|Fort Ridgely Minnesota|
When South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860,
the regular artillery establishment of the United States included four
artillery regiments consisting of twelve companies per regiment.
These 48 companies were scattered
around the country in little penny packets of at most, several companies per
Forty-one of the companies
had neither guns nor horses and were simply referred to as foot artillery.
Take for example Company F, 4th
Artillery stationed at Fort Ridgely Minnesota. On the December 1860 monthly
return it was considerably under its peacetime establishment with only 49 men
including four officers present for duty.
Foot artillery was sometime referred to as red leg infantry (for the color red
used to identify the artillery branch).
All but four of the artillery companies that fought in Mexico thirteen
years earlier did so as red legs.
The cost of a light artillery company was considerably more
expensive than a foot artillery company. The parsimonious War Department of the
late 1850s couldn’t afford the luxury of paying for horses and more important
their forage. During Franklin
Pierce’s administration, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis compensated for the
lack of horses and guns by assigning several foot artillery companies together usually
with a light battery at so called artillery schools of practice. These schools were located at such
places as Vancouver Barracks, Washington Territory, Fort Leavenworth Kansas,
and Fort Randall Nebraska Territory. The most important of these was Fort
Monroe Virginia where a total of eight artillery companies were stationed. Usually it was the first
assignment of a young artillery lieutenant’s career to be temporarily stationed
at Fort Monroe. The post also
trained artillery and ordnance sergeants.
Fort Ridgely was another one of these artillery schools of
practice. Erected in 1853 and located about 100 miles south west of
Minneapolis, the soldiers at Ridgely kept an eye on the restless Dakota-Sioux tribes
all around them. Ridgely was indeed the only army post between the Indians and
the settled areas around Minneapolis and St. Paul to the east.
Major William Morris, 4th
Artillery commanded the
post. At age 59, Morris was a forty-year veteran of the Army at a time when
there was no such thing as a retirement pension.
A graduate of the West Class of 1820, Morris had slowly
moved up the ranks of the 4th
Artillery Regiment over the course of
Brevetted major for
“gallant conduct on several occasions, and general efficiency in the War
against the Florida Indians”, he served in the Mexican War commanding a red leg
artillery battalion at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. As of January 10,
1861, Major Morris was the senior active officer of the 4th
Artillery and as such served as the acting regimental commander.
Morris commanded a post consisting of one light artillery
company and three foot artillery companies from the Second, Third, and Fourth
Artillery Regiments. The most famous was Light Company E, 3rd
The only light company
on the post, it had a complement of four officers, 55 soldiers 71 horses and
four guns. Captain Thomas W. Sherman commanded the company. An 1838 graduate of
the Academy, his classmates included P.G.T. Beauregard, Irwin McDowell, and
Sherman and Light
Company E earned great distinction during the Mexican War at Buena Vista where
he was brevetted major for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of
Buena Vista, Mexico.
1850s, Sherman commanded an expedition to Yellow Medicine Minnesota and served
in Kansas during the disturbances there.
His company had been at Fort Ridgely since 1858.
An eccentric and somewhat remote
officer, his lieutenants called him “Old Tim” though never to his face.
Among Sherman’s subalterns in Light Company
E were Lieutenants Dunbar Ransom, and Gabriel Hill.
His other lieutenant position was vacant.
The other three companies at Ridgely were foot artillery
units from the Second and Fourth Artillery.
smallest of these with just 35 officers and men present for duty was Company I,
In the absence
of Captain Augustus Gibson who was on a four-month leave of absence, First
Lieutenant Albert Molinard commanded the company.
Molinard, the son of Julian Molinard
Teacher of French at the Military Academy was an 1851 graduate of West Point.
He served tours of duty in Florida,
Fort Monroe, and as aide de camp for General Wool before his assignment to Fort
Ridgely in 1860.
It was not all
that unusual for a lieutenant to command a company.
Many captains often spent months and years away from their
commands on special assignments, leave, or sick.
With Molinard were Lieutenants Judson Bingham and Thomas
Grey was from Ireland and rose through
the enlisted ranks of the Second Artillery to become regimental sergeant major
before accepting a commission in 1855.
The two remaining foot artillery companies at Fort Ridgeley
hailed from the Fourth Artillery.
John Pemberton from Pennsylvania commanded Company F, 4th
Artillery. His small company
included 3 officers and 46 enlisted men present. Lieutenants Edward Bagley and
Alexander B. Montgomery were with him at Fort Ridgely. Lieutenant William Gill was on
detached service with the Coastal Survey in Washington D.C.
Pemberton had enjoyed a very successful military
career. An 1837 graduate of West
Point a year ahead of Thomas Sherman, Pemberton’s classmates included such
notables as Braxton Bragg, Jubal Early William French, John Sedgwick and Joe
Hooker. He fought in the Second Seminole
War and was stationed on the northern frontier during the Canada border disturbances
in the early 1840s. In Mexico Pemberton
served for most of the war as aide de camp to Bvt. Brig.‑General Worth. He nevertheless earned two brevets for
“gallant and meritorious conduct in the several conflicts at Monterey, and
Molino del Rey, Mexico.
He saw action in every campaign from Palo Alto to the assault and
capture of Mexico City. The Pennsylvanian returned from the war to marry Martha
Thompson of Norfolk, Virginia. Promoted to captain in 1850, he was back in
Florida for the Third Seminole War, served in Kansas and Utah and arrived at
Fort Ridgely in 1859.
|G.A. De Russy|
Gustavus Adolphus De Russy commanded Company K.
His company had 2 officers and 52
enlisted men present. With him was Second
Lieutenant George Weeks.
Lieutenant Stephen Weed was on
detached service with Captain John Gibbon’s Light Company B, 4th
Artillery in Utah. De Russy’s
other lieutenant; Edward Mc K. Hudson was on a four-month leave of absence.
De Russy attended West Point while his father was
Superintendent but resigned in 1838 without graduating. He undoubtedly knew
both Sherman and Pemberton while at the Academy.
Despite his lack of a West Point diploma, he obtained a
commission in the 4th
Artillery in 1847. De Russy was brevetted twice
in Mexico for gallant and meritorious
conduct in the battles of Contreras-Churubusco and Chapultepec. After the
Mexican War, he served as regimental quartermaster until his promotion to
captain and assignment to company commander in 1857, De Russy reported to Fort
Ridgely in 1859. De Russy was the brother in law of Henry Hunt.
The Secession Crisis – The
With the secession of South Carolina in December of 1860 and
the subsequent departure of other states of the Deep South, a wave of uncertainty
swept through the ranks of the Army.
Southern born officers and some northerners wrestled with decisions that
would change their lives. The
officers at Fort Ridgely were not spared this difficult decision.
The first to feel the impact was Pemberton’s company. Georgia-born
lieutenants Edward Bagley and Alexander Montgomery took leaves of absence from
the company in mid February and submitted their resignations that were effective
March 1 and 3, 1861 respectively.
But they were not the first to go.
Back in Washington D.C., William Gill from Pennsylvania, on detached
service with the Coastal Survey submitted his resignation which was accepted by
President Buchanan effective February 4, 1861.
One of Gill’s colleagues at the Coastal
Survey happened to be Lieutenant A.P. Hill of the First Artillery who was also
April 1861 Orders to Washington
As officers from the lower South began to follow their
states out of the Union, there occurred the first of a series of troop
reassignments. The first
occurred after the secession of South Carolina and was perhaps most immediately
precipitated by South Carolina reaction to Major Anderson’s surreptitious move of
his troops from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter on the night of December 26th
1860. Three days later, Virginia-born
Secretary of War John Floyd resigned to be replaced by the energetic and completely
loyal Joseph Holt. Within days,
orders flew out of Washington directing three artillery companies stationed at
Fort Leavenworth to proceed east via Chicago to Harrisburg, there to wait
further instructions. They began
moving on January 8, 1861. Upon
arrival at Harrisburg, two were sent to Fort McHenry and one was dispatched to
Washington. An artillery company at Fort Monroe was prepared to reinforce Fort
Pickens. By April with the
exception of Fort Sumter and three forts in Florida, all other regular
artillery companies in the south had been evacuated. It must be remembered that
Holt’s measures to protect Washington occurred weeks before Lincoln’s
inauguration and two months before any call for volunteers.
The second troop redeployment occurred after the attack on
Fort Sumter. Despite earlier
reinforcement, Washington D.C. and Baltimore Maryland were now even more vulnerable. The surrender of Fort Sumter and
Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers and threatened secession of Virginia and
North Carolina pushed the boundary of the Southern Confederacy to the banks of
the Potomac. The January and
February troop deployments around Washington were intended maintain order and
prevent interference with Lincoln’s inauguration. The move of regulars in April was much more serious designed
to defend Washington and Baltimore from outright attack.
The closest available regular troops were located in the
military departments west of the Mississippi River. For many reasons, artillery
companies with their proximity to the coast or inland railroads and waterways
were the most mobile of the available forces. Infantry and cavalry companies
located in more remote areas far from road or rails would take longer to get
east. Orders were sent out
to the frontier ordering troops to the east coast.
Pemberton’s company absent all his lieutenants was the first
This small command left Fort Ridgely on April 13 1861, the day
that Fort Sumter surrendered. Directed at first to New York City new orders awaited
Pemberton on his arrival at St Paul Minnesota. He was there directed to proceed to Washington City DC. Four days later on the morning of the
18th, as the company changed trains in Harrisburg, raw troops from
the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers and Ringgold Artillery joined them on the way
to defend the capital. It is very likely that that none of these Pennsylvanians
had ever seen a regular army soldier in their lives. And there is no record of the impression that the volunteers
made on the regulars. The
trains were greeted in Baltimore by howling secessionist mobs inflamed by Lincoln’s
call on April 15 for 75,000 volunteers. Pemberton’s troops, who were armed,
were instrumental in screening the unarmed volunteers on their perilous march
through the streets of Baltimore to catch their trains at the Camden Street
These Pennsylvanians were later to be honored with the title “First
Defenders.” It is more accurate to
distinguish them as the first volunteers to reach the capital since Captain
William Barry’s Company 2nd Artillery had been in the city since their arrival
on January 16.
Company F and
their commander arrived in Washington on the night of April 18 1862 and took up
residence at the Washington Arsenal. John Pemberton having accomplished his
orders to move his company to Washington tendered his resignation as a United
States Army officer effective April 29, 1861. Lieutenant Clermont Best from Company
M, 4th Artillery was promoted to captain and assumed command of the company. Company F, 4th Artillery has
the dubious distinction of being the only company in the regular artillery to
lose every officer to
company left Fort Ridgely on the 14th of April and arrived at Elkton Maryland
on the 24th. Upon
arrival there, Lieutenant Gabriel Hill from North Carolina tendered his
resignation. On April 27, Thomas Sherman was
promoted to major in the 3rd Artillery filling the vacancy created
by the resignation of Major John Winder.
Lieutenant Ransom was in temporary command until the arrival of Sherman’s
successor. On the 8th of May Ransom lead the battery from Elkton and arrived in
Washington DC on the 10th. The right section of the battery participated in the
seizure of Alexandria on the 24th.
and Sherman’s companies went to Washington. DeRussy and Molinard were assigned
to defend Fort McHenry.
DeRussy’s company left
Fort Ridgely on April 25th 1861 and arrived at Perryville Pennsylvania on April
30 1861. They proceeded onward
accompanied by Major Morris and arrived at Fort McHenry early in May. The headquarters and band of the 4th
Artillery that made its way from Fort Randall rendezvoused at Fort McHenry
about the same. The Fourth
Artillery Regiment would be based at Fort McHenry for the remainder of the war.
Molinard’s company made nearly an identical journey.
Interestingly while Pemberton and
Sherman lost five officers between them to resignation, there were no losses in
either De Russy or Molinard’s companies.
The significance of the departure of the artillery companies
and other regular troops from Fort Ridgely was not lost upon the Dakota-Sioux
nation. The Minnesota frontier
would explode seventeen months later in bloody warfare as the Sioux saw their
opportunity to redress grievances by the sword. Fort Ridgely itself would be the site of a desperate battle
on August 20-22, 1862.
The four artillery companies from Fort Ridgely played an often
forgotten role in the early hectic days of April and May 1861. Much attention is given, and rightly so,
to the arrival of the first contingents of volunteers troops, but the drilled,
disciplined regular soldiers, many from regular artillery companies that had
been previously stationed on the frontier, must also be given credit for their
role in the early days for maintaining calm and stability in Washington and
Baltimore. These soldiers provided
models for the rough undisciplined volunteers to emulate. They would also be the core of the
artillery force in the growing Union army that would soon begin gathering
Russy had a distinguished career during the Civil War. Among his assignments were Chief of
Artillery of the 3rd Corps and commander of the Artillery Reserve
during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Later promoted to Brigadier U.S.V. De Russy commanded the
Washington defenses until the end of the war. He retired in 1882 as commander
of the 3rd Artillery Regiment.
Bagley became a major in
the Georgia Legion and was accidently killed on November 13, 1861 near
Williamsburg by his own men. Montgomery was elected major of the 3rd
Georgia and was seriously wounded at Second Manassas. He recovered and was
elected colonel of that regiment in May of 1863. He lived to about
promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth Artillery on May 14, 1861 and
Colonel of the 2nd Artillery on November 1, 1861. To old for active duty, he commanded the Harbor Defenses of Baltimore until February 1,
1865, and the Middle Department and 8th Army Corps until he died at
the age of 64 on December 11, 1865.