets had good range, a shown by these figures taken from the ordnance manual of 1850:65

The 2¼‑inch rocket weighed 6 pounds; the 3¼‑inch weighed 16 pounds. The fixed shell weighed 9.2 pounds, the spherical case 11 pounds, the canister 11.2 pounds.66 On the other hand, even the mobile, light mountain howitzer weighed 500 pounds, while the rocket stands were a fraction of that, estimated at 20 pounds.

No regular organization of a rocket battery was arranged, the manual stating: "The nature and number of rockets, and of carriages or conductors, will be determined by the character of the service for which they may be required."67

The same manual described the war rockets as being made of "sheet iron, lined with paper, or wood veneer. The head is of cast iron, and may be either a solid shot, or a shell with a fuze communicating with the rocket composition. The case is usually charged solid, by means of a ram, or a press, and the core is then bored out. . . . War rockets are usually fired from tubes or troughs, mounted on portable stands, or on light carriages."68

The regulations of 1852 listed two sizes of Hale's rockets, and also the Congreve rockets.69 The Hale rocket was again described, with some changes, in the ordnance manual of 1862.70 Some of these changes were part of the development and improvement that occurred between 1850 and 1860.

 p33  But the factors which contributed to the decline of rockets, under more leisurely and critical appraisal of peace, soon came to the fore. It was found that those made for the Mexican War were deteriorating rapidly in storage. In a few years they were unfit. Efforts to improve them continued, particularly by members of the inventor's family. In 1851 Mr. William Hale, Jr., brought to the country an improved stand for firing the rockets and also some rocket cases. After due trials, the Secretary of War authorized payment of $770 for the stand and cases and his expenses.71

In 1855, Mr. Robert Hale arrived with reports of further improvements in both the stands and rockets. He was authorized to make a few at Washington Arsenal. They proved good, and an agreement was made that a quantity would be manufactured at the arsenal under his supervision at $5 per day. Some rockets were sent to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, others to New Mexico and the remainder were retained at Washington in storage for a year, to be "exposed to the vicissitudes of the climate." They were tried in 1857, and although the rockets stored in New Mexico were unsatisfactory, to at Baton Rouge and Washington performed favorably. The Chief of Ordnance reported that the new rockets were superior to those of the former pattern and $1,000 was paid to Mr. Hale for the improvements. In July, 1858, he was paid an additional $4,000.72

Thus, since 1846, the Government had paid the Hale family $25,770 for rocket plans and specifications — a not inconsiderable sum for those days.73

Others sought to improve the rockets. Most significant was the theory advanced by J. Scoffern, professor of chemistry at Aldersgate College of Medicine, London. He stated that efforts to reduce the rapidity of combustion of gunpowder by varying the percentage of its component — a principle widely used in making rocket powder — was "injudicious." He suggested that "the only means available for lessening the velocity of combustion of gunpowder to be employed as a projectile agent will consist in enlarging the size of its grains."74

The last available record of rocket manufacture by the Ordnance Department in this period is that given in the annual report of the Chief of Ordnance for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1862, wherein he reported that 714 war rockets were made.75

That appears to have been the dying gasp. When the American consul at Aix la Chapelle, in keeping with the rush that occurred during the Civil War to equip the Union army with foreign munitions, suggested the purchase of Congreve rocket batteries offered by French sources, the Chief of Ordnance on July 15, 1864, wrote to the Secretary of War as follows:76

Experience with rocket batteries during this war is not at all favorable to their usefulness. The same number of men and horses can produce  p34 more effect with the improved cannon and projectiles now used. Rockets have but little range and accuracy compared to rifled projectiles, and are liable at times to premature explosions and great eccentricity of flight. This department has no assurance that these rocket batteries have been tested in actual service, or that they possess the necessary requisites. I cannot, therefore, recommend their purchase.

Although deterioration in storage may have been a factor, the principal reason for eclipse of the rocket apparently was the improvement in artillery that occurred shortly after the War with Mexico. Rifled cannon were introduced and their superiority over the smoothbore in accuracy and range was so pronounced that the Ordnance Department began to rifle many of the guns in stock. This still was in progress when the Civil War broke out. On the other hand, rifled cannon of large caliber were not an unmitigated success even as late as 1865, and records show that the bulk of Union artillery was of the smoothbore type. Therefore rockets could possibly have had some value were it not for their instability and reluctance of troops to use them, plus perhaps the enthusiasm of the new ordnance regime which took office in 1863 for rifled cannon. Another factor contributing to disinclination of the Ordnance Department to aggressive sponsorship of rockets may have been the controversy that raged for many years over the fact that a separate ordnance corps had manned the rocket and howitzer battery, and siege guns, to the discomfiture of line troops unacquainted with the new type of equipment.

Though war rockets disappeared from general use, there were men who continued sporadic research and retained interest in the subject. Their discovery and developments, especially from World War I on, eventually closed much of the gap in efficiency between rockets and rifled guns. As a result, the rocket today has gained a place of prominence — not as a rival of artillery, but as an additional, complementary element contributing to the firepower of American troops. The future still is a matter of speculation, but it probably will not be the eclipse suffered by types used in early American wars.


The Author's Notes:

1 Casimir Simienowicz, The Great Art of Artillery, translated from the French by George Shelvocke (London, 1729), "Volume" III, p130 et seq.

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2 Lt. Col. Calvin Goddard, "Rocket," Army Ordnance, XIX (Mar.‑Apr. 1939), 303.

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3 Ibid., XX (July‑Aug., 1939), p47.

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4 Lt. Col. of Ordnance G. Talcott to Secretary of War J. R. Poinsett, April 8, 1839, Office of the Chief of Ordnance (abbreviated hereafter as O. C. O.), copybooks of "Letters to the War Department," 1812‑1889, vol. 7, p72, National Archives.

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5 Hubert Footner, Ladder of Fortune: The Life and Adventures of Commodore Joshua Barney, U. S. N. (New York, 1940), p268.

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6 Ralph Robinson, "Use of Rockets by the British," Maryland Historical Magazine, XL (Mar. 1945), 3.

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7 Ibid., p5.

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8 American State Papers (38 vols., Washington, 1832‑1861), class V: "Military Affairs," vol. II, p462.

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9 U. S. House of Representatives, Executive Documents, 24 Cong., 1 sess., no. 44, pp16, 78, 110.

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10 Maj. Gen. Sir William Congreve, A Treatise on the General Principles, Powers and Facility of Application of the Congreve Rocket System as Compared with Artillery (London, 1827).

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11 J. Scoffern, Projectile Weapons of War and Explosive Compounds (London, 1859), p172.

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12 Congreve, p38.

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13 G. Talcott to Secretary of War, Apr. 8, 1839, loc. cit., p72.

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14 G. Talcott to Secretary of War, Nov. 30, 1840, ibid., p205.

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15 Joseph Bem, an artillery officer, described the manufacture of fire rockets, undertaken in 1818 and 1819, in a book entitled Notes sur les fusées incendiaires, which was translated into German and published in Munich in 1820.

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16 Military Pyrotechny (West Point, N. Y., 1842), p35.

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17 Ibid.

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18 U. S. Senate, Executive Documents, 26 Cong., 2 sess., no. 229, p109.

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19 Senate, Ex. Docs., 28 Cong., 1 sess., no. 1, p260; House, Ex. Docs., 28 Cong., 2 sess., no. 2, p267; 29 Cong., 1 sess., no. 2, p414.

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20 Scoffern, p177.

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21 Goddard, loc. cit., XX, p46.

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22 Scoffern, p181.

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23 Office of the Chief of Ordnance, A Collection of Annual Reports and Other Important Papers Relating to the Ordnance Department Taken from the Record of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, from Public Documents, and Other Sources (4 vols., Washington, 1878‑1890), IV 977‑9. This work is referred to hereafter by the binder's title: Ordnance Reports.

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24 Willy Ley, Shells and Shooting (New York, 1942), p213.

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25 Ordnance Reports, II, 190.

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26 Scoffern, p184.

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27 Ordnance Reports II, 152.

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28 Scoffern, p186.

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29 Ordnance Reports, II, 148.

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30 Ibid., p151.

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31 Ibid., p152.

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32 Ordnance Manual for the Use of the Officers of the United States Army (Washington, 1841), p5.

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33 Ordnance Reports, II, 222.

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34 Ibid.

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35 Justin H. Smith, The War with Mexico (2 vols., New York, 1919), II, 363; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789‑1903 (2 vols., Washington, 1903), II, 143. See also the Army Register for 1848, p38.

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36 Lts. Callender and Reno, however, do not appear on the list of voltigeur officers published in ibid., p38.

Thayer's Note: In Cullum's Register, Franklin Callender is given the rank of Major, Voltigeurs; Jesse Reno is not mentioned as a voltigeur.
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37 Ordnance Reports, II, 222.

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38 Ibid., II, 212.

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39 Ibid., II, 161, 177.

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40 Scoffern stated that rockets on Hale's principle were made at Woolwich for the first time "during the late or Russian War" (Crimean War), which might indicate that American arsenals were first to produce the Hale rocket in quantity. Scoffern also states that the Swiss Confederation had adopted the Hale rockets, as well as the United States, and he adds (p182): "The secret of their manufacture has also, it is said, been communicated both to the French and Russian governments."

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41 Senate, Ex. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 sess., no. 1, pp695‑6.

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42 Ordnance Reports, II, 187.

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43 Senate, Ex. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 ses., no. 1, p216.

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44 Ordnance Reports, II, 212.

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45 Smith, II, 25 et seq.

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46 Ordnance Reports, II, 212.

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47 Senate, Ex. Docs., 31 Cong., 1 sess., no. 1, p221.

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48 Ordnance Reports, II, 212.

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49 Ibid.

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50 Ibid., II, 213.

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51 Smith, II, 70 et seq.

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52 Senate, Ex. Docs., 30 Cong. 1 sess., no. 1, p279.

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53 Ibid.

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54 Lt. George H. Gordon of the Rifle Regiment in General Twiggs' division was wounded slightly while on temporary duty with the rocket and howitzer company according to army returns for the 17th and 18th of April, 1847 (ibid., p270).

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55 Ibid., p261.

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56 Ibid., p322.

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57 Ibid.

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58 Ibid., p400.

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59 Ibid., p405.

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60 Ibid., p380.

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61 Ibid., p405.

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62 Ordnance Reports, II, 250.

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63 Scoffern, p183.

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64 Ordnance Reports, II, 209.

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65 Ordnance Manual for the Use of Officers of the United States Army (Washington, 1850), pp148, 365.

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66 Ordnance Manual (1850), pp131‑48.

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67 Ibid., p331.

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68 Ibid., p289.

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69 Regulations for the Government of the Ordnance Department (Washington, 1852), p51.

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70 The Ordnance Manual for the Use of the Officers of the United States Army (Washington, 1862), p314.

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71 Ordnance Reports, IV, 977‑9.

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72 Ibid.

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73 About 1859 Hale modified his rocket considerably. He reduced the tangential holes to two, and placed them centrally in the rocket at the place of the rocket's center of gravity. The rocket was ignited at these apertures rather than at the end as formerly. In effect, the new rocket consisted of a pair joined together, merely separated by a diaphragm of iron perforated by a touchhole. The front rocket furnished gas for supplying the two tangential holes and thus made the whole structure rotate; the posterior one was devoted exclusively to propulsion. (See Scoffern, p363.)

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74 Scoffern, p358.

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75 Ordnance Reports, III, 447.

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76 The question was raised in the annual report of the Adjutant General for 1847. He said that batteries of artillery were being served by ordnance men and volunteers while several companies of field artillery were being used as infantry (see Senate, Ex. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 sess., no. 1, p80). The Chief of Ordnance defended his action in a letter of April 6, 1848 (Ordnance Reports, II, 222), pointing to the special status of the rocket and howitzer battery and stating that the siege train performed all required artisan functions without complaint and in addition served the guns. In 1851 a circular letter signed by artillery officers complained of the siege train and rocket and howitzer battery and cited their use as one of the reasons why, first, a course of artillery should be instituted, and, second, the Ordnance Department should be absorbed by the artillery. This controversy continued for a number of years (see ibid., II, 417‑88).


Thayer's Notes:

a Paul Duncan Olejar (b. Sept. 13, 1906, Hazelton, PA; d. Mar. 6, 2002, Gaithersburg, MD) served in the Army from 1942 to 1946, rising to Lieutenant Colonel and earning an Army Commendation Medal. A 1928 graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he had been a journalist in Pennsylvania and West Virginia as a young man, then education director of the West Virginia Wildlife Commission (1936‑1941). After his military service, he worked in various information-related capacities, often connected with chemicals and drugs, for the United States federal government, in the Bureau of Reclamation (1946‑1948), the Agriculture Department (1948‑1956), the Army's Edgewood Arsenal (1956‑1964) and its Scientific and Technical Information Program, and the National Science Foundation. His last position before retiring was with the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy. He was the author of a book on the Methodist Episcopal Church's Coke Mission in his native Western Pennsylvania, Sentinel at the Crossroads; and of a novel, A Taste of Red Onion. See The Washington Post, March 11, 2002 for an obituary.

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b George Henry Talcott entered the Military Academy in 1827, and was a West Point graduate of 1831; and in fact, he was Chief of Ordnance George Talcott's son: see Sebastian V. Talcott, Genealogical Notes of New York and New England Families (Albany, 1883; p290); a primary source is the Bogart Family Bible (as transcribed at USGenWeb).

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c In Freeman's biography of Robert E. Lee, Vol. I, Chapter 16 is entirely given over to an account of Lee's reconnaissance and its effects.


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