Yes, Delaware’s batteries. Plural.
In past quarters, we’ve looked at one lone entry line for Delaware. That being Captain Benjamin Nields’ battery, often cited as the 1st Delaware Battery. And that was it, so far as field batteries are concerned. But the state also provided a company and a half … yes a half-company… of heavy artillery. While that half-company’s service was so brief as to escape the need for an ordnance return, the other company was allocated a line for the third quarter of 1863:
Two lines, but let us add that half-battery here for complete coverage:
- 1st Battery: Reporting at Camp Barry, District of Columbia, with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. As mentioned above, Captain Benjamin Nields commanded. The battery returned to Washington around the first week of July (after duty with the Seventh Corps on the Peninsula). But no time to rest! With the Draft Riots in New York, Nields’ battery was ordered to that city, where they fell under Brigadier-General Edward Canby’s command. Among the last details of this detached service was a posting to Kingston, New York, on September 5, were a draft was being conducted. By September 12, the battery was headed back to Washington and the training grounds of Camp Barry.
- Ahl’s Independent Heavy Battery: Reporting only infantry stores. In late July, 1st Lieutenant George W. Ahl left Pennsylvania Independent Battery G, then stationed at Fort Delaware, to become captain and commander of a new independent battery formed from former Confederates and Irish immigrants. Designated Ahl’s Independent Heavy Battery, and allocated to Delaware, it began organization in mid-July. Formally mustered on July 27, the battery’s assignment was Fort Delaware. The men of Ahl’s spent little time with the fort’s armament of heavy Rodman guns. Rather, they served almost exclusively as prison guards. Former Confederates, who’d “swallowed the dog” serving watch over Confederate prisoners…. what could go wrong?
- Crossley’s Half-Company of Artillery: Not listed. With Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania in June 1863, Delaware mustered several emergency formations, just as other northern states did. As far as artillery is concerned, they only had enough for half a battery. And 1st Lieutenant Thomas Crossley commanded. Crossley’s half-battery mustered on June 29, 1863 with three month terms. Their duty was mostly along the railroad between Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore, replacing other units had moved to more vital and threatened points. They mustered out on September 30. In some organizational reports, Crossley’s is mentioned as the Delaware Emergency Troops, or Battery. And in some correspondence, the battery is mentioned as the 2nd Delaware Battery.
There are no smoothbore cannon reported, so we can skip that page of the ammunition details. Moving on to the Hotchkiss columns:
Just Nield’s guns:
- 1st Battery: 142 canister, 299 percussion shell, 3 fuse shell, and 172 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
No Dyer, James, or Parrott projectiles reported. So we move to the Schenkl section:
Again, Nields’ reporting:
- 1st Battery: 494 case shot for 3-inch rifles (for that column header, canister is struck and case written in).
Lastly, the small arms:
Presumably Ahl’s muskets were carried on an infantry ordnance return. So again all we see are Nields’:
- 1st Battery: Thirty Army revolvers and thirty-eight horse artillery sabers.
Before closing out this installment, let’s look a bit closer at Ahl’s Battery. There is much of interest beyond those administrative details. First off, George Washington Ahl was a proud descendant of a Revolutionary War veteran, from Massachusetts. Before the war, he lived in Allegheny County, just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a clerk. Married to Sarah Eleanor Hay Ahl, the couple had a young son on the 1860 census. As mentioned above, Ahl received a commission in Pennsylvania Independent Battery G. And in July received promotion to Captain in command of his own battery.
Through the rest of the war Ahl was in practice the prison commander at Fort Delaware. Brigadier-General Albin Francisco Schoepf was in overall command, but gave his adjutant, Ahl, control over the operations. With Confederate defeats in Mississippi and Pennsylvania, the prison population swelled.
Over time, the prison population swelled to over 11,500. All on little Pea Patch Island. And those prisoners didn’t have nice things to say about Ahl. According to Brian Temple, in “The Union Prison at Fort Delaware: A Perfect Hell on Earth,” prisoners referred to George as “Ahl-fired mean” and “Ape Ahl.” Though not exactly a healthy and pleasant experience, Fort Delaware was at least not the worst. Still, it was not a comfortable place for a prisoner.
On the other hand, a photo on file with the Delaware Historical Society Collections tells us Ahl’s wartime service was rather comfortable:
Ahl is third from the left. Among the thirteen men identified, several are battery commanders mentioned in earlier posts about Fort Delaware – particularly Captains Stanislaus Mlotkowski and John Jay Young (Pennsylvania Independent Batteries A and G, respectively). But on the back we read “Mamma was with him.” Presumably indicating Sarah accompanied her husband to his wartime post.
The complement of Ahl’s command was not your normal Civil War battery muster. Practically every entry in the Compiled Service Records offer intriguing stories. A few to mention:
- Private Jasper M. Barker: From Randolph County, North Carolina. He joined Company F, 2nd North Carolina Battalion when the war broke out. He was captured on Roanoke Island in February 1862, but paroled shortly after. Remained with the regiment until the Gettysburg Campaign. Falling ill, he was left behind at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania and captured. A few weeks later, on July 27, 1863, he enlisted in Ahl’s Battery. The book has him at five-feet, 11 ¼ inches tall; light complexion; blue eyes; light hair; and nineteen when joining the US service.
- Private Reuben Barnes: When joining Ahl’s Battery in July 1863, Barnes was nineteen. He hailed from Tyrell County, North Carolina. He spent some time hospitalized for various ailments. Barnes came north in June with company G, 1st North Carolina Infantry. He was captured at Gettysburg on July 5 (there is an odd note on one of his cards stating “we failed to locate him” by . Sent to Fort Delaware, he obviously determined to make the best of the situation. Barnes received the remaining $25 for bounty when mustering out on July 25, 1865.
- Private John Bates: A farmer from Clinton, Missouri, Bates was a member of the Missouri State Guard (Company D, 2nd Cavalry, 8th Division) when the war started. In June 1862, at age 18, he joined Company E, 4th Missouri Infantry. All told, he saw action at Pea Ridge, Farmington, Iuka, Corinth, Hatchie Bridge, Port Gibson, and Grand Gulf. He was wounded and captured at Champion’s Hill on May 16, 1863. His Federal enlistment, dated like the others as July 27, has him at five feet, nine inches, hazel eyes, and light hair. In May, 1864, Bates was entrusted to a detail escorting prisoners to Dry Tortugas (indicating he was deemed more loyal than the other Confederates, perhaps). On July 25, 1865, he mustered out receiving $16.36 in back pay and $25 toward his bounty. While I cannot say for sure, there is evidence Bates returned to Missouri after the war.
- Private John Grady: Born in Tipperary, Ireland. Age 38 when enlisting on July 27, 1863. Grady escorted some prisoners to Fort Monroe in the summer of 1864. Returning through Baltimore on August 9, he deserted. He is among several who deserted while on similar escort duties.
- Private Cornelius Layhan: A 24-year old, blue-eyed farmer from Cork, Ireland. Enlisted when the battery first formed. Served as a cook and orderly when not on guard duty. Escorted prisoners to Dry Tortugas in the spring of 1864. Mustered out in July 1865, receiving $25 left on his bounty.
- Private J.M. McDouaugh: Aged forty when enlisting in Ahl’s Battery, McDouaugh was from Sligo County, Ireland. McDouaugh also served on a detail taking prisoners to Dry Tortugas in the spring of 1864. When mustered out, he received $28.06 in pay along with his bounty.
- Private John Vaughn: A short, 21-year old, blue-eyed and blond haired farmer from Jackson County, Alabama. Vaughn was captured at Champion’s Hill on May 17, 1863. Not entirely clear which regiment he was from. He enlisted on July 27 for three years “or the war” with rank of corporal. But he was reduced to private the following month. Lost a bayonet the following year, for which he paid the government. But he mustered out in July 1865 and collected his bounty.
- James Waddington: At age 31 and hailing from Lancanshire, England, Waddington’s enlistment was a bit different than the others mentioned here. He joined for a one year hitch starting in January 1865. He was a cotton spinner by trade. And his enlistment was credited to a ward in Philadelphia, leading me to wonder if this was some means to escape the draft. He was discharged, with the rest, on July 25, 1865, and received $33.33 due on his bounty.
Certainly not the familiar stories for artillery service during the war. But Ahl’s men received credit for service just the same. One has to wonder how their post-war lives worked out.