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James M. Carrington's Battery and Jubal A. Early

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Tom Elmore, Mar 19, 2017 at 4:25 PM.

  1. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

    Jan 16, 2015
    The activities of Capt. James M. Carrington’s battery (the “Charlottesville Artillery” of Virginia), armed with four 12-pounder Napoleons, is fairly well documented during the battle, thanks to a few helpful primary sources:

    -Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, part II, vol. 70, serial no. 82 (Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1998), pp. 390-392. (It lists a general itinerary of the battery during the war, along with some details.)

    -“First Day on Left at Gettysburg,” by James M. Carrington, Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. 37, 1909, pp. 328-333, ed. by R. A. Brock. (An excellent account of the battery’s role in the battle, including their unique interaction with Maj. Gen. Jubal Early, whom Carrington knew well through his father and brother, respectively colonel and a company captain in the First Virginia Regiment during the Mexican War - the same regiment in which Early served as major.)

    -“Recollections of My Life,” Autobiography of Wilbur Fisk Davis, whose Papers reside in the Special Collections at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. (Davis served as a special aide to Capt. Carrington and was Sergeant Major of the battery in the Gettysburg campaign.)

    -Four Years Under Marse Robert, by Robert Stiles (New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1910), pp. 209-213. (During the battle, Stiles was a lieutenant of engineers and was attached to the battery.)

    -1863 Letters of Leonard K. Sparrow, Carrington’s Battery, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, MSS25P265b. (The letters do not describe the battle, but touch briefly on the campaign.)

    -Letter of Arthur T. Lee to John B. Bachelder, February 16, 1888, Bachelder Papers, ed. by David L. and Audrey J. Ladd (Dayton, OH: Morningside House, Inc., 1995), III:1525. (Lee was captain of Company E, 82nd Ohio.)

    The above sources (and some others) have been integrated into a synopsis of the battery’s role during the campaign:

    James McDowell Carrington was born in 1839, in Botetourt County, Virginia. Standing six feet, one inch tall, he had dark hair and gray eyes. Others present in this campaign included Second Lieutenants D. Rodes Massie and Francis McFarland “Frank” Swope (variant spelling Swoope), and possibly First Lieutenant Alexander Boys “Sandy” Cochran. Capt. Carrington’s slave “Jim” (or servant as it was politely put), accompanied the battery during the campaign (and the entire war) and cooked for the officers. Sergeant Major Wilbur F. Davis of New Bern, North Carolina was the senior enlisted man in the battery, while Nathaniel A. “Nat” Terrell was its bugler. The battery brought an estimated 71 officers and enlisted men (not including Jim) to Gettysburg, and lost only two men who were presumed to have been captured. One of these was Private Henry Sprouse, who was left behind sick at a hospital in Chambersburg.

    On June 14, near Winchester, Virginia, the battery made a flank movement of eight miles to gain the rear of the fort there, and engaged until dark, advancing a half mile until gaining the redoubt. Only part of the battery was engaged, with one man being killed and one wounded; Sparrow’s gun did not fire a shot. On June 22, the battery, moving with Early’s division, crossed the Potomac. It proceeded to Gettysburg on June 26, and reached York on June 27, occupying the fairgrounds there until June 29. It moved back in the direction of Gettysburg on June 30. On July 1, it covered ten miles, the last five at a trot, and reached the field in the early afternoon. Unlike the rest of Hilary P. Jones’ battalion, it did not deploy immediately into action, but instead halted along the Harrisburg Road. Gen. Early passed it on his way to the front, and a few minutes later John B. Gordon’s brigade was seen in the distance advancing toward Rock Creek. Soon an order came for the battery to follow Gordon’s advance, and it moved out, crossing the bridge over the creek one piece at a time to avoid the risk of Federal artillery disabling a horse that would block the path. They had reason to worry; at this time Sgt. Maj. Davis looked up and spotted a solid shot near its apogee and coming directly at them, but it missed.

    After turning right into a field beyond the creek in the direction of a knoll that was to become known as Barlow’s Knoll, Gen. Early joined them and led the way, following behind Gordon’s slow but steady advance. On the way the battery unlimbered on at least two occasions to help move the enemy along, but each time the Confederate infantry succeeded in pushing ahead, so the guns never got a round off. Their route likely took them west of the Adams County Alms House; the wounded Capt. Arthur Lee of the 82nd Ohio saw them approaching from the direction of Barlow’s Knoll. When Gordon halted half-way to the town, so did Carrington. While waiting there, a sergeant of the battery informed Capt. Carrington that a wounded Federal lieutenant-colonel wished to speak with him. Gen. Early overheard, and said, “Go back and see what he wants.” The officer asked to be moved to a place of safety, and Carrington obliged, getting four men to carry him to a fence corner nearby, and then put an overcoat under his head as a pillow. The officer, impressed with his kindness, insisted that he take his field glasses. In later years, the battle historian Bachelder believed Carrington had encountered Capt. Lee, however, the rank does not match up. Only a few minutes elapsed before Hays’ Louisiana brigade came up on the left, and the advance proceeded. In the outskirts of town, Carrington unlimbered three of his pieces in the street (Davis said two). They were opposite a tall brick residence from which, on the upper floor, two women peeped out from behind a window. One or more of the unlimbered pieces was loaded, and an Irishman named Burgoyne from a Louisiana regiment stepped up to ram home a charge. But there was nothing to shoot at, only Federal prisoners coming back after being scooped up in the town. Within a half hour, Gen. Early rode up, followed by Gen. Gordon, and Capt. Carrington noted that they engaged in a lively conversation with their corps commander, Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell. A little later an officer on Early’s staff ordered the battery to the rear, where it joined Gordon and “Extra Billy” Smith’s reconnaissance out on the York Pike. The battery spent the night near the town.

    On July 2, the battery took a position in the evening to guard against a flanking movement by Federal cavalry on the left. On July 3, it sat idle in an orchard on the edge of town. It spent July 4 along Seminary Ridge. The battery left the line at 9 a.m. on July 5, and accompanied John B. Gordon’s brigade as the rear guard of the corps, screened by Lt. Col. Elijah White’s cavalry battalion. In the afternoon, one of the men said he believed the enemy was bringing out a battery on a high hill they had just passed. Gen. Early, sitting nearby on his horse, took out his field glasses to scan the field, and in his usual high-pitched tone replied, “No, nothing there but a cow, a horse and a straggler.” Just then an enemy shell fell among the line of infantry and exploded, followed by one or two more shots. Apparently no damage was done, and Gen. Gordon was immediately sent to drive them off. But that same evening, near Fairfield, the battery lost two horses from enemy artillery. On July 9, the supply wagons rejoined the battery and the men finally enjoyed a good dinner. The battery occupied the trenches near Hagerstown until early on July 14, recrossing the Potomac at 7 a.m. on a pontoon bridge at Falling Waters.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017 at 4:31 PM
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