|Unit History Project|
1st Artillery Regiment (Light)
Mustered in: October 1, 1861
The following is taken from Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg (New York at Gettysburg) by the New York Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, 1902.
HISTORICAL SKETCH. BY SERGT. FREDERICK SMITH.
On January 18, 1861, at a meeting held at the arsenal, it was unanimously
resolved to offer their services to the governor of the state. Such resolutions
were sent, and in due course of time the following reply was received:
During the following months the men were actively engaged in perfecting their organization, recruiting, and drill; but it was not until August 21st that the general government sanctioned their request to be assigned to the command of General Fremont, then in Missouri. Col. William P. Carlin, of the regular army, formerly stationed at Buffalo, and at that time in command at Pilot Knob, Mo., hearing of the decision, and knowing Captain Wiedrich well, forwarded an urgent request that the battery be sent to him. This was, however, not to be, as on the 25th of October an imperative order was received from Albany to report immediately to Adjutant General Hillhouse at that place; and within twenty-four hours after the order had been received the battery was well on its way to the Capital.
On November 15th the battery left Albany, N. Y., for Washington, where it was attached to General Blenker's Division, remaining in camp during part of the winter at that place, and later, at Hunter's Chapel, Va.
Their " baptism of fire " was at Cross Keys, June 8, 1862, with the " Louisiana Tigers," where they, the battery, suffered a loss of 3 killed and 6 wounded; thence to Waterloo Bridge, August 22d, where they lost I killed and 3 wounded. They were also engaged at White Sulphur Springs, Warrenton, and other places, in General Pope's campaign, without serious loss, and on August 30th at the second battle of Bull Run, they sustained a loss of 15 wounded, including Lieutenant Schenkelberger, who lost a leg by a fragment of shell. In this engagement the battery was almost entirely disabled, one gun only of the six being fit for duty. Some of the limbers and caissons had to be left on the field; but, by desperate exertion, the disabled guns were rescued. The company was now so completely used up, through sickness and losses in battle, as to necessitate their returning to Washington for recuperation and new outfit. During the time General Pope had command of the Army of Virginia, the battery was in General Sigel's corps.
The battery received a new outfit of six three-inch Rodman rifled guns, and a squad of forty recruits. It was encamped on the heights opposite Washington, where it remained during General McClellan's Antietam campaign, assisting in guarding the approaches to the Capital. It did not take any active part in General Burnside's campaign against Fredericksburg, being with the reserves under General Sigel. At the time of the battle, December 13, 1862, it was in the vicinity of Stafford Court House. It remained in the immediate vicinity of Falmouth during the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac by General Hooker, when it was placed in the Eleventh Corps, under Gen. O. O. Howard,, in the Second Division, under General von Steinwehr.
On May 2, 1863, the battery was engaged in the battle of Chancellorsville, having 4 men killed and 10 wounded, being compelled to leave two of the guns on that field, all the horses of one gun being shot, and nearly all the men on the other wounded.
The battery was refitted near Brooke's Station, Va., where it received the three-year men from the Second New York Independent Battery, the term of enlistment of the majority of the men of the latter battery having expired, it being a two-years' organization. On June 12, 1863, it left camp at Brooke's Station, and started on the march for the campaign which ended at Gettysburg.
In the morning of July 1st, the battery left its camp at Emmitsburg, Md., taking the road which led to Gettysburg, called the Emmitsburg Road. The morning was beautiful and warm; cherries were ripe, and the men picked them ' as they went along. At about noon the bugle sounded, " Cannoneers mount! " This had been expected for some time, and created no surprise, for shell had been seen exploding in the distance for some time; but not a sound could be heard, either of artillery or bursting shell. " Trot" and " Gallop" was sounded, and off they went towards the smoke and exploding shell, which seemed to be three or four miles distant. When nearing the town of Gettysburg, the battery cut across the field near the junction of the Emmitsburg and Baltimore Roads at a gallop, up the hill on the latter road, and took the position on East Cemetery Hill which they held through the three days' battle.
As the battery was cutting across the angle formed by the two roads above mentioned, part of the Eleventh Corps could be seen coming through the town on the retreat. Dilger's Ohio Battery was coming up Baltimore street in column of pieces, with prolonge rope fixed for firing in retreat.
A few incidents of this first day may be worth relating. When the battery took the position on East Cemetery Hill, General Howard was there, and, addressing himself to the men said, " Boys, I want you to hold this position at all hazards. Can you do it? " When a chorus responded, " Yes, sir." Just then a shell from a Rebel battery came screeching over the hill, and, as was natural, and from force of habit, some of the men ducked their heads. General Howard, noticing it, exclaimed: " Don't be alarmed, boys, that was an elevated shot, fired at random." That Rebel battery was soon silenced, and then the firing was directed at some masses of troops in the distance, towards the York Road, which were evidently part of Ewell's Corps, when a man on horseback, who appeared to be a courier or staff officer, rode up to the officers of the battery, and ordered them to cease firing, that the troops in the distance were our own men, and that the shells were doing much execution. The order came, " Cease firing," but was resumed after a few minutes. It looked very suspicious to the men of the battery, and a good deal of grumbling was done, for it was thought that the rider was a Rebel who came through the lines during the retreat of the Eleventh Corps through the town.
The men now commenced to fortify the position by building redans or lunettes for each gun, to protect themselves against the Rebel sharpshooters, who were posted in a steeple in the town.
Orders also came towards night for one section to take a new position west of the Cemetery. Lieut. Christopher Schmidt, with the left section, was ordered there, where he remained to the end of the three days' contest, taking part in the great artillery duel on the 3d, and assisting in repelling Pickett's charge the same day.
On the 2d, in the evening, when Ewell made his attack on the right, the battery was for the second time attacked by the " Louisiana Tigers," of Hays' Brigade, Early's Division; but this time they were nearly annihilated, and were but little known as an organization thereafter. About 9 o'clock, p. m., they made a desperate assault on this position. It was so sudden and violent that the infantry in front gave way, and the enemy got within the battery; but only for a moment, for assistance was at hand, and the cannoneers, using sponge-staffs, handspikes, and stones, forced them back, following it up with doses of canister. One Rebel planted his colors on one of the lunettes of the first section (which was on the left), and demanded the surrender of the gun. He was promptly knocked down with a handspike, and the flag captured.
The sharpshooters in the church steeple were very annoying, having wounded several of the men and two of the officers, viz., Lieuts. Nicholas Sahm and Christian Stock, and killed some of the horses. The gunner of the third piece, notwithstanding the orders not to fire into the town, loaded his gun with a shell and fired it at the steeple; it had the desired effect.
On the 3d, during the great artillery duel, Wiedrich's men, assisted by a Pennsylvania battery on their right, silenced a Rebel battery, posted on a hill near the Bonaughtown Road, about 1,800 yards distant. A shell from this Rebel battery exploded over the horses of the limber of the fourth gun. The horses became frightened, and started off on a gallop down the Pike, through our pickets and into the Rebel lines.
The casualties of the battery for the three days were 3 killed and 9 wounded. Of the latter, 2 were officers.
On the 5th, in the evening, the battery left with the rest of the army, in pursuit of Lee.
From their camp at Catlett's Station, Va., in September, 1863, the battery was sent to the west, with the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, to. the relief of General Rosecrans at Chattanooga. It took part in opening the " cracker line " for Rosecrans, and was engaged at Wauhatchie, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and all the important battles of the Atlanta campaign,— then in the Twentieth Corps,— and particularly distinguished itself at Kolb's Farm and Peach Tree Creek. At Kolb's Farm, June 22, 1864, unsupported by infantry, it assisted the other batteries of the corps in repelling an attack by the Rebel General Hood; also, at Peach Tree Creek, July 20; 1864, where the enemy made six successive and desperate assaults on its position, without success.
It took part in the siege of Atlanta, and entered that city with the Twentieth Corps. It participated in Sherman's March to the Sea, where little fighting was done, but much foraging. Two of its members were killed by bushwhackers while out foraging.
When Sherman's army invested Savannah, the battery held a position on the banks of the Savannah River, where it engaged a Rebel gunboat and two tenders which came down the river from Augusta. The gunboat and one tender was disabled by shot, and was captured.
The battery entered the city with the Twentieth Corps, and was encamped there until the campaign of the Carolinas opened, in which it took part. It was engaged at Averasborough and Bentonville, and was at Raleigh, N. C, when the news of the assassination of President Lincoln and the surrender of Lee was received.
Besides the battles mentioned in this account, the battery took part in innumerable small affairs and skirmishes in each of which the loss was small, but the aggregate in wounded was large. It took part in the Grand Review at Washington, D. C., in May, 1865, and on June 23, 1865, it was mustered out of service at Fort Porter, Buffalo, N. Y., after a service of nearly four years.
In March, 1864, when the battery was in Lookout Valley, Tenn., Captain Wiedrich resigned to take command of the Fifteenth New York Regiment of Heavy Artillery. First Lieut. Nicholas Sahm was promoted captain, but died a month later. First Lieut. Christopher Schmidt resigned about the same time. Charles E. Winegar, first lieutenant of Battery " M," First New York Light Artillery, was promoted captain of Battery " I," and the following were at different times lieutenants: Nicholas Sahm, Diedrick Erdman, Christopher Schmidt, Jacob Schenkel-berger, Christian Stock, Francis Henchen, George F. Schwartz, Edward P. Newkirk, Warren L. Scott, Joseph W. Adle, George W. Freeman, and one or two others whose names cannot be recalled at present.
The losses of the battery during its term of service were: Killed and died of wounds, 1 officer and 16 men; died of disease, 1 officer and 17 men; total, 35. This loss is larger by 5 than that of any other battery of the First New York Light Artillery. No record has been kept of the wounded.
Remington, Cyrus Kingsbury. A record of Battery I, First N.Y. light artillery vols., otherwise known as Wiedrich's battery, during the War of the rebellion, 1861-'65 . . . compiled from reliable sources, by Cyrus Kingsbury Remington. Buffalo: Courier co., 1891.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military