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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.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where were all the Captains?

Robertson's Battery of Horse Artillery (B&L 2nd Artillery)
During the Maryland Campaign twenty-two of the Union Army’s artillery batteries came from the Regular Army.  Five of these were actually consolidations of two batteries.  Battery consolidations occurred because of the difficulty in recruiting up to authorized strength. Even when consolidated, the batteries submitted separate battery muster rolls each month. That means that there are actually twenty-seven artillery batteries muster reports to look at when studying the regular batteries at Antietam.

These batteries were the core of the Army of the Potomac’s artillery power and were found in every infantry corps, the cavalry division, and the artillery reserve.  As originally envisioned by William Barry and Henry Hunt, the army’s first two artillery chiefs, the regulars formed the core of an infantry division’s artillery complement.  Their job was to train the volunteer batteries in the performance of their duties.  The plan was for the regular artillery battery commander was also the division’s chief of artillery.  The ratio was one regular to three volunteer batteries.  This did not always work out in practice.

A Federal artillery battery was authorized one captain and four first lieutenants. 

Each of the regular army’s five artillery regiments were represented during the Maryland Campaign.  Four of these had been in existence since 1821.  The Fifth Artillery was a new regiment established in May of 1861.

In reviewing the list of battery commanding officers at Antietam, one question becomes apparent.  Where were all the captains?

The table below shows all of the batteries.  It identifies the captain who commanded the battery according to the muster rolls for August 1862. The actual commander at the time follows in the next column. 

Captain (on muster rolls)
Actual Commander
Gun Type
Division/Corps assignment at Antietam
E&G First Artillery
Jefferson C. Davis (Company E) [1] John M. Schofield (USMA 1853 Company G)[2]
1LT Alanson Randol (USMA 1860)
4-12 lb Napoleons
Sykes Division Fifth Corps
I      First Artillery
James Ricketts (USMA 1839)[3]
1LT George Woodruff (USMA June 1861)
 6-12 lb Napoleons
Sedgwick’s Division, Second Corps
K     First Artillery
William Graham[4]
CPT William Graham
6-12 lb Napoleons
Artillery Reserve
A Second Artillery
John C. Tidball (USMA 1848)
CPT John C. Tidball
6-3" Ordnance Rifles
Horse Artillery Cavalry Division
B&L Second Artillery
James W. Robertson (Company B) William Hays  (USMA 1840- Company L)[5]
CPT James W. Robertson
4-3" Ordnance Rifles
Horse Artillery Cavalry Division
D Second Artillery
Edward R. Platt (USMA 1849)[6]
1LT Edward Williston
6-12 lb Napoleons
Slocum’s Division, Sixth Corps
Second Artillery
Josiah H. Carlisle (USMA 1845)[7]
1LT Samuel Benjamin (USMA May 1861)
4-20 lb Parrot Rifles
Willcox’s Division Ninth Corps
G Second Artillery
James Thompson (USMA 1851)[8]
1LT John H. Butler
4-12 lb Napoleons 
Couch’s Division Fourth Corps
M Second Artillery
Henry Benson[9]
1LT Peter Hains (USMA June 1861)
6-3" Ordnance Rifles
Horse Artillery Cavalry Division
C&G Third Artillery
Horatio Gibson (USMA 1847 Company C)
Alexander Piper  (USMA 1851 Company G)[10]
CPT Horatio Gibson
6-3" Ordnance Rifles
Horse Artillery Cavalry Division
L&M Third Artillery
Dunbar Ransom (Company L)[11]
John Edwards (USMA 1851-Company M)
CPT John Edwards
4-10 lb Parrot Rifles
Cox’s Division, Ninth Corps
A&C Fourth Artillery
Francis N. Clarke (USMA 1840 Company A)[12]
George Hazzard (USMA 1847)[13]
1LT Evan Thomas
6-12 lb Napoleons 
Richardson’s Division, Second Corps
B Fourth Artillery
John Gibbon (USMA 1847)[14]
1LT Joseph Campbell (USMA June 1861)[15]
6-12 lb Napoleons
Doubleday’s Division, First Corps
Fourth Artillery
Joseph C. Clark (USMA 1848)
CPT Joseph C. Clark
4-10 lb Parrot Rifles
Sturgis Division, Ninth Corps
F Fourth Artillery
Clermont Best (USMA 1846)[16]
1LT Edward D. Muhlenberg
6-12 lb Napoleons
Twelfth Corps
G Fourth Artillery
Albion Howe (USMA 1841)[17]
1LT Marcus P. Miller (USMA 1858)[18]
6-12 lb Napoleons
Artillery Reserve
A     Fifth Artillery
George Getty (USMA 1840)[19]
1LT Charles P. Muhlenberg
6-12 lb Napoleons
Rodman’s Division, Ninth Corps
Fifth Artillery
Dunbar Ransom
CPT Dunbar Ransom
4-12 lb Napoleons
Meade’s Division, First Corps
D     Fifth Artillery
Charles Griffin (USMA 1847)[20]
1LT Charles Hazlett (USMA May 1861)
4-10 lb Parrots 2-12 lb Napoleons 
Morell’s Division, Fifth Corps
Fifth Artillery
Romeyn Ayres (USMA 1847)[21]
1LT Leonard Martin (USMA May 1861)
4-10 lb Parrots 2-12 lb Napoleons
Smith’s Division, Sixth Corps
I      Fifth Artillery
Stephen Weed (USMA 1854)
CPT Stephen Weed
4-3" Ordnance Rifles 
Syke’s Division, Fifth Corps
Fifth Artillery
John R. Smead (USMA 1854)[22]
2LT William E. Van Reed
4-12 lb Napoleons  
Syke’s Division, Fifth Corps

Of the twenty seven battery captains, six (Davis, Schofield, Ricketts, Gibbon, Howe and Griffin) were brigadier generals of volunteers serving in infantry commands.  Three (Best Clarke, and Getty) were Corps Artillery Chiefs; two Ayres and Ransom were division artillery chiefs (though the information is confusing on Ransom); Hays commanded the Artillery Reserve; Piper was detailed to the defenses of Washington; Thompson to Cincinnati; three (Benson, Hazzard, and Smead), and had been recently killed or mortally wounded and the muster rolls did not yet reflect this; Carlisle was on sick leave; Platt was an inspector general on the Sixth Corps staff.  This left eight (Graham, Tidball, Robertson, Gibson, Edwards, Clark, Ransom [again], and Weed) actually in command of their batteries.  Dunbar Ransom is listed twice commanding both Battery L, Third Artillery, and Battery C, Fifth Artillery.  The note on Battery L’s muster indicates that Ransom was Chief of Artilery for Meade’s division.

The bottom line is that there were a lot of very young lieutenants commanding many of the regular batteries during the Maryland Campaign.  Stay tuned.

[1] Jefferson C. Davis was a brigadier general of volunteers and commanded a division in the Army of the Cumberland. A sergeant in the Third Indiana Volunteers in the Mexican War, Davis was commissioned into the First Artillery on June 17, 1848. Not to be confused with the Confederate President, this Davis is famously known for shooting and killing his superior officer, Maj. Gen. William "Bull" Nelson in Louisville, Kentucky and after being slapped in the face by Nelson. A shortage of competent generals saved Davis from a court martial conviction.
[2] John Schofield a future commanding general of the U.S. Army was a brigadier general of volunteers and commanded the District of Missouri at the time of the Battle of Antietam. 
[3] James Ricketts was a brigadier general of volunteers and commanded the Second Division, First Corps.
[4] William Graham was directly commissioned into the First Artillery on June 7, 1855.  He may have benefited from the fact that his father and namesake Lieutenant William M. Graham who commanded the 11th Infantry Regiment was killed at Molino del Rey during the Mexican War.
[5] William Hays was a staff lieutenant colonel and commanded the Artillery Reserve of the Army of the Potomac.
[6] Edward Platt was a staff lieutenant colonel and assistant inspector general of the Sixth Corps.
[7] Josiah Carlisle was on sick leave of absence, Aug. 3, 1862, to Apr. 14, 1863;
[8] James Thompson as Chief of Artillery, in defense of Cincinnati during rebel offensive into Kentucky during September, 1862
[9] Henry Benson was an enlisted artilleryman in the Second Artillery during the Mexican War.  He was commissioned into the Second Artillery on January 26, 1849.  Benson died August 11, 1862 of wounds received August 5, 1862 at Malvern Hill
[10] Alexander Piper who was Pope’s Chief of Artillery was now assigned as Assistant Inspector of Artillery at Washington DC.
[11] Dunbar Ransom was the Chief of Artillery of Meade’s Division and commanded Battery C, 5th U.S. Artillery.
[12] Francis Clarke on detached duty as Chief of Artillery, Second Corps. He was promoted to Major, Fifth Artillery on August 5, 1862.
[13] George Hazzard died August 14, 1862 of wounds received at the Battle of White Oak Swamp on June 30, 1862.
[14] John Gibbon was a brigadier general of volunteers and commanded the Black Hat Brigade of Doubleday’s division, First Corps.
[15] Campbell had the staff rank of Captain-Staff Additional Aide de Camp
[16] Clermont Best was chief of artillery for the Twelfth Corps
[17]Albion Howe was a brigadier general of volunteers and commanded a brigade in Couch’s division, Fourth Corps
[18] Marcus Miller was the regimental adjutant detached to the battery. 
[19] George Getty was staff lieutenant colonel and commander of the Ninth Corps artillery.
[20] Charles Griffin was a brigadier general of volunteers and commanded a brigade in Morell’s Division, Fifth Corps.
[21] Romeyn Ayres commanded the division artillery of Smith’s Division, Sixth Corps
[22] John R. Smead was killed on August 30, 1862 at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

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