150 years ago: Were Jackson’s Batteries ready?

In the two previous posts, I’ve focused on the quantity of guns in General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Corps as reported in the February 1863 inspection.  The the shortfall was, if slowly, being rectified that winter. The report from Lieutenant Edmond P. Dandridge also assessed the status of battery equipment and personnel.  Since a battery is just not guns on the field, but rather equipment, animals, and men combined as a weapons system, we should consider those other components.

Dandridge’s report had some rigidity in format, but was not entirely consistent.  There are a few subjective assessments along the way – the dreaded “good” or “tolerable” marks in some cases not backed with hard numbers.  No doubt Dandridge used standards set forth in ordnance regulations (Confederate regulations derived from old Army regulations of course).  So we can read into his assessments in some areas.  Allow me to offer some “interpretation” to Dandridge’s report in the form of a status chart for each battery.  Nothing fancy, just the old “green, amber, red” bubbles derived from Dandridge’s words.  The tables below offer the “rating” based on the assessments or raw numbers provided by Dandridge.  Readers should refer to Dandridge’s original report for the base figures.

But let’s set some yardsticks here.  Brigadier-General William N. Pendleton’s plan figured four-gun batteries as a standard.  Of course four-gun Napoleon batteries needed more men and horses than a similar 6-pdr batteries (on which rifled gun battery allocations were made).  But the Confederate batteries were often mixed.  So for simplicity allow me to work from the smaller number.  Four-gun 6-pdr batteries required 104 men and 80 horses.  The battery needed between two and four wagons.  That said, here are the yardsticks:

  • Guns: Four guns = Green; three guns = Amber; Less = Red.
  • Ammunition: Based on Dandridge’s remarks.
  • Harnesses: Based on Dandridge’s remarks.
  • Horses: Over 70 good horses = Green; 60 to 70 = Amber; Less = Red
  • Condition of Horses: Dandridge’s remarks, also considering forage.
  • Wagons: Three or Four = Green; Two = Amber; Less = Red.
  • Troops present: Adding present and detached, 90 or more = Green; 80 to 90 = Amber; Less = Red.
  • Troops absent: Less than 20 = Green; Between 20 and 50 = Amber; More = Red.  (I put sick and absent without leave in one column here)

I’ve broken these down by divisions, for ease of reading.  I’ve also added an overall assessment.  Logic for that is a throwback to MY old army days – one Red turns the overall assessment Red; more than a third Amber makes the entire column Red.  Some might call that a harsh rule, but consider what those ratings really mean.

So let’s turn to Major-General Isaac Tremble’s Division:


The report does not detail the personnel strength of Carpenter’s Battery.  Caskie’s Battery, in my estimate, brought the overall ratings down.  And that mostly explained by the recent turn in of guns to be melted into Napoleons.  The other major problem, across the division and which was a trend across the entire corps, was the number and condition of horses.

Next, Major-General A.P. Hill’s Division.  On paper, the division had seven batteries:


Two of those batteries, Latham’s and Johnson’s, were marked for transfer with the reorganization of the artillery.  This was a point of contention, no doubt, as the division was short of guns overall.  Quantity of horses was less than required.  One battery was under-manned, while another reported an alarming number of troops absent without leave.

Now to Major-General Jubal Early’s Division.  Here also, two batteries, those of Dement’s and Thompson’s, were slated for transfers:


Early might have seen the reorganization as unfortunate, as Dement’s was among the fittest in the corps.  Although the horses of this division were generally in good shape, overall the batteries lacked sufficient number of animals.

Brigadier-General Robert Rodes took over what had been Major-General D.H. Hill’s division:


Hardaway’s Battery was also eyed for transfer as part of the reorganization.  That considered, this battalion of artillery appears healthy at the time of the inspection, with a few exceptions.  Carter’s Battery reported an alarming 71 deserters.  In terms of animals, the batteries in Rode’s Division was good overall. In addition to horses, the report tallied a substantial number of mules supporting the batteries (which I did not include in the numbers for this table).

Lastly, there was the Corps Reserve battalion:


Under Pendleton’s reorganization plan, the reserves would split into two battalions and receive additional batteries from the divisional artillery.  As things stood in February 1863, the Second Corps reserve was for all practical purposes immobile for want of horses.  Although desertion and sick absences were low, overall the batteries were undermanned.

I would place the overall status of Jackson’s batteries in context.  Some of these units were on campaign from the spring of 1862 right through December.  How many major battles in that span?  Too many.  The attrition left the “long arm” worn down.  As a whole, I wouldn’t rate them capable of field operations due to the limited mobility.  Such reduced the corps’ combat power.  That in mind, Burnside’s “Mud March” was not so much a fools errand.

As I said earlier, Dandridge’s report offers a great snapshot in time portraying the health of a portion of the Army of Northern Virginia.  How I wish similar detailed reports existed for all of the formations, both Confederate and Federal.  However, where the report fails, as most “inspections” do, is with the human factor.  How well trained were these batteries?  How well lead?  Those are the points we must assess somewhat retrospectively, considering the performance of units and individuals in the campaigns and battles that followed.

(Data for the tables derived from Dandridge’s report, OR, Serial I, Volume 25, Part II, Serial 40, pages 634-8.)


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