Report of Maj. William F. Barry, Fifth U.S. Artillery, Chief of Artillery
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 345-348
ARLINGTON, VA., July 23, 1861
CAPTAIN: Having been appointed, by Special Orders, No. 21, Headquarters Department Northeastern Virginia, Centreville, July 19, 1861, chief of artillery of the corps d’armée commanded by Brigadier-General McDowell, and having served in that capacity during the battle of 21st instant, I have the honor to submit the following report:
The artillery of the corps d’armée consisted of the following-named batteries: Ricketts’ light company, I, First Artillery, six 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns; Hunt’s light company, M, Second Artillery, four light 12-pounders; Carlisle’s company, E, Second Artillery, two James 13-pounder rifle guns, two 6 pounder guns; Tidball’s light company, A, Second Artillery, two 6-pounder guns, two 12-pounder howitzers; Greene’s company, G, Second Artillery, four 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns; Arnold’s company, D, Second Artillery, two 13-pounder James rifle guns, two 6-pounder guns; Ayres’ light company, E, Third Artillery, two 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns, two 12-pounder howitzers, two 6-pounder guns; Griffin’s battery, D, Fifth Artillery, four 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns, two 12-pounder howitzers; Edwards’ company, G, First Artillery, two 20-pounder and one 30-pounder Parrott rifle guns. The Second Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers had with it a battery of six 13-pounder James rifle guns; the Seventy-first Regiment New York Militia two of Dahlgren’s boat howitzers, and the Eighth Regiment New York Militia a battery of six 6-pounder grins. The men of this last-named battery having claimed their discharge on the day before the battle because their term of service had expired, the battery was thrown out of service.
The whole force of artillery of all calibers was, therefore, forty-nine pieces, of which twenty-eight were rifle guns. All of these batteries were fully horsed and equipped, with the exception of the two howitzers of the Seventy-first Regiment New York Militia, which were without horses, and were drawn by drag-ropes, manned by detachments from the regiment.
General McDowell’s disposition for the march from Centreville on the morning of the 21st instant placed Tidball’s and Greene’s batteries (eight pieces) in reserve, with the division of Colonel Miles, to remain at Centreville; Hunt’s and Edwards’ (six pieces), with the brigade of Colonel Richardson, at Blackburn’s Ford; and Carlisle s, Ayres’, and the 30-pounder (eleven pieces), with the division of General Tyler, at the stone bridge; Ricketts’, Griffin’s, Arnold’s, the Rhode Island, and Seventy-first Regiment batteries (twenty-four pieces) accompanied the main column, which crossed Bull Run at Sudley Springs. As soon as this column came in presence of the enemy, after crossing Bull Run, I received from General McDowell, in person, directions to superintend the posting of the batteries as they severally debouched from the road and arrived upon the field.
The Rhode Island Battery came first upon the ground, and took up, at a gallop, the position assigned it. It was immediately exposed to a sharp fire from the enemy’s skirmishers and infantry posted on the declivity of the hill and in the valley in its immediate front, and to a well-sustained fire of shot and shell from the enemy’s batteries posted behind the crest of the range of hills about one thousand yards distant. This battery sustained in a very gallant manner the whole force of this fire for nearly half an hour, when the howitzers of the Seventy-first New York Militia came up, and went into battery on its left. A few minutes afterwards Griffin brought up his pieces at a gallop, and came into battery about five hundred yards to the left of the Rhode Island and New York batteries.
Ricketts’ battery came up in less than half an hour afterwards, and was posted to the left of and immediately adjoining Griffin’s.
The enemy’s right, which had been wavering from the moment Griffin opened his fire upon it, now began to give way throughout its whole extent and retire steadily, his batteries limbering up rapidly, and at a gallop taking up successively two new positions farther to his rear. The foot troops on our left, following up the enemy’s retiring right, soon left our batteries so far in our rear that their fire was over the heads of our own men. I therefore directed the Rhode Island Battery to advance about five hundred yards in front of its first position, accompanied it myself, and saw it open fire with increased effect upon the enemy’s still retiring right.
Returning to the position occupied by Ricketts’ and Griffin’s batteries, I received an order from General McDowell to advance two batteries to an eminence specially designated by him, about eight hundred yards in front of the line previously occupied by our artillery, and very near the position first occupied by the enemy’s batteries. I therefore ordered these two batteries to move forward at once, and, as soon as they were in motion, went for and procured as supports the Eleventh (Fire Zouaves) and the Fourteenth (Brooklyn) New York Regiments. I accompanied the former regiment, to guide it to its proper position, and Colonel Heintzelman, Seventeenth U.S. Infantry, performed the same service for the Fourteenth, on the right of the Eleventh. A squadron of U.S. cavalry, under Captain Colburn, First Cavalry, was subsequently ordered as additional support. We were soon upon the ground designated, and the two batteries at once opened a very effective fire upon the enemy’s left.
The new position had scarcely been occupied when a troop of the enemy’s cavalry, debouching from a piece of woods close upon our right flank, charged down upon the New York Eleventh. The zouaves, catching sight of the cavalry a few moments before they were upon them, broke ranks to such a degree that the cavalry dashed through without doing them much harm. The zouaves gave them a scattering fire as they passed, which emptied five saddles and killed three horses. A few minutes afterwards a regiment of the enemy’s infantry, covered by a high fence, presented itself in line on the left and front of the two batteries at not more than sixty or seventy yards’ distance, and delivered a volley full upon the batteries and their supports. Lieutenant Ramsay, First Artillery, was killed, and Captain Ricketts, First Artillery, was wounded, and a number of men and horses were killed or disabled by this close and well-directed volley. The Eleventh and Fourteenth Regiments instantly broke and fled in confusion to the rear, and in spite of the repeated and earnest efforts of Colonel Heintzelman with the latter, and myself with the former, refused to rally and return to the support of the batteries. The enemy, seeing the guns thus abandoned by their supports, rushed upon them, and driving off the cannoneers, who, with their officers, stood bravely at their posts until the last moment, captured them, ten in number. These were the only guns taken by the enemy on the field.
Arnold’s battery came upon the field after Ricketts’, and was posted on our left center, where it performed good service throughout the day, and by its continued and well-directed fire assisted materially in breaking and driving back the enemy’s right and center.
The batteries of Hunt, Carlisle, Ayres, Tidball, Edwards, and Greene (twenty-one pieces), being detached from the main body, and not being under my immediate notice during the greater portion of the day, I respectfully refer you to the reports of their brigade and division commanders for the record of their services.
The Army having retired upon Centreville, I was ordered by General McDowell in person to post the artillery in position to cover the retreat. The batteries of Hunt, Ayres, Tidball, Edwards, Greene, and the New York Eighth Regiment (the latter served by volunteers from Willcox’s brigade), twenty pieces in all, were at once placed in position, and thus remained until 12 o’clock p.m., when, orders having been received to retire upon the Potomac, the batteries were put in march, and, covered by Richardson’s brigade, retired in good order and without haste, and early next morning reoccupied their former camps on the Potomac.
In conclusion, it gives me great satisfaction to state that the conduct of the officers and enlisted men of the several batteries was most exemplary. Exposed throughout the day to a galling fire of artillery and small-arms: several times charged by cavalry, and more than once abandoned by their infantry supports, both officers and enlisted men manfully stood by their guns with a courage and devotion worthy of the highest commendation. Where all did so well it would be invidious to make distinctions, and I therefore simply give the names of all the officers engaged: viz: Major Hunt, Captains Carlisle, Ayres, Griffin, Tidball, and Arnold; Lieutenants Platt, Thompson, Ransom, Webb, Barriger, Greene, Edwards, Dresser, Wilson, Throckmorton, Cushing, Harris, Butler, Fuller, Lyford, Hill, Benjamin, Babbitt, Hains, Ames, Hasbrouck, Kensel, Harrison, Reed, Barlow, Noyes, Kirby, and Elderkin.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM F. BARRY,
Major, Fifth Artillery
Capt. J. B. FRY,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Dep’t N. E. Virginia