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The Washington Artillery in the Army of Tennessee.

address of Captain J. A. Chalaron.
Soldiers,—In eloquent and feeling words the ‘Father of the Battalion’ has just related its birth, its growth, its history—the departure of its first quota for the front in Virginia.

We are fortunate veterans, and members of the present organization, [218] to have heard this memorable recital from his lips on such an occasion. For to few men has it been given to guide so long and successfully the destinies of a military command, to keep it ever unsurpassed in equipment, discipline and standing, to lead it in such gallant style to a people's defence, and to live to see it accomplish and enjoy the fame that rests to-day upon our banners.

We of the second quota, organized away from his immediate care, who never fought under his eye or alongside of our seniors; we also recognize his parental influence, and recollect how much of military virtue we had to cultivate to attain the standard he had established for the corps. We rejoice that he has lived to meet us on this day; and here at this, the first reunion of the five companies, the first general review of the battalion in its past and present—before reporting for the Washington Artillery, Army of Tennessee—as their senior surviving officer, in their name—I salute you, Colonel Walton, in all soldierly and filial appreciation.

Nine months had elapsed since the departure of the four companies, when the Confederacy, in an hour of supreme distress, called again upon Louisiana. Immediately from that same arsenal on Girod street a fifth company of the battalion sprang into the arena and was thrown to the front in Tennessee. It came armed cap-a-pie, nearly excelling its predecessors in thoroughness of equipment, of instruction, of discipline. In its ranks were old members—brothers, relatives, friends of the boys in Virginia, around whom had gathered the choicest remaining spirits among our city's youth, allured by the fascination of a glorious name, and the exalted requisites of courage that were demanded of them to sustain it. Such material had met with prompt military education and assistance, and though from the company's fullness of means and numbers several drafts had been poured into the quota in Virginia, still on that 18th of March, 1862, it stood magnificent in preparation, and 156 rank and file for departure.

How glorious in appearance–stretched across that hall, in all the pomp of handsome uniforms, splendid physique, martial bearing and determined men! How proud their officers, as they scanned the line! And, thank God, that feeling went on increasing unto the end. No name appeared too glorious to be left in their keeping; no cause too sacred to be staked upon their devotion.

That day one month—and Shiloh's bloody field has seen them under baptismal fire—and the Fifth Company has placed its first sacrificial offering upon their country's altar! 'Tis Demeritt, and Hartnett, and Green, and Giffen, and O'Donnell, and Long yielding [219] up their lives. The Washington Artillery, Army of Tennessee, now stands revealed in equal glory with the Washington Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia, and henceforth it is a rivalry between them in devotion to a sacred cause in hallowing a common name.

Shiloh's field has also revealed officers and men unto each other, and amid those undying impressions of a first battle none proved stronger than the mutual confidence that then arose. There, deeds of courage foreshadowed future fame, and Slocomb's dash became a household word. There, Beauregard's commendation is their reward, as it was that of the four companies at Manassas.

Henceforth the Washington Artillery is linked in trial and in glory to the Army of Tennessee. Glorious and grand old army! ‘Defenders of the heart of the Confederacy,’ the tests to which your virtues were put called forth the highest qualities that soldiers could display. Unfailing courage, patience, endurance, fortitude and devotion marked your every step. From that field on it bore the stamp of misfortune in losing Albert Sidney Johnston. And who of the Fifth Company would change that checkered career for even the glory of having served with Lee and Jackson?

Corinth comes next and Farmington. Incessant picket fighting, dire disease, wretched rations, and death dealing water. A crucial test, which the strongest and bravest alone survived. A school, withal, which tempered us for the worst that could arise.

Tupelo is reached, and Slocomb now commands. Suffering is forgotten in recuperation and drilling. Bragg himself acknowledges the Fifth unexcelled therein, even by his famous battery.

We march into Kentucky. Mumfordsville is captured and Perryville is fought. The ‘White Horse Battery’ is known to friend and foe thereafter, and clamorous and enthusiastic recognition salutes it in the streets of Harrodsburg from the army passing in retreat. Those shouts shall ever ring in the ears of its survivors.

Through Cumberland Gap, half starving and worn, retreating steps now take us to Kingston's snow-clad fields. We meet the first blasts of a winter campaign. Our tents are finally pitched in winter quarters on Harpeth's frozen banks, where Rosecrans so rudely disturbed us at Christmas eve. Murfreesboro follows and Vaught commands, and whether supporting Hardee's crushing blow upon the enemy's right, or holding the pivot of the position, or rushing madly in that deadly charge, when Breckinridge, in grand array and stern devotion, dashed for those heights across Stone river, the Washington Artillery won on that field the highest praise that soldiers could expect; and Anthony [220] and Reid are left to mark its passage. Vicksburg is sore beset, and Johnston calls and Breckinridge is going, and the Fifth Company asks to follow. Mobile, in passing, gives us new recruits, as rushing through we hurry on to Jackson. But Vicksburg falls 'ere we can cross the Big Black, and Sherman tries to intercept, but strikes us only in our works at Jackson. Four stands of colors lie amid a thousand killed and wounded before the muzzles of Cook's and Slocomb's guns.

Bragg calls in turn and Breckinridge is sent. The Fifth is pushed to Rome and Chattanooga. The echoes of the first guns salute them as they reach there. We strike at Glass's Mill, and plunging through the Chickamauga, leave on its banks a holocaust of dead. 'Tis Blair meeting a fate he had just predicted, and Morel, and Anderson, and Belsom, and Bailey and Daigle!

We laid them shrouded in their blankets, and move to strike elsewhere. Morning finds us on the right. Breckinridge turns the Federal left—we cut them off from Chattanooga. Astride the road we save the day till Liddell can be brought up and Graves has fallen in our midst, and bending over him, Breckinridge laments his loss. Around him lie Brocard and Bayle, and Reichert, and Duggan, and Stakeman, and Greenwood and Woods, with shattered carriages and crushed guns that show what fire we took unflinchingly, while pouring canister alone upon their charging lines. Breckinridge thanks us on the field. To replace Blair, Vaught now stands promoted, and Chickamauga's victory led us but to Missionary Ridge. Dissensions and rivalries have brought defeat. The Fifth, unmoved, indignant and devoted, their battery sacrificed, seized the first guns abandoned in their rear, and with Austin's help check the enemy and save the bridge.

Joe Johnston comes, and Dalton's cantonments ring with joy. With spring, Sherman attempts the portals of the pass, and Rocky-face and Buzzard's Roost repell him to Snake Gap. Resaca finds us in the thickest fray, and on that hill from which were borne Simmons and Stuart, and in that pen where Russell fell and found a grave beneath the cannon's trail, the Fifth Company never showed more coolness, more valor, nor more fortitude. In quick succession came Calhoon, Adairsville, Kingston and Cassville's lost opportunity. The Etowah is crossed, Dalton and New Hope Church claim more precious lives. 'Tis McGregor, 'tis Winston, 'tis Billy Sewell, with his last breath whispering into Slocomb's ear: ‘Captain, haven't I done my duty?’ Can Pine Mountain and Kennesaw Ridge ever be forgotten? those long days of constant fighting, those nights of sleepless [221] vigilance and recurring labor, those works uncarried, where Barrail fell and Staub received his death wound.

For once, since leaving Dalton, we find ourselves across the Chattahoochie. For Johnston waits to strike his crawling foe. But Peach-Tree Creek soon called us to our work, and in defending its passage we lose Legare and Percy and Ricketts. Legare, who begged for one more shot at them, and fell with Percy, torn and mangled, before he could get it.

First on the right, then through the siege, the Fifth Company battles for Atlanta, till Hood must leave, for Jonesboroa is gone, and Hardee's heroic corps can stand the pressure no longer. Here Frazer, Vincent, Delery, find their death, and also that unrecorded priest who followed us into battle. And now it is on to Nashville. In snow we move from Florence to the task, ill clad and badly shod. Columbia is taken, and Franklin's ditches are made level with Confederate dead. Bates's division is thrown toward Murfreesboro. At Overall creek it is Leverich's canister saving us from destruction, and riderless horses sweep in line of battle, through our intervals, to the rear. Siebrecht is buried on the field. The morrow finds us attacking with Forest, and yielding lines place the enemy in the rear. We lose two guns in running the gauntlet of their line. On that sad day Bennett is laid beneath the snow.

Nashville follows, and after the defeat we spike our guns and let down our carriages, roads of escape being left. And now comes that terrible retreat, in the heart of winter, where snow-beaten paths are reddened by the blood of our soldiers' shoeless feet. We ford Shoal creek on that bleak Christmas day, and drop exhausted when the Tennessee is reached. The Fifth Company lost no men by straggling, yet on the banks of that river there stood in its ranks forty-five barefooted and half-clad men.

Mobile is threatened and we go to her defence, joining again our Louisiana brigade. They were to capture the first enemy's battery met that the Washington Artillery may be refitted.

In Spanish Fort we stood a siege for fourteen days in gallant style, and were the last to spike our guns that night of evacuation. Rescued from out the sea marsh of Perdido river, the Fifth Company is in Mobile again, where McIlhenny and Miller had preceded them to be buried. This siege has fitly crowned our military prescience. The town is doomed. We march away as light artillery, refitted and complete.

The end has come when Lee's surrender is announced. Our own [222] soon follows. We furl our flag in tears, and Slocomb leads us home to weeping households, desolated firesides, and ruined estates.

Such is the hurried report of the services of the Fifth Company in their performance. Soldiers never showed more courage, more endurance, more reliability, more cheerfulness, more discipline, more devotion, more fortitude. Ever ready, ever complete in equipment and numbers, their horses superbly kept, ambitious of distinction, they were always at the front on the breach in active service, ever steady and resolute however went the day, no danger could move and no disaster could dismay them. In the annals of the Army of Tennessee they bear a proud name among the proudest–a household word.

To the battalion's fame, they bring a harvest of laurels, won through the most trying and sanguinary campaigns of our great war. To the battalion flag they add the names of over forty battles, as desperate, as sanguinary as ever fought. On our monumental shaft and roll of honor, they have inscribed the names of fifty heroes, as pure, as gallant, as devoted as ever died in a sacred cause. They have made the Washinton Artillery the only organization legendary with the troops of the Army of Tennessee, as it is with the troops of the Army of Northern Virginia. And the rivalry is not ended; they will push it in perpetuating the present organization, that our sons and latest descendant may belong to it, and proudly say: ‘Our fathers made the name of the Washington Artillery, in the cause of the South, on every battle-field of the Confederacy.’

And admonished by the untimely fate of so many who survived our companies, and since have fallen in the battle of life, shall I not take advantage of this occasion to speak to you, the representatives of the survivors of the Washington Artillery, here in the presence of your brothers of Virginia? Can I refrain to call upon you, boys of the Fifth Company, to rise, that I may say to them, Here stand the remnants of 380 men, who carried the banner of the Washington Artillery in equal glory and devotion with you. Can I refrain to thank you for your unfailing confidence and devotion to your officers; to express to you their feelings of admiration and love; to tell you that they drew courage, energy, their reward, their pride, from your gallant acts, your heroic bearing, your friendly approbation? Boys of the Fifth Company, the spirits of Slocomb, Vaught and Blair at this moment marshal our brave ‘who roam enfranchised,’ and reecho my words, rejoicing at this first reunion of the Fifth and its brothers of Virginia. May God bless you.

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