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Battle echoes from Shiloh. [from the New Orleans, La., Picayune, October 1, 1893.]

Misty traditions that Fade before the lights of history.

Veterans who fight their battles over again at Jolly Reunions—The narrative Northern and the narrative Southern—Battery a, of the Chicago Light Artillery, and the Fifth Company of the Washington Artillery, of Louisiana.

The Picayune of Sunday, September 17, 1893, under the heading of ‘The Northern Narrative,’ published an extract from the Chicago Evening Post, giving an account of the annual reunion of the Chicago Light Artillery, Battery A, First Illinois Artillery.

As at all reunions of old soldiers, a high old time was had, and battles were fought over and discussed with infinite enjoyment.

On this occasion, it appears, the Washington Artillery, of New Orleans, came in for a good share of remembrance, for the account says:

‘The boys’ have plenty to talk about as they get to recalling old times. They discussed their famous duel with the Washington Artillery, of New Orleans, fought at the battle of Shiloh. The challenge to the duel had been sent at the beginning of the war, when the Chicago battery was stationed near Cairo for the purpose of stopping boats on the river that they might be searched for contraband goods. The New Orleans battery took exception at this and forwarded the challenge, which was promptly accepted by the Chicagoans, although events happening immedietely after made it impossible to name the time and place.

It was not until April 6 or 7, 1862, that the two batteries met. The Chicago battery was on the edge of a field behind a rail fence when the New Orleans battery galloped onto the field. The Chicago boys thought that was as good a time for the duel as any, so they promptly opened fire and drove the New Orleans battery out of the field. That was only the beginning of the duel, however. The two [216] batteries were pitted against each other at several other places in the course of the battle and the Chicagoans were the victors. Between the two batteries, whenever they got within range of each other, it was a duel pure and simple, the result of a challenge properly sent and accepted.

The Chicago Light Artillery was in many notable battles during the war. It was organized under the militia laws of Illinois soon after Chicago was incorporated as a city, and was called in service by Governor Richard Yates in response to the first call for troops by President Lincoln. Inside of twenty-four hours all vacancies in the battery were filled by volunteers, and it was at once sent to Cairo under the command of Captain James Smith. It was stationed on the Mississippi river near Cairo for five months, and put in all the spare time it had, perfecting its drill.

September 6, 1861, the battery went to Paducah, Ky., with General Grant's forces, and took part in his operations around Columbus and Belmont. Later it played a part in the attack on Fort Donelson, one man being wounded there. March 26, 1862, the battery moved to Pittsburg Landing, and was in the thick of the fight at Shiloh. Here it had its duel with the New Orleans battery, and suffered its first losses. Before it was really in the fight it had lost one man and two horses. By afternoon several more had gone to join their comrade, and when the battery, then almost surrounded, was ordered to the rear, there were neither enough men nor horses for two of the guns, and assistance had to be secured from the other gun squads to get them off the field. One of them had only one horse left and he refused to move until a ball struck him in the tail. Lieutenant P. P. Wood was in command of the battery at this time, Captain Smith having been sent home sick.

The battery was again in the thick of the fight the next day, although the first day it had lost four men killed outright, twenty-six wounded, many of them mortally, and forty-eight horses killed. General W. T. Sherman, in his “Memoirs,” refers to the excellent service rendered by the battery in the second day's fighting, when it covered an advance made by his troops that resulted in victory.

The battery then went to Bolivar, Tennessee, and from there to Memphis, where it remained until November 26, 1862. In December of that year it took part in the Chickasaw bayou fight, and then went with General McClernand to Arkansas Post, where it was in a [217] two days battle. It lay in camp most of the winter, opposite Vicksburg. In the spring it took part in the operations around that city, being in two charges. After the surrender of Vicksburg the battery was sent to Jackson, where it stayed until that city was evacuated. It took part in the fight at Missionary Ridge in the fall, and followed General Bragg until he took refuge in Dalton, Ga., and later took up winter quarters in Larkinville, Ga. It took part in the campaign in Georgia the following year, 1864, and lost all of its guns. A charge was made and two of them were recaptured, but the rebels retreated, taking the other four with them. After the evacuation of Atlanta the battery was reorganized and moved back to Nashville, and then to Chattanooga, where it remained until June, 1865, when it was ordered home and mustered out of service.

However willing veterans may be to make allowances for statements of ‘the boys’ in their moments of jollification, and however flattering it may be for the Washington Artillery to have encounters with it considered as worthy of fame, its survivors, in justice to themselves and to the truth of history, are compelled to confess utter ignorance of any such challenge and duel with the Chicago Light Artillery, Company A, at Shiloh.

The Fifth Company of the battalion was the only one with which the duel could have occurred, the honor of upholding the name and reputation of the command on the battle fields of the west having fallen to its lot. None of its survivors ever heard of, and none of its records can show, any such episode.

It was never the habit of the Washington Artillery to issue bombastic challenges; its motto, ‘Try Us,’ was a standing one. Yet it never flaunted it outside of the battle field, but there, in no unmeaning tones, it proclaimed it to all comers, from the muzzle of its guns.

Very likely, at Shiloh, the Fifth Company exchanged shots, or was pitted against the Chicago Light Artillery; but it was altogether the result of chance. The Federal battery was attached to W. H. Wallace's division, that was brought up to the assistance of Prentiss' division, after the first onslaught of the Confederate lines. Wallace formed to the right of Prentiss and was crushed along with him, and lost his life in the rout of his troops, part of which surrendered with Prentiss' division.

The Fifth company was attached to Patton Anderson's brigade, of Ruggles' division, Bragg's corps, and fought most of the day on [218] the Confederate left centre, opposite to, or on the right flank of Wallace and Prentiss. The battery was moved to different points between the center and the left, as the battle shifted, but it never moved unless by order of the general with whom it fought. During the two days of battle, it was never silenced, driven back or compelled to shift its position by any artillery fire. Its progress was ever forward, though at times it was long and stubbornly delayed. When night fell on the first day, in full efficiency, it was about to ascend the last ridge overlooking Pittsburg landing and the river.

Its long list of casualties at Shiloh showed not a single one from artillery projectiles. Its twenty-seven men killed and wounded and thirty dead and disabled horses had all been struck by minnie balls, and its carriages and wheel spokes were riddled by them only. Its guns had in every instance been run within close of the Federal infantry, and its canister had been twice exhausted in these encounters, where camps had to be cleared of foes by tearing to shreds with canister the tents they lurked behind. ‘Its cannoneers on several occasions stood to their pieces under the most deadly fire, when there was no support at hand, and when to have retired would have left that part of the field to the enemy,’ said General Patton Anderson, in his report.

This determination to stay where planted almost cost the Fifth company three of its pieces on Monday morning on the Confederate right, in a position immediately to the left of Chalmer's brigade, where the battery had its first encounter that day. After two lively artillery engagements, and after driving back the Federal infantry, the battery was advanced in another position to within one hundred yards of a thick woods, and opened fire on the concealed foe. From this cover he sprang suddenly, in a heavy mass, rushing with irresistible impetus to within twenty yards of the pieces. In this imminent peril the supports of the company became flurried, and poured through the battery from its rear, an unexpected and murderous fire, as deadly to men and horses as that which came from the front. A hurried withdrawal left, for a while, standing unmanned between the contending lines three of the guns that had lost their horses by the fire from the rear. But the enemy never reached them; for the Crescent regiment, First Missouri and First Arkansas soon drove him back and out of his cover in the woods.

The cannoneers returned, then manned their pieces and retired [219] them, when the general retreat of the Confederate forces was ordered. One sergeant killed, one lieutenant and six men wounded, with twenty horses killed and disabled, gave evidence of the closeness and desperation of this encounter. It was the only approach to a disaster the Fifth Company had on Shiloh's bloody field.

The troops it then fought were of Nelson's fresh division, and no doubt in the engagements of that day it exchanged shots with Mendenhall's battery, Fourth United States Artillery, with Terrill's battery, Fifth United States Artillery, and possibly with Bartlett's Battery G, First Ohio Light Artillery, all attached to that division.

The same tenacity and desperation marked the Fifth Company's career until the end; no danger could move it, and no disaster could dismay it.

In one of its last engagements in the field, during Hood's Tennessee campaign, it displayed these qualities most strikingly. At Overall's creek, near Murfreesboro, near a block house at the railroad crossing and Nashville pike, it found itself contending unsupported against the foe—a brigade of infantry, with artillery in its front, a regiment of cavalry charging its left flank. The infantry was driven back, their artillery silenced, and the cavalry given such a reception with canister that the saddles of its first squadron were emptied, and the riderless horses, in line of battle, kept on with the charge, passing like a whirlwind through the intervals of the battery, to be captured in the rear. The horses of the second squadron received the canister that had passed over the first, and more, and after the passage of the first squadron were disclosed in utter confusion. The regiment was then driven off with schrapnel.

Firing, retiring by sections, the battery now withdrew, keeping the infantry in front at bay until it met the supports that should have stood by it. One killed and four wounded were its casualties in this encounter, out of which it came with some thirty captured horses. The troops it fought were of Rousseau's Division, the cavalry an Indiana regiment.

But once during the war did the Fifth Company have with an adversary any interchange of wishes to meet each other on the field of battle. It was at Mumfordsville, where Bragg captured the place with 4,000 of the enemy. As the prisoners, disarmed and paroled, passed the Fifth Company on their way to Buel under flag of truce, the column halted near the battery, and a splendid-looking young [220] officer of artillery inquired what battery it was. When told, he said he had heard of it, and was very anxious that his battery should meet it on the battle-field. He was told the Fifth Company hoped to have that pleasure some day, and would give his battery their best attention. He gave his name as Lieutenant F. A. Mason, Thirteenth Indiana Battery, and chatted pleasantly until the column moved on. His battery seemed to have acted in Kentucky and Tennessee exclusively during the war, for it was often inquired after on many battle-fields, but, unless unknowingly in Hood's Tennessee campaign, it was never met.

The Fifth Company's experience led it to be extremely careful in claiming victories over special batteries of the enemy. At a distance there is no telling what compels your adversary to cease firing, to shift his position or to retire. It may be the fire of skirmishers, or of a line of battle, a flank fire, or the engagement may have been terminated by superior orders.

Unless one battery occupies the ground of the other, and finds evidences of disaster, it is impossible for it to claim a victory with any certainty.

In a broken and thickly-wooded country, like the field of Shiloh, it was very difficult to see the effects of the artillery shots, or to know what battery you were fighting, unless you blew up some of its limbers or caissons, dismounted its guns or captured its men.

No such disaster befell the Fifth Company on that field, and ‘the boys’ of the Chicago Light Artillery, Company A, since Shiloh, have been exulting in imaginary victories over the Washington Artillery of New Orleans.

And they are not the only ones. In publications about this battle, other Federal batteries have been credited with similar victories, and with no better foundation in fact. Among these are the McAllister's First Illinois Light Artillery, Company D, Thompson's Ninth Indiana Battery, Thurster's and Bulle's Battery I, First Missouri Artillery; all good batteries, and worthy of any foeman's steel.

On other fields of the West also, the honor of vanquishing the Fifth Company has been claimed by several batteries. The disabling of the company's eight inch Columbiad, the Lady Slocomb, at Spanish Fort, is still a matter of controversy between Mack's (Black Horse Battery) Eighteenth New York and Hendrick's Battery L, First Indiana Artillery. [221]

During the terrific bombardment on the evening of the ninth day of the siege, April 4, 1865, this gun was pointing towards the Indiana Battery, when struck on the right trunion from behind by a twenty-pound parrot shot, which must have come from Mack's Battery, that was on our right rear as the gun stood. About the same time another shot from the direction of the Indiana Battery, passing under the gun, between the cheeks of the carriage, shattered the elevating screw. The gun was thus doubly disabled. Fortunately an iron handspike had been run under its breech, resting on the cheeks of the carriage, and the gun was thus kept in place, horizontal, menacingly deceiving the enemy as to its condition. The work around it was almost leveled by the terrible concentrated fire poured into its position, for though the fore-mentioned batteries, by continual exchange of shots with it, were more likely to have an accurate aim, they were joined on this occasion by every battery within reach of this devoted gun. Since the beginning of the seige the Lady Slocomb had been a terror to them all.

With a broken trunion, the gun had to be dismounted. This was done that night, and the night after another Columbiad was mounted in its place. More than twenty-five years after the Lady Slocomb was found, where it had been thrown from its carriage by the Fifth Company.

Most of the artillery companies in the fort were relieved during the siege, but the Fifth Company declined to take advantage of an offer to that effect from General D. H. Maury, claiming the honor of fighting out to the end, and so it did. On the night of the evacuation it was the last to spike its guns, being instructed by General R. L. Gibson to fight them to the last should the enemy discover the retreat and assault before it was accomplished. It passed out into the sea marsh among the very last that left the fort. Two killed and eleven wounded marked its devotion to duty in its last fight. On the many battlefields it saw the Fifth Company encountered most of the famous Federal batteries in their western armies. It has sustained very lively recollections of stubborn contests at Perryville, with Loomis' First Battery Michigan Light Artillery, and with Simonson's Fifth Indiana Battery. The men of Loomis' Battery captured at Chickamauga inquired after the ‘White Horse Battery,’ as the Fifth Company was designated by the foe during Bragg's Kentucky campaign. Within full view of each other on hillsides, with open fields and [222] orchards between, results could be seen, and at Perryville the Fifth Company moved steadily forward, noting in the course of the protracted contest the explosion of limber chests in its antagonist's position and the repeated shifting and falling back of their batteries. It kept up firing until well after night had come, having orders to fire the last shot. Its expenditure of ammunition was 758 rounds, its casualties one man killed and five wounded, with ten horses killed or disabled. Loomis reported one killed and six wounded, and Simonson two killed and thirteen wounded. The Fifth Company will never forget its tussle with Bridges' Battery, First Illinois Light Artillery, at Glass Mills, and with Schultz's Battery M, First Ohio Light Artillery, at Glass Mills, on the first day of Chickamauga. This was a pure and simple artillery duel, for its seven killed and six wounded and ten slaughtered horses, at this point, were all struck by artillery shots. Rushed into position under fire, across the Chickamauga river, the company had one lieutenant and several men killed before it could come into action. Its horses killed in the ford blocked the way and halted the column under a most accurate and intense fire. Bridges' guns slackened, however, sensibly, after the Fifth Company got their pieces well into play, and gradually they ceased altogether after an hour's contest.

During this lull the Fifth Company moved its guns by hand to the front fully 100 yards, when another battery (Schultz's) was seen coming into position, where had stood Bridges'. Three guns of Cobb's Kentucky Battery re enforced the Fifth Company in the woods on its right, and soon a fire more terrific than ever raged between the combined batteries on each side. After half an hour of this contest, upon repeated orders of General Breckinridge to retire the guns and join his column that was again on the move to the right, the Fifth Company limbered its guns under fire, recrossed the ford, and took its position in the column that was marching out and giving way to Wheeler's division of cavalry.

In this encounter one solid shot of the enemy killed three of the Fifth Company's drivers, passing clear through each of them as they sat on their horses. The advantage of position here was in favor of Bridges' Battery. It occupied higher ground, sloping through fields down to the fords, in front of which the Fifth Company stood in an open space, just wide enough for its battery front of four guns. The rifle section had not been crossed, but had remained on the other [223] bank on elevated ground, some distance to the left of the ford. Encased in this open space by woods on three sides, the battery formed a splendid target, and with a plunging fire and better view of his shots, Bridges could not fail to inflict great damage on his adversary. However, he also suffered severely. A caisson was seen to explode in his battery, and his official report gives two men killed, nine wounded, and twelve horses killed, as his losses at this spot. Schultz's loss, if any, is not known.

In its first engagement the next morning, on Bragg's extreme right, the Fifth Company struck Bridges' Battery again. Like itself, it had been thrown during the night from one extremity of the line to the other. This time the contest was not so long, and more decisive. Bridges met with a great disaster-he lost two guns and thirty-four horses; his first lieutenant and three men killed, and seven men wounded, so says his official report. The Fifth Company advanced over his ground, found the body of his lieutenant, examined his guns, refitted from their equipments and ammunition, and hitched up to its guns those of his horses that were found serviceable. A gallant battery it was that there was overwhelmed in the blow that Breckinridge struck Thomas's left flank on that morning.

But the Fifth Company was soon to be severely tried also. When came the recoil of Adams' Louisiana Brigade from that point it reached 500 yards in Thomas' rear, when Beatty and Stanley beat it back reduced to shreds, the little Fifth Company was called upon to show the best mettle it could command. Behind its guns rallied the remnants of Adams' Brigade; behind it formed the lines of Liddell to stem the overwhelming pressure of the foe, and until the line was made strong enough to advance, the Fifth Company held the ground as ordered by Breckinridge, unmindful of enormous opposing guns, devoting its canister and shots alone to the enemy's infantry, hurling it back as it charged time and again. Six men killed and fourteen wounded, with ten slaughtered horses, and Graves, the battalion major, lay around its guns when it ceased firing to let Liddell pass to the front in a charge that drove the foe back to where Breckinridge had pushed before. Then, with crippled carriages bearing its dead and wounded, the Fifth Company was withdrawn to where Bridges' captured guns stood, and stripped them and others to be fit, and soon it reported back to enter the fray again.

Many other episodes at Jackson, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Kennesaw [224] Ridge and other fields might be added to exemplify the Fifth Company's mode of fighting, but the above instances are deemed sufficient.

The Washington Artillery always found pleasure in according praise and doing honor to its gallant adversaries, and on many battlefields it stood in admiration of their deeds and daring. Its survivors, while denying the correctness of the challenge and duel story, want no better evidence of the gallantry and stubborn fighting qualities of the Chicago Light Artillery, Company A, than the roll of its casualties at Shiloh—four killed and twenty-six wounded. Their admiration is won by any adversary that contests a field, either against them or others, to the extent of such a loss.

J. A. Chalaron, Senior Surviving Officer, Fifth Company, Battalion Washington Artillery, of New Orleans.

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