Notes on the Composition of Some Confederate First Corps Artillery Batteries at Gettysburg

Tom Elmore

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During the Gettysburg campaign, the type and number of cannon assigned to individual Confederate artillery batteries was not nearly as static as we may believe. The findings below show that changes within batteries occurred with some frequency prior to, during and after the battle itself. The origin of some pieces is also described.

For instance, according to the bronze plaque on the battlefield, Major James Dearing’s battalion of four batteries consisted of twelve 10-pounder Napoleons, one 3-inch Rifle, three 10-pounder Parrotts and two 20-pounder Parrotts. However, Dearing also brought a single 12-pounder Howitzer to the field, because he turned it over to Colonel E. P. Alexander during the battle, in exchange for one of the latter’s 20-pounder Parrotts. Dearing had listed a sole Howitzer on his May 30, 1863 inventory, which may be the same piece he took to Gettysburg. What battery it was assigned to is not known. (Official Report of James Dearing; Article by Robert H. Moore II, America’s Civil War, January 2000, p. 12)

Captain Robert M. Stribling’s battery (Dearing’s battalion) is shown as having four 12-pounder Napoleons and two 20-pounder Parrotts. As noted, Col. Alexander was unable to man one of his 20-pounder Parrotts and offered it to Maj. Dearing, who accepted. Dearing still retained this Parrott as of August 16, 1863. Presumably it wound up in Stribling’s battery, but it’s unclear whether the acquisition gave Stribling a third 20-pounder Parrott, or just completed his section (with two). Adding to the mystery, Stribling later wrote that his battery was outfitted on May 16, 1863 with six “Richmond-made” (Tredegar Iron Works) Napoleons, which “went with Pickett’s Division to Gettysburg.” Oddly, he did not mention any Parrotts, nor of having to relinquish two of his new Napoleons. Coincidentally, two 20-pounder Parrotts were captured from Union General Robert Milroy at Winchester in mid-June, which may explain how Stribling wound up with one or two of them, although when he actually received them is a lingering question. (Official Report of James Dearing; The Brooke, Fauquier, Loudoun and Alexandria Artillery, by Michael J. Andrus, The Virginia Regimental Histories Series, Lynchburg, VA: H. E. Howard, 1990; The Years of Anguish, from Markham to Appomattox with the Fauquier Artillery, by Robert M. Stribling; Diary or Memorandum of the Loudoun Artillery During the Years 1861-1862-1863, Coco Collection, Gettysburg National Military Park)

Second Lieutenant Stephen C. Gilbert, four 12-pounder Howitzers (Alexander’s battalion). On July 2 this battery dueled unsuccessfully with Captain Nelson Ames’ Battery G, 1st New York posted in the Peach Orchard. One Howitzer was dismounted by a carefully aimed solid shot, with two more damaged before the battery called it quits. All three officers and over half the enlisted men became casualties – an extraordinary beating for an artillery battery. On July 4, Maj. Dearing found two 12-pounder Howitzers belonging to Col. Alexander’s battalion behind the lines – one of them dismounted, and sent them to the rear. They must have belonged to Gilbert’s battery, which had the only Howitzers in the battalion. Dearing thought (correctly it seems) that the second piece was the same one he had traded to Alexander. If so, there were likely not enough men left to work it. (https://civilwartalk.com/threads/artillery-duel-at-the-peach-orchard-–-gilbert-versus-ames-on-july-2.175283/#post-2285522; Official Report of James Dearing)

Captain Pichegru Woolfolk’s battery, two 12-pounder Napoleons, two 20-pounder Parrotts (Alexander’s battalion). As noted above, according to Dearing, during the battle Alexander offered him a 20-pounder Parrott in exchange for a Howitzer. The heavy Parrott presumably came from Woolfolk’s battery, since he possessed the only such guns in Alexander’s battalion. Therefore we might logically conclude that Woolfolk was left with only one 20-pounder Parrott when he departed the field. However, I can find no mention of this swap in Alexander’s voluminous writings on the battle. Dearing’s howitzer was evidently sent while the battle was in progress, but was delivery of the promised Parrott made after the battle? (Official Report of James Dearing)

Major Benjamin F. Eshleman confirmed his battalion came to the field with eight 12-pounder Napoleons and two 12-pounder Howitzers, but he acquired one captured Federal gun during the battle. (Eshleman’s Official Report)

Captain John B. Richardson’s battery (Eshleman’s battalion) arrived on the field with two Napoleons and one Howitzer. On the morning of July 3, an abandoned 3-inch Rifle was observed between the opposing skirmish lines. It had been left there the previous evening by Captain Thomson’s consolidated Pennsylvania Batteries C and F. Brought stealthily off the field along with 50 rounds of ammunition, it augmented Richardson’s battery, and during the July 3 cannonade was used against its former owners, although they achieved a measure of revenge by disabling the axle with a solid shot. However, Richardson soon remounted his new Rifle on the carriage of his Howitzer, the latter tube being placed in a wagon. The Rifle saw additional action against Federal cavalry on July 6. (Eshleman’s Official Report)

Captain Joseph Norcom’s battery (Eshleman’s battalion) had but one Howitzer and two Napoleons. Both Napoleons were put out of action on July 3, one with a broken axle and the other being struck on the muzzle, which prevented it from being loaded. (Eshleman’s Official Report)

Captain Charles W. Squires’ battery (Eshleman’s battalion) entered the campaign with only one 12-pounder Napoleon. Squires rode over to Winchester, probably on June 19, to see if he could secure any of the two dozen or so fine guns that he learned were recently captured by General Ewell’s forces, but he was disappointed to find them already distributed. On the retreat Squires “appropriated” an abandoned Napoleon (maybe a tube being carried in a wagon). The original owner is unidentified – it might even have been one of Norcom’s guns. (Account of Charles W. Squires, Library of Congress)

Major Mathis W. Henry’s battalion began the battle with one 6-pounder bronze gun, eleven Napoleons, four 3-inch Rifles and one 12-pounder Howitzer, as the battlefield plaque informs us, placed in four batteries. He acquired three captured 10-pounder Parrotts during the battle as we shall see. Major John C. Haskell assisted Henry on July 3 in leading part of the battalion. (The Haskell Memoirs, John Cheves Haskell, ed. by Gilbert E. Govan, NY: G. B. Putnam’s Sons, 1960)

Captain Alexander C. Latham’s battery (Henry’s battalion) initially had the one bronze gun, the one Howitzer and three Napoleons. The 6-pounder bronze gun was disabled on July 2, but not before sending solid shot into the Devil’s Den and Wheatfield area. The 12-pounder Howitzer was likewise disabled on July 2. However, replacement pieces were soon secured. After dark, Confederate infantry quietly removed three 10-pounder Parrotts captured at Devil’s Den from Federal Captain James E. Smith’s 4th New York Battery. Latham received two of these pieces, leaving him better armed than before the fight. (Battlefield plaque; North and South Trader’s Civil War; Gettysburg Battlefield Relics and Souvenirs)

Captain James Reilly’s battery (Henry’s battalion) began the fight with two Napoleons, two 10-pounder Parrotts and two 3-inch Rifles. One of the latter, a Confederate-made cast iron Rifle, burst prior to the infantry advance on the late afternoon of July 2, giving Private Moses G. Brady a minor contusion. The shattered tube was abandoned, but it was replaced the next day by the third Parrott from Smith’s New York Battery. Another gun that had its axle broken was repaired and returned to the front on July 3. (From Huntsville to Appomattox, R. T. Cole’s History of the 4th Regiment Alabama Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., ed. by Jeffrey D. Stocker, 1996; burst Rifle on display at Gettysburg National Military Park; Salisbury Watchman, August 3, 1863)

Captain Hugh R. Garden’s battery (Henry’s battalion) contained two 12-pounder Napoleons and two 10-pounder Parrotts. The two Napoleons were probably among the six taken from Colonel Dixon S. Miles at Harper’s Ferry in September 1862 during the Sharpsburg/Antietam campaign. It was recorded that the battery used these Napoleons in all subsequent engagements. (Confederate Military History, Extended Addition, vol. III (West Virginia), pp. 384-387)

Captain John C. Fraser’s battery (Cabell’s battalion), with two 3-inch Rifles and two 10-pounder Parrotts, was so roughly handled on July 2 that the following day Colonel Henry C. Cabell placed the two Rifles in Captain Basil C. Manly’s battery, under Manly's direction. (Cabell’s Official Report; https://civilwartalk.com/threads/robert-h-couper-and-fraser’s-georgia-battery.161812/#post-2121426)

Captain James F. Hart’s battery of three 3-inch Blakely guns actually belonged to J. E. B. Stuart’s Horse Artillery, but operated with Longstreet’s forces during and after the battle because it had entered the campaign in a disabled condition. On June 24, Hart employed the railroad shops in Martinsburg to rebuild his battery and remount his guns. On July 2 and 3, it operated on the far right flank of the army, and on the retreat was put under Maj. Eshleman’s control to protect the wagon train near Williamsport against Federal cavalry attacks. (Louis Sherfesee Papers, South Caroliniana Library, Colombia; Eshleman’s Official Report)
 
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Ole Miss

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Excellent thread and very informative! The Confederacy improved the quality of their aertillery as the ACW progressed.
@CivilWarTalk posted a thread regarding the sizes and numbers of artillery that was used at Shiloh, 15 months earlier, that allows one to see the change in the quality of artillery. These tables show the disparity between the Confederates and Federals inventories!

I would be interested in the thoughts of @redbob and @ucvrelics as they are very knowledgeable about artillery and shells!
Regard
David

 

ucvrelics

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Fantastic tread and research. One has to remember that they capturing a gun is one thing and the ammo is another. You basically had to get them both.
 

Belfoured

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Fantastic tread and research. One has to remember that they capturing a gun is one thing and the ammo is another. You basically had to get them both.
Good point. The other issue is that adding one or two captured pieces could only complicate a battery commander's tactical decisions depending on whether he was substituting different calibers and types for what he started with.
 

Ole Miss

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All this proves is that Professional Soldiers study Logistics and amatuers study Tactics! It matters not how well planned and executed your attack/defense it matters not without the needed ammunition!
Regards
David
 

redbob

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Immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, The ANV's artillery inventory showed that it had 12 20# Parrotts, 39 10# Parrotts (either 2.9 or 3" calibers), 64 3" Rifles, 2 Whitworth Rifles, 98 light 12#ers, 5 24# Howitzers and 21 12# howitzers. On the Union side, at the Battle of 1st Bull Run, they had eight different types of artillery- 4 types of smoothbore and 4 rifled guns. By 1864, this had dwindled to five types-one smoothbore and four rifled and two of these were heavy siege types. On Sherman's March to the Sea, he carried three types-one smoothbore and two rifled. While efforts persisted to standardize artillery types, often units that were further from the action utilized obsolete or sub-standard guns; causing untold headaches to logistics personnel.:cannon: It should also be noted that the ANV's artillery inventory had been greatly improved by the capture of a number of guns at Chancellorsville and other battles.
 

ucvrelics

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On the small arms side of this, Gen Wilson would not leave his winter camps in North Alabama until all his cav troopers had Spencer. He even had to leave 2 brigades behind for lack of them.
 

Belfoured

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Immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, The ANV's artillery inventory showed that it had 12 20# Parrotts, 39 10# Parrotts (either 2.9 or 3" calibers), 64 3" Rifles, 2 Whitworth Rifles, 98 light 12#ers, 5 24# Howitzers and 21 12# howitzers. On the Union side, at the Battle of 1st Bull Run, they had eight different types of artillery- 4 types of smoothbore and 4 rifled guns. By 1864, this had dwindled to five types-one smoothbore and four rifled and two of these were heavy siege types. On Sherman's March to the Sea, he carried three types-one smoothbore and two rifled. While efforts persisted to standardize artillery types, often units that were further from the action utilized obsolete or sub-standard guns; causing untold headaches to logistics personnel.:cannon: It should also be noted that the ANV's artillery inventory had been greatly improved by the capture of a number of guns at Chancellorsville and other battles.
For the Army of the Potomac, standardization/reduction of calibers/types was due in no small part to the strenuous efforts of Brother Hunt. I've always wondered if it ever crossed his mind to go out at night and spike every M1841 12 lb Field Howitzer and 20 lb Parrott the Army had. And even then, twenty years after the war he was still complaining about the 3" caliber of the smaller rifles and the wide variety in their ordnance.
 
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