|Unit History Project|
1st Artillery Regiment (Light)
Mustered in: September 6, 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.
Battery C, First New York Light Artillery, was raised in Watertown, Jefferson County, during the latter part of August, 1861, under the call for 300,000 men for three years' service. The initiative was taken by Mr. Almont Barnes, a journalist twenty-six years of age, who placed his name first on the roll as a volunteer on August 8th, and who, with the co-operation of ex-Senator John W. Tamblin and friends in near towns, had the required minimum number of men for a company ready before September 1st. Delay occurring in the receipt of transportation papers, Mr. Barnes arranged for transportation to Rome, and then paid personally for the transit to the rendezvous at Elmira, hoping that the company might become the first in the regiment, but arriving to late, on the 3d. On the 5th, an election of officers was held, at which the first place was offered to Mr. Barnes, but he declined in compliment to Mr. Tamblin, who was too old to go into the field; the former was elected unanimously as first lieutenant, and, later, Mr. William S. Cooper was elected second lieutenant. After the organization of the regiment, and equipment and camp drill, the whole body of twelve companies arrived at Washington, October 31st, and went into winter quarters at Camp Barry, on Capitol Hill.
Captain Tamblin resigned and left the service, January 27, 1862, and Lieutenant Barnes, then on recruiting service, was commissioned captain. On April 26th he was assigned to the command of the company, which was soon mounted and received its guns, four 3-inch rifled pieces, known as " Ordnance " guns, being chosen. After about a month of mounted drill the completed battery was stationed near Fairfax Seminary, in the defences of Washington, where it was assigned to General Sturgis' provisional brigade. Here a section of two guns was temporarily detached and sent, with infantry, to guard a bridge across Bull Run, near Manassas; but all were " gathered in " by the enemy in the advance to the second battle of Bull Run, August 26, 1862, only a few of the men escaping on horseback, in the darkness.
During its subsequent movements the battery was assigned to Humphreys' Division (Third), of the Fifth Corps, and arrived on the field of Antietam in time to fire the last cannon shots of that contest, from a point between Sharpsburg and the river, under direction of Gen. E. B. Tyler, of the Third Brigade. After this battle, because of changes, Sergts. James B. Hazel-ton and William H. Phillips were promoted to second lieutenancies, the former being transferred soon to another battery, and, later, promoted to a captaincy before he was twenty-one years old. Battery C was in action next at Fredencksburg, where one section, under Lieut. William H. Phillips, Captain Barnes being absent under orders to equip a second section, crossed the river on the centre pontoon bridge, and went into position on the outskirts of the town.
On April 30, 1863, the battery, under command of Captain Barnes, left its winter camp at Stoneman's Switch, near Falmouth, Va., and proceeded to Chancellorsville, where it arrived at 5 p. m., the next day. On the following day, May 2d, it was placed in position on the left of the army, but was not actively engaged in the battle, and sustained no casualties. Recrossing the Rappahannock with the army, the battery returned to its camp on the 6th, where it remained for a month, and then started on the Pennsylvania campaign
The Artillery Brigade of the Fifth Corps, to which Captain Barnes' guns were attached, arrived on the battlefield of Gettysburg on July 2d — the battle-of the second day. Battery C arrived at 5:40 a. m., and at 6:15 a. m., took position in a wheatfield near the Musser Farm, on Rock Creek. At 11 a. m.,. the position of the battery was changed to one nearer the centre, in reserve,, with several other batteries. At about 4 p. m., the chief of the corps artillery, Capt. A. P. Martin, directed Captain Barnes to " Follow the Regulars," General Ayres' Second Division, then passing towards the left and Little Round Top; " and don't let Sickles get you!" was added, warningly, that corps being hard pressed, and we having to pass its rear. As fast as the Fifth Corps came up it became engaged, and Battery C went into position without other orders than the foregoing, in the first available place it could occupy, on a line with Gibbs' First Ohio and Hazlett's, D, Fifth U. S., to the left. The position was on the right of Little Round Top (north), near a large rock which gave cover to its caissons. With the bloody struggle in its immediate front (see War Department maps), the charge of the Pennsylvania Reserves through it, and its guns nearly on a level with the fight they covered, although under continual musketry fire, there was no opportunity to reply until the enemy was driven back. Captain Barnes then reported in person to General Sykes his action and position, which were approved, Captain Martin not having appeared at his position. With remarkable good fortune his battery escaped loss in men and horses, although some of the harness, etc., was cut with bullets and had to be replaced at once.
At daylight on the morning of the third day's battle, Captain Barnes was ordered to report with his battery and the Third Massachusetts Battery, Lieutenant Walcott (Martin's), to General Howe, a division commander of the Sixth Corps, and the guns were moved to the extreme left of the line, where they remained in position without being engaged, though exposed to artillery fire at times, and expecting attack, until the close of the battle.
The battery participated in the movements following Gettysburg, going with the Fifth Corps to Manassas Gap, and being the only, battery of that corps which reached that point with all its guns, and organization complete. Forage trains being delayed, most of the horses were without feed on that hot, rapid, mountainous march; but, notwithstanding " orders," the horses of this battery were fed and kept efficient. This brought a threat of arrest to the captain; but it ended at General Hunt, chief of artillery of the army, who remarked: " I suppose Captain Barnes knows what the orders are; but by G—d, I like to see a man take care of his horses !"
The battery participated in the movements of the army to the Rappahannock River and Mine Run, in the latter gaining an enfilading fire on a three-gun battery near a railroad cut, at close range, and nearly destroying it and its guns in a few rounds. After this campaign it went into winter quarters at Bealeton Station, near the Rappahannock.
In May, 1864, it was present, but like most of the artillery not engaged, at the battle of the Wilderness; and was at Spotsylvania, North Anna, and Bethesda Church. At Spotsylvania, May 17th, it was restored to the Fifth Corps, from the Reserve Artillery, where it had been only a few weeks, and on the 19th, celebrated its return in the severe, independent action at the Harris House, a mile to the rear of the Fifth Corps headquarters, on the Fredericksburg Road. Sent back to that point about noon with orders to report to Colonel Kitching, commanding a brigade of heavy artillery, troops all new to field service, Cap-tain Barnes reported for duty, and found the men going into camp, putting up tents, the officers much at ease, and not a picket post or sentry out. Later, while reconnoitring on horseback, he saw over a near line of low woods the enemy approaching from a second woods, in line of battle, and gave the alarm to the colonel commanding. After showing the latter a rail fence in the woods, behind which to form line, he divided his battery, placing a section under Lieutenant Phillips to command a road entering the Fredericksburg Pike from the direction of the enemy, posting another on the highest ground close to the Harris House, opening fire at once with both through the trees and tree tops upon the advancing line, and sending back for reinforcements. General Grant says in his history: "Tyler had come up from Fredericksburg, and had been halted on the road to the right of our line near Etching's Brigade of Warren's Corps. Tyler received the attack with his raw troops, and they maintained their position, until reinforced, in a manner worthy of veterans."
The fact was, however, that the attack began on Kitching, and was repulsed after a stubborn fight at close quarters, all along his line. A second attack found Battery C reinforced by Hart's Fifteenth New York Battery, and the brigade by that of Gen. R. O. Tyler, with Birney's Division of Hancock's Corps upon his right, and Crawford's, of Warren's Corps, upon the left of Kitching. The attack was made by Ewell's Corps, with Early in reserve, and in both charges was repulsed. Although Battery C fired at medium and short Tange eighty-six rounds from the Harris House and fourteen from the road, and was in line of the hail-storm of bullets that beat upon the house, it reported no casualties.
In the engagement near Bethesda Church the position of Battery C was the same as that previously occupied earlier in the day by Battery D, Fifth U. S., and the Third Massachusetts, successively, both of which lost several men and horses, and expended all the ammunition in their limbers, the caissons being left, owing to want of room, behind the edge of the woods where the guns were stationed. In this position, open to sharpshooters in a house in the open field and to the fire of two twenty-pounder guns in front, and two to the right, half enfilading, both batteries behind heavy works, Battery C began firing with the first gun in position (by hand) and receiving fire in return. Its third shot dismounted one of the two hostile guns in front, turning it over
endwise, and raising a cheer on the picket line. This had fired two shells, a fragment of one wounding the bugler's horse, slightly, in the neck; but no more shots coming from that redoubt it was reasonably supposed both its guns were disabled. But the two twenty-pounders to the right took up the fight at once, and were finally silenced, and left 18 dead horses upon their field. The sharpshooters were also driven from the house in the field with percussion shells, and the battery finally withdrew in the evening after using 498 rounds of ammunition, without a man wounded or a horse disabled. Captain Barnes, whose recent arrest was suspended during this fight (charged with seizing a cart for a mess wagon, in default of other means of transportation), was soon released, but his name does not appear, in official reports, as in command during this action, although he directed every movement, and aimed the first gun in the beginning of the action.
Accompanying the Fifth Corps as usual, the battery was actively engaged in the battle before Petersburg, June 18th, silencing two batteries from different positions, having 1 man wounded, I gun dismounted, and 1 horse killed in the last fight, after which it entered on the long and arduous duties incidental to the siege of that place. At the battle of the Weldon Railroad, August 18-21, 1864, the guns occupied a prominent place on the line, where the effective service rendered by them elicited favorable mention in the official report of Colonel Wainwright, the chief of artillery of the Fifth Corps, and the open commenda-lion of General Warren, commander of the corps.
During its service the battery participated in all the movements, engage-ments and battles of the Army of the Potomac, under the organization with which it entered the field practically, up to September 5, 1864, when most of the original three years' men who had not re-enlisted, including the captain, were mustered out by reason of expiration of term of service, and after the active operations of the campaign had ceased; the last action of the old organization being that which secured possession of the Weldon Railroad, at the Yellow Tavern, near Petersburg, August 21, 1864.
Up to this date Battery C had never been outmarched, stalled in the mud, or otherwise balked in movement; had never failed to reach on time and in complete form any designated objective point; had never been driven from a position; never failed to silence an opposing battery; and never lost a gun, the capture of the section mentioned not being a battery or battle loss. Its losses of men were remarkably light, so that it gained the designation of " Lucky," as, also, did its commander. But 3 of its men had been killed, less than half a dozen wounded, and not over 15 lost by all casualties during these two years and a half of operations, which culminated in more than twenty engagements and battles. Not a dozen of its horses were killed or wounded. Of 1,004 horses drawn, the 82 last turned in were, after a recent inspection of all artillery horses of the army, pronounced the best battery lot in the Army of the Potomac; and 28 more were turned in, first and last, than were ever drawn from the government. It, perhaps, was not all " luck" which produced such a record; but possibly the reasons may be partly surmised from the current fact that almost every surviving soldier of old Battery C is now a prosperous and honored member of the community in which he survives. Good soldiers make good citizens; and these soldiers were equal in intelligence, reliability, and courage to those of any like organization in the army.
It may not be out of place to mention here also the tribute of Maj. Gen. A. A. Humphreys, late chief of engineers, U. S. A., to the commander of the battery, and which concludes as follows: " Capt. Almont Barnes served in my command as captain of one of the batteries of field artillery. He participated in the operations and battles that the division (and corps) took part in, exhibiting intelligence and industry in the instruction and discipline of his battery, and skill and courage in using it." It is a further significant fact that of the first men enlisted who went together to Elrnira, nine became commissioned officers.
Upon the muster out of the officers and men indicated, a new force of men was assigned from outside, and the command of the reorganized battery given to Lieut. David F. Ritchie, of Battery H, who was commissioned captain, and under whose command it completed its service with the army at the close of the war, the next spring. It was actively engaged in the operations culminating at Appomattox, and kept well its arduously earned and honorable record. Like many batteries tied up to a regimental organization, it was unfavorably hampered at times by that absurd and false relation.
During the fall and winter after reorganization Battery C remained in position near the Weldon Railroad, and for a part of this period it occupied an earthwork on the lines called Fort Conahey. Before entering the spring campaign of 1865 the four rifled guns were exchanged for four brass guns,— light twelves.
Under command of Captain Ritchie, Battery C participated in the battle of April 2, 1865, which resulted in the capture of the Confederate lines at Petersburg and termination of the long and bloody siege. Early in the morning Captain Ritchie was ordered to take his cannoneers into the Rebel works that had just been captured, and man the enemy's guns which had been abandoned.
These guns were exposed to a heavy fire, and while the men of Battery C. Were working them they lost 2 men killed and 2 wounded. Captain Ritchie in his official report speaks in high praise of his officers and men, their coolness and gallantry in this action, and mentions several by name.
Cutler, Cyrus Morton. Letters from the front, from October, 1861, to September, 1864, by Cyrus Morton Cutler, while a member of Co. F 22nd Massachusetts volunteer infantry regiment and Battery C 1st New York (light) artillery regiment. [San Francisco, 1892].
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military