Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – 2nd Illinois Artillery Regiment

Before the war, Thomas Scott Mather was the state Adjutant General, where he demonstrated good organizational and administrative skills.  During the first fall of the war, Mather accepted the colonelcy of the 2nd Illinois Artillery.  As with most field artillery regiments, the 2nd never marched as a whole.  And thus the position of regimental commander was more so an administrative post.  But the rank gave Mather the ability to serve in other capacities.  For a time he was Chief of Staff for General John McClernand.  Later Mather served as the Inspector General for the Department of the Susquehanna.  For this “faithful and meritorious services” Mather received a brevet to brigadier-general at war’s end.

For the third quarter of 1863, Mather’s batteries appeared as such on the summaries:

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A “western theater” regiment:

  • Battery A:  No report. The battery remained with Fourteenth (or First, after reconciliation) Division, Thirteenth Corps.  When Captain Peter Davidson promoted to major in the spring, Lieutenant Herman Borris, promoted to captain that April, moved up to command the battery (though Lieutenant Frank B. Fenton lead the battery during the Vicksburg Campaign).  The battery remained with the division as the corps was transferred to the Department of the Gulf.  At the end of September, the battery was at Carrollton, Louisiana.
  • Battery B: Indicated at Fort Donelson, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James rifles. The location reported is possibly a transcription error, and should be applied to Battery C (below) along with the four James rifles.  Captain Fletcher H. Chapman commanded.  Champman’s battery remained part of the Sixteenth Corps and assigned to the District of Corinth.
  • Battery C: No report.  Captain James P. Flood’s battery remained at At Fort Donelson, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James Rifles, assigned to the Third Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Battery D: Indicated at Memphis, Tennessee with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain Charles S. Cooper remained in command of this battery, assigned to First Division, Sixteenth Corps, covering Memphis at the time.
  • Battery E: Reported at Carrollton, Louisiana with three 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer.  After Vicksburg, Lieutenant George L. Nipsel’s battery transferred to Third Division, Thirteenth Corps, which was subsequently assigned to the Department of the Gulf.
  • Battery F: Indicated at Natchez, Mississippi with two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  The battery was assigned to Fourth Division, Seventeenth Corps in the post-Vicksburg reorganizations. Captain John W. Powell remained in command, but with him serving as division artillery chief, Lieutenant Walter H Powell led the battery.
  • Battery G: At Vicksburg, Mississippi with four rifled 6-pdr guns. Captain Frederick Sparrestrom commanded this battery, assigned to Third Division, Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery H: Reporting at Clarksville, Tennessee  two 6-pdr field guns and four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Captain Henry C. Whittemore assumed command of the battery at the end of June.  Battery assigned to Third Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland, and performing garrison and escort duties.
  • Battery I:  Under siege at Chattanooga, Tennessee with two 12-pdr Napoleons, two 10-pdr Parrotts, and two 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain Charles M. Barnett commanded this battery.  It was assigned to Second Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • Battery K: No report.  This battery, under Captain Benjamin F. Rodgers, had been with Seventeenth Corps at the start of the year.  It transferred to the Sixteenth Corps when serving at Vicksburg.  And after that siege, transferred to the Thirteenth Corps (Fourth Division).   At this time, the battery was on garrison duties at Natchez.
  • Battery L: Listed at Vicksburg with four 3.80-inch James Rifles. Part of Third Division, Seventeenth Corps.  Captain William H. Bolton commanded.
  • Battery M: Reporting at Greeneville, Tennesse with four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain John C. Phillips command this battery, which assigned to Fourth Division, Twenty-third Corps, Army of the Ohio.

Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana – but varied service and duties.

Looking to the smoothbore ammunition reported:

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Four batteries reporting:

  • Battery E: 204 shot, 164 case, and 203 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 34 shell, 60 case, and 34 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery F: 184 shot, 135 case, and 28 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 120 shell, 133 case, and 31 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery H: 176 shot, 150 case, and 42 canister for 6-pdr filed guns.
  • Battery I: 43 shot, 52 shell, 95 case, and 90 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, the Hotchkiss are first:

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No 3-inch Ordnance rifles, but a scattering of rounds for the 3.80-inch and 3.67-inch rifles:

  • Battery B: 100(?) shot, 430 percussion shell, and 68 fuse shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery G:  110 percussion shell and 955 fuse shell for 3.67-inch (6-pdr) rifles.
  • Battery I: 46 shot and 108(?) bullet shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery L: 161 percussion shell and 123 fuse shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery M: 40 shot, 50 percussion shell, 240 fuse shell, and 150 bullet shell for 3.80-inch James.

Let us break the next page down into sections for clarity.  Starting with a pair of Hotchkiss columns carried over to that page:

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  • Battery B: 250 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery G: 100 canister 3.67-inch (6-pdr) rifles.
  • Battery L: 60 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery M: 55 canister for 3.80-inch James.

As expected, many entries for the James projectiles:

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  • Battery B: 24 shell and 2 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery D: 45 shot, 203 shell, and 60 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery H: 115 shot, 252 shell, and 214 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery I: 108 canister for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery L: 128 shell and 128 canister for 3.80-inch James.

We have only one battery with Parrott rifles:

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  • Battery I: 27 shot, 131 shell, 185 case, and 64 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

The last page of the rifled projectiles contains columns for Schenkl and Tatham:

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Two batteries with quantities of Schenkl to report:

  • Battery D: 64 shot, 128 shell and 64 case for 3.80-inch James.
  • Battery I: 42 shell for 3.80-inch James.

But over to the far right is one line for Tatham’s canister:

  • Battery H: 32 canister for 3.80-inch James.

Lastly, we turn to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery B: Five (?) Army revolvers, nine Navy revolvers, four cavalry sabers, and six (?) horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Eight Army revolvers, twenty-four cavalry sabers, and forty foot artillery swords.
  • Battery F: Twenty-two Army revolvers and twelve cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Fifty-four Navy revolvers and seven cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Seven Army revolvers, twenty-three Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M: Twenty Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.

That concludes our look at the 2nd Illinois Artillery and their third quarter, 1863 returns.  Next are the independent batteries and “others” from Illinois.

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150 Years Ago: Sound of the guns at Prairie Grove

NOTE:  This post is focused on the Federal artillery at the battle of Prairie Grove.  For more background information on the battle, I refer you to Civil War Daily Gazette’s entry or the Civil War Trust resource page for Prairie Grove.

On this day (December 7) in 1862, one of the westernmost battles of the Civil War took place at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. We don’t often think of artillery in the Trans-Mississippi, yet just as at Pea Ridge the “King of Battle” played an important role.

After the long, rapid march from Springfield, Missouri, Brigadier General Francis Herron advanced from Fayetteville towards the advanced position of Brigadier General James Blunt at Cane Hill to the southwest. Before he could link with Blunt, Herron ran into Confederate Major General Thomas Hindman’s defensive position outside Prairie Grove.

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View Shoup’s Lines at Prairie Grove

Hindman chose good ground to defend. On the right side of the line, facing the advance of Herron’s Federals, were four batteries – Blocher’s, Marshall’s, and West’s Arkansas batteries along with Bledsoe’s Missouri battery. All told, these batteries fronted six 6-pdr field guns and four 12-pdr howitzers.

When Herron’s column reached Illinois Creek, they came under the Confederate guns. First throwing Captain David Murphy’s Battery F, 1st Missouri Light Artillery over a ford, Herron then moved the remainder of his force over. Rapidly, Herron established a gun line by adding the other three batteries under his command. These were Lieutenant Joseph Foust’s Battery E, 1st Missouri; Captain Frank Backof’s Battery L, 1st Missouri; and Lieutenant Herman Borris’s Battery A, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery. Twenty guns in total – four 10-pdr Parrotts, six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, six James Rifles, one 6-pdr field gun, and three 12-pdr howitzers.

In his battle report, Foust described the initial phase of the action:

Arriving at the ford of the creek, I was ordered to halt out of sight of the enemy, and to advance and open the battery upon a signal to be given from Captain Murphy’s battery.

We went into action at the signal, under a terrible fire from the enemy while crossing the ford. About the third round the enemy’s guns were silenced. Another battery on our left having got our range, we were compelled to change position to the front….

In his report, Murphy elaborated further about the fire effects noting, “The fire was so well directed that the enemy retired, minus caissons, horses, and one piece disabled.” With the Confederate batteries silenced, and their infantry taking cover, Herron advanced his infantry. Backof’s and Foust’s batteries moved forward to support this assault.

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View of the Confederate position from Herron’s line of advance

Backof wrote:

After silencing the enemy’s battery on the hill in front of us, I advanced 200 yards, flanked on the left by the Twentieth Wisconsin Volunteers and by the Ninety-fourth Illinois on the right, and sustained an effectual artillery fire at the enemy’s position (which they moved several times) for three hours. In the same time [the infantry] made a charge…on the hill and through the woods surrounding; meanwhile the shells of my battery did great execution amongst the enemy.

But the Federal infantry found themselves outnumbered when they closed with the Confederates on the hill. When the infantry fell back, Backof covered the retreat with canister. In the melee two of Backof’s guns were disabled (though he later reported only one out of action at the end of the day). His losses were one man killed, two wounded, and eight horses.

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Confederate artillery position at Prairie Grove

Also in this forward position and facing Confederate attacks, Foust wrote:

At this time the enemy attempted to charge our lines, when the whole battery opened on them with canister, and they fell back in confusion. The infantry attempted to charge the hill, but were repulsed by an overwhelming force of the enemy, when we again forced them back with canister. Again the infantry attempted to carry the hill, but were driven back the second time, when we covered their retreat once more with canister, driving the enemy back again to the wood. The enemy seeing the battery without support, made a great effort to take it, but were driven back by the battery.

Herron summarized the defense of these guns,

Never was there more real courage and pluck displayed, and more downright hard fighting done, than at this moment by the above-named batteries. Advancing to within 100 yards of the guns, the rebels received a fire that could not be withstood, and retreated in disorder, receiving, as they ran, a terrible fire, causing great slaughter among them.

Foust would lose also eight horses, along with two men killed and six wounded. Herron would single out Foust for heroism during the repulse of the Confederate attacks.

At this phase of the battle, action shifted to the Federal right flank. Blunt had “moved to the sound of the guns,” quite literally, and arrived to smash into the Confederate left. There three Federal batteries also played an important role there, first defeating the Confederate artillery and then breaking up the infantry. Just as on Herron’s side of the field, the Federal artillery not only outnumbered the Confederates, they outgunned them with six 10-pdr Parrotts, four James Rifles, five 6-pdrs, and one 12-pdr howitzer. In the thick of the action, Captain John Rabb of the 2nd Indiana Battery, recalled,

A heavy musketry fire was then brought to bear on my command. I answered with canister. For fifteen minutes my men stood firm, firing their pieces with terrible precision, making roads in the ranks of the enemy, which were quickly filled by fresh men from the rear. Three times they advanced in heavy force upon the battery, but were driven back to the wood with heavy loss.

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Overlook of the west side of the Prairie Grove battlefield

In the engagement, Borris reported firing 320 rounds from his two cannons. Foust fired “562 rounds of shot, shell, and canister.” Muprhy’s gunners fired 510 shells and solid shot. That is a lot of iron going downrange… particularly for a “small” battle in the Trans-Mississippi.

Prairie Grove is one of the best preserved battlefields outside of the National Park System. It is a bit out of the way, but worth the drive to visit. For those who haven’t, I’ve posted many of the historical markers on the battlefield in HMDB as a virtual tour.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, pages 100, 106, 112, 124,128-9, and 136.)