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BATTERY A
FIRST REGIMENT
RHODE ISLAND LIGHT ARTILLERY
HISTORY

The Dark Time
And
A Glimmer Of Hope

BatteryInsignia BatteryAcrest BatteryInsignia
THE GRITTY ARTILLERY CAPTAIN
COOL AND COURAGEOUS IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE
Battery A Corps Badge Capt Arnold Battery A Corps Badge
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

Major General John Pope Major General George B. McClellan Major General Edwin V. Sumner

Brigadier General John Sedgwick Brigadier General Silas Casey Major General Ambrose E. Burnside

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