Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – The Colorado Battery

Yes, indeed!  Colorado, a territory at the time, mustered an artillery battery during the Civil War.  Though, like a mountain stream, the story of that battery was not a straight line from start to finish.  For the second quarter, we noted a single entry line for a Colorado battery, reporting from Camp Weld, Colorado Territory.  And for the 3rd Quarter we find two entry lines (and the territory given a proper header):

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One battery, but separate lines for each section:

  • 1st Colorado Battery: With infantry stores at Camp Weld, Colorado Territories.
  • Section of 1st Colorado Battery: At Camp [Fort] Garland, Colorado Territories.

Let’s go back to this battery’s inception.  Operations into the fall of 1861 bore out the need for more troops to thwart any Confederate incursions and maintain order.  However, with pressing needs everywhere on the map, the Territory of Colorado looked to build such a force with resources on hand.  As the 2nd Colorado Infantry formed, one of its companies, under Captain William D. McLain, was detailed for artillery duty.  I’m not exactly sure as to why this decision was made.  At least one secondary source mentions bronze cannon purchased by McLain, and thus the company may have been one of the many “sponsored” units frequently seen early in the war.  At least initially, the battery was still considered a company within the 2nd Colorado Infantry.

But it was not officially sanctioned by the War Department in far away Washington, D.C.  That lead to the battery being disbanded, briefly, before being officially re-mustered in December 1862 with three year enlistments.  The battery appears on some records as McLain’s Independent Battery, but still being recruited and formed.  Aside from McLain, Lieutenants George S. Esyre and Horace W. Baldwin were ranking officers in the battery.

In February 1863, the battery appears, as the 1st Colorado Battery, on organizational listings for the Department of the Missouri, in the District of Colorado, at Fort Lyon, under McLain.  In June, the battery was still at Fort Lyon, but under Lieutenant Baldwin.  It appears McLain and Esyre were recruiting more men to complete the battery.

By July 31, a section under Baldwin was at Camp Weld.  Such implies the battery had cannon, and at least enough men trained to man two guns.  Though on the same organizational listing, McLain appears under the heading of “Recruiting parties within the District.”

Right around that time, McLain and his battery came under a great deal of scrutiny.  In the first place, nobody at the War Department recognized the battery as being formally mustered.  Furthermore, there was no indicated requirement, and thus no authorization, for a battery in the District of Colorado.  Thus, in the bureaucratic minds that determine such things, the battery was not supposed to be in the service.  So they directed it “un-mustered” or at least not brought onto the rolls.

Major-General John Schofield, in the Department of the Missouri, sensing McLain was working without sanction, or at worst hindering the war effort, sent out an order for the captain’s arrest on July 29.  Schofield called specific attention to proper reporting procedures, adding, “Unless officers comply with regulations and orders in making returns they are to be arrested and tried for disobedience of orders.”  At that time, McLain was on duty in Denver at a General Court Martial… not his own, per-say, but as an officer of the court.

With the War Department considering the battery a non-entity and Schofield looking to lock up the commander, the Colorado Battery’s service seemed at an end.  Orders were for the battery to disband.  McLain and some of his officers received dishonorable discharges.  The Rocky Mountain News, out of Denver, ran this short piece on October 14 about the fate of the battery:

RockyMountainNews_Wed_Oct_14_1863_P2_Col2

As is often the case with our news, this has only half the story and was actually a few weeks behind.  At the same time McLain was discharged and the battery thrown out, the War Department issued Special Orders No. 431, dated September 26.  Paragraph 29 specified:

Captain McLain’s Company, 2d Colorado Volunteer Infantry, is, under the special circumstances of the case, hereby recognized as an Independent Battery of Colorado Volunteer Artillery, and is hereby permanently detached from the Infantry organization.  The officers of the Company having been dishonorably discharged the service of the United States, the Governor of the Territory is hereby authorized to make new appointments for the Battery.

We can easily read between the lines in regard to the “special circumstances” as clearly the District of Colorado had need of some artillery.  But it is the last line which left open the path to redemption for McLain and his officers.  In effect, this order disbanded the battery but directed it be reorganized.  And the authority for that reorganization was left to the Territorial Governor, John Evans.  And Evans would turn right back to McLain, Esyre, and Baldwin to lead the battery.

However, paperwork had to be filed and all had to be done at the pace allowed by bureaucracy.  Not until January 12, 1864, was McLain officially restored, the wording being “the disability regarding this officers is removed and is hereby mustered in by virtue of commission issued by his Excellency [Samuel Hitt] Elbert, Acting Governor of Colorado Territory.”  The order was post-dated to December 19, 1863.  (Elbert was the Territorial Secretary at that time, acting as Governor when Evans was away on business. Western history buffs will point out that Evans was later appointed territorial governor in the Grant administration, 1873-4.  But I’m wandering afield here.)

At any rate, this long narrative helps us establish a few administrative “facts” about the battery.  Technically, it was “un-mustered” and being “re-mustered” at the end of September 1863.  However, it did exist, with sections at Camp Weld and Fort Garland.  And give the officers credit, as they did submit their returns (perhaps wary of the wrath of Schofield).  The Ordnance Department received Camp Weld’s report on January 26, 1864.  And that of Fort Garland’s section on November 16, 1863.  Not bad for reports from the frontier!

Although no cannon were indicated on the return, some ammunition was:

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  • Fort Garland Section: 17 shell and 25 case for 12-pdr howitzers.

I’ll leave the determination of field or mountain howitzers open for discussion.  For the following quarter, the battery would report four 12-pdr mountain howitzers on hand.  There’s little doubt those were the same weapons McLain formed the battery with the previous year – be those owned by the territory or donated by subscription (which is perhaps why those howitzers were not reported in September 1863… as the tubes would then not be US government property and thus “off the books”).

No rifled projectiles reported (I’ve posted those pages here, here, and here, for those who desire to look at blank sections).  But there were small arms on hand to report:

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  • Fort Garland Section: Twelve Navy revolvers, twenty-eight cavalry sabers, and two horse artillery sabers.

As you can see, the story of this battery offers a lot of twists and turns.  And there will be more to discuss in the next quarter, with temporary officers assigned to the sections.  Furthermore, Lieutenant Baldwin had a little “adventure” of his own along with another brush with military authorities over the regulations!  But we’ll cover those points when the next quarter’s summary is due.

In the mean time, I’ll leave you to ponder this battery which was almost the casualty of a bureaucratic defeat.  This same battery would play a role – an active one – in the defeat of Price at Westport in October 1864.  Rather fortunate that the “special circumstances” were recognized and this battery was left to fight another day!

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Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Missing Batteries and Other Notes

After posting the summaries for Wisconsin’s batteries last week, I updated all the links for the first quarter, 1863 summaries.  Before charging in to the next quarter, I wanted to circle back and identify any additional blanks – specifically batteries or other formations that should have been listed in the summaries but were not.  For this, allow me to use Frederick Dyer’s Compendium as the base reference.  Although there were formations that escaped mention in that work, particularly those serving only under state authority, Dyer’s is a good list to work from.

With that baseline established, some batteries missed by the clerks at the Ordnance Department for the first quarter of 1863:

  • 1st Arkansas (Union) Artillery Battery – Captain Denton D. Stark received authorization to raise this battery in January 1863.  The battery was not completely formed until later in the spring.  The battery mustered at Fayetteville, Arkansas, but would move to Springfield, Missouri (perhaps as early as March of the year).
  • 1st Colorado Battery:  Once again escaping note from the clerks.  Commanded by Captain William D. McLain and often cited as McLain’s Independent Battery.  The battery was posted to Fort Lyon, Colorado.
  • Armstrong’s (Kansas) Battery: Potentially an interesting story here, but at present I only can offer scant particulars.  This was a battery formed within the 1st Kansas Colored Troops.  I suspect, from looking at the regimental roster, the name derived from Captain Andrew A. Armstrong.  Formed in the fall of 1862, the regiment saw active service in Kansas and Missouri through the winter of 1863 and into spring.  The first reference I have to the battery is from a July 1863 action report.
  • 13th Massachusetts Light Artillery: Battery left Massachusetts in January 1863 and was assigned to the Department of the Gulf.  Captain Charles H. J. Hamlen commanded. The battery performed various duties around New Orleans until around June, when assigned to the defenses of the city.
  • 14th Massachusetts Light Artillery:  Not mustered until 1864, but I include mention here so you don’t think I skipped a number.
  • 15th Massachusetts Light Artillery:  Captain Timothy Pearson in charge.  Moved to New Orleans in March and was assigned to the defenses of New Orleans.
  • Battery L (11th Battery), 1st Michigan Light Artillery: This battery didn’t officially muster until April 1863.  But the unit was “on the books” at the state level.
  • Battery M (12th Battery), 1st Michigan Light Artillery: Likewise, Battery M would not muster into Federal service until June 1863.
  • Walling’s Battery, Mississippi Marine Brigade: I made mention of this battery as one often cited under Missouri, as it was missing from the first quarter listings.  And for good reason, the battery really owes more to Pennsylvania than Missouri! We will see this battery appear under a separate heading in the next quarter.
  • 1st Marine Brigade Artillery (New York):  Colonel William A. Howard commanded this formation, which served in North Carolina.  The full “regiment” included ten companies.  My first inclination is to rate the brigade as “naval” artillery, as they were intended to be assigned to boats and ships.  However the batteries of this brigade were used in the field, and eventually assigned to garrison posts.  In January 1863, the regiment was reassigned to the Department of the South.  But before that move was completed, the formation disbanded (date given for that administrative action was March 31, 1863).
  • Battery A, 1st Tennessee (Union) Artillery Battalion: Also listed at times as the 1st Tennessee Battery, Middle Tennessee Battery, or other derivations. Captain  Ephraim P. Abbott commanded this battery, listed in the garrison at Nashville.  The battery would go on to serve with the Army of the Cumberland in the field.

And I’m not going to say this “completes” the list or fills in all the holes from the summaries.  For instance, one noticeable change reflected between the fourth quarter of 1862 and first of 1863 was the reduction of non-artillery troops reporting cannons and artillery equipment on hand.  One example was the 3rd California Infantry, which had reported a pair of 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr mountain howitzers at the end of the previous year.  We saw a few cases, in the winter of 1863, where infantry or cavalry units reported having their own artillery.  But those were becoming rare.

Still, if we are looking to account for every cannon and every cannoneer – admittedly a long shot at best – one must keep in mind those non-artillerymen serving guns.  And also account for those field guns impressed for use in the garrisons and fortifications.  And… well you get the point.

My closing note for the first quarter would be a circle back to the point made at the beginning of this thread.  During the winter of 1863, the Federal armies underwent substantial reorganizations.  These actions “task organized” the force towards strategic objectives.  In the east, this change was mostly seen with the movement of the Ninth Corps.  But in the Western Theater, two large and cumbersome corps were broken up to form a couple of armies – one aimed at Atlanta (with the near-term objective being Chattanooga) and another directed towards Vicksburg.  With that reorganization, batteries moved about on the organization charts.  All the while, new cannons and fresh stocks of ammunition flowed in (in addition to replacement horses, fresh recruits, and new equipment).  The batteries were but loops in several coiled springs about to discharge in the spring of 1863.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Vermont… and others unmentioned

Moving through the remaining state batteries, we come to Vermont…. and this offering:

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Nothing to see here… move along…

Well, let us not move along!  There’s something missing here.  Vermont provided several batteries to the Federal cause.  These deserve mention here.  If nothing else let us identify omissions.  At the time of reporting (December 1862) the 11th Vermont Infantry had just transformed into the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery, posted to the Washington defenses.  But being heavy, they fall outside the scope of the survey here.  However, two light batteries from Vermont do fit within the scope (a third was not mustered until 1864).  Both of these were assigned to the Department of the Gulf at the end of 1862.  And we know the types of weapons on hand based on correspondence from January 1863:

  • 1st Vermont Light Battery: Commanded by Captain George W. Duncan, with two 6-pdr rifled guns, two 6-pdr guns, and two howitzers, at Camp Parapet, defenses of New Orleans.
  • 2nd Vermont Light Battery: In Third Division, Nineteenth Corps under Captain Pythagoras E. Holcomb, with two 6-pdr Sawyer guns, two 12-pdr howitzers, and two 3-inch rifles.

While these men were serving in a “backwater” of the war, that is not to say they were inactive.  The 2nd Vermont played a role in the ill-fated attempt at Galveston, Texas at the start of 1863.   These batteries would make the summary for the first quarter of 1863, by which time they reported “regular” armaments of six 3-inch rifles and six James rifles, respectively.

So if we are mentioning the omission of batteries from the fourth quarter, 1862 summaries, are there others overlooked?  I’ve tried to fill in voids where existing within the state entries, and refer readers back to the respective posts for states listed in the summaries.  But there are three batteries listed in Dyer’s that that fall outside the states listed in the summaries which I feel warrant mention here:

  • 1st Arkansas (US) Battery:  Some of the Arkansas unionists from the northwestern part of the state. Captain Denton D. Stark received authorization to form this battery at the start of 1863.  The battery was posted to Springfield, Missouri while forming.
  • 1st Colorado Battery:  Commanded by Captain William D. McLain and often cited as McLain’s Independent Battery.  The battery was posted to Fort Lyon, Colorado and had just formed in December 1862.
  •  Battery A, 1st Tennessee (US) Artillery Battalion: Also listed at times as the 1st Tennessee Battery, Middle Tennessee Battery, or other derivations. Captain  Ephraim P. Abbott commanded this battery, listed in the garrison at Nashville.  The battery would go on to serve with the Army of the Cumberland in the field.

Several more Tennessee batteries would later round out that battalion of unionist gunners.  And there was an independent battery under Captain R. Clay Crawford from East Tennessee to consider.  But none of those units were officially listed by the end of 1862 and thus “don’t make the cut” here.

I’m sure there are other batteries, sections, detachments, and details that should be mentioned for sake of a complete assessment.  No slight intended to infantrymen and cavalrymen serving as gunners at that time (or their descendants), but those records often eluded the formal data-gathering processes of the time.  For now, I’ll limit these listings to designated batteries that arguably could have been listed in the summaries for fourth quarter, 1862.  And that arbitrary ruling leads me to include the five batteries named above as “omissions” from the summary for that period.

Next, I’ll work up the last installment for fourth quarter, 1862 – the Wisconsin batteries.