Sorry – Sherman’s Battery Yet Again.

2 11 2008

For some reason that escapes me now, I was looking at this site today, specifically at this picture:

This picture isn’t new to me.  I’ve used it in my round table program, and I’ve posted it here before.  It appeared in the June 8, 1861 issue of Harper’s Weekly.  The caption reads SHERMAN’S BATTERY OF LIGHT ARTILLERY, NOW IN VIRGINIA.  The word SHERMAN’S is hyperlinked to another issue of Harper’s Weekly featuring a story on William T. Sherman.  You’ll also notice that the Son of the South page is titled General William T. Sherman’s Artillery.  As you may recall from this series of posts, I contend that this battery, which is undoubtedly Company (Battery) E of the 3rd US Artillery, and which was undoubtedly attached to William T. Sherman’s brigade at Bull Run, was referred to as Sherman’s Battery not because of the commander of the brigade to which it was attached, but rather because of its commander in the War with Mexico, Thomas W. Sherman, who was not with McDowell’s army.  Seeing this link on this particular web page today set me off, and I had to find more to support my belief that people making this I.D. get it wrong.

It doesn’t seem that anyone at the time got it wrong – the mistakes get made later, by historians and other writers, including big shots like C. Vann Woodward.  On page 105 of Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, editor Woodward footnoted Chesnut’s mention of the capture of Sherman’s Battery, explaining that she probably meant Ricketts’s battery, “which was not a part of the brigade commanded by Col. William Tecumseh Sherman”.  She probably DID mean Sherman’s Battery, which was famous for its Mexican War service and just happened to be part of Sherman’s brigade, because ill-informed Confederate reports of its capture abounded.  But she probably never heard of the obscure colonel at the head of the brigade to which the battery was attached.

At the time, people writing about Sherman’s Battery knew just what they were talking about.  It seems obvious to me that artillery batteries simply were not named for the commanders of the infantry brigade to whom they may have been temporarily attached – can you imagine an artilleryman happily serving in a battery named for an INFANTRY commander?  But I wanted to see if I could find any mention of the battery in the ORs prior to the battle.

I found two, in the same volume of the ORs (Series I, Vol. 2) that contains the Bull Run reports and correspondence.  On page 39, NY militia Major General Charles W. Sandford wrote in a report on the advance of Federal forces to Arlington Heights and Alexandria, dated May 28, 1861:

Sherman’s battery of light artillery rendered prompt and efficient service throughout the movement, and one of the sections captured the troop of Virginia Cavalry at Alexandria.

On page 40, Samuel Heintzelman’s report of the same action mentions Sherman’s battery again, but that report is dated July 20:

Captain Brackett commanded the company of cavalry (I, Second Cavalry) that crossed the Long Bridge, and the artillery, I think, belonged to Maj. T. W. Sherman’s battery.

That seals it for me, in two ways.  First, Heintzelman refers to the battery (which was indeed Battery E, 3rd US: even the compilers knew that, because I found these two pages in the index under that heading) as T. W. Sherman’s.  Second, Sandford’s report, in which he mentions Sherman’s battery, was written on May 28, 1861.  William T. Sherman didn’t receive a brigade to command until a month later, on June 30.

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2 responses

22 11 2008
Linda Mott

Harry,
Interesting tidbit…? I found this article discussing the confusion existing at the time between the two Sherman’s, and to whom the battery was named after. Actually, I was trying to clear up my own confusion! Article located online in NY Times Archive under “The Two Shermans” dated Aug. 11, 1861. Search… “The Two Shermans.” Date appears below brief blurb about article. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/nytarchive.html
Linda

22 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Linda,

Once again, thanks! Here’s a link to the article in pdf:

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9905E3DC103FEE34BC4952DFBE66838A679FDE&oref=slogin

I’ll transcribe this (or copy it to Word, more likely) and post a follow up article.

Good stuff!

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