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History of the Second Massachusetts Battery (Nims' Battery) of Light Artillery, 1861-1865

History of the Second Massachusetts Battery (Nims' Battery) of Light Artillery, 1861-1865
Title: History of the Second Massachusetts Battery (Nims' Battery) of Light Artillery, 1861-1865
Release Date: 2018-12-24
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Footnotes have been collected at the end of the text, and arelinked for ease of reference.

History of the Second Massachusetts Battery (Nims' Battery) of Light Artillery

Portrait of Capt. Nims

Capt. Ormand F. Nims in War Time.





Capt. Ormand F. Nims in War time Frontispiece
Battery Encampment at Stewart's Place, Baltimore, 1861 12
Landing of Federal Troops from Transport, Laurel Hill 38
Second, Fourth, and Sixth Massachusetts Batteries at Baton Rouge 47
Col. Ormand F. Nims 73
Old Nims Homestead at Deerfield, Mass. 79


During the years which have followed the close ofthe Civil War, there have appeared many historiesof various companies, regiments and differentdivisions of the volunteer troops, all of value both to thehistorian and to the participants in the great struggle. Sofar as can be learned, almost nothing has been published ofthe military history of the 2d Massachusetts Light Artillery,better known as Nims' Battery, save a few short sketchesnecessarily incomplete and sometimes inaccurate.

In 1870, at the Anniversary Dinner of the Nims' BatteryAssociation, the matter of "publishing a history of the batteryduring its service throughout the war of the Rebellion,1861-1865," was brought forward and a committee wasappointed to take the necessary steps toward this work.The committee, which consisted of Col. O. F. Nims, J. S.Knowlton, John R. Smith, A. M. Norcross, D. M. Hammondand A. B. Burwell, issued a call to the members of the batteryasking each one to forward to the committee any informationin his possession such as diaries, letters, newspaperclippings or matter of any kind that might aid in the work,and urging the hearty coperation of all "to the end thatthe glorious record made by Nims' Battery—second to noother—may not be suffered to perish in oblivion in our dayand generation, but be handed down to our children andchildren's children for all time."

So far as can be ascertained, nothing further was done inthe matter and the only records to be found are those incorporatedin the general histories of the war or in war records,which are not always easy of access.

At the request and through the generosity of a memberof the Nims' Family Association, the writer has preparedthe following brief account of the military career of Nims'Battery, together with the life of its commander, the history ofthe Battery Association and the complete roster. After a periodof fifty years, it has been impossible to gather together thepersonal reminiscences and to bring before our readers thelife of an artillery man as clearly as we could wish. Wetrust, however, that there will be found in the pages of thisbook a fairly complete and reasonably accurate record ofthe military career of this organization.

At a meeting of the Nims' Battery Association held onApril 19, 1912, the manuscript of the entire history was readto the members present and received their support andcommendation.

The author wishes to express her obligation to all who haveassisted in any way in the preparation of this work, andespecially to W. G. Hidden, Fitchburg, Mass., for the loanof diary, newspaper clippings and suggestions, to Capt. E. K.Russell for his comments and suggestions and to Mrs. Mathews,stepdaughter of Col. O. F. Nims for the loan of papers,letters and pictures once the property of Colonel Nims.Thanks are also due Clarence K. Knowlton for the copy ofthe diary of his father, J. S. Knowlton, to Mrs. C. B. Maxwellfor the diary of C. B. Maxwell, to Mr. George Houghton,Newport, for the diary of his father, George Houghton.

The expense of the preparation and publication of the bookhas been borne to a large degree by Mr. E. D. Nims of KansasCity whose generosity is appreciated both by members of theBattery and by the Nims' Family Association.

The Author.

Books Consulted in Preparation of this Work

War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union andConfederate Armies.

Massachusetts in the Civil War. I. L. Bowen.

History of the Civil War. B. J. Lossing.

Putnam's Record of the Rebellion. Moore.

Century Company's War Book.

The Mississippi. J. V. Greene.

The Nineteenth Army Corps. Irwin.

Regimental and Battery Histories of New Hampshireand Massachusetts.

Battery Camp

Camp of the Massachusetts Second Company Light Artillery, at Stewarts Place, Baltimore


Few batteries during the Civil War saw more actualservice than that known officially as the 2d MassachusettsLight Artillery, but more generally calledNims' Battery. Its career is well worth recording and thepart it played in the campaigns of the Department of theMississippi and the Gulf was by no means inconsiderable inthe history of the war.

Previous to 1861, there existed in Boston a military organizationcalled the Boston Light Artillery or Cook's Battery.When the news came from Baltimore that the Sixth Regimenthad been fired on and the city was in the hands ofrioters, General Butler who was then in Philadelphia, askedthat this organization be sent forward immediately to thescene.

It was midnight of April 19, 1861, when the telegraphbrought the request: before the night of the 20th everythingwas in readiness and in the early morning of the 21stthe first battery from Massachusetts was on its way toBaltimore for a period of three months' service.

It had not left Boston, however, before Governor Andrewsgave orders for the formation of a second battery and designatedMajor Moses Cobb as its commander. Recruitingheadquarters were opened on the 20th of April at the BostonLight Artillery Armory under Major O. F. Nims, and inless than two days two hundred men applied for enlistment."Every member, officers and men, was the greenest ofraw material, but they were an intelligent set of fellows andtook to drilling as a duck to water." Colonel Nims.

Most of the men were from Boston and vicinity.

The first public appearance of the battery was on June17, when a parade was held on Boston Common, and on July4 a detachment fired a salute at morning, noon and nightfrom the same historic spot.

On July 5 the battery was ordered to the camp of instructionat Wollaston Heights, Quincy, on what was known asthe Adams estate, which consequently gave to the camp thename of Camp Adams. Here for a month, the men weredrilled in all the movements from the position of a soldier tobattery drill in the field and also as infantry and cavalry.

Target practise, too, was introduced and for that purposetargets were placed at several points with reference to distanceand correctness in shooting. These afforded an excellentopportunity for the men to become familiar with theirguns.

On the 31st of July, the command was mustered into theUnited States service under the name of the 2d MassachusettsLight Artillery, and from the same date the officerswere commissioned. This was the first three years' batteryfrom the state of Massachusetts.

It was supposed that Major Cobb would take the batteryinto service, but he left the state abruptly and GovernorAndrews sent Adjutant General Schouler down to camp toask Major O. F. Nims, an experienced officer, to take commandand get to Washington as soon as possible.

Nims replied: "I will accept a commission whenever it istendered me but I will not ask for one." It was then suggestedthat the company be called on to elect a captain, butthis did not meet with Major Nims' approval as he hadmade up his mind not to owe his position to the men underhim. "No," said he, "make me an officer if you will andthen ask them what they think of it." He was thereforegiven the rank of captain, the men were lined up and informedof what had been done. A wild shout of approval was theirreply, the men throwing their caps in the air as a furtherdemonstration of their satisfaction.

The roster of commissioned officers then was as follows:

Captain, Ormand F. Nims.

Senior 1st Lieut., John W. Wolcott.

Junior 1st Lieut., John Bigelow.

Senior 2d Lieut., Geo. G. Trull.

Junior 2d Lieut., Richard B. Hall.


1st Sergeant, Lowell A. Chamberlain.

Quarter Master Sergeant, Alden N. Norcross.

Chief of Piece with rank of Sergeant, Frank J. Whitcher,Warren K. Snow, Augustus B. Burwell, Henry P. Cheever,Orlando C. Harvey, Edward K. Russell.

Gunners with rank of Corporal, Joseph S. Knowlton,Francis E. Howe, Joseph Ackerman, Wm. W. Jordan, ConverseF. Livermore, Joseph W. Greenleaf.

Chief of Caisson with rank of Corporal, Henry M. Wadsworth,Frederick A. Bellows, Edwin A. Andrews, Chas. F.Sherman, Lucian A. Hodgdon, S. S. Lincoln.

Artificers, C. W. Cobb, H. E. Brown, Seth H. Hatch,Peter Jacobus, Joseph S. Haven, Reuben B. H. Gould.

An old artillery officer for many years in the English servicevisited the camp frequently and said that he never saw bettermaterial than the men in Nims' Battery. "They have,"said he, "intelligence and will, and a very few months ofactive service will find them in the front rank of merit intheir class." Boston Journal, August 8, 1861.

Preparations were made to break camp August 7, but owingto an accident which befell the machinery of the steamerwhich was to convey the battery to New York it was necessaryto wait until the following day. A quotation from aBoston paper dated August 8, 1861, is as follows:

"The Light Artillery Company commanded by Capt.O. F. Nims, after some delay as to their departure, left thiscity this morning, shortly after one o'clock, on the ProvidenceRailroad, for New York and Washington, via Stonington.They were paid off yesterday afternoon for their time ofservice up to departure. For two days the scene at the campat Quincy was lively indeed, the men being actively engagedin packing and preparing for departure. They left theold quarters at shortly after 7 o'clock last evening andmarched over the turnpike to this city, arriving at the ProvidenceRailroad Station at a few minutes past 10 o'clock.At the depot were a considerable number of people who hadbeen waiting for several hours for the arrival of the company.

"As soon as the battery arrived at the station, the work ofloading the gun carriages, wagons, horses, etc., was activelybegun, each of the company lending a hand, and the workwas accomplished in about two

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