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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Going Into Action The 5th US Artillery on Little Round Top

by Gordon Thorsby

Battery D, 5th U.S. at Fredericksburg (Timothy O'Sullivan)


Griffin’s West Point Battery went to Manassas, approved by Congress as a Federal battery of artillery. Along with Rickett’s battery, they silenced every Confederate battery it faced on the field that day. However, charging lines of Confederate infantry could not be stopped and Captain Griffin lost 70 killed, wounded and captured, all four guns, and one-third of their horses.


The army reorganized and Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery received ten pound Parrott rifles and more horses. Replacements were another matter. Volunteer regiments were coming from states and recruits for the battery were hard to come by. Recognizing the dilemma, Lt. Henry Kingsbury decided to “go to where the horses feed” and walked amongst the infantry units requesting detachment from infantry regiments. Kingsbury was successful in finding volunteers from Pennsylvania and from the 1st, 4th, and 16th Michigan regiments.


At Gaines Mill, the battery fired all day preventing breakthrough on the Union right until dusk when desperate assaults and low ammunition forced the battery to withdraw across the Chickahominy River. At 2nd Manassas, the battery was busy attempting to slow Longstreet’s flank attack on Chinn Ridge. In the end, it was outgunned north of Groveton and it was withrawn.


Stephen Waud, Gaines Mill


It was at Gettysburg that the battery’s reputation became immortal. Battery D was also known as Hazlett’s Battery. V Corps General Sykes ordered Hazlett to the hill by request of Gouvernour Warren and all 6 guns were pulled up to the top by 4PM. When Hazlett and the artillerists tried to position them while Hood’s division advanced, Hazlett realized there was only enough space for four guns. Pioneers from a Pennsylvania regiment and artillerists from the battery had to manhandle them back down the hill. The gunners could not depress the guns to fire on the infantry so it dueled with Reilly’s Artillery near Emmitsburg Road. By the end of fighting on July 2, seven were killed and six were wounded. Since the guns were placed around rocks, most every gunner of the battery was wounded to some degree by chards of rock. Hazlett was one of the dead. Lt. Benjamin Rittenhouse took command for July 3rd. Ed Patterson (of Chesaning), a 16th Michigan man on detached service was placed in command of a section of guns (he would be promoted sergeant after the battle.)


Replacements were needed to man the battery and soldiers from the 83d PA, 20th Maine and the 44th New York. When the artillery barrage began in the afternoon of the third, the four guns participated in counter-battery fire. An 83rd Pennsylvania infantryman didn’t ram his charge home and the gun exploded, killing him and wounded another. When Confederate infantry advanced into the open field, two of the guns were able to rotate to fire shot and shell into the gray lines with devastating results.


Who were some of the men who volunteered to work the battery in 1862? In the 16th, there was O.W. Damon and Ed Patterson of Chesaning, there was Oscar Drake, Albert and Frank Woodruff of East Saginaw. Eugene Brower and Lew Griswold were both from Ann Arbor and both detached from the 4th Michigan. Michael Graham was from western Wayne County and detached from the 1st Michigan Infantry.


(from, postcard courtesy J Schmick)

Most of the men named were also casualties. Frank Woodruff took a minie ball through both legs, one snapping the tibia on the 2nd that resulted in the lower third of one leg amputated. Both Brower and Griswold were mortally wounded on the second and they were buried in shallow graves near the guns on top of the hill after dark that night. They are now buried beside each other in the National Cemetery. Oscar Drake was killed on the third, cause unknown. Graham was wounded and saw action again.


To the men of the battery, the war was never as deadly as what they had survived that July. Many of the volunteers in the battery mustered out in September, 1864.


Sources:


Two Views of Little Round Top, by Vincent, Boyd, and Norton, Oliver W,. Leonaur, 2017.


Stand To and Give Them Hell, Priest, John Michael, Savas Beatie, 2014.


"The Fifth U. Army Artillery," by First Lieut. James C. Bush, 5th U. S., Artillery, U.S. Army Center for Military History Artillery.


My Diary of War, by Damon, O.W., River Rapids Library, Chesaning, MI.


Gettysburg National Military Park.



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