Fair Oaks, Va., vicinity. Lt. Robert Clarke, Capt. John C. Tidball, Lt. William N. Dennison, and Capt. Alexander C.M. Pennington
Captain John C. Tidball, Company A 2nd U.S. Artillery (USA)
John C. Tidball was born near Wheeling, Virginia (West Virginia) on 25 January 1825. He graduated tenth from the United States Military Academy Class of 1848 and was commissioned brevet second lieutenant in Company E of the 3rd U.S. Artillery. He transferred to Company M of the 2nd U.S. Artillery. Promoted in March 1853, he was transferred to Company B. He served in Florida against the Seminoles and accompanied an exploring expedition to California in 1853-54. In 1859, he was sent on the expedition to Harper’s Ferry to suppress John Brown’s raid.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, he ranked as a first lieutenant and section chief in Captain William F. Barry’s Company A, 2nd U.S. Artillery. Barry was promoted to Irvin McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia Chief of Artillery, and Tidball was promoted to captain and command of the Company A. His battery was attached to Colonel Louis Blenker’s 1st Brigade, Colonel Dixon S. Miles 5th Division at the First Battle of Bull Run.
He served with his “flying” battery as part of the famed U.S. Horse Artillery Brigade from its inception in 1861 until June 1863. With slow advancement in the ranks of the regular U.S. Army (especially in the artillery branch), Tidball sought higher responsibilities elsewhere by accepting a commission in the U.S. Volunteers.
He was appointed colonel of the 4th New York Artillery in August 1863 and commanded the artillery of the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Overland Campaign including the Battle of the Wilderness. He was commandant of cadets at West Points from July through September 1864, and then returned to the field, leading the artillery of the IX Corps from October 1864 until April 1865 in the Appomattox Campaign. He became a brigadier general of volunteers and a brevet major general in 1865.
After the war, Tidball was in active service in the Regular Army for forty more years and was assigned to almost every army post from Alaska to Texas. He was the 3rd Commander of the Department of Alaska and lived there for six years. He was Commandant at West Point for many years, and was Commandant at the Artillery School at Fort Monroe in Virginia, and reorganized and brought that institution to a high state of perfection. When he retired, he was regarded as the Army’s premier artillerist. His 1879 instruction book, Manual Of Heavy Artillery Service, served for decades as the army’s guidebook to artillery strategy and operations. He also served on the staff of William T. Sherman during the latter’s tenure as general-in-chief of the U.S. Army.
He died in Montclair, New Jersey on 17 May 1906.
Lieutenant William Neil Dennison, Company A 2nd U.S. Artillery (USA)
William Neil Dennison was born in Ohio on 10 December 1841. At the outbreak of the Civil War, his father was the Governor of Ohio and undoubtedly influenced Dennison’s direct commission into the regular U.S. Army on 5 August 1861. He was assigned to the 2nd U.S. Artillery, an organization whose officers corps produced both Chiefs of Artillery for the Army of the Potomac and who formed the backbone of the famed U.S. Horse Artillery Brigade.
Promoted to first lieutenant on 12 November 1861, Dennison served with the 2nd Artillery throughout the Civil War, almost entirely with the Horse Artillery Brigade. He gained most of his experience while serving as a section chief in Battery A under the command of Captain John C. Tidball. During the Peninsula Campaign, Dennison commanded the rear (left) section of Tidball’s “flying battery”. In 1864, Dennison commanded Battery G and eventually returned to command Battery A until the end of the war. He was awarded two brevet promotions for gallantry in combat, including the ranks of captain for actions at Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill and major for actions at Antietam. At war’s end, he received his final brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel for his overall service and conduct during the war.
Promoted to the permanent rank of captain in 1867, Dennison requested and received a discharge from the army in 1870. He appears to have dabbled in politics, perhaps hoping to follow in his father’s successful career as Governor of Ohio and Postmaster General of the United States. His public reputation suffered due to unsavory business dealings with questionable acquaintances, and he lost the 1879 mayoral race in Columbus, Ohio.
He moved to Denver, Colorado, where he served as a district attorney and dabbled in speculative mining and saloons. He was plagued with negative press and maintained somewhat of a rogue’s reputation. His business partners, Sam and Lou Blonger, also owned gambling houses. Ultimately, he lost his position with the District Attorney’s office. He died 31 December 1904.
Captain Alexander Cummings McWhorter Pennington Jr., Company A 2nd U.S. Artillery (USA)
Alexander C. M. Pennington was born in Newark, New Jersey on 8 January 1838. He was the son of Congressman Alexander Cummings McWhorter Pennington, second cousin of New Jersey Governor and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives William Pennington, and grandnephew of New Jersey Governor William Sandford Pennington.
He attended the United States Military Academy during the brief period in the 1850s when the curriculum was expanded to five years. He graduated 18th in the Class of 1860. Appointed as a brevet second lieutenant and was permanently assigned to the 2nd U.S. Artillery. He gained experience under the tutelage of Captain John C. Tidball in Battery A.
Battery A was the first unit assigned and equipped as horse artillery and served throughout the war with the U.S. House Artillery Brigade in the Army of the Potomac. Pennington began the war as the lead (right) section chief in Battery A and was cited for gallantry in the Peninsula Campaign. He was awarded brevet promotions to captain for actions at Beverly Ford, Virginia, and major for actions at Gettysburg.
He commanded Battery M, 2nd U.S. Artillery in 1863-64, also with the Horse Artillery. Promoted to captain in the regular army, Pennington took a volunteer commission as the colonel of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry on 1 October 1864. Cited again for gallantry at Cedar Creek, he was awarded a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel. He commanded the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry through the end of the war and mustered out of the volunteer service on 1 August 1865. For his distinguished service throughout the war, he was awarded brevet promotions to colonel in the regular army and brigadier general of volunteers.
After the war, Pennington returned to service in the regular army, serving as a captain in the 1st U.S. Artillery. He transferred to the 4th U.S. Artillery with his promotion to major and then lieutenant colonel until October 1896. He returned to the 2nd U.S. Artillery, where he served as its colonel and commander, from 29 October 1896, to the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and Spain.
Along with his responsibilities as commander of the 2nd Artillery, Pennington served as the commanding officer of Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island from 1 December 1896 to 24 May 1898. In this position, Pennington was the senior Army officer in New England and commanded all coastal fortifications from Maine to Connecticut.
During the Spanish-American War, Pennington served as a brigadier general of volunteers from 4 May 1898 to 12 April 1899, and earned his final promotion to brigadier general in the Regular Army, one day before his retirement on 17 October 1899.
He retired to New Jersey and died in New York City on 30 November 1917.