This account was written by Lt. Pardon S. Jastrom, who witnessed the stand by Captain Albert Monroe's Battery D, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery at Second Manassas.
Captain J. Albert Monroe
Captain J. Albert Monroe
Our advanced line of infantry, occupying a sunken road in front of the artillery, broke and rushed pell mell through the intervals between the guns and limbers; and the second line just behind the limbers of the batteries, joined them in their mad race to the rear, and down the hill. Double canister went from the well served guns, and great gaps appeared in the hotly charging line; but it was only for a few seconds, for in that brief space of time they were in among the gun and gunners, the latter seeking safety in precipitate retreat; there was nothing else to do except remain and become prisoners. The guns were silent; they could hardly be seen on account of the great number of the enemy in among them. The drivers hastily mounted the horses of the limbers, and making a short "left about," hurried away with the fleeing cannonieers.
Not so, however, the limbers of one battery; like lightning they dashed forward towards their pieces, and almost in the twinkling of an eye, they emerged from the confusion in an unbroken line with a light twelve pounder attached to every one of them, the captain of the company proudly riding before, wildly waving his sword!
It was a bold movement, and evidently not one that the enemy had not anticipated, and so quickly had it been executed, he did not have time to realize it until the guns were beyond his reach. Except the men with these guns, not a Union soldier or Union commander of any kind save in hasty retreat, could be found on that, the south side of the Warrenton Pike, while the rebel lines continued to increase in extent, and to advance as rapidly as formations could be made.
Our interest was centered in the battery, now all alone, entirely without support, and all expected to see it gallop to the rear and join the general stampede. To our infinite surprise, after advancing two hundred or three hundred yards to the rear, the captain again went into battery, as if, single-handed, to defy the whole center of the rebel army The assurance of the battery commander, his effrontery and impudence were as much of a surprise to the rebels apparently as to us, and they seemed to be staggered for a few minutes, as if in doubt whether or not our lines had reformed and were about to advance again. Their doubts were soon dispersed, and then they charged with such a dashing, impetuous rush that, apparently, the battery could by no possibility escape. Again the horses and limbers plunged wildly forward and it seemed as if the pintle-hooks of the limbers actually shot into the lunettes of the trails of the gun carriages. Before the charging line reached the ground that the guns stood upon and fired from, the battery was moving away at a sharp trot!
It looked as if the battery captain was playing and trifling with the enemy, for when he reached the crest of the hill leading down into the valley he went into battery again to pay a parting compliment to the Johnnies, but he failed to surprise them for a third time and they resumed their formation for a charge. The captain saw his danger, and without firing a shot he limbered to the rear and coolly moved down the hill, where he was lost to our sight.
Several of us were light artillery officers, and we knew from our own experience on the drill ground and under fire, what skill must have been exercised by a battery commander in training his men and horses to enable him to handle his battery like a plaything in the face of overwhelming numbers of the enemy, and to take what would have been enormous and unpardonable risks with a command not almost absolutely perfect in drill and discipline.
Source: Battery D, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery