|Col. Stephen D. Lee|
There are a lot of ways to measure artillery performance in battle. They include comparison of the artillery leadership, the artillery organization of the opposing armies, number of guns, the type of guns, the number of batteries, the terrain on which the guns are located, how well each side adhered to artillery doctrine of the time, and whether the guns are properly supported by infantry.
At the beginning of the Maryland Campaign, the Confederate Army was well into the process of organizing their artillery into battalions. In theory, a battalion organization meant that the guns were concentrated in groups of two or more batteries under a field grade officer. The Union Army called these organizations brigades instead of battalions but they were essentially the same organization. The only true artillery brigades in the Union Army at this time were in the Artillery Reserve commanded by Henry Hunt till his elevation to be Chief of Artillery for the Army of the Potomac on September 4th
, 1862. Creating artillery brigades in the Union infantry corps was something that would not happen until after the Battle of Chancellorsville.
This system permitted flexibility in the deployment of artillery. It potentially allowed for movement of battalions from one threatened sector to another and equally important concentration of artillery fire. As the battalion system evolved, artillery resupply could potentially become more efficient as well.
|Col. James Walton|
Without a battalion system, individual batteries were assigned directly to infantry brigade and division commanders. Artillery fire is most effective when concentrated and it was difficult to get cooperation with other infantry commanders to concentrate artillery fire. Further, commanders would resist any efforts to move “their
” batteries to other locations. A battalion (or brigade) system would mitigate (but not eliminate) these problems.
Despite the implementation of this system by the Confederate Army, it was far from perfect. Jennings Wise, the famed chronicler of Robert E. Lee’s artillery, characterized these battalions at this time, as possessing “little organization as tactical units, but … merely collections or groups of battery units possessing practically no tactical cohesion.”[i]
The Confederate artillery battalions may have lacked cohesion and experience working as tactical units. However they possessed a relatively large number of field grade artillery officers. In the army, field grade officers rank between major and colonel. They typically command at the battalion and regimental level and serve as senior staff officers. They should be subject matter experts in their branch of service. They could talk (or argue) with authority about their branch of service with their less knowledgeable infantry brethren. Having field grade artillery officers also means that there is a commander and staff that can oversee the logistics of artillery. Finally if the guns had to be moved (as they often did in the Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam), there was a leader with the rank and authority to do it.
On the Union side where there were many fewer artillery field grade officers at Antietam. How big was the discrepancy in field grade officers between the opposing forces? On the Confederate side, there were 17 field grade officers who accompanied the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland. Twelve were on the battlefield on September 17th
. Brief sketches of these 17 officers appears below:
Colonel James Walton
(1813-1885) (Louisiana) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, Right Wing; He served with the Washington Artillery in the Mexican War (1856 - 57) and by 1857 was colonel commanding the battalion. It was Walton who initiated an ill-advised artillery barrage on the Union guns of position across the Antietam near the Middle Bridge on the 16th. Vigorous Union counterbattery fire from the longer range and heavier Union guns compelled Longstreet to order Walton to call it off. On the 17th, Walton generally commanded various batteries (not all from his own battalion) in the center of the Confederate line. His own four batteries held various positions from the orchard near the Sunken Road to Snavely’s Ford on the southern end of the line. [ii]
Colonel Henry C.Cabell (1820-1899)
(Virginia) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, McLaw’s Division; Before the war he commanded the Richmond Fayette Artillery (organized in 1821). When the 1st Virginia Artillery regiment was formed he was appointed lieutenant colonel. Cabell was ill during the Maryland Campaign but returned to duty on September 17th.[iii]
Major Samuel P. Hamilton (1826-1891)
(Georgia) Assistant Chief of Artillery, McLaw’s Division. He commanded Company A 1stGeorgia which was organized as artillery on July 24th 1861; He was appointed a major in Cabell’s artillery battalion July 14th 1862; Major Hamilton was acting Chief of Artillery to General McLaws
and deployed McLaw’s artillery on Maryland Heights on September 13th
1862. Hamilton served under Colonel Cabell who sufficiently recovered from illness to return to his duties on the field at Sharpsburg on September 17th.[iv]
Major John S. Saunders (1836-1904)
(Virginia) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, R.H. Anderson’s Division; USMA graduate 1858. Served in the Second U.S. Artillery
and Ordnance Department before resigning on April 21st, 1861. He served as ordnance officer in Richmond, and Chief of Artillery at Norfolk and Vicksburg before being assigned as artillery battalion commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. Saunder’s four batteries generally fought together on the Reel Ridge and Piper Farm lane area of the battlefield supporting the defense of the Sunken Road.[v]
Major Bushrod Frobel (1826-1888)(Virginia) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, John B. Hood’s Division; Frobel was a civil engineer with the U.S. Revenue Service before the War. He was first commissioned as a lieutenant, in the Confederate State Navy before joining the army as a lieutenant of artillery on October 7, 1861; He commanded the "Cockpit Point Battery" on the Potomac River. Frobel was on General Whiting's staff at the Seven Days in June 1862. He was promoted major and Chief of Artillery to General Hood July 22, 1862. Frobel’s three batteries served for much of the day along the Boonsboro Pike on a hill to the right of the turnpike road a short distance in front of Sharpsburg. [vi]
NOTE: No chiefs of artillery are identified for the divisions of John Walker and David R. Jones. Walker had two batteries at Antietam. Jones had one battery.
Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield (1835-1865) (Virginia) Chief of Artillery, Left Wing; VMI graduate in 1855 and professor with Jackson; Major in 9thVirginia and then 58th Virginia. Colonel and chief of artillery in Jackson’s Valley District. Crutchfield was not present at Sharpsburg during the battle. He remained at Harper's Ferry organizing captured guns and ammunition and arrived at Sharpsburg on the evening of the 17th. Crutchfield was killed in action at Sailor’s Creek on April 6, 1865. [vii]
Lieutenant Colonel Reuben Lindsay Walker (1827-1890)
(Virginia) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, A.P. Hill’s Division; 1845 VMI graduate. In 1861 appointed commander of the Purcell Artillery. He saw action at First Bull Run, and was promoted to major on March 20th1862, and lieutenant colonel on July 3rd1862. Walker’s artillery played an important role in subduing the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry and he brought four batteries to Antietam where they had a key role in A.P. Hill’s attack on Burnside’s Ninth Corps. [viii]
Major Alfred R. Courtney (1833-1914) (Virginia) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, Ewell’s Division; Enrolled as second lieutenant, 38th Battalion Virginia Heavy Artillery on 15 May 1861. Commissioned captain of his own battery (Courtney's Henrico (VA)) on July 8th, 1861; Courtney was convicted by court-martial (date not given) for dereliction of duty for not bringing forward more ammunition and 3 batteries of the battalion as ordered (by artillery chief Pendleton) at Sharpsburg on 16 and 17 September, and for being absent without leave for almost a month following the battle.[ix]
Major Lindsay M. Shumaker (1824?-1884)
(Virginia) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, the Stonewall Division; Appointed second lieutenant of the Virginia First Regiment of Foot in 1846 as it was organized for the Mexican War.
Captain Danville Artillery
(VA) April 1861. Participant in the Greenbrier campaign in Western Virginia in fall of 1861; Appointed major July 5th
1862. At Antietam, Shumaker commanded several batteries of Jackson’s command that initially defended the West Woods in the early morning. Driven back by the Federal guns of position and Union First Corps artillery, these batteries regrouped on Hauser’s Ridge. According to William Poague, Shumaker was deaf.[x]
Major Francis Scipio Pierson
(Louisiana) Chief of Artillery/Battalion Commander, D.H. Hill’s Division; Pierson had experience in the French artillery before the War. He enrolled as first lieutenant in the first months of the war with Company E, First Battalion Louisiana Zouaves. That unit became DeGournay’s Battery
(LA); He was promoted to major on March 27th
1862; Pierson commanded D.H. Hill’s guns at Antietam but left no report. Captain Thomas Carter said that Pierson helped to organize the Confederate batteries on the Reel Ridge.[xi]
Major John Pelham (1838-1863)
(Alabama) attended USMA 1856-1861. Lieutenant Alburtis Artillery
in 1861; captain March 23 1862; major August 9 1863; The Stuart Horse Artillery battalion was probably still largely an administrative unit with each of the three batteries serving with a different cavalry brigade on other parts of the field. At Nicodemus Heights and later at Hauser’s Ridge, Pelham brilliantly commanded his own battery and four batteries from Jackson’s command. Pelham was killed at Kelly’s Ford on March 17, 1863 and was posthumously promoted to lieutenant colonel.[xii]
During the campaign the five battalions of the Reserve Artillery operated as a loose formation with the battalions constantly being detached from Pendleton to serve elsewhere. Pendleton served mostly as a chief of artillery for the entire army in matters of inspection and administration.
Colonel Stephen D. Lee (1833-1908)
(South Carolina) Battalion Commander, Reserve Artillery; USMA graduate in 1854. Served with the Fourth U.S. Artilleryin Texas, Florida, Kansas, and the Dakotas. Resigned
in 1861. ADC to Beauregard at Fort Sumter. Major November 1861, lieutenant colonel March 1862, Artillery McLaws Division April – June; Artillery Magruder’s Division – July 1862; colonel July 9 1862. His artillery battalion was attached to Longstreet’s wing. Lee’s battalion started the battle on the Dunker Church plateau and provided invaluable fire support to Jackson’s wing until it was driven from the position by the Federal guns of position across the Antietam and advancing Union infantry. His four batteries pulled back at first to the Reel Ridge and then into town where they were somewhat refitted. They then joined Confederate defenders on Cemetery Hill for the remainder of the afternoon.[xiii]
Lieutenant Colonel Allen S. Cutts (1827-1896)(Georgia) Commander Sumter (Georgia) Artillery
Battalion, Reserve Artillery; Artillery private in Mexican War. Planter in Americus Georgia. Captain Sumter Flying Artillery (GA) July 6 1861; major May 22 1862; lieutenant colonel May 26 1862; During the Maryland Campaign, his battalion was left behind in the retreat from South Mountain but he managed to rejoin the army. At Antietam Cutt’s battalion primarily supported D.H. Hill;[xiv]
Major Hilary P. Jones (1833-1913)
(Virginia) Battalion Commander, Reserve Artillery; lieutenant Morris Artillery
(VA) (Page’s Battery at Antietam); captain February 1862; major May 28 1862; His battalion was located in the center of the Confederate line and engaged Federal batteries across the Antietam. His four batteries assisted D.H. Hill in the defense of the Piper Farm area after the Union advance to the Sunken Road.[xv]
Colonel John Thompson Brown (1835-1864)
Commander First Virginia Light Artillery Regiment,
Reserve Artillery; Second Lieutenant Second Company Richmond Howitzers
; elected captain of company May 9 1861. Fought at Big Bethel June 10, 1861; Appointed major in September 1861 and a lieutenant colonel of the 1st Virginia Artillery in the spring of 1862. Promoted to colonel on June 2, 1862. Brown led the battalion in the artillery reserve of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Seven Days Battles. In the Maryland Campaign the battalion was detached on September 14th to guard Light’s Ford at Williamsport where it remained until September 19th. At the battle of the Wilderness
on May 6, 1864, Brown was killed by a sharpshooter while seeking a position for the guns in his division.[xvi]
Major William Nelson (1808-1892)
(Virginia) Battalion Commander, Reserve Artillery; captainHanover Light Artillery
April 1861; Nelson was dropped in April 1862; at the batteries reorganization and his brother assumed command; major of artillery May 26 1862; lieutenant colonel, March 3 1863; colonel February 18th
1865; During the battle, Nelson’s battalion guarded Boteler’s Ford where it remained until the Battle of Shepherdstown.[xvii]
Twelve of these officers (Walton, Cabell, Hamilton, Saunders, Frobel, Walker, Shumaker, Pierson, Pelham, Lee, Cutts, and Jones) were present at the Battle of Antietam. Compared to their Union counterparts, the Confederate field grades had significantly less military experience. They usually had about a year commanding at the battery level before assuming higher rank. Five had a military education. Lee, and Saunders graduated from West Point. Pelham attended the Military Academy for five years but was denied his diploma when the firing on Fort Sumter forced him to leave just days before graduation. Crutchfield and Walker graduated from VMI. Pierson is said to have served as an artillerist in the French Army prior to the Civil War. Shumaker was mustered in to a Virginia regiment for the Mexican War but never actually served. James Walton and Henry Cabell had pre-war militia experience commanding artillery militia batteries (the Washington Artillery for Walton and the Fayette (Virginia) Artillery for Cabell.) All these officers served in combat with the Army of Northern Virginia during the summer of 1862 and that was perhaps good enough.
In contrast, the Federal Army had just three
field grade artillery officers present as the opposing armies squared off for the Battle of Antietam.
Lieutenant Colonel William Hays (1819-1875)
(Virginia) Commander Artillery Reserve; USMA 1840; 22 year veteran of artillery service in the Second U.S. Artillery; Served in combat with Battery A, Second U.S. Artillery
with Henry Hunt in Mexico; Hays commanded the Horse Artillery Brigade in the Artillery Reserve prior to appointment to Chief of the Artillery Reserve in early September 1862. [xviii]
Lieutenant Colonel George Getty (1819-1901)
(DC) Chief of Artillery Ninth Corps; USMA 1840; 22 year veteran of artillery service in the Fourth U.S. Artillery
including combat in Mexico. Getty commanded a brigade in the Artillery Reserve prior to appointment as Chief of Artillery of the Ninth Corps in early September 1862.
Major Francis Clarke (1820-1866)
(New York) Chief of Artillery Second Corps; USMA 1840; 22-year veteran of artillery service in the Fourth U.S. Artillery
including command of an artillery battalion in Utah prior to the Civil War.
What they lacked in quantity, the Union field grades possessed in a dominating qualitative edge of artillery experience over their Confederate brethren. Hays, Getty and Clarke were all professional artillery officers. All graduated together from West Point Class in 1840. Hays and Getty were Mexican War veterans. Both served directly under Hunt in the Artillery Reserve in the summer of 1862 and understood his operating style. Clarke had been Sumner’s artillery chief since the Second Corps was established in March of 1862 and was in all of that corps’ battles in front of Richmond.
Major Albert Arndt, commander of the First N.Y. Light Artillery (German) Battalion, Artillery Reserve was present until September 16th
. Arndt had experience with the Prussian Army prior to immigrating to the United States. He served credibly with his battalion in the Artillery Reserve on the Peninsula and was elevated to command of the battalion when Hunt fired Colonel Andreas Breckel. Hunt referred to Arndt as an“experienced and excellent officer
.” Arndt was killed on September 16th
while positioning the guns of his battalion on the east bank of the Antietam.[xix]
|Col. Stapleton Crutchfield|
There were undoubtedly other field officers with artillery backgrounds in the Union Army during the battle but none served in artillery positions (that I could find). There were two other Union field grade officers assigned to senior artillery positions but they were not present at Antietam. Colonel Charles Wainwright, First New York Light Artillery previously served under Hooker as his divisional Chief of Artillery in the Third Corps. Hooker named Wainwright to be Chief of Artillery for the First Corps when “Fighting Joe” was elevated to that command. Wainwright did not join his new command immediately arriving on the battlefield on September 19th. In Wainwright’s absence, Hooker essentially served as his own chief of artillery and personally positioned his batteries until he was wounded.
Colonel Charles Tompkins, First Rhode Island Light Artillery was Chief of Artillery in the Sixth Corps. During the Maryland Campaign, Tompkins was in Rhode Island recruiting and missed the battle. William Franklin however had two very capable division chiefs of artillery. Lieutenant Emory Upton was Henry Slocum’s artillery chief. Romeyn Ayres served in that same position in William F. Smith’s division.
To be sure, the regular army captains commanding Federal artillery at Antietam were every bit as experienced to command at the field grade level. They included Stephen Weed in the Fifth Corps, Romeyn Ayres in the Sixth Corps, Clermont Best in the Twelfth Corps, and John Tidball, Horatio Gibson and James Robertson in the Horse Artillery. Ayres, Best, Tidball and Gibson all graduated in the West Point Class of 1847. Weed graduated in 1854. Robertson enlisted in the artillery in 1838 and was commissioned directly from the enlisted ranks in 1848. Had they accepted infantry commissions (like John Gibbon) all would have likely been at least infantry colonels by the Maryland Campaign. The fact is that no matter how much technical experience they possessed, they did not have the rank.
Henry Hunt recognized this. After Antietam, Hunt pressed repeatedly for promotion or brevet promotion of his artillery officers. Brevets would eventually come but direct promotions in the small regular army artillery establishment were extremely rare. The War Department and Henry Halleck in particular refused Hunt’s request to permit artillery officers to serve at their brevet rank.
|LTC Reuben L. Walker|
In reading the reports of Robert E. Lee’s senior artillery commanders, studying Carman’s narrative, and viewing the Carman-Copes maps, it is clear that Lee’s senior artillery officers played a decisive role in ensuring that Confederate artillery was at the right place at the right time throughout the day. By late morning on September 17th
the Confederate situation was perilous. Fortunately for Lee and his generals, decisions to relocate Confederate artillery and implementation of those movement orders would be done by men with the necessary rank to make it happen.
Pelham’s guns moved from Nicodemus Heights to Hauser’s Ridge. Shumaker’s guns initially located in the West Woods also moved back to Hauser’s Ridge. Stephen D. Lee’s guns started the day on the Dunker Church plateau. Driven off by William Hays’ guns of position east of the Antietam, Lee moved initially to the Reel Ridge and then to Cemetery Hill in the center of the Confederate line after refitting. Frobel, Pierson, and Jones were constantly shifting their guns to confront different Union threats. Reuben Walker’s artillery battalion of A.P. Hill’s division added its weight to the fight at the end of the day and helped to halt the surging Ninth Corps advance. The combined efforts of these officers, battery commanders, and their gallant artillerists meant that Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would live to fight another day.
A 4:1 ratio (12 Confederate to 3 Union) in field grade artillery officers is a startling metric. It is one that I have never seen addressed before. Though the overall numbers are small, the presence of field grade officers among the artillery commands, particularly on the Confederate side, is a significant factor. As we measure artillery performance at Antietam, the role of these senior field grades certainly merits further study.
[i]Wise, Jennings Cropper. The Long Arm of Lee Volume 1, Owens Publishing Company, (1915 (1988)), page 344
[ii]OR 19:1 Report of Colonel J. B. Walton, Washington (Louisiana) Artillery, of the Battle of Sharpsburg; page 848
[iii]OR 19:1 Reports of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, C.S. Army, commanding division of operations September 10-17; page 860
[v]Maps of the Battlefield of Antietam Surveyed by Lieut. Col. E.B. Cope, Revised Edition 1908; Map # 9 10:30 AM.
[vi]OR 19:1 Report of Maj. B.W. Frobel, C.S. Army, Chief of Artillery, of the battle of Sharpsburg; page 925
[vii]OR 19:1, Reports of Col. S. Crutchfield, C.S. Army, Chief of Artillery, of operations September 13-19; page 962.
[viii]OR 19:1 Report of Lieut. Col. R.L. Walker, C.S. Army, commanding Artillery Battalion, of operations September 13-17; page 983.
[ix]Pawlak, Kevin. “Shamed at Sharpsburg: The Court Martial Case of Alfred Courtney” Antietam Brigades, May 20, 2018, antietambrigades.blogspot.com/2018/05/shamed-at-sharpsburg-court-martial-case.html.
[x]Poague, William. Gunner with Stonewall: Reminiscences Of William Thomas Poague, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, and Lieutenant Colonel Of Artillery, Army Of Northern Virginia, CSA, 1861-65: a Memoir Written For His Children in 1903,University Of Nebraska Press, 1998, page 35
[xi]OR 19:1 Report of Capt. Thomas H. Carter, commanding King William (Virginia) Artillery, of the battle of Sharpsburg; page 1030.
[xii]Krick, Robert E. L. “Defending Lee's Flank J. E. B. Stuart, John Pelham, and Confederate Artillery on Nicodemus Heights.” The Antietam Campaign. edited by Gary Gallagher Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999, page 192.
[xiii]OR 19:1 Report of Col. Stephen D. Lee, C.S. Army, commanding artillery battalion, of the battle of Sharpsburg, page 855.
[xiv]Harsh, Joseph L.Sounding the Shallows: A Confederate Companion for the Maryland Campaign of 1862,Kent State University Press (2000) page 82.
[xv]Sounding the Shallows,page 83. Johnson, Curt and Anderson, Richard C. Artillery Hell: the Employment Of Artillery At Antietam, Texas A & M University Press – 1995, page 99.
[xvi]Sounding the Shallows page 83.
[xvii]Sounding the Shallows page 84.
[xviii]OR 19:2 Report of Lieut Col. William Hays, U.S. Army, commanding Artillery Reserve, of the battle of Antietam and skirmish at Blackford’s or Boteler’s Ford. page 342.
[xix]OR 19:2 Report of Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, U.S. Army, Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac, of operations September 5-20; page 342.