Historical Sketch of the 3rd 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.
HISTORICAL SKETCH BY SERGT. WILLIAM A. MOORE.
Prior to the war of 1861-65 it was considered the proper thing for a militia regiment of infantry to have one of its companies equipped and drilled as artillery, or some other arm of the service. In accordance with this custom Company D, of the Second Militia Infantry, was organized as a howitzer company, and when the regiment enlisted for the war it enlisted also. Under command of Capt. Thaddeus P. Mott, this company left the State, May 19, 1861, accompanying the Second Militia (Eighty-second New York Volunteers) to Washington, where it was mustered into the United States service for three years, on June 17, 1861. It was detached from the regiment soon after and organized as a battery of light artillery; for, the combination of different arms of the service in one regiment was not tolerated in the organization of the army.
The company was known temporarily as Battery B, New York Artillery; but on December 7, 1861, it was designated by the State authorities as the Third New York Independent Battery, Light Artillery. It received an equipment of six field pieces, four of the guns being ten-pounder Parrotts, and two of them brass Napoleons, or twelve-pounders. The battery was stationed at Chain Bridge, Va., and assigned to Smith's Brigade, with which it went into its first action, a reconnoissance on September 11, 1861, at Lewinsville, Va. No casualties were sustained in this affair.
After spending the winter within the defences of Washington the battery embarked March 17, 1862, at Alexandria, Va., and sailing down the Potomac landed at Fort Monroe, preparatory to the Peninsular campaign. It was now attached to Smith's Division, Fourth Corps, with which it served at the siege of Yorktown and in the engagement at Lee's Mills, on the Warwick River, April 16, 1862. In the latter affair Captain Mott's gunners distinguished themselves by the accuracy of their fire and the efficiency with which the guns were served. The first loss of life in the company occurred here, 3 of the men being killed and 7 wounded in this action. The 3 who were killed were cut down by the explosion of a shell that struck a wheel of one of the guns, others being wounded by the same shell. The battery received flattering mention in the official reports of Generals McClellan, Smith, Brooks, and Hancock, for its admirable conduct under fire.
It was engaged soon after at the battle of Williamsburg, where it rendered good service, but without sustaining any losses. In May, the division was transferred to the newly-organized Sixth Corps,— " that magnificent body of fighters " — and the battery served in this corps until the close of the war, with the exception of a few weeks in September and October, 1862, while it was with Couch's Division in Maryland.
It was actively engaged during the Seven Days Battle, at Golding's Farm and at White Oak Swamp, where it encountered a severe fire, losing at the latter place 5 men killed, 2 wounded, and 3 missing. On the following day, although greatly reduced in numbers, it took position in the front line at Malvern Hill. On arriving at Harrison's Landing Captain Mott resigned, and Lieut. William Stuart succeeded to the command, receiving a commission as captain. Upon the withdrawal of the army from the Peninsula the battery returned to Alexandria, Va., whence it started on the Maryland campaign. On September 15, 1862, it was attached to Couch's Division of the Fourth Corps, with which two sections of the battery marched to the relief of Harper's Ferry, while the other section, under Lieut. Alexander S. Thompson, took an active part in the battle of Antietam. But in a few weeks the entire battery was ordered back to the Second Division (Howe's) of the Sixth Corps.
Under command of Lieut. William A. Harn, of the First New York Artillery, the battery participated in the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13-14, 1862. Its armament in this action consisted of four ten-pounder rifled guns (Parrotts). It took position on Stafford Heights, on the north side of the Rappahannock River, overlooking Fredericksburg, from which position it aided in the assault of Sumner's Grand Division on the impregnable works of the enemy on Marye's Heights. After this battle the army went into winter quarters, the Sixth Corps occupying the ground in the vicinity of White Oak Church, where it remained until the Chancellorsville campaign. General Sedg-wick succeeded Franklin in command of the Sixth Corps, and General Hooker was placed at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Under Hooker's care the army was better fed, clothed, and drilled than at any time during the war, and attained the highest degree of efficiency. The battery shared in the general improvement, and among other things received two additional ten-pounder Parrotts, bringing its armament up to the maximum strength again of six guns, all of them rifled pieces.
The battery was engaged in the battle of Marye's Heights, May 3, 1863, having crossed the river and taken a position in the town — Fredericksburg — on the right of the railroad near the gas works. It was the first battery to reach the enemy's position when the infantry carried their works. The assault of the Sixth Corps on the Heights proving successful, the troops pushed on to-wards Chancellorsville, and encountered the enemy again at Salem Church, where Lieutenant Harn and his men again brought their guns into action with marked effect. Here the battery repulsed a charge of the Confederate infantry.
On June 4, 1863, Harn was commissioned captain of the battery, Stuart having been dismissed April 13th.
Leaving its camp at White Oak Church, the Sixth Corps started June 5th on the series of movements and long marches that culminated in the battle of Gettysburg. The march proper commenced on the I4th, at which time the battery left Stafford Heights, Va., and marched northward through Dumfries and Fairfax. Captain Harn received his commission on June 2oth while the battery was resting at Fairfax, where it encamped for five days. Leaving Fairfax on the 24th, and moving via Centreville, Dranesville, Edwards Ferry on the Potomac, Poolesville, Md., Hyattstown, Westminster, and Manchester, the battery arrived on the battlefield of Gettysburg about noon of the second day, having accompanied Sedgwick's men in their famous night march prior to their arrival on the field. The Sixth Corps marched from Manchester to Gettysburg, a distance of thirty-seven miles, with scarcely a halt. On the after-noon of the third day it was hurried into position, as Pickett's charge developed, on the right and rear of Hays' Division, Second Corps, which received the brunt of that attack. On July 5th it joined in pursuit of Lee's retreating army, and in company with the famous Vermont Brigade, of the Sixth Corps, opened fire on his rear guard at different times during the day. At Fairfield Pass Harn's guns concentrated their fire on Lee's troops, as they were defiling over the mountain. On the 10th it was engaged again with the rear guard of the enemy at Funkstown. Recrossing the Potomac on July 19th, the battery accompanied the Sixth Corps and the army in the movement through Virginia to-Warrenton. In the Gettysburg campaign it numbered 4 officers and 115 enlisted men present for duty.
The battery was present at the battle of Rappahannock Station, and took part in the Mine Run campaign, after which it encamped for the winter at Brandy Station, Va. Here Captain Harn, with the most of his men, re-enlisted for the war, and returned to New York on a " veteran furlough " of thirty days.
On May 4, 1864, the battery, now equipped with six brass guns — twelve-pounder Napoleons, smooth bores—started on the Wilderness campaign,, leaving its winter's camp at daylight. The campaign was one in which for a year the army was to know no rest or respite, and during which they were to be for eleven months under fire almost daily. The battery was not in action at the Wilderness, the forest preventing the use of artillery to any extent; but at Spotsylvania, May 12th, it was actively engaged and fired 843 rounds. Private Arnutt was killed in this battle. Harn's cannon opened fire again on the 14th at Po River, where they fired 120 shots. On the 16th, orders were issued reducing the batteries of light artillery to 4 guns, whereupon Captain Harn turned in 2 guns and limbers and 12 horses. On the 21st the men fired 121 rounds at Anderson's Farm, near the Po River.
On June 1st the battery was engaged at Cold Harbor, in the evening, where Private Russell was killed. On the following day the guns were in action all day, during which Corporal Connelly fell dead beside his gun, and Private Johnson was wounded.
The battery moved out of its works at Cold Harbor at I o'clock in the morning on June I3th, marching with the rear guard of the army on its way to the James River and Petersburg. Crossing the James, June 16th, on the pontoons, the men marched all night, and the next day placed their guns in battery before Petersburg. On the 19th and 2oth Harn's gunners were actively engaged, firing 344 rounds of shell and solid shot. On the 29th the battery accompanied the corps in its movement to the Weldon Railroad.
The Sixth Corps having been ordered to the Shenandoah Valley, the battery accompanied it to City Point, on the James River, and embarked, July 13th, on transports for Baltimore, whence it went by cars to Camp Barry, at Washington. But it was immediately ordered to return to City Point, and re-embarking, arrived there on the 19th. Returning to Petersburg, the guns were placed in the exposed position known to the troops as " Fort Hell", and trained on the enemy's works. It was here that General De Trobriand noticed the accuracy of its fire, and invited Lieut. George P. Fitzgerald, then commanding, to show his skill in firing. Out of six attempts the lieutenant struck the Rebel flagstaff with a twelve-pound solid shot three times at a distance of 600 yards. During the period from May 4 to July 31, 1864, including the campaign from the Wilderness to Petersburg, the battery fired 2,635 rounds of ammunition, of which 855 were fired at Cold Harbor. For his gallant and meritorious services during many campaigns, Captain Harn was honored with a commission as brevet major.
The battery was prominently engaged in the fighting which resulted in the fall of Petersburg, April 2, 1865. In the advance of the line of the Sixth Corps, on March 25th, one section of the battery under Lieut. George P. Fitzgerald rendered effective service, and received honorable mention in the official report of Colonel Damon, of the Tenth Vermont, who says: " At about sunset, by direction of General Seymour, I proceeded to the left of the picket line with a section of the Third New York Independent Battery and 150 men of the Fifth Vermont, for the purpose of dislodging a body of the enemy's sharpshooters, who were in and about a house situated on the Rebel picket line, from which position they were enabled to annoy our men by an enfilading fire. This section of artillery was placed in position on an open piece of ground at about 600 yards from the house, and opened fire with both solid shot and shell, riddling the house and driving everything from it."
On Sunday, April 2, 1865, the battery broke camp at Fort Urmston, at 3 a. m., and reported to General Getty, commanding Second Division, Sixth Corps, it having been designated as one of the five batteries that were to assist in the assault on Fort Fisher. The men of the battery moved, without their guns, with the infantry of the Sixth Corps in their grand charge upon the lines of Petersburg, and turned the enemy's guns upon their fleeing owners. In this affair two men in the battery were wounded, one of them, Louis Adam, losing his right arm. The battery accompanied the corps in its pursuit of Lee's retreating army, and at Sailor's Creek aided greatly in securing the decisive victory of that day.
Of the 338 batteries which the United States had in the field, this battery ranks seventeen in point of losses, while in efficiency and discipline it was unsurpassed. Gen. Charles H. Tompkins, chief of artillery, Sixth Corps, in a letter written April 17, 1888, says: "The war record of the battery is second to none in the Army of the Potomac. Every surviving officer and man is justly entitled to feel a pride in having been one of its members. I recall with pleasure the valuable services which it rendered during the time I had the honor of commanding the Artillery Brigade of the Sixth Corps."
The Third New York Independent Battery participated with honorable record in the following battles and skirmishes: Lewinsville, Va., September 11, 1861; Lee's Mills, Va., April 16, 1862; Williamsburg, Va., May 5, 1862; Golding's Farm, Va., June 28, 1862; White Oak Swamp, Va., June 30, 1862; Malvern Hill, Va., July 1, 1862; Crampton's Gap, Md., September 14, 1862; An-tietarn, Md., September 17, 1862; Fredericksburg, Va., December 13, 1862; Marye's Heights, Va., May 3, 1863; Salem Church, Va., May 4-5, 1863; Gettysburg, Pa., July 2-3, 1863; Fairfield, Pa., July 6, 1863; Funkstown, Md., July 8, 1863; Rappa-hannock Station, Va., November 7, 1863; Mine Run, Va., November 29, 1863; Wilderness, Va., May 5-6, 1864; Spotsylvania, Va., May 10-12, 1864; North Anna, Va., May 23, 1864; Cold Harbor, Va., June 1, 1864; Siege of Petersburg, Va., June, 1864 — April, 1865; Fall of Petersburg, Va., April 1, 1865; Sailor's Creek, Va., April 6, 1865; and Appomattox, Va., April 9, 1865.
At the close of its service the battery's officers were: William A. Harn, captain and brevet major; and Lieuts. Alexander McLain, George W. Kellogg, George P. Fitzgerald and Leon Rheims. First Lieut. Henry M. Fitzgerald was mustered out previously, October 6, 1864, at the expiration of his term of enlistment.
The war was over, and the veteran artillerists of the Third Battery, who had served from the beginning to the end, returned to New York, where they were mustered out June 24, 1865. The men resumed their citizen life, and the gallant old battery ceased to exist except on the pages of history.