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ARTICLES The Washington Artillery, 5th Company, at the Battle of Perryville

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“At the outbreak of the Civil War, there was not a finer organization of citizen soldiery in America.”

The Washington Artillery began around 1838, when Captain Elisha Tracy organized the company.  In 1841, the Washington Artillery changed their name to Native American Artillery.  In 1844, Captain Henry Forno and the Washington Artillery, along with Major Louis Gally’s battalion of Louisiana Volunteer Artillery, volunteered to fight in the Mexican War.  They served three months in Texas and came back home.  In 1846, the company departed for the Rio Grande, under Capt. Isaac Stockton.  The Native Artillery offered their serviced to the United States Army and became Company A, 1st Louisiana Volunteers, or Louisiana’s Washington Regiment.  Under Colonel Persifor Smith, the Washington Regiment served under General Zachary Taylor.  After three months of service, the regiment returned to New Orleans.

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By 1850, the Washington Artillery had become popular and became an organization that every young man in New Orleans wanted to join.  Membership was restricted to the upper class of New Orleans.  When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, the Washington Artillery, with one hundred men, seized the Federal arsenal at Baton Rouge.  According to Civil War author Jennings C. Wise, “At the outbreak of the Civil War, there was not a finer organization of citizen soldiery in America.”  Captain James Walton divided the company into four companies.  On May 13, the Confederate government in Richmond accepted the Washington Artillery for service.  On May 27, the Washington Artillery headed for Virginia.  First Lieutenant Irvin Hodgson, of the Fourth Company, was left behind in New Orleans to recruit men for future service.  Hodgson formed a fifth company.  By the fall of 1861, the Fifth Company, Washington Artillery, managed to obtain six brass cannons.  On February 14, 1862, Hodgson became the Captain, and 1st Lieutenant went to Cuthbert Harrison Slocumb.  On March 2, 1862, the Fifth Company swore their allegiance to the Confederacy and headed for Tennessee.  The Company’s first engagement was at the Battle of Shiloh, on April 6-7, 1862 and after the Battle of Shiloh, the battery fought at the engagement at Farmington.

Members of the Washington Artillery, 1861

In August of 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi and General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Army of East Tennessee began their invasion of Kentucky.  The Washington Artillery was assigned to Brigadier General Daniel Adams' 2nd Brigade, Brig. General James Patton Anderson’s 2nd Division, Major General William Hardee’s Corps.  On August 7, 1862, the Fifth Company arrived at Chattanooga. On September 8, the battery arrived at Sparta, Tennessee.  By September 15, the battery arrived at Munfordville, Kentucky.  After Munfordville, Kentucky had surrendered, the Confederate Army of Mississippi under General Braxton Bragg arrived at Bardstown, Kentucky.  On October 1, 1862, Union General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio’s three corps moved out from Louisville and headed for Bragg’s army.  Bragg’s army fell back until he took a position at Perryville.  On October 8, Bragg ordered Confederate General Leonidas Polk’s and Hardee’s Corps to attack Buell’s army.

The Battle of Perryville became very much a duel between artillery batteries and for artillery positions.  Bragg’s army had a total of fifty-six guns, in which less than twenty percent were rifled.  The right wing had four batteries; the left wing had nine.  The Union Army of the Ohio consisted of three corps: the First Corps was under Alexander McCook, the Second Corps was under Major General Thomas Crittenden, and the Third Corps was under Brigadier General Charles Gilbert.  The Army of the Ohio had 147 guns, in which 62 guns were rifled.  The First Corps had six batteries, the Second Corps had eleven, and the Third Corps had nine.  Nineteen of the 26 batteries had at least one rifled cannon.

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This hand loomed cotton shirt is very similar to the shirts worn in the above photograph.

At 1 p.m., Confederate General Benjamin Cheatham’s division crossed Doctor’s Fork and began to engage the Federals' left on the ridge behind the stream.  Confederate attacks were repulsed, but the Confederates reformed and attacked.  At 2:45 p.m. Confederate General Patton Anderson’s division launched an attack against the Union right.  Colonel Tom Jones' Mississippi 4th Brigade crossed Doctor’s Creek and was struck by the canister from Captain Peter Simonson’s 5th Indiana Battery, comprised of two six pounders, two 12 pounder smoothbores, and two 3.8 inch rifled guns, stationed on high ground north of the creek.  Confederate General Bushrod Johnson attacked on Jones' left.  His infantry came marching down Chatham Hill through Chatham’s orchard toward the creek bank.  A section of Simonson’s battery shifted its fire from Jones' to Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson’s 3rd Brigade, of Buckner’s division.

Confederate General Simon Buckner order Brigadier General Dan Adams' Louisiana infantry to support the advance on Johnson’s left.  The Washington Artillery moved out at 1:15 p.m. and unlimbered at Bottom’s Hill.  The Washington Artillery opened fire at 2:30 p.m.  Adams told Slocumb to hold his fire while the Louisiana infantry attacked to his front.  The Washington Artillery limbered up and moved forward in support of Adams about one hundred yards to the front and left.  The Washington artillery opened up and the Yankees fell back before the artillery barrage.

By accident two of Johnson’s regiments, the 25th and 44th Tennessee became confused and had swung to the left and entered the right rear of Adams' lines.  The Washington Artillery thought the advancing infantry on Adams' lines were Yankees and opened fire.  The two Tennessee regiments reeled back from the artillery fire.  General Buckner ordered Slocumb to cease fire on the Confederate regiments.

Slocumb ordered the battery to limber up and advanced down Bottom’s Hill, crossed Doctor’s Fork and went into battery west of the Henry Bottom’s house and the Mackville Pike, which gave them an excellent position to fire into the right flank of the 3rd Ohio Infantry, which was holding their position on a hill above Bushrod Johnson’s men.

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Slocumb’s Washington Artillery fired at a barn located near the 3rd Ohio Infantry.  The battery opened up with spherical case, which crashed through the barn igniting the hay inside the barn.  The smoke and heat from the burning barn sent the 3rd Ohio Infantry retreating to the bottom of the reverse slope. Federal reinforcements arrived, but the fire from Slocumb’s battery was so intense the Federals were forced to retire.

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Brigadier General Daniel Adams' Louisiana infantry, led by Ned Austin’s 14th Battalion of Louisiana sharpshooters, attacked the hill.  Austin’s men took shelter behind a stone wall and moved to the left for a better sheltered position.  Adams' other regiments joined in the attack.  The Yankees holding the hill confronted half of Johnson’s brigade and Austin’s sharpshooters to their front, while Adams' other regiments maneuvered to the extreme left and opened fire on the Federal right.  Confederate General Patrick Cleburne’s 2nd Brigade, Buckner’s Third Division, arrived and launched an attack against the Yankee left flank.

Adams' Louisiana’s and Johnson’s Tennessee troops, along with the Slocumb’s 5th Company, Washington Artillery, positioned on an open knob about seven hundred feet from the stone wall.  Behind this wall was the 15th Kentucky Infantry.  After driving the 15th Kentucky from the ridge behind Doctor’s Creek, the Washington Artillery advanced and unlimbered for a third time, and redirected their fire toward Colonel Leonard Harris’s line of infantry, which were holding out against Confederate Generals A. P. Stewart’s and John C. Brown’s brigades of Benjamin Cheatham’s and James Patton Anderson’s divisions.  Again the battery occupied a position near the Bottom’s House.  The battery fired into Harris’s right flank.  To stop Adams' advance, the 3rd Ohio and the 15th Kentucky tried to establish a line of battle along a fence line.  After a short fight, Adams routed the Federals.

Adams advanced, smashing Harris’s right flank.  Ned Austin’s men charged into Brigadier General William Lytle’s and Colonel Leonard Harris line.  Lytle attempted to rally for a counterattack just below the Mackville road.  Lytle fell wounded and Adams' men captured him.  Providing enfilading fire for Adams' charge, was Confederate artillery above the Bottom House, made up of several batteries, the Fifth Company, Putnam Darden’s Jefferson Artillery, comprised of four six pounders and 12 pounders, and Semple’s rifled section, and one section of Captain J. H. Calvert’s Arkansas battery, consisting of two 12 pounders joined by Slocumb’s four smoothbores and two rifles, with one section on each side of the Mackville Pike.  The artillery batteries focused their fire on the Russell House close to the intersection of the Mackville and Benton roads.

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Colonel Daniel F. Griffin of the 38th Indiana Infantry, Colonel Leonard Harris’s 9th Brigade, wrote about his experience of the battle.  According to Griffin:

A section of the famous Washington Louisiana Battery tried to take position at a distance of two hundred yards in our front, but the fire from our Enfields each time drove them from their position to seek friendly shelter behind the hill.  The battery, however, that was beyond the range of our rifles, kept up a continuous fire of shell and grape, but to no purpose, so far as shaking the center, from their position.  Meanwhile, the 17th Brigade, under Colonel Lytle, was standing an equally fierce contest, and finally retired their right, soon followed by their center, the enemy bringing a battery to bear directly upon them, and at the same time to enfilade our entire line.  The extreme left had been forced back some distance, and next the 10th Wisconsin were ordered to retire, having expended their ammunition.  Still our boys held the rebel brigade at bay and our brigade command, who stood with us during the whole time, looked with anxiety for the ammunition that had been sent for and to the movements on the right.  Now there was on the front but our boys and the 10th Ohio they still holding fire and we out of cartridges, our left exposed, our right open to the then advancing foe, and the terrible enfilading fire from their battery on the right.  It was then that Colonel Harris rode the field to the 10th and notified Colonel Lytle that he would have to withdraw our regiment, and on his return the order was given, and executed coolly and in order the regiment being very reluctant to give up the position though new tenable and without a cartridge.  Immediately upon the withdrawal of our line the enemy advance, the 10th Ohio waiting to give them a volley and then follow us, and in doing so, suffered severely, Colonel Lytle being wounded and taken prisoner, while most of his staff were either killed or wounded.  During the retiring of our line, we formed under fire twice, partly changing front, and again moving in order to the top of the wooded hill, our first position.  Here we found part of our brigade, part of the 17th and a brigade of James Jackson's division, and retired behind their lines to await our ammunition.  Suddenly the brigade of new troops in our front gave way and passed to the rear through our lines and over the boys.  It was a trying moment, not a cartridge, the enemy coming up the hill and a brigade passing through us, but the men remained, and at the word "Attention" rose with their faces to the foe, coolly recovering and executing the order to fix bayonets.  It was the work of a moment only, and the retreating troops having again formed, close to us we again ordered to the rear of them, and this time we found our ammunition wagon on the ground.  Quickly filling the boxes our line was again ready, when we were ordered to the left to prevent a flank movement from that direction, and support Stone's battery there in position.  Here we maintained our position, while the fight lasted, until dark, the troops on the hill contesting every inch of ground.  It was here the rebels were checked, a brigade of Mitchell's division, in which the 22nd Indiana bore a conspicuous part, having opportunately come to our support.  On the extreme right, in the direction of Perryville, our forces maintained possession of the field, while with us the position occupied at noon was ours, the rebels maintaining the field in the afternoon.
Confederate General B. F. Eshelman's Militia Staff Officer?s sword. This sword was issued to staff officers of the Louisiana state militias, like the Washington Artillery.

At 4 p.m. a furious artillery duel took place between the twelve Confederate guns at the Bottom House and the Federal guns under Captain Cyrus Loomis 1st Michigan, comprised of two Parrott guns, and 5th Indiana Simonson’s battery.  For forty-five minutes, the guns fired back at each other.  At one point, the shell from the Confederate batteries hit a Union ammunition chest.  Balls and shells continued to fall thick and fast from the Yankees.  Brigadier General Lovell Rousseau, the Union commander at the Russell house commented that “the air seemed full of shells—four or five burst at one time.”

Adams' men advanced towards the Russell House.  General Rousseau led a counterattack, which was supported by the direct fire from Captain Loomis 1st Michigan artillery.  Adams' men retreated toward the Washington Artillery and Doctor’s Creek.  But in the meantime, Slocumb’s battery, Darden’s and Calvert’s guns continued to fire.  Simonson’s battery took a position on a hill one hundred yards to the rear of the Russell house and tried to engage the Confederate batteries.  Simonson soon withdrew under the well-directed fire of the Confederate batteries.

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Confederate Corps commanders, Generals William Hardee and Leonidas Polk, along with division commanders Simon Buckner and Patton Anderson had “very high praise” for the company.

As the day drew to a close, more Yankee guns and Mitchell’s division arrived on the field.  Slocumb’s battery came under the fire of Yankee infantry and artillery fire on their left.  Adams' brigade retired.  Hardee placed the Washington Artillery on a hill to the right of the position they had just left.  The 5th Company continued to fire until 7:30 p.m.

The Battle of Perryville was over. The troops from General Jackson on Parson Hill and Starkweather’s Hill had been pushed back to meet with Colonel Lytle’s and Colonel Harris’s troops at the intersection of the Mackville and Benton road.  Darkness put an end to the battle.

During the night, Bragg realized that he faced the entire Federal army.  Two Federal Corps had not even been engaged.  Bragg’s twenty thousand men would face fresh troops in the morning. Wisely, he decided to pull out for Perryville and headed for Harrodsburg.  At 3:30 a.m., Slocumb’s battery, along with Adams' brigade left Perryville and took the road to Harrodsburg.

During the battle of Perryville, the Fifth Company lost five privates wounded, two officers captured, and eleven privates killed.  The 5th Company distinguished themselves.  Confederate Corps commanders, Generals William Hardee and Leonidas Polk, along with division commanders Simon Buckner and Patton Anderson had “very high praise” for the company.  At the Battle of Perryville, the battery would earn the nickname “The White Horse Battery.”

After the Battle of Perryville, the Washington Artillery, 5th Company fought at the Battle of Stone’s River or Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign, and the Tennessee Campaign, and Spanish Fort.  Their first commander was W. Irving Hodgson, then Captain Slocumb, and then later Captain Josef Charlron.  The 5th Company was a mainstay of Anderson’s/Adams' brigade of the Army of Tennessee’s 2nd Corps through the spring of 1863.  For the next nine months the Washington Artillery was attached to Confederate General John C. Breckinridge’s command and from February of 1864 on was again in the Army of Tennessee’s 2nd and 1st Corps, largely in Cobb’s Artillery Battalion.  The Civil War Memoirs of Philip Dangerfield Stephenson, DD, edited by Nathaniel Hughes, Jr. are the exploits of the 5th Company of the Washington Artillery from the start of 1864.

After the war, members of the unit formed the “Washington Artillery Veterans Charitable & Benevolent Association.”  They held secret infantry drills, assembled weapons, and in 1870, as a protest against carpetbag rule, appeared with two miniature brass cannon to drive former Confederate General James Longstreet’s Metropolitan Police off the streets of New Orleans.  Later, the Washington Artillery fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and fought in both World War I and World War II.

Resources

Barbara Hughett, Washington Artillery, Atlas Editions

Nathaniel Hughes, Jr., The Pride of the Confederate Artillery: The Washington Artillery in the Army of Tennessee (Louisiana State University Press: Baton Rouge and London), 1997.

Judy Ehlen, Robert J. Abrahart, William Andrews, "Artillery and Terrain in the American Civil War: The Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1862." www.x-cd.com/usma/ehlen2/ehlen2.htm.

This specific article is under full copyright.  Copyright © 2006, All Rights Reserved.
Modified Saturday, January 13, 2007

Next Keynote Article: “Confederate Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall”

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