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The Furman light Artillery, (Earle's Battery.)

One day in 1862 a tall, well-mounted artillery officer rode up to my quarters, near Hardeeville, and inquired for me; he introduced himself as Captain Earle; said that his light battery had been ordered to the vicinity, and asked my advice as to a good locality for a company camp. I mounted my horse and rode with him, pointing out different localities that were suitable, one was finally selected, and later in the day the command arrived. In the course of conversation Captain Earle remarked upon the disabilities encountered in drilling and preparing the men in the light artillery service. He had found it impossible to obtain a hand book for the light artillery drill, and had to be dependent upon such verbal instructions as he could obtain. By a singular coincidence I owned a copy of the very latest edition of the United States Light Artillery Manual, descriptive of and illustrated with plates of each and every part of the gun, carriage, caisson, projectiles and every detail of the drill, etc. I mentioned this, and said I would send to Charleston and get the volume for him. This I did, and I record here that I never in the army, or out of it, witnessed more painstaking, constant work done than went on in ‘Earle's Battery.’ Hour after hour, day after day, for months the drills were kept up, and the result was very soon seen—one of the best disciplined and most efficient light batteries in the service. The personal friendship thus begun lasted uninterruptedly until Captain Earle's recent lamented death.

The company known during the war as ‘Earle's Battery’ was organized in August, 1861, by (Rev.) W. H. Campbell as captain, for service in Colonel Maxcy Gregg's infantry regiment. It soon attracted a large membership, and the lieutenants were: G. W. Holtzclaw, first; W. E. Earle, second; James Furman, third. There being need for artillerists, Colonel Gregg consented to release the command; in numbers it was large enough for two companies. Captain W. H. Campbell was promoted major, and Lieutenants Holtzclaw and Earle were made captains. Captain Earle's company as a compliment was named for Dr. James C. Furman, a prominent and highly esteemed citizen of Greenville city. Its three officers [239] were Lieutenants James Furman, a son of Dr. Furman; E. H. Graham, Jr., S. S. Kirby (Citadel, 1860), and Anderson. (In United States War Records and other war publications Earle's Battery is not reported at Honey Hill—a strange neglect and unexplained.)

The battery at Honey Hill had Lieutenant Kirby sick in the hospital, and Lieutenant Anderson absent on leave. Sergeant J. P. Scruggs, acting lieutenant, was in charge of a gun on the extreme left of the line, commanded by Major John Jenkins. The other guns, with those of the ‘Beaufort’ and ‘Lafayettes,’ were in battery at the head of the Grahamville road. Earle's Battery was in a number of engagements on the coast line during the war; did tours of duty at Fort Sumter and at Battery Wagner, and was with the army when it surrendered at Goldsboro, N. C.

In conclusion, I remark that Captain Stuart was fortunate in his command, having the entire confidence of the well-drilled veteran artillerists guarding the key of the battle line at Honey Hill. I doubt if any better light artillery battle service was ever directed or performed in any war! The best evidence of this may be to take the enemy's account of it.

In Captain Emilio's (U. S. A.) book we get an idea of the confusion and demoralization caused by Captain Stuart and his artillerists at the head of the road after three hours service of his guns. I quote:

The 35th United States colored troops, Colonel Barber, charged up the road; it went forward with a cheer, but receiving a terrible fire, after some loss, was forced to retire. * * * Colonel Hartwell, with eight companies 55th Massachusetts, ordered a charge in double column. Twice forced to fall back by the enemy's fire, their brave colonel gave the command, “Follow your colors!” and himself led a charge on horseback; the 55th turned the bend, rushed up the road, and in the face of a deadly fire advanced up to the creek. But it was fruitless; the pitiless shot and shell so decimated the ranks that the survivors retired, after losing over one hundred men in five minutes! Colonel Hartwell, wounded and pinned to the ground by his dead horse, was rescued and dragged to the woods. * * The noise of the battle at this time was terrific; the artillery crashing away in the centre, while volley after volley of musketry ran down both lines, and were reverberated from the surrounding forests. * * * As we approached, they took off their hats and shouted, “Hurrah! Here's the 54th! Go in, boys; no loading in nine times there.” [240]

At 1:30 o'clock I saw General Hatch speak to Colonel Bennett, chief of staff, who at once rode to me and said, “Follow me.” I replied, “I would like a moment to close up my men, Colonel,” when he said, in a most excited manner, “General Hatch's orders are for you to follow me.” Well, after Bennett's remark I had only to follow, which I did. Arriving near the section of artillery, he said, “Go to the rear of that battery, file to the left and charge!” I obeyed orders—all but the charging! On the right of the battery I looked around and found Lieutenant Reid and eight men. How the cannon shot tore down that hill and up that road. I could see where the 55th had charged and the dead lying there. “Wagner” always seemed to me the most terrible of our battles, but the musketry at Honey Hill! ( “ Georgians,” under Willis, Edwards, Wilson, Cook and Jackson, and “3d South Carolina cavalry,” as infantry, under Major John Jenkins responsible), was something fearful. The rebel yell was more prominent (artillery, cavalry and infantry, all responsible) than ever I heard it!


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