Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Miscellaneous New York artillery

As a convention, I prefer to work through each state entry starting with “regimented” batteries first (where regiments existed of course), then through independent batteries, and lastly through any miscellaneous lines.  However, to ease handling and processing of these snips for transcription, I’m going to turn next to the miscellaneous lines before going to the independent batteries.

You see, the lines between the 2nd New York and 3rd New York include a couple of sections from infantry regiments.  Those are lines 18 and 19:

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Then, at the bottom of the page, we find entries for two cavalry regiments and stores held by an infantry regiment.  Those last three returns were received in the forth quarter of 1863, roughly when they were expected.  But those on the upper lines were not received until 1864.  So imagine how this conversation went down…..

Clerk:  Sir, I just received these two returns from the 98th and 99th New York Infantry claiming they have cannons. And I don’t have room to fit them at the bottom of the New York page in the summary.  What ever shall I do?

Ordnance Officer: Stick them in where you have space after the 2nd New York Artillery. Nobody will ever notice.  Nobody cares about these summaries anyway!

But yet, here we are in 2018 with that annoying second red line as result of the split data!

So we have five “miscellaneous” to consider from the New York section of the summary:

  • 98th New York Infantry:  Companies E and H, if my reading is correct, assigned to Croatan Station, North Carolina with two 6-pdr field guns.
  • 99th New York Infantry: A detachment reporting on the Gunboat Smith Briggs, in Virginia, with one 12-pdr field howitzer and one 10-pdr Parrott.
  • 3rd New York Cavalry: A detachment at New Berne, North Carolina with two 12-mountain howitzers.
  • 5th New York Cavalry: A detachment also at New Berne, and also with two (or is it three?) 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 51st New York Infantry:  “Stores in Charge” of a Lieutenant Colonel at Camp Nelson, Kentucky.

Let me explore these five in more detail.

The 98th New York Infantry was among the forces sent from North Carolina to the Department of the South earlier in 1863, as part of the build-up before the Ironclad Attack.  When that effort failed, the 98th was among the forces sent back to North Carolina, specifically Beaufort.   On April 25, Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick F. Wead, then in command of the regiment, received orders to garrison “Newport Barracks, Havelock, Croatan, [and] Bogue sound blockhouse” which guarded the railroad between Beaufort / Morehead City and New Berne.  After the war, William Kreutzer (then Captain, but later Colonel of the regiment) mentioned these dispositions in a history of the regiment:

This writer was assigned to the command of two posts, one at a point where the railroad crosses Newport river, called Havelock, and the other at Croatan, ten miles above, along the road to New Berne.  Each post had a small earthwork in which was mounted on Napoleon gun.

This passage establishes the ‘who’ portion of the return but on disagrees with the summary’s line.  Perhaps, writing post war and being an infantryman, Kreutzer was simply mistaken about the guns.  At any rate, we can at least verify some cannon were under the care of the 98th New York at Croatan around this time of the war, performing “boring” garrison duty.

The 99th New York Infantry, with names like “Bartlett’s Naval Brigade” and “Lincoln Divers” offers a bit more interesting story.  Colonel William A. Bartlett began recruiting what was intended to be a full brigade in the spring of 1861.  It included almost as many men from Massachusetts and New Jersey as it did New York.  The intent was to assign these companies to Army gunboats and have them patrol the coast.  But by the time Bartlett reported to Fort Monroe, he’d met with an accident and the brigade was understrength. The “brigade” was then reorganized as an infantry and assigned duty at various posts around Fort Monroe and on vessels operating in that area.  Colonel David W. Waldrop commanded.    By the spring of 1863, most of those detachments were recalled and the regiment served at Suffolk, Virginia.  Of those still on detached duty was Company I, manning the gunboats West End and Smith Briggs.  The latter, we have a sketch to work from:

SmithBriggsGunboat

The Smith Briggs was a chartered (not outright purchased) 280 ton steamer converted to an armed transport, with a rifled 32-pdr and a rifled 42-pdr (probably converted seacoast guns using the James system).  Based on the entry here in the summary, I would contend the 99th New York maintained a 12-pdr field howitzer and a 10-pdr Parrott to supplement those big guns, and perhaps use on patrols off the gunboat.  Captain John C. Lee, of the 99th New York, commanded the Smith Briggs in 1863.  And he was still in command when the vessel ran aground off Smithfield, Virginia on February 1, 1864, and was destroyed.

The detachment from the 3rd New York Cavalry should be familiar to readers from the previous quarter.  These was Lieutenant James A. Allis command.

And a similar detachment was formed in the 12th New York Cavalry which also operated out of New Berne.  During the summer, Lieutenant Joseph M. Fish, of Company F, was detached to command a section of howitzers.  And these show up in some returns as “Fish’s Howitzers” or “Fish’s Battery.”

And lastly the 51st New York Infantry.  This regiment, part of the Second Division, Ninth Corps in the summer of 1863.  It was transferred to the Twenty-Third Corps in September and performed garrison duties in the District of Kentucky.  We’ll see some of the stores accounted for in the ammunition tables that follow.  The regiment’s Lieutenant-Colonel was R. Charlton Mitchell at this time of the war.

With that summary of the five units represented by the lines, let us turn to the ammunition reported. Starting with the smoothbore:

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  • 98th New York Infantry: 57 shot, 41 case, and 42 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • 99th New York Infantry: 42 shell and 88 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 12th New York Cavalry: 32 shell, 44 case, and 46 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 51st New York Infantry:  56 shot, 56 case, and 48 canister for 6-pdr field guns.

Note that no ammunition was reported (for the second quarter in a row) for Allis’ detachment from the 3rd New York Cavalry.

No Hotchkiss or Schenkl projectiles to report.  But there were some Parrott projectiles:

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Yes, on the ill-fated Smith Briggs:

  • 99th New York Infantry: 137 shell and 40 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

No small arms were reported by these five detachments on the artillery summaries.  Usually infantry and cavalry commands filed their reports on different forms that were complied on a separate set of summaries.

Before leaving the “miscellaneous” of New York, there are two other batteries that deserve mention.  Recall Goodwin’s Battery, with its rather exotic breachloaders, and Varian’s State Militia Battery were mustered into Federal service to meet the emergency posed by Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania.  Both were still in Federal service at the start of the quarter.  But only briefly in service.  Goodwin’s was mustered on July 27.  Varian’s was mustered out six days earlier.  As these batteries were off the Federal rolls by the end of September, they were not required to send in returns.  Lucky for them!


Citation: William Kreutzer, Notes and Observations Made During Four years of Service with the Ninety-Eighth N.Y. Volunteers in the War of 1861, Philadelphia: Grant, Faires & Ridgers, 1878, page 164.

Cavalry Retiring by Successive Formations: Brandy Station, October 11, 1863

Yes, that is not a typo.  There was a battle at Brandy Station on October 11, 1863.  It was the third major action on Fleetwood Hill that year.  If you recall, I wrote about this particular action during the sesquicentennial.  At that time, I put focus on the actions by Brigadier-General John Buford’s First Cavalry Division… for many good reasons.  But I want to return to that day to discuss the activities of another Federal formation.

In his Cavalry Tactics, Alonzo Gray included a section discussing “Retiring by Successive Formations.” One of the citations used to illustrate such tactical maneuvers was from the official report of Brigadier-General Henry E. Davies, Jr. on the October 11 actions at Brandy Station.  Davies commanded First Brigade, Third Cavalry Division.  Davies’ brigade paired with the Second Brigade, under Brigadier-General George A. Custer, to constitute Brigadier-General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s Third Cavalry Division. Davies’ brigade consisted of the 2nd and 5th New York Cavalry, 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and the 1st West Virginia Cavalry.  In addition, Davies had Battery E, 4th US Artillery, under Captain Samuel Elder, assigned in support.

Let me skip some of the normal background I’d offer in regard to the “big picture” relating to this action, hoping you click the link to the earlier blog post.  Instead let me look to Davies’ brigade, as reported, did on that day.  Morning of October 11 found the brigade near James City were it had maintained a picket line.  They’d screened the Army of the Potomac’s withdrawal towards Culpeper.  With those formations clearing Culpeper, it was time for Kilpatrick’s cavalry to follow.  Davies started that morning by splitting his command.  The 1st West Virginia marched north to Sperryville in order to cover approaches to Culpeper from the west.  The remainder of the command fell back back on the main road to Culpeper.

Davies’ main force reached the Court-House without incident.  But hearing the West Virginians had encountered Confederates, he dispatched the 5th New York in support.

These two regiments, commanded by Major [John] Hammond [5th New York], attacked the enemy and drove him back, then retired slowly toward Culpeper Court-House, bringing off in safety the infantry that had been left on the road.

I would pause to raise this question – what does “slowly retired” look like?  Roll that around for a bit, while we continue….

While waiting on the return of those two regiments, Davies sent a squadron of the 2nd New York back down the road towards James City to “reconnoiter the road.”  This force soon ran into a large body of Confederate cavalry and lost two officers.

First Sergeant Barker, of Company A, then took command of the squadron, and by a vigorous charge broke through the rebel lines, brought in the whole command with a loss of but 5 men. For his gallantry and good conduct on this occasion, Sergeant [Lewis] Barker merits the praise of his officers, and he has shown himself eminently deserving of promotion, for which he has been recommended by the commanding officer of his regiment.

With that skillful extraction, Barker was able to fall back to the protection of Davies’ main body and the artillery.  But clearly it was time for the Federals to resume their withdrawal, as Davies recorded:

After passing through Culpeper Court-House, under the direction of the general commanding division, I fell back toward Brandy Station, having the right of the road, the Second Brigade being on the left. My rear was brought up by the Second New York, with their skirmishers thrown to the rear, firing and then retiring, my right flank protected by the First Vermont Cavalry, Colonel [Edward] Sawyer, who had been temporarily attached to my command. The enemy followed me very closely, skirmishing heavily with my rear guard, which, however, held its ground well, and did not give back an inch except when ordered.

Sure, nobody gives ground in their official reports.  Right?  But the tactical situation deteriorated rapidly at that point.

On nearing Brandy Station we found the enemy had got between us and General Buford’s command, and the Second Brigade was advanced to the front to charge. As they went forward I placed a section of my battery in position and opened fire on the enemy, who fell back before the Second Brigade toward my right flank.

Let’s pause again for a moment and consider how Kilpatrick was attempting to fight his division at that point in the action. Kilpatrick’s report simply alluded to having Davies on the right and Custer on the left.  But what Davies’ account implies is that First Brigade, plus Elder’s guns, took up a supporting position while Second Brigade made the initial assault.  The point I’d make here is that Kilpatrick approached the initial situation with a “hold with one brigade and jab with the other” maneuver.

But beyond that, this was not exactly a clean cut “textbook” situation as things were falling apart all around the line and to the rear.  Davies pushed out the 1st Vermont to his right, with the 18th Pennsylvania in support, to make another charge.  Then the 2nd New York mounted a charge on Confederates pressing the Brigade’s rear.   And while those charges were ongoing, to the front, Buford’s command was coming to Kilpatrick’s assistance.  Davies, from his point of view, recorded:

All of these movements I am happy to say were most successful, and we repulsed the rebels at every point, and in another moment my battery, supported by the Fifth New York, had followed in the road cut out by the Second Brigade, and gained a position of comparative safety where it could be of assistance to me.

Again, pause to think about the movements.  The 5th New York and the artillery had maintained a base that allowed at least three separate charges by other regiments in the brigade.  Furthermore, if we give weight to Davies’ account, that base supported the Second Brigade’s attacks.  Though in my opinion, most of the credit for the breakout should go to Buford’s troopers.

In these such tactical actions, an open escape route is half the solution. The unit still has to extract itself.  With three regiments (including the attached Vermonters) recalling from charges, Davies had to use the West Virginia regiment to form another base behind which the others could rally.  Behind this second base, Davies worked to move his command to safety, “… a description of the engagement is hardly practicable, as it consisted of a series of gallant charges made wherever the enemy appeared, in a manner that proved both the individual gallantry and the thorough discipline of our troops.”

Extracted from encirclement, Davies’ troopers were still not free.  The action continued even after their escape:

My battery, under Captain Elder, was posted on my right flank and rear, and pouring shot and shell into the enemy’s ranks, contributed in a great degree to our success. At one time the enemy attempted to charge the battery in flank, but the support, a battalion of the Fifth New York, under Major White, charged gallantly to the rescue and drove them back with heavy loss. After this I received orders to retain my command behind the line of the Second Brigade and reform them; which was done, and I then held a position under cover of which the Second Brigade withdrew and again took up position near the river.

It was the later part of this passage that Gray cited in his section on “Retiring by Successive Formations.”   What we see in that passage is again Kilpatrick using his division in two elements – one forms a base while the other maneuvers.  Unlike the earlier maneuvers during the breakout, Kilpatrick’s command was withdrawing under pressure.  So instead of charging, they were withdrawing to the rear behind the safety of a line formed by the other brigade – leapfrog in reverse.

Returning to the morning operations, recall again my question of what “slowly retired” looked like.  I’d submit it would resemble the retirement of brigades, only at a smaller level with squadrons or whole regiments.  Indeed we see a pattern to the maneuvers of Davies’ command throughout the day.  There always seems to be a “base” providing support for a “maneuver” element.  Such was the case with the actions around Culpeper, later with the breakout, and at the end of the day beyond Fleetwood Hill.

Successive movements were a common fundamental for cavalry tactics.  Such were employed from the smallest formations to the largest.  In order to maneuver in formation, a force of cavalry needed some relatively secure space to “form” and prepare.  The base force provided such.  And likewise once the maneuver force reached an objective – be that in the attack or withdrawal – it could set as a base to allow the other portion to maneuver.

The use of successive movements appears in modern military tactics in the form of bounding maneuvers, also conducted from the smallest to the largest formations.

I submit that if Davies or Buford (though some might question Kilpatrick…) were around today, they’d easily recognize the intent of a mechanized infantry or armored cavalry force using “bounding overwatch.”

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 48, Part I, Serial 48, pages 385-6.)

150 Years Ago: Lee’s First Lost Order

On this morning of August 18, 150 years ago, General J.E.B. Stuart received an abrupt awakening outside Verdiersville, Virginia:

… I was aroused from the porch where I lay by the noise of horsemen and wagons, and walking out bareheaded to the fence near by, found that they were coming from the very direction indicated for General F. Lee. I was not left long in this delusion, however, for two officers, Captain Mosby and Lieutenant Gibson, whom I sent to ascertain the truth, were fired upon and rapidly pursued. I had barely time to leap upon my horse just as I was, and, with Major Von Borcke and Lieutenant Dabney, of my staff, escaped by leaping a high fence. The major, who took the road, was fired at as long as in sight, but none of us were hurt. There was no assistance for 10 miles. Having stopped at the nearest woods, I observed the party approach and leave in great haste, but not without my hat and the cloak which had formed my bed. Major Fitzhugh, in his searches for General Lee, was caught by this party and borne off as a prisoner of war…. (OR, Series I, Volume 12, Part II, Serial 16, page 726)

A marker, in Orange County just off Virginia Highway 20, bear witness to this small cavalry fight. Not much compared to the larger battles to come in the following weeks. But with some important implications. The marker, like many accounts of this event, focuses upon Stuart’s lost hat and his revenge.

Orange  Jan 5 08 144

The “hat story” is one of those pleasing stories of the war that seem to charm us away from the horror of the times. I’ll retell it here, as it becomes somewhat obligatory… but will be brief…

Meeting on the Cedar Mountain battlefield under a truce after the battle, Stuart bet Federal General Samuel Crawford that the northern press would bill the fight as a Union victory. True to his word, Crawford forwarded after the Yankee newspaper headlines ran. As indicated in his official report, Stuart lost the hat during the confusion on the morning of August 18. Somewhat embarrassed by this loss, particularly with the reaction of his troopers, Stuart vowed revenge. On August 22, he got that revenge when leading a raid on Catlett Station. Among the spoils was General John Pope’s dress uniform. Appeals for a trade fell on deaf ears. So Stuart was content to simply send the uniform to Richmond for display.

Nice story, but distracts us from the more important loss to the Confederates – papers carried by Major Norman Fitzhugh. Included in the documents were orders outlining General Robert E. Lee’s plan to cut off and defeat Pope’s Army of Virginia between the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers. With this information and intelligence from other sources, Pope hastily withdrew from the advance position. He fell back to positions on the north bank of the Rappahannock. Good, defensible terrain.

One might argue the withdrawal only delayed the inevitable clash of armies, within a series of cause-and-effect events leading back to Manassas. But the withdrawal did mean Pope’s command was not beaten at a point deep in Virginia where retreat into the Washington defense perimeter was impossible. Like the more famous one lost less than a month later outside Frederick, Maryland, the orders lost at Verdiersville changed the nature of a campaign.

Another point that is also often overlooked is the Federal perspective on the action. Colonel Thornton F. Brodhead accomplished this raid, nearly capturing Stuart and Mosby mind you, with the 1st Michigan and 5th New York Cavalry. Both units the southerners would meet on other battlefields. And the man who’d dispatched them on the raid was General John Buford. The Union cavalry was, even at this early stage of the war, showing signs of competence. The blue troopers could equal, and some times best, their gray counterparts when well lead. And those Yankee horse soldiers would only get better with age.