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The Federal artillery and artillerymen

O. E. Hunt, Captain, United States Army

Light artillery--two guns in position, ready to fire


Battery a, Fourth United States Artillery.

Battery A, Fourth United States Artillery, was one of the celebrated horse batteries of the Army of the Potomac. These photographs, taken by Gardner in February, 1864, represented its four 12-pounder light brass Napoleons “in battery,” with limbers and caissons to the rear, and the battery wagon, forge, ambulance, and wagons for transportation, embracing the entire equipage of a light battery in the field. At that time the battery was on the line of the Rappahannock. Three months later it accompanied Sheridan on his famous Richmond raid, and on the night of May 12th its members heard men talking within the fortifications of Richmond, dogs barking in the city, and bought copies of the Richmond Inquirer from a small but enterprising Virginia newsboy who managed to slip within their lines with the morning papers. Below, beyond “A,” another battery is seen in camp. The horses hitched in, and the open limber-chests indicate an approaching inspection. These formed part of Lieutenant-Colonel James Madison Robertson's brigade.

Battery a, fourth United States artillery, February, 1864: the Battery that rode closest to Richmond.

Battery a, fourth United States artillery, February, 1864.

[15] [16]

On the day of battle-shelling Early's troops in Fredericksburg: working the 32-Pounders on May 3, 1863. Here is no play at war. These guns were actually throwing their iron hail against Marye's Heights across the river on the very day that this photograph was taken by Captain A. J. Russell, the Government photographer. Early that morning the Union guns opened with a roar; at half past 10 Sedgwick's gallant Sixth Corps charged up the hill where nearly 13,000 of their comrades had fallen the previous December. Before the assault the field artillery added its clamor to the heavy boom of the big guns, clearing the way for the intrepid Union columns which General Newton led up the once deadly hill to victory. [17]

With a charge of eight pounds of powder these sea-coast guns could throw a shot weighing 32.3 pounds 2,664 yards, or over a mile and a half, with a ten degree muzzle elevation. The town spread out before the frowning weapons was thus easily within range. The pieces are mounted on siege carriages. Two men are handling the heavy swab which must reach a distance nearly twice the length of a man. The man at the nearest breech is just sighting; the crew are at attention, ready to perform their tasks. In a companion photograph, taken at the same time (pages 126 and 127 of Volume II), they can be seen waiting to load the piece in the foreground.


The regular troops brought into Washington for its defense at the outbreak of the war included two batteries of field-artillery of exceptional drill and discipline. The presence of these guns and men helped materially to allay the feeling of apprehension, and General Scott, in command of the United States army at the time, was able to assure the inhabitants that he could hold Washington against several times the number that the Confederates could then bring against him, as he knew from experience that the troops which had been hastily enlisted for the Southern cause were still in a very unprepared state.

Most of the organizations participating in the first battle of the war were untried and undisciplined. A few regular companies and batteries made a leaven for the mass, and among those Federal organizations that most distinguished themselves were Ricketts' and Griffin's regular field-batteries.

About half-past 2 in the afternoon of July 21, 1861, these were ordered forward to the top of the Henry hill, where the battle of Bull Run was raging hottest. They went with a feeling that the regiments ordered to support them were unreliable. For a time there was a lull in the battle. But danger was close at hand. No sooner had Ricketts taken up his position than his men and horses began to fall under the well-directed fire of concealed Confederate sharpshooters. No foe was visible, but death sped from behind fences, bushes, hedges, and knolls. The battery fought with desperate [19]

The Henry house — after Bull Run: the artillery center of the first Civil War battle Thus stood the Henry house after the battle of Bull Run, on July 21, 1861. The building is no longer habitable — though the white plaster remaining shows that the destroying cannonade had not brought fire in its train. At first not in the direct line of fire, the little home suddenly became the center of the flood-tide of the first real conflict of the Civil War when at two-thirty General McDowell sent forward Ricketts' and Griffin's regular batteries. The former planted their guns within 1,500 yards of Captain (later Brigadier-General) John B. Imboden's Confederate batteries, which were stationed in a slight depression beyond. A terrific artillery duel at once ensued. Old Mrs. Henry, bedridden and abandoned by her relatives, lay alone in the house in an agony of terror till one of the first shots put an end to her life of suffering. The Thirty-third Virginia could restrain themselves no longer, and without orders advanced upon the Federal batteries. In the dust they were mistaken for a supporting Federal regiment until within point-blank range they fired a volley which annihilated both batteries. Thenceforth the contending forces surged over the prostrate bodies of cannoneers. Ricketts, severely wounded, was finally taken prisoner. At last Johnston's fresh troops arrived, the gray line surged forward, and the much-coveted guns were seized by the Confederates for the last time.

[20] courage. Griffin's battery took its place alongside. There were eleven Union guns pouring shell into-what? Soon were uncovered no less than thirteen Confederate guns at short range. The Confederate batteries were well supported. The Federal guns were not.

The Confederate regiments, seeing the Union batteries exposed, were tempted to come out from their concealment. They pressed cautiously but stubbornly on Ricketts, whose battery, all this time, was wholly occupied with the Confederate artillery. Griffin, absorbed in the fire of his guns against the opposing artillery, was astounded to see a regiment advancing boldly on his right. He believed these troops to be Confederates, but was persuaded by other officers that they were his own supports. Instinctively, he ordered his men to load with canister and trained the guns on the advancing infantry. Persuaded not to fire, he hesitated a moment, and the two batteries were overwhelmed. The supporting regiment fired one volley and fled. The two disabled batteries now became the center of the contest of the two armies. In full view from many parts of the field, the contending forces surged back and forth between the guns, over the prostrate bodies of many of the cannoneers. Ricketts, severely wounded, was finally taken by the Confederates and retained a prisoner. Two more Federal batteries, one a regular organization, crossed the valley to take part in the fight, but were compelled to withdraw.

Finally, with the appearance of Johnston's fresh troops, including more field-artillery, the tide was turned for the last time, and the much coveted guns remained in the hands of the Confederates. Four pieces of Arnold's battery, four of Carlisle's battery, and five of the Rhode Island battery, practically all that were taken off the field, were lost at the clogged bridge over Cub Run. The entire loss to the Federals in artillery was twenty-five guns, a severe blow when ordnance was so precious. [21]

General Griffin, who led the first light battery into Washington Major-General Charles Griffin stands in the center of his staff officers of the Fifth Army Corps, of which he attained command on April 2, 1865. He was the man who led the first light artillery into Washington, the famous Battery D of the Fifth United States Artillery, known as the “West Point Light Battery.” When war was threatening, Colonel Charles Delafield, then Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point, directed Lieutenant Charles Griffin, then of the Second Artillery and instructor in the Tactical Department, to form a light battery of four pieces, with six horses to the piece, and enough men to make the command seventy strong. On February 15, 1861, it left for Washington with its four 12-pounder Napoleons. Reorganized July 4th as Company D of the Fifth United States Artillery, its organizer promoted to its captaincy, its strength increased to 112 men, and equipped with four 10-pounder Parrotts and two 12-pounder gun-howitzers, it proceeded to Arlington and thence to the battlefield of Bull Run. The “West Point Light Battery” was the first to enter the City of Washington in 1861, with Captain Charles Griffin, and Lieutenants Henry C. Symonds and Alexander S. Webb, his subordinates. At Bull Run the battery was wrecked, nearly all its horses killed, and one third of its men either killed or wounded. At West Point there is a memorial tablet to this battery bearing the following names: Bull Run, Mechanicsville, Hanover, Gaines's Mill, Malvern Hill, Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Rappahannock, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, Weldon, Appomattox. General Griffin commanded the artillery at Malvern Hill, and as leader of the Fifth Corps he received the surrender of the arms of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. The Maltese Cross on the flag was the badge of his corps.


McClellan was called to Washington and placed in command, and immediately, by his great energy, tact, and professional skill, restored confidence. On his assuming command of the Military Division of the Potomac, the field-artillery of the division consisted of no more than parts of nine batteries, or thirty pieces of various and, in some instances, unusual and unserviceable calibers. Calculations were made for an expansion of this force, based on an estimated strength of the new Army of the Potomac, about to be formed, of one hundred thousand infantry.

Considerations involving the peculiar character and extent of the force to be employed, the probable field and character of the operations, and the limits imposed by the as yet undeveloped resources of the nation, led to the adoption, by General McClellan, of certain recommendations that were made to him by General W. F. Barry, his chief of artillery. The most important of these were: to have, if possible, three guns for each thousand men; one-third of the guns to be rifled and either Parrott or Ordnance Department guns; batteries to be of not less than four nor more than six guns, and then followed a number of important recommendations concerning the tactical organization of the arm.

A variety of unexpected circumstances compelled some slight modifications in these propositions, but in the main they formed the basis of the organization of the artillery of the Army of the Potomac.

The supply of ordnance materiel before the Civil War was in large measure obtained from private arsenals and foundries. This sudden expansion in the artillery arm of the country overtaxed these sources of supply, and the Ordnance Department promptly met the requisitions of the chief of artillery of the Army of the Potomac by enlarging, as far as possible, their own arsenals and armories. The use of contract work was in some instances the cause of the introduction of faulty materiel; and the loss of field-guns on several [23]

The only Union battery that fired on Yorktown This photograph of May, 1862, shows Federal Battery No. 1 in front of Yorktown. On May 3, 1862, all of McClellan's encircling guns, with the exception of two batteries, were waiting to open fire, and those two would have been ready in six hours more — when the Confederates evacuated the works defending the city. Fire was actually opened, however, only from this one. It was armed with two 200-pounder and five 100-pounder Parrott rifled guns. The garrison was one company of the famous First Connecticut Artillery, under Captain Burke. It was a great disappointment to the Federal artillerymen, who had worked for a month placing the batteries in position, that there was no chance to test their power and efficiency. McClellan has been criticised for dilatory tactics at Yorktown, but many old soldiers declare that the army under his command inflicted as much damage and suffered far less than the victorious army directed by Grant.

Watching the approach of a shell, Yorktown, May, 1862 This photograph of Battery No. 4, planted for the bombardment of Yorktown, shows a sentinel on the watch, ready to give warning of the approach of a shell and thus enable every man to seek shelter. Beside him is the bombproof in which the troops remained under cover when the bombardment was continuous. At Yorktown, the Confederates had an 8-inch mortar with which they did rather indifferent shooting, but the moral effect on the Federal soldiers of the screeching shells was great. The caliber of these mortars was thirteen inches, and on account of their tremendous weight, 17,000 pounds, it required great labor to place them in position. The projectiles, which were principally used for sea-coast operations, varied in weight, according to character. Their maximum weight was about 770 pounds, and these were fired with a maximum of about seventy-five pounds of powder. The bore of this mortar is 35.1 inches in length. This was a case of war's labor lost, as the Confederates left on May 3d, and McClellan's elaborate siege batteries never had a chance.

[24] battlefields was laid to the breaking of gun-carriages. The Ordnance Department, however, was able to supply the deficiencies as soon as its own plants were running, and artillery officers thereupon expressed their complete satisfaction.

The field-guns were of two kinds — the 3-inch wrought-iron (10-pounder) rifle and the smooth-bore Napoleon 12-pounder. The first was made by wrapping boiler-plate around an iron bar to form a rough cylinder, welding it together, and then boring it out and shaping it up. The second was generally made of bronze, cast solid, then bored and prepared. For short ranges in rough country, the Napoleon gun was preferred to the rifle, as it carried heavier charges and the use of canister in it was more effective.

The siege-guns, in which mobility was less important, were of cast iron. Owing to the length of bore and the relatively small diameter, these guns were also usually cast solid. One of these pieces, the Parrott, was strengthened by a wrought-iron cylinder shrunk over the breech.

Sea-coast guns were generally of cast iron, and the best types were cast hollow and cooled by the Rodman process of playing a stream of water on the interior of the tube while the exterior was kept hot, thus regulating the crystallization of the iron and increasing its durability. To some of the sea-coast guns the Parrott principle of construction was applied.

The imperfectly equipped batteries which were left to the Army of the Potomac after the First Bull Run consisted, as has been noted, of only thirty guns. These had six hundred and fifty men and four hundred horses.

When the army took the field, in March, 1862, the light artillery consisted of ninety-two batteries of five hundred and twenty guns, twelve thousand five hundred men, and eleven thousand horses, all fully equipped and in readiness for fieldservice. Of this force, thirty batteries were regular and sixty-two volunteer. During the short period of seven months, all the immense amount of necessary materiel had been issued and [25]

Fifty-nine and a half tons of ordnance emplaced in vain These mortars of Battery No. 4 were ready to let loose a stream of fire upon Yorktown on the night of May 3d. But that very night the Confederate host secretly withdrew. The great weight of the projectiles these guns could throw was sufficient to crash through the deck of a battleship. For that reason such mortars were generally used for sea-coast fortifications. The projectiles weighed up to 770 pounds. At times, the big mortars were used for siege purposes, although their great weight--17,000 pounds--made them difficult to emplace in temporary works. For thirty days the Union artillerymen had toiled beneath the Virginia sun putting the seven gigantic weapons, seen on the left-hand page, into place. Their aggregate weight was 119,000 pounds, or fifty-nine and a half tons. By garrisoning Yorktown and forcing the Federals to place such huge batteries into position — labor like moles at these elaborate, costly, and tedious siege approaches--General Magruder delayed the Union army for a month, and gained precious time for General Lee to strengthen the defenses of the threatened Confederate capital, while Jackson in the Valley held off three more Federal armies by his brilliant maneuvering, and ultimately turned upon them and defeated two.

[26] the batteries organized, except that about one-fourth of the volunteer batteries had brought a few guns and carriages with them from their respective States. These were of such an odd assortment of calibers that there was no uniformity with the more modern and serviceable ordnance with which most of the batteries were being armed, and they had to be replaced with more suitable materiel. Less than one-tenth of the State batteries came fully equipped for service.

When the Army of the Potomac embarked for Fort Monroe and the Peninsula, early in April, 1862, fifty-two batteries of two hundred and ninety-nine guns went with that force, and the remainder that had been organized were scattered to other places, General McDowell and General Banks taking the greater portion. When Franklin's division of McDowell's corps joined McClellan on the Peninsula, it took with it four batteries of twenty-two guns; and McCall's division of McDowell's corps, joining a few days before the battle of Mechanicsville, also kept its artillery, consisting of the same number of batteries and guns as Franklin's. This made a grand total of sixty field-batteries of three hundred and forty-three guns with the Federal forces.

The instruction of a great many of these batteries was necessarily defective at first, but the volunteers evinced such zeal and intelligence, and availed themselves so industriously of the services of regular officers, that they made rapid progress and attained a high degree of efficiency.

The Confederates having taken a position at Yorktown and erected strong works, a regular siege of the place was ordered. Reconnaissances were made by the artillery and engineer officers to locate the works. A siege-train of one hundred and one pieces was sent down from Washington, and field-batteries of 12-pounders were also used as guns of position. The First Connecticut Heavy and the Fifth New York Heavy Artillery were in charge of the siege-train, and had for its operation a total of twenty-two hundred men. [27]

Daily Camp-life with the light artillery.

The three photographs on this page give bits of daily camp-life with the light artillery. In the top photograph Major Asa M. Cook, of the Eighth Massachusetts Light Battery, who also had temporary command of the First, sits his horse before his tent. In the center the artillerymen of the First Massachusetts Light Battery are dining in Camp at their ease. Below appear the simple accommodations that sufficed for Lieutenant Josiah Jorker, of the same battery. The First Massachusetts was mustered in August 27, 1861, and saw its full share of service. It fought through the Peninsula campaign, assisted in checking Pope's rout at Bull Run, August 30, 1862, and covered the retreat to Fairfax Court House, September 1st. It served at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg; at the Wilderness and in the “Bloody angle” at Spotsylvania the following year. It fought at Cold Harbor, and went to Petersburg, but returned to Washington with the veteran Sixth Army Corps to defend the city from Early's attack. It then accompanied Sheridan on his Shenandoah Valley Campaign and fought at the battle of Opequon. It was mustered out, October 19, 1864, at the expiration of its term. The Eighth Battery of Massachusetts Light Artillery was organized for six months service June 24, 1862. It fought at the second battle of Bull Run, at South Mountain, and Antietam. The regiment was mustered out November 29, 1862.

Major Asa M. Cook

Dinner time first Massachusetts light battery in camp

Lieutenant Josiah Jorker, with the first Massachusetts artillerymen


Fourteen batteries of seventy-five guns and forty mortars were established across the Peninsula, the work of constructing emplacements beginning on April 17th and ending on May 3d. During the night of May 3d, the Confederates evacuated Yorktown, and the Federal troops took possession at daylight on the 4th.

The peculiarities of the soil and terrain in the vicinity of the opposing works made the labor of installing the siege-artillery very great. The heavier guns would often sink to the axles in the quicksand, and the rains added to the uncomfortable work. The efforts of the strongest and most willing of the horses with the heavy materiel frequently did not avail to extricate the guns from the mud, and it became necessary to haul them by hand, the cannoneers working knee-deep in mud and water. The First Connecticut Heavy Artillery and the Fifth New York Heavy Artillery excelled in extraordinary perseverance, alacrity, and cheerfulness.

The effect of the delay to the Army of the Potomac was to enable the Confederates to gain strength daily in preparation for the coming campaign. All the batteries of the Union line, with the exception of two, were fully ready to open fire when the Confederates evacuated their positions, and these two batteries would have been ready in six hours more. Circumstances were such, however, that fire was actually opened from only one battery, which was armed with two 200-pounder and five 100-pounder Parrott rifled guns.

The ease with which these heavy guns were worked and the accuracy of their fire on the Confederate works, as afterward ascertained, were such as to lead to the belief that the Confederates would have suffered greatly if they had remained in the works after the bombardment was opened. The desired result, however, had been achieved. The Union army had been delayed a month, and precious time had been gained for General Lee to strengthen the defenses of Richmond while Johnston held off his formidable antagonist. [29]

Cowan and his men, May, 1862, just after the first fight These four officers of the First New York Independent Battery seated in front of their tent, in Camp on the left bank of the Chickahominy River, look like veterans, yet a year of warfare had not yet elapsed; and their first taste of powder at Lee's Mills had just occurred. First on the left is Andrew Cowan (later brevet-lieutenant-colonel), then lieutenant commanding the battery (he had been promoted to captain at Lee's Mills, but had not yet received his captain's commission). Next is First-Lieutenant William P. Wright (who was disabled for life by wounds received in the battle of Gettysburg), Lieutenant William H. Johnson (wounded at Gettysburg and mortally wounded at Winchester), and Lieutenant Theodore Atkins, sunstruck during the fierce cannonade at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, and incapacitated for further service in the army. Private Henry Hiser, in charge of the officers' mess at the time, is leaning against the tent-pole. The first Independent Battery of Light Artillery from New York was organized at Auburn and mustered in November 23, 1861. It was on duty in the defenses of Washington until March, 1862, when it moved to the Peninsula by way of Fortress Monroe. Its first action was at Lee's Mills, April 5, 1861; it took part in the siege of Yorktown, and fought at Lee's Mills again on April 16th. It served throughout the Peninsula campaign, and in all the big battles of the Army of the Potomac throughout the war. It helped to repulse Early's attack on Washington, and fought with Sheridan in the Shenandoah. The battery lost during its service two officers and sixteen enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and thirty-eight enlisted men by disease.


To the patient and hard-working Federal artillerymen, it was a source of keen professional disappointment that, after a month's exacting toil in placing siege-ordnance of the heaviest type, the foe did not give them a chance to test its power and efficiency.

It was found by the Federals that the Confederate works about Yorktown were strong. The chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac reported that the outline of the works immediately surrounding the town was almost the same as that of the British fortifications of Cornwallis in the Revolution, but that the works had been thoroughly adapted to modern warfare. Emplacements had been finished for guns of heavy type, of which about ninety-four could have been placed in position. The Federals captured fifty-three guns in good order.

From Yorktown to the front of Richmond, and on the march to the James, the gallant efforts of the artillery seconded the work of the other arms through the battles of Williamsburg, Hanover Court House, Fair Oaks, Mechanicsville, including Gaines' Mill, Savage's Station, Glendale, and Malvern Hill. As General W. F. Barry has stated, “These services were as creditable to the artillery of the United States as they were honorable to the gallant officers and enlisted men who, struggling through difficulties, overcoming obstacles, and bearing themselves nobly on the field of battle, stood faithfully to their guns, performing their various duties with a steadiness, a devotion, and a gallantry worthy of the highest commendation.”

At Malvern Hill the artillery saved the army. The position was most favorable for the use of guns. The reserve artillery, under Colonel H. J. Hunt, was posted on the heights in rear of the infantry lines. Sixty pieces, comprising principally batteries of 20-pounders and 32-pounders, had a converging fire from General Porter's line, and all along the crest of the hill batteries appeared in commanding positions. The First Connecticut Heavy Artillery again distinguished itself for the [31]

Cowan's battery about to advance on May 4, 1862: the next day it lost its first men killed in action, at the battle of Williamsburg Lieutenant Andrew Cowan, commanding, and First-Lieutenant William F. Wright, sit their horses on the farther side of the Warwick River, awaiting the order to advance. After the evacuation of Yorktown by the Confederates on the previous night, Lee's Mills became the Federal left and the Confederate right. The Confederate earthworks are visible in front of the battery. This spot had already been the scene of a bloody engagement. The First Vermont Brigade of General W. F. Smith's division, Fourth Corps, had charged along the top of the dam and below it on April 16th and had gained the foremost earthwork, called the “Water Battery.” But General Smith received orders not to bring on a general engagement. The Vermonters were withdrawn, suffering heavily from the Confederate fire. Their dead were recovered, under a flag of truce, a few days later. The “slashing” in the foreground of this photograph was in front of earthworks erected by Smith's division after the withdrawal of the Vermonters. The earthworks themselves were about two hundred yards to the rear of this “slashing,” and were occupied by the First New York Battery in the center, and strong bodies of infantry to its left and right. The battery is seen halted where a road ran, leading to the Williamsburg road. Loaded shells had been planted inside the Confederate works, so that the feet of the horses or the wheels of the guns passing over them would cause them to explode. The battle of Williamsburg or “Fort Magruder” was fought on May 5th. In that battle the battery lost its first men killed in action.

[32] tremendous and skilful labors of placing its heavy guns on the crest.

During the entire morning of July 1st there was constant artillery fire. As often as bodies of the Confederates appeared within close range, the canister sent among them from the batteries on the crest was sufficient to drive them back to cover. General Magruder was sent by Lee against the Union lines in a supreme effort to break them, but his men never approached near enough to threaten the security of the Federal batteries. Some of the guns that were in exposed positions were limbered up and withdrawn to more secure positions, and there again opened fire on Magruder's advance. Part of the front line of the Confederates reached a position where the men could neither advance nor retire, but had to hug the inequalities of the ground to avoid the rain of canister.

Repeated efforts were made by the Confederates to pierce the Union line and get among the batteries that were creating such havoc, but the tenacity of the infantry line, bravely assisted by the guns massed behind it and sending destruction over it into the ranks of the foe, made it an impossible feat. The Confederates were repulsed, and the Federal army at last obtained rest from that fearful campaign. The artillery had saved it in the last great fight.

The Union Army of Virginia, under General John Pope, was organized on the day that the battle of Mechanicsville was fought, June 26, 1862. When the Peninsula campaign was over, and it was decided to withdraw McClellan, the main Federal army in front of Washington became that of General Pope, whose artillery as at first organized consisted of thirty-three batteries.

Pope's first duty was to prevent the concentration of all the Confederate armies on McClellan as the latter was withdrawing. Pope accordingly advanced on Culpeper Court House. Just after his leading troops passed that point, and before they reached the Rapidan, on the line of the Orange [33]

Flying artillery in the attempt on Richmond: the cannoneers who kept up with the cavalry — in this swiftest branch of the service each man rides horseback Here are drawn up Harry Benson's Battery A, of the Second United States Artillery, and Horatio Gates Gibson's Batteries C and G, combined of the Third United States Artillery, near Fair Oaks, Virginia. They arrived there just too late to take part in the battle of June, 1862. By “horse artillery,” or flying artillery as it is sometimes called, is meant an organization equipped usually with 10-pounder rifled guns, with all hands mounted. In ordinary light artillery the cannoneers either ride on the gun-carriage or go afoot. In flying artillery each cannoneer has a horse. This form is by far the most mobile of all, and is best suited to accompany cavalry on account of its ability to travel rapidly. With the exception of the method of mounting the cannoneers, there was not any difference between the classes of field batteries except as they were divided between “light” and “heavy.” In the photograph above no one is riding on the gun-carriages, but all have separate mounts. Battery A of the Second United States Artillery was in Washington in January, 1861, and took part in the expedition for the relief of Fort Pickens, Florida. It went to the Peninsula, fought at Mechanicsville May 23-24, 1862, and took part in the Seven Days battles before Richmond June 25th to July 1st. Batteries C and G of the Third United States Artillery were at San Francisco, California, till October 1861, when they came East, and also went to the Peninsula and served at Yorktown and in the Seven Days.

[34] and Alexandria Railroad, they encountered the foe. This brought on the battle of Cedar Mountain, the first engagement of the campaign, August 9th. Contact of the advance troops occurred in the morning, and, beginning at noon, the artillery duel lasted until about three o'clock in the afternoon. Then the infantry engagement began, and resulted in the Federal troops being pushed back. The Confederates followed the retiring troops until Federal reenforcements arrived. “Unaware of this,” says J. C. Ropes, “Jackson undertook, in his anxiety to reach Culpeper before morning, to shell the Federal troops out of their position, but succeeded in arousing so many sleeping batteries that he shortly discontinued his cannonade, having suffered some loss. The battle of Cedar Mountain was over.” The Union troops lost one gun, mired in the mud while withdrawing.

Pope retired across the Rappahannock and Lee concentrated his entire army against him. At the Rappahannock, the commanding positions of the Union artillery on the left bank enabled it to get a superiority of fire over the Confederate guns, which proved very distressing to Lee and baffled his first attempts to cross.

From the Rappahannock to Gainesville, the artillery had little opportunity to go into action. The marching and countermarching by both armies, each under the impression that the other was retreating, finally brought them together on the field of Gainesville, on August 28th. In this sanguinary fight the losses were great, the artillery sustaining its full proportion.

Pope's problem was now to prevent the union of Longstreet and Jackson. At Groveton, near the old Bull Run battle-ground, another bloody encounter took place, and the character of the fighting can best be understood when it is related that the men of General Hatch's division, after fighting for three-quarters of an hour in close range of the foe, retired in good order, leaving one gun in the hands of the Southerners. [35]

A battery that fought in many campaigns--“Knap's” The upper photograph is of Independent Battery E of Pennsylvania Light Artillery, known as Knap's Battery, after its captain, Joseph M. Knap. Here the battery is within a strong fortification, guarded by a “slashing” of trees with branches pointing outward, visible beyond the walls. At Antietam, where the battery distinguished itself, there were no entrenchments to protect it from the fire of the Confederates; yet, practically unsupported, it broke up two charges in the thick of the action. Then McClellan's long-range guns materially assisted the Union advance, but later in the day the demand for artillery was so great that when General Hancock asked for more to assist his attenuated line, he could not get them until he finally borrowed one battery from Franklin. After the battle ended (September 17, 1862) and the Confederates withdrew to the south side of the Potomac, General Porter resolved to capture some of the Confederate guns commanding the fords. One of the five pieces taken in this exploit on the night of September 19th was a gun which had been captured by the Confederates at the First Bull Run, from Griffin's Battery, D of the Fifth United States Artillery. There is another photograph of Knap's battery in Volume II, page 61. It was organized at Point of Rocks, Maryland, from a company formed for the Sixty-third Pennsylvania and surplus men of the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry in September, 1861. Its service included Pope's campaign in Northern Virginia, beside the Maryland campaign which culminated at Antietam. Its next important campaign was that of Chancellorsville, and then came the Gettysburg campaign. The scene of its activities was then transferred to the West, where it fought at Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. It was with Sherman in the Atlanta campaign, marched with him to the sea, and returned to Washington with the Army of Georgia in time for the Grand Review.

Headquarters first brigade horse artillery, Brandy Station, September, 1863 Here are some followers of Brigadier-General James Madison Robertson, who won promotion as chief of horse artillery on many fields, from the Peninsula to the Virginia campaigns of 1864. The horse artillery was attached to the cavalry force.


The Confederates afterward said of this incident that the gun continued to fire until they were so close as to have their faces burnt by the discharges. Higher praise than this surely could not have been given the troops of either side.

Then followed the Second Battle of Manassas, a defeat for the Union army, but a hard-fought battle. The artillery continued to fire long after the musketry engagement had ceased, and after darkness had set in. The Federal army retired. General Pope claims not to have lost a gun, but Lee's report states that thirty pieces of artillery were captured during the series of battles. With the battle at Chantilly the campaign closed, and the Federal armies were again concentrated around Washington.

Early in September, Pope was relieved, and the Army of Virginia passed out of existence. Lee crossed into Maryland; McClellan moved up the Potomac with the reorganized Army of the Potomac, and the encounter came at Antietam, but in the mean time Harper's Ferry had again been taken by the Confederates, and seventy-three pieces of artillery and thousands of small arms were added to their store.

On the high ground in the center of his position at Antietam, McClellan placed several batteries of long-range guns. From this position almost the whole of the field of battle could be seen, and, further to the left, where the batteries of the Fifth Corps were placed, a still more complete view could be obtained. The conformation of the ground was such that nearly the entire Confederate line was reached by fire from these central Federal batteries. The Union advance was assisted materially by their fire, but several of them were effectively shelled by the Confederates, who, however, on their counter-attacks, in turn suffered severely from the fire of the Federal guns.

At 10 A. M., September 17th, two of Sumner's batteries were being closely assailed by Confederate sharpshooters, and Hancock formed a line of guns and infantry to relieve them. Cowan's battery of 3-inch guns, Frank's 12-pounders, and [37]

From private to General: Brigadier-General Robertson, a chief of artillery who helped the federals to win Gettysburg Twenty-three years before the war Brigadier-General James Madison Robertson (first on the left above) was a private in battery F of the Second United States Artillery. Between 1838 and 1848 he became corporal, then artificer, and finally quartermaster-sergeant. On June 28th of that year he was made second-lieutenant, and four years later first-lieutenant. It was not until May 14, 1861, that he attained his captaincy. Then came war, and with it rapid advancement. His quarter of a century of preparation stood him in good stead. In the next four years he was promoted as many times for gallant, brave, and distinguished services on the field, attaining finally the rank of brigadier-general. While Pleasonton's cavalry at Gettysburg was preventing Stuart from joining in Pickett's charge, Robertson led the horse artillery which seconded the efforts of Pleasonton's leaders, Gregg and Buford and Kilpatrick, whose exploits were not second to those of the infantry. For gallant and meritorious service in this campaign Robertson was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. He had been promoted to major for his gallantry at the battle of Gaines' Mill on the Peninsula. He was made colonel May 31, 1864, for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Cold Harbor, and brigadier-general for distinguished service while chief of horse artillery attached to the Army of the Potomac during the campaign from May to August, 1864, including the battles of the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Hawes' Shop, and Trevilian Station. He died, a soldier “full of years and honors,” January 24, 1891.


Cothran's rifled guns, with their supporting infantry, a brigade, drove away the threatening skirmishers and silenced the Confederate batteries.

The demand for artillery was so great that when General Hancock asked for more guns to assist his attenuated line, the request could not be complied with. However, he borrowed, for a time, from Franklin, one battery, and when its ammunition had been expended, another was loaned him to replace it.

The battle ended September 17th. On the night of the 18th the Confederates withdrew, and by the 19th they had established batteries on the south side of the Potomac to cover their crossing. Porter determined to clear the fords and capture some of the guns. The attempt was made after dark of that day, and resulted in the taking of five guns and some of their equipment. One of these had been taken by the Confederates at the First Bull Run, and belonged to Battery D (Griffin's), Fifth United States Artillery.

We now follow the fortunes of the army to Fredericksburg. Sumner, with fifteen brigades of infantry and thirteen batteries, arrived on the banks of the Rappahannock before a large Confederate force was able to concentrate on the opposite shore, but no attempt was made to cross until just before the battle of December 13, 1862. General Hunt, on the day of the fight, had one hundred and forty-seven guns on the crest above the left bank of the river, in position to command the crossing, and the ground beyond. Besides these, twenty-three batteries, of one hundred and sixteen guns, crossed the river at the lower bridges, and nineteen batteries, of one hundred and four guns, crossed with Sumner's command. The Federal guns were principally 3-inch rifles, 20-pounder Parrotts, and 4 1/2-inch siege-guns. They engaged the Confederates at close range, and the duel was terrific. The reserve line, on the crest of the left bank, aided with all its power, but the result was disastrous to the Federal arms.

We cannot follow the fortunes of the heroes through all [39]

Light artillery “in reserve” --waiting orders It is no parade-ground upon which this splendid battery is drawn up, as the untrodaen daisies plainly show. Thus the waving fields of Gettysburg smiled on those July days of 1863--until the hoofs and wheels had trampled all green things to the earth, where they lay crushed beneath the prostrate forms of many a brave soldier of the North and South fighting for what each thought the right. This battery is standing in reserve. At any moment the notes of the bugle may ring out which will send it dashing forward across field and ditch to deal out death and face it from the bullets of the foe. The battery was evidently serving with infantry, as the cannoneers have no mounts. They are standing beside the gun-carriages, upon which they will leap when the battery moves forward. It was no easy matter for them to retain their seats as the heavy wheels cut through the grass and flowers and rebounded from hummocks and tilted sharply over stones. At any moment a horse might fall crippled, and it was their duty to rush forward and cut the traces, and jump aboard again as the gun drove around, or, if necessary, over the wounded animal. The latter was harder for an artilleryman who loved his horses than facing the screaming shells and whistling bullets at the front.

[40] the vicissitudes of the following campaigns. On the Gettysburg field the artillery again contested with the Confederates in probably the most stubborn fighting of the war. General Meade had three hundred guns. The Federal advance was at first gradually forced back to Cemetery Hill, where General Doubleday rallied his troops, and his artillery did excellent service in checking the foe. He relates that the first long line that came on from the west was swept away by the Federal guns, which fired with very destructive effect. On the second day, the angle at the peach orchard furnished opportunities for nearly every phase of an artillery combat. “The power of the arm in concentration was well illustrated, the splendid devotion with which its destructive force was met and struggled against fixed our attention, and the skilful tactics by which its strength was husbanded for the decisive moment are especially to be praised.”

Two Pennsylvania batteries on Cemetery Hill which had been captured by the Confederates were recovered in a gallant manner. The cannoneers, so summarily ousted, rallied and retook their guns by a vigorous attack with pistols, handspikes, rammers, stones, and even fence rails — the “Dutchmen” showing that they were in no way inferior to their “Yankee” comrades, who had been taunting them ever since Chancellorsville. After an hour's desperate fighting the Confederates were driven out with heavy loss.

The Federal artillery from Little Round Top to Cemetery Hill blazed “like a volcano” on the third day of the fight. Two hours after the firing opened, the chief of artillery, with the approval of General Meade, caused his guns to cease firing in order to replenish their ammunition supply. This deceived the Confederates, and Pickett's famous charge was made. No sooner was the advance begun than the Federal artillery belched forth all along the line, firing only at the approaching infantry. The brave assailants advanced even to the muzzles of the guns, the mass gradually diminishing as it [41]

A veteran battery from Illinois, near Marietta in the Atlanta campaign Battery B of the First Illinois Light Artillery followed Sherman in the Atlanta campaign. It took part in the demonstrations against Resaca, Georgia, May 8 to 15, 1864, and in the battle of Resaca on the 14th and 15th. It was in the battles about Dallas from May 25th to June 5th, and took part in the operations about Marietta and against Kenesaw Mountain in June and July. During the latter period this photograph was taken. The battery did not go into this campaign without previous experience. It had already fought as one of the eight batteries at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, heard the roar of the battle of Shiloh, and participated in the sieges of Corinth and Vicksburg. The artillery in the West was not a whit less necessary to the armies than that in the East. Pope's brilliant feat of arms in the capture of Island No.10 added to the growing respect in which the artillery was held by the other arms of the service. The effective fire of the massed batteries at Murfreesboro turned the tide of battle. At Chickamauga the Union artillery inflicted fearful losses upon the Confederates. At Atlanta again they counted their dead by the hundreds, and at Franklin and Nashville the guns maintained the best traditions of the Western armies. They played no small part in winning battles.

[42] approached. Their comrades watched them breathlessly until they disappeared in the cloud of smoke. Only a few disorganized stragglers were finally swept back. The deadly canister had broken the spirit of that great Army of Northern Virginia.

In the West, the value of the artillery was no less than in the East. It will be impossible to notice the minor affairs in which field-batteries took an active and a decisive part. In Missouri particularly was this the case. General Lyon, before his untimely death, used this effective weapon to its full capacity, as did Pope, Fremont, Grant, and the other Union leaders who participated in shaping up the campaign against the Confederacy in Missouri and Kentucky.

Early in 1861 the Confederates took possession of a line from Columbus to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Forts Henry and Donelson were in the center, and formed the keystone of the arch. Grant saw their value, and directed himself to their capture. He obtained permission from Halleck and McClellan to reconnoiter up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, and sent General C. F. Smith with two brigades from Paducah.

On the strength of Smith's report, Grant made strong representation to Halleck, his immediate superior, that the move was advisable. After some delay, the orders were issued, and Grant moved up the Tennessee with seventeen thousand men. The immediate assault on Fort Henry was threatened by General McClernand, with two brigades, each having two batteries. The work was a solidly constructed bastion Fort with twelve guns on the river face, and five bearing inland. It was evacuated without attack from the land forces, as the gunboat bombardment was sufficient to drive out the defenders, but not without considerable damage to the fleet.

Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland, was the next objective. On the 8th of February, 1862, Grant telegraphed to Halleck that he proposed to take Fort Donelson with infantry and cavalry alone, but he moved out from Fort Henry with fifteen thousand men and eight field-batteries. Some of the guns were [43]

A Wisconsin light battery at Baton Rouge, Louisiana The First Wisconsin Independent Battery of Light Artillery saw most of its service in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Its first active work was in the Cumberland Gap campaign, from April to June, 1862. It accompanied Sherman's Yazoo River expedition in December, 1862, and went on the expedition to Arkansas Post in January, 1863. At the siege of Vicksburg it participated in two assaults, May 19th and 22d, and after the fall of Vicksburg, July 4th, it went to the siege of Jackson, Mississippi. The battery was then refitted with 30-pounder Parrotts, and ordered to the Department of the Gulf. It left New Orleans April 22, 1864, to go on the Red River campaign. This was taken by the Confederate photographer, A. D. Lytle. Battery C of the campa

Officers of a light battery that marched to the sea Battery C of the First Illinois Light Artillery served throughout the Western campaigns and accompanied Sherman on his march to the sea. It took part in the siege of Savannah, December 10 to 21, 1864, and served throughout the campaign of the Carolinas, January to April, 1865. After being present at the surrender of Johnston and his army, it marched to Washington via Richmond, and took part in the grand review. It was mustered out on June 14, 1865.


20-and 24-pounders, rifles, and howitzers. Grant's fifteen thousand men found themselves confronted by about twenty thousand entrenched. McClernand pressed to the right, up the river. His artillery was very active. Sometimes acting singly, and then in concert, the batteries temporarily silenced several of those of the Confederates and shelled some of the camps. Outside the main work, about fourteen hundred yards to the west, the Confederates had, after the surrender of Fort Henry, constructed a line of infantry entrenchments, which circled thence to the south and struck the river two and one-quarter miles from the fort. The guns of eight field-batteries were placed on this line.

On the 15th, McClernand's right was assailed and pressed back, and a part of the garrison escaped, but Grant received the unconditional surrender of about fourteen thousand men and sixty-five guns. His own artillery had not increased beyond the eight batteries with which he marched from Fort Henry. These were not fixed in position and protected by earthworks, but were moved from place to place as necessity dictated.

The brilliant feat of arms of Pope and his command in the capture of Island No.10 added to the growing respect in which the artillery was held by the other combatant arms.

About seven in the morning on April 6, 1862, the Confederate artillery opened fire on the Union camps at Shiloh. Thereupon ensued one of the most sanguinary conflicts of the whole war. Although the Federal artillery was under the direct orders of the division commanders, the fighting was so fragmentary that no concerted attempt was made to use the batteries until, on the retirement of Hurlbut to the vicinity of Pittsburg Landing, some batteries of heavy guns were placed in position to cover the possible retirement of the troops from the front. About forty guns were finally assembled, and their work had an important part in saving the army, for this group of batteries was a large factor in repulsing the attempt of the [45]

Heavy artillery that made marvellous infantry-drilling before the Wilderness Save for the drills in the forts about Washington, the big heavy artillery regiments with a complement of 1,800 men had an easy time at first. But in 1864, when General Grant took command of the armies in the field, the heavy artillery regiments in the vicinity of Washington were brigaded, provisionally, for service at the front. On May 19th, at the battle of Spotsylvania, the veterans cracked no end of jokes at the expense of the new troops. “How are you, heavies?” they would cry. “Is this work heavy enough for you? You're doing well, my sons. If you keep on like this a couple of years, you'll learn all the tricks of the trade.” They had no more such comments to make after they had seen the “heavies” in action. They bore themselves nobly. Many of the severest casualties during the war were sustained by the heavy artillerists in the Wilderness campaign and at Petersburg.

A light battery that fought before Petersburg — the 17th New York The Seventeenth Independent Battery of New York Light Artillery, known as the “Orleans Battery,” was organized at Lockport, New York, and mustered in August 26, 1862. It remained in the artillery Camp of instruction and in the defenses of Washington until July, 1864, when it was ordered to Petersburg. It took part in the pursuit of Lee, and was present at Appomattox.


Confederates to seize the Landing and cut off Buell's army from crossing to Grant's assistance.

At the battle of Murfreesboro, or Stone's River, the artillery was especially well handled by the Federals, although they lost twenty-eight guns. On the second day, the Confederates made a determined assault to dislodge the Federals from the east bank of the river. The infantry assault was a success, but immediately the massed batteries on the west bank opened fire and drove Breckinridge's men back with great loss. Federal troops were then sent across the river to reenforce the position and the day was saved for the Union cause. The effective fire of the artillery had turned the tide of battle.

In assailing Vicksburg, Grant made four serious attempts to get on the flanks of the Confederate position before he evolved his final audacious plan of moving below the city and attacking from the southeast. In all the early trials his artillery, in isolated cases, was valuable, but the character of the operations in the closed country made it impossible to mass the guns for good effect. The naval assistance afforded most of the heavy gun-practice that was necessary or desirable against the Confederates.

On the last attempt, however, when the troops had left the river and were moving against Pemberton, Grant's guns assumed their full importance. His army consisted of the Thirteenth Army Corps, Major-General McClernand; the Fifteenth Army Corps, Major-General Sherman, and the Seventeenth Army Corps, Major-General McPherson, with an aggregate of sixty-one thousand men and one hundred and fifty-eight guns. The superb assistance rendered to the infantry by the ably handled guns made it possible for Grant to defeat his antagonist in a series of hard-fought battles, gradually move around him, and press him back into Vicksburg. Once there, the result could not be doubtful if the Federal army could hold off the Confederate reenforcements. This it was able to do. The progress of the siege we shall not here consider, except to [47]

The First Independent Battery of New York Light Artillery.

The First Independent Battery of New York Light Artillery, under command of Captain Andrew Cowan, lost two officers and sixteen enlisted men killed and mortally wounded out of its complement of 150 men. Only four other batteries suffered a greater loss. “Cooper's” Battery B, First Pennsylvania Artillery, lost twenty-one men; “Sands'” Eleventh Ohio Battery lost twenty men (nineteen of them in one engagement in a charge on the battery at Iuka); “Philips'” Fifth Massachusetts Battery lost nineteen men; and “Weeden's” Battery C, First Rhode Island Artillery, lost nineteen men. This photograph shows Cowan's Battery in position within the captured Confederate works on the Petersburg line. The officers and men lived and slept in a work captured from the Confederates, and the horses were picketed back of the emplacements and in the gun-pits as seen underneath.

The First Independent Battery of New York Light Artillery: this Battery stood fifth in its number of casualties

The First Independent Battery of New York Light Artillery: this Battery stood fifth in its number of casualties

[48] say that for scientific artillery work on the part of the besiegers it was not surpassed elsewhere in the conduct of the war. Twelve miles of trenches were constructed and armed with two hundred and eight light field-guns and twelve heavy siege-guns. The total loss in guns for the Confederacy during the series of operations was two hundred and sixty, of which one hundred and seventy-two were lost in the city of Vicksburg, and eighty-eight during the preceding campaign. Sixty-seven of these were siege-guns and the rest lighter field-pieces.

From Tullahoma to Chickamauga, Rosecrans skilfully maneuvered his army, to encounter a check that caused a temporary halt in the Union progress. During the first day's fierce fighting at Chickamauga, there were several interchanges of batteries — captures and recaptures. At half-past 2 in the afternoon of September 19, 1863, the Confederates made a determined assault on the Federal right. Hood's corps met with fearful loss from heavy artillery fire, six batteries opening with canister as the columns approached. On they came relentlessly, but the stubborn courage of the Federal troops, now reenforced, finally drove them back. As darkness was approaching, General Thomas, on the Union left, while re-forming his lines, was fiercely attacked, and the assault was so determined that some confusion resulted, but the artillery again came to the rescue, and, after dark, the Confederates were repulsed, and the first day's conflict ended as a drawn battle.

On the morning of the second day, the attack was made on the Federal left by Polk, but Thomas had entrenched his men and batteries, and the tremendous efforts to dislodge him were repulsed by a storm of musketry and canister, and the attacks failed. After the Federal right was pushed off the field and the conflict raged around Thomas on Horseshoe Ridge, the artillerv of Thomas' command created havoc in the ranks of the assaulting columns. As the final attacks were made the ammunition was exhausted, and, in their turn, the infantry saved the artillery by receiving the foe with cold steel. That night [49]

The “about-faced” redoubt three days after its capture by the federals A photograph of June 21, 1864--three days after Cowan's Battery captured this work and turned it against its Confederate builders. When the Eighteenth Army Corps had made its advance on Petersburg, followed by the gallant charges of the Fifteenth, and the fighting of the two following days, all the captured redoubts were occupied and strengthened. Of course, they were made to face the other way. The sand-bag reinforcements were removed and placed on the eastern side, new embrasures and traverses were constructed, and face to face the armies sat down to watch one another, and to begin the huge earth-works and fortifications that became the wonder of the military world. All night long for many months the air was filled with fiery messengers of death. The course of the bomb-shells could be plainly followed by the lighted fuses which described an arc against the sky. The redoubt pictured here is one captured, “about faced,” and occupied on June 18th by Cowan's First New York Independent Battery, in the Artillery Brigade of the Sixth Corps. Thus the Union lines advanced, trench by trench, until Lee's army finally withdrew and left them the works so long and valiantly defended. The view looks northwest to the Appomattox.

Brigadier-General C. H. Tompkins: General Tompkins Starting as captain of a Rhode Island Battery May 2, 1861, Charles Henry Tompkins became a major August 1, 1861, colonel September 13, 1861, and brevet brigadier-general of volunteers August 1, 1864, for gallant and meritorious service, in the campaign before Richmond, and in the Shenandoah Valley.

[50] the Federal army retired to Chattanooga. The Confederate victory had been dearly bought.

Sherman started his campaign with fifty-three batteries of two hundred and fifty-four guns. For most of the time the weather was almost as great an antagonist as the Confederates. Crossing swollen streams without bridges, dragging heavy guns through mud and mire, and most of the time stripped of all surplus baggage and equipage, the artillery soldier had few pleasures, no luxuries, and much very hard work.

On the 17th of July, the Confederate Government removed Johnston, and detailed Hood to command his army. The news was received with satisfaction by the Federal troops, for now they were certain of getting a fight to their hearts' content. And so it developed. The battle of Peach Tree Creek, in front of Atlanta, gave a splendid opportunity for the employment of the energies of the batteries that had been dragged so far through the mud by the patient men and animals of Sherman's artillery. “Few battlefields of the war had been so thickly strewn with dead and wounded as they lay that evening around Collier's Mill.”

Atlanta captured, Sherman rested his army and then started for the sea, sending Thomas back into Tennessee to cope with Hood. At Franklin and Nashville, the guns maintained the best traditions of the Western forces, and victory was finally achieved against one of the best armies ever assembled by the Confederacy.

The consolidated morning report of the Army of the Potomac for April 30, 1864, showed with that army forty-nine batteries of two hundred and seventy-four field guns, of which one hundred and twenty were 12-pounder Napoleons, one hundred and forty-eight 10-pounder and 3-inch rifles, and six 20-pounder Parrott rifles. In addition to these guns, there were eight 24-pounder Coehorn mortars. Two hundred and seventy rounds of ammunition were carried for each gun. The [51]

“Dictator” --the traveling mortar in front of Petersburg, 1864 This is the 13-inch mortar, a 200-pound exploding shell from which threw a Confederate field-piece and its carriage above its parapet, at a range of nearly two miles. The 17,000 pounds of this mortar made it difficult to move, so it was mounted on an ordinary railroad-car strengthened by additional beams, and plated on top with iron. This engine of destruction was run down on the Petersburg & City Point Railroad to a point near the Union lines, where a curve in the track made it easy to change the direction of the fire. The recoil from a charge of fourteen pounds of powder shifted the mortar less than two feet on the car, which moved a dozen feet on the track. Even the full charge of twenty pounds of powder could be used without damage to the axles of the car. This mortar, whose shell would crush and explode any ordinary field-magazine, terrorized the Confederate gunners, and succeeded in silencing their enfilading batteries on Chesterfield Heights. The activities of this great war machine were directed by Colonel H. L. Abbot, of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery. Other photographs of it, with officers and men, are shown on pages 186 and 187, Volume III.


Camp of heavy artillery on the way to Petersburg: the first Massachusetts and second New York at Belle Plain, 1864 On May 16, 1864, the date of this sweeping photograph, the movement against Petersburg had begun. The heavy guns which these two regiments were about to serve before Petersburg were sent by steamer and rail, so no ordnance is visible in this peaceful-looking Camp on the banks of the beautiful river. The First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery had been ordered from the defenses of Washington to join the Army of the Potomac at Belle Plain, Virginia. It was to form part of the second brigade, third division, Second Army Corps, of the [53] Army of the Potomac, from May, 1864, to May, 1865. A month after landing at Belle Plain it was at the siege of Petersburg. At Belle Plain it was met by the Second New York Heavy Artillery, also from the defenses of Washington, which formed part of the first brigade, first division, Second Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac, from that time till June, 1865. The latter regiment also proceeded to Petersburg but by a more circuitous route. May 18th to 21st it served at Spotsylvania; June 1st to 12th, it was at Cold Harbor.

[54] succession of battles and flank marches through the Wilderness to the James, up to Petersburg, thence to Appomattox, had taxed the energies and showed the devotion of the men with the guns in the hardest campaign of the war, finally causing the surrender of a remnant of the proud Army of Northern Virginia.

While at Petersburg, an interesting experiment was tried which resulted successfully. A large 13-inch Coehorn mortar was mounted on an ordinary railroad platform car, run down to a point within range of the Confederate works, and halted on a curve so that by a slight movement of the car the direction of the piece could be changed. The mortar, fired with fourteen pounds of powder, recoiled less than two feet on the car, which, in turn, was moved only ten or twelve feet on the track. The firing excited much apprehension in the Confederate works, and was effective in preventing their batteries from enfilading the right of the Union lines.

Major E. S. May, of the British army, has this to say of the Federal artillery in the Civil War:

We have not by any means exhausted that rich repository of brilliant deeds, and many bright examples are reluctantly omitted. Enough, however, has been said to show that this arm can scarcely be with justice reproached for lack of enterprise during the great struggle. . . . As regards the conduct of officers and men in action, efficient service of guns, and judicious handling on the part of its more prominent leaders, the artillery showed itself in no degree unworthy of the great traditions handed down to it from the previous era, and may point with satisfaction to what it accomplished.

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