The Fifth Regiment of Artillery

Original battle flag of Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery Regiment


The following is an excerpt from the Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States, Vol. 17 (January 1, 1895)

I’ve only excerpted the first portion of Bush’s account, up to the point (late Sep 1862) when Pvt. Arthur Irvine was (honorably) discharged. I’ve added to the text various uncopyrighted photos to help us imagine the young Arthur serving among the brave men of Battery D in these terrible battles.

THE FIFTH REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY
BY FIRST LIEUT. JAMES C. BUSH, 5TH U. S. ARTILLERY.

On May 4th, 1861, in conformity with the proclamation of the President, a new regiment of 12 batteries was added to the artillery arm of service and became known as the Fifth of the series.

Congress confirmed this act of the President, July 12th (approved July 29) of the same year, but all appointments dated from May 14th.

Differing in organization from the older regiments, the new one comprised only field batteries, being in this regard the first entire regiment so equipped in the Regular Army. But it must not be inferred that the Fifth was designated by law as a light artillery regiment. “Nowhere in the act of July 29th do the words ‘field or light artillery’ occur, nevertheless, the batteries received the personnel belonging to field-artillery only. This, together with the other fact of the mounting, equipping and sending out as field artillery all the batteries, does not leave in doubt that Congress intended the Fifth to be a field artillery regiment.”

Though formed only the previous May, we find one battery (Griffin’s, D) in the thick of the fight at the first battle of Bull Run, July 21.

Orders No. 3, Headquarters Military Academy, Jan. 7, 1861, directed Lieut. Griffin, Tactical Department, to form a light battery of four pieces, with six horses to the piece. Enough men to make the command 70 strong were transferred from the dragoon and artillery detachments. On Jan. 31, 1861, the command left West Point for Washington where it remained till July 4th when it was assigned as Battery D, 5th Artillery. Captain Griffin, who had been promoted, and transferred to the Fifth, retained command of the battery he had formed.

Maj Gen Charles Griffin with his staff officers

Maj Gen Charles Griffin with his staff officers

This same day, July 4, the battery proceeded to Arlington, and thence by short marches to Fairfax and the battle-field of Bull Run, where, with Rickett’s battery of the First, it found itself posted opposite the enemy’s left. The withering fire poured in by these two soon silenced the opposing batteries and caused the enemy’s lines to fall back, pursued by our infantry. Later, in the afternoon, both batteries advanced, in the final attack, to a position previously occupied by the Confederates, when they were suddenly charged from an adjoining wood by a body of infantry and cavalry supposed at first to be Federals. The supports— entirely raw troops— gave way; every cannoneer was cut down, a large number of horses were killed, and notwithstanding the efforts of the officers to rally the supports, most of the guns were captured and the batteries placed hors de combat.

Battery D lost during the day 27 men killed and wounded, out of an effective of 95, and 55 horses.

First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

Captain Griffin received especial mention for the handsome manner in which he had handled his battery, and Lieut. Ames for gallantry.

At “Camp Greble,” near Harrisburg, Pa., a depot of instruction was established in June, Lt. Col. T. W. Sherman, 5th Artillery, commanding. Here recruits were received and drilled and batteries fitted out for the field, the State of Pennsylvania furnishing most of the recruits.”[1]

Bvt. Brig. Gen. Harvey Brown, Colonel 5th Artillery, after successfully sustaining the siege of Fort Pickens with his troops, came north and assumed command of the regiment, broke up Camp Greble and transferred the headquarters to Fort Hamilton, N. Y. Harbor, in April, 1862. Here the colonel and headquarters remained till General Brown’s retirement, August 1, 1863. Colonel H. S. Burton, who practically succeeded him, was in the field and commanded the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, during the Wilderness campaign, until the breaking up of the Reserve, May 16, ’64. In the latter part of July he took station with the regimental headquarters at Fort Richmond, New York Harbor.

Lt. Col. T. W. Sherman and Major Thomas Williams, Fifth Artillery, after successively commanding Camp Greble, were made general officers of volunteers, and never served with the regiment in the field.

1st Lieuts. Henry A. DuPont and J. B. Rawles were respectively the first regimental adjutant and quartermaster.

 

II

Early in April McClellan’s army disembarked at Fort Monroe, and a few days later was brought to a stand before the intrenchments of Yorktown.

In the advance towards Richmond, after the evacuation of Yorktown, the seven batteries, A, C, D, F, I, K, M, sustained their part in various engagements, notably F at Williamsburg and D in Porter’s flank movement to Hanover Court House.

Commencement of the battle of Hanover Ct. House

Commencement of the battle of Hanover Ct. House

It would be impracticable within the space allowed, to write any adequate account of the part performed by different batteries of the Fifth during the battles, sieges and engagements, 108 in number, of this and other campaigns of the war. We can give only an outline of the general movements, with a brief reference to actions in which certain batteries particularly distinguished themselves.

Three kinds of field pieces composed the armament, 12-pdr. Napoleons, 10-pdr. Parrott rifles and 3-inch ordnance rifles. Most of our batteries received one kind of gun, but at the opening of this campaign two of them (A, F) had four 10-pdr. Parrotts and two Napoleons assigned to each organization.

12-pound Napoleon gun battery

12-pound Napoleon gun battery

Four batteries of the Fifth (C, D, I, K) assisted in the heavy artillery fire which met A. P. Hill’s attack (June 26) at Mechanicsville, in Lee’s effort to force a passage towards McClellan’s right.

After a severe struggle the enemy retired with heavy loss, the artillery taking a conspicuous part in achieving the result. The position at Beaver Dam Creek had its right flank so far in the air as to be easily enveloped by Jackson’s force. The Federals fell back to the high ground at Gaines’ Mill, where Lee attacked them next day with 124 regiments and 120 guns against Porter’s force of 49 regiments and 96 guns.

“As the battle progressed, the batteries in reserve were thrown forward and took the best position available. The extreme simplicity of the battle favored this, and enabled battery commanders (Smead and Kingsbury among others) to supplement by their own judgment what was lacking in the proper organization and command of the artillery.”

Just before sunset— the last charge of the Confederates — 80 guns were concentrated, virtually in one battery, covering the withdrawal of the retiring infantry. “These opened successively as our troops withdrew from in front of their fire, and checked in some places, and in others drove back the advancing enemy.”

In this last position Battery D remained till after dark, when it was withdrawn and ordered towards Malvern.

Battle of Beaver Dam Creek

Battle of Beaver Dam Creek

“Two regular batteries (Weed’s I, and Tidball’s of the Second), almost entirely unsupported, were posted on the extreme right flank, and by their united and well sustained fire were enabled to repel three powerful assaults and prevent Jackson from enveloping and crushing in that flank. Jackson in his report says that he brought up parts of four battalions of batteries, in all about 30 pieces, to break this flank. The two batteries referred to withstood a good portion of the firing of these pieces.”

General Sykes in his report states: “It is not too much to say that the enemy’s attack on my right flank was frustrated mainly by the services of Captains Weed and Tidball.”

On the extreme left the enemy gained a strip of woods towards dusk and forced the line, coming through in great numbers. General Cooke, fearful for the safety of three batteries, DeHart’s, Easton’s and Kerns’, which had played an important part during the day at that point, ordered a charge of his cavalry. A volley of musketry broke the charge and sent the troopers and many riderless horses in utter rout to the rear through the batteries. Before the latter could recover from the confusion thus produced, the enemy were upon them.

“Captain De Hart’s battery (C) did its best service, keeping its ground and delivering its fire steadily against the advancing enemy. Officers and men displayed the greatest gallantry, but no efforts could repel the rush of a now successful foe, under whose fire rider and horse went down and guns lay immovable upon the field.” Captain De Hart was wounded at this time, and died not long after at Fort Hamilton, N. Y.

Captains Smead, Weed, De Hart and Lieut. Kingsbury received high praise “for the superb manner in which their guns were handled.”

Thence to the James, every day was a fight, and our batteries struggled along with the rest, the horses held ever ready to move at a moment’s notice.

Having repulsed the enemy at points where he had endeavored to break the retreating column, the Federals assembled their army and made a final stand on Malvern Hill the morning of July 1.

Porter’s corps and Couch’s division occupied the left and upon them the brunt of fighting fell. Here were posted our batteries (A. D, I, K).

“Brigade after brigade formed under cover of the woods, and started at a run to cross the open space and charge the batteries, but the heavy fire of our guns, and the steady volleys of the infantry, sent them reeling back to shelter.”

During one of these assaults Battery D so shattered a regiment charging upon it, that the infantry bolted, leaving their colors which were afterwards awarded to the battery.

Battle of Gaines Mill 27 June 1862

Battle of Gaines Mill 27 June 1862

“Just as the sun was setting, the enemy made his last and most determined assault, which fell entirely upon Porter. It seemed as though he must give way to the overwhelming pressure.” But at this critical moment Colonel H. J. Hunt pushed forward the batteries of the Artillery Reserve (A and I) and an almost continuous battery of about 60 guns was opened on the enemy, crushing him back into the woods from which he did not again return.

Ames’ battery remained on the firing line, in a particularly exposed position on the extreme left, during the entire day, and fired 1392 rounds of ammunition, 1st Lieut. Adelbert Ames and his subalterns, James Gillis and George W. Crabb, received particular mention for gallantry and skill both at Malvern Hill and Gaines’ Mill (Golding’s).

The Federals retired to their base, Harrison’s Landing, whither our other batteries (C, F, M.) had already gone.

 

III

Lee soon set on foot a new campaign towards the old battle-ground of Bull Run, in which quarter an army had been created under General Pope. Thither too the Army of the Potomac was gradually transferred.

After some preliminary manoeuvring, the opposing forces met in action near Manassas, Va., August 29-30. Battery C took part in the fight of the 28th, C and D in that of the 29th and C, D, I, K, in that of the 30th.

Despite hard blows, the Federals were forced back all along the line. Had not a successful stand been made by a hurriedly assembled force massed on the Henry house hill, the afternoon of the 30th, the disaster would have been fatal to the Army of Virginia.”

On the hill all our batteries took position.

As the broken columns fell back, Meade’s and Seymour’s brigades of Reynold’s division, and their three batteries (Ransom’s, C), were thrown in to resist the advancing enemy.

“The brigades and Ransom’s battery after hard fighting moved to the Henry house, which position they most gallantly maintained for two hours,” when they were ordered toward Centreville.

Charles Hazlett 1862

Charles Hazlett 1862

Hazlett distinguished himself in the desperate endeavor of Warren’s brigade to protect the left of Sykes’ division against an attack of greatly superior numbers, just before retiring to the Henry house.

Battery D had been ordered to an important position in support of an attack of our infantry, when Hazlett suddenly found that all the troops on his left had been withdrawn, not even leaving pickets. He applied to General Warren on his right for support and received it. Not long after, the Confederates discovered this exposed flank and attacked.

“The enemy poured upon this little command a mass of infantry which enveloped and almost destroyed it, completely piercing our line,” writes General Sykes. “It became necessary to change our ground. This the brigades accomplished under a severe artillery fire. Weed’s, Smead’s and Randol’s batteries moving with and near them. After an interval, the remains of my command united on the plateau where my artillery joined me.”

Captain Smead was unfortunately killed in bringing off his guns, and the command devolved upon Lieut. Van Reed who retired the battery to the Henry house and, later, conducted it to Washington.

“Weed was in action throughout the day, and strengthened the reputation he had already acquired” (Sykes’ report).

Hazlett remained on the hill, firing, after his division had left, till ordered away by General Hooker.

 

IV

No sooner had the broken members of Pope’s army been gathered within the defenses of Washington, than McClellan, reinstated, found it necessary to move up the left bank of the Potomac to encounter his old foe on the soil of Maryland.

He first met Lee (Sept. 14) at the passes of South Mountain, through which the latter was withdrawing from Frederick to a strong position on the Sharpsburg ridge, extending across a bend of the Potomac, behind Antietam creek.

Batteries C and F participated in the fight of the 16th and A, C, D, F, I, K in the main one of Sept. 17th, Antietam.

Battery A (Lieut. Charles P. Muhlenberg) was attached to Rodman’s division, IX. Corps, Burnside’s, and took position near bridge No. 3 on the left. In the afternoon, after shelling the opposite bank during the day, Muhlenberg crossed over with his division in the attack upon the Confederate right.

Weed, Hazlett and Van Reed took position at the centre, near bridge No. 2, with Porter’s corps.

Antietam bridge

Antietam bridge

The batteries of Weed and Van Reed were among those that did such effective work against Jackson’s right near the Dunker church. Of these Jackson says: “The Federal batteries, so posted on the opposite side of the Antietam as to enfilade my line, opened a severe and damaging fire.”

Ayres (F) was in the thick of the fight in his old division (Smith’s, VI. Corps), while Ransom (C) remained with the Pennsylvania Reserves, now Meade’s division of the I. Corps, Hooker’s, on the right, where the severest fighting took place.

“At about 10 o’clock,” wrote Lieut. Gansevoort, who actually commanded Battery C during the day, “General Hooker ordered our battery to the extreme front, and took it there himself. We passed through a wood, then over a ploughed field into a pasture.

“The infantry on our right fled, and also on our left. As we came in, a battery on our left retired, and we were left alone without support. The rebels were coming down upon us, and we would have retired to save our pieces; but many of the horses were killed and it was impossible. We therefore continued firing; and, after a short time, the horses of the caissons came up with the caisson limbers, containing fresh ammunition. The enemy after a while retired, and with the last horses we also retired, having accomplished our mission, but with great loss.

General Meade in his report says: — “I cannot close this report without calling your attention to the skill and good judgment, combined with coolness, with which Captain Ransom, his officers (Lieutenants Weir and Gansevoort) and men, served his battery. I consider this one of the most critical periods of the morning, and that to Captain Ransom’s battery is due the credit of repulsing the enemy.”

Smith’s division also attacked on the right and with it Ayres’ battery (F). Captain Ayres says: — “My own battery was brought upon the line under heavy fire at about 1 1:30 o’clock A. M. From this time it was mostly under the command of First Lieut. L. Martin, my duties (chief of artillery) calling me to other points on the field.

“The splendid services of the battery of Lieutenant Martin, 5th Artillery, posted near my right,” reported General Irwin, “attracted the admiration of all who saw it in action. For several hours it engaged the enemy at short range and with deadly effect. In this action I felt a particular interest in Lieut. Martin’s battery, for to its fire the safety of my brigade may be largely imputed. Had he not checked the heavy fire from the batteries of the enemy, they would have destroyed the greater part of my command.”

Battery D 5th US Artillery

Battery D 5th US Artillery

 


[1] Regimental orders No. I, dated Harrisburg, Perm., July 4, 1861, Lieut. Col. T. W. Sherman, 5th Artillery, commanding, assigned the captains as follows : A, George W. Getty: B, James A. Hardie; C, Truman Seymour; D, Charles Griffin ; E, Samuel F. Chalfin ; F, Romeyn B. Ayres ; G, Richard Arnold : H, William R. Ten ill ; I, Stephen H. Weed : K, John R. Smead ; L, Henry V. DeHart and M, James McKnight. Transfers, April, 1861 : Seymour from C to E. Chalfin from E to L, DeHart from L to C.

 

 

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