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Dedication of a bronze tablet in honor of Botetourt Battery

In Vicksburg National Park, November 23, 1907

With the Ceremonies incident, including the Graphic Historical address of Miss Mary Johnston.

A bronze tablet in honor of the Botetourt Artillery, which served through the siege of Vicksburg, was dedicated in the Vicksburg National Military Park, November 23, 1907. It was the first Confederate dedication since the establishment of the park. Virginia had but one command at the battle-field in 1863.

There are now only 16 surviving members of the Botetourt Artillery, and several of them were present.

The ceremony was held at night, in the First Baptist Church, and despite inclement weather the edifice was filled.

The audience was called to order by Mr. John T. Anderson, son of the first commander of the battery, who introduced Governor James K. Vardaman, who delivered the address of welcome. Mr. Anderson followed tendering the tablet to the United States Government, and it was received by Captain Wm. T. Rigby, Chairman of the Vicksburg Park Commission.

The tablet bears the following inscription:

Virginia Botetourt Artillery, Stevenson's Division,
Army of Vicksburg.
Captain John W. Johnston,
Lieutenant Francis G. Obenchain.’

It is located on Confederate Avenue, on Virginia Circle, near Stout's Bayou Bridge, and is erected on a granite pedestal.

The touching story of the battery graphically given by Miss Mary Johnston, the distinguished authoress, daughter of the second commander of the battery, was made by General Stephen D. LeeMiss Johnston and Mr. Anderson had been warmly welcomed at Hotel Carroll the preceding day, the 22nd, by Vicksburg [30] ladies of various organizations, the occasion being one highly enjoyable.

Captain J. C. McNeilly, who served gallantly in Lee's Army, in Virginia, the editor of the Vicksburg Herald, in an editorial in his issue of November 23rd, glowingly eulogizes Miss Johnston's address, which he entitles ‘A Confederate Iliad,’ an epic with lasting value depicting a type of the action and feeling that characterized the Confederate soldier—to be valued and treasured as a tribute to his courage, constancy, fidelity and fortitude, in facing and enduring peril and privation.

The address.

This is the history of the only Virginia troops engaged in the defense of Vicksburg, upon the battleground preserved in the amber of this great military park. Fighting for the South were many gallant Mississippians, and regiments from Alabama and Georgia, from the Carolinas, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri, Texas and Louisiana. On the other side, fighting for the North, were Massachusetts and New York, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Michigan. These hundred or more men, this company known as the Botetourt Artillery, were the only Virginians. It is to them that this stone is raised, and it is to their war song that we listen to-day.

They were born, these men, in the State of Virginia, in the County of Botetourt, in a region of wheatfields and orchards, of smiling farms and friendly villages, of high blue mountains and clear flowing rivers. It is a county in which Mississippi should take an interest. Formed just one hundred and thirty-eight years ago, this November, in the tenth year of our Sovereign Lord, King George the Third, it was named Botetourt in honor of Norborne Berkeley, Baron Botetourt, then governor of the colony. The county seat was called Fincastle, after Lord Botetourt's home in England. The county was a frontier one, and included the present state of Kentucky, with a fair claim to Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. You upon the Mississippi should feel a stirring of the heart when the old county of Botetourt is spoken of, for apparently once you belonged to it. In this same month of November, the following act was passed by the General Assembly, sitting in Williamsburg, in Virginia: ‘And whereas [31] the people situated on the waters of the Mississippi, in the said county of Botetourt, will be very remote from the court house, and must necessarily become a separate county as soon as their numbers are sufficient, which will probably happen in a short time. Be it enacted, That the inhabitants of that part of the said county of Botetourt which lies on the said waters of the Mississippi, shall be exempted from the payment of any levies to be laid by the said county court for the purpose of building a courthouse and prison for the said county of Botetourt.’

I think, after all, we must be Virginia cousins.

In the war between the States this county of Botetourt sent out from farm and village, from forge and mill, from lonely cabins in mountain clearings, and goodly houses set in rose gardens; from Craig Creek, and Back Creek, and Mill Creek, and Jennings Creek; from Roaring Run and North Mountain; from Fincastle, Amsterdam and Buchanan; from every nook and corner, twelve full companies to the service of Virginia and the South. The greater number of these, during the four years of the war, fought within the bounds of their mother state. They fought at Manassas and at Seven Pines, at Chancellorsville, and on many another stricken field. They charged with Pickett at Gettysburg. They surrendered with Lee at Appomattox. Others of these Botetourt men, fought, as the saying is, ‘all over.’ Like Sir Philip Sidney, when they heard of a good war they went to it. They fought in Virginia, in Kentucky, in Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia and Mississippi. The command known first as the Mountain Rifles, then as Anderson's Battery, and then as the Botetourt Artillery, fought ‘all over.’

On the banks of the James, a few miles from Fincastle, lies the village of Buchanan. Across the river rises abruptly a great and high mountain named Purgatory. Below the town the river forces its way through the Blue Ridge; above, the valley widens into smiling farmlands. To the west the sun sets behind the Alleghenies. From this village and its neighborhood came the majority of the men whose deeds in Mississippi as commemorated by this stone.

On the seventeenth day of April, 1861, Virginia seceded. The Mountain Rifles, an infantry company, organized in 1859, at the time of the John Brown raid, at once offered its services. Its [32] captain was Joseph Washington Anderson; its first lieutenant, Philip Peters; the senior second, John William Johnston; the junior second, Henry C. Douthatt, and the orderly-sergeant, William H. Norgrove. All were young men, all were friends, all were to face a baptism of fire and blood. Behind them were four score of their neighbors, friends and kindred, bound for the same baptism.

Will you look at these village streets, in the month of May, in the year 1861? Virginia has seceded. We are going to the front, Recruits are hastening in; new companies are forming; all the country is aroused. We drill. We camp. Uniforms and arms are on the way to us from Richmond. In the meantime we wear linsey shirts, and big black hats, tucked up on one side with a rosette of green ribbon. The muskets come. The companies are constantly under arms. We have no parties now; we are all Virginians, we will fight in defense of our mother, and side by side with our brethren of the South! Sermons are preached to the soldiers. The preachers pronounce our cause a just one, and encourage us on to victory or to death. Our people are a unit, our cause is that of liberty, we cannot be overcome. We hear many rumors. The Lexington companies are ordered off. A town meeting is convening. Everything is excitement. Our business is war, and we are attending to it. The ladies give us our flag—it is made of the wedding gown of the captain's wife. Hourly we expect the order to march. There is little sleeping. Our knapsacks are made of oilcloth, and in them are the needle cases that our sweethearts made, and the small New Testaments that mother gave. The fifteenth of May is here, soft, warm and bright. The locust trees are all in bloom; the air is heavy with them. We parade in our new uniforms, and the people weep and cheer. That night we spend in serenading. The spring dawn finds us singing before the old Exchange Hotel, in Main Street. We are singing Annie Laurie. Suddenly, through the morning air, rings out the cry, ‘Fall in men!’

The Mountain Rifles marched away. The flag blew free in the morning wind. The band played ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.’ When they reached the summit of the Blue Ridge the men turned their heads and looked back to the green hills of old [33] Botetourt, then, through the May weather, they went marching down the mountain.

On the sixteenth the Mountain Rifles reported at Camp Davis, in Lynchburg, and were mustered in as Company H, 28th Virginia Infantry, Cocke's Brigade. A fortnight's drill, and they marched into Camp Pickens, near Manassas Station. There was battle in the air. The Federal troops were on Virginia soil, possessors of Arlington Heights and Alexandria. Ten thousand Confederates were massing to meet and drive them back. Johnston and Beauregard took command, and Lee came for several days to look things over. Day and night the men were at work, throwing up breastworks. There was poor water, and there was disease, but every soldier was in spirits, and anxious for the fight.

They had what they wanted. McDowell came to Bull Run. Johnston and Beauregard waited for him there, and in the first battle of Manassas, Company H, 28th Virginia, had its baptism of blood and fire. It bivouacked in the wood before Ball's Ford on the 17th of July, and it remained, uncovered, in position until after the battle, on Sunday, July 21st. Its part was to hold this ford, and also the approaches to the Island Ford, and it did its part. ‘The courage, energy and obedience of the Twenty-eighth,’ say the reports. All day the battle raged, and it was a battle of two to one. But Jackson stood like a stone wall, and Lee's men listened to their leader, and the 2nd and 11th Mississippi did gallantly, and all the troops as well, and victory was to the South, and Manassas her first trophy of war.

Manassas was won. For the balance of the summer Company H, 28th Virginia, rested on its laurels, observed the enemy, drilled unremittingly, and did heavy picket duty at Munson's and Mason's Hill. In May it had volunteered for the very short time necessary to drive the North from the South; in the autumn it volunteered anew, ‘for the war.’ About this time also, it fell in love with the artillery. Upon recommendations of the generals in command, Captain Anderson obtained an order from the War Department, authorizing him to change his arm of the service from infantry to artillery. The Mountain Rifles, now Anderson's Battery, went home on furlough for Christmas.

In January, 1862, Captain Anderson and one hundred and fifty men—the old Mountain Rifles and a number of recruits [34] gained at Centreville—reported at Camp Lee. ‘When this young and favorite officer reported,’ says the colonel in command, ‘it was seen at a glance that in Captain Anderson, his lieutenants and men, could be found the most trustworthy auxiliaries in the work of speedily preparing the men under instructions, and the numerous companies that were rapidly reporting. Captain Anderson and his lieutenants were immediately qualified as instructors. Special orders were issued authorizing Captain Anderson to draw a battery of six brass guns with all necessary equipments, and as he was now entitled to four lieutenants, two first and two second, Lieutenants Johnston and Douthatt each went up one step, and William P. Douthatt was elected junior second lieutenant.’

The Tredegar works had nearly completed their armament. Captain and men were in high spirits, anticipating early and brilliant service with that loved Army of Northern Virginia. But upon the chess board, in the field of war, and in the Cosmic Plan, the pawns go, not where they would, but where they are sent. The affairs of the Confederacy in East Tennessee, were not in a satisfactory condition. The department issued an order directing the company in the most forward state of preparation at Camp Lee to move at once, regardless of outfit, to Tennessee. It fell to the lot of Anderson's Battery to go. It was the advanced company; the compliment was great; forth trudged the pawn. Anderson's Battery left behind the guns and equipment it had so fondly counted on; left behind the comrades besides whom it would have liked to fight; left behind its home and its mother, State—but took with it the affection and the respect of all with whom it had come in contact. With its flag flying, with drum and fife playing Dixie, it marched away to Tennessee.

In Dixie land I take my stand,
     To live and die for Dixie.
Away, away!
     Away down South in Dixie!

This is not a history of campaigns. Many a writer upon the war has told the large events of that year of 1862, in the Tennessee mountains. This is but the story of a handful of men, [35] gathered from the letters they wrote home,, and the worn and yellow diaries they kept—meagre records penned by tired men, in the light of camp fires. Let us see a little what they did in 1862.

‘April 5th. Arrived in Knoxville at night. Next day the command was equipped with guns and horses. While there the Alabama boys showed us the proper way to cook rice. Here, too, we had our first battery drill with horses in the foreground. Today we marched with Barton's Brigade, and crossed the Clinch at Clinton. Our camp is on a green side and we have christened it Botetourt. It seems there didn't any of us have measles and mumps when we were children. Marching nearly all night-very dark, drenching rain. The company in fine spirits. May 1st. Camped in orchard at lower end of Powell's Valley. Stayed in the valley, guarding the gaps in the Cumberland Mountain until the 7th of June. Left Powell's Valley (without any regrets) to reinforce General Leadbetter at Chattanooga. On the tenth marched to Bridgeport, to engage gunboat ferrying troops around Battle Creek, but had to march back, gunboat having disappeared down the river. June 19th. Went into position to cover the retreat of General Stevenson from Cumberland Gap. Marched to Rutledge, and camped for a month. Had a fine time there. Captain Anderson gave the company a big Fourth of July barbecue. We baked about sixty pies. The company is entirely destitute of money. On the night of the second we heard that McClellan's whole force had surrendered. It wasn't true. There is much sickness among us. William Burkholder and young Allen are dead—both noble fellows. August 9th. Battle of Tazewell fought to-day. The enemy fell back to Cumberland Gap. August 15th. Marched out of camp in the direction of Cumberland Gap. Next day moved up within range of enemy's siege guns. Considerable firing during the day, but few casualties on our side. Went into camp and remained until Morgan evacuated the Gap, then moved in. August 20th. Left the Gap for Kentucky with General Stevenson's Division. Next day camped at Muddy Creek. Water scarce. Country mountainous, wild and barren. The march very toilsome. Water not to be found. Men and horses in dreadful suffering. September [36] 26th. Moved at dawn to creek at the foot of Big Hill to get water to cook with. Here was received orders to join General Bragg. On the 28th marched from Lancaster to Danville. Staid over the 29th to allow the men to wash. Passed in review before General Bragg. Marched on to camp at Salt river, near El Dorado. Passed through Salvisa, and camped at Lawrenceburg, where we spent the entire night serenading the ladies. At Rough-and-Ready, we heard that the enemy was moving out of Louisville, and we promised ourselves a fight. But after running the wagons back to the rear, it all turned out to be nothing —a mere cavalry report! We reached Frankfort on the evening of the second of October. This is the blue grass region-a lovely country and everything in the way of food for man and horse very plentiful. The one article of water we found scarce and indifferent everywhere in Kentucky. Our march was an ovation. The people crowded to the roadside. Ladies (and very pretty are the Kentucky ladies) waved flags, huzzaed, took us by the hand, pressed us to go home with them, called us their friends, deliverers, sweethearts! Altogether the march was relieved of much of its tedium. Never was an army in such glorious spirits!’

‘Alas! the army's spirits were short-lived. The army's retreat from Kentucky was ordered. Letters and journals break into hot protest. Small use in that. Orders are orders—and the army turned its face towards Tennessee. On the fourth of October we left Frankfort. When we had crossed the river the bridge was fired. We marched all night. On reaching Harrodsburg we were immediately thrown into position. Saw all of Kirby Smith's corps go into line of battle—a very pretty sight. The rain drenched us. Camped in a barn. Expected to meet the enemy next day, but did not as he was trying to flank us. Fell back and again formed line of battle. A long march. Had a goose stew for supper, and bread made up with beer. Three days later camped at Reed's on the Holstein. It snowed on us all day. Bitter hard marching. . . . At Knoxville we had orders for middle Tennessee. Marched through Kingston and forded the Clinch. Next day to White Creek. Next day to Clear Creek. Next day to top of Waldren's Ridge. Next day down into the Sequachie valley, where James Mathews was left with [37] fever and died. Bitter weather, and the men are bare-foot. The new guns from Richmond are two Napoleons and two Howitzers. A six-days march over rough mountains. The most wearisome march we have ever had. Four miles in sixteen hours, over Cumberland mountain. Fourteen horses hitched to each carriage. Caisson in second detachment broke, going down the mountain. Camp late at night. March continued. We have had as hard marching as ever was. Cold and hunger. Bare-foot and ragged men, toiling through wind and snow. Reached Manchester. . . Stevenson's division is ordered to Mississippi.’

Anderson's Battery arrived in Jackson three days after Christmas, 1862. Here its centre rested for a few days, but the right and left sections were at once ordered to Vicksburg with two Napoleons and two Howitzers. They reached Vicksburg at dark, in the midst of the battle of Chickasaw Bayou. Through deep mud and driving rain they were marched at once into position. Their horses were yet upon the road from Tennessee, and so the guns were hauled by mules. The enemy was about three hundred yards away. There was a continual zip, zip, of minies. The negro drivers became demoralized, and left before the guns were in position. The men had to dismount the ammunition chests under fire. It was very dark and cold, and the mud was up to the axletrees. Gunner No. 4, Adam H. Plecker, says: ‘My gun was the last to start from the city. Only one gun had arrived at the proper point. I think it was No. 1. As I came up Captain Anderson was sitting on the trail of that gun. He said, “Plecker, where is the balance of the battery?” From his tone I knew that he was much depressed and worn out, there in the drenching rain, and dark as pitch, and mud everywhere. It was the only time I ever saw him in that spirit.’

The remaining guns came up. Breast works were hastily raised. At 3 o'clock in the morning the enemy opened fire. All day Anderson's Battery lay still under a storm of shot and shell. On the night of the 30th it moved at dark to a safer and stronger redoubt—named by General Barton the Virginia Redoubt. So closed for Anderson's battery the second year of the war. [38]

It remained at the Virginia Redoubt on Chickasaw Bayou until the 5th of January, then camped for a time in Vicksburg, then, on the 15th, moved with the entire brigade below the city.

In this month Captain Anderson was announced in general orders as Chief of Artillery, Stevenson's Division, and a little later, as Major of Artillery. First Lieutenant Philip Peters declining promotion in favor of Junior First Lieutenant John William Johnston, the latter officer was announced in general orders as captain of Anderson's Battery—henceforward known as the Botetourt Artillery.

In March the Botetourt Artillery moved down to Jett's gin house, and remained there until the middle of April, doing picket duty at Warrenton, at Barton's headquarters, and at Glass gin house. During these spring weeks below Vicksburg life seems to have been sweet to the toil-worn, ragged, hope-on, hope-ever sons of Botetourt. ‘When the Howitzer section reached Glass' gin house for picket duty, Mr. Glass came in full tilt from his house to tell us not to kill his big snake. Being a Virginian he knew what a Virginian would do with a snake on sight. The snake was one of those large kinds that are kept down here in corn—cribs to kill rats. We had a lot of rabbit hunts—all the men in a circle around a patch of briars, with sticks and stones, and one or two to drive the rabbits out. . . . Here was the place we caught the large fish—seven feet long—and rationed it out to the company. . . There is an old woman from whom we buy mince pies. . . The flowers in this country are lovely. . . .Now and then we are waked up by the heavy firing of our siege guns. They are trying to send some Yankee gun boat to the bottom of the Mississippi.’

On the 28th came the order to break camp and march with Tracey's Alabama brigade to reinforce General Bowen below Vicksburg. Grant's audacious and consummate generalship had succeeded. From up the river he had run not only gunboat but transports past the Confederate batteries. This done he marched an army down the western bank of the river, crossed it over, and landed at Bruinsburg. If he could not take Vicksburg from the north, the east or the west, he would take it from the south.

General Bowen commanded the Confederate forces at Grand Gulf, and observed the Federal movement down the river and [39] the landing at Bruinsburg. Upon the instant he sent a dispatch to General Pemberton at Vicksburg, asking aid. Tracy's Brigade took the road for Grand Gulf.

Marching on the evening of April 29th, the Botetourt Artillery reached Big River about midnight. The country was difficult in the extreme. From midnight to daylight they marched a mile. A swamp was crossed in which the guns sank to the axletree, and the horses mired so they could not pull. The ammunition chests were taken off and the guns and caissons drawn by hand. By daylight of the 30th the battery was ferried over the Big Black, and the men moved on towards Grand Gulf without stopping to feed the horses. Bayou Pierre was reached at sundown. The order to move into line of battle came at once. There was no time for food. The line was reached at 10 o'clock --the road between Bruinsburg and Port Gibson, four miles from the latter place. Here Green's and Tracy's Brigades were encountered and attacked by the four divisions of McClernand's corps, which had crossed the river in the day and night of the 30th of April, and had at once moved forward. There ensued the battle of Port Gibson, a battle of five to one, fought with determination from dawn till dusk.

At 2 o'clock in the morning of the first of May, the pickets began firing. On the extreme left, commanded by General Green, of Missouri, the artillery of both sides became engaged. The firing was incessant and deadly. Says General Green's report: ‘The enemy pressing heavily upon me, I sent to General Tracy for reinforcements. He sent me the 23rd Alabama Infantry and a section of Anderson's Battery. They came up under heavy fire, took position, and fought bravely. The opposite force was at least eight to our one, and double our number of pieces. The section of Anderson's Battery stood manfully to its guns until half the men were killed and wounded. All their horses except two were killed, and the guns were lost. .. They did all that the most sanguine could expect.’

Lieutenant Norgrove commanded that detachment of the Botetourt Artillery. The order came at 6 in the morning. They were to support Green's Missourians, and at every hazzard they were to hold their position. They took position under a withering fire from the enemy, a stone's throw away. The first to be [40] wounded was James Dollman, shot through the breast before the guns were placed. The next was F. Phillips, the next James L. Burks. There was a force, seen dimly through the smoke, that they thought to be Confederate. J. J. Smith, Gunner No. 8, was sent to the roof of a negro cabin to observe these friendly troops. The smoke lifted—and it was only the smoke that was grey. The men in blue fired upon Gunner No. 8, and brought him down desperately wounded, whereupon the Botetourt men gave them a double charge of canister. The firing became general—a thunder of guns beneath a roof of smoke. Men reeled and fell. Never more would they return to their mountains! The shells struck and killed the horses. The men tried to drag the guns back to the next ridge, but could not. The enemy charged, took the guns, and went over the living, the wounded and the dead of that detachment like a wave of the sea. Let us hear Gunner No. 8's relation of Lieutenant Norgrove's death. Gunner No. 8 was himself lying hardby, desperately wounded and waiting for death. He says: ‘Lieutenant Norgrove often said that he would never be taken prisoner alive. He was taken, but not until he was shot down. The man who shot him repeatedly commanded him to surrender, but he would not. This was when they had charged and taken our guns and turned them on our men. We had no infantry support. It had been drawn off to cover a break in our line to the right. The order was: Move guns to the ridge in your rear! We could not do it—the horses were all killed. We tried to drag the guns ourselves, but there was no time. Norgrove did not seem to know that they had broken our line, and taken our support. He jerked the trail from the gun and started to strike the man who was calling to him to surrender. The man was loading the gun. He had to shoot or be struck. Norgrove fell, mortally wounded. The battle went on over us. . . . When it was all over he and I were found by the Yankees and taken to Magnolia Church, a little way off. We were placed on the outside of the church-yard to die. Norgrove died Monday, three days after he was wounded. He and I were laid on planks, one end on the fence, the other down the hill. There was a space of twelve to eighteen inches between us. When dying he pulled me off my plank, and fell on top of me, crying, “Come on! Come on!” His one thought till [41] then had been for me; felt he wanted to take care of me; worried because I was neglected. On account of his courage when shot, the Yankee officers were very courteous to him and often brought someone to show the bravest man they had ever seen. The man who shot Norgrove was from Illinois. Doubtless he, too, was a noble soldier, for his words and acts, at the time and afterwards, so impressed me. It was he that helped to take Norgrove from where he fell to the old church-yard. Norgrove told the men to take me first. They promised to come back for me, which they did.’

So Gunner No. 8, who wouldn't die, but still lives, I believe, in Kentutcky. War is cruel, and not infrequently it is mean; but from the earliest days, the red light that plays above the battlefield has shown us the generous and the high. That light, I think, dwells upon Lieutenant Norgrove!

While this detachment did its duty upon the left, the remainder of the battery, fighting upon the right, stood to its guns under a most withering fire. The men fought with dogged pertinacity and devotion against overwhelming odds. A shell exploded and killed Lieutenant Peters, a very gallant officer, ‘the coolest man I have ever seen under fire.’ Lieutenant Douthatt fell mortally wounded. Orderly-Sergeant David Leips was shot through the head, and, rammer in hand, died beside his gun. Many were killed, and many wounded. The ammunition was exhausted. Above the roar and rattle rose the scream of the war horse. The horses were shot, the gun carriages cut down, and the two Napoleons lost. As with Norgrove's men, so with Johnston's. They tried to drag the piece off the field by hand. Fresh troops were hurled against them, and they went down. Late in the day, Captain Johnston was disabled and borne from the field. Second Sergeant Francis B. Obenchain, afterwards made lieutenant for ‘valor and skill,’ took command as ranking officer of the Botetourt Artillery, brought off the two six-pounders, and covered the retreat to the other side of Bayou Pierre. In the battle of Port Gibson the total loss of the Botetourt Artillery, killed, wounded and captured, was forty-five officers and men, fifty-three horses, and four guns. ‘The bloody encounter in front of Port Gibson,’ says General Pemberton's report, ‘nobly illustrated the valour and constancy of our troops, and shed additional lustre [42] upon the Confederate arms. Confronted by overwhelming numbers, the heroic Bowen and his gallant officers and men maintained the equal contest many hours, with a courage and obstinacy rarely equalled. And though they failed to secure a victory, the world will do them the justice to say they deserved it.’

At sunset the Confederates drew off to the other side of Bayou Pierre. Under the cover of the night hasty breast-works were thrown up, and the troops, hungry and exhausted, slept upon their arms. Next day commenced the long march to Vicksburg.

The Botetourt Artillery, with its two six-pounders and its decimated ranks, went into camp between Warrenton and Baldwin's Ferry. On the 12th of May it moved with Stevenson's Division to the support of Generals Loring and Bowen, near Big Black bridge. On the fifteenth General Pemberton, with a column of seventeen thousand men, marched from Vicksburg towards Edwards Depot, his object being to cut the enemy's communication, and to force an attack. That night the troops bivouacked in the order of march, near Edwards Depot. The next morning came a dispatch from General Joseph E. Johnston, then at Benton road, near Jackson. General Johnston's instructions were that General Pemberton should join him at once at Clinton. The countermarch was at once ordered.

The reverse movement had hardly been begun when the Federals attacked, drove in the cavalry pickets, and opened at long range on the head of the column on the Raymond Road. The battle that followed is known as both Baker's Creek and as Champion Hill.

The Confederate line was formed on the cross-road from the Clinton to the Raymond Road—Loring on the right, Bowen in the center, and Stevenson on the left. To Stevenson's men was entrusted the protection of the wagon train, then crossing Baker's Creek. The Federals first attacked the Confederate right, but after an hour's heavy firing this attack was relinquished, and a large force thrown against the Confederate left. At noon the battle began in earnest along Stevenson's entire front—a line, necessarily ‘single, irregular, divided, and without reserves.’ The left rested on Baker's Creek, near the bridge. A portion of Waddell's Battery defended the Clinton and Raymond Roads, [43] and the remainder took position on the left of Cummings Brigade. Here also, to the left of Cumming's was posted Captain J. W. Johnston's Battery, the Botetourt Artillery. To the left of General Barton were Ridley's and Corput's batteries. At about half past 10 the Federals attacked Lee and Cumming. They were repulsed. Reinforced, they made an impetuous attack upon the whole front. This was bravely met, and the unequal conflict maintained with stubborn resolution. Finally overwhelmed by numbers, a portion of Cumming's Brigade gave way, and was pressed back upon the regiments covering the Clinton and Raymond Roads. Here they were in part rallied. The fighting became very heavy. At half past 2 arrived Bowen's Division of Missouri and Arkansas troops, General Green on the right and Colonel Cockrell on the left. Supported by Lee and by a part of Cumming's Brigade, these charged the enemy and drove them back beyond the original line. The enemy, continuing the movement to his left, fell upon Barton in overwhelming numbers. He charged them gallantly, but was forced back and cut off from the rest of the division. ‘Nothing,’ continues General Stevenson's report, ‘could protect the artillery horses from the deadly fire of the enemy. Almost all were killed, and along my whole line the pieces, though fought with desperation on the part of both officers and men which I cannot too highly praise, almost all fell into the hands of the enemy. In this manner the guns of Corput's, Waddell's and Johnston's Batteries were lost. Double-shotted, they were fired until the swarms of the enemy were in upon them. Officers and men stood by them to the latest moment, and to all I desire to return the thanks which their gallantry has made their due. It was in Burton's charge that the lamented Major Anderson, my chief of artillery (formerly commanding the Botetourt Artillery), fell in the fearless discharge of his duty.’ ‘The guns were served,’ says General Pemberton's report, ‘to the last extremity. Major Anderson, Chief of Artillery, fell in the full and gallant discharge of his duties. Captain Ridley, 1st Mississippi, fell fighting his guns single-handed and alone. Captain Corput of Corput's Battery, and Captain Johnston of the Botetourt Artillery, fought their batteries to the extreme moment.’

The fraction of Virginia in Mississippi stood by those guns [44] from Richmond, loaded with coolness, and fired them with effect. The battle deepened. Smoke enveloped it, shot with the red fire from the guns and the exploding shells. Sometimes the blue was dimly seen, sometimes the gray, sometimes the blue and the gray locked in a death grapple. Through the cloud the flags looked small and distinct, riddled and blood-stained rags. The voice of war rose in a mighty crescendo. The ammunition become exhausted. The horses were all shot down. The enemy charged impetuously and in overwhelming force. The two Virginia guns, fought to the dying breath, were at last taken.

At this moment Ridley's Battery thundered up from another quarter of the field. Major Anderson and Captain Johnston under a heavy fire, aided to place it in position on Barton's left. Their own guns gone, the gunners of the Botetourt Artillery volunteered to serve with Ridley's men. When the battery was placed, Barton's Brigade, under cove of Ridley's fire, advanced to the charge. The two friends, Major Anderson and Captain Johnston, went down into the charge together. The one came out unhurt, to strive to the uttermost of a nature singularly dauntless, determined and devoted, to rally the broken lines and inspire his men. The other fell, and having fought a good fight, and finished his course, and kept his faith, passed on to victory.

General Barton, writing to Virginia, to the broken-hearted father of a noble son says, ‘The enemy had forced back the troops to my right, and it became necessary to charge and check his victorious columns, or we were lost. In overwhelming force he came on, three lines deployed, extending far to the right and left of our position. Our little band charged with fury, broke through the first line, throwing it back in confusion; then through the second, which in turn fell back upon the third. Your son, leading with cap in hand my right regiment, the 40th Georgia, cheered them on through the first and second lines to fall at the third. I never saw him after he passed from my sight at the head of the gallant 40th, cap in hand, cheering them on to victory. I like best to think of him thus—the gallant soldier, the noble gentleman, the exalted patriot. Virginia has made sacrifices of no loftier spirit on the altar of liberty.’

‘He was found by Dr. Vandyke about five in the evening, under the shade of some bushes, and was carried to the field [45] hospital. He died about two in the morning of May 17th, 1863. Conscious to the last, he said to Dr. Vandyke that he was resigned to his fate and prepared to die. He had been religiously educated from early youth.’ Thus lived and thus died Major Joseph Washington Anderson, a gallant Virginian, perishing far from home, on a stricken field, for his belief, his flag, his honor and his country. In the December of that year his body was taken from the battleground by his father. He lies among his kindred in the graveyard at Fincastle, in the old county of Botetourt.

About four in the afternoon of that disastrous day Buford's Brigade of Loring's Division arrived to the support of General Stevenson, but too late for effective service. The battle was lost. In the late afternoon the Confederates withdrew in good order, crossed Baker's Creek at sunset and bivouacked near Bovina. The next day saw the march back to Vicksburg. Another day and the siege of Vicksburg had begun.

The Confederate line of defense was five miles in length. Barton occupied the river front and the fortifications on the right centre; Cumming the left centre, and Lee, reinforced by Waul's Texas Legion, the extreme left. The position of the Botetourt Artillery was to the right of Hall's Ferry Road, in a saliant angle, on a narrow ridge that sloped to the west. It had two guns—Parrotts, I believe—and the men were armed with Enfield rifles. Captain Johnston, named for marked and distinguished gallantry by Generals Pemberton, Stevenson, Burton and Lee, became chief of artillery, Stevenson's Division, and the Botetourt men served in the trenches under the command of Lieutenant Francis G. Obenchain, a brave and able officer.

In this world-famous siege of Vicksburg; in these forty-seven days and nights of heat, hunger, sleeplessness, disease and death; against continued assault, attack from gunboats and mortars, enfilades from sharpshooters, attempts of sappers, mines, explosions; under a bitter rain of shell, grape and canister from eighty-six batteries, the men of the Botetourt Artillery fought like heroes—and that is to say they fought no better and no worse than their comrades in those trenches. Four redan, lunette, redoubt and riflepit; from behind those ditches, abatis, stockades, entanglements of pickets and telegraph wires, earthen [46] embankments and rain-washed parapets, they answered, with infinite courage and the scantiest supply of ammunition, the fire from two hundred and twenty siege guns. The trenches were narrow; in the rifle-pits the men could not extend their limbs. There was no relief. The same men labored day and night. The fatigue was unutterable. The midsummer sun of the South fell upon soldiers exhausted with endless watching, endless attack. In every trench there was fever; every day had its list of dead and wounded. At the first the men were on half rations; towards the last on one-fourth. ‘All the unripe half-grown peaches, all the green berries growing on the briars were carefully gathered, simmered in a little water and used for food.’ They had maggot-filled water for drinking, and no water at all for cleanliness. They had no change of clothing. When the sun did not bake down upon them, they fought and watched, shelterless in the rain. ‘Tired, ragged, dirty, barefoot, hungry, covered with vermin, hand to hand with the enemy, beleagured on all sides, with no prospect and but little hope of relief—when I think of their cheerfulness and buoyant courage,’ says one of their commanders, ‘it seems to me no commendation of these soldiers can be too great.’

The guns of the enemy rarely ceased firing, the smoke never lifted, the uproar was never stilled. The Confederates faced the nightmare of exhausted ammunition; they saved their fire for advancing columns of infantry, or for the new batteries that the enemy ceaselessly planted. At dawn began the thunder of the eighty-six opposing batteries; at dusk the mines were still whirring overhead; under the stars there were alarms, incursions, magnificent and murderous outbursts from the two hundred and twenty guns. The Confederates answered when they could, and stood silent when they must; wore out the long day, ate with equanimity their supper of two ounces of musty meal, and lay down upon their arms. For an hour, perhaps, they might dream of home and loved ones, then the impatient thunder recommenced. Turn out—turn out, men!

Then men neither faltered nor complained. Cramped in the narrow trenches, parched by the sun, chilled by the night dews, without covering, without food, without rest, without ammunition, without hope, they endured with a Roman and Stoic fortitude, [47] and they fought not merely with indomitable courage, but with gaiety. They sunk the Cincinnati. They repelled the great assault of May the 22nd, five charges in all, supported by a furious cannonade; and the assault of June the 25th, made through a breach caused by the explosion of a Federal mine. They fought their guns until they were disabled. They fought with rifles, with bayonets, and with hand grenades, and with fire balls. For forty-seven days and nights they fought, until their ammunition was all but spent, until starvation was upon them, until all their strength was gone. They were surrounded and out numbered, and help was far, far away. On the Fourth of July, the city surrendered.

At ten in the morning the troops marched out of the trenches by battalion, stacked arms, and returned to their old quarters in the town. Men and officers were paroled and permitted to return to the Confederacy . The officers retained their side arms and their personal baggage. ‘When the 2nd Texas Infantry,’ says the colonel of that regiment, ‘marched through the chain of the enemy's sentinels, the spirits of most of the men were even then at the highest pitch of fighting valor. Released from the obligation of their parole, and arms placed in their hands, they would have wheeled about, ready and confident.’ What was said of the 2nd Texans may be said with truth of each command engaged in that heroic defense.

So ended the siege of Vicksburg. With the long march to Enterprise, the exchange of the troops, their fortunes in the last years of the war, this paper cannot deal. The Botetourt Artillery —all that was left of it—was exchanged at Enterprise. Ragged, worn and cheerful, it marched away to old Virginia. Its Captain, John William Johnston, becoming Major of Artillery, left the company. Through the remainder of the war he commanded Johnston's Battery of light artillery. He fought at Dalton, Resaca, Columbia, Franklin and Nashville, and surrendered at Salisbury, N. C., two days after the surrender of his kinsman, Joseph E. Johnston. He was a soldier all his life, and a much loved man. In this paper I have more than once quoted Gunner No. 4, Adam H. Plecker, who lives now at Lynchburg, in Virginia. Gunner No. 4 has this to say of his old captain: ‘I have two pictures in my mind. When we camped at Manassas [48] orders were issued for all the men who wished to do so to assemble just before taps for prayer service. A number gathered. Then while we soldiers stood with bowed heads, the prayer was led by a young lieutenant, straight as an arrow, dressed in his uniform of gray, he raised his hand to heaven and poured forth prayer to his and our God. On the second day's march from Vicksburg, after the surrender, the army was halted at noon to rest, I was lying, very sick, to one side of the road. Major Johnston—he was captain then—came riding up with some officers. He left the company sitting on their horses and came over to me, and asked me how I did, and if I could hold out until we reached the railroad. He was interested in us all. I see him there now, smiling down at me! As long as he lived he loved the old company. The boys called him “John Billy.” We loved him and he loved his men.’

The men of the Botetourt Artillery, under the command of Captain Henry C. Douthatt, fought bravely in Virginia. The war ended, and they went home—that is, some of them went home—to the green hills and flowering waters of old Botetourt. Worn, crippled and impoverished, they entered bravely upon the new order of things, and fought patiently with fate. The old South was gone; they have helped to make the new South. Not many of the company—not many of the Mountain Rifles who marched to war in bounding hope and pride, through the flowers of May, under the streaming flag made of a wedding gown, to the sound of fife and drum playing ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’—not many of them are left in this year of nineteen hundred and seven! They lie beneath Virginia battlefields, In Kentucky, in Tennessee, and on the banks of the Mississippi; and they lie at home in the graveyard above the river, under the shadow of the everlasting hills.

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest!
When spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod,
Than fancy's feet have ever trod. [49]
By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
Their honour comes a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And freedom shall a while repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there!

It is forty-four years since the siege of Vicksburg. The war is dead. The men who fought are going fast, are vanishing from the face of the earth like leaves before the blast of autumn. They were—they are—heroic. We see them so; and through the haze of time and distance, our children's children and all the generations to come will find them still heroic. From the time of Troy to the time of Vicksburg, from the time of Port Arthur to the time of some mighty siege to come, the man of war, no less than the man of peace, has wrought for that great, white peaceful and supreme temple which, above the smoke of all wars, the Infinite in us shall yet raise to greet the Infinite above us. Upon those temple walls, how many friezes of fighting men! The hundred men, to whom we do honor this November day, have their place in those still and deathless ranks, in that procession, vast as is the procession of the stars. ‘A fragment of antique sculpture,’—Yes, but the past instructs the present, and is the bed rock of the future.

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