|Unit History Project|
10th Independent Battery
The Tenth New York Independent Battery of Light Artillery was recruited in New York City pursuant to orders of the War Department, dated October 1, 1861. Organized originally as a part of General Sickles' famous Excelsior Brigade it adopted the title of Second Excelsior Battery; but on being mustered into the United States service, April 9, 1862, it was designated by the State authorities as the Tenth New York Independent Battery. The Third Excelsior Battery having failed to complete its organization the men who had been recruited for that command were transferred to the Tenth Battery.
Under command of Capt. John T. Bruen, the company left the State April 10, 1862, and proceeded to Washington, D. C, where it encamped a short time while undergoing the drill and instruction necessary to enable it to enter active service in the field. It was equipped with six brass guns, of the pattern known as " light twelves."
In June, 1862, it joined Banks's Corps with which it was present at Cedar Mountain, Manassas, and Antietam. In December it was transferred to Whipple's Division of the Third Corps, with which command it participated in the battle of Fredericksburg. During this time it adhered to its original name, that of the Second Excelsior Battery.
Under command of Lieut. Samuel Lewis the Tenth Battery was actively engaged at Chancellorsville. General Sickles, the corps commander, says in his official report of that battle, that " Lewis established a high name for his battery." Captain Randolph, chief of artillery, Third Corps, says in his official report for Chancellorsville: " It gives me great pleasure to speak in terms of the highest praise of Lieutenant Lewis and his battery, especially as it had been, unfortunately, somewhat under a cloud. Nothing could be more praiseworthy than his conduct from first to last." The losses of the battery in this battle were, 13 enlisted men wounded, and 5 missing or captured.
At Gettysburg the Tenth New York was attached to Phillips' Fifth Massachusetts Battery and with that command fought in the battles of the second and third day. Of the 21 men killed and wounded in Captain Phillips' command, 5 were from the Tenth New York Battery. In the second day's battle, Phillips was stationed with his six guns on the road leading from the Wheat-field to the Peach Orchard, where he was hotly engaged. On the third day his battery was in position on Cemetery Ridge, where it participated in the grand cannonade of that day.
In July, 1863, after Gettysburg, the battery under command of Lieut. T. C. Bruen, was stationed in the defences of Washington, where it formed a part of the, Twenty-second Corps. On June 21, 1864, it was transferred to the Sixth New York Independent Battery.
Lieutenant Lewis describes the action at Chancellorsville as follows: While Jackson was marching along the flank of the Union Army to attack its rear, the Third Corps was ordered to Catherine Furnace to find out what he was doing. General Sickles, the corps commander, ordered three batteries left at Hazel Grove, a slight elevation near a dense wood.
After 6 p. M. the well-known Confederate yell, with a rattle of musketry, was heard in the woods. Private Willicot was ordered to climb a tree, that overlooked the woods and clearings, to see what was going on. He said our men were running towards us, and that the rebs were after them on the double-quick. Seeing we must act at once, I asked Captain Huntington, whose battery was parked closely in my front, to open intervals and uncover me, as the enemy was close upon us. He wheeled and formed on a rise of ground, and the Eleventh New York Battery formed beside him. I formed the Tenth to protect them while going into position. There was hardly time to do this, when the enemy, swarming from the woods, over an intervening stone wall, rushed towards the guns. The Tenth opened with canister, and in a minute the other two followed. The enemy came up in crowds, and went down in heaps under our concentrated fire. With us it was a matter of life and death; with them, the game was to bag Hooker and cut off the Third Corps. Our three batteries held the key of the position, though we did not know it at the time.
While this was going on, General Sickles galloped up, his horse covered with foam, and shouted, "What battery?" I said, "Tenth New York." "Hello, Lewis, is that you? Hold your position!" "I cannot hold it five minutes without supports." " Hold on, at all hazards! I will send you a regiment." " That won't do," said I, " you must send a brigade." He galloped away, but the brigade -— two small regiments — did not come until the danger was nearly over.
At daylight I was ordered to the Chancellorsville House, and we dragged our guns over the swamp. During the time I was at Hazel Grove I neither saw nor heard of General Pleasanton. The highest officer among us was a battery commandant.
Soon after we left Hazel Grove the Confederates crowded that rise of ground with batteries, opening a terrible fire on us at Chancellorsville. The Tenth New York, stationed opposite the northwest corner, which covered Hooker's line of retreat, received their principal fire. After staying there a long time, unable to return the fire for want of ammunition, I stated the fact to a general officer, asking permission to retire the guns. He said, " No! If they see you retire, they will advance." Waiting quite patiently some time longer, he said, " You may now withdraw your guns by hand; your horses would only attract attention." Asking whom I had the honor to address, he replied, " General Hancock."
My battery fell back to another position, and received ammunition. Soon our enterprising friends in gray made their appearance. Seven times they charged into the open, to be driven back with canister. * * * After all the other batteries had moved for the river, I was told to leave my guns and take the horses. The men refused, saying, " If our battery goes to Richmond, we go too." There was no further attack on that night, so we saved both horses and guns.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military