This Battery Just Keeps Going, and Going, and Going…

20 07 2007

 

A recent post discussed confusion regarding the identity of just which Sherman a Confederate participant in the Battle of Bull Run had in mind when he was referring to “Sherman’s Battery”.  As I said in my last comment to that post, I’m still firmly convinced that the author of the letter discussed was thinking of the “famous” Sherman’s Battery, the one named for T. W. Sherman, not the one attached to W. T. Sherman’s brigade, though the batteries were in fact one and the same.  T. W. Sherman’s Battery was the most celebrated in the U. S. Army; it was the subject of at least one pre-battle illustration in Harper’s Weekly; W. T. Sherman was an unknown colonel at Bull Run; and Sherman’s Brigade fought the battle on the western side of Bull Run without the battery, which was unable to cross, therefore not providing an opportunity for the enemy to associate the battery with the brigade.

Another post-battle letter written by a Confederate soldier has further convinced me that my conclusion in this matter is appropriate (sorry Jake!).  William Agnew (who died May 11, 1863 of disease in Petersburg per this site ) was a member of Company B, 9th Georgia Infantry, which did not reach the field from the Valley in time to take part in the battle.  This is a little confusing since one of the letters (they reside in the Perkins Library at Duke University – my thanks to friend Teej Smith for finding and transcribing) seems to describe action in which he participated.  In a letter to his family dated July 29, 1861 and never intended to be published, he wrote from Bull Run 8 miles from Manassas Junction:

Our loss is supposed to be 25 hundred killed & wounded about 14 thousand of the enemy took 14 hundred prisoners 360 stand of arms and a great number of pistols & ammunition.  Also 3 Batteries. Sherman’s brag & Celebrated & Boast Battery of the North and we got every piece of it.

Well, that seals it for me.  Sherman’s Battery was in fact very well known to the men in the field and the folks at home.  Pvt. Agnew was of course wrong, as none of Sherman’s Battery’s guns were lost.  But this is illustrative of prominent Bull Run phenomena: all Union batteries were Sherman’s Battery; all Confederate batteries were masked; all Confederate cavalry was the Black Horse Troop; all zouaves wore red pants.

But it wasn’t only the soldiers of secessia who misidentified Sherman’s Battery.  On page 78 of R. L. Murray’s “The Greatest Battle of the Age” – New Yorkers at Bull Run is quote from a letter from “A.G.C.” , a member of the 13th  NY Infantry, published in the Rochester Democrat and American on July 30, 1861.  Author Murray introduces the passage: It seems that while in line here [at some point after descending Matthews Hill], supporting the battery, part or all of the 13th helped fight off a charge made by the “Louisiana Zouaves.”

I have reason to think the Louisiana ‘Tigers’ – Jeff Davis’ pet lambs – will long remember the New York 13th.  We were ordered to support Sherman’s battery, and came upon the ‘Tigers,’ who, it seems (according to one of them, who was taken prisoner) were chosen to storm the famous battery, and capture it at all hazards.

If author Murray is right in his placement of this letter in his narrative, then “A.G.C” was mistaken.  Sherman’s Battery did not cross Bull Run (see Ayres’ OR).  Only Ricketts’s Battery I, 1st US, Griffin’s West Point Battery, and Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery fought west of Bull Run.  What makes this “mistake” even more curious is the fact that the 13th NY was part of W. T. Sherman’s Brigade, and certainly should have known T. W. Sherman’s Battery by this time.  Perhaps “A.G.C.” simply assumed that Ayres followed the brigade across Bull Run.  That’s some fog, that fog of war.  While searching the web for “Sherman’s Battery”, I came across numerous acounts of the battery on the field of Bull Run, all over the field, in fact.  For the most part, when a Union battery was identified by name, it was identified as Sherman’s Battery.

It’s getting late, and I think I’ve written enough for one night.  As my friend Chris Army is fond of saying, I like artillery.  Artillery is cool!  Tomorrow I’ll try to post something on the long promised topic of red pants at Bull Run.








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