Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

Moving in order through the second quarter summaries, New York is the next state to consider.  And Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment is the first of those entries.

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We find returns registered for nine of the twelve batteries of the regiment.  And of those nine, three were not received until 1864.  That’s what happens to paperwork due in the middle of the campaign season!

  • Battery A: At Pottsville, Pennsylvania, on the March 1864 receipt date, with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery A, under Captain Thomas H. Bates, was at Camp Barry, remained at the Camp of Instruction, Camp Barry, in Washington, D.C. through the summer months. The battery, recently reformed after losing all guns during the Peninsula Campaign, was training new crews.
  • Battery B: At Warrenton Junction, Virginia, reflecting the October 1863 receipt date, with four 10-pdr Parrotts. The battery was assigned to Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Captain Rufus D. Pettit, in command of the battery at the start of the quarter resigned at the end of May.  Captain James M. Rorty then took command.  Rorty was mortally wounded on the afternoon of July 3 at Gettysburg.  The next in command, Lieutenant Albert S. Sheldon, was wounded a little later.  Lieutenant Robert E. Rogers then became the third officer to command the battery that day.
  • Battery C: Listed at Rappahannock, Virginia, also reflecting the fall reporting date, four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was assigned to support Fifth Corps, and thus on the march toward Gettysburg at the end of the reporting period.  Captain Almont Barnes remained in command.
  • Battery D: Bealton, Virgina!  Again, under the fall reporting date.  This battery had  six 12-pdr Napoleons.  This battery supported Third Corps as part of the Gettysburg Campaign.  Lieutenant George B. Winslow remained in command.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign.  At the start of the quarter, the men of Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery, in Sixth Corps.  In mid-June, the men transferred to support Battery L, 1st New York (below).
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery remained part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.  Later in July, the battery moved to Camp Barry in Washington.
  • Battery G: Accurately reported at Taneytown, Maryland, with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The battery moved from Second Corps to the 4th Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve in June.  Captain Nelson Ames remained in command.
  • Battery H: Reporting at Camp Barry with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, in October 1863.  However, as the end of June, the battery, under Captain Charles E. Mink, was assigned to Fourth Corps and stationed at Yorktown.  The battery was involved with Dix’s Peninsula Campaign.
  • Battery I: No report. Captain Michael Wiedrich commanded this battery, assigned to Eleventh Corps.  The battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at Gettysburg.  And its employment on the field on July 1 might explain the lack of report.
  • Battery K: Reporting at Brandy Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  For the third straight quarter, this battery’s location reflects a  January, 1864, report. In June 1863, Battery K was assigned to the 4th Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, under Captain Robert H. Fitzhugh.  The 11th New York Independent Battery was attached to Battery K at this time, adding two guns (up from four the previous quarter).
  • Battery L: Another “late” return, posted in February 1864, has this battery at Rappahannock Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was on the field at Gettysburg supporting First Corps, on the first day of July.  Captain Gilbert H. Reynolds took command in March.
  • Battery M: No return. Battery M, under Lieutenant Charles Winegar, served in Twelfth Corps.  The battery had four 10-pdr Parrott rifles at Gettysburg, with one section on Power’s Hill and another on McAllister’s Farm.

Thus nine of the twelve batteries were directly involved with the Gettysburg Campaign.  We might say the other three were indirectly involved to some degree.  Many stories I could relate and wealth of quotes related to those hot summer days of 1863.  But for brevity, let us focus on the data of the summary.

Moving on to the ammunition, we have three batteries with 12-pdr Napoleons:

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And three lines to consider:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 64 shell, 192 case, and 72 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery D: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery G: 308 shot for 6-pdr field guns; 120 shell, 116 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

I would guess the tally of 6-pdr shot for Battery G was a transcription error, and rightly should be 12-pdr.

We have 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  So that means we should have Hotchkiss projectiles:

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Five lines to consider:

  • Battery C: 92 canister, 40 percussion shell, 136 fuse shell, and 424 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery F: 80 canister, 80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 480 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery H: 21 canister and 34 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery K: 120 canister, 363 fuse shell, and 350 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 120 canister, 39 percussion shell, and 600 (?) bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

A couple more lines to consider on the next page:

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Dyer’s Patent:

  • Battery H: 128 shell, 530 shrapnel, and 160 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Parrott’s Patent:

  • Battery B: 320 shell, 520 case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

The last page indicates some Schenkl projectiles on hand:

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Four batteries with Schenkl:

  • Battery B: 80 shells for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery H: 3 shells for 3-inch rifles..
  • Battery K: 356 shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 441 shells for 3-inch rifles.

Again, we see a mix and match of projectiles, by patent, in the ammunition chests.

Lastly we turn to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery A: Seventeen Navy revolvers.
  • Battery B: Twelve Navy revolvers and three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers, and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery G: Nineteen Army revolver and thirty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Nine Navy revolvers and thirty cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Navy revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

A very fair assortment, with reasonable numbers, of small arms for the 1st New York.  These were field artillerymen, first and foremost.

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Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

For the next several installments covering the summaries, we will look at New York batteries.  The first of these is the 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment, which was administratively commanded by Colonel Charles S. Wainwright.  Though, as Wainwright lamented at different times, administrative command really amounted to being responsible for more paperwork.

And that is just what we are dealing with here today:

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Of the twelve batteries of the regiment, there are ten returns:

  • Battery A: At Pottsville, Pennsylvania with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  The location may be correct for February 1864 (as indicated for the receipt of return).  But in the winter of 1863, Battery A, under Captain Thomas H. Bates, was at Camp Barry. The battery, recently reformed after losing all guns during the Peninsula Campaign, was training new crews.
  • Battery B: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Rufus D. Pettit’s battery was assigned to Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery C: Also at Falmouth, Virginia, but with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was assigned to support Fifth Corps.  Captain Almont Barnes resumed command in the winter months.
  • Battery D: And another battery at Falmouth, this with six 12-pdr Napoleons. After a short assignment to the Ninth Corps, Captain Thomas W. Osborn’s battery came back to Second Division, Third Corps.  Lieutenant George B. Winslow assumed command with Osborn holding artillery brigade duties.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign, Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery at this reporting interval.
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery remained part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.
  • Battery G: Another New York battery at Falmouth.  They reported six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain John D. Frank held command at the start of the winter.  But illness forced him to turn command over to Lieutenant Nelson Ames at the start of the spring.  The battery was assigned to Third Division, Second Corps.
  • Battery H: Fort Keys, Gloucester Point, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Also assigned to Fourth Corps.  Captain Charles E. Mink commanded this battery.
  • Battery I: Stafford Court House, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Michael Wiedrich commanded this battery, assigned to Second Division, Eleventh Corps.
  • Battery K: Reporting at Brandy Station, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  For the second straight quarter, this battery’s location reflects a  January, 1864, report. During the winter of 1863, Battery K was with the First Division, Twelfth Corps and under Edward L. Bailey.
  • Battery L: At Pratt’s Landing, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain John A. Reynolds’ battery supported First Division, First Corps.
  • Battery M: No return. This battery was also part of First Division, Twelfth Corps in December 1862.  Lieutenant Charles Winegar commanded the battery.  I believe it was equipped with 10-pdr Parrotts.

So we see barely any assignment changes for the 1st New York Light.

Moving to the ammunition pages, there were three batteries reporting Napoleons on hand:

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And three lines of smoothbore ammunition to discuss:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 64 shell, 192 case, and 72 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery D: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister (see note to follow) for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery G: 308 shot, 120 shell, 116 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

If you refer back to the previous quarter, Battery D’s numbers for shot, shell, and case appear to be the same.  And they reported 96 canister in December.  My call is a transcription error put the “96” in the column for 6-pdr canister.  That’s a lot more plausible than some supply foul-up.

More batteries reported rifles on hand, and thus we see more rifled projectiles were counted for the summary:

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Hotchkiss projectiles reported:

  • Battery C: 102 canister,  40 percussion shell, 226 fuse shell, and 544 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery F: 80 canister,  80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 480 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery H: 20 canister and 70 percussion shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery I: 120 canister, 390 fuse shell, and 651 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery K: 97 canister, 257 percussion shell, 118 fuse shell, 274 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery L: 36 canister and 982 fuse shell for 3-inch rifle.

Seems the 3-inch batteries with the Army of the Potomac had a lot of case shot for their Ordnance rifles.

For the next page of rifle projectiles, I’ll do extra cuts to aid those reading (the full page is posted):

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Three different makes of projectiles.  Three batteries reporting.  Each with a different make:

  • Battery B: 623 shell, 520 case shot, and 123 canister of Parrott patent for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery H:  58 shell, 560 shrapnel, and 140 canister of Dyer’s patent for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery L: 180 Schenkl solid shot for 3-inch rifles.

More Schenkl entries on the last page of projectiles:

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Two lines for discussion:

  • Battery H: 285 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery I: 116 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifle.

And as always, closing out with the small arms reported:

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Note, Battery A reported no small arms.  The others:

  • Battery B: Fifteen Navy revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery G: Sixteen Army revolvers and eighteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Seventeen Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: One Navy revolver and twenty-two cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen navy revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

As we might expect for well organized batteries operating in the east, where non-artillery duty assignments were few.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

New York’s contribution to the Federal war machine was not just a “cog” in a wheel.  Rather we might say the Empire State provided a whole wheel.  And part of that was of course a number of artillery batteries.  I could well spend several posts discussing the various formations – heavy artillery, light artillery regiments, independent batteries, independent battalions, National Guard batteries, etc…. oh, and don’t forget some rocket batteries.  But for the Fourth Quarter 1862 summaries we need focus on four groups – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment, 3rd New York Light Artillery Regiment, 1st New York Light Artillery Battalion (sometimes cited as the “German” battalion), and numbered independent light artillery batteries.  There’s one additional line for reporting artillery assigned to a volunteer cavalry formation.  And we should also mind the German battalion’s batteries were later assigned independent battery numbers.  But that was the future.  For December 1862 we have two regiments, one battalion, thirty-two (minus four that were at the time in the battalion) independent batteries,  and one “other” line to consider.

So let us start with the 1st Regiment, New York Light Artillery… Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s boys:

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The clerks posted information from seven of the twelve batteries, most being received in 1863.  At this time of the war, most of the 1st New York batteries supported the Army of the Potomac in the east.  The breakdown by battery:

  • Battery A: No return.  This battery’s guns were captured earlier in the year at Seven Pines.  Most of the surviving men were transferred to other batteries while Captain Thomas Bates went about recruiting and reorganizing.  So in December 1862, there was no equipment to report.
  • Battery B: No return. Captain Rufus D. Pettit’s battery was part of Second Corps, having just participated in the Fredericksburg Campaign with six (or four?) 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery C: At Falmouth, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This was Lieutenant William H. Phillips’ battery assigned to support Fifth Corps.
  • Battery D: Fredericksburg, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery assigned to Ninth Corps and under Captain Thomas W. Osborn.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign, Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery at this reporting interval.
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery was part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.
  • Battery G: No return. This was Captain John D. Frank’s battery supporting Second Corps with four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H: Fort Keys, Gloucester Point, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Also assigned to Fourth Corps.  Captain Charles E. Mink commanded this battery.
  • Battery I: Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Michael Weidrich’s battery supported Eleventh Corps.
  • Battery K: Brandy Station, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This location is obviously in error for December 1862.  It was correct for January, 1864, when the return was received in Washington.  Backing up a year and a month, Battery K was with the Twelfth Corps for the 4th Quarter, 1862.
  • Battery L: No location given but with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain John A. Reynolds’ battery supported First Corps, which was near Fredericksburg at the time.
  • Battery M: No return. This battery was also part of Twelfth Corps in December 1862.  Lieutenant Charles Winegar commanded the battery at the time, with Captain George W. Cothran on leave.  I believe it was equipped with 10-pdr Parrotts.

 

Of note here is the listing for Battery K with the discrepancy indicated with regard to reported location.  Often in correspondence (present day correspondence, that is), folks will eagerly inquire about these summary statements.  The perception, which I held when first looking them over, is we have a gold mine of “facts” to work with.  Not entirely true.  What we have are a lot of numbers that must be shaken down for some useful information.  The example seen here, with Battery K, one of the many issues that demonstrate the data is not “clean”.    The summaries are far short of the sound foundation of facts that might lead easily to solid information.  Though those summaries are a bit firmer than clay, I would quickly point out.

At the December 1862 reporting time, I believe Battery K was commanded by Lieutenant E. L. Bailey.  It was part of a battalion commanded by Captain Robert H. Fitzhugh, the battery’s former commander.  Batteries K and M constituted 2/3rds of the battalion. And it was part of Wainwright’s regiment.  Wainwright who, as we know from his diary, was very particular about keeping up with his paperwork.  Yet, this battery didn’t give a fourth quarter, 1862 report until over a year later.  And when that report was registered by the Ordnance Department, an erroneous location was recorded.

One would think such tardiness wouldn’t be allowed.  And one would rightly supposed Battery K’s officers would report on time and accurately.  Our impression is the chain of command above Battery K would insist on timely reporting.  Furthermore that the clerks in Washington were efficient and never lost such important paperwork.  Yet, the record indicates otherwise.

So we have reason to dispute one column for Battery K, why not the rest?  Was the clerk entering the 1862 data with just one cell (location) incorrect? Or is all the other data now suspect?  Enter that discussion with ample salt…. With that salt applied, let us walk through the reported ammunition quantities, starting with smoothbore:

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The only smothbores among the reporting batteries were the Napoleons of Battery D.  That battery reported 288 shot, 96 shells, 238 288 case, and 96 canister.

We have more rifled guns to feed. Those projectiles start with the Hotchkiss Patent listings:

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Four batteries reporting Hotchkiss projectiles on hand:

  • Battery C: 102 canister, 40 percussion shell, 235 fuse shell, and 576 bullet shell all in 3-inch caliber.
  • Battery F: 80 canister, 80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 430 bullet shell of 3-inch.
  • Battery I: 120 canister, 290 fuse shell, and 651 bullet shell in 3-inch.
  • Battery K: 97 canister, 117 percussion shell, 118 fuse shell, and 54 bullet shell also 3-inch.

We might attach some significance to the proportionally larger numbers for “bullet shell” or what I prefer to call case shot.

One battery reported Dyer’s patent projectiles:

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Battery H had 140 shells, 576 shrapnel (case), and 164 canister, all in 3-inch caliber.

There are a couple of entries for the Shenkl patent projectiles:

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Battery H had 285 3-inch shells and Battery I had 116 of the same.

None of the batteries known to have Parrott rifles had a return complied.  So we are certainly missing more than a handful of pieces to the puzzle.  And I would point out that while Battery K’s data did not include any projectiles, the other pages indicate the battery had other supplies accounted for in the belated report.

Finally, the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers, and fourteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Nineteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Seventeen Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: One Navy revolver and eight cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Army revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

In summary, and to reinforce the point made above in the battery details, we cannot take this summary as a clear, clean “snapshot” of what equipment was on hand at the specified time.  Even here for a set of Eastern Theater units, very close to Washington, we see easily recognized errors in the data.  So we are obligated to ask questions and search for answers that validate… or invalidate.

“By fours, right about wheel” and a landscape lost: Loss of Hansbrough Ridge – 1863 and 2015

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working up to what Alonzo Gray called the “shock action” of cavalry when using the saber, and occasionally the revolver.  Before breaking down this shock action, as described by Gray, in more detail, allow me to pull up one of his examples… as it is timely to events occurring this very day in regard to preservation.

Readers know well the events of June 9, 1863.  Often our focus is, for good reason, on the fighting that took place from Beverly’s Ford to Fleetwood Hill.  That is the heart of the battlefield.  But the fighting around Stevensburg was no less violent or deadly.   On the morning of the battle, Colonel Alfred Duffié led the Second Cavalry Division, about 2,000 strong, from Kelly’s Ford towards Stevensburg. His orders were to cover the flank of Brigadier-General David M. Gregg’s main force.

Contesting Duffié’s advance was Colonel Mathew C. Butler, with the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry.  To protect the road to Culpeper (and hold the screen in front of Confederate infantry), Butler initially placed one squadron on Hansbrough Ridge.  When Duffié’s force arrived at the ridge, Butler rushed forward Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Hampton, brother of Brigadier-General Wade Hampton, and a detachment of troopers.  When arriving at Stevensburg, Frank Hampton pushed out and posted dismounted troopers across the ridge in front of Salubria, a colonial era plantation house which still stands today.

The presence of this dismounted line, reinforced later by the 4th Virginia Cavalry, under Colonel Williams Wickham, caused some delay of Duffié’s already painfully slow advance. In spite of the cautious stance, the troopers in Duffié’s First Brigade gained a lodgement on the ridge.  (This occuring about the same time that Gregg’s column was closing on Fleetwood Hill.)  To blunt this push, the Confederates were about to reset their lines.   However, just as a column was wheeling to form, the Federals charged down the road and over the ridge with devastating affect.  Major Henry B. McClellan later wrote, in The Life and Campaigns of Major General J.E.B. Stuart:

Lieutenant Broughton informed Adjutant Moore that he delivered a message from Colonel Hampton to Colonel Wickham to the effect that he (Hampton) would close back upon the 4th [Virginia] regiment so as to make a charge in solid column.  At this moment the rear of the 4th regiment was emerging upon the road from the woods, and the order “By fours, right about wheel,” was heard.  Whether this command was given by Colonel Hampton to execute the movement contemplated in the message delivered by Lieutenant Broughton, or whether it was given by some officer of the 4th regiment so as to bring the faces of his men toward the enemy, is entirely uncertain.  The result was most unfortunate.  Captain Chestnut and Lieutenant Rhett, at the head of Hamtpon’s men, remained facing the enemy, to conceal, if possible, a movement which they felt must bring an attack upon them at once. But the enemy saw the wheel, and instantly ordered the charge.  Colonel Hampton again ordered the right about wheel, and placed himself at the head of his men; but it was of no avail.  In a moment they were swept to the side of the road, and the full force of the charge fell upon the 4th Virginia.  Colonel Hampton, while engaging one of the enemy with his sabre, was shot through the body by another, and was mortally wounded.  He succeeded in reaching the house of John S. Barbour, west of Stevensburg, where he died that night.

I would submit this as the “vetted” Confederate version of events, carefully reconstructed by McClellan after the war.  Though I would point out that others, particularly Wade Hampton, had more pointed views of the actions that took place along the road over Hansbrough Ridge.

However, let us set aside for another day the blame for Frank Hampton’s death.  Instead, for our purposes of discussing cavalry tactics, let us take this as an example submitted by Alonzo Gray of “shock action” by cavalry.  In this case, a charge by the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry landed squarely upon the Confederates and opened the road to Stevensburg.  Such offered a great opportunity for Duffié, which he never picked up.  Duffié might have uncovered the presence of Confederate infantry.  Or he might have rushed to support the attacks on Fleetwood Hill.  Or both!  The battle… if not an entire military operation, which we would later know as “The Gettysburg Campaign”…  might have turned on actions taken at that moment at that ground where the road to Culpeper passed over Hansbrough Ridge.

But it didn’t.

And for us to really take into consideration the particulars – the opportunities and beyond to why those opportunities were left on the ground – we need to head to that ground.  Unfortunately, this is what we have to consider today:

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This view looks down Virginia Highway 3, to the west towards Stevensburg, as it passes over Hansbrough Ridge.  The area where Frank Hampton was mortally wounded is just past the telephone pole.  The exposed earth is the result of widening efforts by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  I’ve mentioned (and complained) about this in earlier posts.  The widening was, unfortunately, pushed through.

And there is a serious problem with this operation.  Under a Memorandum of Agreement, of which I retain an unsigned copy, VDOT operates this project with several stipulations in place.  One of which is:

In the event that a previously unidentified archaeological resource is discovered during ground-disturbing activities associated with the construction of the Project, the VDOT, in accordance with Section 107.16(d) of the VDOT’s Road and Bridge Specifications, shall require the construction contractor to halt immediately all construction work involving subsurface disturbance in the area of the resource and in the surrounding areas where additional subsurface remains can be reasonably expected to occur.  Work in all other areas of the Project may continue.

I’ve visited this site a couple times in the last few weeks.  Others I know have visited the site.  And each of us have made the same comment – there are artifacts being exposed, dug-up, and disrupted by the work.  I also hear that now “relic hunters” are now scavenging the work area when the contractor is not on site.  For that reason, I’m not going to pass along details of what I’ve seen.

You might counter that neither myself or the “relic hunters” are authorities in regard to archaeological findings.  Well that’s my point.  Implied with the MOA there is supposed to be an authority to determine what, if anything, is being uncovered.  This road has seen human activity since colonial times (and likely even before then).  Significant activity, in addition to what I’ve mentioned for June 9, 1863, occurred at this spot during the Civil War.  Indeed, it would be impossible for no artifacts lay by this road.  It’s even possible that human remains lay beside this road.

So why isn’t there an observer on site during work hours to determine what exactly the spades and shovels are uncovering?

Cold steel or hot lead? Saber and revolver for the cavalry in close combat

NOTEThis post was badly edited upon first publication.  The error was due to cutting and pasting of portions for serialized postings.  I’ve revised the post to provide the desired sequencing of Gray’s conclusions instead of Whittaker’s, which were intended for the follow up post.  Sorry for the confusion caused by the clean up.

Going into combat, the infantryman had his musket and bayonet.  One weapon with two different modes of use.

The artilleryman had his cannon.  One weapon with several types of projectiles for different purposes.

But the cavalryman might, if he was properly equipped, go into battle with a carbine, a revolver, and a saber.  (Let’s not go crazy and mention the lances, however).

This array of weapons was due to the varying roles the cavalry was called upon to perform.  A carbine was preferred for picket duty or skirmishing.  But for up close fighting, the revolver and saber were preferred.  Though I would point out the commander’s preference tended to play into the selection of saber and revolver.

Each of these weapons (fine throw in the lance too) had a different set of drills. And by extension, each had a particular set of tactics that a commander might employ those drills against.  From the non-cavalryman’s view, I would argue this made the cavalry seem disorderly at some level.  Again, the infantry, with their one basic weapon, had a common set of drills.  How many ways can you load a cannon?  But the cavalry trooper had all those “schools” to learn about sabers, pistols, and carbines.  So some perceptions, well-founded or not, took hold:

Cavalry-whatIDo

Even today, you mention cavalry and images of gleaming sabers come to the mind’s eye.   After all, doesn’t everyone want to be on the horse at full gallop swinging that big edged weapon around?

But we read, in most discussions centered on tactics, that the saber was used less during the Civil War compared with earlier wars.  However, examining the source material we find the saber was still often employed in the melee.  In his study of Cavalry Tactics, Captain Alonzo Gray opened Chapter I with a discussion of the revolver and saber when used for close combat.  He took up the question as to when should each be used.  Quite number of the actions Gray called upon occurred on June 9, 1863 around Brandy Station, Virginia.

Gray starts with mention of Colonel Williams Wickham and actions near Stevensburg:

Colonel Wickham and a few of his men threw themselves into a field on the roadside, and by the fire of their pistols checked further pursuit.

I’m less inclined to call this a successful use of pistols in the close melee, as we know this occurred at a time after the 4th Virginia Cavalry broke, and which General Wade Hampton blamed the loss of his brother Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Hampton.  The Federals didn’t press this to advantage, so it’s hard to say the selection of the revolver made much difference.  And I’d argue that Wickham’s “stand” really was not much of a stand to begin with, being more of a fleeting rally.

Further into the discussion, Gray offered examples of individual combat between those armed with sabers and others armed with revolvers.  Staying at the Stevensburg sector:

Colonel [Frank] Hampton, while engaging one of the enemy with his saber, was shot through the body by another, and mortally wounded.

And one, from another sector of the battlefield that had immediate and important implications on the fight (and I’d argue also on the campaign which followed):

Perceiving his danger, Colonel [B.F.] Davis turned upon Allen with a cut of his saber, which [Lieutenant R.O.] Allen avoided by throwing himself on the side of his horse; at the same moment he fired and Colonel Davis fell.

In that instance, along Beverly’s Ford Road, the initiative slipped out of the hands of the Federals. All by way of a single pistol shot.

But back from the historical implications here, what does this say about the tactics, drill, and weapons employed?  Wryly, do we say “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight?”  Well it is not that clean a cut… if I may turn a pun.

Further along in the discussion, after turning to other actions on other battlefields, Gray cited instances where the saber’s shock effect was of great value in the melee.  Among those cited vignettes, Gray circles back to Brandy Station.  This time, we go to Fleetwood Hill with the attack of General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s brigade, singling out the 1st Maine Cavalry:

They outnumbered us three to one, but could not withstand the heavy saber blows of the sturdy men of Maine, who rode through them and over them, gained the hill, captured a battle-flag and many prisoners, among them the rebel General Stuart’s adjutant-general. From this moment the fight was one series of charges, every regiment of the brigade charging, rallying, and again charging until ordered to retire.

Granted, we must take Kilpatrick’s report with salt.  But in defense of Gray’s selection, the other quotes used for Brandy Station came from Major H.B. McClellan’s Life and Campaigns of Major General J.E.B. Stuart, written after the war.  I get the impression Gray was reaching for some account from what one can argue was the largest cavalry melee of the war, and came up with but Kilpatrick’s account to use for his point.  What we can agree upon, having access to a wider range of source materials than Gray had in 1910, is that the saber was used to good effect by both sides on Fleetwood Hill that day.  Indeed, both sides mounted saber charges and counter charges… with ultimately the victory going to the side that charged last.

At the end of his discussion of sabers and pistols, Gray concluded:

It will be seen from the next chapter that during the War of the Rebellion, the same as for centuries past, the saber was essentially a weapon for shock action. During the thick of the melee it was still to be preferred; but when the melee began to dissolve into individual combats the saber was or should have been exchanged for the revolver…. In the individual combat the revolver will be the winner in almost every case.  If the trooper is expert in its use, he has nothing to fear from an individual enemy armed with a saber.

In the end, Gray did not claim the saber was obsolete.  Rather that each weapon had a role and place… and should be retained.

Put this in context.  Those words were published in 1910, just years before the trenches of the Western Front with their barbed wire and machine guns.  Now we might wave that aside as backwards thinking at a time when technology had eclipsed the tactics of old.  Maybe cast a few jokes at Gray’s expense….

But, the cavalry and their sabers remained on the battlefield… and in some cases were employed with effect.

March 30, 1918.  Cited as the last saber charge of World War I, Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew’s C Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse “moved” the Germans at Moreuil Wood with their sabers.  They payed a steep price to blunt a German offensive.  Nobody, including Gray, ever said cavalry charges were cheap, bloodless affairs.

(Citations from Alonzo Gray, Cavalry Tactics, as Illustrated by the War of the Rebellion, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Cavalry Association, 1910, pages 16-22, 25.)

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.)

Culpeper Battlefields Park update – gaining acceptance, momentum

Since the start of July, several articles and editorials have appeared in area newspapers in regard to the Culpeper Civil War Battlefield Park proposal.  All voices are positive in regard to the initiative.  The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star ran an editorial on July 15 which concluded:

At a time when the nation is reassessing how to view and understand the Civil War and its symbols, the stories of sacrifice of American lives cannot be forgotten. Opening historic sites to the public at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain is the right thing to do.

Just this weekend, the Culpeper Star-Exponent quoted Civil War Trust Policy and Communications Director, Jim Campi:

“If you have a state battlefield park here in the center of Virginia, it would be like Sailor’s Creek on steroids,” Campi said, referring to the battlefield state park in Prince Edward County. “Culpeper really is the epicenter of the Civil War; so much happened here. Even when they weren’t fighting here, they were marching across Culpeper County… all the encampments and the battles. You really can’t tell the story of the Civil War without the story of what happened in Culpeper.”

These are strong statements indicative of the support the idea has received even with the public discussion at an early stage.  For those of us who have carried, for many years, this idea for a Brandy Station and Ceder Mountain park these articles are music to our ears.  Earlier when blogging about having public discussions about a park, I had low expectations.  But the response has exceeded those by yards if not miles.  Furthermore, though I’ve been quiet about this on the blogging side, I find myself every day engaged on the “Culpeper Front” in ways large and small.

When this park comes to be (and I don’t think it is an “if” at this point, but a “when”), we will once again see how public interpretation – specifically markers – have helped build interest, awareness, and support.  Much as the comparison made to Resaca back in May.  (And I would point out the release of the Brandy Station Battle App is a further advancement along that same avenue of approach but in a digital instead of physical format).

Indeed, the Culpeper Battlefields Park, when it comes to fruition, will inherit a wealth of interpretive exhibits, most of which were written by experts on the battle and produced by the professional Virginia Civil War Trails and Civil War Trust teams.  The current interpretive system (including the soon to be in place interpretation on Fleetwood Hill) will cover nearly every need the park might want.  Well, save perhaps a few subjects – such as the USCT crossing at Kelly’s Ford at the start of the Overland Campaign and the passage of Sherman’s troops at the end of the war.  It is a fine system that any park manager would boast of on the first day of operation.

One physical element currently missing, of course, is a formal visitor center.  There are some who have mentioned the use of the Graffiti House as a new park visitor center. That would be a mistake, in my opinion. The house is not in condition to support the foot traffic that will come into the park. It would need extensive, expensive structural work. Nor is it the  place that visitors need to begin their visit (being on the wrong side of the tracks, literally). Furthermore, the real treasure of the Graffiti House is the surviving markings from the war which deserve preservation.  Needed improvements to make a visitor center would detract from that preservation. Unless something akin to what was done for Blenheim in Fairfax – a visitor center  separate from the historic structure – is completed, the graffiti would be at risk.

And such a separate visitor center would essentially mean the Graffiti House would be an exhibit and not the visitor center proper.  At that point, why place a visitor center in a place where visitors will need to traverse a busy highway in order to see what most are looking for? There are many places which could better serve as a temporary visitor center, assuming the state would prefer, as done at other battlefield parks, to build a purpose build visitor center with museum at some point in the future.  Besides, we are getting way ahead of ourselves in planning where to park the buses.

One last point I’d make, which has been voiced in the articles to date is with the operations and maintenance of the proposed park.  As the Culpeper Star-Exponent article this week mentioned, “To expedite the proposal, the [Civil War Trust] is willing to continue to manage the properties for several years after the land transfer, enabling the state to focus its energies and resources on launching the park…”

Some have alluded to the cost of running a new park as a negative in the park effort.  Indeed the Virginia State Park system, as with many across the country, is at best “just” funded in terms of operations budget.  The gracious offer by the Trust will allow some time for the state to work out the particulars to ensure the park is properly staffed and supported.

Although there are a lot of details in the air and a lot of issues to be worked out, the notion of a Culpeper Battlefields Park has gained acceptance and picking up momentum.  The reality of such a park is not far away!