Guns “unservicable for want of horses”: Artillery in the aftermath of Chancellorsville

Reading some materials posted on other venues, you might think the Army of Northern Virginia stood still from May 6-11, 1863 as the drama of Guinea Station played out.  We forget, armies are like living creatures.  There are always men engaged in the act of just “being.”  The work of the army continues despite the passing of its leader – be that Thomas J. Jackson or Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The man who signs the orders may change, but the army’s business is still there.

That said, consider a report from Colonel J. Thompson Brown, Chief of Artillery for Second Corps (yes, still Jackson’s Corps at this time), from May 11:

Brig. Gen. William N. Pendleton,
Chief of Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia:

General; Your note is received. I have to report that orders have twice been issued to battalion commanders to reorganize and refit as rapidly as possible. This is being done. Many guns which could be manned are unserviceable for want of horses. Should there be an immediate call, the following number of guns can be carried into service:

Colonel Walker, fourteen guns in camp and four on picket on right.
Lieutenant Colonel Jones, eight guns in camp and four on picket on left.
Lieutenant-Colonel Carter, thirteen guns in camp and three at repair train.
Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews, fourteen guns in camp.
Major Hardaway, twelve guns in camp and four on picket in center.
Major Mcintosh, fourteen guns in camp.

Making a total of eighty-seven guns for service, and three to be ready in a few days.

I have sent out 2 men from each battalion to buy horses, amply supplied with money, with directions also to offer as inducement the sale of condemned horses any neighborhood where horses can be bought. This was done by authority of Colonel Corley.

I shall use every exertion to have the artillery of the corps in good order as quickly as possible, but I am sure you concur with me in the necessity of properly fitting out the batteries as soon as possible, as imperfect transportation for gun-carriages at the commencement of the campaign will necessarily cripple them during its whole continuance.

Please notify me of any omission in steps for refitting, &c. I will report further progress.
Very respectfully,
J. Thompson Brown,
Colonel, and Acting Chief of Artillery, Second Corps.

Eighty-seven guns ready to support the Corps, with three more being repaired. Recall that earlier in the year Pendleton estimated that Jackson’s Corps required 116 guns. In February, the corps had 95 guns on hand, and even with that many guns were obsolete or less preferred types.   Although guns were obtained, notably from Tredegar, the shortfalls remained.  Furthermore, Jackson’s artillery suffered from want of horses and equipment.  While there’s no doubt that between February and April the artillery arm “got healthy,” the raw details are hard to nail down.  Lieutenant Edmond P. Dandridge didn’t return to record another inspection prior to the battle of Chancellorsville.

The important take away from Brown’s report is not “87 guns” but rather “87 guns ready to support.”  It’s horsepower that Brown complained about.  Aside from just the need to “dress up” his command, Brown was looking ahead.  Notice he does not make references to where the command started prior to the Chancellorsville campaign.  Rather he references the start of the NEXT campaign.

The referees had blown the whistle signaling the end of the play.  Now the teams were called into the huddle.  The next down was already in the making.  The play clock ticked off seconds regardless if the huddle was one man short.

(Brown’s report is from OR, Series I, Volume 25, Part II, Serial 40, page 793.)


Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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