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Sketch of Third Battery of Maryland Artillery.

By Captain W. L. Ritter.

Paper no. 3.

To the East.

At midnight the camp at Fish Lake was broken up, and the command proceeded on its way, crossing Deer Creek and Bogue Phaliah. The cavalry swam the latter, while the artillery was ferried over. Encamping on the east side of the Bogue, the success of the expedition thus far was celebrated by a banquet at headquarters. The central feature, and most acceptable viand at this feast, was a huge dish of bear's meat, flanked with oysters, jellies and other luxuries captured from the Federals.

On the 21st of May, the march was continued through the Sunflower country to the stream of that name. Early on the 23d, a crossing was effected, yet but nine miles were made that day, by reason of the wretched condition of the road. The Yazoo was reached on the 24th, and crossed the same day near Greenwood, between Fort Pemberton and certain obstructions sunk in the Yazoo.

These obstructions had been placed there by General Ferguson's orders, to prevent the enemy from ascending that way, and cutting off [465] Major Bridges' retreat. In times of high water there was another means of approach from the north by way of the Cold Water, and down the Tallahatchie river. To close that route to the enemy's gunboats, the Star of the West was found to have been sunk in the last named stream, near Fort Pemberton. It will be remembered that it was the Star of the West that opened the war, by getting itself fired into, while bringing reinforcements to Major Anderson at Fort Sumpter, in 1861.

To one who knows the nature of the country, this march of seventy miles, from Greenville to Greenwood, will seem almost incredible. Fully forty miles lay through a swamp covered with canebrakes, shrubbery and grape vines, interlaced with the greenbrier. The ground was boggy and difficult, so that when the pioneer corps had cut a road through the jungle, it had to be corduroyed in many places to make it passable. The progress of the battery through this region, surprised none more than the people who lived in it. During the rainy season the whole country is flooded, and the inhabitants place their horses, cattle, hogs, farming implements and household furniture aboard a large raft, and tying this to the tops of trees, abandon their houses for this aquatic residence. Here the whole family live in seeming content until the waters subside, and they again set on foot terr afirma.

The cavalry had reached the Yazoo several days before the artillery; and, learning that the enemy's gunboats were coming up the stream, had sunk several transports twelve miles below Greenwood to prevent their passage. Before they succeeded in removing these obstructions, Major Bridges's artillery, as stated above, came up and crossed.

That evening a company of sharpshooters, under Captain Morgan, of Texas, was sent to attack the ironclads engaged in removing the obstructions. They were found moored to the bank with cables, and busy at work. During the night Morgan's men surrounded the boats, and when at daylight the Federals came out to prosecute their work, a large number of them were shot down at the first fire. It was an embarrassing position for them, for their boats were fastened to the bank, and they could not come out to loose them. If they opened their port-holes, the Texans fired into them; and their guns could not be elevated sufficiently to reach the Confederates, they being near at hand and the banks high. So, closing their port-holes and cutting their cables, the ironclads backed rapidly down the stream, followed for several miles by the Texans.

From Greenwood the battery was ordered to Yazoo city, where it arrived on the 1st of June. After one more engagement with the Federal [466] vessels on the Yazoo, it proceeded on the 12th to Vernon, Miss., where it was attached to General McNair's brigade of Walker's division. Six days after, it was transferred to General Ector's brigade of the same division. A section of Captain McNally's Arkansas battery, under Lieutenant Moore, was also attached to this brigade; and, as he was the senior officer, he took command of both sections. Walker's division constituted part of the army which General Joseph E. Johnston was assembling for the relief of Vicksburg.

On the 1st of July the movement toward Vicksburg began. While waiting for the pontoons on which the Big Black river was to be crossed the news was received at Headquarters that Vicksburg had capitulated. About midnight of the 5th Lieutenant Ritter was wakened by Lieutenant Moore, who told him in a low voice to get up, have the horses harnessed and hitched and all ready to move in a short time; that Vicksburg had fallen, and that the army would soon begin its retreat toward Jackson. He warned him especially to say nothing yet to the men of the news just received.

How great a calamity the fall of Vicksburg was to the Confederacy is well known. It was specially painful to the detached section of the Third Maryland, as much the larger part of their battery was lost with the city. As before stated, three officers, seventy men, and five guns of the Third Maryland were surrendered.

They were paroled on the 12th of July, and on the 26th, at Enter-prise, were furloughed for thirty days, with orders to report at Decatur, Georgia.

The destruction of the Indianola.

The Indianola was captured from the Federals on the 24th of February, 1863, near Grand Gulf. An authentic account of the engagement is contained in Major Brent's report to General Richard Taylor, published in the Southern Historical Society Papers; but a better and more graphic one may be found in General Taylor's book, Destruction and Reconstruction. The Indianola was the most formidable vessel of the enemy's fleet on the Mississippi, and her capture was the subject of much rejoicing at the time, both as a glorious achievement and as making a most invaluable addition to the small Confederate squadron. Neither Major Brent nor General Taylor, however, tells what became of the Indianola, nor why it was that the hopes built upon her were never realized.

Her end was as discreditable to the parties concerned as her capture was glorious to the crews of the Webb and the Queen of the West. [467] She was in a nearly sinking condition at the close of the engagement, and was towed to the east bank of the river and there made fast. A lieutenant (of infantry, it is said), with a small detachment, was put in charge of her till repairs could be made. Her reappearance under the Confederate flag was so much dreaded by the Federals above Vicksburg, that they devised the following trick to secure her total destruction by her captors: A coal-barge was covered with timber and plank, and so painted as to resemble closely an iron-clad. Imitation guns were provided, and every means employed to give the imitation the character of a formidable verity. Thus prepared, it was turned adrift to float down near the Indianola. Its real character was detected by the batteries at Vicksburg, but it met with better success when it came near the inexperienced infantry officer in charge of the Indianola. Fearing an attack, the Lieutenant did just what the shrewd Federals had hoped — fired his boat and decamped.

I am glad to be able to adduce the testimony of an eye witness, who was throughly acquainted with the whole transaction, in the shape of a letter from Lieutenant William T. Patten, to Lieutenant John B. Rowan, of the Third Maryland artillery.

on board C. S. Ram, Queen of the West, Alexandria, La., March, 3d, 1863.
Dear Rowan,--The evening I left you we proceeded down the river. When we came to the Indianola she was still burning, having been fired by the officer in charge, on discovering the terrible iron-clad coal-barge which passed Vicksburg on Wednesday. We reached Natchez on Saturday morning, when the guards all got drunk, and we were detained two or three hours getting them on board, and even then, left behind a Lieutenant and four men. When we got started we had a grand time as they were still drinking and wanted to thrash the Captain for remonstrating with them. At the mouth of Red river I got off, and the boat went down to Port Hudson. On Saturday night I got on board the steamer Doubloon, bound up Red river. About 11 o'clock A. M., yesterday, I passed Fort Taylor where the Queen was taken. The Fort mounts three heavy guns which were casemated. They also have a raft to swing across the river to stop boats from passing. We arrived there last night about 9 o'clock, and, on coming on board, found our men enjoying a game of cards. They were glad to see me.

O'Connell and O'Brien are on the Webb, lying alongside. I can get them whenever we leave here. Edgar is on this boat. Jack Foley [468] and Sanchez were left on the wreck. I presume they have got back to the company by this time. This boat is being repaired, and, from what I can learn, will be here some days. The Webb has a big bite out of her bow. She will be repaired and her prow covered with iron.

There is a great deal of indignation here at the destruction of the Indianola. I should not like to be in the place of the Lieutenant who ordered her to be burnt.

This is a beautiful little town, on the right bank of the river. It has something of the appearance of Selma. Ned Langley says he is waiting patiently for his appointment. Our guns are at Fort Taylor, and Captain James McCloskey, an old acquaintance of Lieutenant Claiborne, says he thinks we can get them. My love to all the boys.

Very truly yours,

Another letter from Lieutenant Patten:

on board C. S. Steam ram, Queen of the West, Alexandria, La., March 9th, 1863.
Dear Rowan,--I wrote you a short letter on my arrival here last Tuesday, and now on the eve of my departure again. The week has been consumed in effecting the necessary repairs, which are now nearly completed. The effect of the late conflicts have been entirely obliterated by new wood-work and a coat of gas-tar. The gun which was damaged the night of the fight has been bored out, and will soon be on board ready for service.

I do not know for certain where we are destined, but think for Burwick's bay, if there is sufficient water for us to get there. There is a fleet of Federal gunboats there, among which we will have some fun.

I find Captain McCloskey much of a gentleman.

How do you get on with sassafras tea and bull now? I suspect you will scarcely make a shadow when I see you. Our bill of fare consists of bacon, fat beef, venison steak, eggs, biscuit, and strong green tea. I hope we will get some coffee soon.

Tell Major Clark if he wants a horse, he can have Alex. until I come back. Should any letters have come for me, please forward them and write me at this place, to which we will return from Burwick's bay.

General E. Kirby Smith arrived here the other day. I saw him at church yesterday. Major Brown is not with him.

Excuse a longer letter. This is such a bad pen. I am horrified at my own writing. It would disgrace John B. Rowan or Ferd. Claiborne. [469] Remember me to Ritter, Claiborne, Franklin, Tinley, Halbrook, and all friends.

Very truly yours,

On the 19th of March another letter was received from Lieutenant Patten, which was the last he wrote Lieutenant Rowan.

The combat at Jackson.

Johnston's army reached Jackson on the night of the 7th of July, and before day the next morning was ordered into the trenches west of the town. On the 10th, the enemy appeared in front, drove in the Confederate pickets, and began to fortify. The first two days they were occupied in constructing works, and occasionally would fire a shot. During this time Johnston kept up a desultory fire upon the enemy's working parties. The position occupied by Moore's battery, commanded a view of about half of the Confederate line, consequently all the movements of either army within that space could be distinctly seen from this point. Several charges were made by the Confederates to drive the enemy's sharpshooters from buildings in front, and to destroy the buildings thus occupied, which were in every case successful.

Moore's battery occupied an angle in the line on the Raymond or Vicksburg road, and Federals constructed works in a semicircle about this point, and planted between thirty and forty pieces of artillery, consisting of twenty pounder Parrotts and Napoleon guns. The object in this concentration of artillery, was to dismount a siege gun, which occupied a position between the two sections of Moore's battery. In this angle of the line of Johnston's front were the seige piece, two twenty pounder Parrotts, two three inch rifled pieces, and three twelve pounder Howitzers, eight guns in all.

Private Henry Gordon, a member of Lieutenant Ritter's section, was killed on the evening of the second day (Saturday). He was a good soldier, and his loss was regretted by all.

Sergeant Ball, of the Missouri Artillery, acted as gunner of the siege piece, and was badly wounded on Saturday by a sharpshooter. These sharpshooters had sheltered themselves in a large building, four hundred yards from Moore's battery, on the right of the Raymond road, and annoyed his men by keeping up an incessant fire, so that they could not move without danger. Ritter resorted to everything he could think of to destroy this building, but failed. He filled shells with the composition of port fires and shot them into the building, but for some reason, unexplained, this last resort failed. [470]

Sunday morning, 12th of July, the sun rose in a cloudless sky. It was a bright and beautiful day, and seemed more like a Sabbath, than any enjoyed for a long while. From the northeast a gentle breeze was blowing, but, save its whisperings, not a sound disturbed the stillness except an occasional picket shot, reverberating among the hills.

The men were sitting on some seats they had constructed along the parapet for their comfort, when not engaged, when suddenly they were aroused by a terrific fire from the enemy's artillery, which appeared to shake the very earth. For two hours the leaden storm raged, with increasing violence. The moment the attack opened, the men were called to action, and the fire was returned with corresponding earnestness and force. The cotton bales, which had been knocked off the parapet by the enemy's shot, were set on fire by the explosion of the shell, and had to be rolled back from the works to prevent the fire communicating with the ammunition.

Lieutenant Whitney, of the Missouri Artillery, who had been assigned to duty in Moore's battery a few days before, was wounded early in the engagement. Lieutenant Moore, who from a position on the right of Lieutenant Ritter's section was watching the effect of the shell, was struck by a cotton-bale, knocked from the parapet by a shot from the enemy, and seriously though not dangerously wounded. He called to Lieutenant Ritter, saying he was wounded and would go to the rear, and that Ritter should take command of the battery. Sergeant Daniel Toomey, of the Third Maryland, and several of his men, were wounded, as also a number of Moore's section. Lieutenant Ritter estimated the number of shell thrown at his battery during the engagement of two hours at one thousand eight hundred. He himself used one hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition. It will be seen, therefore, that the estimate of the ammunition used by the enemy falls far short in proportion to that of the Confederates.

Late the next morning Corporal L. McCurry, one of the gunners of Ritter's section, was killed by a minnie ball while sighting his gun. The ball passed through the brim of his brother's hat and struck him in the forehead, passed through the brain, killing him instantly. The survivor was greatly affected by his brother's death, but immediately took his place at the gun. A coffin was made, and, placing the body in it, the men carried it at night to a small stream a mile in the rear of the battery, and there buried it in the darkness, by the fitful and uncertain light of torches. The funeral services were performed by Mr. Brown, a friend of the deceased, and a candidate for the ministry, belonging to the same detachment. They returned with saddened [471] hearts and “bitterly thought of the morrow.” Corporal McCurry was from Rome, Ga., and was a polished gentleman, a Christian, and an excellent soldier. There was not a better artillerist in the army. The capture of the transport Minnesota in May, 1863, was due in a great measure to the excellent manner in which he handled his gun.

The losses of the Third Maryland section at Jackson, during the seven days it was under fire, was as follows:

Killed--Corporal L. McCurry, Private Henry Gordon.

Wounded--Sergeant Daniel Toomey, Privates Brown, Emmit Wells, and J. P. Wills.

Lieutenant Ritter was also wounded on the instep by a piece of shell, but was not obliged to leave his command.

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