Letters from Captain George Wooding, Danville (Va) Artillery

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White Flint Bill

Sergeant
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In the letter which follows, Capt. Wooding is preoccupied with his continuing rivalry with Lindsay Shumaker, the original Captain of the battery.

Shumaker was a prominent Danville attorney and veteran of the Mexican War. He organized the battery in Danville in April 1861. Wooding, a charismatic 23-year-old graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, popular with the men, was elected Lieutenant.

In June 1861, during the Valley Campaign, Lieut. Wooding questioned an order given by Cpt. Shumaker, in the presence of the men. Shumaker chastised Wooding for insubordination. Wooding responded by getting a petition signed by every member of the battery, except two, supporting his position in the dispute.

On August 4 the men of the Company presented Captain Shumaker with a document demanding his immediate resignation. The document was signed “almost unanimously.” Shumaker was outraged, and notified General Henry Jackson, in command of the army, that a mutiny had occurred and that he needed men to suppress it. Jackson detailed two companies from the 20th Virginia for that purpose. Numbering no more than 38 men, Lt. Wooding later wrote, “Had our men been disposed they could have demolished the little squad in five minutes.” But better judgment prevailed.

The men of the company were ordered under arrest and confined to their tents. Shumaker blamed the episode on Wooding, even though Wooding had not signed the document and claimed not to have known about it. Shumaker brought courts martial charges against Wooding and the sergeants who signed. The proceeding commenced in mid-August, under the supervision of Colonel Fulkerson. None of the men in the company would support Shumaker. The court concluded that Shumaker’s charges were “activated by petty malice.” Wooding was acquitted and the sergeants were given nominal censures.

Wooding offered his resignation on July 1. Shumaker forwarded it through channels, but vowed to resist it.

To encourage reenlistment the Confederate Congress allowed reenlisting soldiers to hold new company elections. On April 21, 1862, while encamped at the base of Swift Run Gap, virtually the entire company reenlisted. The company immediately elected Lieut. Wooding as Captain, in place of the unpopular Shumaker. Thereafter, until Captain Wooding was mortally wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg, the battery was known as Wooding’s Battery.

In August 1862, the reorganization of the artillery in General Taliaferro’s Division brought the Danville Artillery back under the command of Lindsay Shumaker, who had been promoted to Major. But since Shumaker’s authority extended over the other batteries in the Division as well, the men still functioned day to day under Captain Wooding’s command. It was in this context that Captain Wooding's letter was written.


Camp Near Gordonsville, Aug. 14, 1862

Dear Pa

I wrote you several days ago a few lines by Tatum, a discharged member of my company. Since then, we have returned to our old camp near Gordonsville where we have been reinforced by Anderson's and Longstreet's divisions. I am confident McClellan's army is being added to Pope's forces, and most of ours will doubtless be moved from Richmond to this section of the state.

Shumaker will most probably be here in a short time. Brig. Gen. Taliaferro, our brigade commander, is now acting Major General in command of this division, General Jackson having command of a Corps. General Taliaferro will understand the relations existing between Shumaker and myself. I have conversed with him on the subject and he assured me that in the event of his being assigned to this division, he should have no command over the several batteries, other than to see that they are properly supplied with ordnance and equipment. They will continue to remain under the command of their brigade commanders.

My company is now in a better state of organization and discipline than ever before. I have always enforced law and discipline among the men requiring them to do what is right, and making no unnecessary exactions. By this course, I am confident that I have won the confidence and esteem of all the respectable and worthy men in the company. I care nothing for the opinions of the rest. Since my election, the company has been in five battles, and in all of them, have lost but one man killed and seven wounded. This will in the estimation of any military man speak will for the selections of positions and management of my men on the field, especially so when it is remembered that in these several engagements we have been in the thickest of the fight. No official report has ever been published of these battles. Reports of them all have doubtless been furnished the War Department. In Gen. Taliaferro's reports, I have always been mentioned in terms of praise, and so has the conduct of my men. I read these reports from the original manuscript. Gen. Jackson makes out his reports from those of his brigadiers.

Whilst Shumaker was in command of the company it was in but one general engagement. He was not present at the skirmish at Carrock's Ford, whilst I have never been absent from my battery, even during a picket skirmish. After the fight at Greenbrier River he managed to get himself in several newspapers and made some few people think he was something great. General Jackson objects to any newspaper accounts being given of his battles, because it would relate his force and strength, which he has always strictly endeavored to keep concealed from the enemy.

A few days ago an order was published to commanders of regiments and batteries to have inscribed on their colors the names of all the battlefields on which these regiments and batteries have been engaged. If the order is actually carried out, mine will have inscribed upon it Greenbrier River, Bolivar Heights, Port Republic 8th June, Port Republic 9th June, White Oak Swamp and Malvern Hill. This list says nothing of the partial engagements at Laurel Hill, Carrocks Ford and Capon Bridge, and the numberless other skirmishes we have been in. Had I employed a newspaper correspondent, I might have possessed a more considerable reputation by this time. But few officers are in more than half a dozen battles in a lifetime. I have been in eight bloody one, sometimes going in when my battery was not needed.

Give my love to all the family. Write to me soon.

Yours affectionately
George W. Wooding
 
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