Brief Pre-War and Civil War exploits of Battery I, 1st US Artillery

 

 

Some “Regular Army” Batteries during the Civil War are called into service even before the first shots are fired and this is the case with Battery I.  Commanded in January of 1861 by “Prince” John Magruder, they are on post at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They have arrived there from their post in San Diego, California in 1859 and represent the senior battery in the old First Regiment of Artillery. They are employed in the art of training new recruits and manning what is a “Hot Spot” with conflicts between Jayhawkers and Missouri Ruffians escalating. They are what is called a “light company”, having 4 – 6 pounder field guns (bronze) and 2 – 12 pounder field howitzers.  Prompted by secession of southern states and the clouds of war forming on the horizon, the battery is ordered to embark for Washington City and on January 7th, 1861 it begins the long journey east.  Battery I has two very important jobs.. It is to, along with Battery D, 5th US Artillery (The West Point Battery), provide some comfort to the nervous residents of Washington City and to train artillerymen.  Arriving in February, the battery immediately sets up training new recruits and drilling. As war begins with the firing on Fort Sumter and the rush of new volunteers, the true work of training cannoneers begins in earnest.. It is these 2 batteries that form the nucleus of that training and many a cannoneer from “Volunteer Batteries” in that early rush to arms found himself on the drill field under the guidance of Officers and NCO’s of Battery I.

 

The 1st United States Artillery, Light Company I, was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas, under the command ofBrevet Lieutenant Colonel J B Magruder, in January 1861.
 

Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas, to Fort McHenry, Baltimore Harbour, 8-12 January, 1861: The 1st United States Artillery, Light Company I, under the command of First Lieutenant J B Fry, and was ordered to Washington, D. C., on 8 January, 1861, and was accompanied by the the 2nd United States Artillery, Light Company A, and Company H, under the command of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel J B Magruder. The company arrived by the Northern Central Railroad at Baltimore City, Maryland, via Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in the evening on 12 January, 1861, and was assigned to garrison duty at Fort McHenry, Baltimore Harbour, by Colonel H Brown, 5th United States Artillery, the same day.
 

Note: Brevet Lieutenant Colonel J B Magruder, 1st United States Artillery, was assigned to command the United States Artillery stationed at Washington, D. C., and Fort McHenry, Baltimore Harbour, on 4 April, 1861, but resigned on 20 April, 1861, and was appointed colonel, Confederate States Army.
 

Fort McHenry, Baltimore Harbour, to Washington, D. C., 29 January, 1861: The 1st United States Artillery, Light Company I, under the command of First Lieutenant J B Fry, arrived at Washington, D. C., with four 12 pounder howitzers at 9 PM on 29 January, 1861, and was stationed at Fifteenth and G Streets, near the War Department, Washington, D. C., the same day.

Long Bridge, Washington, D. C., 24 May, 1861: The 1st United States Artillery, Light Company I, was ordered across the Potomac River by the Long Bridge, Washington, D. C., at 12 PM on 24 May, 1861.
 

Advance to Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia, 16-18 July, 1861: The 1st United States Artillery, Light Company I, was ordered to proceed by the Old Fairfax Road to Pohick Creek at 10 AM on 16 July, 1861, and arrived at the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, near Burkes Station, Fairfax County, Virginia, in the morning on 17 July, 1861. The company was ordered to Sangster's Station, Prince William County, Virginia, at5.30 AM the same day and arrived via Elzey's, Fairfax County, Virginia, at 5 PM on 17 July, 1861. The 1st United States Artillery, Light Company I, was ordered to Little Rocky Run, near Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia, at 5 PM on 18 July, 1861, and arrived by the Old Braddock Road at 9 PM the same day.
 

Sudley Ford, Virginia, 21 July, 1861: The 1st United States Artillery, Light Company I, was ordered to Sudley Ford, Virginia, at 2.30 AM on 21 July, 1861.

 

Captain Magruder, being a son of Virginia, follows his state to the new Confederacy. In his place ascends a new commander for the Battery.  Captain James B. Ricketts.  Magruder has commanded the battery since before the Mexican War and the men must have certainly wondered what was to come of them and their Battery.

 

The Guns of Battery I.

Equipped originally with 4 – 12 pound field howitzers, Battery I travels east to Washington and arrives in February of 1861 with these same guns. It is after May 25th as we know that the first Union troops to enter Alexandria were Zouaves commanded by Elmer Ellsworth. Battery I would have crossed the Potomac and been in camp sometime in June it would be assumed. We know that on July 21st of 1861 that Battery I went into the Battle of Bull Run with 6 newly issued 10 pounder Parrott Rifles (Model 1861) of 2.9 inch caliber. They were the only battery that day to field 6 Parrotts and were also issued special “Parrott Patent” ammunition developed by Robert Parker Parrott for Battery I.  Reviewing the production records for the Parrott Foundry we see a group of 6 – 10 pounder Parrott Rifles inspected and shipped in June of 1861 to the Federal Government. There were no other Parrotts released until well after Bull Run.  The numbers of these 6 guns are  #13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18… It must be assumed, and this author believes, that these were the guns issued to the Battery in probably early July. These guns also did not survive the war as did many of the lower numbers in the #1 through #12 did.. Since all 6 guns brought to the battle were captured by the Confederates and were undoubtedly “used up” in combat, they would have been melted down and made into other ordnance. This further supports the assumption since if these guns had not been captured, they would have likely not been destroyed and we would see at least a couple in the hands of the NPS or private collectors.

 

The transition of guns issued to Battery “I”

 

February 1861 – Arrive in Washington with 4 - 12 pound field howitzers

 

July – 1861 – Just before the battle of 1st Bull Run, issued 6 – 2.9 inch  ( 10 pounder ) Parrott Rifles

 

August 1861 – Following the capture of the Parrotts at Bull Run, Battery is issued 4 – 10 pound Parrott Rifles and 2 – 12 Pounder Field Howitzers

 

Late Winter/Spring of 1862 – Prior to Peninsula Campaign, the Battery is issued 6 – “Light 12″ Napoleon’s

 

February 1864 – Prior to Grants “Overland” campaign, the Battery is issued 6  -  3 inch ordnance rifles as they transfer from “Mounted Artillery” to “Horse Artillery”  They serve with these rifles until the end of the war.

 

Battery I at 1st Bull Run

Battery I, 1st US  (Ricketts) and Battery D, 5th US (Griffins) were the 2 batteries ordered to advance, unsupported in a move that precipitated the turning point of the battle. Battery I, placed in the vicinity of Henry House Hill was immediately, upon unlimbering its guns, put under fire from Confederate Snipers that were using the Henry House for cover. The battery fired upon the house to silence these rebel snipers and in the process, killed Mrs Henry, an elderly woman, who was bedridden. Her body was literally blown out of the house and as killing a civilian, let alone a woman, was considered bad luck, the Battery felt it had been cursed. It would soon prove to be a true prediction as the 33rd Virginia Infantry Regiment advanced upon the right flank of Battery I and Battery D and was able, because of poor identification, to pour a raking fire into both batteries, cutting them to pieces.

 

The Battery, upon advancing to Henry House Hill, goes right through the advancing battle line of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Regiment, separating its Commanding officer, Col Gorman and 2 companies from the rest of the Regiment. It would be the 1st Minnesota that would incur the highest casualties of any regiment engaged that day.. Some of those casualties in the attempt to save Battery I from capture.

 

In the end, Battery I is overrun and loses all of its newly issued Parrott Rifles, their limbers, all of the caissons and most of their limbers, horses and equipment. It crosses Bull Run Creek, escaping with 3 limbers and 56 horses. Casualties include Lt Ramsey killed, Captain Ricketts, wounded and captured and over a dozen enlisted  men killed and wounded. Many of the horses lie dead in harness, cut down by Confederate musket fire.

 

ORDER OF BATTLE  for Division that Battery “I” served in…

 

Third Division: Colonel Samuel P. Heintzelman (W)

 

First Brigade: Colonel William B. Franklin

 

5th Massachusetts – Colonel S.C. Lawrence (W)

11th Massachusetts – Colonel G. Clark

1st Minnesota – Colonel W.A. Gorman

4th Pennsylvania – Colonel John F. Hartranft

Company I, 1st U.S. Artillery – Captain J.B. Ricketts (W&C)

 

 

General Rickett's gave the following report in testimony in front of the Committee on the “Conduct of the War” in relation to the part that “Battery I, 1st US Artillery” played in the Battle of 1st Bull Run.

 

I went on the field at Sudley’s Spring, in Gen. Heintzelmans’s division, Franklin’s brigade. After crossing the stream, where I watered my horses, my first order was to take down some fences. I then came into action about a thousand yards from the enemy I should judge. There was a battery of smooth-bores against me doing some damage to us; it killed some horses and wounded some few of my men;  I myself saw one man struck on the arm. My battery consisted of six rifled Parrott guns, consequently I was more than a match at that distance for the smooth-bore battery ….. After firing, I should judge, twenty minutes, or half an hour, I had orders to advance a certain distance. I moved forward, and was about to come into battery again, when I was ordered to proceed further on, up to a hill by the Henry house….. I told the officer that he must indicate the spot, so that there should be no mistake about it. I saw at a glance, as I thought, that I was going into great peril for my horses and men…… The ground had not been reconnoitered at all, and there was a little ravine in front that I had to pass. As I marched at the head of my company with Lieut. Ramsay, he said to me, “we cannot pass that ravine.” I told him we just pass it, as we were under fire and to countermarch there would be fatal. The confusion consequent upon turning around there would expose us to great danger. As it was we dashed across, losing one wheel in the effort, which we immediately replaced. I called off the cannoneers and took down the fence, and ascended the hill near the Henry house, which at that time was filled with sharpshooters. I had hardly got into battery before I saw some of my horses fall, and some of my men wounded by sharpshooters. I turned my guns upon the house and literally riddled it….. We did not move from that position, that is, we made no important movement. We moved a piece one way or the other, perhaps, to take advantage of the enemy’s appearance at one point or another, but the guns were not again limbered up. In fact, in a very short time we were not in a condition to move, on account of the number of our horses  that were disabled. I know it was the hottest place  I ever saw in my life, and I  had seen some fighting before. the enemy took advantage of the woods and the natural slope of the ground, and delivered a terrible fire upon us. they  ( referring to the enemy’s battery ), retired some distance as we advanced. they must have had a heavy support, judging from the amount of lead they threw from their muskets, for long after I was down the hail was tremendous. the ground was torn up all around me, and some bullets went through my clothes. My battery was taken and retaken three times.

 

Refitting the Battery

 

Following 1st Bull Run, the battery is refitted and issued  4 new Parrott Rifles ( 10 pounders ) and 2 – 12 pound Field Howitzers (model 1841′s).  Lt Kirby is commanding the Battery, waiting for Captain Ricketts to return and unhappy at the prospect of not being promoted to command immediately.  Finally the order arrives, placing Kirby in command and shortly after this, (Winter of 1862) the battery is issued 6 brand new “Napoleons” that they would have with them for the next 2 years.

 

Incident at Balls Bluff

There were several reconnaissances done along the Potomac late that summer and into early fall. In October,  a column under the command of Colonel Devin's (15th Mass. Vols.) was ordered to cross the Potomac at Balls Bluff and brought along 2 – very light 12 pounder “Mountain Howitzers” . Col Devins drew a crew from “Battery I” to man one of them and the other was crewed by men from the 2nd N.Y. Militia.  These pieces were positioned near the right of the line and immediately came under a fierce fire from Confederate infantry and artillery.. The crews of these guns were literally mowed down to the last man, suffering all killed and wounded among them.. Devins  men threw the guns into the river to avoid them being captured.

 

Following this disastrous start to things, General Gorman (former Col. of the 1st Minnesota) takes the 2 – 12 pounder field howitzers and crews from Battery I to accompany him across the river and the Confederates, emboldened by the earlier battle, attack Gorman on the Virginia Side. The howitzers are used with great skill and along with the infantry, drive the Confederates back into their breastworks at Leesburg.

 

Battery I would not move again until the Spring of 1862.

 

A Loyal Horse

In the aftermath of 1st Bull Run and Balls Bluff, the battery encamps with its Brigade at “Camp Stone” for the winter.  Its former section commander, killed at Bull Run, Lt. Ramsey  had a horse (the horses name has been lost to history) that was wounded during the battle by an artillery shell that cut the horses tail off short and inflicted a flesh wound on the back of the legs.  The horse was a favorite of many of the officers (a pet of sorts) and since the chance of recovery was fair, it was corralled at camp stone adjacent to the drill field to be  used by the brigade.  It seems that on that first drill, as the individual regiments took their place in line, coming into line of battle at the double quick and, leaving a space for the artillery battery, Battery I’s bugler called the familiar ” In Battery ” and “Action Front” as had been done countless times in the past.. The men, separating into individual gun detachments, came into line and unlimbered, spinning the guns to the front as the limber teams circled back into position.  Lt. Ramsey’s old horse, weakened by wounds, ribs showing, perked up… He recognized the “bugler” and knew that call.. It meant ACTION !! It meant DUTY !! It meant GO !!  Calling up a strength that comes totally from the heart, the old horse took at run at the rail fence built to hold him. He cleared it easily and with eyes glaring, nostrils flaring, he raced at his best speed towards the sound he had heard.  On that Fall day in 1861, the battery men didn’t see the lone horse, without saddle and rider approaching.. The old horse knew his role.. he knew where his station was and without rider, found his place squarely behind the right section of Parrott Rifles and stood at attention. The men of the battery and of the brigade could only look and wonder at it all. The horse was carefully and respectfully led back to his corral.  Lt. Ramsey was remembered that day and his horse, retired from service shortly after, would be remembered as well. Not all the hero’s of Battery I, 1st US Artillery were human.

 

A Note on Horses

A battery of 6 guns would commonly have, including mounted NCO’s and officers, battery wagon, travelling forge, Guns with limbers and caissons with limbers, well over 100 horses. The forage, water and shoes needed to keep that amount of horseflesh in motion and healthy was a major job for the officers of a battery. Every battery had an artificer and a farrier. The farrier dealt with things “horse” and the artificer was able to to work on repair and manufacture of things “cannon/limber/caisson/camp equipage but also able to work hand in hand with the farrier when needed. The traveling forge was an indispensable piece of equipment.

 

Battery I’s horses were at the beginning of the war, all bays.. They were picked from the best “Morgan” and “Standardbred” stock available. As the war progressed, the battery had to take what it could get but always took good care of its animals. It is a wonder that there were enough horses to equip the armies that fought the American Civil War. Considering the fact that some battles could cost the lives of thousands of horses. Gettysburg had, by estimate, well over 5,000 dead horses to bury after the battle.  With horses being used up by fatigue, injury, disease and shot and shell on both sides it is amazing there were any left after 4 years of war.

 

 

Battery I on the Peninsula in 1862

 

Lt. Edmund  ”Ned”  Kirby -circa 1862

Assigned to Sumners 2nd Corp of the Army of the Potomac (2nd Division, 1st Brigade), Battery I is involved in the Peninsula, slogging through the mud and combating mosquitoes and disease as well as rebel bullets. The Battery has been issued brand new bronze Napoleon Cannon.. Model 1857 Light Gun Howitzers.. and is using them to good effect. An action worth mentioning comes as part of Sumners Corp crosses the rain swollen Chickahominy River via a bridge dubbed the “Grapevine Bridge”. This bridge was built by men of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers along with others.. It was the only bridge that held that day due to the swollen river and fast currents. The Union army is only a few miles away from Richmond at this point. The church bells in Richmond can be plainly heard and the men know the fight must be pressed.

 

Battle of Fair Oaks

An account follows from the the perspective the Philadelphia Brigade and offers an account of what they saw of Kirby’s Battery that day during the battle of Fair Oaks.

 

The Grapevine Bridge looked shaky, as though it might not support the infantry units and batteries that were to cross. A distressed army engineer rushed up to the Second Corps commander and warned him not to cross the bridge. Sumner, who would never be accused of disobeying an order, responded, “I can, sir! I will, sir!” The agitated engineer implored him not to attempt a crossing. “Sir, I tell you I can cross. I am ordered!”, thundered Sumner, and with that, Sedgwick’s men stepped onto the rickety bridge.

 

General Gorman’s brigade led the division across the Chickahominy followed by Edmund Kirby’s Battery I, 1st United States Artillery, the Philadelphia Brigade and General Dana’s regiments. Notwithstanding Bull Sumner’s bravado, the bridge did not instill a great measure of confidence in the men. The water was nearly even with the flooring and appeared to be rising. Frank Donaldson claimed that the bridge was almost completely submerged and it was only the weight of the troops crossing it that kept the structure from floating away.

 

Lieutenant Kirby started his Napoleons across the unsteady span and almost immediately ran into trouble. At least one of the six pieces broke through the bridge flooring and no amount of effort by the team could extract it. Directly, Philadelphia Brigade commander Brigadier General William Burns arrived on the scene and ordered some of his foot soldiers to help get the Napoleon across the bridge by disassembling the carriage and carrying the barrel and pieces to solid ground. During this episode, Sumner called three times for Burns to get his regiments across the river, but the brigadier refused to go without artillery which finally, after almost inhuman efforts, reached the south bank of the river.

 

The men of the Philadelphia Brigade, led by the 72nd Pennsylvania Fire Zouaves, tumbled off the bridge and encountered General Sumner who urged them forward. This was easier said than done. One of Willis Gorman’s boys recorded that he and his comrades “waded through mud and water nearly waist deep before we reached hard ground.” Kirby’s guns had become stuck in the mud immediately after they bounced off the bridge. Once again, William Burns’ troops were called on to save the Napoleons. The Zouaves and the Californians who were themselves just filing off the bridge, began working feverishly to get the needed artillery to the front. Frank Donaldson ceased his efforts for a moment to watch a field officer of the 72nd Pennsylvania slog through the goo after his horse. He disdainfully wrote that the man “escaped the battle at all events.” Finally, long ropes were attached to the cannons and man and horse worked to get four of the pieces rolling. In spite of these herculean efforts, one of the Napoleons was in the muck so deep that it had to be left behind for now.

 

There was a lull in the fighting when the 1st Minnesota deployed on the right of Abercrombie’s regiments. The Minnesotans were drawn up in line of battle behind a rail fence in farmer Courtney’s field and faced west into the woods. The right flank of the regiment was anchored near the Courtney farmhouse. The balance of Gorman’s brigade, the 15th Massachusetts and 34th and 82nd New York, went into line of battle to the left of Abercrombie’s men and a bit south of the Adams house. Just after this, Lieutenant Kirby arrived on the field and was ordered by General Sumner to post the three Napoleons that had come up about 70 yards to the right or north of the Adams house and near a fence. The lieutenant pointed the pieces to the southwest, toward Fair Oaks Station.

 

 

Moments after issuing from the woods, the Californians, without orders, loaded their Springfields. General Burns instructed his regiments to form battalions in mass. Just as this order was being executed, regiments of General William Whiting’s Confederate division moving through the woods to the west of the Adams and Courtney houses opened fire on the blue line arrayed between the two houses. At about the same time, a Rebel force emerged from the woods along the railroad southwest of the Adams house and started for Kirby’s Napoleons with a shout. “Now there is a crush and a roaring as if the earth were rent asunder beneath our feet, and a flashing line of fire is succeeded by the blinding smoke of battle,” recalled Captain Hills of Kirby’s reply to the gray infantry. “The battery shakes the ground with its rapid discharges; the horses, terror-stricken by the sound, break loose and dash wildly to the rear.” One of the Napoleons broke its trail on its fourth discharge but quickly was replaced by two more of Kirby’s pieces then arriving on the field. The Southern troops suffered under this withering fire and returned to the woods.

 

A short time later, "gray clads" of Brigadier Generals Wade Hampton’s, Robert Hatton’s and J. Johnston Pettigrew’s brigades rushed “howling and shouting from the woods” against Abercrombie’s line in the front of the California Regiment as well as against Kirby’s pieces. The artillery quickly changed front of the right wing of the five-piece battery and advanced its left wing. “Charge after charge was made, and gallantly made,” a member of the 106th Pennsylvania observed, “but the men manned their Napoleons too well, and each fire of canister swept the ground in their front.”

 

Yet another Rebel yell heralded one more charge, this one “more fierce, persistent and sanguinary then before” wrote one soldier. Kirby’s battery loosed canister into the fearless enemy troops moving through the smoke filled woods. A Southern prisoner interviewed later that night testified that it was General Magruder’s intention to take Kirby’s battery “if it cost a thousand lives!” He is also quoted as saying “That is my old Battery over there and I will take their guns.”

 

It should be remembered that Battery I, 1st US was under Magruders command when it left Ft Leavenworth a mere 18 months earlier and during this battle, found himself looking at the “business end” of Battery I’s Napoleons.

 

 

Fighting mud and time at Fair Oaks.. Battery I pulls its guns through the mud

General Johnston is wounded during this fighting.. He is one of the bright stars of the Confederacy. His wounding is by a fragment from a 12 pound shell in front of Battery I’s position. General Johnston is succeeded by General Robert E. Lee. who immediately turns the tables on the Union force, forcing them into abandoning the peninsula and falling back on their supply base.  It can therefore  be said that on that day, Battery I, succeeded in allowing Robert E. Lee to ascend to the command of the Army of Northern Virginia.. The rest, as they say, is HISTORY !!

 

Following the 7 days battles, which “Battery I” did not actually participate in, the battery is loaded on board ship in August and transferred back to Alexandria, Virginia and thence to Washington D.C. to connect with the rest of the army.

 

Command of the Battery at this time is as follows:

 

Lt. G. A. Woodruff, Lt. Tully McCrea and Lt. John Egan..  Kirby has suffered a relapse of Typhoid and has given command to Woodruff.

 

Typhoid Fever and Command of the Battery

Lt. Kirby commands the battery after Bull Run, waiting for Captain Ricketts to return after his prisoner exchange. Captain Ricketts never retakes command of the battery and in his place, Lt Kirby assumes active command. It is about this time that 2nd Lt Woodruff (fresh from West Point) joins the battery to Lt. Kirby’s delight. They are friends and work together very very well.. Lt Kirby secumbs to Typhoid fever at this point and command of Battery I goes back and forth between Lt. Edmund Kirby and Lt. George Woodruff from Bull Run to Chancellorsville. (Approximately 1  1/2 years) as each, seemingly taking turns, comes down with Typhoid and takes leave until recovered. It would be enemy bullets that would eventually take their toll however,Lt Kirby dying from wounds received at Chancellorsville in May of 1863 and Lt. Woodruff killed on the field of Gettysburg only 2 months later.

 

Battle of Antietam

“I am going to put you in an important place”

Battery I, did not have a lot of time to rest.. Lee headed north into Maryland the the boys of Battery I, 1st US were right on his heels.

 

Lieutenant Egan in his report of the battle of Antietam, recounts what the battery went through on this “bloodiest day of the war”

 

About ten o’clock A.M., Maj. Frank Clark (division chief of artillery) , came to Woodruff and ordered him to hasten into position, that Sedgwick’s division was being driven back, and he wanted him to check the enemy. Woodruff at once started on a trot and, under cover of fragments of the division, succeeded in getting into position, unseen by the rebels, about one hundred and fifty yards in front, and a little to the right , of the Dunkard Church. Waving out of his front, Sedgwick’s retreating men, he openied with canister which the enemy got as nicely as could be wished. About thirty rounds from each piece were fired before the rebel was checked and driven back.  The rebels then massed in rear of the Dunkard Church, evidently to take the battery on the left flank by marching forward through a sunken part of the Hagerstown turnpike. Woodruff fired several rounds of solid shot which passed through the church, and very much disturbed the enemy’s formation. , but the rebels succeeded in getting well into the sunken road. the battery remained until firing began across its front. It then retired about seventy-five yards  and again opened, and continued to fire till a line- part of the second Corps marched across its field of fire. It was then relieved and ordered to the rear. During the whole engagement, the battery was without supports, and very important service  can be claimed for it here. The rebel accounts show that it was the enemy’s intention to pierce our line at this point, capture the Hagerstown pike an divide our army. The battery certainly prevented it. Woodruff handled it in a masterly way and General French afterward said that he never saw a battery go into action so ” handsomely’. It was also seen out alone , defiantly firing away, from the position occupied by General McClellan. A little before sunset, Col Hudson, of Gen. McCllellans’s staff, directed the battery in position on the right crest of the hill over which the Irish brigade had fought. this hill was directly in front of what is known as “Dead Mans Lane.” He said on the way that the general had particularly designated Battery I as one of the batteries he wanted there and his statement  was handsomely verified by the general who, seeing the battery on its way , came up to it and said to the men, “ I am going to put you in an important place, and all I ask is that you will do as well as at Fair Oaks.” the hill was of the first importance should the fighting be renewed in the morning, on the other part of the hill, with the same orders, we found Graham’s battery where it had so grandly fought the day before….. At Harpers Ferry, a short time after the battle, Gen. McClellan came to the battery camp and thanked the men and officers for their conduct during the fight.

 

Fanny Ricketts; A special Place in the hearts of the men.

The wife of Captain James B. Ricketts, Fanny Ricketts found favor with the men of the battery by taking care of their beloved Captain Ricketts (captured at 1st Bull Run) in a Confederate Hospital until his parole and exchange and also Lt. Edmund Kirby after his wounding at Chancellorsville in May of 1863. Mrs Ricketts stayed with her husband and brought him from the brink of death with her care. She was also with Lt. Kirby and helped care for him immediately after his wounding. Lt Kirby, wounded in the leg while attempting to pull the 6th Maine Light Artillery from the potential grasp of the enemy, secumbed and died from his wound several weeks following. The wound was initially diagnosed as a flesh wound but later examination found the bone to be broken which demanded amputation at mid thigh. Blood poisoning and a relapse of Typhoid were too much for Lt. Kirby and although fighting a gallant fight, it was a loosing one and death followed.

 

Mrs. Ricketts also converted her home into a hospital and cared for a large number of Union troops with great care and compassion. Fanny Ricketts dedication was not lost on the men of the battery and as the re-created battery (modern day) obtained an original Napoleon “Light 12″, we unanimously voted to name her “Fanny” after the woman who dedicated herself to easing the suffering of so many.

 

Edmund Kirby received a promotion to the rank of Brigadier General in a unique and remarkable document (which is hand written and looks as if made out by a woman) signed by William F. Barry, Brigadier General, US Vols., L.B. Rackett, Inspector General, USA., and James B. Ricketts, Brigadier General, Volunteers. It is also endorsed; “Very Respectfully recommended, H.W. Halleck, General in Chief, Appointment ordered- Edwin Stanton. Appointment made, signed to date 28 May, 1863 and delivered in person same date , A. Lincoln. That night Kirby’s new commission was laid in his had by the President of the United States…. and that night Edmund Kirby died at age 23 years.

 

His pension was never collected by his mother, who was ill at the time Kirby was killed, died in January 1864, just 7 months later.

 

Fredericksburg

Battery I is put into battery on the outskirts of the City, facing the heights held by the Confederates. They do not fire a shot but the battery has 5 men wounded and a number of horses killed. The rebel guns were at an elevation and were able to reach the battery but not be within range of our guns.

 

1863

Chancellorsville

In late April, Battery “I” along with batteries E-G and H break camp and take part in the battle of Chancellorsville. Battery I takes its place just to the left of the Chancellor house. It completes some minor readjustments during the battle but does not fire any rounds during the battle.  It is eventually withdrawn to United States Ford and there forms part of the reserve artillery gathering there.  The major event taking place in the lives of the men of Battery I at this battle is the wounding of their young commander .. “Ned” Kirby, while on a scout to check out some heavy firing on the left. While there, Lt. Kirby is ordered by Gen. Couch to take command of a heavily engaged and crippled battery (Lepine’s 6th Maine Light Artillery)  and extract the guns from danger of capture..This he does with the aid of an infantry regiment but during this process is wounded in the leg by rifle fire. The wound proves to be fatal due to blood poisoning following amputation and a relapse of Typhoid. Battery Commander George Woodruff is hit hard by this turn of events as “Ned” was not only a trusted co-commander of the battery but his true friend.  ”Ned” dies on May 28th, 1863.

 

Battery I at Gettysburg

 

Lt. George Woodruff   (Little Dad)

The battle of Gettysburg is well documented and it is not the role of this website or author to describe what led up to the battle suffice to say that on July 2nd, following the first days battle Battery “I” found itself on the far right flank of the 2nd Corp and in a modest grove of hardwoods called Zieglers Grove.. at the base of Cemetery Hill. The battery would participate in an artillery duel that day and protect its portion of the line as the battle raged further to the south along Cemetery Ridge. On the afternoon of July 3rd Battery “I” participated in the cannonade that preceded Longstreet’s (Pickett’s) charge on the center of the Union line. To reinforce the battery, Company L of the 1st Minnesota (Sharpshooter Company) had come over and was posted to Battery I’s left and slightly forward. The 108th New York (The Rochester Regiment) was posted in support as well. It’s ranks falling between the gun limbers and the caissons. The 108th New York would receive heavy casualties that day and not be able to fire a shot in return because of its position in the midst of Battery I’s position..

 

Lt. Tully McCrea

an artillery battery takes up about the equivalent of half a football field when deployed with its caissons, limbers and guns. On July 3rd the Battery was deployed under a canopy of large trees.  When the action commenced with the cannonade at about 1pm on the 3rd, the Battery sent shell and solid shot the Confederate’s way. The firing was heavy and the Battery expended literally all of its shell, spherical case and solid shot.. Only cannister remained and as Lt. Tully McCrea said at the time. “I thought our chances of Kingdom Come or Libby Prison to be pretty good !!”  Tully remembered that “We had forty rounds of canister per gun and they got the most of it.”

 

The Confederate forces attacking Zieglers Grove that day were North Carolina troops and Battery I punished them mightily with cannister as they came on during the charge.  It was during this time that commanding officer Lt Woodruff received a Confederate minie ball in the abdomen and was mortally wounded. His right section commander, Tully McCrea would carry him to the rear and out of harms way.  He would die the following day and be buried on the field under a tree in the rear of Cemetery hill. George Woodruff would be the second battery commander to die in battle in as many months and at the time of his death, carried an unopened letter that he had received only a few days before. It was a letter that he never had the chance to open and read as things had been such a blur of activity. The letter informed George Woodruff of the death of his Mother and it is probably fortunate he did not know….

 

During the engagement, the battery lost 25 men and over 60 of its horses killed in harness and some large tree limbs were severed by Confederate shell and shot, falling in amongst the battery crews and infantry in support. That is 70 dead and dying horses, many dead and wounded men, 6 artillery pieces, limbers, caissons, fragments of battery equipment, an entire regiment of infantry in support  and a tangle of tree limbs in an area a little over the size of half a football field.. That would have been something to have survived and to have witnessed.

 

In his report of August 1st, 1863.. Chief of Artillery, 2nd Corp., Army of the Potomac, Captain John G. Hazard reported:

 

“But Woodruff still remained in the grove, and poured death and destruction into the rebel lines.”

 

 

 

Lt. John Egan

One incident that occurred during the attack of July 3rd was that Lt Woodruff ordered his left section commander Lt. Eagan to take his 2 guns slightly to the left and fire through a collapsed gap in a stone wall that overlooked the “angle” where Confederate troops were at their thickest and threatening to overrun Cushing's Battery, 4th U.S. This was the last order delivered by Woodruff before being wounded and it placed the left 2 guns in a position to rake the advancing Confederates.  The section fired into the mass of troops at the angle and did so with rapid fire double canister until the outcome was decided. There is no doubt that cannister killed and wounded men on both sides as it was impossible to distinguish between them as a target and the goal was to stop the attack.. That goal was achieved.

 

A Band of Brothers

Tully McCrea wrote long after the war.. “The men of Battery I were a band of brothers. They stood together with one heart and one soul, sustaining one another with all their might.” It is a small wonder, wrote a soldier in the 79th Pennsylvania Infantry.. “The men of the 2nd Corp worshiped the ground that Battery rode over!”

 

The 2nd Corp Artillery during the Gettysburg Campaign was as follows

Second Corps Artillery Brigade:Captain John G. Hazard

Battery B, 1st New York Light- Capt. James Rorty, Lt. Albert Shelden, Lt. Robert E. Rogers

Battery A, 1st Rhode Island- Capt. William A. Arnold

Battery B, 1st Rhode Island- Captain Fred Brown, Lt. Walter Perrin

Battery I, 1st US Artillery- Lt. George A. Woodruff, Lt. Tully McCrea

Battery A, 4th US Artillery- Lt. Alonzo Cushing, Sgt. Frederick Fuger

 

A couple stories

After Gettysburg

 

The combined batteries of the old 2nd Corp were severely depleted following Gettysburg. Guns destroyed and most importantly, significant losses in officers and enlisted ranks killed and wounded. All the serviceable guns of the Old 2nd Corp only make up a single battery when combined.. Neither Tully McCrea or John Egan have the heart to command it. Both would apply for and be granted transfers to other units within the month.

 

Battery I is combined with Battery H following the battle and the designation of “Battery H-I” is their official designation for a time.

 

Lt McCrea seeking promotion joins another battery in the 1st Regiment  goes to Florida and is severely wounded at the battle of Olustee but survives.

 

Captain Randol takes command of the Battery after Gettysburg and commands it until wars end, seeing the battery, in the Winter of 1863-64 become “horse artillery”, meaning that all members of the battery are now mounted and they receive 3 inch ordnance rifles, turning in their beloved Napoleons sometime in February (approx).  Battery H-I participates in a number of actions and many only involving a single section attached to Gregg’s Cavalry command as the Army of the Potomac and Army of the James tighten the noose on the Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg, Five Forks, Saylor's Creek and finally Appomattox.

 

In the end, Battery I is there at Appomattox and with that, ends a most impressive service. The battery is then sent south and remains on duty there during reconstruction. Their fight would now be against boredom and Malaria.

 

Post Civil War Notes.

The battery emerges from the Civil War and finds itself commanded by “Non” West Point Officers until 1880 when a young Lt. by the name of Tasker Bliss joins the 1st Artillery Regiment. Lt. Bliss will go on to command things larger than an artillery battery but with his coming, the “luck” of Battery I, changes for the good.

 

Within the old First Regiment of Artillery, Battery I has the oldest lineage of any unit within that regiment and sustained the highest number of casualties of any battery within the First Regiment during the Civil War. It is no doubt that they contributed to the final result.

 

The modern recreation of Battery I, 1st United States Artillery Regiment, hopes we do them honor every time we step on the field in their name. We have taken on the name of a Great Old Battery with a rich history of sacrifice for what they believed in … that was:

 

DUTY - HONOR - COUNTRY!!

This site is gratefully dedicated to the men of Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery who’s selfless service helped preserve the Union, Freedom and saved our Country..

 

and last, but not least, to the 650,000 plus men, on both sides, who fought and died during the war.

 

May we never forget their sacrifice!





 

© 2015 by Battery I 1st US Artillery. Proudly created with Wix.com