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.





Inquiring Minds Want to Know…

3 07 2007

 

 mcbragg.jpghhsibley.jpg

…was Confederate general Henry Hopkins Sibley the inspiration for the physical appearance of cartoon legend Commander McBragg?  If the song isn’t running around in your noggin yet, go here and it soon will be.

This post was inspired by the Ayres photo below.  For all you Gilbert & Sullivan fans, he is the very model of a modern major general (though when the war was over he became a lieutenant colonel).  OK, so I’m no lyricist.

ayres3.jpg

 

 





Romeyn Beck Ayres

29 06 2007

Romeyn Beck Ayres; born East Creek, NY 12/20/25; fluent in Latin; first wife Emily Louis Gerry Dearborn; second wife was Juliet Opie Hopkins Butcher, the daughter of Juliet Opie Hopkins; West Point Class of 1847 (22 of 35); Bvt 2nd Lt 4th US Arty 7/1/47; 2nd Lt 3rd Arty 9/22/47; served in garrison in Puebla and Mexico City, Mexico; 1st Lt 3/16/52; Capt 5th Arty 5/14/61; Artillery, W. F. Smith’s Div., 4th Corps, Army of the Potomac (AotP), 10/3/61 to 3/13/62; Artillery, 2nd Div., 4th Corps, AotP, 3/13/62 to 5/18/62; Artillery, 2nd Div., 6th Corps, AotP, 5/18/62 to 11/16/62; Artillery, 6th Corps, AotP, 11/16/62 to 4/4/63; BGUSV 11/29/62 (n 3/4/63 c 3/9/63); 1st Brig., 2nd Div, 5th Corps, AotP 4/21/64 to 6/28/63; 2nd Div, 5th Corps, AotP 6/28/63 to 3/24/64; Bvt Maj 7/2/63 for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of Gettysburg; 4th Brig, 1st Div, 5th Corps, AotP 3/24/64 to 4/64; 1st Brig, 1st Div, 5th Corps, AotP 4/64 to 6/5/64; Bvt Lt Col 5/5/64 for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of the Wilderness; 2nd Div, 5th Corps, AotP 6/6/64 to 12/22/64 and 1/8/65 to 6/28/65; wounded at Petersburg, VA 6/20/64; Bvt MGUSV 8/1/64 (n 7/17/66 c 7/23/66) for conspicuous gallantry in Battles of Wilderness, Spotsylvania CH, Jericho Mills, Bethesda Church, Petersburg, Weldon RR (Globe Tavern), and for faithful service in the campaign; Bvt Col 8/18/64 for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of Weldon RR; Bvt BGUSA 3/13/65 (n 4/10/66 c 5/4/66) for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of Five Forks; Bvt MGUSA 3/13/65 (n 7/17/66 c 7/23/66) for gallant and meritorious service in the field during the war; 3rd Div, Provisional Corps, 6/28/65 to 7/65; Dist of the Shenandoah Valley, Middle Dept, 8/23/65 to 4/30/66; mustered out of volunteers 4/30/66; Lt Col 28th US Inf 7/28/66; 19th US Inf 3/15/69; 3rd Arty 12/15/70; served in garrison in various posts including Little Rock, AK, Jackson Barracks, LA, and Key West, FL; Col 2nd Arty 7/18/79; supervised various posts in FL; died Fort Hamilton, NY 12/4/88; buried Arlington National Cemetery, VA, Sec 1, site 12.   

Sources: Eicher & Eicher, Civil War High Commands, pp 110-111, 706, 710, 718 732; Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U. S. Army, Vol. I p 177; Sifakis, Who was Who in the American Civil War, pp 23-24; Warner, Generals in Blue, pp 387-388. 

ayres1.jpgayres2.jpgayres3.jpgayresmarker.jpg  
  Photo credits: a, b, c; www.generalsandbrevets.com d; findagrave.com

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Sherman’s Battery, and Sherman’s Battery, Too, but not Really

25 06 2007

First let me apologize for the paucity of posts this past week.  I’m self employed, which means when I go on vacation (say, to Shiloh), I have to work frenetically to catch myself up before I go and when I get back.  And when I did get back, I had to get a little medical procedure out of the way.  I did post two brief articles, and outlined quite a few more, but in the process of writing another I got way off track, which happens to me all the time and is really what this blog is all about.

That post was one alluded to in my last, and concerns an article in the current issue of Civil War Times Illustrated.  No, not the Pete Carmichael interview of Gary Gallagher that burned up the blogosphere for a few days a couple of weeks ago.  The article in question here is First View of First Manassas by Joseph Pierro, which features a letter from a Virginia cavalryman to his wife.

I thought this would be a pretty straightforward look at a battle participant’s [William B. Newton of the Hanover Light Dragoons] letter home that would serve as a lead-in to a bigger piece I’ve been thinking about, one that considers the limitations associated with eyewitness accounts.  The apparent lust with which Newton and his cohorts – as described in the letter – assaulted unarmed Yankee soldiers and civilians also fit in with some research I’m doing concerning battlefield “atrocities”.  Instead, one seemingly insignificant, annotated sentence derailed me.

But no! the gallant 27th, envious of the glorious achievement of the 4th, at a sing[l]e dash, had charged a regiment of regulars, swept them from the field, and taken every gun in [Colonel William T.] Sherman’s battery.

Here’s a Harper’s Weekly engraving of Sherman’s Battery before the battle, and a photo of it shortly thereafter: 

shermansbattjune-8hw.jpgshermanbullrun.jpg

No, it wasn’t the fact that not a single gun in Sherman’s Battery was lost in the battle that set me off.  That inaccuracy in fact fits in perfectly with the often significant inaccuracies associated with contemporary, first-person accounts.  Rather, it was the editor’s bracketed “clarification” of just who the Sherman in Sherman’s Battery was.  The problem is that the Sherman in question was not William Tecumseh.

grapeb.jpgIn 1861, Sherman’s Battery was the most famous company of artillery in the nation.  It had won its fame in the War with Mexico at the Battle of Buena Vista, where along with the battery commanded by Braxton Bragg (of whom Zachary Taylor requested “a little more grape”, see watercolor at left) it played a key role in the repulse of  an enemy counter-attack.  It would appear that editor Pierro is not the first to erroneously associate William T. Sherman with the battery of the same name, as this site claims that Bragg fought alongside “Cump” at Buena Vista (W. T. was in California during the war).  No, the battery otherwise known as Company E, 3rd U. S. Artillery was commanded at Buena Vista by Thomas W. “Old Tim” Sherman, and even after he moved on to other commands, the battery remained known as Sherman’s Battery.  That’s his photo below on the left, courtesy of the LOC.  Nice hairdo – I guess he wanted to be taken seriously (see this post). 

 twsherman.jpgayres.jpg

So, why the confusion?  Well, that’s where things get confusing.  First of all, (T. W.) Sherman’s Battery was attached to (W. T.) Sherman’s brigade of Daniel Tyler’s Division at Bull Run.  At the time it was under the command of Capt. Romeyn B. Ayres (to the right of Sherman above, also courtesy LOC).  So, technically speaking, the battery was W. T.’s.  But that is certainly not the Sherman to whom the letter writer was referring.  So, either the editor was unaware of the story of the famous Sherman’s Battery, or he was unaware that the famous Sherman’s Battery was on the field at Bull Run.  That’s not as unlikely as it sounds, if he used as his source the Orders of Battle included in three of the most recent studies of the campaign.

Stay with me.

There are eight “major” studies of the Campaign of First Bull Run.  The earliest work, R. M. Johnston’s Bull Run: Its Strategy and Tactics, includes an order of battle (OOB) and a table that identifies the battery in Sherman’s Brigade as E of the 3rd.  It takes some looking though and the book was written in 1913.  David Detzer’s Donnybrook, Russell Beatie’s Road to Manassas, and Ethan Rafuse’s A Single Grand Victory, only refer to the battery as being commanded by Ayres or as Ayres’s Battery.  Only William C. Davis’s Battle at Bull Run accurately identifies the battery as E of the 3rd, commanded by Ayres, and known both north and south as Sherman’s Battery.  Three “modern” studies include orders of battle: Ed Bearss’s First Manassas Battlefield Map Study, John Hennessy’s The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence and Joanna McDonald’s “We Shall Meet Again”.  These are the sources a modern researcher would most likely use as a quick reference for what unit was where.  And they all get the identification of this battery wrong.

These three all list the battery in Sherman’s Brigade as Battery E, 5th US Artillery, under the command of Captain Romeyn B. Ayres.  In addition to being wrong, it’s impossibly wrong.  But maybe understandably wrong.

Here’s why Ayres’s command of Battery E, 5th US Arty in July 1861 is impossible: according to Dyer’s A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, that battery was not organized until May of 1862.  Now, why is such a mistake understandable?  I mean, we’re talking Ed Bearss and John Hennessy here!

I think the answer can be found in Ayres’s official report (I’ve made a new page for it here), and his Cullum and Heitman entries, the starting points for all biographical sketches of West Point graduates and regular army officers.  Ayres (I’ll post his bio sketch in the next few days) was first posted to the 3rd Arty as a First Lieutenant in March, 1852, and remained with the regiment at least until he made Captain of the 5th Arty in May, 1861, before Bull Run.  That much is clear in Heitman and Cullum.  But it’s also clear from his report that he was in command of a battery in Sherman’s Brigade at Bull Run.  But a less than careful reading of his report can lead to an inaccurate conclusion.

Ayres’s report, written just four days after the battle, is headed “Light Company E, Third Artillery”, which is clear enough.  But in the printed OR’s, Ayres’s report is prominently titled by the compiler as the report of Capt. Romeyn B. Ayres, Fifth US Artillery.  And to add to the confusion, he signed the report “R. B. Ayres, Captain, Fifth Artillery, Commanding Company E”.  So, if one has no idea of the history of Battery E, 5th US Arty, and merely reads the title of the OR entry and the signature line – and ignores the heading on the actual report and the name of the 3rd US Arty AAAG at the close of the report – one could understandably conclude that Ayres was in command of Battery E, 5th Arty.

So, did these three authors all make the same mistake and come to the same conclusion when compiling their OOB’s?  Or did one make the mistake first, and the others carried it over to their work?  Who knows?  I know that I had it wrong on my OOB until I read the CWTI article and started digging.  It’s not the first mistake on Bull Run OOBs I’ve found (I’ll try to get to that this week as well).

Why was Ayers in command of Sherman’s Battery at Bull Run when the records indicate he had been transferred to the 5th Artillery in May?  Either his commission was backdated and he had not reported to the 5th as of July 21, or there’s another reason.  It was not uncommon for Union officers, particularly 1861 academy graduates, to be on the field at Bull Run in some capacity other than their official assignments.  Just one more thing to add to my list of things to look into.

I’ll post more on Ayres later this week.

Sources








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