George C Sumner.

Battery D, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, in the Civil War, 1861-1865 online

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First Rhode Island Light Artillery,






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... a meeting of Batten^ D Association, held at Roger
Williams Park, June 6th, 1891. the following resolution was
unanimously adopted :

! v'ED, That George C. Sumner is hereby appointed Historian of

LiR .A^s(Jciation, and earnestly requested to UTite and publish a ?'■ '"

RatterA- D, First Rhode Island Light Artillerj-.

u-:' (lie Dosition, atiu .".! once com-
ork. H' 'iid that


late ill
taking 1
which wa^

that office
which faci


At a meeting of Battery D Association, held at Roger
Williams Park, Jnne 6tli, 1891, the following resolution was
unanimously adopted :

Resolved, That George C. Sumner is hereVjy appointed Historian of
the Association, and earnestly requested to write and publish a History of
Battery D, First Rhode Island Light Artillery.

Comrade Sumner accepted the position, and at once com-
menced to look up material for the work. He soon foinid that
he had quite a to perform. At the battle of Cedar Creek,
late in the war, all the books and papers of the battery were
captured by the eneni}', it thus became rather a tedious under-
taking to hunt up facts and dates. Artificer Clark Walker and
Corporal Knight had diaries of .some parts of their .service,
which was about all the material on hand to start with.

The Adjutant General's Office furnished considerable infor-
mation. The Roster of the Batter}- was taken entirely from
that office. The ' ' War Records ' ' was another .source from
which facts and dates were collected.

Comrade Sumner took a great deal of interest in this history
and had a large part of it written when he was ' ' called away
to join his comrades who had gone before." The death of
our comrade made it necessary for some one to take up the
work. It was impossible to fill his place, and when the writer
agreed to take up the history and complete it, it was with a
great deal of hesitation, knowing his inability to carry on the
work, and not having time to devote to the proper carr^-ing
out of Comrade Sumner's ideas.

Comrade Sumner had a great man}- marginal notes attached
to his manuscript which he was familiar with, but to another
person they were not very plain. Without doubt he intended
to add considerable to his manuscript, but on taking up the
work I found it almost impossible to follow out what he had
evidently intended to do, and came to the conclusion that it
was best to publish it as he left it. I hope the comrades of
the Batter^-and whoever else that reads this work, will remem-
ber that the author was called away before he had time to even
revise his original manuscript.

Ver}- respectfull}-,

Your obedient servant,

A Comrade of the Battery.



Orcamzation — Camp Si'rai;uk, Wasiiin(;ion, D. C. — Winter Quar-
ters AT Mcnsun's Hilt, Va. ....... i



0UGHF.\RE Gap — Rapidan River ....... 6

Rappaiia.n'nuck St.atiu.n — Gkdveton — Bull Run (ur IMan.\.ssa.s) . 13

South Mountain and Anitkiam 28


P'rkderickshurg — Bell's I,.\ni>ini: — Hampton — and Trip th the

Wesi ............ 40


The Campaign in East Tennessee 62

The Siege of Knoxville, Tennessee 98


Battles of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania — The Campaign in

THE Shenandoah Valley 125

Roster 157

Commissioned Officers

Enlisted Men Commissioned

Temporarily Attached Men 182


Okcani/.ation — Cami' >Spka(U'k, Washington, I). C. — Winter


AT the coniineiiceiiitnt of tht Civil War, in April, 1861,
there was in the city of Providence, among other excel-
lent military ors^anizations, one of light artillery, known as
the Providence Marine Corps of Artiller>', which for years
had been interesting and instructing the young men of the
city and vicinity in the manoeuvres of this branch of niilitar\-
service. A natural sequence of the presence of this company
was to draw attention to this arm, and led Gov. Sprague to
offer the government a fully equipped light battery, in addition
to the First Regiment of lnfantr>'. The offer being accepted,
a battery was speedily organized for three months .service, and
on the 1 8th of April, six days after the firing upon Fort Sum-
ter, it left Providence, fully equipped, for Washington. When
it became evident that more troops and a longer term of ser-
\'ice would be needed, CtOv. Sprague at once began the organi-
zation of a regiment of light artiller>-. The .second battery ( or
A, in regimental orders) was nuistered into ser\-ice June 6th,
1861, for three \ears or the war, and left home for Wa.shing-
ton June 19th. After which, at intervals of less than a month,

a battery left Providence for the seat of war, until eight had
been sent, which completed the First Regiment Rhode Island
Light Artillery.

Battery D was the fifth in number, but fourth in the regi-
mental formation, that was recruited, its organization com-
mencing immediately upon the nuistering of Battery C ( Aug.
25th). Its quota was filled perhaps the most rapidly of
any of the batteries, for by the 2d of Sept. it had its com-
plement of men, and was sent to Camp Ames, on the Warwick
road, just be>'ond Pawtuxet, where, on the 4th of vSept., it
was mustered into the .service of the United States.

On Sept. loth, the battery moved to Camp Greene, near the
Stonington Railroad. While in this camp the men were uni-
formed, divided into gun detachments, and drilled in the
manual of the piece, marching, etc.

On the 13th the battery left Camp Greene on the steamboat
train for Stonington, under conuiiand of First Lieut. Geo. C.
Harkness, the other officers being First Lieut. Henry R. Glad-
ding, Second Lieuts. Stephen W., and Fzra K. Parker.
From Stonington it proceeded by boat to Elizabeth City, N. J.,
from which place it continued on by cars to M'a.shington via
Harri.sburg, reaching its destination shortly after noon on the
15th, and marched immediately to Camp Sprague, where Capt.
J. Albert Monroe, who had just been promoted from First
Lieutenant to Captain, and transferred from Battery A to
Battery D, took command.

The personnel of the compan>- was particularl>- well adapted
for the especially acti\-e work appertaining to the successful
manceuvering of light artillery. Its members were young ;
.scarcely one in ten had reached his majorit>- ; most of them
had left good homes, where they had received the advantages
of a fair education, and except in rare instances their physiques
were such that camp life and the of the drill speedily

developed endurance and suppleness. To no one was the pos-
sibilities of this conunand more apparent than to Captain
Monroe. His experience in the home compan>-, and three
months of practical service with Battery A, convinced him
that liere was material from which, by persistent liard work,
and by a proper and judicial!}- administered discipline, there
could be evolved a battery of light artillery whicli would honor
itself and the vState from which it came : and he immediatelv
proceeded to work for the accomplishment of that idea. Req-
uisitions were speedily ol)tained for horses and guns, and the
battery was .soon fully equipped, the battery consisting of four
ten pound Parrotts and two twelve poiuid howitzers. Drilling-
was commenced inmiediately, both field and the manual of the
piece, and continued without ce.s.sation from the iSth of vSept.
to Oct. iith, and such was the progress made by the company
that at a review held on the 9th of Oct. , on the grounds back of
the Capitol, of all the artillery in the vicinity, at which Gen.
vScott was reviewing officer, the battery was complimented for
the excellence of its movements.

Oct. 12th Capt. Monroe received orders to report with his
battery to Gen. Fit/. John Porter, near Hall's Hill, Va., and
as soon as pos.sible the company commenced its first march,
passing through Washington via Pennsylvania avenue, thence
through Georgetown to the Potomac River, cro.ssing at Aque-
duct Bridge. Hall's Hill was reached about 7 p. m., and the
battery went into camp. Having no tents, the men were
obliged to .spread their blankets on the groiuid, and had their
first ta.ste of a field camp in \'irginia.

Oct. 14th orders were received to report to Gen. McDowell,
and the battery moved about three miles, to Upton's Hill.
While here they were given their first impre.s.sions of war. It
was intimated that the enemy was in the immediate vicinity,
and were liable to make an attack at any time. Each night

one section of the battery was sent out on picket. At no time
in their service did they feel the responsibihty of their situ-
ation more keenly than on these occasions, and not a rebel
soldier within twenty miles. The two sections which were to
remain in camp were obliged to work upon the earthworks
with picks and shovels, an occupation they did not relish.

Oct. 29th camp was moved just over Munson's Hill, on the
north slope, and a camp laid out. under the direction of Capt.
John Gibbon, who had assumed command of the artillery in
our divi.sion. His own, Battery B, Fourth U. vS., was placed
upon the left (instead of the right, as it should have been
according to strict military etiquette, presumably because the
ground was higher and drier). Our battery came next, then
the First New Hampshire, Capt., and the Pennsyl-
vania battery, Capt. Durrell, on the right. Tents of the Sibley
pattern were now issued in place of the small A tents. These
were circular in form, and large enough to acconnnodate ten
or twelve men comfortably. When the weather became cold
enough to require them, stoves were i.ssued, and when the
tents were properly ditched, the bunks built and filled a foot
deep with straw, they became very comfortable homes, even in
the coldest of weather. We .soon had orders to prepare this
camp for a winter's .sojourn. Details were made each morning
to work upon the stables for the, and in the course of
a few days the finest camp in the history of Battery D was
completed, and named Camp Dupont.

■ The battery was parked in regular style, pieces in front,
cais.sons in the rear ; on the right and left of them the stables
were built. The tents for the men were pitched in the rear
of the .stables. The officers' tents were in the rear of the
battery, the Captain's being in a line with the centre of the
guns, and two others, one on each .side of the Captain's, a
little in advance, for the four Lieutenants. The cook-house

was at the iipper end of tlie riglit tents, and the guardhouse
was placed quite a distance in front of tlie ])attery.

In this camp the liattery remained from Oct. 29th, 1S61, to
INIarcli lotli, 1S62, occupyino" its time in drill, inspections,
sham fights, target practice, etc. K\'er\tliing calculated to
increase its efficiency was indulged in. Da>s were spent in
perfecting the men in horsemanship. Hen^ic measures were
u.sed : no saddles or 1)ridles were allowed ; men were expected
to learn to manage their successfulh' bareback, and
with only the halter, and they did it, but there were man\-
laughable and .some .serious incidents occurred l)efore they
thoroughly ma.stered the art.

The .sham-fights were particularh- exhilarating and entertain-
ing to us, the whole corps, numbering fifteen or twenty thou-
sand, participating in them, and l)lank cartridges were u.sed
without .stint. A change of front would .sometimes necessitate
a long run for the 1)attery, and if over open ground, was par-
ticipated in with a relish ; but if. as it .sometimes happened,
the route la>- through what had l)een woods, but had l)een
fre.shl\- cut off b\' the soldiers, lea\-ing stum]is of irregular
height, it sometimes became very annoying to the cainioniers,
as the carriages struck first one stump and then another,
throwing them about, making it very difficult to retain their
places on the boxes.


Campaign to Centrevule — Falmouth — Fredkkickshurg-
Thoroi'Ohfare Gap — Rapidan River.

FOR sonie time rumors had prevailed of a forward movement,
but nothing of a definite nature occurred until March
9th, when orders were issued that four days rations be cooked,
and the battery prepared to march at an early hour the next
morning ; the limbers of the pieces and the caissons were
supplied with ammunition, and everything put in order for a
campaign against the enemy.

At an early hour on the loth of March, " boots and saddles'"
was blow^n, the battery was speedih- hitched up, and in a short
time Capt. Monroe gave the order, " Right piece, forward,"
and we moved out of park, from Camp Dupont, where we
had spent four months, for the last time. The line of march
was toward the Centreville Pike, and when we reached Baily's
Cross Roads, a halt was made near the road until our turn
should come to join the column. The entire Arm\' of the
Potomac was on the march for Centreville, where the enemy
was reported to be in force. It was several hours before our turn
came, but at last we were ordered to move into the road, and
commenced our march in earnest. It was a disagreeable


day, very cold, and a heavy mist prevailed, which soon wet our
clothing ; the freezing temperature soon converted this moist-
ure into a coating of ice, making it exceedingly uncomfortable
for the men, particularly the drivers, who were obliged to sit
their horses without any opportunit>' to warm themselves by

Our progress was slow and tedious. vSix (j'clock found us
in the \-icinity of Fairfax Court House, where we made camp.
lCarl\- next morning we hitched up and had barely time to
prepare coffee for ourselves, when we were ordered to join
the cohunn, and proceeded on our way towards Centreville,
but after marchitig about a mile we were ordered to make

It had lieen di.scovered b>' our advance that the enemy had
retired upon our approach, and there was to be no opportunity
to display- our \-alor. W'e remained in this camp until the

On the morning of the 15th, the army started on its return
towards Washington. vSoon after starting it began to rain, and
by noon the water was coming down in torrents, .soon wetting
the men to their skins. The cohunn marched much more
rapidly than they did when going out, they evidently hoping
to find shelter at their old camps.

About 7 o'clock p. .M., Batter\- I) turned into the dooryard
of Mr. Cloud, at Cloud's Mill. Both officers and men were
in a mi.serable condition, and they immediately set about
impnn-ing it to the best of their ability. The fence in front
of the was soon demolished, and a fire .started, around
which all hovered until morning. During the forenoon of the
1 6th we marched back to Camp Dupont, after an ab.sence of
just one week. This .seemed like home to us, and we all felt
that we would Hke to stay here for a while at least ; but that
was not to be, for next morning we were ordered to proceed

at once to Fairfax vSeminary, where we remained until April
4th. While in this camp, on March 29th, our first batch of
recruits, nine in number, were received from Rhode Island.

At daylight on April 4th, the battery, with the First Divis-
ion of the army, under Gen. McDowell, the rest of the Army
of the Potomac having gone by tran.sports to Fortress Monroe,
marched to Fairfax, and bivouacked for the night, early
the next morning continued on to, remained over
night, and at daylight next morning started on to Bristow

The weather on this trip up to this time had been plea.sant
and fairly comfortable ; but on the night of the 8th there came
a change ; it grew rapidly cold, and about 10 p. m. began to
snow. Those of the men who were not frozen out and obliged
to hover around the camp-fires, found them.selves covered by
a blanket of snow about four inches deep in the morning.

We remained at Bristow until the i6th, and then continued
on the march to Catlett's Station, remaining one day, and on
the 1 8th marched to within three miles of Fredericksburg,
camping near the village of Falmouth. Some of our men
started into the village and attempted to make small,
but the people of the place were very loyal to the South, and
at this early period of the war had great confidence in the
Confederate money, and but very little in Uncle Sam's crisp
greenbacks, and refused to take them in exchange for their

Now it .so happened that an enterprising firm in Philadel-
phia had just issued a fac siiiiilf of the rebel money, of various
denominations, and the men had purcha.sed .several thou.sand
dollars worth, as curios. were offered the rebellious
tradesmen, and accepted with great glee, as an indication of
the final success of their side, that the Yankees were already
l)eing ol)liged to use their monew TheN' .soon discovered that

the bills were not genuine, some one having pointed out to
them the printer's name and location in the margin, and they
refused to take any more, notwithstanding the Yankee cus-
tomers assured them that the bills were worth just as much
as the genuine. A complaint was made to head-quarters, but
the general, after liearing both sides, decided that they were
entitled to no redress.

On the 19th the battery marched to a po.sition directly oppo-
site Fredericksburg, on the north branch of the Rappahannock
River. The gtnis were placed in position, pointing directly
at the city, but the next day the pieces were limbered and a
regular camp laid out, tents were pitched, and preparations
made which indicated that we were to tarry here for some
time. Drill received our vnidivided attention ; from four to
six hours a day being given to that work, excepting on Sini-
days, which were given up to in.spections of the men and
material of the battery. Cleanliness was important, and was
carefully looked after.

On the loth of May the batter\- was ordered to move down
to the bank of the river, near the railroad bridge, for the pttr-
pose of protecting it from an expected attack of the enemy ;
but they did not come, and things .soon quieted down and
asstmied their normal condition, and the battery resumed its
u.sual occtipation of drilling.

The effect of such long-continued and constant work in this
direction began to show itself in the accuracy with which the
movements were executed. The efficiency of the battery
began to attract attention, and almost every day when we
reached the gromid where we were to have our field-drill there
would be quite an audience awaiting us. Senators and Rep-
resentatives from Washington, visiting officers, and distin-
gui.shed people from all over the country, would be taken out
to .see the show.

As an illustration of how it impressed one individual from
our own State, I quote from an article which he sent to the
Providence Journal :

"The proficiency attained by the .sturdy fellows of Battery D, is really
surprising, and would do credit to a company of Cadets fresh from the
rapid practice of West Point. I saw them yesterday, under command
of Captain Monroe, performing the evolutions of field-drill with such
accuracy as to connnand the admiration oi old army officers who were

On the 26th of May the batter\' cros.sed the Rappahannock
River into Frederick.sburg, and made camp on a common in
the centre of the town, remaining- until the 29th.

Ihiion soldiers were not welcome guests in that cit>- at that
time, and the citizens took no pains to di.sguise the fact. Their
manner towards us and treatment of us left no doubt in our
minds that they wished we were anywhere but in their pres-
ence. We did not mind it, however, and made our.selves just
as much at home as though we were welcome.

Early in the morning of the 29th the battery recro.ssed the
river, and joining our division, commenced our journey for
Thoroughfare Gap, for the of aiding Gen. Banks, who
was being badly pre.s.sed by the rebel Gen. Jack.son, in the
Shenandoah \'alley. We made only a .short distance the first
day, but did better next day, making nearly twenty-five miles,
and reached Catlett's Station.

On the 31st we marched only fotir miles, but pushed on the
next, and reached Haymarket, near the Gap.

June ist was a day of rest for us, but on June 2d the troops
were early in motion, and after marching through the Gap
were halted for an hour, then countermarched, passing tlirough
the Gap, and encamped on almost the .same spot that they had
left in the morning.

This was a moN'emeut which at the time was verN' confusing"

to us, but time developed tlie fact that the eniei'i^enc}- which
demanded our presence in the vShenandoah \'alley had passed,
Jackson lia\-in,i;' accompHslied wiiat he desired, and his troops
beino^ wanted at Richmond by Oen. Lee, he had left the \'alle>-,
and at the moment of our arrival at the Gap, was well on his
way. Our sta\- at Haymarket continued for three days.

On the 6th we had orders to move. Our destination was
Warrenton, where we arrived after an easy march, late in the
afternoon. Here we remained until the Sth, mox^ing on that
date to Warrenton Junction, bivouacking^ for the night, con-
tinuing on the next da>- towards Catlett's vStation, which we
reached on the loth, and made a stay of four days. This
trip was \'ery pleasant to us ; the weather was good, the roads
were fair, our marches were not long, and the whole more of
a pleasure trip through a rather interesting countr>-.

June 15th we marched to Cannon Creek, and after remain-
ing for five da>s we continued our journey to vSpotted Tavern,
and, after a stay of forty-eight hours, returned to PVedericks-
burg on the 23d, after nearly a month of marching, and made
camp within a short distance of the old one, in which we
remained until Aug. 5th, our time being occupied with the
usual duties of camp life, drills, in.spections, etc.

July 2d we turned in our battery of Parrotts and howitzers
and drew one of light twelves or Napoleons. guns
were of brass, .smooth bore, and had fixed ammunition. The}-
were of short range, which would necessitate our coming in contact with the enemy ; but the fixed annnunition would
enable them to be fired much more rapidly ; and as they had
the reputation of being very destructive when used at short
range, the exchange was on the whole \-er\- acceptable to the
men .

July 4th was celebrated b>- a .salute in the morning, and
repeating it in the afternoon.

Aug. 5th the batter}-, with a portion of our Division, started
on a reconnoisance towards the Rapidan River. Towards
noon on the .second day out, a portion of our troops had a
sHght with the enemy, but it was of .short duration.

Early on the morning of the third day of the reconnoisance
our cohmm countermarched, and marched rapidly towards
Fredericksburg. Our cavalry were constantly .skirmishing
wdth the eneni}-. When within fifteen miles of the town a
regiment of infantry and our battery went into po.sition, but
after firing a few shots the eneni}' fell back, and we rejoined
the column. Continuing our march we reached our old can^^
on the Rappahannock Aug. 8, where we remained until
Aug. 2 2d.


Rappahannock Station — Groveton — BuLi. Run (or Manassas).

AUGUvST 2 2d Kino^'s Division to which Battery D belonged,
left camp opposite Fredericksburg, it having been ordered
to report with all possible haste at Rappahannock Station. The
battery pulled out of park at daylight, and after a hard da>-'s
march, made camp within eight miles of the station, some

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Online LibraryGeorge C SumnerBattery D, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, in the Civil War, 1861-1865 → online text (page 1 of 16)