About Me

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I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two young adult children who I love very much. I currently volunteer at Antietam and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. Since 2013 I have been conducting in depth research on the regular artillery companies of the Union Army and their leaders. I hope to turn this into a book on this subject in the future. My perspective comes from a 28-year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery

Today Antietam National Battlefield unveiled its own volunteer artillery detachment in a firing exercise for Junior Ranger Day. Under the supervision of Ranger Christie Stanczak, the volunteers who work at the Visitor’s Center, serve as battlefield ambassadors and support other volunteer efforts at the Park, have been drilling since last fall in preparation for today’s event. We decided to interpret Battery B, 4th United States Artillery, a regular Army battery which fought at the Battle of Antietam.
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In the photo shown here, several of the volunteers attempted to strike a pose similar to the famous photo of Antietam artilleryman Captain John Tidball’s and several of his officers from Battery A, 2nd United States Artillery. Well anyway we tried.

Before continuing, I would like to note that there is a great reenactor unit with the same name located in Wisconsin. They are an excellent resource for further study of Battery B. You can reach their link HERE

This is the first of a two part story on the history of Battery B. Today’s post covers the history of the unit from its organization to the start of the Civil War. I will follow this later on with the story of the Battery through its fight at Antietam.

As part of the regular Army, the unit already had a long and proud history of service. It was constituted on April 27, 1798 in the Regular Army at Fort Jay, New York, as Captain James Stille's Battery, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers. The battery is said to have served as infantry at the Battle of Plattsburg in 1814. On March 21, 1821, the Army’s artillery corps was reorganized and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Artillery Regiments were organized with nine batteries each but only one battery of each regiment was actually equipped as light artillery. The others were equipped as infantry and assigned to garrison duty. In the 4th Artillery, Battery B was the one battery that was equipped as light artillery. It had four brass six pounders but no horses. The guns were hauled by the men with drag ropes. Captain Humphreys was the first commander. In 1837 during the Seminole War, Battery B, now under the command of Captain J. M. Washington received horses. However the terrain was not practical for employing artillery so the guns were parked in a fortified camp and the troops served as provisional dragoons for several months. In 1839, the four light artillery batteries, (one from each regiment) were reassigned to Trenton New Jersey “for a thorough course of drill and instruction”, based upon the “Instructions for Field Artillery, Horse and Foot, 1839-40” translated from the French by First Lieutenant Robert Anderson. Battery B was transferred to the Canadian border at Ogdensburg in 1842-1843 where trouble brewed with Britain. In 1845, it was sent to General Taylor’s “Army of Observation” on the Rio Grande. Captain Washington was still in command. First Lieutenant John P. O’Brien was second in command. One of the second lieutenants was Darius Couch afterward a division commander assigned to Major General Franklin during the Maryland Campaign. The Battery distinguished itself at the Battle of Buena Vista on Feburary 23, 1847. Lieutenant O’Brien particularly distinguished himself. General John Wool said in his report that O’Brien, "after having two horses killed under him, and being painfully wounded in the knee, took charge of his howitzer in person and continued to fire canister until the Mexicans had actually killed his No. 1 gunner and captured his No. 2 at the muzzle of the piece." Colonel William R. Morrison a future member of Congress from Illinois said that “he had never seen officers and men stand by their guns like O’Brien and his men stood by Battery B at Buena Vista." This desperate fighting foreshadowed a similar gallant performance by this battery some 15 years later on the Hagerstown Pike north of Sharpsburg. Battery B was not engaged seriously in the Mexican war after Buena Vista. After the war, the Battery served at Fort Brown Texas and at New Orleans during the mid-1850's. In March 1857 it moved to Fort Leavenworth to form part of General Harney’s Utah expedition. At the time, Fort Leavenworth was under the command of Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner, later of Second Corps fame at Antietam. For a part of this period. Lieutenant George Hartsuff later a brigade commander in Rickett’s Division of the First Corps at Antietam served in the battery. In Utah, the battery operating as cavalry protected parties of emigrants heading West, and kept open the mail routes. Lieutenant Stephen H. Weed, an artilleriest of note at Gettysburg, commanded a detachment of troops that clashed with 200 Indians near Egan’s Pony Express station in present-day Nevada on August, 11, 1860, losing three men wounded (one mortally). The outbreak of the Civil War found Battery B stationed at Camp Floyd, Utah, near Salt Lake City. The post was named after Secretary of War J. B. Floyd. The post was very large, containing around 3,000 troops. That was nearly 20% of the prewar Regular Army. The command at Camp Floyd consisted of two companies of the 10th U.S. Infantry, three squadrons of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons, Batteries A, B, and C, 4th U.S. Field Artillery, an ordnance detachment, and some civilian teamsters.

Initially, orders to Camp Floyd directed Battery B to St. Louis for further orders. The soldiers marched on foot across the twelve hundred miles to Fort Leavenworth. En route, they learned of the Battle of Bull Run from a pony express dispatch. Marching through hostile Missouri, the troops witnessed rebel forces organizing. Though ready themselves for an ambush or attack there were no incidents. At Fort Leavenworth, Captain John Gibbon the battery commander heard for the last time from his family in North Carolina. His three brothers were soon to enter the Confederate army. Arriving in St. Louis, the battery was ordered to Washington reaching arriving in the city in on October 18, 1861.

In addition to the great material I located at Battery B website, I also found a great read in “The Cannoneer” Recollections of Service in the Army of the Potomac by Augustus Buell, and “The Fourth Regiment of Artillery by First Lieutenant Alexander B. Dyer and finally information on Camp Floyd from Curtis Allen’s blog Utah War and Camp Floyd Cemetery.


  1. Hello Jim,

    My name is Brandon Samuels and I really like some of the posts you have on your blog. Since you have an interest in blogging, I thought that you might want to know about a new web site, timelines.com. The idea is to create an interactive historical record of anything and everything, based on specific events that combine to form timelines. We're trying to achieve a sort of user-created multimedia history, in which no event is too big or too small to record. Feel free to create events using excerpts and/or links from your blog. You will generate traffic and awareness of your blog, and you will be contributing to the recording of history.

    With your interest in the American Civil War, you should check out this timeline. So far it is a work in progress and we would definitely love for more people to contribute. http://timelines.com/topics/american-civil-war.

    Give us a try and let me know your thoughts.

    Brandon Samuels

  2. Dear Jim, Why doesn't your blog have any quotes from Mr. T. After all....he's a veteran and he's awesome!!!!!

  3. HI Jim
    Another word about Gen. Hartsuff. At Cedar Mtn. he directed the artillery fire that silenced the Confederate batteries the evening of Aug. 9th, after the primary fighting was ended. This according to several letters of soldiers in his brigade.