Jennings C. (Jennings Cropper) Wise.

The long arm of Lee; or, The history of the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia; with a brief account of the Confederate bureau of ordnance (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 40)
Online LibraryJennings C. (Jennings Cropper) WiseThe long arm of Lee; or, The history of the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia; with a brief account of the Confederate bureau of ordnance (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The Long Arm of Lee





Long Arm of Lee



With a Brief Account of the Confederate Bureau
of Ordnance




19 15






R 1916 L

Copyright, 1915
J. P. BELL CO., Inc.

To The Memory


My Father
John Sergeant Wise



Part I

chapter page

Preface 15

I. Early Ordnance Work and Status of Ordnance

IN 1861 23

II. Organization of the Bureau of Ordnance and its

Early Operations 34

III. Organizations and Operations 52

IV. Original Armament of the Army of Northern

Virginia 61

Part II
chapter page

I. The Artillery of the Early Days 85

II. The Virginia Military Institute as a School of

Arms 95

III. The Field Artillery of the Confederate States

of America 107

IV. The Virginia Volunteers 112

V. Active Operations Commence: Big Bethel and

Gainesville 118

VI. Blackburn's Ford and First Manassas 127

VII. Winter of 1861-62 140

VIII. Tactics and Early Instruction 149

IX. Federal Organization and Tactical Concepts 156

X. The Horse Artillery and the Valley Campaign 162

XI. The Peninsula Campaign 176

XII. General Lee Assumes Command — Reorganization

— Beginning of the Seven Days 197

XIII. Gaines' Mill 210

10 Table of Contents


XIV. Savage's Station and Frazier's Farm 215

XV. Malvern Hill 221

XVI. Cedar Mountain 241

XVII. Gainesville and Groveton 255

XVIII. Second Manassas 266

XIX. The Maryland Invasion— Harper's Ferry and

South Mountain 277

XX. Reorganization, from Sharpsburg to Fredericks-
burg 327

XXI. Fredericksburg 357

XXII. The Winter of 1862-63 — Kellysville and the
Death of Pelham, "the Gallant, the Incom-
parable" — Reorganization Again 409

XXIII. The Battle of Chancellorsville — Preliminary

Dispositions 442

XXIV. Chancellorsville — May 1st 458

XXV. Chancellorsville — May 2d — Jackson's Attack — 466




General Robert Edward Lee, Commanding A. N. V.,

Brigadier-General Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance,

C. S. A. 32

Brigadier-General William Nelson Pendleton, Chief of

Artillery, A. N. V. 64

Brigadier-General Armistead Lindsay Long, Chief of

Artillery, Second Corps 96

Brigadier-General Edward Porter Alexander, Chief of

Artillery, First Corps 128

Brigadier-General Reuben Lindsay Walker, Chief of

Artillery, Third Corps 160

'"' Colonel James B. Walton, Chief of Artillery, Long-
street's Corps 192

Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield, Chief of Artillery,

Jackson's Corps . 221

Colonel John Thompson Brown, Acting Chief of Artil-
lery, Second Corps 272

Colonel Stephen D. Lee 320

^Colonel William Nelson, Acting Chief of Artillery,

Second Corps 368

, Colonel Thomas Hill Carter, Acting Chief of Artillery,

Second Corps 416

^ Colonel William Johnson Pegram 469

The Long Arm of Lee


This work has been written in my first year as Com-
mandant of the Corps of Cadets of the Virginia MiU-
tary Institute. Its writing, therefore, has been attended
by many interruptions incident to my miHtary and
academic duties. Convinced that the Field Artillery of
the Army of Northern Virginia has received too little
attention on the part of the historian, I have for years
projected such a work as this. In fact, writers on the
Civil War have almost as if intentionally ignored the
subject, referring but casually to the gunner's part in
the great tragedy. Their failure to discuss this subject
has no doubt been due to a feeling of uncertainty
whenever they sought to enter upon what they conceived
to be a more or less special domain. Nor was this senti-
ment uncommon to the participants themselves. The
reports of the various commanders engaged in the war
are generally vague in matters pertaining to the artil-
lery. Not failing in tribute to the gunners, they have
failed to record any definite information concerning the

The result is that to-day he who enters into an investi-
gation of more than the most casual character finds him-
self involved in a game of historical dominoes, with
many of the pieces lacking. I will illustrate my point
by saying that even Maj. H. B. McClellan, Chief of
Staff of the Cavalry Corps, in his history of Stuart's
campaigns avoids the mention of the horse batteries on
certain occasions as if by design. Yet these batteries
were as much a part of Stuart's command as the cavalry
troops themselves. He does not even include them in
the organization of the cavalry, which he gives in an
otherwise most valuable work.

More often than not, the corps, division, and brigade
returns include the artillery personnel in the strength
of the infantry, and rarely are the names of the batteries,
or the number of guns engaged, specified. Over such

16 The Long Arm of Lee

details is merely thrown the cloak of the mysterious
word "artillery," as if that should suffice for the curious.

While little in the way of sei*\^ice statistics is to be
obtained from the survivors, I have secured manj^ clues
from the veteran soldiers of my acquaintance, who have
often assisted me to make the mask of time less inscru-

Originally, I had intended to treat the subject in
three distinct parts, — that is, the Bureau of Ordnance,
its resources, operations, and organization; the organi-
zation, material and personnel of the Field Artillery,
and the tactics of the arm. But almost inmiediately
after beginning the work I concluded that the two last
sub-divisions should be combined for the sake of brevity,
as well as on account of the difficulty of treating them
separately, which would have at least entailed much

Once, in the literary enthusiasm of youth, I gathered
together a number of my speeches and papers, and,
having them printed, I distributed copies of the pamph-
let among my friends. But, as is usually the case,
vanity betrayed me, for some of these pamphlets fell
into the hands of able critics, who quite frequently
attacked my comparisons between the Confederate and
Federal artillerymen, despite my repeated denials that
"odious comparisons" were intended to be drawn. Mj^
Northern friends simply declared that comparisons were
inherently odious, and that I could not make them other-
wise. I learned my lesson, and in this work I have
endeavored to avoid anything that even savored of a
comparison, except in matters of material, organization,
equipment, and tangible things in general, believing that
history would best be subserved by presenting the facts
and allowing each reader to draw his own conclusions.

To me the record of Lee's artillery, or his "long arm,"
has been one of surpassing interest. Each chapter, as
it unfolded itself, seemed more and more in need of a
stronger pen than mine. Yet I feel that if I have failed
to draw the proper inferences from the tangle of avail-

The Long Arm of Lee 17

able facts, the proof that I have erred will at least dis-
close the truth, and I will, therefore, have been in-
directly responsible for a better account than my own.

The story of the gunners of Lee's army has always
appealed with peculiar force to my imagination, by
reason of the lasting repute so many juniors, from the
standpoints of both age and rank in the service, acquired.
Every Southern child has heard, in terms of praise and
tenderest affection, the story of Pegram, the youthful
colonel; of the one-armed Haskell; of Latimer, the
boy major; of Breathed; ofCaskie; of Jimmie Thom-
son and Preston Chew. And lives there a son of the
Southland who has not heard of Pelham, "the Gallant,"
so named by the lips of Lee himself? It seems almost
invidious to mention these few and to omit the names of
their peers. Ab nno disce omnes.

While the cherished deeds of the Confederate artil-
lery subalterns are in no wise comparable, according to
a strict standard of military accomplishment, with the
achievements of such soldiers as Longstreet, the Hills,
Ewell, Mahone, Gordon, and many others of like mold,
yet, in the South at least, of the two, the personal recol-
lection of many of the jimiors is the more lastingly
tender, and the general interest in them grows greater
with each year, by reason of the heroic traditions that
cluster about their youthful memories.

Undoubtedly there was something in the spiritual
composition of these boyish soldiers, a mixture of dash
and conviction, not akin to mere bravado, but more like
divine faith, which made them unconquerable. Living,
they possessed that quality electric, more spirituelle than
physical, which gave temper to their steel and made
their thrusts the keener. Dead, there survives in con-
nection with their memory that elusive influence which,
lingering, when appealed to, makes brave men of

It may be suggested that a sympathetic note in the
scale of sentiment is struck by the heroes of defeat. But
no, the luster of which I write is not the shimmer of

18 The Long Arm of Lee

pathos. It was while hvmg and victorious that they
touched the souls of their people and laid the foundation
for that everlasting renown which depends not for its
freshness upon the written pages of history, — in which
their names are scarcely mentioned.

Amid the cherished traditions and in close association
with the companions of Pelham and Pegram and the
others of whom I write, I have found an inspiration at
least to essay the task of recording some of their hero-
isms, tarrying now and then to point out the transcend-
ent quality of their valor. And from the pages of the
numerous books, — many of them professional works,
bearing the autographs of Lee, and Jolinston, and
Pendleton, and Cocke, and Crozet, and Mercer,
and Bomford, and Mordecai, and GiDiam, and many
others,— to which I have had the privilege of access, I
have dra^vn another inspiration; that is, to be just to the
noblest foe an army ever had, to a foe who, after all,
whether the equal or the superior, was but the brother of
the artilleryman whose history I have sought to record
in more collected form than it has hitherto existed.

Should the narrative seem to ignore the part played
by the other arms of the service, it must be recalled that
this work professes to be but a history of the Field
Artillery. In imdertaking such a specialized work there
is always grave danger that the writer may be charged
with undue partiality, that his enthusiasm for his j^ar-
ticular subject may be at the expense of others. But, in
this case, the author can only deny any intent to laud
the Field Artillery by disparaging its sister arms, and he
has not failed to point out its faults as well as its virtues.
There is glory enough for all, and he recognizes the fact
that, in the last analysis, the artillerj^, however important
and valiant its services may have been, was in 1861-65, as
it always will be, but the auxiliary arm of the infantry,
and that the exploits of the Field Artillery of the Army
of Northern Virginia depended upon and were made
possible by what was perhaps one of the most superb
bodies of foot soldiers war has yet produced.

The Long Arm of Lee 19

To Gens. Thomas T. Munford and Scott Shipp, Col.
R. Preston Chew, Maj. R. W. Hunter, Capts. WiUiam
T. Poague, W. Gordon McCabe, Wilham W. Chamber-
laine, J. J. Shoemaker, and Judge George L. Christian,
all of whom were intimates of and soldiers under "Stone-
wall" Jackson, and all of whom, except the first, served
with his artillery, I am much indebted for aid. And to
Capt. James Power Smith, — who was one of Jackson's
gimners, and who to-day is the sole surviving member of
his staff, and with whom I had the honor to serve on the
staff of the First Battalion Field Artillery Virginia
Volunteers for several years, — I am also deeply grateful
for much information. To Col. R. T. Kerlin, Professor
of English, Virginia Military Institute, I desire to ex-
press mj^ thanks for his interest and advice.

To Col. J. V. Bidgood, Virginia's efficient Secretary
of Military Records, I am also indebted for much as-
sistance. His untiring industry and splendid system
has made available for the student a vast amount of
historical material which is a priceless asset of the State.
There are few who know the real nature and extent of
his labor and the results he has attained.

The portraits illustrating this work have been col-
lected with great labor. Many of them have never be-
fore been published. Of many of the famous Confeder-
ate artillery officers no pictures are to be had.

The author is conscious of the fact that maps showing
the topography and positions of the battlefields de-
scribed in the text would add greatly to the value of the
book, but it has been found impracticable to include
them. The use of the series of maps published in con-
nection with the Rebellion Records is recommended to
military students.

In conclusion, I desire to call particular attention to
the part the Virginia Military Institute played in fur-
nishing officers to the Confederacy as a whole, and to the
Army of Northern Virginia in particular, and the direct
influence it exerted upon the greatness of "Stonewall"
Jackson. Jennings C. Wise.

Lexington, Virginia,

Juhj 1, 1914.


Confederate Bureau of Ordnance

its organization, personnel, material, and re-
sources, with an account of the original
armament of the artillery of
the army of northern

The Long Arm of Lee



In the nature of things a study of the artillery of the
Army of Northern Virginia involves an investigation of
tlie system under which the material therefor was pro-
vided and the resources from which it was drawn.
Hence we find ourselves at the very outset face to face
with the Ordnance Department, its organization, and its
personnel, in addition to the material resources at its

Military critics, passing judgment after the event,
seldom prosecute their investigations beyond an inquiry
into the actual movements of the troops and the battle
orders of the commanders. The war chest, the weather
conditions, and such things as material and equipment
frequently escape their attention entirely. Public
opinion, that bogie of military men, is generally totally
ignored. The move that would have surely resulted in
success, had it been made, is unfalteringly pointed out,
and woe to the general who failed to execute it, no mat-
ter what the obstacles in his path may have been. There
stands the height which, crowned with a hundred guns,
could have changed history. The fact that it was on
the particular day of the battle beyond human ability to
place those guns on that hill, or that, even if they had
been there, a sufficient supply of ammunition was lack-
ing, due to some influence beyond the control of the
general commanding, — such things as these enter not
into the calculations of the critics a centuiy later.

The logicians of war alone appreciate the skill and the
labor which others must have brought to the aid of
Ceesar. They know that an army moves on its belly, and

24 The Long Arm of Lee

that its thrusts are no keener than the weapons it
wields. And it is well, in studying Lee's artillery, to
commence with a proper appreciation of the limitations
which circumstances imposed upon its employment.
Any layman must know that the artillery is dependent
upon the Ordnance Department for material, equip-
ment, and stores, and that however efficient the artillery
personnel may be its effectiveness bears a direct relation
to the efficiency of that agency which provides it with the
machinery of war. Ordinarily, as in the case of Ger-
many in 1866 and 1870, and of the Balkan States in
their present struggle with Turkey, material and equip-
ment are manufactured, stored, and issued in advance
by a well-organized corps of experts.

Few instances are recorded where a belligerent has
actually created the very factories for the fabrication of
its arms and munitions of war after the outbreak of
hostihties with a powerful adversary. This was true,
however, in the case of the Confederate States of Amer-
ica, although it has been frequently charged and very
successfully disproved that Mr. Davis and ]Mr. Floyd
used their office while Secretary of War of the United
States to transfer arms and military supplies from the
North to Southern arsenals where they might be more
readily seized in the event of secession.

The condition of his ordnance and ordnance sup-
pHes, as well as his Medical, Commissary, and Quarter-
master Departments, undoubtedly made impossible
Johnston's immediate advance upon Washington after
Bull Run.

Had the Confederate Bureau of Ordnance been
created de novo, we might begin our study with the year
1861, but since it was the offspring of an old system, we
must look further back in order to appreciate the charac-
ter of the foimdation upon which it was raised.

At the very outbreak of the War of American Inde-
pendence Congress appointed a committee to consider
ways and means to supply the Colonies with ammunition
and military stores, a most important provision, since

The Long Arm of Lee 25

Great Britain had prohibited the shipment of such
things to America and was in a most advantageous
position to enforce tiie restriction. This, then, was the
inception of the American system for the supply of
munitions of war, for the mother country had very
wisely created no plants for their manufacture in the
colonial wilderness.

The recommendations of the committee led to the
appointment, in 1776, of a Commissioner of Artillery
Stores, in cooperation with whom the business of pro-
curing material and ammunition was conducted by a
secret committee of the Board of War. This and vari-
ous subsequent provisions, — quite inadequate, as shown
by experience, — were relied upon until the War of 1812,
when, in May of that year, the Ordnance Department
was created by Act of Congress. After having passed
through various legislative vicissitudes, as an independ-
ent bureau of the War Department, it was abolished by
Act of March 2, 1821, and merged in the Artillery. The
President was authorized to select such artillery officers
as might be necessary for ordnance work, and to each
regiment of artillery one superimmerary captain was
attached for ordnance duty. When assigned to such
duty these officers were subject to the direct orders of
the AVar Department only, a provision almost tanta-
mount to preserving the independence of the bureau,
yet hampering it in the interest of economy with an
organization soon found to be impracticable. As a
result of eleven years of bitter experience the Ordnance
Department was organized on an independent footing
by the Act of April 5, 1832.

Following the reorganization of the system, the War
Department, in 1834, during the incumbency of Lewis
Cass, sought to define the duties of ordnance officers
and regulate their operations. Hitherto the loosely
organized system had relied solely upon civilian con-
tractors for the supply of material, but definite regula-
tions were now prescribed for its production, and it was
provided that there should be established as many

26 The Long Aem of Lee

arsenals of construction as the public service might re-
quire, not exceeding six in number. It was directed that
four of the arsenals should be erected at Washington,
Watervliet, Pittsburg, and Fort Monroe, respectively,
and upon their completion the fabrication and issue of
ordnance stores should commence under the direction of
the Colonel or Chief of Ordnance with headquarters at
the national capital. In addition to the corps of ord-
nance officers proper, it was provided that lieutenants
of artillery should be detailed to the Ordnance Depart-
ment, for not more than four years, to engage in the
manufacture of gun carriages and artillery equipment.

The regulations published in 1834 were followed in
1841 by a manual prepared by Col. George Bomford,
Chief of Ordnance, and again by a similar work in 1850,
revised in 1861 under the immediate direction of Maj.
Laidley. INIeanwhile the regulations for the department
were being amplified and enforced, in which work
Capt. Alfred Mordecai, of Virginia, and Col. Benjamin
Huger, of South Carolina, took an important part as
assistants of Col. Talcott, the Chief.

By the year 1852 there had been established twenty-
seven ordnance stations in the United States, of which
number there were three in Virginia, — one being at
Harper's Ferry, one at Old Point Comfort, and the
Bellona Arsenal in Chesterfield Coimty, near Richmond.

The labor of Southern offi-cers had largely contributed
to the development of the Ordnance Department, and
upon the outbreak of the war the Confederacy secured
the services of many efficient men, who created much out
of little. Under the direction of the Chief of Ordnance,
C. S. A., a manual was immediately prepared fully
setting forth the material and equipment adopted for
use by the Confederacy. Practically no differences
existed between that of the two services, except as to the
shape of certain pieces of ordnance, more particularly
with respect to rifled field guns, columbiads, and the
rifled mountain pieces.

The Long Arm of Lee 27

The various regulations and manuals published dur-
ing the period 1834-1860 contain the history of the
development of ordnance up to the Civil War and set
forth fully the character of the artillery material in use
in this country in 1860. These works are also referred
to because they are descriptive of the school of training
through which many of the Confederate officers had
passed. The foregoing paragraphs briefly describe the
foundation upon which the Confederate Bureau of
Ordnance was based, and in the upbuilding of which a
number of former United States officers took important
parts. And now, before going further in our investiga-
tion, it will be well to examine the stage of development
of field ordnance in 1861.

The classification of ordnance shown in the manual
of 1861 includes no field pieces except 6- and 12-pounder
bronze guns, 12-pounder bronze mountain howitzers,
and 12-, 24-, and 32-pounder bronze field howitzers,
which were all smooth-bore pieces. The new system of
rifling is not referred to in the work and it will be shown
later that its status in the United States Army was
entirely unofficial until late in 1861. There had been
much exj^erimenting going on since 1850, but the fact
remains that field ordnance as prescribed in the official
manuals at the beginning and end of the decade was
identical. With the outbreak of the war, however, iron
field ordnance was cast, and in 1862 there were in use
3-inch iron rifled guns, the old bronze pieces, 12-pounder
bronze Napoleons, the various old types of bronze
howitzers, and 12-pounder iron howitzers, the last-
named having been added in 1861. The 32-pounder
bronze howitzer had become obsolete for use in the field.
Both armies purchased foreign guns of various types,
but although they were used they were not prescribed
as regulation ordnance for manufacture in this country.
The Confederates had developed by 1862 a 2.2o-inch
l)ronze mountain rifle which does not appear to have
been in use in the Northern Army.

28 The Long Arm of Lee

It would be impracticable to discuss here the great
variety of ordnance that was used during the war.
Officially, at least, a great deal of it was unknown to the
Ordnance Department and formed no part, as has been
said before, of the regulation material. The develop-
ment of ordnance in the United States Army, with the
exception of a 3-inch rifle, seems to have been left
entirely in the hands of private persons, the war giving
an impetus to the manufacture of all kinds of artillery
material. Some conception of the armament of the time
may be had from a rej^ort of the field artillery material
of Rosecrans' army in 1863, in which it is stated there
were thirty-two 6-pounder smooth-bores, twenty-four
12-pounder howitzers, eight 12-pounder light Napo-
leons, twenty-one James rifles, thirty-four 10-pounder
Parrotts, two 12-pounder and two 6-pounder Wiard
steel gims, two 1 6-pounder Parrotts, and four 3-inch
rifled ordnance guns. This assortment is typical of the
Confederate material of the time.

Online LibraryJennings C. (Jennings Cropper) WiseThe long arm of Lee; or, The history of the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia; with a brief account of the Confederate bureau of ordnance (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 40)