Battery B, 4th. US Artillery



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For information contact Eric Peterson
redlegpete@juno.com

The nucleus of the battery did service in 1812 as a rifle company at Plattsburg. In 1812 it was horsed and did duty in Florida in 1842. It was at Ogdensburg during the Canadian trouble.
In 1845, it was sent to the Rio Grande with Gen. Taylor. May, 1860, found it at Salt Lake City and July, 1861, it was put on full war footing under Captain John Gibbon, who had taken charge of it the year before in Utah. It was attached to King’s Division of McDowell’s corps when Capt. John Gibbon was promoted to the command of the old Iron Brigade and Lieut. Joseph B. Campbell took command.
It was heavily recruited then from the brigade and thus the Old Iron Brigade and Battery B became virtually one.
It was heavily engaged at South Mountain and Antietam. Here after the commander had fallen Lieut. James Stewart became commander, and it was afterward known as Stewart’s Battery, and the historian says more men fell at Stewart’s Battery than at any other battery in the Union Army.


Battery B at Antietam

Brigadier General John Gibbon was commanding the Iron Brigade during the battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. Charged with spearheading the assault through Miller's Cornfield that morning, Gibbon posted the six Napoleons of Battery B, 4th US Artillery, on a nearby knoll to protect his right flank. It was not long before the exposed battery came under withering fire, and soon 40 of it's 100 men had fallen to Confederate bullets. Gibbon watched as the Battery's guns belched canister toward the rebels rattling through the corn but to no avail; the gunners had unwittingly aimed their muzzles too high and were overshooting the enemy.

As Confederate troops charged Battery B, Gibbon jumped off his horse, ran to one of the guns, and adjusted the elevating screw to depress the muzzle. Then, at the General's orders, the crew fired several rounds more, blasting away a section of the comfield's fence - and with it the onrushing confederated. Gibbon's aplomb probably saved Battery B from being overrun.

Capt Eric Peterson


Battery B's Gettysburg

"We were turned out the next morning about daybreak (July 1, 1863), harnessed up, and, after crossing the creek, halted to let the infantry of Wadsworth’s division file by. There was no mistake now. While we stood there watching these splendid soldiers file by with their long, swinging "route step," and their muskets glittering in the rays of the rising sun, there came out of the northwest a sullen "boom! boom! Boom!" of three guns, followed almost immediately by a prolonged crackling sound, which at that distance reminded me very much of the snapping of a dry brush-heap when you first set it on fire. We soon reasoned out the state of affairs up in front. Buford, we calculated, had engaged the leading infantry of Lee’s army, and was probably trying to hold them with his cavalry in heavy skirmish line, dismounted until our infantry could come up. They said that the enemy had not yet developed more than a skirmish line, because if he had shown a heavy formation Buford would be using his artillery, of which he had two or three batteries, whilst we had thus far heard only the three cannon shots mentioned.

These apparently trifling incidents show how the men in our Army were in the behavior of observing things and how unerring their judgment was, as a rule, even in matters of military knowledge far beyond their sphere or control.

But my eyes were riveted on the infantry marching by. No one now living will ever again see those two brigades of Wadsworth’s division-Cutler’s and the Iron Brigade-file by as they did that morning. The column, as it came down one slope and up the other, had the effect of huge blue billows of men topped with a spray of shining steel, the whole spectacle was calculated to give nerve to a man who had none before. Partly because they had served together a long time, and no doubt, because so many of their men were in our ranks, there was a great affinity between the Battery and the Iron Brigade, which expressed itself in cheers and good-natured chaffing between us as they went by. "Find a good place to camp; be sure and get near a good dry rail fence; tell the Johnnies we will be right along," were the salutations that passed on our part, while the infantry made such responses as "All right; better stay here till we send for you; the climate up there may be unhealthy just now for such delicate creatures as you," and all that sort of thing. It was probably 8 o’clock when the last brigade had passed, and then we got the order to march, moving with Doubleday’s division. As we moved up the road we could see the troops of the next division coming close behind. By this time the leading regiments of Wadsworth’s infantry had got on the ground, and the sounds of battle were increasing rapidly...

The sound of the cavalry fight had been distinct ever since we left Marsh Creek-a fitful crackle- but now we heard fierce, angry crash on crash, rapidly growing in volume and intensity, signifying that our leading infantry-Cutler’s and the Iron Brigade- had encountered the "doughboys" of Lee’s advance. It is well known that the men of the Iron Brigade always preferred slouch hats (Western fashion), and seldom or never wore caps. At the time this heavy crashing began we were probably half way up from Marsh Creek, and as the Battery was marching at a walk, most of us were walking along with the guns instead of riding on the limbers. Among the Cannoneers was a man from the 2d Wisconsin (John Holland) who took great pride in the Iron Brigade. So, when that sudden crash! Crash! Crash! floated over the hills to our ears, John said, with visible enthusiasm, "Hear that my son! That’s the talk! The old slouch hats have got there you bet!"

Now the artillery began to play in earnest, and it was evident that the three batterys which had preceded us were closely engaged, while the musketry had grown from the crackling sound of the skirmishing we had heard early in the morning to almost incessant crash, which betokened the file firing of a main line of battle. Just before reaching the brow of the hill, south of the town, where we could get our first sight of the battle itself, there was a provoking halt of nearly half an hour. We could hear every sound even the yells of the troops fighting on the ridge beyond Gettysburg, and we could see the smoke mount up and float away lazily to north eastward; but we could not see the combatants, each regiment breaking into double quick as it reached the top of the hill. The Eleventh Corps also began by this time to arrive from Emmittsburg. Finally, when the last of the Second Brigade of Doubleday’s (Stone’s) had passed, we got the order upon us like the lifting of the curtain in a grand play. The spectacle was simply stupendous. It is doubtful if there was a battle fought elsewhere of which such a complete view was possible from one point as we got of that battle when we reached the top of the crest of Round Top...

Our guns pointed about due west, taking the Cashtown Pike en echarpe. The right half-battery was in line with us on the north side of the cut. Its right gun rested on the edge of a little grove, which extended some distant farther to the right, and was full of infantry (the 11th Pennsylvania) supporting us. There was also infantry in our rear behind the crest and in the Railroad Cut (the 6th Wisconsin). One of our squad volunteered the facetious remark that these infantry "were put there to shoot the recruits if they flinched" for which he was rebuked by Corp’l Packard, who told him to "see that he himself behaved as well as the recruits." As Stewart commanded the right half-battery in person, he did not have much to do with us directly, during the action that followed.

At this time, which was probably about noon, all the infantry of the First Corps, except that massed immediately about our position, together with Hall’s, Reynold’s and one of the cavalry horse-batteries-Calef’s-had been struggling desperately in the fields in our front, and for a few moments we had nothing to do but witness the magnificent scene. The enemy had some batteries firing down the pike,. but their shot-probably canister-did not reach us. In a few minutes they opened with shell from a battery on a high knoll to the north of us (Oak Hill), and, though at long range, directly enfilading our line. But they sent their shells at the troops who were out in advance. We stood to the guns and watched the infantry combat out in front. Over across the creek (Willoughby’s) we could see the gray masses of the Rebel infantry coming along all the roads and deploying in the fields, and it seemed that they were innumerable. At this time some 200 or 300 Rebel prisoners passed by our position on their way to our rear. They were a tough-looking set . Some had bloody rags tied round their limbs or heads, where they had received slight wounds.

In the meantime our infantry out in the field toward the creek was being slowly but surely overpowered, and our lines were being forced in toward the Seminary. It was now considerably past noon. In addition to the struggle going on in our immediate front, the sounds of a heavy attack from the north side were heard, and away out beyond the creek, to the south, a strong force could be seen advancing and overlapping our left. The enemy was coming nearer both in front and on the north, and stray balls began to zip and whistle around our ears with unpleasant frequency. Then we saw the batteries that had been holding the position in advance of us limber up and fall back toward the Seminary, and the enemy simultaneously advance his batteries down the road. All our infantry out toward the creek on both sides of the pike began to fall back.

The enemy did not press them very closely, but halted for nearly an hour to reform his lines, which had been very much shattered by the battle of the forenoon. At last, having reformed his lines behind the low ridges in front he made his appearance in grand shape. His line stretched from the railroad grading across the Cashtown Pike and through the fields south of it half way to the Fairfield Road-nearly a mile in length. First we could see the tips of their color staffs coming up over the little ridge, then the points of their bayonets, and then the Johnnies themselves, coming on with a steady tramp, tramp, and with loud yells. It was now apparent that the old Battery’s turn had come again and the embattled boys who stood so grimly at their posts felt that another page must be added to the record of Buena Vista and Antietam. The term "boys" is literally true, because of our gun detachment alone, consisting of a Sergeant, two Corporals, seven Cannoneers and six Drivers, only four had hair on their faces, while the other 12 were beardless boys whose ages would not average 19 years, and who at any other period of our history, would have been at school! The same was more or less true of all the other gun detachments. But if boys in years they were, with one or two exceptions not necessary to name, veterans in battle, and braver or steadier soldiers than they were never faced a foe! A glance along our line at that moment would have been a rare study for an artist. As the day was very hot many of the boys had their jackets off, some with sleeves rolled up, and they exchanged little words of cheer with each other as the gray line came on. In quick sharp tones, like successive reports of a repeating rifle, came Davison’s orders: "Load - Canister - Double!" There was a hustling of Cannoneers, a few thumps of the rammer-heads, and then "Ready! - By piece! - At will! - Fire!!"...

Directly in our front-that is to say, on both sides of the pile-the Rebel infantry, whose left lapped the north side of the pike quite up to the line of the railroad grading, had been forced to halt and lie down by the tornado of canister that we had given them from the moment they came in sight over the bank of the creek. But the regiments in the field to their right (southside) of the pile kept on, and kept swinging their right flanks forward as if to take us in reverse or cut us off from the rest of our troops near the Seminary. At this moment Davison, bleeding from two desperate wounds and so weak that one of the men had to hold him up on his feet (one ankle being totally shattered by a bullet), ordered us to form the half- battery, action left, by wheeling on the left gun as a pivot, so as to bring their half-battery on a line with the cashtown Pike, muzzles facing south, his object being to rake the front of the Rebel line closing in on us from that side.

Of the four men left at our gun when this order was given two had bloody heads, but they were still "standing by" and Ord. Serg’t Mitchell jumped on our off wheels to help us. "This is tough work, boys" he shouted, as we wheeled the gun around, "but we are good for it."

And Pat Wallace, tugging at the near wheel, shouted back; "If we ain’t, where’ll you find them that is!"

Well this change of front gave us a clean rake along the Rebel line for a whole brigade length, but it exposed our right flank to the raking volleys of their infantry near the pike, who at that moment began to get up again and come on. Then for seven or eight minutes ensued probably the most desperate fight ever waged between artillery and infantry at close range without a particle of cover on either side. They gave us volley after volley in front and flank, and we gave them double canister as fast as we could load. The 6th Wisconsin and 11th Pennsylvania men crawled up over the bank of the cut or behind the rail fence in rear of Stewart’s caissons and joined their musketry to canister, while from the north side of the cut flashed the chainlighting of the Old Man's half-battery in one solid streak! At this time our left half-battery, taking their first line en echarpe, swept it so clean with double canister that the Rebels sagged away from the road to get cover from the fences and trees that lined it. From our second round on a grey squirrel could not have crossed the road alive.

How those peerless Cannoneers sprang to their work! Twenty-six years have but softened in memory the picture of "Old Griff" (Wallace), his tough Irish face set in hard lines with the unflinching resolution that filled his soul, while he sponged and loaded under that murderous musketry with the precision of barrack drill; of the burly Corporal, bareheaded, precision of barrack drill; of the burly Corporal, bareheaded, his hair matted with blood from a scalp wound, and wiping the crimson fluid out of his eyes to sight the gun; of the steady Orderly Sergeant, John Mitchell, moving calmly from gun to gun, now and then changing men about as one after another was hit and fell, stooping over a wounded man to help him up, or aiding another to stagger to the rear; of the dauntless Davison on foot among the guns, cheering the men, praising this one and that one, and ever and anon profanely exhorting us to "feed it to ‘em, G-d-em; feed it to ‘em!" The very guns became things of life-not implements, but comrades. Every man was dong the work of two or three. At our gun at the finish there were only the Corporal, No.1 and No. 3, with two drivers fetching ammunition. The water in Pat’s bucket was like ink. His face and hands were smeared all over with burnt powder and crimson streaks from his bloody head Packard looked like a demon from below! Up and down the line men reeling and falling; splinters flying from wheels and axles where bullets hit; in rear, horses tearing and plunging, mad with wounds or terror; drivers yelling, shells bursting, shot shrieking overhead, howling about our ears or throwing up great clouds of dust where they struck; the musketry crashing on three sides of us; bullets hissing, humming and whistling everywhere; cannon roaring; all crash on crash and peal on peal, smoke, dust, splinters, blood, wreck and carnage indescribable; but the brass guns of Old B still bellowed and not a man or boy flinched or faltered! Every man’s shirt soaked with sweat and many of them sopped with bood from wounds not severe enough to make such bulldogs "let go" - bareheaded, sleeves rolled up, faces blackened - oh! if such a picture could be spread on canvas to the life! Out in front of us in an undulating field, filled almost as far as the eye could see with long low gray line creeping toward us fairly fringed with flame!...

For a few minutes the whole Rebel line clear down to the Fairfield Road seemed to waver and we thought that maybe we could repulse them single-handed as we were. At any rate, about our fifth or sixth round after changing front made their first line south of the pike halt, and many of them sought cover behind trees in the field or ran back to the rail fence parallel to the pike at that point, from which they resumed their musketry. But their second line came steadily on, and as Davidson had now succumbed to his wounds Ord. Serg’s Mitchell took command and gave the order to limber to the rear, The 6th Wisconsin and the 11th Pennsylvania having begun to fall back down the railroad track toward the town, turning about and firing at will as they retreated.

Buell, "The Cannoneer"

The National Tribune, 1890


MEDAL OF HONOR[New!]

"I was fifteen years of age, and was bugler of Battery B, which suffered fearful losses in the field at Antietam where I won my Medal of Honor", writes Bugler John Cook.

"General Gibbon, our commander, had just ordered Lieutenant Stewart to take his section about one hundred yards to the right of the Hagerstown Pike, in front of two straw stacks, when he beckoned me to follow. No sooner had we unlimbered, when a column of Confederate infantry, emerging from the so called west woods, poured a volley into us, which brought fourteen or seventeen of my brave comrades to the ground. The two straw stacks offered some kind of shelter for our wounded, and it was a sickening sight to see those poor maimed, and crippled fellows, crowding on top of one another, while several, stepping but a few feet away, were hit again or killed.

Just then Captain Cambell unlimbered the other four guns to the left of Stewart, and I reported to him. He had just dismounted, when he was hit twice and his horse fell dead, with several bullets in its body. I started with the Captain to the rear and turned him over to one of the drivers. He ordered me to report to Lieutenant Stewart and tell him to take command of the battery. I reported, and, seeing the cannoneers nearly all down, and one, with a pouch full of ammunition, lying dead, I unstrapped the pouch, started for the battery and worked as a cannoneer. We were then in the vortex of the battle. The enemy had made three desperate attempts to capture us, the last time coming with in ten or fifteen feet of our guns. It was at this time that General Gibbon, seeing the condition of the battery, came to the gun that stood in the pike, and in full uniform of a brigadier-general, worked as a gunner and cannoneer. He was very conspicuous, and it is indeed surprising, that he came away alive. At this battle we lost forty-four men, killed and wounded, and about forty horses which shows what a hard fight it was."

Bugler John Cook, although but fourteen years of age when he enlisted, showed great courage and daring in every battle in which he participated. At Gettysburg, Captain Stewart was compelled to use the bugler as an orderly because the battery suffered such heavy losses. He carried messages to the left half battery, nearly a half mile away, the route being well covered by the enemy’s riflemen, who lost no opportunity of firing at him, thus making it a most perilous undertaking. At the same battle he assisted in destroying the ammunition of a damaged and abandoned caisson, to prevent its being of use to the enemy, who were closing in on the Union men.

The 4th U.S. Artillery being short of men, and unable to get recruits for the regular service, Captain Gibbon obtained permission from the War Department, to fill his battery detaching men from volunteer regiments. One of the men selected from the many who responded to the call was Private William P. Hogarty of the 23rd New York Infantry. Bright and early on the morning of September 17, 1862 General Gibbon gave orders to Lieutenant Stewart, commanding the center section, to go the front with the utmost speed. and take position to advance of the skirmish line, on an elevated piece of ground to the right of the Hagerstown road, in front of a cluster of wheat stacks, and facing the Dunker Church about a half mile distant. The section came into action, the cannoneers mounted and the horses on an run. The men hardly had time to unlimber the guns, when the charging columns of “Stonewall” Jackson’s Infantry were upon them, determined to capture the section and turn the right wing of the army. This furious onslaught was met by a rapid, accurate, and deadly fire from these two Napoleon guns of Stewart’s section, triple shotted with canister, which stopped the charge, driving the enemy back with fearful loss. In this charge Stewart’s section lost fourteen men out of twenty-four actually engaged at the guns. By this time the remaining four guns had deployed alongside Stewart’s section with the flank resting on the Hagerstown Pike. The Battery had little opportunity to remove it’s wounded to a barn in the rear of the wheat stacks. and to replenish it’s ammunition, when the re-enforced columns of Jackson’s Corps again came on a hill to the right, and a New York brigade, through the cornfield on the left. During the fifteen or twenty mantes that the battle raged around Battery B, it seemed that all the missiles of destruction were flying through the sulphur-laden atmosphere screeching, hissing, howling their discordant song of death. With a few remaining men and horses the battery was moved into the cornfield on the left of the Hagerstown Pike, and again unlimbered for action in the rear of a firing line of infantry, which acted as a screen and prevented it from again becoming engaged. While there awaiting orders, Lance Corporal Hogarty picked up a loaded, Springfield rifle that was capped at the side of a dead soldier. Turning to his comrades he said, “The supply of ammunition is out. I think I will take this rifle up to firing line and help the ‘doe-boys’.”. After Antietam the battery, it’s ranks depleted, marched with the advance of the army through Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg in pursuit of the retreating enemy. On the evening of December 12, 1862, Battery B, with the advance of the First Corps, crossed the Rappahannock River at the lower pontoon bridge. The next morning, the 13th, the battery engaged the enemy on the extreme left of the army, driving them from their entrenchments. It then swung up to the Bowling Green Road, and immediately became engaged with a couple of the enemy’s batteries posted in their front in a commanding position. The rebels having previously measured the ground closely, marked the distances and opened fire with a deadly accuracy, but Battery B soon silenced them, dismounting the range for his guns, Lance Corporal Hogarty was wounded by a four inch solid shot striking him just above the elbow, tearing off his left arm, necessitating subsequent amputation at the shoulder. The force of the blow whirled him around. He fell, landing on his right arm and elbow. He was not rendered unconscious. Three of his comrades seeing him fall came to his assistance, and with a tourniquet applied to his arm refused to leave the battery until the action was decided. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Valor.


 

The New 12 Pounder

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The 12 pounder is done After almost four years of toil the cannon was test fired at the Sussex armory on August 21st. Thanks much to all who helped.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to the 12 1 st Field Artillery for their help.
The organizational maintenance shop repaired the threads on some bolts that were damaged during assembly of the carriage, they had the cannon bore-scoped at Camp Douglas, and they used their crane to mount the gun.
The gun has been certified by the armory as safe and suitable for firing of live rounds!
Without the help of the National Guard we could not have such confidence in the fitness of this gun without extensive test firing.

After the test firing in Sussex, the crew in attendance washed and polished the gun. Yes Bob, a little polish and elbow grease removed all that tamish ! The cannon is now safely resting at it's new home at the Sussex armory. We do need to drill a little under the trail to allow the elevating screw to turn more freely.

This gun will be assigned to Scott Gutzke's crew. Scott has frequent contact with the unit at the Sussex Armory. He is a cannoneer in that unit. This gun will be a proud addition to our events.

We hosted a brandy and cigar reception at 6:OOPM in the battery camp for all cannon stockholders.

We made it! The cannon was fired a number of times on August 21. The last shot of the day was fired by Colonel Ron Leubke of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. We found this a fitting tribute to the battery because he is the present commander of the Iron Brigade. now known as the 57th Field Artillery Brigade.

I want to pomonnaly thank all those who made this project possible by their generous donation of skills. materials, money and time. A brandy and cigar reception will be hosted by Battery B at the Wade House in your honor.

Donors:
The Travlers Foundation
121st FA "'Howitzer Club"
Waukesha Civil War Club
Evemore Company
Whitefish Bay Armory Employees Association
Westrs & Tillema CPA's
SUVCW Camp #4

Stock Holders:
Dan McGraw,
Bob Bobinger,
2nd Wis Vol lnf (CWSA).
Ben Killips,
Fred G. Cook.
Doug Rasmussen.
Gerald Paul,
Scott Gutzke,
Ugljesha Pirocanac,
Tom Klas,
Gary Klas,
Dale Brasser,
Weston Severson,
CPT Mark Arvidson
John Lesselyoung,
Randy Popp.
The Popp Family. In Memory of Adeline Popp,
Dorothy Ardisana.
Garrie Hainer,
In Memory of
Lt.jg Elmore Holt, CSA, USMM, USCG
CPT Eric Peterson OSB.
Marvin Kostka,
Jerod Alderson,
Doug & Laurie Rasmussen.
Rich Grzyb,
Chad Grzyb,
Robert Nuszbaum,
Richard Nuszbaum,
Ronald Nuszbaum,
and Robert Schwingle.

Respectfully Submitted,

Major Eric B. Peterson, OSB
Chief of Artillery