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[186]

Sketch of Third battery of Maryland Artillery.

By Captain William L. Ritter.

Paper no. 5.

On the 7th of May the battery was ordered to the front on the line in Crow's Valley, and when, on the 8th, the enemy moved up as if to attack the Confederate works, they were received with so vigorous a fire that they rapidly withdrew. But two men of the Third Maryland were wounded: Privates N. M. Beverly and J. G. Martin.

Again, on the 9th the enemy charged our works, but were repulsed with no loss to the battery. For three days there was only picket-firing along the whole line.


The battle at Resaca.

On the night of the 12th the corps fell back to Resaca. Two days later the battery took position on the front, two miles from Resaca, to the left of the Dalton road, and about a hundred yards to the right of an obtuse angle in the line, which was occupied by Dent's Alabama battery. The latter held the summit of a ridge, the prolongation of which, in front, it was expected to command, while Captain Rowan was directed to construct his works at right angles with the ridge, so as to command the Dalton road. He saw that in case the enemy seized and held the ridge in front of the angle, his battery would be enfiladed, and, therefore, began to construct a traverse for the protection of his men. Before it was completed, our skirmish line was driven off the ridge to the shelter of the earth-works, and the battery had to begin firing. Dent's battery was soon withdrawn, as the men were shot down as fast as they took position beside their guns.

Rowan's battery now became exposed to a raking fire from the left. The first section, under Lieutenant Ritter was on the left, and was consequently the most severely handled. Under a fire of almost unprecedented intensity, his two guns were speedily silenced, and not long after the other two, under Lieutenant Glies. At the right gun of Ritter's section eight men were killed and wounded within a few minutes, leaving but three at the gun.

Among the killed was Corporal Sanchez, a Spaniard, long resident in Mexico, where he had commanded a company under Santa Anna during our war with that country. He was a man of fine military [187] education, and an accomplished linguist. When number four at the gun was shot down, Sanchez was ordered to fire the piece, but was at that moment struck by the fragment of a shell and thrown by it to the distance of ten feet. He asked to be removed from the spot where he fell. Sergeant Frazier, Lieutenant Ritter and Private Ben. Garst carried him to the right of the gun, and were in the act of laying him down, when Frazier was severely wounded in the face and shoulder. Sanchez died soon after at the field hospital.

The moment the first gun was silenced, Sergeant Wynn, in charge of the second, was directed to throw his trail to the right and fire over the first. It happened that Lieutenant Ritter was lying just in front of the parapet of the second gun, so that the canister fired from it passed over and very near his head, covering him with dirt knocked off the parapet by fragments of the missiles fired at the enemy. It was a dangerous position, and the Lieutenant called out with no little vigor to the Sergeant to ‘cease firing.’ The roaring of the guns, and the din of the musketry of course drowned his voice, so that he had to lie still where he was; the enemy in front, his own men behind him, the gun over him scattering its canister fearfully, while it deafened him with its noise, and nearly suffocated him with its sulphurous smoke. Around him lay the dead and wounded of the first detachment. The peril of his own situation did not prevent him from thinking what would be the fate of these poor men, if the enemy charged the works. It was a great relief when he heard Captain Rowan give the order to cease firing.

Sergeant Frazier asked Lieutenant Ritter to go to Captain Rowan, and ask that he might be carried off the field at once. He was told that it would be exceedingly dangerous to do so, as the moment a person appeared above the parapet, he drew the enemy's fire. Frazier insisted, and carried his point. Lieutenant Ritter jumped over the slight earthwork that covered his gun on the left, ran around the front of the others, and jumped into that one where Captain Rowan and Colonel Beckham were. The trip was full of danger, as hundred of minnie balls buzzed about his head the whole thirty yards he had to go. The Captain would not allow him to return. At dusk the infirmary corps came up to remove the wounded, and later, during the night, the dead were buried.

Corporal A. J. Davis, of the second detachment, made a very narrow escape while serving his gun on this occasion. The belt supporting his gunner's pouch, and his suspenders, were cut into by the enemy's minnie balls. He displayed conspicuous gallantry throughout [188] the engagement, taking deliberate aim before every discharge of his piece, all the time being exposed to the fire of the enemy, who were but one hundred yards off, but still he stood to his piece until the order, ‘cease firing,’ was given.

Captain Rowan left Lieutenant Ritter in command, with orders to remodel the works during the night, while he himself went to look after some horses for the battery, to take the place of those which had been killed. Nine horses had been lost during the day. Lieutenant Ritter's saddle horse was shot and instantly killed early in the engagement. Lieutenant Ritter worked all night and by daylight the next morning the works were completed

Early on the morning of the 15th, Corput's battery was advanced to a position three hundred yards in front of the main line, and to the right of the Dalton road, with the object of enfilading the enemy's line. Before their entrenchments were completed, the Federals moved up through the woods a heavy column of infrantry, and charged the battery, running the cannoneers from their guns at the point of the bayonet, and planting their flag on the works. They were driven out in turn by the Confederate infantry posted in the rear, and the guns remained untouched, covered by the fire of both armies until night, when they fell into the enemy's lands.

In making the charge just described, the right of the enemy's column passed within three hundred yards of Rowan's battery, giving the latter the opportunity to open a terrific fire upon them. Many were killed and wounded, as they knew from the number of litters they saw leaving the field.

The firing continued throughout the day, at intervals. Lieutenant Ritter was wounded by a minnie ball, in the right arm, above the elbow, but the wound was of slight importance, as the ball passed through the fleshy part of the arm and lodged in the sleeve. He dressed the wound himself, and did not leave the field.

At night the army fell back. It was about 9 P. M. when the guns and limbers were run off the hill by hand to a ravine near by, and there limbered up. In withdrawing the pieces, the Lieutenant ordered his men to drive in stakes at each embrasure, to create the impression that he was fortifying. While thus engaged, they heard a voice call out to them through the darkness from the enemy in front: ‘It's about time now that Johnny Reb were getting away.’ And so he did, marching across Oostenaula river to Adairsville, which was reached on the 16th. [189]

The pontoon bridge over the Oostenaula river was covered with green corn stalks to prevent a noise as the carriages passed over.

The casualties of the Third Maryland at Resaca, were three killed and fifteen wounded:

Killed: Corporal B. Sanchez, privates Henry Steward, and a third whose name is lost.

Wounded: Lieutenant Ritter, Sergeant L. W. Frazier, Corporals A. J. Davis and B. Bradford, privates John Bushong, W. E. Davis, J. G. Cannon, J. Faulk, Ben. Garst, J. Isham, J. S. Scales, J. A. Turner, M. P. Talton, W. Pirkle and A. P. Wade.

The spokes of the second gun were so shattered by the minnie balls, that false spokes had to be put in before the piece could be removed.

The following paper shows how difficult and dangerous a post was held by the Third Maryland in the battle of Resaca:

Field hospital, near Resaca, Ga., May 14, 1864.
Captain M. Van Den Corput:
Captain,—I regret exceedingly that an unfortunate wound prevents me from being with the battalion. I am proud of the command and doubt not they will acquit themselves well.

You will take charge and 1 will thank you to express to the officers and men my regrets at not being able to see them through a fight, which I am assured will result in a glorious victory.

Rowan has an unfortunate position, in which I was required to place him, and I will thank you to see him particularly, and express to him and his men my earnest hope that they will not suffer so greatly as I fear.

My whole thoughts are with the battalion. I believe and hope that we will be successful, and my great regret is that I was wounded so early in the fight.

I am, Captain, very truly, your friend,

John W. Johnston, Major Johnston's Battalion Artillery. W. A. Russell, Assistant Adjutant.


The further retreat.

After skirmishing for a while at Adairsville, the army being drawn up in line of battle on a range of hills south of the Oothcaloga Valley, [190] General Johnston, at dusk on the 16th, fell back to Cassville, where he remained till the 19th. An order from General Johnston was that day read to the troops, to the effect that ‘the army would retreat no further, but would meet and fight the enemy at this place.’ It was heard with the greatest delight by the troops, and excited general enthusiasm. In the afternoon, the men were ordered to prepare entrenchments, which they did under the heavy fire of the enemy.

To the chagrin of all, that very night at 10 o'clock an order came to fall back. This sudden change of intention was at that time a mystery, but in his official report General Johnston has stated the cause. General Hood had said that he could not hold his part of the line; General Polk that he did not think he could hold his; while Hardee, who held the weakest part of the whole line, was of the opinion that he could hold his.

On the morning of the 20th the line of retreat was taken up across the Etowah river to Alatoona, and thence to New Hope Church, near Dallas. On the 25th the enemy moved up and charged the greater part of the line, but were repulsed with heavy loss at every point. The Third Maryland was not engaged till late in the evening, when it did terrible execution in the enemy's ranks, itself having but two men slightly wounded.

Again on the 27th, the enemy charged our right wing, and the Third Maryland was ordered to open upon them. A heavy fire was kept up for about an hour with telling effect. This was evident from the fact that the enemy's shots were continually rising; this was a sure sign that they were becoming excited. The elevating screw of a cannon is depressed by the impact upon it of the breech at the moment of firing, with the effect, of course, of elevating the muzzle, and causing the shot to rise higher and higher. The screw should be run up after each discharge of the piece-something that in the tumult of battle a gunner might easily forget.

During this artillery duel, a shell from the enemy exploded in a building immediately in the rear of the battery, and but a few paces from it, and set the building on fire. There was danger of the fire communicating with the ammunition, therefore, it was absolutely necessary to extinguish it to make the position of the Third Maryland at all tenable. Private W. J. Lewis, of Lieutenant Ritter's section, volunteered to bring water from a branch, two hundred yards in front of the line, to put out the fire. He was exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, but returned unharmed, and accomplished his object. The building was saved, and the position held by the Third Maryland. [191]

On the 29th the battery was ordered to the right, near where Granberry's Texas brigade repulsed the enemy on the 27th.

About 1 o'clock in the morning of the 30th, Captain Rowan ordered Lieutenant Ritter to go with the officer of the day to the picket line, to get the range of a working party of the enemy, about six hundred yards in front of his position. They went within a hundred yards of this party, near enough to hear the men speak, but not to distinguish their words. As they returned to the battery, Lieutenant Ritter marked the trees with his eye that he might be certain of the range. He called the cannoneers, who were asleep, to the guns, and opened upon the intruders, who ceased working, and did not return to that place again.

It was a calm, starlight night, no breeze was stirring, and the booming of the Napoleon guns was echoed and re-echoed among the distant hills. The infantry, who lay in the ditches, were aroused from their slumbers by the sudden firing, and sprang up at once along the line, muskets in hand, and ready for action.

On the 31st, Corporal Thomas Jones was killed by a random picket shot, and Private A. Lee wounded by the same ball. These men belonged to first detachment of the battery, the same that had suffered so severely at the battle of Resaca. The body of Corporal Jones was buried on a small ridge three hundred yards in rear of the line, and Lieutenant Ritter cut his name on a small piece of board, and placed it at the head of the grave.

Early in the afternoon of the same day, Lieutenant Ritter went to a spring about a hundred yards in front of the line, to get some water. While there, he concluded to wash his feet, and took a seat on a stone, near the bank below the spring, and pulled off his left boot and sock. Very soon he heard a minnie ball pass over his head and strike the bank behind him. He paid no attention to it, thinking it was a random shot, but a second, third and fourth one came, striking the bank about the same place; but the last one came so very near his head that he concluded to beat a retreat, being convinced that a picket in a tree top, not far distant, was taking deliberate aim at him.

When, on the 4th of June, the New Hope line was abandoned for the Lost Mountain line, and that afterwards for the Noonday Valley line, the Third Maryland took part in every movement. On the 22d, at Marietta, the battery was ordered out on the field with General Stevenson's division, to charge the right wing of the enemy's line. It was placed on a hill half a mile from the Federal force, there to await further orders; but it was not sent forward. Stevenson's [192] division was repulsed, with the loss of a thousand men killed and wounded. The Maryland battery lost none, though under a severe artillery fire the whole time.

On the night of the 4th of July the battalion was ordered to the Chattahoochee river; thence on the 9th to within eight miles of Atlanta, on the Green's Ferry road; thence to Mill Creek road, where, on the 20th, an attack was made by the enemy, which was repulsed. General Johnston had been superseded by General Hood on the 14th of July. This was much regretted by the line officers and the rank and file of the army.


Siege of Atlanta.

Next day the battery was ordered to Atlanta, and on the morning of the 22d was assigned to a position in the Peach Tree Street Redoubt, at that time an unfinished work. When completed it was circular in form, having a parapet right, left and rear, with five embrasures. In the afternoon the battery began to reply to the enemy, who had moved up within reach. Toward sunset General Loring came up, and ordered Captain Rowan to fire as rapidly as possible, so as to attract the enemy's attention, and create a diversion of their forces from the left, upon which the Confederates were making a charge. This movement was a success. Three thousand prisoners, twenty-eight pieces of artillery and a considerable quantity of ordnance stores were captured.

The batteries kept up a continuous firing, night and day, for several days, to prevent the enemy from advancing their line. Two thirty-two pounder siege pieces were now brought up, one of which was planted in the Peach Tree Street redoubt, and the other two hundred yards in the rear. Captain M. Van Den Corput who was now temporarily in command of the battalion, placed Lieutenant Ritter in charge of these guns, detailing men to work them from Rowan's and Corput's batteries. Several attempts made by the enemy to plant batteries in our front, were frustrated by aid of these guns. They were removed, August 20th, to the south of the city. Captain Corput was about this time wounded, and Captain Rowan took command of the battalion, which left Lieutenant Ritter in command of the company.

The battalion proceeded on the 27th to East Point, six miles southwest of Atlanta, whence it marched to Jonesboro, arriving there on the 30th and fighting the enemy on the same day. Atlanta's communications being cut on every side, its evacuation was now a pressing [193] necessity. The corps was ordered back, on the 1st of September, to assist in bringing away the Quartermaster's and ordnance stores, and that night the city was evacuated.

The retreat was in the direction of Lovejoy Station. The enemy followed, and on the 4th we fought them two miles north of that place, to such good purpose that on the 5th they returned to Atlanta. The battalion was parked in a field near the station, where it remained till the 18th of September; it then moved to Palmetto, and took position behind a line of fortifications extending from the railroad to the Chattahoochee river.


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