No surprise to Civil War students that Tennessee contributed troops to the Union cause. While the infantry and cavalry receive their due, the artillery batteries are seldom mentioned. And if we work from the summary statements for second quarter of 1863, that contribution was worthy only of a blank line:
1st Battery Tennessee Artillery…. but there were actually two such 1st Batteries in existence as of June 1863. Which one are we looking at here? My short answer is “either, or!” First let’s break down the two batteries that should be listed here. The 1st Tennessee Light Artillery would eventually include eight batteries – A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and K. The regiment (or battalion as it is sometimes identified by) was not formally created until November 1863. Prior to that time, Batteries A and B existed as separate “1st Batteries” with separate identifications by the region in which they were assigned.
So our two batteries to consider:
- 1st Middle Tennessee Battery: Would be come Battery A, 1st Tennessee. Battery formed in the fall of 1862 under command of Captain Ephraim P. Abbott. In June 1863 the battery was at Clarksville, Tennessee with two 6-pdr field guns and four 3.80-inch James rifles. By the end of July, the battery was on campaign with the Third Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
- 1st East Tennessee Battery: Started forming in the spring of 1863, being recruited from refugees from east Tennessee. Mustered into service on April 16. Stationed at Camp Nelson, Kentucky while being formed and trained. No guns assigned… in fact very little equipment of any sort assigned. Commanded by Captain Robert Clay Crawford. Later became Battery B, 1st Tennessee. And Crawford would become colonel of the regiment in the fall.
The clerks offered us no clues as to which of these batteries is represented by the line in the summary. Quite possible they just threw a placeholder on the form, leaving it at that. No other equipment appears on any of the columns that follow. (I’ve uploaded all to Flickr, so you can gaze at empty columns…) Since we have little to discuss in regard to equipment, allow me to expand upon the early history of these batteries… with emphasis on the battery commanders.
Abbott was not a Tennessean by birth or by any other measure. He was from Zanesville, Ohio. I believe he is the same Ephraim P. Abbott with an appointment to West Point in 1851. But he did not graduate from the academy. The 1860 census listed him as a 27 year old living with his father (and, if I read the line correctly, working as a surveyor). Abbott volunteered for the 3rd Ohio Infantry (three-year) in June 1861, and was commissioned as captain of Company E. Then on August 24, 1862, Abbott transferred to the newly authorized 1st Middle Tennessee Battery. Military Governor Andrew Johnson gave Abbott authority to recruit in the Nashville and middle Tennessee area. and Abbott formally took command in September.
The biggest issue facing the 1st Middle Tennessee Battery, according to Abbott’s reports, was pay. The State Comptroller, Joseph Fowler, insisted on paying the men in Tennessee script, from the Bank of Tennessee in Nashville. This was valued at 20% less than US currency. So when paid $10, the Tennessee artillerists could only get $8 of whiskey from the sutlers. Not good…. and thus the battery protested and refused pay for several months until the matter could be resolved. Even statements from Fowler to honor an “indebtedness” of the state to the soldiers were not good enough. The matter was finally resolved in the soldiers favor, though just as the soldiers were assigned to a field command and ordered south. Willie and Joe of a later war would certainly sympathize.
Just a side note on Abbott – we will hear more of him in later summaries, but he was not destined to remain in command through the war. In December 1864 he was dismissed due to an unauthorized leave of absence. Writing to confirm that action, Brigadier-General John M. Brannan assessed, “I do not believe the battery will ever be worth anything under his command.” So we might conclude Abbott was not a stellar artillerist.
Turing to the 1st East Tennessee Artillery, authorization to recruit the battery came in March 1863:
Captain Robert Clay Crawford is an interesting character… and that is an understatement. He was from Rogersville, Tennessee. Crawford had an appointment (secured by Andrew Johnson, who was then a US Representative) to West Point before the war, being admitted in 1850. Like Abbott, Crawford did not graduate. At some point in the 1850s he was convicted of a crime and spent time in prison. Forging his pardon, he escaped back to Tennessee. In February 1863, Crawford secured a commission as captain of Company B, 5th (East) Tennessee Infantry. There is some indication his connection to Johnson played a role in obtaining that position. And, as indicated above, shortly after he was charged with recruiting a light battery, by order of Johnson.
Crawford was apparently an efficient recruiter. The battery was officially mustered on April 16. By May the battery reported 121 men… but no equipment. The troops had to purchase their own clothing and accouterments, pending government issue. And they had no guns for drill. They relocated to Camp Nelson in late May. Then moved to Somerset, Kentucky in July. Later in September, the battery received guns, to be drawn by mules. All of which dampened spirits.
By November, authorities decided Tennessee needed a full regiment of light artillery. And Crawford was deemed the right person to lead the regiment (again, likely due to his connections with Johnson). We’ll see Crawford again in the summaries, of course. But I’ll throw out a teaser here. Crawford was brought up on charges, in November 1864, of counterfeiting notes from the Bank of Tennessee along about twenty other counts of theft and corruption. You can’t make this stuff up!
Though outside the scope of “light” artillery, I should mention two of Tennessee’s heavy artillery regiments which had just organized in June 1863.
The 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent) formed in April 1863 to garrison Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tennessee. Colonel Ignatz G. Kappner commanded the regiment. But while the formation remained more battalion strength, Major Emil Smith was in command while Knapper commanded the fort’s overall garrison. In March 1864, the regiment was re-designated the 2nd US Heavy Artillery (Colored).
The 2nd Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent) was recruited from contrabands in and around Columbus, Kentucky. Colonel Charles H. Adams (of Illinois) commanded. The regiment had just formed in June 1863 and does not appear on returns until October. In April 1864 the regiment became the 3rd US Heavy Artillery (Colored).
As you can see, Tennessee was providing many artillerists to the Federal cause in the summer of 1863.