Do you have a favorite artillery commander from the Civil War?
Tell us a little about him and why he’s your favorite!
Henry Hunt’s continued emphasis at all levels on the importance of centralized artillery control increased the effectiveness of the Army of the Potomac’s artillery several fold. The resulting concentration of fire at Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, & Gettysburg are but a few supporting cases. Hunt’s classic dispute with Hancock to slow fire prior to Pickett’s Charge resulted in the devastating artillery fire that desimated the rebel infantry.
Col John Mendenhall of the Army of the Cumberland. Did great service supporting an attack on the second day at Shiloh, broke Breckinridge’s Grand Assault on the second day of Stone’s River with a massed battery, and heroically sought to stem the tide of Longstreet’s breakthrough at Chickamauga. He has always seemed not to get the credit he deserves, like West Coast baseball teams that come on too late to enjoy!
Since Hunt and Mendenhall have been taken, how about John Tidball – like Hunt a dedicated, persistent campaigner for the proper recognition, organization, and use of the field artillery. And a nod to John Gibbon because he authored “the” manual and, even though he decided to “go infantry” for the war, he still knew how to employ his batteries.
Capt. Charles Mink at Jericho Mills, who basically saves the entire Union Fifth Corps.
John Fox III tells a bit about Mink’s story in this post from the ECW archives: https://emergingcivilwar.com/2014/05/23/edward-thomas-georgia-brigade-at-the-battle-of-jericho-mills-on-may-23-1864/
I have always been partial to Lt. Bayard Wilkeson Lt. Battery G, 4th U.S. Light Artillery. Sitting atop Barlow’s Knoll July 1st with his battery, seeing Gordon’s troops come charging across Rock Creek. He did the best he could at that time with his 11th Corps. troops.
His father was at the battle as a newspaper correspondent. His father, by the way, had some understanding of good tactics, because he commented afterwards that Battery G should not have been posted where it was. And it’s hard to imagine what it took for Wilkeson to cut off his own shattered leg with a pen-knife.
First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, Commander, Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, in the Army of the Potomac’s II Corps. Died from multiple wounds while leading his men to fire into Picket’s attacking division on 3 July 1863. Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama. The citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing distinguished himself by acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Artillery Commander in Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1863 during the American Civil War. That morning, Confederate Forces led by General Robert E. Lee began cannonading First Lieutenant Cushing’s position on Cemetery Ridge. Using field glasses, First Lieutenant Cushing directed fire for his own artillery battery. He refused to leave the battlefield after being struck in the shoulder by a shell fragment. As he continued to direct fire, he was struck again, this time suffering grievous damage to his abdomen. Still refusing to abandon his command, he boldly stood tall in the face of Major General George E. Pickett’s charge and continued to direct devastating fire into oncoming forces. As the Confederate Forces closed in, First Lieutenant Cushing was struck in the mouth by an enemy bullet and fell dead beside his gun. His gallant stand and fearless leadership inflicted severe casualties upon Confederate Forces and opened wide gaps in their lines, directly impacting the Union Forces’ ability to repel Pickett’s Charge. First Lieutenant Cushing’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his own life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, Army of the Potomac, and the United States Army.”
Excellent tribute, for a gallant junior officer….who literally stuck to his guns!
Had the great honor to march in the parade to Cushing Park in Delafield, WI to commemorate his receipt of the CMH. His medal was on display in the city with an honor guard for the weekend.
Gen.E.Porter Alexander , highly intelligent, multi-talented, ( chief signal officer, head of Ordance for the Army of Northern Virginia. Alexander’s memoirs “ Fighting For The Confederacy “ is a highly enjoyable and balanced assessment of Lee’s Army and generalship without the self-serving, “ Lost Cause “ Confederate school of writing , prevelant in years following the war…..fine editing of his collected papers by Prof.Gary Gallagher makes it a serious addition to Civil War scholarship.
Confederate Brigadier General William Nelson Pendleton who commanded the Rockbridge artillery (VMI). Pendleton was an Episcopalian preacher and Lee’s pastor after the WBTS. He named the four guns of his battery, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John because they “spoke a powerful language.”
When I was just getting serious about my Civil War interest, I happened upon a booklet written by John Bigelow, who commanded the 9th Massachusetts at Gettysburg. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by his actions on July 2nd at the Trostle farm.
Major John Pelham the young and dashing commander of J.E.B. Stuart’s horse Artillery had a meteoric career, but cut down too soon….deserves mention!
Lots of excellent choices. I’ve put mine in already, but how about Lt Hubert Dilger, the legendary “Leather Breeches”, about the only thing ever to go right with the misbegotten 11th Corpse….err,..Corps. Winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Even more interesting is his son Anton’s role in WWI as a notorious German spy who attempted to infect the US military horses with glanders and anthrax! That worthy died of Spanish Influenza in….you guessed it…Spain!
Capt. Charles Carroll Parsons, 4th US Artillery -graduate of USMA 1861. At Perryville, he had to be physically removed from his guns as they were being over run. At Stones River, his battery was located near the Nashville Pike. His battery assisted in the repulse of multiple Confederate attempts to cut through the Pike. Brig. Gen John Palmer, in charge of a Division in the Nashville Pike sector stated “During the whole day I regarded the battery under command of Capt Parsons as my right arm. My orders to Parsons were simple Fight where you can do the most good. Never were orders better obeyed.”
Parsons battery is cataloged as having fired close to 2,200 rounds in defense of his position. His actions were mentioned in numerous after action reports. Parsons was brevetted Major for Gallantry after Stones River. Due to health issues, he left active service and was sent to USMA to serve as an instructor for the balance of the war.
His life-story is an interesting one. He was close friends with John Dupont. Alonzo Cushing and George Custer. Dupont and Custer were groomsmen at his wedding. Post-war, Parsons befriended a Confederate Chaplain Charles Quintard. Quintard was present at Perryville and witnessed Parsons bravery. Quintard wrote a very fanciful account of his observations. After the war, the two men met in New Jersey and Quintard, a Episcopalian Minister, took credit for the recruitment of Parsons into the Episcopalian ministry.
Parsons resigned from the army in 1870 to became an Episcopalian minister. In 1875 his missionary work took him to Memphis, Tenn. In 1878 a Yellow Fever epidemic swept Memphis. Parsons worked tirelessly to provide assistance to those that were stricken. His contact eventually led to his being stricken with the disease and he died in September, 1878.
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