BATTERY A FIRST REGIMENT RHODE ISLAND LIGHT ARTILLERY
Battery A History Page SIX
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Thomas M. Aldrich was among the first group of Battery A men to be mustered out of service, their enlistments expired. At day break on June 8, 1864, he and the “Original Boys” of Battery A, who first enrolled in May 1861, assembled in camp to be sent home. They departed the line before Richmond at Cold Harbor about 7 a.m. and marched to White House Landing, VA., where on June 10th again at day break they boarded the propeller driven steam boat “New Jersey” bound for Washington D.C.
The New Jersey made the journey up the Chesapeake to Washington D.C. in record speed and pulled in to Gooseberry Point Washington at about 3 p. m. In late morning the next day, June 11th, after greetings and gifts of cigars given by R.I. U.S. Senator William Sprague, and led by Captain William A. Arnold, they boarded a train bound for Providence, R.I. and home. While on the trip home they learned they were traveling only one day behind the train carrying their original comrades just mustered out of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, also on their way home and led by Lieut. Colonel Elisha Hunt Rhodes. They all left home as wide-eyed boys, but were now returning as full grown steel-eyed men, forged in battle. Little did they know, great crowds were gathered in Providence to greet the returning veterans of the original 2nd RI Battery and the original 2nd RI Infantry.
Unfortunately the men of Battery A had to change trains in New London, CT. The engine of their second train broke down in the station, delaying the arrival of Battery A in Providence for several hours. Finally all was fixed and the conductor yelled, 'all aboard'. The delay gave them pause to reflect on their three long years of service to the country, honorably fulfilled and measured step by step, on enumerable occasions, by the trials and travails of bloody combat often in epic proportion. They made history. Memories of all they endured would be with them till the end of their days. As feared when they embarked on their once thought adventure, some of their comrades were no longer among them. Upon crossing the State Line into Rhode Island, Thomas M. Aldrich and his compatriots stared at the familiar Ocean State countryside through the windows of their train cars, balancing their excitement with thoughts of friends lost in battle, or due to sickness and disease in camp. Their absent comrades would remain behind for all time standing the wall of freedom's fortress in the defense of the people. Aldrich and those who escaped the hand of the Almighty could hardly believe their ordeal was over and wondered if their lives would be the same as when they left to take up arms for the Union. Was the train delay an omen, meaning they too were not meant to return, and if they did, would anyone care?
The Battery arrived in Providence two days after their comrades of the 2nd RI Volunteer Infantry. To their tears of joy and great surprise, family members of the men of Battery A and enthusiastic Rhode Islanders had camped on the wooden benches as well as the cold floors at the Providence train station waiting and worried about their loved ones. When the train carrying the men of Battery A finally came chugging into Providence Station in late afternoon on June 13th 1865, the depot was once again completely “jammed with people”, including many of the men of the 2nd RI Infantry who also waited at the station for their comrades of Battery A to arrive. As soldiers they all did their duty and the people rushing the station platforms to greet them certainly did not let them down.
In the words of Thomas M. Aldrich: “The first person I met was my sister, and she appeared to be overcome with joy at meeting me. The Captain endeavored to form the men into a line, but it was no use. Husbands, wives, and sweethearts were embracing each other, so overjoyed were they to meet again. While I was surveying this animated scene I was nearly taken off my feet; three or four of my friends had surrounded me. I was so delighted at the thought of my arrival in ‘Little Rhody’ that I hardly knew how to act. I finally went home with my relatives, rejoicing in the fact that I was a free man again, and that war’s rude alarms would no longer disturb me.”
The men of Battery A were among about 23,000 of their fellow Rhode Islanders who served in the Civil War. About 1,700 Rhode Islanders did not return. As Civil War Veterans, many of the 'Rhodey' Union Officers became members of MOLLUS and likewise many officers and enlisted men became members of the GAR, to share their experiences and dedicated to comfort the widows and orphans of their fallen comrades. But most veterans simply came home to resume their former lives as if nothing happened, and faded into history, only to perhaps remind the people once a year on Memorial Day, about all they did for America.
A SUMMERY OF BATTERY A SERVICE
Duty in the Defenses of Washington, D.C., until July 16, 1861. Advance on Manassas, Va., July 16-21. Battle of Bull Run July 21. Moved to Sandy Hook, Md., July 28. Duty there and at Berlin and Darnestown until September. Moved to Harper's Ferry September 16. Action at Bolivar Heights October 16. At Muddy Branch and Poolesville, Md., until March, 1862. Moved to Washington, thence to Hampton, Va., March 22-April 1.
Virginia Peninsula Campaign April to August. Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4. Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) May 31-June 1. Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Peach Orchard and Savage Station June 29. Charles City Cross Roads and Glendale June 30. Malvern Hill July 1. At Harrison's Landing until August 16. Movement to Alexandria August 16-28. March to Fairfax C. H. August 28-31. Cover retreat of Pope's Army from Bull Run to Washington August 31-September 1. Maryland Campaign September. Battles of South Mountain, Md., September 14, and Antietam September 16-17. Moved to Harper's Ferry September 22, and duty there until October 30. Reconnaissance to Charlestown October 16-17. Action at Charlestown October 16. Advance up Loudoun Valley and movement to Falmouth, Va., October 30-November 17. Battle of Fredericksburg December 11-15. Duty at Falmouth until April, 1863.
Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6. Maryes Heights, Fredericksburg, May 3. Salem Heights May 3-4. Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 11-July 24. Battle of Gettysburg July 1-4. Advance from the Rappahannock to the Rapidan September 13-17. Bristoe Campaign October 9-22. Bristoe Station October 14. Auburn Heights October 14. Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8. Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2. At Stevensburg, Va., until May, 1864.
Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7. Morton's Ford February 6-7. Campaign from the Rapidan to the James May-June. Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7; Spotsylvania May 8-12; Po River May 10; Spotsylvania C. H. May 12-21. Assault on the Salient May 12. North Anna River May 23-26. Line of the Pamunkey May 26-28. Totopotomoy May 28-31. Shallow Creek May 31. Cold Harbor June 1-12. Before Petersburg June 16-18. Siege of Petersburg June 16-September 30. Jerusalem Plank Road June 21-23. Deep Bottom July 27-28. Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30 (Reserve). Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, August 14-18. Ream's Station August 25. The Battery A soldiers who's enlistments had not expired were transferred to take over the battle depleted Battery B, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, near Petersburg on September 30, 1864. The bulk of the unit who's enlistments had expired, returned to Providence under Captain Arnold. Upon it return home Battery A was reformed as part of the R.I. State Guard (later the R.I. National Guard). It served with distinction in WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm and continues the R.I. Artillery Tradition as part of the 103rd R.I. Army National Guard Field Artillery, A Battery.
The grave of Captain William A. Arnold and wife Eliza Locust Grove Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island Photo: RI SUVCW Elisha Dyer Camp No. 7, SUVCW Successor to RI GAR Arnold Post No. 4
~ Battery A Rhode Islanders Lost ~
BATTERY A CIVIL WAR CASUALTY STATISTICS
Thirty-nine (39) men were attached to Battery A from other units from June 1861 to May 1864. Two (2) of these men were killed, six (6) wounded, and three (3) went to the hospital sick. The remainder returned to their regiments. In addition to these men, there were forty (40) men attached to the Battery at Cold Harbor, on June 6, 7, and 8, after the term of service of the original members of the battery had expired, including the eleven (11) attached men from the Second Rhode Island Infantry, in July 1861. During its service Battery A had during ninety (90) attached men to assist in working its guns, besides ninety-five (95) recruits from Rhode Island. Its number of original members was one hundred and fifty-six (156), making a total of three hundred and forty-one men (341) who were enlisted or attached. Some new recruits failed to report for duty. Eighteen (18) new recruits were known to have deserted before reaching the Battery in the field. By the end of the war a large number of new recruits had been sent to other Rhode Island Light Artillery Batteries of the 1st Regiment, but their records were never properly coordinated with the official Battery A as well as the other seven (7) R.I. Light Artillery Battery Musters, by Jeffery Hazard of the PMCA; who became Adjutant of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery Regiment. Click HERE to see the Battery A Unit Roster. Click HERE to see the Roster of Unassigned men. Battery A suffered most of its casualties in wounded and killed at: The 1st Battle of Bull Run (2 killed), the Battle of Antietam (4 killed), the Battle of Gettysburg (4 killed), the Battle of Bristoe Station (2 killed), the Battle of the Wilderness (1 killed), the Battle of the Po River (1 killed), and the Battle of Cold Harbor (2 killed). Total killed, eighteen, one officer and seventeen men; nine original members, four recruits, and four attached men.
The final push to Appomattox
LIST OF KILLED & MORTALLY WOUNDED MEN SERVING IN BATTERY A
Commissioned Officers Killed:
Hunt,Peter; Lieut., Promoted from first sergeant of Battery C; killed at Swift or Totopotomoy Creek (Cold Harbor), Va., May 31, 1864.
First Muster, Original Enlisted Battery A Members Killed:
Bourne, William E.; of the first two Battery casualties, killed by accidental explosion of a limber chest in Washington, D. C., July 9, 1861.
Bur, Frederic K.; killed at the 1st Battle of Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861.
Gladding, Olney D.; killed at the 1st Battle of Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861.
Lannegan, Patrick K.; killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3, 1863.
Lawrence, John H.; killed at the Battle of Antietam, Md., Sept. 17, 1862.
Moran, John K.; killed in action at the Battle of Bristoe Station, Va., Oct. 14, 1863.
Morse, Nathan T.; of the first two Battery casualties, killed by accidental explosion of a limber chest in Washington, D. C., July 9, 1861.
Reed, Charles M.; Sergeant, killed at the Battle of Antietam, Md., Sept. 17, 1862.
Zimala, John K.; killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3, 1863.
Enlisted Battery A Members Recruited After Original Unit Muster Killed:
Bosworth, Joseph T.; killed at the Battle of Antietam, Md., Sept. 17, 1862.
Church; Norris L.; killed at the Battle of Swift or Totopotomoy Creek (Cold Harbor), Va., May 31, 1864.
Lawrence, Charles A.; killed at the Battle of the Wilderness, Va. May 6, 1864.
Stone, Edwin; killed at the Battle of Antietam, Md., Sept. 17, 1862.
Battery A, Volunteer Attached Enlisted Men From Other Units Killed:
Creamer, Simon W.; Co. K, 12th New Jersey Infantry, killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3, 1863.
Higgins, John C.; Co. K, 2d Rhode Island Infantry, killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3, 1863.
Willet, Loring W.; 19th Maine Infantry, killed at Battle of Po River, May 10, 1864.
*Creighton, Philip; no unit record received, killed shortly after attached at the Battle of Bristoe Station, Oct. 14, 1863. His family could not be contacted so they never knew what happened to him.
A summary of Battery A, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery losses during service in the Late Unpleasantness, 1861 to 1865:
1 Officer was killed in action, 12 Enlisted men were killed in action or by accident and/or were mortally wounded, 5 Enlisted men died of disease, 29 men were wounded and out of service, 49 men were discharged from service due to sickness, and 9 men were captured or were accounted as missing in action. The total Battery A losses in all categories 1861 to 1864 were 105 men, 7 guns and about 450 horses due to combat wounds and fatigue; an outstanding combat service record for a unit that saw a high level of combat in every major campaign with the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, in the Civil War.
Civil War Commanders of BATTERY A
Lieut. J. Albert MonroeOrganized Battery A, end of May, 1861
Capt. William H. ReynoldsFirst Official Battery A Commander (June 6, 1861 to August 1861)
Capt. John A. TompkinsTook Command when Reynolds was promoted (served August 1861 to December 1862)
Capt. William A. ArnoldLongest serving (December 1862 to June 1864) and best known Battery A Commander (Arnold's Battery) who returned to Rhode Island with the first original men of Battery A on June 13, 1864
Lieut. G. Lyman DwightBattery Commander (June 15, 1864 to July 7, 1864), who rebuilt Battery A after the departure of the first men who mustered out, but he was mustered out of service and returned to Providence on July 17, 1864
Lieut. William S. Perrin On July 7, 1864, was officially transferred from Battery B, 1st RILA, and ordered to take command of Battery A. On August 12, 1864, the second detachment of Battery A finished their 3 years of service as well as the original men of Battery B and departed for home. At this point there were not enough men to sufficiently man the Battery A ordnance in the field. Since Battery B was in need of new ordnance and both Batteries A and B were severely under strength a decision was made to combine the two Rhode Island Batteries. On August 12, 1864, Col. John G. Hazard, 2nd Corps Chief of Artillery, (a former Section Chief of Battery A) made the controversial decision to transfer all remaining men of Battery A and its ordnance to Battery B, (in desparate need of replacement ordnance) under former Battery A Sergeant and Battery B Captain T. Fred Brown. The remainder of the men of Battery A served with Battery B from August 12, 1864 to Lee's Surrender at Appomattox, April 9, 1865, then mustered out of service with Battery B on June 12, 1865. The final group of Battery A men who mustered out with Battery B, were to the end of their days extremely proud of their service in the war with both Batteries A and B, however they first and foremost considered themselves Veterans of Battery A in the GAR and with their unit comrades.
Arlington Cemetery Virginia where several Rhode Island Civil War Veterans rest and number among the more than 624,000 men who gave their lives on both sides during the Civil War
After the war the men of Battery A formed a Unit Association that lasted until all the original veterans of the unit were gone. Today we honor Captain Arnold and Battery A and have re-incorporated the name under the Rhode Island Grand Army of the Repulic-GAR Civil War Museum, Library and Research Center in Cranston; also in honor of the R.I. GAR-Civil War Veterans of R.I. GAR Arnold Post No.4, which was named after Captain William A. Arnold.
The only pause in the Battery A Unit History (June 6th 1861 to the present) are the final 9 months of the Civil War (September 30, 1864 to June 18, 1865, when Battery A was combined with Battery B to finish out the war; an action disapproved by nearly all Battery A Civil War Veterans. Batteries A, B, & C were reformed as part of the post war Rhode Island State Guard, the precursor of the Rhode Island National Guard. Today Battery A continues its active military service under the 103rd Field Artillery, R.I. Army National Guard as Alpha Battery serving in Iraq, and the Battery A Unit Association of the Rhode Island Grand Army of the Republic GAR Civil War Museum, continues to promote its Civil War roots and historical legacy. Brothers to the end.
FOR MORE HISTORY ABOUT BATTERY A & RHODE ISLAND CIVIL WAR ARTILLERY
Still Riding To The Sound Of Battle Red Legs First ~ Mission Always HUZAUH ! For The Old Fellows In Blue Battery A, First Regiment, Rhode Island Light Artillery
Sources:________________ The original RI MOLLUS-RI Soldiers & Sailors Historical Society "Personal Narratives" of J. Albert Monroe, Frank Butts, Rev. Augustus P. Woodbury, Eugene A. Cory, E. Benjamin Andrews, William H. Nichols, III, John H. Rhodes, Benjamin H. Child, Ezra K. Parker, Daniel R. Ballou, Ambrose E. Burnside and Elisha Hunt Rhodes; "The History of Battery A, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery", by Thomas M. Aldrich; "The History of Battery E, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery", by Lewis; "The History of Battery B, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery", by Rhodes; "The History of Battery D, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery", by Sumner; "The 1864 U.S. Army Field Artillery Manual", by John Gibbon; "Memoirs of Rhode Island Officers", 1868 by Bartlett; Gettysburg, What They Did Here, by Minnigh; Deeds of Valor, by Beyer & Keydel; "RI GAR Encampment Proceedings" 1868-1876; "The 1893 R.I. Adjutant General's Report", by Elisha Dyer; "All For The Union", by Robert Hunt Rhodes, 1985; "The Artilleryman"; "Campfires and Battlefields", by Johnson; "The History of the 1st Rhode Island Volunteers", by Woodbury; "The History of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers", by Woodbury; "The Civil War Time Life Series"; "The Blue and The Gray" a National Geographic Book on the Civil War, and the 1963 National Geographic Magazine Gettysburg Centennial eddition; "The Life of Ambrose E. Burnside", 1882, by Benjamin Perley Poore; and "Union Blue", by Dr. Robert G. Carroon & Shoaf, 2001
Additional Sources:______________ The National Achives; The Rhode Island State Archives; The Library of Congress, The Rhode Island Historical Society; and The Cranston Historical Society.
For information about the recent books cited, "All For The Union", contact R.H. Rhodes HERE and "Union Blue", contact R.G. Carroon HERE
To get information about the Ken Burns PBS series, "The Civil War", featuring Rhode Islanders in the Civil War, click HERE at Florentine Films.
Battery A also proudly carries on the tradition welcoming the Adjutant General/Commanding General of the R.I. National Guard as an Honorary member.
A LITTLE KNOWN BATTERY A FOOTNOTE "A FAST FACT" DID YOU KNOW ?
General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing
Immediately prior to World War I, a short-lived conflict called The Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916-1917 occupied national attention. Lost in the shadow of the "Great War," the conflict has disappeared from most Rhode Island record books even though the Rhode Island National Guard was called in to national service to assist.
In January 1916, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, a bandit who opposed the Mexican president, killed nineteen American rail passengers in Mexico. Then in March, he led a raid across the United States and Mexico border with approximately 500 followers and attacked the small American New Mexico community of Columbus. In this skirmish, at least fifteen American soldiers died, as did a few Mexican troops. This was just one of the many border conflicts in which Villa and his men participated along the Texas and New Mexico frontiers.
Following the attack on Columbus, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson directed (then Brigadier) General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing to command 14,000 Army troops to hunt down Villa. Additionally 140,000 members of the army and National Guard protected the border between the United States and Mexico. Rhode Island members of the Light Battery A, Rhode Island Field Artillery, participated in this conflict.
The goal of the campaign was to capture Villa, but this never happened. He and his followers proved impossible to detain despite being greatly outnumbered. The “Punitive” Expedition failed to fulfill its mission, but Woodrow Wilson campaigned for re-election with the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War,” meaning a war with Mexico, not the war looming in Europe.
By: Maureen A. Taylor
A two part historical overview of the Punitive Expedition in Mexico 1916 - 1917, appears in a two-part article by Mitchell Yockelson
NOTE: John J. Pershing received his nickname 'Black Jack', a name he held with great pride, because in 1898, he led the 10th Cavalry Regiment "The Buffalo Soldiers", a unit of hard fighting African American troopers, who received their name in the Post Civil War Plains Indian Wars, and who fought side by side under Pershing with Teddy Roosevelt's 'Rough Riders' in the famous charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish American War. Later Pershing led all American Forces to victory against 'The Hun' in World War I and loved breaking bread in the field with units he knew well like Battery A.
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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.