Swett's Company Mississippi Light Artillery (Warren Light Artillery)

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Retired Moderator
Jul 12, 2015

Unit History
Organized on May 1, 1861.
Mustered into Confederate service in August 1861.
It was armed with four 6-lb. Smoothbores and two 12-lb. Howitzers on April 6-7, 1862.
It was armed with three 12-lb. Napoleans on March 29-April 1, 1864.
Surrenderded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station, North Carolina on April 26, 1865.

Battery was organized on May 1, 1861 in Warren County; in service August 9, 1861.
Captain -- Charles Swett.
First Lieutenants -- James M. Oslin, Harvey Shannon.
Junior First Lieutenant -- Harvey Shannon.
Second Lieutenants -- Thomas Havern, Joseph Ashton, H.N. Steele, F. M. Williams.

Total, of Warren County, 116 men; county enrollment, 1863.

October 23, 1861, Maj. Gen. William Hardee reported that his command at Cave City, Kentucky, was four regiments infantry, three battalions cavalry. and one section of artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Oslin. One of Hardee's regiments was commanded by Col. T, C. Hindman. He was General in connmand of the Arkansas Brigade at Bell's Station in December, and reported Swett's Battery in action near Woodsonville, Decenther 17.
The company continued in his command after the retreat to Tennessee and fought at Shiloh April 6-7 in the division which was under his command after General Hardee was wounded, and after Hindman was disabled they were under Gen. A. P. Stewart. The official reports indicate that the service of the battery was of the most important character, and dangerous.
At one moment they were saved from a destructive fire by a charge made by Hindman's Brigade, which resulted in the capture of the camp of Peabody's Federal Brigade. Swett's Battery was among those massed to defeat the reinforcement of General Prentiss, causing the surrender of that General and a large part of his division.

The battery was on duty during the siege of Corinth in May 1862, and the battle of Farmington. Attached to Hardee's wing of the army in the Kentucky campaign, and participated in the battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862.

Under the command of Lt. Harvey Shannon, with Liddell's Arkansas Brigade of Cleburne's Division, Hardee's Corps, participated in the battle of Murfreesboro, beginning at dawn on December 31, 1862. In Cleburne's resistless chargc, two rifled cannon and ammunition were captured, which Shannon added to his battery and used at subsequent periods of the battle. General Liddell reported: "The battery under command of Lieutenant Shannon was of infinite service to me throughout the action, the men behaving with the greatest bravery, having the battery always ready, and, oftentimes, at the right place at the right time without receiving or awaiting orders, for which I am indebted to the good judgment and coolness of Lieutenant Shannon."
Col. Kelly, of the 8th Arkansas, reported that he was saved from a flank attack by "the timely arrival of Swett's battery." The guns taken, after the battery had been silenced by Shannon, were a brass 6lb. rifle and a 10lb. Parrott gun, and as one of Shannon's howitzers was disabled, the rifle gun was at once substituted. In this fight, Corporal Martin Green was killed, Sergeant John McMullen and Charles MeDermitt, Peter Hogan, Frank Bonengal and E.H. Duggar, wounded.
In the battle that followed, the battery was in action near the Federal hospitals, commanded the Nashville pike, driving the Federal trains from the road. On January 1, the battery was in action against the Federal cavalry on Overall's Creek. Thev fought over about four miles of ground, took 14 different positions, and fired 153 rounds to the piece, making a total of 612 rounds. Sergt. William P. McDonald commanded one section and rendered valuable service. Lt. Thomas Havern had his horse killed under him by a cannon shot. Several men in all were wounded and 11 horses killed and disabled.

At Liberty Gap, between June 24-26, the battery fired 136 rounds, the section under Lt. W. P. McDonald, including the Napolean gun, first meeting the Federal attack, supported soon by Shannon and Swett with the other sections. After this engagement the retreat of Bragg’s army to Chattanooga was begun.

In defense of Rocky Face Mt., Georgia on February 25, 1864, and at some loss compelled withdrawal of a rifle battery, about one mile distance.

In the Chickamauga Campaign, the battery, Shannon commanding, two 12lb. Napoleons and two 6lb. rifles, served under Capt. Charles Swett, acting Chief of Artillery for Liddell's Division, which included Walthall's Brigade. They were in action on September 18 with Federal batteries at Alexander's Bridge on Chickamauga Creek, and that evening crossed the creek with Walthall's Brigade at Byram's Ford. In the dense woods Shannon could not do much but take a position from which he checked pursuit of the brigade when it was outflanked and driven back.
Later, taking another position while Cleburne advanced, Shannon shelled the Federal rear for half an hour, and brought off the field some captured artillery and ammunition. September 20 they fought on the northern extremity of Bragg's line, supporting Breckenridge, taking position in an orchard near McDonald's house. When Shannon opened upon the one battery visible he was answered by that and four others that had been masked, and he retired "as expeditiously as possible."
In this movement, the Federal skirmishers caused the upsetting of one of the guns and captured Lt. W. P. McDonald, who was mortally wounded, and several other wounded men, also Corporal Joseph Ashton, who, however, made his escape when part of the Arkansas Brigade came to their help and rescued the gun and the wounded.
Col. Govan, commanding this brigade, reported that Shannon handled his battery with distinguished skill and gallantry and most effectively. The casualties were 2 killed and 2 wounded. Shannon and Cpl. Warren Huffman were mentioned in the Roll of Honor.

After Chickamauga, the battery was included with Key's Helena Battery and Semple's Alabama Battery in Hotchkiss' Battalion, the artillery of Cleburne's Division. Major T. R. Hotchkiss, commanding the battalion, entered the service in July 1861, from Mississippi, as a private of artillery.

In his telegrams to Edward Stanton, United States Secretary of War, during the battle of Missionary Ridge, on November 25, 1863, Charles A. Dana said of the fight on the extreme north of the line: "Sherman undertook to take by storm a battery which the rebels obstinately maintained upon the hill above the tunnel. I saw the column sent up for this purpose twice repulsed, falling back the first time in disorder." General Cleburne, who defeated Sherman on this field, said in his report: "On the top of Tunnel Hill a space was left clear of infantry, and Swett's battery of four Napoleon guns, commanded by Lieut. Harvey Shannon, was posted on it so as to sweep north," in the direction of the ridge that Sherman occupied.
When the serious fight of the day began about 11:00 A.M., a heavy charge was made on Swett's Battery at the apex of the hill. "The artillerymen stood bravely by their guns under a terrible crossfire, and replied with canister at short range, but still the enemy advanced." When within fifty paces of the guns a charge by Smith's Texans drove back the Federal line, though Smith and Mills fell wounded. A second assault was made, which Lowrey's Mississippians aided the battery in repelling. "In these attacks Lieutenant Shannon, commanding Swett's Battery, was wounded. The command devolved on Lieut. Joseph Ashton; in a few minutes he was mortally wounded. The command then fell on Corporal F. M. Williams. So many non-commissioned officers and men had been killed and disabled in the battery that Colonel Granbury was forced to make a detail from the infantry to work the guns." (Cleburne).
A lull coming in the battle, two of the guns were sent to take the place of others found inefficient, and Lieutenant Key with his battery came up and took command on Tunnel Hill, after which another attack was repulsed. Swett's Battery was bravely fought, said Cleburne in conclusion, "was hotly engaged all day and lost some noble officers and men."

December 1863, near Dalton, Georgia, four Napoleon guns, 107 men, Swett commanding. When Sherman advanced from Chattanooga, the battery served in defense of Rocky Face Ridge on February 25, 1864, and at some loss compelled the withdrawal of a battery about one mile distant.

Up to 1864, the losses in killed had been 5 men at Shiloh, 2 men at Farmington, 2 men at Perryville, 1 man at Murfreesboro, 1 Lieutenant and 4 men at Chickamauga, 1 Lieutenant and 6 men at Tunnel Hill. Horses killed in the same battles numbered 33.

In the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, at the battle of Resaca, May 14-15, Swett's Battery was one of those planted on the commanding hill, with Walthall's and Tucker's Brigades in support, forming a memorable feature of the conflict. General Walthall, in his report, gave "special commendation to Lieut. Harvey Shannon, the efficient officer commanding Swett's Battery, for his repeated acts of signal gallantry."

A newspaper account up to July 4 says: "The company threw up fourteen different breastworks from Dalton to the Chattahoochee and fought twenty days, firing 1,708 rounds of canister. At Resaca they wounded Brigadier-General Willich and killed or wounded three of his staff with one charge of canister. At Rocky Ridge a prominent gun was disabled by this battery, at New Hope good work was done and at Kenesaw Mountain four guns were disabled and an ammunition chest blown up."
Casualties: Killed, at Resaca 2, at Rocky Ridge 1, at Kenesaw 1; wounded, at Resaca 12, at Calhoun 1, at New Hope 2, at Gilgal Church 4, at Kenesaw 8. Lieutenant Shannon is counted twice, with slight wounds, and Lieut. H. N. Steele was also slightly wounded. The killed were Sergeants William Fowler and W. Huffman, Privates C. C. Smith, F. B. Culbertson; P. Hogan mortally wounded.

Under Lt. Gen. John B. Hood, Swett was Inspector General of Artillery, Army of Tennessee.

On July 21, near Atlanta, Lt. Shannon was severely wounded, Lt. Williams slightly, Cpl. Eckles and M. Kirmin and J. C. Mitchell killed, and 5 wounded. On August 18, W. F. Johnson killed. August 20 and 25, 5 men were wounded. At the battle of Jonesboro, on September 1, the men stood by their guns until the Sixteenth Illinois made a bayonet charge through the battery, capturing the colors and 16 of the men, including Lieut. F. M. Williams, who was severely wounded. Five of the company were killed, 14 wounded. Two of the guns were turned against the Confederate line; but they were not the only ones lost that day. This was the end of the campaign that began at Dalton. The company casualties had been 10 killed, 40 wounded.

The remnant of the company was left at Macon, Georgia, when Hood moved on his last campaign, and it served in the campaign of the Carolinas with the army of General Johnston, Lt. Harvey Shannon commanding. Swett continued on the staff o[ General Hood as Inspector-General of Artillery, through the Tennessee Campaign.

The gallantry of Mississippi soldiers enlisted in the Army of Tennessee was not surpassed by those of any other army in the service of the Confederate States. At Shiloh, Franklin, Chickamauga. Atlanta and Vicksburg they displayed the same heroic qualities that marked the serrvice of their brothers in the Army of Northern Virginia. The men under Johnston, Bragg and Hood sustained the cause of the Confederacy with the same steadfast devotion that characterized the soldiers of Lee, Jackson and Longstreet.
The Army of Tennessee developed such Mississippi commanders as E. C. Walthall, Earl VanDorn, James R. Chalmers and M. P. Lowrey, who were gallant leaders on every hard-fought field from Shiloh to Bentonville.


Retired Moderator
Nov 20, 2012

Postwar photo of Major Charles Swett.

A Brief Narrative of Warren Light Artillery by Swett can be read here:


Retired Moderator
Nov 20, 2012

Hardee flag issued to the battery in early 1864 and captured at Jonesboro by the 16th Illinois. Today it is on display at the Old Courthouse Museum in Vicksburg.

From the Confederate Veteran, Vol. 12:

Reading about Swett's Battery in the November VETERAN reminds me of another incident in which this battery was conspicuous. The fight at Jonesboro was on, or about, August 1 [actually August 31 - September 1]. Hardee's Corps had marched all night, and reached Jonesboro about daylight. Our battery consisted of two twelve-pound Napoleons and two twelve-pound Parrotts. Capt. Shannon had been wounded on the 21st of July in the fighting around Atlanta, and was not with us at Jonesboro, and Henry Steele was in command, with Lieut. F. M. Williams in charge of the second section. On reaching Jonesboro we were ordered to unlimber and feed. We rested until about ten o'clock, when we were ordered out to meet Kilpatrick's Cavalry, which we did, driving them back and capturing two pieces of artillery. About noon we were again permitted to rest, but not allowed to unharness the horses. Being worn out from marching all the night previous and the morning fighting, many of the boys were soon sound asleep under and around guns, but about two o'clock we were roused up and ordered out to meet Sherman's army.​
It was a grand and fearful sight to see that great army coming like a monster wave to ingulf us. They were several lines deep in our immediate front in an open field. Breckenridge was on our right [Gen. Breckenridge wasn't there, but Erwin was talking about his Kentucky Orphan Brigade, positioned to their right], and no men ever put up a more gallant fight than did those Kentucky boys that day at Jonesboro. Govan, with his game little Arkansas Brigade, was supporting us, but courage and heroism availed nothing against such overwhelming odds. We poured grape and canister into them, cutting great gaps in their lines; but they closed them up with fresh men, and came on to the very muzzles of our guns. Then the order was given to cease firing. Lieut. Williams repeated the order, and started to the rear, but looking back saw that G. G. Pegram, gunner of the fourth piece, had not heard the order, and was still working his gun. He went back to stop him, when he was mortally wounded, and died in the hands of the enemy. That night our forces fell back to Lovejoy Station.​
A day or two afterwards, the enemy having fallen back to Atlanta, Jo Craig and I, with three other comrades whose names I have forgotten, went over the battlefield of Jonesboro and found a grave marked with the name of “Lieut. F. M. Williams, C. S. A.” We procured a coffin, dug up his poor body, placed it in the coffin, and reinterred it in the same grave. No better or braver soldier ever died for the cause we all loved. He was my messmate and sleeping companion for three years of the war. He was a Christian soldier and gentleman, whose example induced many of the boys to lead better lives; always ready to do and, if necessary, to die in the discharge of his duty, as shown in that last act of his life by going back into the fire of battle to enforce an order issued by his superior.​
If there are any members of the old battery living, I should be glad to hear from them.​
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