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Sketches of the Third Maryland Artillery.

By Captain William L. Ritter.

The disastrous expedition to Sherman's rear.

The movement of Hood's army to Sherman's rear began on the 29th of September, 1864. The Chattahoochee river was crossed on the 30th, and part of the army proceeded to Lost Mountain, while another part made for Ackworth and Big Shanty and captured the garrisons at those places. Marching by way of Dallas, Van Wert and Cave Spring, the army next reached Cedartown, where the wagon train, the sick and the shoeless, with all the artillery except one battery of each battalion were left behind; while the remainder of the army proceeded to Resaca and Dalton. Stevenson's division started on the 9th of October, at noon, and the Third Maryland was the battery chosen to accompany it.

It was the intention of General Stephen D. Lee, who commanded the corps, to capture the garrison at Resaca, and he made forced marches in order to take it by surprise. On the 12th it was surrounded [538] by approaches made from the north, and its unconditional surrender demanded. The Major in command of the post refused to yield, however, and General Lee did not think it worth while to compel him, and proceeded on his way. On the 14th he passed through Snake Creek Gap to Villenow, where he joined the two other corps. The latter under Stewart and Cheatham, had been sent to Tilton and Dalton to capture those places, and tear up the railroad as far as Tunnel Hill, which they did. The march continued through Chattanooga Valley to Gadsden, Ala., where the wagon trains and artillery rejoined the army.

On the 23d the army started for Tennessee, marching across Sand Mountain to Decatur, Ala., and thence to Florence on the south bank of the Tennessee river.

The pontoon bridge was soon ready and on the 6th of November Johnston's battalion crossed and rejoined the corps, which had passed over several days before. Cheatham's corps crossed on the 13th and Stewart's a few days later.

By the 20th of November all the troops had crossed the Tennessee river, and through rain and snow the advance upon Nashville was renewed. The weather was intensely cold, and the march was rendered the more cheerless by the barrenness and poverty through which it led during the first few days. Rations and forage were very scarce, though the more needed by reason of the bitter weather.

The battle at Columbia.

When within a mile and a half of Columbia, on the 26th, the whole army was put in order of battle, and so advanced till within three-fourths of a mile of the enemy's works. The town was evacuated on the night of the 27th, and the the Third Maryland was the first Confederate force to enter the next morning. A section of the battery under Lieutenant Ritter, was sent three miles below town to prevent the destruction by the enemy of the railroad bridge over Duck River, but on its arrival found the bridge in flames. When on the 29th, the right section rejoined the left, it was found on the south bank of the river, in the cemetery at Columbia, engaged with the enemy. The Federals on the other side of the river had massed their artillery upon a hill commanding the town, and were opposing the crossing of the Confederates; the latter had six batteries replying to them, two of them planted above and four within the town. Meanwhile Pettus's brigade, of Stevenson's division, was thrown [539] across the river, preparatory to a charge upon the enemy's works; and while it was forming under the river bank, the Confederate artillery increased the intensity of its fire till it became terrific, and effectually prevented any active movement on the part of the enemy. Pettus charged their works as soon as his formation was completed, and drove them out with but slight loss on our side. Three men of the Third Maryland were wounded in this artillery duel, two of them dangerously. Their names were D. Lynch, T. Barnes and J. H. Hoffman. Colonel Beckham was mortally wounded and was succeeded in command of the artillery regiment by Major Johnston.

A few days before the battle, General Hood had accompanied Stewart's and Cheatham's corps across the river above the town, to cut off the enemy's retreat. With this force he reached Spring Hill on the night of the 29th in time to intercept the retreating column, but unaccountably failed to bring on an engagement, though the enemy passed within a few hundred yards of him. The darkness of the night was the only plausible reason ever offered for this strange neglect to improve a fine opportunity for achieving the object of the expedition.

The battle of Franklin.

Early on the morning of the 30th the advance in the direction of Franklin was renewed and when the battery was within six miles of the town, an order was received from General Hood to move up at a trot, as it was only needed ‘to press the enemy at this point and the campaign would be over.’ The scene of action was reached about 4 o'clock P. M., when the battalion was placed in reserve and did not take part in the action that followed.

It was one of the most remarkable, and certainly one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Cheatham's and Stewart's corps charged over an open plain of six hundred yards in width, under a severe fire from the enemy's artillery and infantry, the latter occupying a double line of defences on the brow of an elevation of some fifteen feet. The charge was a brilliant one and was successful, as part of the enemy's line was captured, but it was a fearful loss on our side.

The loss of the Confederates, in officers, was unprecedentedly heavy. Eleven General officers were killed and wounded; among the killed were Cleburne, Granberry, Carter and Lewis. The army was thought to have become discouraged by the numerous disasters that had befallen it for many months past, and the officers, on this occasion, seem to have felt it to be their duty to give nerve to their [540] troops by exposing themselves, to an extraordinary extent, to the dangers of the battle. All the field officers remained mounted during the charge.

At daylight on the morning after the fight, Lieutenant Ritter rode over the field, and in the part of the line where Cockrell's Missourians charged the enemy's defences, he found the dead lying thick, piled one upon another, till the earth was hid by the woeful spectacle. Near this point, upon the right, General Lewis's horse was found lying upon the top of the works, and fifty yards within the enemy's main line of fortifications, a single Confederate soldier was found, face down, his head towards the enemy, having penetrated thus far alone, before he was shot.

At midnight the Third Maryland was ordered to the front. Several hours later, on the morning of December 1st, the enemy evacuated their works and crossed the Harpeth River under fire from our batteries, before daylight.

The Confederate army followed them in the afternoon, and after marching a few miles, encamped for the night. Early the following morning they entered upon the last day's march that intervened between them and Nashville.

The battle of Nashville.

On arriving within six miles of Nashville, Lee's corps was deployed at right angles with the Franklin pike, and the batteries formed in columns of sections; in this way the whole body moved up to within a mile and a half of the enemy's earthworks, and during the night fortified upon the ground gained. The Maryland battery occupied a hill on the right of the Franklin pike, and parallel with it; Corput's occupying a small valley upon the left.

On the night of the 3d, we advanced our line a half mile further, and again fortified.

On the 10th Stevenson's division charged the enemy's picket line, driving them from their works, and a half mile beyond. Two days after, in order to straighten the line, the troops fell back a few hundred yards, and again fortified. The weather at this time was intensely cold; snow several inches deep covered the ground, and was frozen hard. It was through this that men poorly clad, poorly fed and poorly supplied with tools, were so often compelled to dig, to protect themselves from the numerous artillery of the enemy.

Lieutenant Giles and Private Colter were sent out on the 14th to [541] buy supplies for Christmas, but the supplies fell into the enemy's hands, together with the Lieutenant and his man, being captured by a raiding party. Giles was sent to Johnson's Island, and consequently did not rejoin the battery during the war.

On the morning of the 15th the enemy charged the Confederate right wing, but were repulsed with heavy loss. They next moved a solid column against the left, with better success, causing the whole army to fall back rapidly for the distance of one mile. Lee's corps was then moved to a range of hills a mile to the left, and in rear of the old line, to support the retreating left wing, and again fortified.

By this time it was growing dark, and as the enemy's position was not accurately known, Lieutenant Ritter requested permission to ride to the front to make a reconnoissance. Their videttes were not found till he reached the foot of a range of hills occupied by Hood's army, in the morning. This information was reported to the Adjutant General of Stevenson's division.

At 11 o'clock P. M., the battalion was removed to a field to the left of the Franklin pike, and at about 8 on the morning of the eventful 16th of December, the Third Maryland was ordered to a hill in an open field, a quarter of a mile to the left of the pike. Defensive works for the battery were at once commenced, and rails to be used in fortifying were brought from a fence some two hundred yards in front. The enemy, discovering the working party, opened on them with six guns. As they fired by battery, the men were able to continue their work in the intervals of firing, lying down when the Lieutenant, guided by the smoke from the enemy's guns, directed them to do so. When the coming shells had passed over them, they renewed their work.

The horses were without cover, and suffered severely till removed to a position behind the hill. Whilst passing to the rear to attend to this, Lieutenant Ritter thought that he heard a shell coming, and on looking back, saw that it was coming straight for him. He jumped behind a tree, at the same moment the shell struck the tree on the other side, without doing much damage.

On returning to the battery, the Lieutenant was sent back to the caissons to relieve Lieutenant Doncaster, and take charge of the men engaged in supplying ammunition to the guns, and instruct them as to the distances for which the fuses should be cut.

About this time the enemy planted two more batteries, one to the right and another to the left, making a total of eighteen guns, whose [542] fire was concentrated on the Maryland battery. Indeed, all along their line their batteries seemed to outnumber ours three to one.

Their fire now became fearfully hot, and Captain Rowan, wishing to return it with the greatest vigor, called on the drivers to assist the ‘fives’ and ‘sevens’ in bringing up ammunition.

The nature of the ground was such that the horses could not be effectually sheltered from the enemy's battery on the right, and they were falling rapidly. The drivers were being wounded, and the trees cut down, while the air was resonant with the howl of passing shells, and the lighter whistle of the more searching minies. Ritter, who had charge of the horses, their drivers and the ammunition, asked leave to take the horses to a safer place, but it was not thought expedient to separate them as far from the guns as would be necessary to secure their safety.

A Parrott shell passed through the head of a wheel-horse near him and exploded, cutting the Lieutenant's sword in two, and killing his saddle-horse. The men engaged in furnishing ammunition also suffered severely. Major John W. Johnston now coming up, ordered the horses to be removed, and those that remained were thus saved.

Captain Rowans death.

At half past 12, Captain Rowan was struck by a piece of shell, and instantly killed. The shell came in through the right flare of the embrasure of the second gun, bursting the moment it cleared the parapet, and sending a fragment through the Captain's body. The same fragment also wounded private Early. Every effort was made to bring the Captain's body off the field. It was carried a short distance to the rear and an ambulance sent for, but its coming was prevented. Lieutenant Ritter secured a promise from Major Johnston that it should be taken to the field hospital, and instructed his Orderly Sergeant to see that it was done before he proceeded to the front to take command of the battery. The works were deep with mud, as it was raining, and the enemy's fire was unabated.

At about 3 P. M., the left wing of the army was forced back, and the troops to the left of the position held by the Third Maryland, abandoned the line in disorder. So rapidly did they retreat, and so promply did the enemy follow, that the Lieutenant saw at once that there would be no chance to bring off his guns. He determined [543] to remain with them and work them upon the enemy to the very last.

After driving the Confederates from their works, the enemy poured in on Stevenson's left, and forming a line perpendicular to his, swept along within the defences toward the Third Maryland. At the same time another line was moving up in front, and both seemed to be aiming to form a junction at the battery to overwhelm it. The men stood at their guns and continued to pour a heavy fire of canister into the solid masses approaching in front till they mounted the works. They mounted first upon the left, planting the United States flag on the left gun and capturing sixteen men.

As they showed their heads above the works, Lieutenants Ritter and Doncaster and Sergeant Pendley, who were on the right, started and ran down the line fifty yards, then left it and struck diagonally across the field for the pike. The Federals cried, ‘Halt! Halt!’ to no purpose, and on the refusal of the fugitives to obey, pursued them about three-quarters of a mile, firing at them all the while. The enemy had a battery on the road when the three men reached it, and were firing at some Confederates ahead of them, while a section of their own battalion was replying with canister from a hill near by; so that the three found themselves in a very ugly position, under this fire from both sides. They escaped unhurt, however, and continuing some four miles to the rear, overtook the few horses that were left to the battery. It was here that Lieutenant Ritter first learned that Captain Rowan's body had been left on the field to fall into the hands of the enemy.

‘The dead Commander.’

Captain John B. Rowan was a native of Maryland, and at the beginning of the war, resided at Elkton, Cecil county, where he devoted himself with success to the practice of the law. Though still young, he had already attained considerable prominence as a public man. His manners were winning; in speech he was easy and graceful, in action generous and manly, and all things promised the success which his character deserved. When the war broke out, true to his noble instincts, he devoted himself to the cause of the South, leaving his profession, wife and children—all that he held most dear—to take up arms in her defense. Through the many trying phases of military life, he passed unscathed. Cool in the hour of danger, serene amid defeat and disaster, kind alike to his fellow [544] officers and to his men, generous to a fault, he was, as one who knew him long and well has said, ‘Of his company, the very life; of the battalion, the leading star, and the common pride of us all.’ He was cut off in the flower of his age before he had seen his thirtieth year, and died like a true soldier, in defence of principles dear to himself, and which he firmly believed were of inestimable value to those who might come after him. In the long absence of years, he never once forgot the ties of home and kindred, but often expressed a wish to see his wife and children at his Maryland home, again to enjoy tranquility and peace.

The losses of the Third Maryland at Nashville were four killed, eight wounded, and sixteen captured, exclusive of Lieutenant Giles and Private Colter, captured two days before the battle.

Killed: Captain John B. Rowan, Privates S. Aultman, E. R. Roach and A. Wills.

Wounded: A. Dollar, D. Beasley, N. Beverly, W. J. Brown, T. Early, H. A. Davis, E. M. Herndon and J. Nichols.

Captured: Corporals A. G. Cox, S. Hylton and B. Bradford; Privates J. M. Carey, J. J. Colter, J. Foley, B. Garst, J. Hoffman, H. Kitzmiller, J. G. Martin, F. M. Newton, W. Rogers, G. R. Shipley, M. L. Welsh and I. Zimmerman.

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