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Contributions to a history of the Richmond Howitzer Battalion. Pamphlet no. 1-[4] online

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Ls TORY 9f The




I. Organization of First Company and John Brown
Raid. By Captain Henry Hudnall, of Second
Company. December 13, 1878,

II. Our Dead. Captain W. Gordon McCabe. De-
cember 13, 1878.

III. The Battle of Bethel. By Rev. E. C. Gordon,
of Third Company. December 13, 1882.

IV. All Official Reports (C. S. and U. S.), Battle of



Carlton McCarthy & Co,


. ■ m - w^WlH.V^ - ' n'^ .','^': ' .H ""I . ' , I ." v'i ' '' !


The Howitzer Association proposes to publish, from time tc
time, in uniform pamphlet style, as much of the history of th^
three companies composing the battalion as can be rescued from
oblivion. The archives of the Association already hold much
valuable and exceedingly interesting material, composed in part
of personal diaries, muster rolls, order books, pay rolls, official
reports, &c.

Contributions of material of this sort, or indeed of any sort,
are earnesriy solicited, will be carefully preserved, and finally
printed. /

The undersigned, having been elected to receive and preserve
all matter which may be given or loaned to the Association for
preservation in its publications, packages or communications may
be addressed to him.


805 Main Street,

Richmond, Va.







I. Organization of First Company and John Brown
Raid. By Captain Henry Hudnall, of Second
Company. December 13, 1878.

II. Our Dead. Captain W. Gordon McCabe. De-
cember 13, 1878.

III. The Battle of Bethel. By Rev. E. C. Gordon,
of Third Company. December 13, 18S2.

IV. All Official Reports (C. S. and U. S.), Battle of


Carlton M cCarthy & Co,


May ioi>

di. fiPCW' i-GOODE COLL&OTKflb






History of the Richmond Howitzer Battalion.


Address before the Richnio7id Hoivitzer Associafio7i, Dec. isth, 1878.

By Captain Henry Hudnall, of Second Company.

Comrades of the Hozvitzer Association :

I suppose that some of you have visited the beau-
tiful cemetery of Laurel Hill — the Pere-la-chaise of Philadel-
phia — and gazed, at the entrance, upon that exquisite memorial
entablature representing Old Mortality with his chisel and mal-
let, renewing the inscriptions upon the moss-covered tombs of
the Covenanters; and each one has drawn his own moral from
the instructive scene. The Scotch and the English have long
since settled their differences, and harmonized into a common form
of government. But the memories of the great principles which led
to the formation of the League of the Covenant are still cherished
by the one and respected by the other of those two great peoples.

The founders of the Howitzer Association had in view a pur-
pose to cherish sympathies among its members, and to keep
alive memories growing out of the great war between the States,
Whatever was wrong, on which ever side in that greatest conflict
of modern history, let Time, bearing alms for oblivion, bury
amid the ruins of the pasc; but whatever was noble, and what-
ever was true, it is your duty and your object to preserve it in a
casket of gold, and transmit it as an untarnished heritage to suc-
ceeding generations. We leave to the casuists and philosophers
of future history to determine and settle to their own satisfaction
many questions upon which the survivors of that conflict are not
prepared to agree.

I speak to-night in this peaceful hall to and for those who
know as well as the Light Brigade, when they charged into the
valley of death, that the duty of the true soldier is—

"Not to reason why;
Theirs but to do and die."

4 Richmond Hoivitzer Battalion.

Of the six hundred who from first to last were enhsted under
the banner of your corps, how few remain to gather here to-
night on the occasion of your chosen anniversary to rekindle
the camp fires of memory ; in the bivouac of life to reillume the
beacon lights of other days! Pile on the rails, my lads! Come,
gather around the blaze and warm your souls. The grand old
woods, plaintive with the distant cry of the whippoorwill; the
road-side, with its eternal ruts and everlasting mud-puddles ; the
sedgy old fields of the Peninsula, with their melancholy pines ;
the blue vault of heaven with its crescent so pale, and all the
bright stars which shine o'er the vale, where the Shenandoah
brawls along, or the Rappahannock rolls its tributary tide to-
wards the sea; or by the historic York, where your fathers fought
their opposers from the old world, where you fought those from
the new; or amid swamps and marshes, whose stagnant waters
seemed to be the very bed of that sentimental patriotism of which
you used to hear so much, which knew no North, no South, no
East, no West, so little inclined did they seem to flow anywhere.
These are the scenes, once so vivid in your recollections, my
comrades, which I wish to revisit with you, and with these our
friends, who have honored us on this occasion with their presence.
I do not propose to fight in detail any battles to-night. Night,
as you know, is a bad time for such bloody work. The poet of
battle-songs warns us that the bugles sing truce when the night
clouds have lowered, and the sentinel stars set their watch in the
sky. The song — the sergeant's story — the corporal's oft- told
jokes — some poor fellow's sorry pun, made with a kind heart and
a good intention — these have served their turn, the fleeting
Cynthia of the hour. While the logs burn bright, and the night-
wind whispers a requiem over some fallen comrade's shallow
grave, let us open the records of the Howitzer history, and read
a page here and a page there. * * * ;:= ^ :;=

How strangely some of it reads ! On the afternoon of the i8th
of October, it opens almost as if it were the beginning of a chap-
ter to one of G. P. R. James's romances of the days of chivalry,
but for the date — 1859, the halcyon quiet of the Seven Hills of
Richmond was disturbed by the following startling telegraphic
dispatch addressed to Henry A. Wise, then Governor of the
Commonwealth of Virginia: "An Insurrection" — a word of ter-
rible import at that time in this community — "has occurred at

Organization of First Company. 5

Harper's Ferry ! A band of armed Abolitionists are in full pos-
session of the United States Arsenal. An express train was
fired into twice, and one of the railroad hands, a negro, was
killed while he was trying to get the train through the town.
The Insurgents arrested two men who came into town with a
load of wheat, took the wagon and loaded it with rifles, and
sent them over to the Maryland shore. The band is composed
of a number of whites, followed by a band of negroes, who are
fighting." Here you behold through the lurid vista of subse-
quent events a comparatively small flame lighted by the incen-
diary and fanatic's torch, but destined to kindle into a nation's
holocaust. The military spirit of Richmond — always a favorite
element here, and with every gallant people who know their
rights, and knowing, dare maintain them — was set aburning at a
white heat at the announcement of this horrible intelligence.

Among the first companies which sprang into existence in
that exigency of such alarming portent, was one named by its
founder, "The Howitzer Battery." George W. Randolph, a dis-
tinguished citizen and lawyer of this city, had served in his youth
as a midshipman in the old navy. Conceiving the idea of con-
verting the ordinary naval boat-howitzer into an efficient arm of
the land service, he invited the cooperation of a number of citi-
zens, the most of whom were then in the springtime of life and
enthusiasm, who enrolled their names for the purpose of organ-
izing a company — a crack corps, as he was fond of styling it —
to be armed with a battery of guns of the denomination of how-
itzers. The first meeting took place on the evening of the gth
of November, 1859, in the State court-house (the old yellow
building with its lofty steps and stuccoed pillars, then standing
in the southeast corner of the Capitol Square), at the office of
the clerk of the circuit court, James D. Ellett, who three years
later sealed his devotion to his State and his command with his
life's blood at the battle of Fredericksburg. The efficiency of
this arm of the service, the beauty of the drill, as explained by
the enthusiastic and accomplished commander, and the zeal with
which the movement was entered into by those who had it in
charge, insured its success from the beginning. Captain Ran-
dolph accepted the command of the company, in a speech,
which man)'- of you remember, of that rare and thrilling elo-
quence of which he was easily a master, expressing his acknowl-

6 Bichmond Hoioitzer Battalion.

edgments for the compliment unanimously bestowed on him,
and giving a detailed and interesting history of the howitzer and
its efficiency in the service of the country.

His company did not have to pine long in inglorious ease. On
Saturday evening of the following week, Governor Wise received
a telegraphic dispatch from Colonel Lucius Davis, then in com-
mand of State troops at Harper's Ferry, applying for an addi-
tional force of five hundred men, and announcing that he had
reason to believe that a large body of persons, armed with rifles
and revolvers, were marching upon Charlestown from the bor-
ders of Pennsylvania, with a view to the rescue of John Brown
and the other prisoners taken at the Harper's Ferry insurrection,
and who were then in Charlestown jail awaiting the execution
of the sentence of the court for their crimes against the laws of
the commonwealth. Immediately upon the receipt of this dis
patch, a signal was sounded from the old belfry in the Capitol
Square — the first of a long series of tocsins of alarm with which
the ears of the inhabitants of this city were soon destined to
become familiar. At the tap of the bell, the entire volunteer
force of the city hastened to their respective places of rendez-
vous, and in less than an hour were assembled at the Fred-
ericksburg depot, on Broad street, ready to march, and about
ID o'clock were off for Charlestown. The excitement in the city
was intense, nearly the whole male population appearing to
have turned out to witness the departure of the volunteers.
There was also a host of ladies at the depot, animated by the
spirit of the occasion, and come hither to cheer on their hus-
bands, sons, brothers and lovers. When the long train of cars
started, the vast concourse of men who lined the street sent
up cheer after cheer, which seemed almost to shake the very
heavens. From the demonstration of that memorable Saturday
night, there could be no mistaking the temper and purpose of
all classes of our population in regard to the Harper's Ferry
outrage. The hope was universally expressed that the report
of hostile forces from the North might prove to be true. Actual
war, with all its attendant horrors and calamities, rather than a
cowardly system, under varied, malignant and ever multiplying
disguises of irritation and annoyance, was the preference de-
clared by all.

But this was only the prelude to a great drama. It was a raw,

Organization of First Company. 7

rainy evening in December, when the Howitzers and the time-
honored Blues returned together from Harper's Ferry. The
Blues were a veteran corps, but the young Howitzers, during
their brief initiatory campaign, had caught the veteran air and
step, and as they marched through Washington, many of the
old people looked out of their windows and declared that " those
fellows with the red shirts " must be old Revolutioners come to

When the proclamation of the President of the United States,
in April, iS6i, startled the country from its fancied security, and
broke the sweet slumbers of political dreamers, and brought the
Southern States to a full sense of the responsibilities and duties
of the hour, the little band which had marched with Randolph,
in their Garibaldi shirts, at the first sound of alarm, responded to
the call of Virginia, with a superb battalion of three companies,
all fully armed, equipped and trained. To —

" The battles, sieges, fortunes,"

of that battalion, it would, perhaps, on an evening occasion of
this sort, be best to make but a passing allusion. To history,
when it shall be indited by the pen of the faithful, but impartial
annalist of those times, belongs the record of all the vicissitudes
of a great war in which you participated with unflinching forti-
tude and heroic valor. But the hour and the occasion would
be but poorly served without an outline, faint from time and
imperlect in execution though it be, of the part which you per-

On the walls of the armory of the present military organiza-
tion of Richmond Howitzers, who are here to-night in their
bright, beautiful uniforms — who have taken the place of the old
boys in the red shirts and short jackets and slouch caps of other
days ; on the walls of your armory, among the patriotic and
soul-stirring inscriptions you have recorded there, is a legend
wrought in evergreens, which reads :

''From Bethel to Appomattox ^

No crusader brought from the paynim's shore a prouder in-
scription on his shield..

8 Bichmond Hoioitzer Battalion.

General D. H. Hill, in his report of the battle of Bethel, where
you flashed your maiden guns, used this language: "The suc-
cess of the day was, in no small degree, owing to the splendid
service of Randolph's Richmond Howitzers." Williamsburg,
Seven Pines, Frayser's Farm, Malvern Hill, Cedar Mountain,
both battles of Manassas Plains, Monoccasy Bridge and Sharps-
burg — the Lodi and Areola of the Maryland campaign — all
attest the valor of this or that company of your battalion. But
it was at the great battle of Fredericksburg, fought this day
sixteen years ago, that the whole battalion fought side by side in
generous rivalry, and contributed to the honors of that splendid
victory. Colonel Charles Chesney, an English military critic,
very fair to both sides in our late contest, refers to this battle in
an article contributed to the last edition of the Ency eloper di a
Britanica, as a conspicuous example of a great victory achieved
against heavy odds, upon a defensive line — a mode of battle
generally condemned by theorists, because there is something
peculiarly trying to the moral endurance of even the best dis-
ciplined troops in feeling that they are pinned down to one spot
to await the assaults of the enemy, without any prospect of
retaliation. It is strongly intimated by this distinguished critic,
that had General Lee adopted the third method of battle known
to military theorists as the defensive-offensive, by turning his
defensive attitude at Fredericksburg into an offensive, on the
repulse of Burnside's attack, the fruits of that victory, unlike so
many others, would have ceased to become Dead-Sea apples,
turning to ashes upon the lips. The defensive policy, however,
was, for purposes which seemed best for it, the policy of the
government at Richmond, and for which the Commanding Gen-
eral was not responsible.

On the following year, at Chancellorsville, where your guns
again bore well their part in winning another great victory,
General Lee, though certainly addicted to the strictly defensive
mode of warfare, which was suited to his inferiority of numbers,
gave a splendid illustration of the true instinct of seizing any
special opportunity offered by the carelessness of an adversary
who brought against him apparently overwhelming forces. With-
out entering into the particulars of that engagement, which would
be foreign to the purposes of this address, I think of all the bat-

Organization of First Company. 9

ties of the four years, Chancellorsville will be regarded by the
impartial historian as the best example of the genius which shows
the master of the art of war.

What shall I say of the great, I might with propriety say the
terribly sublime battle of Gettysburg? You were there, and you
have no reason to hang your heads when you recall the incidents
of that fatal field. I have studied that battle with all the care I
have been able to bestow upon it, and I have come to the solemn,
reverential conclusion that God fought that battle, and that
neither party of the combatants was responsible for its issues.

Although but an incident in the midst of many like it, I cannot
omit to refer to the conduct of the First Company of Howitzers
at "Morton's Ford" in the Spring of 1864, when General Grant
commenced swinging around the arc in making his first move-
ment towards Richmond. The enemy, under cover of a fog,
drove in our pickets, unknown to the battery, and advanced
their skirmishers towards the guns. Although no infantry sup-
port was in the neighborhood, the battery at once opened a
vigorous fire, and held the enemy in check for more than an
hour, until reinforcements arrived. A line of battle was quickly
formed — advanced — and the enemy driven across the river. The
General commanding, in next day's orders said: "The First
Company of Howitzers have a second time saved the army from
a great disaster."

In the retreat from Petersburg, three days before the surrender,
the second and third companies, which had been long separated
during the spring and winter campaign, were unexpectedly
thrown together at the affair near Deatonsville and in the most
critical juncture of the day gave a. touch of their old fire
in a gallant repulse of the enemy, which has been related in a
recent number of the Southern Historical Society Papers, by
Private Carlton McCarthy, in a manner so picturesquely true,
that I need not do more than allude to it in passing.

But after all that may be said, and after all that was done —
enough to adorn the most splendid records of the days of
chivalry — I am reminded of that saddest of all refrains :

"It might have been!"

In the inscrutible mysteries of Divine Providence, the wisdom
and might of man is turned to naught; an unseen hand turns

10 Richmond Hoicitzer Battalion.

the wheel of Destiny ; the bubbles upon the surface do not
clearly show the true course of the current of time. How often
do the pages of history illustrate the truth, that the best test of
patriotism is not always the measure of its success.

At the former capital of Switzerland, on the shores of the
beautiful lake of the four forest Cantons, sacred to the memory of
Tell and his compatriots, I have seen, hewn out of the natural
rock by the hand of the immortal sculptor Thorwaldsen, the
" Dead Lion of Lucerne," commemorative of the heroic resist-
ance of the Swiss Guard in Paris in 1792. One paw rests upon
the prostrate shield of France, while the magnificent head, with
closed eyes, reposes against a leaning shield, bearing the white
cross of the Swiss Confederacy. Half buried in the body, over
the heart, is a broken spear. Above, festooned by moss and
lichens overhanging the cliff, is the noblest epitaph ever inscribed
to the memory of Duty and Valor — " Fidei ac Virtuti Helveii-
orum .'"

Yes, the purest sacrifices to Liberty and Honor are not always
found among the Living Lions.

"Thy Spirit, Independence, let me share.
Lord of the lion heart and eagle eye!"

On the walls of the chapel of the Invalides, in Paris, I saw the
battle flags of the Republic and the First Empire, made glorious
by the genius of Napoleon. There rests the massive sarcopha-
gus containing his remains, with the marble statues of his mar-
shals standing sentinel about it; the superb high altar flooded
with golden light from the painted windows, and the gilded dome
springing upward from the stately columns that support it.

When the mausoleum of Lee shall have been completed at
Lexington, among the tattered banners hung as hatchments over
his tomb in respect to the spirit of those who wrought immortal
deeds of valor in behalf of true American freedom — not the free-
dom grudgingly and morosely dispensed by a pent-up Utica of
the North, but of the whole boundless Union which is ours — by
the torchlight illumined at the altars of our sires, let us also hang
there the battle-flag which bears the proud device,

" Fro77i Bethel to Appomattox! '

Our Dead. 11


At the Howitzer banquet, held at Ford's hotel on the evening
of December 13th, 1878, Captain W. Gordon McCabe, of Peters-
burg, in response to the toast to "Our Dead," spoke as follows:*

J\/r. Chairnia7i :

You must allow me, sir, first of all, to thank
you and the Howitzers of Richmond for that kind invitation
which makes me your guest for this evening. And yet, sir,
though I am here as your guest, I could never feel myself a
stranger in this company. Not at festive board, not amid such
bounteous cheer as we see around us here to-night, did I first
learn to know you. Nay, ours is an acquaintance which, I
am proud to remember, dates back to the dust and sweat of
battle — to the brave old days when Virginia looked for every
son to do his duty, and when this historic corps gave such
splendid proof that the "Old Mother" had reckoned aright
upon the devotion of her children. Aye, comrades, we have
shared together the rough delights, the toils, the dangers of
field, of battle, and march, and bivouac, and I am glad to be with
you here to-night and to recall the stirring scenes when I, too,
wore the crossed cannon on my faded cap and had humble
"place in the picture near the flashing of the guns" as a private
in the "Third Battery" of your famous battalion.

Once more you have gathered together in this battle-crowned
capital of our ancient commonwealth, not merely, as I under-
stand your Association, to "tak' the cup o' kindness," and to
revive the memories of those eventful days, when, raised high
above the petty cares of selfish life, you gave your all, without
grudge and without stint, for the safety and honor of your
State — but to attest as well by your presence that, while accept-
ing in good faith the decision extorted by cruel odds, you feel
no blush of shame for that past, and offer no craven apology for

*At the conclusion of Captain McCabe's response, a resolution was
proposed and carried, that his speech be printed. It is due to Captain
McCabe to state that he spoke without any notes, and that it was with
reluctance that he consented, after the passage of the resolutiun, to
write out his remarks.

12 Richmond Hoivitzer Battalion.

your fealty to a cause which is still " strong with the strength"
of truth, and "immortal with the immortality" of right. Aye,
comrades, let us meet half way, and more than half way, if
needs be, every proffer of genuine reconciliation from the brave
men whom we so long withstood in arms, but never, through a
mistaken sense of what is generous or what is politic — never let
a survivor of this battalion, never a survivor of that glorious
army to which we belonged, abate one jot or title of that con-
viction, sealed by so much noble and valiant blood, that otcrs
was the struggle for constitutional freedom in America, or fail
to emphasize that we are only willing to clasp hands, not as
" erring brethren," but as that breed of fierce soldiery who have
known how to bear defeat because untouched of dishonor, and
who, despite the malice of fortune, have writ their names among
the great armies of the world in the very temple of Victory.
• Such, comrades, is the simple and plain duty which we owe our
own self-respect and manhood — which we owe to our children,
who must bear their fathers' names and inherit their glory or
their shame — which we owe to that matchless leader, sleeping
yonder at Lexington in the Valley, whose soul was set in the
royalty of discernment and resolve, and in whose veins coursed
the heroic blood of the old champions of freedom.

Above all, comrades, it is a duty which we owe those daunt-
less spirits, who have fought the good fight and passed away —
who, at the bidding of Virginia, went forth to battle in all the
joyous valor of youth, or stern resolve of sober manhood —
counting their lives a worthless thing — whose memory, solemnly
pledged here to-night with deepest love and reverence, soars
high above the reach of malice, and gains but brighter lustre

Online LibraryConfederate States of America. Army. Virginia ArtiContributions to a history of the Richmond Howitzer Battalion. Pamphlet no. 1-[4] → online text (page 1 of 40)