BATTERY A FIRST REGIMENT RHODE ISLAND LIGHT ARTILLERY
The Dark Time And A Glimmer Of Hope
THE GRITTY ARTILLERY CAPTAIN COOL AND COURAGEOUS IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE
Honoring Captain William A. Arnold Arnold's Battery A, 1st R.I. Light Artillery, circa 1863 MOLLUS Collection, Carlisle Barracks, U.S. Army.
CARRYING ON THE MEMORY OF THE BATTERY A VETERANS AND VETERANS OF THE R.I. GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC RI GAR ARNOLD POST No.4
THE LONG AND BLOODY STRUGGLE TO RE-UNITE THE COUNTRY
THE HISTORY OF BATTERY A Page FOUR
On To Richmond
After the First Battle of Bull Run, Battery A was re-fitted and resupplied with new ordnance (12 pounder Napoleon cannons). On July 28th, it marched to Sandy Hook, Maryland, and relieved the First Battery of the Rhode Island Detached Militia, under Captain Charles H. Tompkins. In August, in accordance with instructions from the Secretary of War, a battalion of Light Artillery was authorized consisting of Rhode Island Batteries A, B, and C, under command of Major Charles H. Tompkins, and in September the battalion was constituted a full artillery regiment, Major Tompkins being appointed its Colonel. On August 11th, one section of Battery A (2 guns of 6), under Lieutenant John Tompkins, was sent to Berlin, Md., and did picket duty on the Potomac River, guarding the approaches to Washington until September 3rd, when it rejoined the rest of Battery A, at Darnestown, Md. Then Battery A was transferred to the Union Army, Dept. of the Shenandoah until October, 1861. Shortly thereafter Captain William Reynolds was promoted and transferred, and Captain John A. Tompkins assumed full command of Battery A.
Since Captain Reynolds was promoted to be Lieutenant-Colonel, Lieutenant John Tompkins (younger brother of Charles Tompkins, who commanded Tompkins Battery), was promoted to be Captain in command of Battery A on September 13th. As the second commander of Battery A in the war, Captain J. A. Tompkins and the Battery then proceeded on the 16th with two guns to take up position at Harper's Ferry. That same day the Battery was engaged in brisk fight on Bolivar Heights, Va. The hieghts overlooked all approaches to the town below. Capture of the high ground made the town untenable for the Rebels and they withdrew. On September 20, 1861, Captain John Tompkins took his 2 guns to join the rest of the battery (four other guns) at Edwards' Ferry and afterwards he marched his entire 6 gun battery to Muddy Branch, Md. By the end of 1861, Battery A wintered at Poolesville, Md. The following Spring 1862, Captain Tompkins and the Battery were attached to General Nathaniel Banks' 2nd Division, Pope's Army of Virginia. In March, 1862, Battery A became part of the Artillery Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps. After brief operations against Winchester, Virginia, Battery A was again transferred and eventually shared the ill-fated fortunes of the Union Army of the Potomac under General George B. McClellan in Southern Virginia through the month of July, 1862, on the James Peninsula. McClellan had gathered a great army, but when would it fight? Once more the Battle Cry was, "ON TO RICHMOND".
Top Commanders of 1862
Photos TOP Left to Right: Major General John Pope, MOLLUS ID# 02807 Major General George B. McClellan, MOLLUS ID# 01373 Major General Edwin V. Sumner.
Photos BOTTOM Left to Right: Brigadier General John Sedgwick Brigadier General Silas Casey, MOLLUS ID# 00370 Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, MOLLUS ID# 00889.
THE PENINSULA CAMPAIGN: April—July 1862
During McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign Battery A was engaged before Yorktown, at Fair Oaks, the Peach Orchard, Savage's Station, Charles City Court House and Malvern Hill. In fact Battery A was the last Union Artillery Battery to leave Malvern Hill when McClellan’s Army fell back to Harrison's Landing on the James River after the 7 Days Battles.
The Landing at Fortress Monroe—The March Up The Peninsula Towards Richmond
At about 3 a.m. on March 30, 1862, Major General George B. McClellan’s great flotilla bound for the Virginia James River Peninsula consisting of a collection of Naval gunboats, schooners, steamboats and barges in tow, weighed anchor in Washington and quietly moving south, down the Potomac River. The Union Army of the Potomac had become an amphibious force of about 90,000 men. Moving such a large army by water required great coordination and planning. Prior to entering Chesapeake Bay the army anchored to wait out rough waters and a late spring season snowstorm that turned to a cold rain. Still McClellan (MOLLUS ID# 01373) managed to get his forces to the tip of the James River Peninsula and Fortress Monroe for the most part undetected. By April 2nd Federal troops began landing on the peninsula unopposed. Battery A was attached to the Artillery Brigade of the 2nd Division under General John Sedgwick of General William B. Franklin’s 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. The artillery Brigade of General John Sedgwick’s Division of the 2nd Corps broke camp at 8 a.m. and began their northwesterly march up the Peninsula towards Richmond. The whether was warm, but the roads were muddy, which somewhat slowed their progress.
On April 5th, after only three days of the march the head of McClellan’s column ran in to General John B. Magruder’s 15,000 Rebel forces dug in at Yorktown. Battery A as well as several other artillery batteries were sent to the front to begin shelling Yorktown. Battery A and other Light artillery Batteries were maneuvered several times and traded shots with the enemy until McClellan could get his army up and in to position. Little did McClellan know, he actually outnumbered his foe about five to one. Instead of attacking Magruder he decided to dig in and bring up heavy artillery and siege guns to move the Rebels out of Yorktown. By the time he was ready to bombard the rebels they abandoned the town. The delay was costly because it gave time for units of the main body of the Confederate Army to get to Richmond from Central Virginia. By this time former Battery A Captain William Reynolds was appointed Commander of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery Regiment, a post back in Rhode Island. The Regiment had grown from three batteries to seven (Batteries D through G), all of which were assigned duty scattered among the artillery brigades of the several Corps of the Army of the Potomac as needed. Captain Charles Tompkins was made 2nd Corps Chief of Artillery and his brother Captain John Tompkins was put in command of Battery A. Lieutenants John G. Hazard (MOLLUS ID# 01054), his brother Jeffery Hazard (MOLLUS ID# 01698), and Charles F. Mason (MOLLUS ID# 02457) (who replaced Thomas F. Vaughn, promoted and transferred) were made (2 gun) Section Chiefs of the six guns of Battery A.
After the occupation of Yorktown Battery A was among Sedgwick’s Division of the 2nd Corps on the march towards Richmond. By May 23rd the Battery encamped near the bridge over the Chickahominy River near Cold Harbor, only about 12 miles from Richmond. They were so close to the Confederate Capitol on a clear day they could see the spires of the churches in Richmond and set their watches buy the chimes of the Richmond church bells. Victory seemed at hand, requiring just one more push to capture the city. However, all this was about to change and with it the fortune of General McClellan and his Army of the Potomac.
The Fight For Richmond: Seven Pines—Fair Oaks
The success of the Peninsula Campaign began to falter as the spring rains swelled the Chichahominy River making it difficult for McClellan to maintain control over the Army of the Potomac, which he deployed on both sides of the water. The river effectively divided his army. Joseph Johnston, the top Confederate commander realized the river provided an opportunity to strike the smaller portion of McClellan’s army south of the river and McClellan, the Union Commander, would have a difficult time reinforcing it.
On June 1, 1862, Battery A and part of Battery B, 1st RILA, were repositioned at an area slightly north of a place called Fair Oaks Station on the south side of the Chickahominy with Sedgwick’s Division. They battled the elements to cross the swollen river, further complicated by extremely swampy ground on both banks. The rebels struck at about 6 a.m. at a point between Fair Oaks Station and Seven Pines. Batteries A and B fired on the left flank of the rebels but were not involved in the heaviest part of the fighting that took place to their right and south. One gun section of Battery B was sent forward and engaged in the main part of the battle. The fight was sharp and very serious, but in the end the rebels were compelled to retire. Both armies were bloodied. Perhaps the greatest loss of men and material was endured by the Confederates, because their commanding general, Joe Johnston was severely wounded. However, Johnston was soon replaced by a man who would become the greatest leader of the Confederacy, General Robert E. Lee. Although the Battle of Fair Oaks & Seven Pines was unsuccessful for the Rebels, now the smaller portion of McClellan’s army was the portion on the north side of the river. McClellan was asking the War Department for more men and refused to move another inch towards Richmond until he got what he felt he needed. But Stonewall Jackson had panelized Union Forces in Central Virginia and in the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson had slipped through three Union armies and was joining Lee near Richmond. Lee was wasting no time. He meant to strike McClellan north of the Chickahominy targeting the Union Right Flank under Fitz John Porter at Mechanicsville, north of the river and north and east of Richmond. McClellan had lost the initiative against men like Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. The Union Army and Battery A would be tested.
The Seven Days Battles: Mechanicsville— Malvern Hill
President Lincoln and the War Department, displeased with McClellan’s performance ordered him to advance on Richmond essentially with the forces he had. In the words of John H. Rhodes of Battery B, “On to Richmond, was in order, and that General McCall’s Division had opened the ball on the evening of the 26th, at Beaver Dam Creek, near Mechanicsville”. What followed were the bloodiest seven days of the war, The Seven Days Battles, resulting in over 20,000 casualties for the Rebels and 16,000 Union casualties.
Robert E. Lee had launched several powerful attacks on the Army of the Potomac on the north side of the Chickahominy. Vicious fighting occurred along a line of retreat from Mechanicville to Beaver Dam Creek to Gain’s Mill to New Cold Harbor. Porter managed to get his part of the Union Army across the river, but at great cost. The Union Army was in full retreat south towards the James River. Lee kept up constant pressure as the entire Union retreated.
On June 29th Sedgwick’s Division paused at Savages Station, a place where the Williamsburg York River Road crossed the Richmond & York River Railroad. The station was a main depot of Union supply. The men of Battery A were amazed at the scale of destruction taking place. The Union troops were in the process of destroying all their stores of supplies to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy. Not long after Battery A arrived gunfire irrupted. General Magruder was launching an assault from a heavily wooded area west of Savages Station. Battery A was deployed to guard the road south on the far left flank of 2nd Corps. Long lines of Union Troops streamed past the Battery all morning. They feared Stonewall Jackson’s Rebel forces were not far behind them bearing down from the north, but in reality Jackson made no effort to attack in support of Magruder. He had stopped to rebuild bridges and rest along the Chickahominy. General Franklin had no intention of making a fight for Savages Station, however a battle was thrust upon him by Magruder, hoping to pin down the Yankees long enough for Jackson to arrive and help him finish them off.
Little did Magruder know about half the Union Army was crowding through Savages Station headed south towards Harrison’s Landing and Malvern Hill. Although Union Federal forces were handling Magruger’s attack in good fashion all Union forces including Rhode Island’s Battery A concentrated at and deployed north of Savages Station were in great danger if Jackson also struck. Franklin gave the order to break off the engagement. Sedgwick was ordered to cover the retreat and retired orderly. Once all Union forces were off the field Battery A helped cover the retreat deployed and firing from a Peach Orchard and was one of the last units to leave the area. If Jackson had arrived on time, together with Magruder they both would have had the combined strength of about 29,000 men and the momentum to annihilate the rear guard of the Union Army pulling back from Savage’s Station.
Battery A Among the guns on Malvern Hill that stopped Lee
McClellan was in the process of gathering his army on Malvern Hill. Lee saw one last opportunity to catch a portion of the Federals along the way at Glendale and Frayser’s Farm. A sharp fight ensued, but to no avail except the capture of General McCall. Lee’s entire army closed in on McClellan’s Army dug in on Malvern Hill. Several of Lee’s Generals suggested they might want to wait to see what McClellan would do, but Lee wanted to press the attack. Battery A was deployed among over 250 guns, many lined hub to hub on Malvern Hill. Union Gunboats were in position on the James to fire on the Rebels if they attacked. As Rebel Batteries opened fire all were easily silenced.
On July 1, 1862, the Rebels attacked. Confederate General D.H. Hill remarked it was not war it was murder. Captain John Tompkins watched as Battery A and all the Union guns on the hill opened on Hill, Magrruder and Huger’s Brigades as they came out of the trees and in to the open ground in long smart battle lines moving straight towards their positions. In the end the Rebel attack on Malvern Hill was a mistake that cost the lives of about 5,500 men. Union guns completely swept the field. However McClellan had had enough.
Battery A was the absolute last artillery battery to leave Malvern Hill and retreat to Harrison’s Landing where the Union Army dug in behind powerful earthworks support at close range by Union Gunboats. The Seven days Battles were over. Like most of McClellan’s Army of the Potomac the men of Battery A, and all their horses were completely exhausted when they encamped in safety at Harrison’s Landing. McClellan called it a strategic re-deployment, but General Hooker and several Union Officers called it an unnecessary skedaddle. It would be 2 ½ years of bloody combat before the Union Army under Ulysses S. Grant would get as close to Richmond again.
Out Of The Way Boys We Don't Break For The Infantry Theirs Or Ours
Battery A served under Major General George B. McClellan during his unsuccessful Peninsula Campaign in June, 1862, as part of the Artillery Brigade, 2nd Army Corps (Hancock's Corps), Union Army Potomac. After the 7 Days Battles, Battery A was again transferred back to General Pope's Union Army in North-Eastern Virginia to protect Washington after another major disaster at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run in late August. After leaving the Peninsula and joining General Pope’s shattered Army in Northern Virginia, the Battery was held in the reserve at the Battle of Chantilly along the main route to Washington. In early September, 1862 McClellan arrived in force from his abandoned position at Harrison's Landing on the Peninsula with the Army of the Potomac. He quickly reorganized the Union Army and mounted an all out Union pursuit of Lee’s Confederate Forces invading Maryland. While in pursuit of Lee in the mountainous region of Northern Maryland, with only two guns, Battery A engaged in a skirmish on September 2nd and in another short fight at Hyattstown, Md. On September 11th Battery A was officially put back in Hancock’s 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac and on the 17th, the full Battery was engaged at the Battle of Antietam. Deployed in the East Woods at Antietam Battery A under the flamboyant J. A. Tompkins delivered a murderous fire on the rebels, playing a key role in stopping a powerful counter attack that might have turned the tide in Lee's favor. At one point while firing their guns in the open they took heavy enemy fire, but stood their ground. Their actions were so courageous, one man, Benjamin Child, was later awarded the Medal of Honor. After Antietam Captain John Tompkins was promoted to Major and soon transferred to artillery staff under Colonel John Hazard. Lieutenant William A. Arnold, of R.I. Battery E, was commissioned Captain, and succeeded J. A. Tompkins as the 3rd commander of Battery A. Arnold would become the best known commander of the Battery. The timing of the change of command greatly concerned the men. However Battery A would become know as Arnold's Battery, demonstrating to all that Arnold was indeed the best man for the job.
DEADLY EFFECTS OF BATTERY A
THE MEDAL OF HONOR
The work done by Battery A at the Battle of Antietam near the Dunker Church. Medal of Honor Recipient Benjamin H. Child Post War RI GAR Dept. Commander photo MOLLUS ID# 09667.
BENJAMIN H. CHILD Rank and organization: Corporal (Gunner commanding an artillery piece), in Battery A, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery. Born: 8 May 1843, Providence, Rhode Island. Child entered service at on 6 June 1861, at the Old Arsenal on Benefit Street, and sent to Dexter Field, Providence, Rhode Island for training. His first enlistment (for 3 years) ended 30 September 1864, but he re-enlisted on 1 October 1864 to serve until the end of the Civil War. During his second enlistment he was promoted to Leiutenant and transfered to Battery H, and mustered out 18 June 1865 at the end of hostilities in Virginia and the Carolinas. The place and date of his act of heroism in combat: At The Battle of Antietam, Maryland, 17 September 1862. His MOH Citation: For extreme act of heroism under heavy fire and refusing to leave the field of combat while wounded, serving as "Gunner-Corporal of the Piece" in Battery A, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery. He was wounded and taken to the rear for medical treatment after a Confederate shell hit near his cannon knocking him insensible, deafened and suffering from other wounds. When he was partially recovered he insisted on returning to action to resume command of his artillery piece in Battery A. He did so and there he remained in action while still suffering from his wounds until the close of the battle. Afterwards he was again sent to the field hospital to recover. His MOH date of issue was Post War, after an investigation of his heroic combat actions by Congress, on 20 July 1897. Benjamin H. Child is buried at Swan Point Cemetery, off Blackstone Boulevard, Providence, Rhode Island. After the war Child was also a member of R.I. GAR Prescott Post No.1 and later Arnold Post No.4. B. H. Child served as a Post No.1 Commander and later as R.I. GAR Department Commander in 1891. He was one of the GAR supporters of R.I. (S of V) SUVCW Elisha Dyer Camp No. 7, when it was founded in 1909, insuring that Camp 7 would forever honor Captain William Arnold, Arnold Post 4 and "Arnold's" Battery A, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery. Child was also a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Massachusetts Commandery, MOLLUS ID No.09667.
The Rhode Islanders of Battery A attracted a healthy respect even by Robert E. Lee and his Confederate Artillery Batteries throughout most of the Civil War. Battery A fame was first achieved during McClellan's Peninsula Campaign at the Battle of Malvern Hill, in June 1862, when it helped stop Lee’s final assault. Battery A furthered its high distinction at the Battle of Antietam in September that same year when they delivered their deadly fire against Lee’s Rebels in the direction of the Dunker Church. At the Battle of Antietam near the Dunker Church, Battery A fought for over 4 hours in close combat less than 300 yards from the enemy's line of battle, losing four men killed and fifteen wounded. Ten horses were also lost. As the men went down, Battery A Section Commanders (Section Chiefs), Lieutenants Jeffrey Hazard and Charles F. Mason were cited for bravely for working the guns along with their enlisted men, while the air was thick around them with Confederate musket balls. In spite of the carnage around them, Battery A shot, shell, case and canister rounds sliced through Confederate General ‘Hood’s Texans’ at almost point blank range. Their fire on Hood's division of Texas men (in General Hood's words) left his men, “dead on the field”. Later, as Union troops moved through the area even they were horrified at the grizzly work done to their foe by Battery A that day, as recorded by Elisha Hunt Rhodes, 2nd R.I. Volunteer Infantry. Elisha Rhodes wrote, "I'm glad they are on our side".
Antietam Casualties ~ 4 killed 11 wounded Battery A losses in killed at The Battle of Antietam were: Sergeant Charles M. Reed, Privates John H. Lawrence, Joseph T. Bosworth, and Edwin Stone. Battery losses in wounded were: privates Edward F. Budlong, John Church, Robert Raynor, H. A. Preston, Sheffield L. Sherman, Frederick A. Phillips, Francis E. Phillips, Charles Cargill, Abel Wilder, John Zimala, and Corporal Benjamin H. Child, severe head injury. No one in the Battery turned up missing. Six horses were killed and four were wounded.
Deployed Only 300 Yards From The Enemy
A NEW LEADER On The Eve Of The Largest Battle Ever Fought On The North American Continent
Captain Willian A. Arnold took official command of Battery A in December 1862, one day prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg. The gritty, steely eyed and completely fearless Arnold remained in command of Battery A until the 3 year enlistments of about 2/3 of the men in the unit ran out in June/September of 1864.
Captain Arnold took official command of Battery A just in time for the First Battle of Fredericksburg, on 12 December 1862. He was a man of few words of introduction, but everyone in Battery A instantly knew they had a real fighter as their new boss. The Battery served as part of (Rhode Island) Major General Ambrose E. Burnside's Grand Union Army of the Potomac in the invasion of Central Virginia. Rhode Island's General Burnside had replaced McClellan as over-all Army Commander. By then Battery A was well on its way to achieving a deadly reputation, holding great respect by artillery units on both sides in the war. Battery A and all 7 other Rhode Island Light Artillery Batteries (A through H) in the First R.I. Artillery Regiment scattered among various Union Brigades in the Army. All were rated by Union and Confederate Commanders to be as good as the best professional U.S. Army Regular Light Artillery Batteries in the Union Army, especially the Rhode Island Artillery Batteries attached to the Army of the Potomac.
The Backyard Battle
Top Commanders of 1863
Photos TOP Left to Right: Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, MOLLUS ID# 00161 Major General George Gordon Meade Major General Joseph Fighting Joe Hooker.
My God What Will The Country Say
Battery A in Action at The Battle of Chancellorsville
At the first sign of spring, in late March 1862, Battery A was a part of the march of the Union Army of the Potomac under Major General Joseph Hooker (originally designed by Ambrose E. Burnside) in a swing in a wide ach to the west of Fredericksburg up the Rappahannock River, then southeast across the Rapidan River, coming up on the rear of Robert E. Lee’s Rebel Army. It was a bold move that needed to be pressed with great vigor. Lee was caught completely off guard, thinking he still faced the entire Union Army straight across the lower Rappahannock River in front of Fredericksburg. To make matters worse, Lee had sent a third of his Army under James Longstreet off to southern Virginia to protect the James Rive approaches to Richmond. Lee and Jackson now had to about face and move to take on Hooker, who outnumbered them more than two to one. However, in the final stages of the maneuver to trap Lee at Fredericksburg Hooker lost his nerve as well as the initiative in the campaign. Hooker could not believe the success of the campaign, fearing what Lee might do, allowing Lee to control all early April events, and ending in another Union disaster. Battery A was at first positioned with the 2nd Corps Division Under General Winfield Scott Hancock, posted on the extreme left of the Union line, when Stonewall Jackson struck the right flank and rear of the Union Army, bursting against the surprised Yankees through part of the Wilderness. Jackson’s attack was devastating and threatened to roll up the entire Union Battle Line. At first Captain Arnold received orders to proceed up the Plank Road towards Fredericksburg and Todd’s Tavern, but the Battery was recalled and had to fight its way to the Chancellor House where Hooker planned to make a stand.
Thomas M. Aldrich described the affair as very reminiscent of the Battles of Malvern Hill and Fair Oaks, engagements whereby McClellan had also lost the initiative. Hooker gave Lee the entire field, falling back to concentrate his army at the Chancellor House. He ordered General Henry J. Hunt, Chief of Artillery to concentrate all Union Artillery (including Battery A) near the Chancellorsville cross roads. The Union Infantry supported in close order by the artillery lined up hub to hub on the field in front of the Chancellor House finally stopped the advance of the Confederates, however Lee had turned his attentions to the Union 6th Corps under General Sedgwick, who had driven Lee’s rear guard from Fredericksburg and approached the Salem Church, again in Lee’s rear. Hancock’s Division was sent to try to assist Sedgwick in a desperate situation at Salem Church. Everyone in Battery A could not hold in their disbelief that Hooker could allow the Union Army to be so soundly defeated by such an inferior force. The defeat at Chancellorsville was Lee’s greatest victory of the war, but his most costly. He lost his best General, Stonewall Jackson, who was mortally wounded when fired upon by one of his own regiments while scouting the Union position out ahead of Confederate Line at night. Although the loss of Jackson was a terrible blow to the South, Lee was eager to follow up his victory. His strategy was to gather his scattered army and invade the North to try to find a place on Union Soil to defeat them. Rather than send troops west, Lee’s plan was to threaten and cut off Washington and in doing so relieve the pressure on Vicksburg in the west on the Mississippi River, under siege by General Grant. As Lee moved north, shadowed by Hooker, everyone in Battery A, as well as the entire Union Army knew they were all headed for a grand show-down with the Rebels. President Lincoln removed Hooker and replaced him with General George Gordon Meade. The cranky ole groggily eyed snapping turtle, General Meade, immediately pointed the Union Army of the Potomac north and went after Lee to defend Washington and his home State of Pennsylvania. Battery A harnessed their six horse teams, limbered their guns and caissons, and headed north.
Chancellorsville Casualties ~ 0
Battery A suffered no human or animal casualties at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and damage to its ordnance was minimal.
Battery A hepls stop the Rebel advance at Chancelorsville
GETTYSBURG One Nation Of The People, By The People For The People
Images Left to right: The best known commander of Battery A Captain William A. Arnold (late war image, rendered by G.A. Mierka) and the Battery A monument at Gettysburg Cemetery Ridge at the Copse of Trees, the focus of Pickett's Charge on the 3rd day of the battle The engraving of Captain Arnold from the Battery E Regimentle History
The map above shows how General Pickett's Division hit the center of the Union Line, Hancock's 2nd Corps, Gibbon's Division. The numbers in violet: #1 shows the position of Arnold's Battery A, 1st RILA; #2 shows the position of Cushing's Battery A, 4th USLA; and #3 shows Brown's Battery B, 1st RILA at the Copse of Trees and the Angle of the Stone Fence that ran along the west side of the Taneytown Road that traversed Cemtery Ridge.
At Gettysburg, Battery A, under Capt. William Arnold was deployed in the absolute center of Union Commander Major General George Gordon Meade’s line of defense to the right of the Copse of Trees on Cemetery Ridge, (Battery B, 1st RILA, under Lieut. T. Fred Brown, to the left of the Copse of Trees, and Battery A, 4th U.S. Light Artillery, under Lieut. Alonzo Cushing, in the center at the angle of the stone wall in front of the Copse of Trees). Arnold's R.I. Battery A and the other two Union light artillery batteries became the eye of the storm (the High Water Mark of the Confederacy) on July 3, 1863, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a final attempt to break the Union line, sent in General George Pickett and his Confederate Virginia Division to lead a grand assault of about 15,000 Rebels against the Union-held position on Cemetery Ridge. Artillery proved to be the bully of the battlefield that day. As some of the infantry units around Battery A fell back slightly under the pressure of Pickett's Charge, Battery A, exposed, would not be moved. In the heat of battle at Gettysburg, the turning point of the Civil War, Captain William Albert Arnold became the best known and most loved officer to command the unit and went on to become the longest serving commander of the unit throughout the war. In the Union Army of the Potomac, from then on, Battery A, would also be known as ‘Arnold’s Battery A’. After Gettysburg, under Arnold, Battery A would continue to perform outstanding service for Mr. Lincoln's Army of the Potomac in several more bloody engagements to earn its reputation as one of the best of the best.
Images Left to right: Unfortunately hundreds of horses were also killed at Gettysburg This Left Wheel Horse Rests Forever With The Wrecked Limber He Pulled.
A Battlefield Sketch by Artist Alfred Waud Garnett's Rebels hitting the position held by Battery A, 1st RILA. Garnett is in the center of the drawing at the moment he was shot off his horse.
Following a terrific artillery bombardment The Rebels hit the position of Battery A The Center of the Entire Union Battle-line with about 15,000 men, Pickett’s Massive Infantry Assault, commenced Friday afternoon, at 3:15 p.m., July 3, 1863 It happened a few miles south of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, At the Copse of Trees on Cemetery Ridge
The main concentration of Confederate forces that crossed a mile and a half of open field came under fierce artillery fire from Battery A and all Union artillery battery emplacements positioned all over the field. Elements of Confederate Lieut. General Robert E. Lee’s Grand Assault, led by Major General George Pickett, that hit near or in close proximity to Battery A were: Regiments of the Brigade of Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett (Pickett’s Left Flank, marching in a right oblique angle, focusing on the Copse of Trees and Battery A, 1st RILA). The regiments of Garnett’s Brigade were: Col. Eppa Hunton’s—8th Virginia; Col. R.E Withers—18th Virginia; Col. Henry Gantt’s—19th Virginia; Col. R.C. Allen’s—28th Virginia; and Col. W.D. Stuart’s—56th Virginia. In the ensuing mayhem of air thick with iron and lead, elements of other regiments under Brigadier General Lewis Armistead Brigade may have also inadvertently drifted left from their focus on Cushing’s Battery A, 4th U.S. Light Artillery Battery in the center at the angle of the stone fence and in to the Battery A 1st RILA sector of the Union Line. Both Garnett (on horse-back) and Amistead (with his hat pierced on his sword) were killed. All of the Colonels and most of the Majors of both Garnett and Armistead’s Brigades were either killed or wounded. Of the estimated 15,000 men of General James Longstreet’s Corps in the Division of George Pickett (the Brigades of Lewis Armistead, Richard Garnett and James Kemper) including additional Brigades of A.P. Hill’s Corps (Lane’s Brigade, Wilcox Brigade Pettigrew and Trimble’s Brigade), less than half the total Rebels returned safely to the Confederate Line after the failed assault on Hancock’s 2nd Corps in the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge.
As the remnants of Lee’s Grand Assault slowly streamed back, Pickett in perhaps somewhat of a daze after being thrown from his horse due to a Union shell explosion and stunned by the slaughter of his men stood speechless watching his men file past him in the field. General Lee with his staff, not fully aware of the full extent of all that had just happened, road up to confer with Pickett. Fearing the possibility of a Union counter attack Lee asked Pickett to look to his Division and form a defense. The teary eyed Pickett looked up at Lee and said, “General Lee, I have no Division”. At that moment, Lee, the great master, gazed at the field and understood he and his army of “Invincibles” had been beaten at Gettysburg. Lee’s hopes for ending the war with one final big battle on northern soil to gain Confederate independence were gone. The next day, on Saturday, the 4th of July 1863, 30,000 Confederates surrendered to General U.S. Grant at Vicksburg on the Mississippi, effectively splitting the Confederacy in two. That same traditional American celebratory day of Independence, Lee made preparations to retreat from Pennsylvania back to Virginia. It is closely estimated that as many as 53,000 Americans died (killed outright or afterwards died of mortal wounds) at the Battle of Gettysburg, the most costly “three days” of combat of any war in American History—the “High Watermark of the ill fated Confederacy—the moment in time whereby “all” Americans might begin to experience, “ A New Birth of Freedom”.
WHAT THEY SACREFICED ~ FOR US
Battery A Casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg were: four (4) men killed and twenty eight (28) men wounded. The men killed were: John Zimla, acting No. 1 on the No. 6 gun, killed instantly, head blown off by shell explosion; Patrick Lannegan, lead driver, mortally wounded, shot in the stomach; John Higgins, driver mortally wounded, arm and shoulder torn off by shell explosion; and Simon Creamer, mortally wounded with severe shell fragment injury to the head.
Battery A casualties in wounded were: Lieut. Jacob Lamb, shot in the hand, Sergeant Benjamin H. Child, severe wound in the arm; Corporal Wesley B. Calder, shot through the side and back; Corporal Edward Shaw, wound to the shoulder; Corporal Oliver S. Oaks, shot in the arm; Private Michael Grady, leg blown off; Private Gilbert F. Harrison, shot in the foot; Private Michael Markey, shot in the shoulder; Private Horace M. Curtis, shot in the foot; Private Eugene Googin, shot in the arm; Private Charles Cargill, shot in the leg; Private George A. Wellman, shot in the elbow; Private Edward Morrissey, shot in the leg; Private George Hathaway, shot in the shoulder; Private John S. Chapman, shot in the hip; Private Charles Stopple, shot in the leg; Private William Dawson, shot in the arm; Private Emerson Middleton shot in the leg; Private Morris Torndorf, shot in the leg; two men attached to the Battery went missing and were presumed dead. Seven other men were slightly wounded but not disabled.
One gun in the Battery Left Section was destroyed, 30 horses died of wounds and fatigue and two limbers were damaged. The “Sisters of Mercy” rendered all men who were mortally wounded and wounded their kind and tender care.
Battery A, 1st R.I.L.A. in action on the 3rd day of Gettysburg To The Right of the Copse of Trees "Pickett's Charge"
In the center of the painting Col. John G. Hazard (on the brown horse) 2nd Corps Chief of Artillery, who rode up with his guideon bearer to confer with with Capt. Arnold (on foot). To the rear of the Battery guns are all the limbers and caisons. To the right of the hay stack is the Battery Baggage wagon turning to move further to the rear. The left side of the paint shows the Left Section Gun wrecked and out of action hit by a Rebel shell that also killed Simon Creamer. Creamer's body is laying beside his gun. The other Gun Crew of the Left Section are moving their gun forward. The four Guns of the Battery A Center and Right Sections fire at the approching enemy, while Rebel shells dangerously explode around them, killing John Zimla, No.1 Cannoneer working the No. 6 Gun. Thomas M. Aldrich places his friend Patrick Lannegan (shot in the stomach) beside the haystack (to the right) while one of the Sisters of Mercy tries to assist.
The Three Batteries of (Rhode Islander) Col. J. G. Hazard That Met Pickett Brown's Battery B, 1st RILA; Cushing's Battery A, 4th USLA & Arnold's Battery A, 1st RILA
Images Left to Right: Left Photo: Lieut. T. Fred Brown, Commander of Battery B, 1st Regiment R.I. Light Artillery (Wounded). Battery B was pulled out of the line after suffering several casualties and expending most of its ammunition, after the Rebel bombardment and just prior to Lee's Grand Infantry Assault under Pickett.
Center Photo: Lieut. Alonzo Cushing, Commander of Battery A, 4th Regular U.S. Army Light Artillery (Killed in action at the Angle).
Right Photo: Capt. William A. Arnold, Commander of Battery A, 1st Regiment R.I. Light Artillery. Most of Battery A was kept in line through the Rebel artillery bombardment and it helped to repulse the Rebel infantry assault on the Union Center.
Battery B, 1st R.I.L.A. and Battery A, 4th U.S. Light Artillery in action on the 3rd day of Gettysburg To The Left and Center of the Copse of Trees "Pickett's Charge"
Battery B, 1st R.I.L.A. expended all its ammunition and was pulled out of the action. Battery A 4th U.S. was over run by the Rebels.
Throughout the Fall of 1863, the to two opposing armies still trying to recover from the great losses (53,000) at Gettysburg, jousted at each other in Central Virginia; neither side gaining an advantage. On October 14th Battery A engaged the enemy in operations at Bristol Station, and aided in frustrating Lee's attempt to get between General Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac and Washington. The joust continued at the Battle of Bristol Station where Battery A casualties were, one killed and five wounded. Later with Meade’s ill-fated Central Virginia Campaign against Lee in the fight at Mine Run, November 28th, the battery fired sixty rounds and had one man wounded. By the end of the fighting in 1863, on December 11th, Battery A went into winter quarters at Mountain Run, Virginia, and remained quiet for the next six weeks.
Thanks also to Robert Hunt Rhodes for allowing us to use some of his material about his ancestor, Elisha Hunt Rhodes and to Ken Burns for featuring E.H. Rhodes and our State's Civil War History in his PBS series on The Civil War. And a special thanks to David McCullough, Edwin Bearrs, Brian Pohanka, Jeff Shaara and Ron Maxwell for their support for Rhode Island Civil War History and raising the American conscience about the triumphs and tragidies of the Great War of the Rebellion 1861 to 1865.