“The Hand of a Master”: Confederate Artillery on the Left Flank at Antietam

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NH Civil War Gal

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“The Hand of a Master”: Confederate Artillery on the Left Flank at Antietam

Posted on September 17, 2019 by Sarah Kay Bierle


130.jpg

An artillery piece at Antietam National Battlefield

By sunrise on September 17, 1862, the Confederate guns waited on the left flank. Ordered to guard “Stonewall” Jackson’s flank and use the high ground advantage to blast Union attackers, the assembled cannons and crews prepared for battle. General J. E B. Stuart had been tasked with covering the flank, and Stuart and his horse artillery commander—Captain John Pelham—ably directed the guns since Jackson’s chief of artillery had remained behind in Harpers Ferry.
The artillery batteries pulled into line on Nicodemus Heights and Hauser Ridge had been gathered from other commands since some of Jackson’s own artillery had also been delayed at Harpers Ferry. Though a total of forty guns would play a role in the Confederate left flank and West Woods defense, the morning opened with about fifteen cannon on Nicodemus Heights directly under Pelham’s command, including the Stuart Horse Artillery, three cannon from the Staunton Artillery, the Alleghany Artillery, and a battery from Danville, Virginia. One of these cannons “opened” the battle, beginning a duel just as the sun’s light turned the morning darkness into a smoky gray.
 

Paul Yancey

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"The Gallant Pelham". In his battle report Stonewall Jackson stated "It is really extraordinary to find such nerve and genius in a mere boy. With a Pelham on each flank I believe I could whip the world."

I am currently reading a book on the battle of Fredericksburg where Pelham again showed his skill and courage as one of the great artillery commanders of the war.
 
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Bruce Vail

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Daniel Havey Hill was always the skunk at the garden party. In his report on the battle, he excoriated the artillery for its poor performance and blamed the artillery for lack of a better result at the battle.

Hill correctly pointd out that the federals had a larger number of artillery pieces and that many were of higher quality. He didn't credit the federal gunners with professional skill, but apparently the men had learned their craft well in the 18 months since the war began, and used their equipment to deadly effect.
 
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Bruce Vail

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Colonel Stephen Dill Hill commanding one of Longstreets artillery battalions called Sharpsburg "Artillery Hell"
If Stephen Hill Lee thought the fight was 'artillery hell' then he is providing indirect confirmation for Harvey Hill's point.

edit CX corrececting name spelling
 
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James N.

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Colonel Stephen Dill Hill commanding one of Longstreets artillery battalions called Sharpsburg "Artillery Hell"
If Stephen Hill thought the fight was 'artillery hell' then he is providing indirect confirmation for Harvey Hill's point.
That should read Stephen Dill Lee - future lieutenant general commanding troops in Alabama and Mississippi.

SDLee.jpg
 
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Andy Cardinal

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Thanks for posting @NH Civil War Gal . I've been been trying (in fits and starts) to take a closer look at the role Pelham's artillery played in the battle, which was a significant one.

There seem to be two biographies of Pelham. One by William W. Hassler (Lee's Boy Artillerist) and one by Jerry H. Maxwell (The Perfect Lion). If I were to pick one to read, which should I choose? If anyone could advise me I'd appreciate it.
 
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redbob

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Pelham is buried in the Jacksonville, Alabama City Cemetery, his birthplace is nearby Alexandria ,Alabama and the artillery range at nearby Fort McClellan is named after him. Photo by Stonewall/Find a Grave. Back in the day when the range was very active, you could hear the booming of the big guns both at his birthplace and grave-somehow that seemed fitting.
7407_119899553506.jpg
 

RayDoolittle

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In researching your article, did you happen to come across any specific information on the 2nd Maryland Battery (Confederate) under Brockenbrough? Although I live in west-central PA, one of their artilleryman is buried in a cemetery in my hometown. I am always looking for information on that battery. THANK YOU! -- Ray
 

Rick Richter

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“The Hand of a Master”: Confederate Artillery on the Left Flank at Antietam

Posted on September 17, 2019 by Sarah Kay Bierle


View attachment 325980
An artillery piece at Antietam National Battlefield

By sunrise on September 17, 1862, the Confederate guns waited on the left flank. Ordered to guard “Stonewall” Jackson’s flank and use the high ground advantage to blast Union attackers, the assembled cannons and crews prepared for battle. General J. E B. Stuart had been tasked with covering the flank, and Stuart and his horse artillery commander—Captain John Pelham—ably directed the guns since Jackson’s chief of artillery had remained behind in Harpers Ferry.
The artillery batteries pulled into line on Nicodemus Heights and Hauser Ridge had been gathered from other commands since some of Jackson’s own artillery had also been delayed at Harpers Ferry. Though a total of forty guns would play a role in the Confederate left flank and West Woods defense, the morning opened with about fifteen cannon on Nicodemus Heights directly under Pelham’s command, including the Stuart Horse Artillery, three cannon from the Staunton Artillery, the Alleghany Artillery, and a battery from Danville, Virginia. One of these cannons “opened” the battle, beginning a duel just as the sun’s light turned the morning darkness into a smoky gray.
Jackson assigned Stuart to manage the artillery on the Confederate left flank because there was no senior artillery leadership for Jackson's command on that part of the field. Jackson's artillery chief, Stapleton Crutchfield, had been ordered to stay behind at Harper's Ferry by ANV artillery chief William Pendleton to facilitate equipping the batteries there from the captured stores; Pendleton himself was at Shepherdstown with the reserve artillery. Ewell's division artillery chief Alfred R. Courtney had decided not to advance to Sharpsburg with three batteries of his battalion, and was also at Harper's Ferry. A.P. Hill's Light Division artillery chief R. Lindsay Walker was still with that division at Harper's Ferry, and the artillery chiefs for Jackson's and D.H. Hill's divisions were on other parts of the field. There was a little human drama involved, which I outlined in related article you can reach here: http://www.civildiscourse-historyblog.com/blog/2019/3/11/where-were-they-not-on-that-gory-field-the-chesapeake-artillery-and-the-battle-of-sharpsburg .
 
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James N.

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DSC03408.JPG


Monument dedicated to Maj. John Pelham (note Alabama State flag and Birmingham, Alabama UDC marker) that used to be at the site of his death at Kelly's Ford, now relocated to the grounds of the Graffitti House Museum at Brandy Station.
 

White Flint Bill

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“The Hand of a Master”: Confederate Artillery on the Left Flank at Antietam

Posted on September 17, 2019 by Sarah Kay Bierle


View attachment 325980
An artillery piece at Antietam National Battlefield

By sunrise on September 17, 1862, the Confederate guns waited on the left flank. Ordered to guard “Stonewall” Jackson’s flank and use the high ground advantage to blast Union attackers, the assembled cannons and crews prepared for battle. General J. E B. Stuart had been tasked with covering the flank, and Stuart and his horse artillery commander—Captain John Pelham—ably directed the guns since Jackson’s chief of artillery had remained behind in Harpers Ferry.
The artillery batteries pulled into line on Nicodemus Heights and Hauser Ridge had been gathered from other commands since some of Jackson’s own artillery had also been delayed at Harpers Ferry. Though a total of forty guns would play a role in the Confederate left flank and West Woods defense, the morning opened with about fifteen cannon on Nicodemus Heights directly under Pelham’s command, including the Stuart Horse Artillery, three cannon from the Staunton Artillery, the Alleghany Artillery, and a battery from Danville, Virginia. One of these cannons “opened” the battle, beginning a duel just as the sun’s light turned the morning darkness into a smoky gray.
Here's something I posted about this last year. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/confederate-artillery-on-nicodemus-heights.144297/#post-1779621

Note that while Lt. Asher Garber of the Staunton Artillery later claimed to have fired the first shot of the battle, in a letter written the day after the battle, Captain George Wooding claimed his Danville Artillery fired first.
 

MHB1862

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If Stephen Hill Lee thought the fight was 'artillery hell' then he is providing indirect confirmation for Harvey Hill's point.

edit CX corrececting name spelling
Hard to provide counterbattery fire when facing 20 lb guns across the Antietam.
Artillery saved Lee’s left when set up on Hauser’s Ridge after the loss of the Cornfield and again in the Piper Orchard after the loss of the Sunken Road.
Harvey Hill had firsthand knowledge of the second incident.
 
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