Historical Sketch of the 13th New York Independent Battery

Taken from Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg (New York at Gettysburg) by the New York Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, 1902.

The Thirteenth New York Independent Battery, Volunteer Light Artillery, was organized in New York City. It was mustered into service October 15, 1861, and sent to Washington, D. C., and thence to Camp Observation, near Ball's Bluff, Va., but on the Maryland side of the Potomac. As the battery had not at that time received its guns, it could not take part in the battle of Ball's Bluff, which occurred on the day after its arrival, except by patrolling the vicinity of the camp, and acting as sentinels during the absence of the infantry.

The battery was ordered to Washington in December, remaining in camp near that city until February, 1862, when it was ordered to Hunter's Chapel, Va., and assigned to Blenker's Division, after receiving its six three-inch steel rifled guns. From Hunter's Chapel the battery advanced on March 17th, to Centreville, and thence to Manassas Junction.

At this time one section made a night march to the Rappahannock, and hearing the reveille sounded in the enemy's camp we shelled them. They returned the fire, but we suffered no loss.

The first commander of the battery, Capt. Edward Sturmfels, resigned about this time, and he was succeeded by Capt. Julius Dieckmann. In May, the battery was ordered to Washington to join a force then being organized for service in Western Virginia under command of General Fremont.

The battery proceeded via the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to Petersburg, and thence marched over very rough mountain roads to the town of Franklin. After a stay of a few days at that place we retraced our route to Petersburg, thence across the mountains to the Shenandoah Valley, and down the Valley in pursuit of the Confederate forces commanded by Gen. " Stonewall" Jackson.

The battery took part in the battle of Cross Keys on June 8, 1862, and on the 9th, pursued the enemy to Port Republic; but as he had crossed and burned the bridge at that place further pursuit was abandoned. The battery remained in the Valley at Mount Jackson and Cedar Creek until July, when it marched to Sperryville to join the Army of Virginia under General Pope.

On August 8th, we marched to Culpeper Court House, and on the 9th, went to meet the enemy at Cedar Mountain, but found they had moved off during the night.

The battery also took part in the battle of Rappahannock Station, August 20th; Freeman's Ford, August 21st; Waterloo Bridge, August 22d, and White Sulphur Springs, August 23d.

On August 29th, the command arrived at Manassas Junction, and near dark was ordered to go with all speed to the aid of King's Division, which had met and engaged the enemy at Groveton. The battery galloped the entire distance, and went into action; but darkness set in, and the fighting ceased.

On August 3oth, at daylight, the battery, with Milroy's Brigade, advanced on the enemy at Groveton, the men moving the guns forward by hand, and firing as we advanced. The enemy was in a strong position behind an embankment, and after a desperate fight, M,ilroy's Brigade, finding they were greatly outnumbered, retired under cover of the battery's fire. In this action we lost 1 officer and 7 men wounded, and a number of horses shot. Although under a heavy fire the men succeeded in removing the disabled horses from the limbers, and took the guns from the field. One gun carriage had its axle broken by a solid shot from the enemy, but the men dismounted the gun, slung it under the limber with the prolonge, and took it from the field, after destroying the wheels to make them useless to the enemy. One section was disabled through the loss of men and horses, and the breaking of the gun carriage.

After a short rest the four serviceable guns were ordered into action to engage a battery which vigorously shelled our troops as they moved towards the enemy's position. We engaged a six-gun battery of the enemy at long range and two guns at close range until they ceased firing near sundown. After dark our guns were withdrawn from the field. Our loss was 1 man killed and 3 dangerously wounded; also, a number of horses wounded and killed. The men were pretty much used up, having had hardly anything to eat for twenty-four hours, and had been fighting nearly all day.

On August 31ist, the battery was in reserve. In the evening it marched to Centreville, and thence to a position several miles from the fortifications south of the Potomac. While there our disabled guns and horses were replaced, and some men received from a howitzer battery which had been disabled. Being again in condition for service the command was ordered to Fairfax Court House. While there four men with two horses and a limber went in charge of Captain Dahlgren, of General Sigel's staff, to Bull Run Bridge, and removed from its carriage a gun which had been abandoned by some battery because of a broken wheel. We slung the gun under the limber, and succeeded in getting away with it before we were noticed by the enemy's pickets, who were but a short distance away.

We next moved to Gainesville, and encamped there until December. We then made a forced march to Fredericksburg at the time of the battle there, but the battery was not called into action. We remained in camp near Brooke's Station until the movement which ended the battle of Chancellorsville. The battery was actively engaged in the battle of May 2d, and had 1 officer, Lieutenant Carlisle, and 4 men dangerously wounded, and 3 men mortally wounded. One section had to be abandoned as all the horses and most of the men were disabled.

We returned to Brooke's Station, and remained there until the opening of the Gettysburg campaign. Captain Dieckmann resigned at this time in order to accept a commission as major of the Fifteenth New York Heavy Artillery, and was succeeded in the command of the battery by Capt. William Wheeler.

After very long and tiresome marches, we arrived at Emmitsburg on the morning of July 1st, and at an early hour were ready to move at short notice. When ordered forward it galloped all the way to and through the town of Gettysburg, and out on the Carlisle Road, to the left of which it took position. It attacked the advancing enemy and kept fighting until threatened on the flank and rear. Then, with prolonges hitched so as to fire while retiring, the battery fell back to Cemetery Hill. At that place it took part in the battles of July 2d and 3d. On July 3d, when Pickett made his famous charge, the battery was ordered to that part of the field. At the " Bloody Angle " it went into action and continued firing until the enemy retreated from the field.

When moving from this position we hauled off a gun that had been abandoned. This gun replaced one that had been disabled on July 1st. Our Iocs was 1 man killed, a number wounded, and 4 or 5 missing.

The battery marched to Catlett's Station, Va., and remained there until the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps were ordered to Chattanooga to reinforce General Rosecrans, and open up his line of communication with his base of supplies. It was present at Wauhatchie Valley, when the enemy made a night attack on our position. It took part in the battles of Missionary Ridge, November 25th, Lookout Mountain, November 27th, Ringgold, November 27th, and marched to aid in raising the siege of Knoxville. On November 29th, we camped at Bridgeport, Ala., and in December, when asked to continue in service after our term of enlistment expired, the battery re-enlisted to continue in service to the end of the war.

In May, 1864, we left Bridgeport to take part in the campaign which culminated in the capture of Atlanta. The battery took part in the battles of Mill Creek Gap, May 8th, and Resaca, May 15th. After this battle the guns of the battery were exchanged for six twelve-pound brass Napoleons. The object in this change was to keep the battery close to the front of the advancing columns, where it could give the enemy canister at short range as well as shot and shell at longer distance. General Hooker caused this change to be made because the infantry liked to have a battery close at hand when in action. We also were actively engaged at New Hope Church, May 27th. At this battle our battery had 2 men dangerously wounded, and at the battle of Pine Knob, May 28th, we had 1 man killed and 2 wounded. On June 22d, our corps, the Twentieth, marched towards Kenesaw Mountain. The enemy, however, had placed a battery in a position to sweep a clearing a mile long, over which the corps had to march to Mud Creek Gap. General Hooker ordered Captain Wheeler to take the battery to a hill about 300 yards from the enemy's position and silence that battery.

Our command galloped to the position designated, the enemy firing solid shot at us as we advanced; but they only hit the stumps of trees along the road side, and pieces of wood and dirt flew around us as we drove on. When we reached the top of the hill it was necessary to level places for the gun carriages; else they would recoil down its steep incline when firing commenced.

We loaded with case shot, and when ready opened fire with the entire battery. This broadside evidently demoralized the enemy's cannoneers as their fire slackened, and after a few more broadsides they disappeared. The infantry were advancing in line of battle now, and a tremendous cheer for the " Thirteenth " went up along the whole line. Our loss was 2 men dangerously wounded.

On June 22d, the battery was ordered to go with all speed to Kolb's Farm, and occupy a position on the right of the line which was unprotected, and against which the enemy was advancing. The battery hastened to the place designated, receiving the cheers of the infantry as we galloped past them. It quickly opened on the enemy, who were rapidly nearing the position, and succeeded in driving them back; not, however, until our brave and beloved commander, Capt. William Wheeler, was shot through the heart and instantly killed.

Captain Wheeler had been an officer in the battery from the time it was. organized, and had endeared himself to every man in the company by his gallantry and gentlemanly bearing. His loss was keenly felt by the entire command.

First Lieut. Henry Bundy assumed command, and later he was commissioned as captain. He commanded the battery until it was mustered out of service. The battery took part in the battle of Kenesaw Mountain, June 26th, and in the battle of Noyes' Creek.

On July 20th, we crossed Peach Tree Creek, and went into position along the edge of some woods with a large clear field on its front. Shortly after taking position the pickets came running in. We looked for the enemy, but seeing none we laughed at the boys for running. A little later, without firing a shot or making a sound of any kind, a heavy force of infantry was in our front and coming on the double-quick for our guns. The command was given, " Load with canister quick! " and the guns poured canister into the advancing ranks, so rapidly and accurately that the enemy's line wavered and broke. But it was quickly rallied and again advanced only to be driven back again. But, twice again he came and was repulsed, all except a few bolder than the rest, who reached the right section. But some of our men seized handspikes, and the sergeants using revolvers drove them back. A force now came through the woods on our right flank, and gave us a volley, which killed 2 men, mortally wounded 2, and severely wounded 5. The captain, as soon as he saw this new danger, ordered the left section to change front to the right and open on the enemy on our right. This was quickly done and a charge of canister, together with a stocking full of minie balls, of which we had probably thirty or forty stowed in our limber chests for close work (the men having gathered them at different times from fields of battle),— these were poured into them three times in quick succession. Reinforcements of infantry came to us at this time and drove the enemy from our right, when he fell back beaten at all points. The enemy's loss was very heavy, 12,000 all told; and in this were 5 brigadier generals killed and wounded. When General Sherman came to the scene of the battle, Peach Tree Creek, General Hooker took him to our position to show him the New York battery that had so courageously and successfully resisted and repulsed the successive and desperate assaults of the enemy.

The company next moved to a position about 800 yards from the enemy's fortifications before Atlanta, remaining there and taking part in the siege, until the enemy evacuated the city.

The battery entered Atlanta on the night of September 2d, and as we saw no other troops while marching through several streets we believe we were about the first to enter the city. In November, we went by rail to Chattanooga, thence to Tullahoma, Tenn., and in December, to Murfreesboro. The enemy was discovered a short distance north of Murfreesboro, when a section of our guns and a force of infantry went out to reconnoitre. The enemy's artillery opened on us, our section replying with shell for shell. A pretty little artillery duel followed, during which we blew up one of his caissons. We suffered no serious loss, having one horse killed and one gun carriage shattered. A few days later we occupied the position from which the enemy fired on us. We found there several new-made graves, showing that they lost some men. While holding this position, four guns and a force of infantry went after the enemy again, north of Murfreesboro, and after a sharp artillery fight he fell back. We had 1 man killed and 1 mortally wounded.

A few days after, the enemy was again reported advancing from the south of Murfreesboro, and again the battery and infantry went out and met him and drove him back. A week later we went through a similar performance with a like result. He disappeared and was not seen there after.

The battery returned to Tullahoma, Tenn., in the later part of December, and remained at that place until July, 1865, when it was ordered home. On July 28, 1865, it was mustered out of service in New York City; and thus ended its four years' continuous service in defence of the Union, having fought in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.