Battery D First Rhode Island Light Artillery in the Civil War
First Rhode Island Light Artillery,
THE CIVIL WAR,
Dr. GEORGE C. SUMNER,
A MEMBER OF THE BATTERY.
Rhode Island Printing Company, Providence.
1 John S. Gorton.2 John Rathbone.3 John Brod.4 Joseph W. Corey.5 Charles Gallagher.6 Charles E. May.7 Ezra K. Parker.8 Charles W. Cornell.9 John J. Busby.10 Samuel Jenkins.11 William H. Fisk.12 Stephen Ballou.13 James S. Hayward.14 John J. Hopkins.15 William Stalker.16 Willett A. Johnson.17 Daniel W. Elliott.18 Lyman Nicholas.19 James Tanner.20 Joseph F. Means.21 Henry W. Smith.22 Jeremiah D. Hopkins.23 Frank M. Tucker.24 John McKenna.25 Erich P. Botter.26 George Rathbone.27 Clark Walker.28 Halsey A. Aldrich.29 Rice A. Wickes.30 George C. Sumner.31 Otis G. Handy.32 Isaac D. Russell.33 Joseph B. French.34 Charles C. Gray.35 George N. Hawkins.36 Joseph B. Kenyon.37 Edwin R. Knight.38 Moses Budlong.39 Capt. J. Albert Monroe.40 George E. Arnold.41 Olney Arnold.42 Henry C. Whitaker.43 Charles E. Bonn.44 Gideon Spencer.45 Christopher H. Carpenter.
At a meeting of Battery D Association, held at Roger Williams Park,June 6th, 1891, the following resolution was unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That George C. Sumner is hereby appointed Historianof the Association, and earnestly requested to write and publish aHistory of Battery D, First Rhode Island Light Artillery.
Comrade Sumner accepted the position, and at once commenced to lookup material for the work. He soon found that he had quite a task toperform. At the battle of Cedar Creek, late in the war, all the booksand papers of the battery were captured by the enemy, it thus becamerather a tedious undertaking to hunt up facts and dates. ArtificerClark Walker and Corporal Knight had diaries of some parts of theirservice, which was about all the material on hand to start with.
The Adjutant General's Office furnished considerable information. TheRoster of the Battery was taken entirely from that office. The "WarRecords" was another source from which facts and dates were collected.
Comrade Sumner took a great deal of interest in this history and had alarge part of it written when he was "called away to join his comradeswho had gone before." The death of our comrade made it necessary forsome one to take up the work. It was impossible to fill his place, andwhen the writer agreed to take up the history and complete it, it waswith a great deal of hesitation, knowing his inability to carry onthe work, and not having time to devote to the proper carrying out ofComrade Sumner's ideas.
Comrade Sumner had a great many marginal notes attached to hismanuscript which he was familiar with, but to another person they werenot very plain. Without doubt he intended to add considerable to hismanuscript, but on taking up the work I found it almost impossibleto follow out what he had evidently intended to do, and came to theconclusion that it was best to publish it as he left it. I hope thecomrades of the Battery and whoever else that reads this work, willremember that the author was called away before he had time to evenrevise his original manuscript.
Your obedient servant,
A Comrade of the Battery.
|Organization—Camp Sprague, Washington, D.C.—Winter Quartersat Munson's Hill, Va.||1|
|Campaign to Centreville—Falmouth—Fredericksburg—ThoroughfareGap—Rapidan River||6|
|Rappahannock Station—Groveton—Bull Run (or Manassas)||13|
|South Mountain and Antietam||28|
|Fredericksburg—Bell's Landing—Hampton—and Trip to theWest||40|
|The Campaign in East Tennessee||62|
|The Siege of Knoxville, Tennessee||98|
|Battles of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania—The Campaign inthe Shenandoah Valley||125|
|Enlisted Men Commissioned||181|
|Temporarily Attached Men||182|
Organization—Camp Sprague, Washington, D.C.—Winter Quarters atMunson's Hill, Va.
At the commencement of the Civil War, in April, 1861, there was in thecity of Providence, among other excellent military organizations, oneof light artillery, known as the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery,which for years had been interesting and instructing the young men ofthe city and vicinity in the manœuvres of this branch of militaryservice. A natural sequence of the presence of this company was to drawattention to this arm, and led Gov. Sprague to offer the governmenta fully equipped light battery, in addition to the First Regiment ofInfantry. The offer being accepted, a battery was speedily organizedfor three months service, and on the 18th of April, six days afterthe firing upon Fort Sumter, it left Providence, fully equipped, forWashington. When it became evident that more troops and a longer termof service would be needed, Gov. Sprague at once began the organizationof a regiment of light artillery. The second battery (or A, inregimental orders) was mustered into service June 6th, 1861, for threeyears or the war, and left home for Washington June 19th. After which,at intervals of less than a month,[Pg 2] a battery left Providence for theseat of war, until eight had been sent, which completed the FirstRegiment Rhode Island Light Artillery.
Battery D was the fifth in number, but fourth in the regimentalformation, that was recruited, its organization commencing immediatelyupon the mustering of Battery C (Aug. 25th). Its quota was filledperhaps the most rapidly of any of the batteries, for by the 2d ofSept. it had its complement of men, and was sent to Camp Ames, on theWarwick road, just beyond Pawtuxet, where, on the 4th of Sept., it wasmustered into the service of the United States.
On Sept. 10th, the battery moved to Camp Greene, near the StoningtonRailroad. While in this camp the men were uniformed, divided into gundetachments, and drilled in the manual of the piece, marching, etc.
On the 13th the battery left Camp Greene on the steamboat train forStonington, under command of First Lieut. Geo. C. Harkness, the otherofficers being First Lieut. Henry R. Gladding, Second Lieuts. StephenW. Fisk, and Ezra K. Parker. From Stonington it proceeded by boat toElizabeth City, N.J., from which place it continued on by cars toWashington via Harrisburg, reaching its destination shortly after noonon the 15th, and marched immediately to Camp Sprague, where Capt. J.Albert Monroe, who had just been promoted from First Lieutenant toCaptain, and transferred from Battery A to Battery D, took command.
The personnel of the company was particularly well adapted for theespecially active work appertaining to the successful manœuveringof light artillery. Its members were young; scarcely one in ten hadreached his majority; most of them had left good homes, where theyhad received the advantages of a fair education, and except in rareinstances their physiques were such that camp life and the exerciseof the drill speedily[Pg 3] developed endurance and suppleness. To no onewas the possibilities of this command more apparent than to CaptainMonroe. His experience in the home company, and three months ofpractical service with Battery A, convinced him that here was materialfrom which, by persistent hard work, and by a proper and judiciallyadministered discipline, there could be evolved a battery of lightartillery which would honor itself and the State from which it came;and he immediately proceeded to work for the accomplishment of thatidea. Requisitions were speedily obtained for horses and guns, and thebattery was soon fully equipped, the battery consisting of four tenpound Parrotts and two twelve pound howitzers. Drilling was commencedimmediately, both field and the manual of the piece, and continuedwithout cessation from the 18th of Sept. to Oct. 11th, and such wasthe progress made by the company that at a review held on the 9th ofOct., on the grounds back of the Capitol, of all the artillery in thevicinity, at which Gen. Scott was reviewing officer, the battery wascomplimented for the excellence of its movements.
Oct. 12th Capt. Monroe received orders to report with his battery toGen. Fitz John Porter, near Hall's Hill, Va., and as soon as possiblethe company commenced its first march, passing through Washingtonvia Pennsylvania avenue, thence through Georgetown to the PotomacRiver, crossing at Aqueduct Bridge. Hall's Hill was reached about 7P.M., and the battery went into camp. Having no tents, themen were obliged to spread their blankets on the ground, and had theirfirst taste of a field camp in Virginia.
Oct. 14th orders were received to report to Gen. McDowell, and thebattery moved about three miles, to Upton's Hill. While here they weregiven their first impressions of war. It was intimated that the enemywas in the immediate vicinity, and were liable to make an attack at anytime. Each night[Pg 4] one section of the battery was sent out on picket.At no time in their service did they feel the responsibility of theirsituation more keenly than on these occasions, and not a rebel soldierwithin twenty miles. The two sections which were to remain in campwere obliged to work upon the earthworks with picks and shovels, anoccupation they did not relish.
Oct. 29th camp was moved just over Munson's Hill, on the north slope,and a camp laid out, under the direction of Capt. John Gibbon, who hadassumed command of the artillery in our division. His own, Battery B,Fourth U. S., was placed upon the left (instead of the right, as itshould have been according to strict military etiquette, presumablybecause the ground was higher and drier). Our battery came next, thenthe First New Hampshire, Capt. Gerrish, and the Pennsylvania battery,Capt. Durrell, on the right. Tents of the Sibley pattern were nowissued in place of the small A tents. These were circular in form,and large enough to accommodate ten or twelve men comfortably. Whenthe weather became cold enough to require them, stoves were issued,and when the tents were properly ditched, the bunks built and filleda foot deep with straw, they became very comfortable homes, even inthe coldest of weather. We soon had orders to prepare this camp fora winter's sojourn. Details were made each morning to work upon thestables for the horses, and in the course of a few days the finest campin the history of Battery D was completed, and named Camp Dupont.
The battery was parked in regular style, pieces in front, caissonsin the rear; on the right and left of them the stables were built.The tents for the men were pitched in the rear of the stables. Theofficers' tents were in the rear of the battery, the Captain's beingin a line with the centre of the guns, and two others, one on eachside of the Captain's, a little in advance, for the four Lieutenants.The cook-house[Pg 5] was at the upper end of the right tents, and theguard-house was placed quite a distance in front of the battery.
In this camp the battery remained from Oct. 29th, 1861, to March 10th,1862, occupying its time in drill, inspections, sham fights, targetpractice, etc. Everything calculated to increase its efficiency wasindulged in. Days were spent in perfecting the men in horsemanship.Heroic measures were used; no saddles or bridles were allowed; men wereexpected to learn to manage their horses successfully bareback, andwith only the halter, and they did it, but there were many laughableand some serious incidents occurred before they thoroughly mastered theart.
The sham-fights were particularly exhilarating and entertaining to us,the whole corps, numbering fifteen or twenty thousand, participating inthem, and blank cartridges were used without stint. A change of frontwould sometimes necessitate a long run for the battery, and if overopen ground, was participated in with a relish; but if, as it sometimeshappened, the route lay through what had been woods, but had beenfreshly cut off by the soldiers, leaving stumps of irregular height,it sometimes became very annoying