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14th Independent Battery
Historical Sketch

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.

The men composing this command were recruited in New York City, and were mustered into the United States service December 9, 1861, as part of the Irish Brigade. They were ordered to Washington the next week, where this battery was organized by the consolidation of Batteries B and D, Second Battalion, New York Artillery, with William H. Hogan as captain. At first it was known as Battery A of that battalion; but in October, 1862, it was designated as the Fourteenth Independent.

The battery was equipped with six ten-pounder Parrott guns and stationed in Washington, where it received instruction and drill until March, 1862, when it was assigned to Richardson's Division of the Second Army Corps, with which command it participated in the Peninsular campaign.

On May 26, 1862, by order of the War Department, the first section was attached to Battery C, Fourth United States Artillery; the second to Battery G,— Frank's,— and the third to Battery B,— Pettit's,— of the First New York Light Artillery. While on the Peninsula Captain Hogan served on the staff of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, of the Irish Brigade, from whom he received favorable mention in the official reports. He left the battery subsequently, and on April 27, 1863, Lieut. James McKay Rorty was commissioned captain.

At Chancellorsville, while in command of three guns of Battery C, Fourth United States Artillery, First Lieut. William O'Donohue, of the Fourteenth Battery, was mortally wounded. Lieut. O'Donohue commanded the section of the Fourteenth which was attached to Thomas's regular battery,— C, Fourth United States.

At Gettysburg, Captain Rorty, of the Fourteenth, commanded Battery B, of the First New York Light Artillery, to which one section of the Fourteenth Independent Battery was attached. He was killed during Pickett's charge on July 3d, while gallantly defending his guns, which were engaged with the enemy at close range.

The first section which had been attached to Thomas's Regular Battery was transferred to Battery B, First New York Light Artillery, to which the third section had already been attached. The second section remained with Battery G, First New York, and on September 7, 1863, by order of the War Department, these transfers were made permanent.

The men composing the Fourteenth Independent Battery were recruited almost wholly from our Irish citizens. On the many bloody battlefields where they fought they sustained the fighting reputation of their race, and gave ample proof of their heroic loyalty to the country of their adoption.

The services of the Fourteenth New York Battery at Gettysburg are apt to be overlooked, because the men had been previously detailed to Batteries B and G of the First New York Artillery whose officers, in their official reports make no mention of these detachments from the Fourteenth.

On July first, Battery B, including the detail from the Fourteenth, arrived at Taneytown, Md., and encamped a short distance beyond the village. The battery, which was then in the Reserve Artillery, was under the command of Lieut. Albert S. Sheldon of B. At evening an order was received transferring it to Hazard's Artillery Brigade of the Second Corps. The battery after marching all night arrived at Gettysburg on the morning of the 2d, and went into position on the line of battle of the Second Corps to which it now belonged. While awaiting the opening of the battle, Captain Rorty of the Fourteenth New York Battery arrived and took command, he having been assigned to this duty that day.

Under command of Captain Rorty the battery was actively engaged on the evening of July second in repelling the advance of Anderson's Division, of Hill's Corps. In this fighting the combined battery lost nine men in killed and wounded, and thirteen horses disabled.

On the morning of the third, Rorty's four guns —10 pounder Parrott's — were placed on Cemetery Ridge, next to and south of the famous " clump of trees." The infantry of Gibbon's Division, Second Corps, were in line to the right, left, and rear. There was but little firing during the forenoon. But at I P. M., the Confederates suddenly opened a cannonade from 135 guns, the greater part of which was concentrated on the batteries of the Second Corps. The Union artillery replied with vigor, and for over an hour 200 pieces of artillery were engaged in an appalling tumultuous conflict. At no place was the Confederate fire more deadly and destructive than in the immediate vicinity of Rorty's guns. His command lost more men killed than any other battery at Gettysburg. During the action Captain Rorty was killed and Lieutenant Sheldon was wounded.

The Confederate artillery fire having ceased, a double line of gray clad infantry, 14,000 strong, advanced to the assault. Moving across the intervening plain in perfect order and steady movement they crossed the Emmitsburg Pike, and then rushed in a desperate charge against the position of the Second Corps. Pushing through an opening in the line a party of Confederates reached the guns of Battery B, but were driven back by the artillerymen, who fought with handspikes, rammers, and whatever weapons came handy. The attack was repulsed all along the line, and Longstreet's column fell back in disorder to Seminary Ridge.

Of the twenty-six officers and men killed or wounded in Battery B, Gavin, Halloran, Rorty, Buckley, and McGowan belonged to the Fourteenth New York.

While part of the Fourteenth were thus fighting in the ranks of Battery B, the others were acquitting themselves nobly at the guns of Battery G, Ames's, which, on the second day, were stationed at the Peach Orchard, while they had the honor of opening the battle. Of the men killed in this battery, George Tompkins belonged to the detachment from the Fourteenth.

Captain James McKay Rorty entered the service at the beginning of the war as an enlisted man in the Sixty-ninth Infantry. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant, November 17, 1861, in the Fourteenth Independent Battery; and First Lieutenant, December 9, 1862; and Captain, April 27, 1863. The men of the Fourteenth having been detailed for service in other batteries, Captain Rorty was left temporarily without a command, during which he served as a staff officer in the Second Corps. On the second day at Gettysburg he was assigned to the command of Battery B,— to which a large number of his men had already been detailed,— and assumed charge as it was about to engage the enemy. He was killed the next day. Captain Hazard, the commander of the artillery brigade, says in his official report:— " In the death of Capt. J. M. Rorty the brigade has lost a worthy officer, a gallant soldier, and an estimable man."

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New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History
Last modified: March 14, 2006

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