BATTERY A FIRST REGIMENT RHODE ISLAND LIGHT ARTILLERY
WAR WITHOUT END Many-A-Vacant-Chair
BATTERY A HISTORY Page FIVE
This Page Still Under Construction New Information Forthcoming
Top Commanders Of 1864-65
Photos Left to Right: Major General John Gibbon, MOLLUS ID# 06388 Lieutenant General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, MOLLUS ID# 02006 Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, MOLLUS ID# 00161.
GRANT TAKES COMMAND
"We were decidedly of the opinion that Lee had at last found himself an antagonist whom he would have some difficulty in coping." Thomas M. Aldrich Battery A, 1st RILA
On February 6, 1864, the battery marched with General Hancock’s 2nd Corps to Morton's Ford, Va., where it took position, and engaged the enemy during a brief day long engagement. The next day, on the morning of the 7th the Battery again skirmished with the enemy, and at 6 o'clock p.m., marched back to camp near Stevensburg, VA., where it remained until Spring. On the 3rd of May, 1864, the Battery became part of the grand march of the entire Army of the Potomac, under Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant South through Central Virginia towards Richmond. Battery A was hotly engaged in the Battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Spottsylvania Court House and the North Anna River, North of Richmond. This was the first phase of Grant’s 1864 Campaign against Lee and during this time Battery A lost a several more of its seasoned veterans in wounded as well as many more horses that had to be replaced due to wounds and fatigue. At the Battle of Cold Harbor (Northeast of Richmond) on May 30, 1864, as Grant tried a major frontal assault against Lee’s heavily fortified lines protecting Richmond, Battery A fought in close contact with the enemy. During the engagement Battery A Section Commander Lt. Peter Hunt was mortally wounded and Captain Arnold received a mini ball through his hat, but Arnold escaped the terrible contest unharmed. At Cold Harbor, the Union lost about 10,000 men in the first 15 minutes of Grant’s assault. Lieutenant Peter Hunt was actually wounded in the foot, and was later taken to a hospital in Washington, where the limb ended up being amputated. Sinking under the effects of the wound, he died on June 14th. His remains were brought to Providence, and on the 20th, after an impressive service in the Central Congregational Church, were escorted to their last resting place by thirty men of the Battery. In Battery A, as Section Chief, Lieutenant Hunt had gained the character of a fearless and extremely reliable officer, who was not affraid to take risks. After Cold Harbor, on June 4th and 5th, the Battery occupied another exposed position at Gaines' Farm, and joined in the general bombardment of the Rebel defenses of Richmond.
THE BATTERY A CARD de VISIT PORTFOLIO
Some of the most notable men who were promoted to become Officers & NCOs of Battery A
1st Row Left to Right: Gamaliel Lyman Dwight; Benjamin H. Child (Medal of Honor Recipient); Charles H. Clark; and William A. Arnold.
2nd Row Left to Right: Elmer L. Corthell; Harry C. Cushing; James P. Rhodes; and Thomas F. Vaughn.
3rd Row Left to Right: Peter Hunt (Killed at Cold Harbor); T. Frederick Brown; Henry W. Newton; and Jeffery Hazard.
4th Row Left to Right: George E. Randolph; 1st Sgt. William D. Child; Sgt. Steven M. Greene; and Sgt. James B. Buffum.
5th Row Left to Right: William S. Perrin; A. M. C. Olney; G. W. Field; and E. Shaw.
BATTERY A—TO—BATTERY B
By mid 1864, in the Army of the Potomac, Battery A had served under Generals McDowell, Pope, McLellan, Burnside, Hooker, Meade and finally Grant. As the enlistments of Battery A Veterans ran out what remained of Battery A was reassigned under Battery B. Battery A Veterans mustered out of service in September, 1864. By the deployment and siege at Petersburg, and the end of their 3 year enlistments, Captain Arnold lead the majority of his men back to Providence, R.I. to a triumphant welcome home celebration at downtown Exchange Place in late 1864, winning the love and admiration of his men and the people of his state forever. The balance of the men of Battery A remained in the field after the departure of those whose three year term of service had expired. However, about 50 men remained in Battery A, with time left to serve. They were eventually reassigned to help reform Battery B, 1st R.I. Light Artillery, which earlier had suffered very high casualties in killed, wounded and captured at the Battle of Ream's Station. At Reams Station Battery B was decimated and badly under strength, also losing most of its artillery ordnance and horses. The remaining men of Battery A served in the reformed Battery B, 1st R.I. Light Artillery to the end of the war under Major T. Frederick Brown and Lieutenant William B. Wescott. Those still in the field were newer recruits or re-enlisted Battery A Veterans. After the departure of the Battery A Veterans who were mustering out, command of what was left of Battery A devolved on Lieutenant Gamaliel Lyman Dwight, who at first expertly tried to re-organize Battery A, rather than see his unit put under another. He procured men from other batteries of the 2nd Corps to supply its man power deficiencies, and in three days announced Battery A was ready for the front. It was assigned to General Birney's division, and was the first Battery to cross over the James River and fire the first shot into Petersburg. On the same day, (June 15th,) Lieutenant Dwight received the official thanks of Major General Birney commanding officer, for the handsome manner in which he placed his Battery in position under fire, and drove the enemy from the field. After silencing the enemy's guns, it entrenched itself in its position, which it held during the day. Early the next day, at General Barlow's request, the Battery moved to the front and right, where Lieutenant Dwight received the General's thanks in person for the effective service performed. On the 23d of September, despite their objections, Battery A was finally consolidated with and under Battery B. This action terminated Battery A’s distinctive history marked by its brilliant deeds throughout most of the Civil War.
Battery Forward !
The term of service of the original three year men having expired, the bulk of Battery A returned home under Captain Arnold and arrived in Providence on Monday morning, June 13th. Their return was received with a cannon salute fired by the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery Home Guard Militia, and then everyone marched to the Old Arsenal on Benefit Street where the men of Battery A were welcomed by R.I. State Guard Adjutant-General Mauran and by Major Allen in fitting terms of congratulation. The Grand Old Gun (The Battery A Bull Run Cannon), the only one left of the six with which Battery A went into its first action at the First Battle of Bull Run, occupied the center floor space of the Old Arsenal hall. The Battery A Cannon was an object of special interest and great importance. After partaking a lavish collation, the original men of Battery A were dismissed for the last time. On the evening of June 15th, a sumptuous complimentary supper was given to the Veterans of Battery A at in Providence at the City Hotel, sponsored by a number of Rhode Island gentlemen whose interest in the welfare of the Veterans and Battery A History had been unabated through its long and honorable career. Three long tables were filled with food which presented a superb spectacle, especially to the Battery Veterans who had not eaten so well for over 3 years. The Hon. Thomas A. Doyle, Mayor of Providence, presided over the feast. Among the guests were Lieutenant-Governor Padelford, Hon. Amos C. Barstow, Earl P. Mason, Esq., Hon. William M. Rodman, Rev. Augustus Woodbury, Adjutant-General Edward C. Mauran, Major General Olney Arnold, General Charles T. Robbins, General Joseph P. Balch, Colonel Henry T. Sisson, Colonel S. B. M. Read, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry C. Jenckes, Major Stephen H. Brown, and various other Civil War Veterans of the 1861 original Rhode Island Brigade (1st & 2nd R.I. Volunteer Infantry Regiments) and gentlemen of distinction in Rhode Island civil and military life. The American Brass Band was also in attendance, and its music formed a welcome part of the entertainment. A graceful address of welcome was made by Mayor Doyle, which was responded to with a tearful address by Captain Arnold. Patriotic sentiments were offered by all officers and gentlemen in attendance, and brief speeches were also made by Lieutenant-Governor Padelford, Lieutenant Whiteside of the U.S. Army, Rev. Augustus Woodbury, Colonel William H. Reynolds, the first commander of the Battery in 1861, as well as the Honorable A. C. Barstow, Captain De La Mesa, of the U. S. Veteran Reserve Corps, Lieutenant Ramsey, of the U. S. Ordnance Corps, George W. Danielson, Esq., Colonel Nicholas Van Slyck, Generals Mauran, Arnold, Balch and Robbins, plus Dr. Charles G. McKnight, the first surgeon of the battery, Captain Charles D. Owen, Caesar A. Updike, Esq., Colonel Sisson and Major Allen. Cheers were given for Governor Sprague and General Burnside, and at a very late hour the entire company at the feast finally separated. The battery was officially mustered out of service June 18th.
The Final Act of a Tragic Drama
THE LAST COMMANDER
Left to Right: When T. Fred Brown was promoted Major and put on Col. John G. Hazard's Artillery Staff. Lieut. William B. Wescott was given command of Battery B. Wescott was the last commander of Battery B, under which the last men in the field of Battery A served up to the surrender of Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army at Appomattox. Wescott led the last serving men of Batteries A & B home to Providence.
Photos Left to right: Prvt. Henry F. Hicks, who lost both feet at Fredericksburg; Prvt. Thomas M. Aldrich, who served 3 years in every battle, never sick or wounded, Aldrich wrote the Regimental History of Battery A in 1904; and Prvt. William C. Dore, cited for bravery in combat above and beyond the call of duty.
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.