Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – Pennsylvania’s Emergency Batteries

Last post, I mentioned the Pennsylvania militia and emergency batteries appearing on the Federal order of battle during the crucial summer months of 1863.  While those batteries escaped mention in the summaries, in the interest in cataloging ALL the artillery batteries from Pennsylvania, I do wish to at least name the organizations for reference.

To properly frame this, let’s turn to a proclamation issued by Governor Andrew G. Curtain on June 12, 1863.  At that time, the War Department had just created two new departments – Department of the Monongahela (also called Western Pennsylvania) including parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio; and Department of the Susquehanna, or Eastern Pennsylvania.  Major-Generals William T.H. Brooks and Darius N. Couch, respectively, commanded these departments.  This was all in response to a growing emergency as reports indicated a large Confederate force was on the move north.  In that proclamation, Curtain urged:

I earnestly invite the attention of the people of Pennsylvania to the general orders issued by these officers on assuming the command of their respective departments. The importance of immediately raising a sufficient force for the defense of the State cannot be overrated. The corps now proposed to be established will give permanent security to our borders. I know too well the gallantry and patriotism of the freemen of this Commonwealth to think it necessary to do more than commend this measure to the people, and earnestly urge them to respond to the call of the General Government, and promptly fill the ranks of these corps, the duties of which will be mainly the defense of our own homes, firesides, and property from devastation.

And the people of Pennsylvania did respond.  Over thirty-five regiments (though not “full” in terms of the number of companies) and numerous independent infantry companies formed up, in addition to cavalry battalions and companies.  The artillery component was eleven batteries, most of which existed as militia before the declaration of the emergency.

We find the administrative details of these batteries in Samuel P. Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Volume V, and from the returns provided by Brooks and Couch.  I’ll combine some details from those sources for this listing of batteries:

  • Frishmuth’s Battery: The Philadelphia Union Battery commanded by Benoni Frishmuth.  Mustered on June 26 and discharged on August 1.  Four officers and 100 men.  The battery had four guns, “the private property of [Frishmuth’s] company.”  A return from July 10 places the battery at Harrisburg, part of a brigade led by Brigadier-General William Hall, New York National Guard. Then on July 31, the battery was back in Philadelphia.
  • Miller’s Battery: Philadelphia Howitzer Battery. Commanded by Captain E. Spencer Miller.  Mustered June 19 and discharged July 25.  Three offices and 99 men.  This battery served in Brigadier-General William F. Smith’s division of the Susquehanna Department.  They supported the movement to Carlisle and subsequent pursuit of the Confederates.  Smith’s report indicates the battery had four pieces.
  • Landis’ Battery: 1st Philadelphia Battery. Captain Henry D. Landis’ battery mustered on June 27, serving until discharged on July 30.  Three officers and 105 men.  Also from Philadelphia and also assigned to Smith’s division.  This battery saw action at Sporting Hill and Carlisle.  Returns at the end of July place the battery at Chambersburg.
  • Joseph Knap’s Battery: Captain Joseph M. Knap had recently mustered out from Battery E, Pennsylvania Light Artillery (which is the connection to the “original” Knap’s Battery).  But he responded to the governor’s call, leading a battery of five officers and 121 men, which mustered on June 27.  They mustered out on August 16.
  • Ermentrout’s Battery: Captain William C. Ermentrout’s was a company of heavy artillery.  Mustered on July 3, and discharged on August 25, the company numbered five officers and 144 enlisted.  The battery formed in Reading and saw service around Camp Curtain and Harrisburg.
  • Guss’s Battery: Chester County Artillery. Commanded by Captain George R. Guss.  The battery consisted of five officers and 144 enlisted.  It mustered on July 3 and was discharged on August 25.  At the end of July, this battery was at Reading, Pennsylvania.
  • Fitzki’s Battery: Second Keystone Battery with Captain Edward Fitzki in command.  Five officers and 138 enlisted mustered with this battery, starting on July 6. The battery mustered out on August 24.  Fitzki had served with Battery G, 1st Pennsylvania earlier in the war. Returns place the battery at Camp Curtain and Harrisburg during July.
  • Woodward’s Battery: Captain William H. Woodward’s battery mustered on July 8.  Unlike these other batteries, Woodward’s was not mustered out until November 4, 1863, just short of a full six month enlistment.  The battery mustered with three officers and 128 enlisted.  Returns through July have the battery unattached and serving at Philadelphia.
  • Tyler’s Battery: Park Battery. Captain Horatio K. Tyler, who’d served earlier in the war with an infantry regiment, commanded this battery.  Mustered on July 16, the battery consisted of four officers and 138 enlisted.  In late August, the battery was in Colonel James Mulligan’s Brigade serving in West Virginia.  The battery remained in service until January 28, 1864.
  • Robert Nevin’s Battery: (Not to be confused with John Nevin’s Battery H, Pennsylvania Light.) Captain Robert J. Nevin’s battery mustered sometime in the first week of July and numbered five officers and 147 men.  On July 10, the battery was on the returns for Camp Curtain.  Then in late August, the battery reported a posting at Philadelphia.  It was armed with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. During the fall, the battery was posted to West Virginia.  On January 7, 1864, the battery was mustered out in Philadelphia, but most of the men, including Nevin, would re-enlist for three years.  As such unit was re-designated Battery I, Pennsylvania Light Artillery.

Also, we might list Captain Matthew Hasting’s Keystone Battery which was on duty at Camp Barry until the end of June.  That battery appears on Bates’ list as a militia battery, though was actually on service in Washington, D.C.  As mentioned in the earlier post, the battery mustered out on August 20.

From the perspective of a “bean counting” clerk at the Ordnance Department, only four of these batteries were mustered prior to the end of the second quarter reporting period (June 30).  And only three of these batteries would be in Federal service at the end of third quarter (September 30).  So this gives the clerks a clean alibi for not allocating lines on the summary.  Their tracking was still not thorough, however, as they would allocate only one line to the three batteries for the third quarter (which we must wait to discuss).

Regardless of the administrative particulars which prevented the inclusion of the emergency batteries on the summaries, I offer them here as to help paint a more complete picture.  While briefly serving, it was service at a time of a crisis.  And the batteries appear on orders of battle for formations thrown into that crisis.  Their story also allows us to consider the structure of state and local militia organizations in relation to the more familiar volunteer organizations in Federal service.

(Citations:  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part III, Serial 44, page 233; Serial 45, pages 79-80.)

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