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´╗┐Title: A Battery at Close Quarters - A Paper Read before the Ohio Commandery of the Loyal Legion, - October 6, 1909
Author: Neil, Henry M.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Battery at Close Quarters - A Paper Read before the Ohio Commandery of the Loyal Legion, - October 6, 1909" ***

produced from images generously made available by The
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  _A Battery at Close Quarters_

  _A Paper_


  October 6, 1909

  Captain Twenty-second Ohio Battery





During the Civil War artillery projectiles were divided as to structure
into _solid_, _hollow_ and _case shot_. The solid shot were intended to
batter down walls or heavy obstructions. Hollow projectiles, called
shell and shrapnel, were for use against animate objects; to set fire to
buildings and destroy lighter obstructions. Under the head of case shot
we had grape and canister. Grape shot is no longer used; being
superseded by the machine gun. Canister is simply a sheet iron case
filled with bullets and is effective only at very short ranges.

The foremost European military writer, Hohenloe, states that in the
Franco-Prussian war, the batteries of the Prussian Guard expended about
twenty-five thousand shells and one canister, and that this one canister
was broken in transport.

In the official reports of the recent Russo-Japanese War we find that
the Arisaka gun, which was the Japanese field piece, has a range of
6,600 meters. The Russian field pieces were said to give good results at
8,000 meters, or five miles. The Japanese, and later the Russians, made
a great feature of indirect fire. Having located a mass of the enemy,
probably beyond two ranges of hills, they would stake out a line
indicating the direction, then secure the range by the use of shells
which gave out a yellowish vapor on bursting. This vapor being observed
and signaled by scouts also indicated the necessary angles of departure
from the line of stakes and enabled the artillerymen, miles away from
actual contact, to complacently try experiments in battle ballistics
with very little fear of being interrupted by an enemy.

The range of modern field artillery being officially reported at five
miles, permit me to take you back to a day, over forty-seven years ago,
when an Ohio battery, placed in the extreme front of battle, fought at
less than fifty yards.

The village of Iuka lies in the northeast corner of the State of
Mississippi. The neighboring country is broken and, in 1862, was covered
with forests. Northwesterly from Iuka lies the village of Burnsville and
further on the little city of Corinth, close to the Tennessee line. In
1862 Corinth possessed strategical advantages which caused it to become
a large supply depot for the Federal armies. South of Corinth and
southwest of Iuka, the town of Jacinto was located.

On the eighteenth of September, 1862, General Sterling Price lay at Iuka
with an army of about twenty thousand Confederates. General E. O. G.
Ord's force lay between Burnsville and Corinth and had just been
reinforced by Ross's division. Burnsville was seven miles from Iuka.
General Rosecrans lay at Jacinto, nineteen and one-half miles from Iuka.

General Grant, taking advantage of this situation, ordered a combined
attack by Ord and Rosecrans upon General Price. Under this order
Rosecrans moved from Jacinto at 3:00 A. M. September 19th, and was
within striking distance of Price's patrols by noon. Ord was to attack
from the west and draw Price in that direction while Rosecrans was to
move to the rebel rear by the Jacinto and Fulton roads and cut off their
retreat. Neither of these Union armies was powerful enough to make,
alone, a successful attack upon Price.

The strategical plan of attack above outlined was not carried out. Ord's
strategy never reached the domain of tactics, for he went into camp
seven miles west of Iuka and the head of Rosecrans' column was attacked
by the entire army of Price. It was with the head of this column that
the Eleventh Ohio Battery marched into the fight. Anticipating a
combined engagement the head of the column pushed its innocent way into
the maw of the entire rebel army. We had to fight first and think
afterward. Price had hours to choose his positions and, incidentally, he
chose our position also. We didn't have time to change it.

"Rapidity of movement and surprise are the life and soul of the
strategical offensive." That maxim reads well but, in practice, it is
important to provide against being surprised by the other fellow before
you spring your surprise on him.

For several miles in the afternoon of the 19th of September the advance
of Rosecrans' column was warmly contested. The enemy's sharp-shooters
occupied every point of vantage, making the last five miles a steady
contest. The cavalry had long ago been driven in. A few companies formed
an advance skirmish line only a short distance from the main column.
Near the front of the column marched the Eleventh Ohio Battery. The men
knew that an engagement was imminent but their immediate front was
unknown and unexplored. As usual, we had no maps. While marching through
a defile at the crest of a thickly wooded hill we noticed that the rifle
fire in front was suddenly increased. But there was no pause to
reconnoiter. The battery marched from the defile into within short range
of Price's whole army. Instantly an entire rebel division concentrated
its fire on the battery with the intention of annihilating it before it
could unlimber.

As we emerged from the cut this sudden concentration of rifle fire gave
me the impression of being in a violent hail storm. Riding at the head
of the column I turned my head to look for the men, expecting to see
half the men and horses down. To my great joy I found all uninjured. The
storm of bullets was passing just over our heads. We hastened to get
into position and unlimber before they could get the range. Just in
front of us the road turned to the right. We turned to the right into
the brush and took position facing this road. As our men were clearing
the hazel brush for positions for their guns a Wisconsin battery
appeared about three or four hundred yards to our left and unlimbered;
but it suddenly limbered up and galloped to the rear without having
fired a shot. It had been ordered back, leaving the Eleventh the only
Union battery in the battle.

The Fifth Iowa took position just at our right. The Twenty-sixth
Missouri prolonged the line to the right of the Fifth Iowa. On our left
the Forty-eighth Indiana formed a line that swung somewhat forward at
its left flank. Our side of the fight began with these three regiments
in position. The front thus hastily formed did not permit of further
extension, owing to the nature of the ground.

A little later the Fourth Minnesota and Sixteenth Iowa were,
respectively, echeloned in rear of the left and right flanks. The total
force actually engaged was 2800 Union and 11,000 Confederates.

When the Eleventh went into position Lieutenant Sears was in command. As
junior First Lieutenant, I had the right section, while Second
Lieutenant Alger fought the center section. Of the acting Second
Lieutenants Perrine had the left section and Bauer the line of caissons.
During the fight I succeeded to the command when Sears went to the rear
with a wound. Alger was captured. Bauer was killed.

The battery had taken position in line from column under an infantry
fire from an entire division at ranges of from 200 to 400 yards. Shells
from the rebel artillery were also crashing through our line. We opened
fire at first with shell. This shell fire proved so effective that a
rebel assault on the battery was ordered. A division of Price's army
rushed to the charge. The battery changed from shell to double charges
of canister. The effect of the canister was terribly increased because
of the rebel method of charging in masses. Had the line to the left of
the battery held its front the assault on the battery would have been
impossible of success. But Col. Eddy of the 48th Indiana was killed and
the survivors of his regiment were swept back by overwhelming numbers.
The left flank of the battery was thus left bare and unsupported. On the
right the Fifth Iowa was cut to pieces. Only eleven officers and a
handful of men remained. With the line melted away the battery found
itself facing in three directions and battling with masses on three
fronts. It had a rear but no flanks. The guns were being worked with
greater speed and smaller crews. Cannoneers were falling. Other
cannoneers coolly took their places and performed double duty. Drivers
left their dead horses and took the places of dead or wounded comrades,
only to be struck down in turn. Of eighty horses only three remained
standing and a withdrawal of the guns was impossible. The surviving men
were too few to do more than work the guns. Finally the charging hordes,
checked and mutilated again and again in front, to right and to left,
pressed close. Eight thousand men against two score. On the fifth charge
the survivors were finally choked from the guns they would not abandon.

General Rosecrans in his notice, in orders, of the facts and results of
the battle of Iuka, states that the Eleventh Ohio Battery participated:

     "Under circumstances of danger and exposure such as rarely, perhaps
     never, have fallen to the lot of one single battery during this

In the same order the commanding General further states:

     "On a narrow front, intersected by ravines and covered with dense
     undergrowth, with a single battery, Hamilton's division went into
     action against the combined rebel hosts. On that unequal ground,
     which permitted the enemy to outnumber them three to one, they
     fought a glorious battle, mowing down the rebel hordes until, night
     closing in, they rested on their arms on the ground, from which the
     enemy retired during the night, leaving us masters of the field."

General Hamilton's official report, in describing the action of the
Union left flank, states:

     "Colonel Sanborn, in command of the first brigade, most gallantly
     held the left in position until, under a desolating carnage of
     musketry and canister, the brave Eddy was cut down, and his
     regiment, borne down by five times their numbers, fell back in some
     disorder on the Eightieth Ohio, under Lieutenant-Colonel Bartilson.
     The falling back of the Forty-eighth exposed the battery. As the
     masses of the enemy advanced the battery opened with canister at
     short range, mowing down the rebels by scores, until, with every
     officer killed or wounded and nearly every man and horse killed or
     disabled, it fell an easy prey. But this success was short lived.

     "The hero Sullivan rallied a portion of the right wing, and, with a
     bravery better characterized as audacity, drove the rebels back to
     cover. Again they rallied and again the battery fell into their
     hands; but with the wavering fortunes of this desperate fight the
     battery again fell into our hands, and with three of its guns
     spiked and the carriages cut and splintered with balls, it is again
     ready to meet the foe."

At the close of the engagement the ground in front of the battery showed
heaps of dead bodies. Statistics show that the Confederates' loss in
this engagement amounted to eight hundred in killed and wounded. While
actual inspection of the field of carnage indicated that a large
proportion of the slain had met their death from the canister of the
Eleventh. The Brigade Commander's report states that the battery fired
with great rapidity and extraordinary accuracy.

The battery entered the fight with ninety-seven men and five officers,
commissioned and acting. Of these, eighteen were killed and thirty-nine
wounded, many mortally. A number of the wounded had been bayoneted at
their guns. Of the cannoneers alone, forty-six were killed or wounded.
Forty-six out of a total of fifty-four. More than five men out of every

The statistics compiled by Col. Fox in his "Regimental Losses in the
American Civil War," show that this day's record in killed and mortally
wounded equaled, within one, the total killed in any light battery
during its entire term of service. This work also states that the losses
of the Eleventh at Iuka were 22% greater than those sustained by any
other light battery in any one engagement during the war.

You have been familiar with death and wounds and the aching pain of deep
sympathy for suffering comrades. Therefore I will not depict the
tortures and individual heroisms of those artillerymen who fell, to die
or partly recover. Those who died left a legacy of glory and honor to
posterity and to their country. That legacy is of greater value than the
greatest riches, for it will always endure, and the martyrs of the civil
war, the dead and the living, will proudly bear to the throne of God
those scars which were the price of their country's salvation.

One singular feature of this fight was that but two members of the
battery were taken prisoners. The guns were captured and recaptured
several times before dark. The battery men had never abandoned them
voluntarily. One Confederate prisoner afterward said:

     "Those battery boys had so much spunk that we took pity on a few
     who were left."

It may have been this respect for the courage of the artillerymen which
induced the Confederates to let the few survivors go. But could they
have looked into the future and seen these same men and guns at Corinth
only fourteen days later, they would probably have dropped every other
work and secured them while they had this one chance.

After attending to the wounded, the night after the fight at Iuka, all
members of the battery were ordered to a rendezvous. They were all
assembled by 5 A. M. and, after reverently burying our dead, the men
turned their attention to securing the guns and equipments scattered
over the field. The drivers cried softly as they removed the harness
from their faithful mounts. In one mass lay eighteen dead horses. These
three teams, instead of trying to escape, had swung together and died
together. My own horse received seven wounds. Toward the close of the
engagement he sank down and was left for dead. Some time during the
night he revived and was found by an officer of Rosecrans' staff who
rode him until daylight. This horse survived the war two years, then
suddenly dropped dead in his stall. A bullet had finally worked its way
into an artery.

Of the other three surviving horses one had an interesting history. He
was a fine strong bay who always worked as near leader. At our first
battle, New Madrid, this horse's rider was literally cut in two by a
thirty-two pound ball. The horse kept his place, covered with the blood
of poor James Bibby. After this baptism he seemed to bear a charmed
life. He was mustered out with the battery, still able to do full duty.

Early in the morning after the battle General Rosecrans ordered me to
refit the battery as rapidly as possible. After the guns' spikes were
removed the pieces were found to be in serviceable order and work on the
splintered carriages was begun.

A description of our six guns may be of interest. They were:

     2 rifled 6 pounders, bronze, (James pattern), (calibre 3.67, weight
     of ball, 14 lbs.)

     2 smooth bore 6 pounders, (calibre 3.67, weight of ball, 14 lbs.)

     2 twelve pounder Howitzers, (calibre 4.62.)

These guns would soon be needed again, for General Rosecrans had
promised us more work in the near future at Corinth. In this emergency I
was allowed to draw horses and equipment from the nearest available
sources without regular requisition. General Rosecrans' foresight in
stretching regulations further permitted me to obtain recruits from my
brigade commander, and the rejuvenation of the Eleventh was soon under
way. The new men were drilled as hard as their other duties permitted.
The battery was ready for the march to Corinth by the evening of October

General Rosecrans had left orders with Colonel Crocker, who was left in
command at Iuka, to furnish the Eleventh with an escort to Corinth. On
the evening of October first I found that an escort could not be secured
for two or three days, as Colonel Crocker had only enough men present
for guard and picket duty.

My orders were to report at Corinth as soon as possible. The news from
there indicated that a big battle was imminent. It also indicated that
the Eleventh ran some risk of capture if it went through alone. But
there was no way to avoid that risk. I therefore drew some extra horses,
sent mounted cannoneers forward as an advance guard, and started for
Corinth on the morning of October second. I felt very uneasy at starting
on that march for I knew that, if I met one of the numerous strong bands
of guerrillas or a Confederate force, I might be shot up first and
court-martialed afterward.

Nothing unusual happened during the day's march. By four P. M. we were
inside our own lines and a little later the battery was assigned to a
strange brigade. By the morning of October third I managed to secure an
order sending us to our old brigade. It looked much smaller than before
Iuka but that made us think all the more of it.

After the failure of his Napoleonic tactics at Iuka, General Price
retreated to Ripley, Mississippi, where he united with a still stronger
rebel force, under General Van Dorn. Van Dorn assumed command of the
united forces and pushed forward toward Corinth with intent to overwhelm

Corinth was surrounded by extensive works constructed by Beauregard when
he held that position against Halleck's army. Rosecrans had too few
troops to man these works but had taken the precaution to hastily
construct an inner line of fortifications, which was traced about a mile
west from the center of the village.

The cavalry had promptly notified Rosecrans of the formidable rebel
movement northward and he had hurriedly prepared to receive it. About 10
A. M. on October third we moved from our camp east of Corinth, marching
through the town to a designated point at the right of the Federal
lines. These lines occupied the outer line of works built by Beauregard.

At about 2 P. M. we received the order to fall back to the new line,
nearer Corinth. In executing this movement I saw several heavy columns
of rebels approaching, en route with the same objective. It looked for
a time as if we might be surrounded, but nothing resulted except a few
singing bullets which did no harm. It was evident that the rebels felt
that we were in a trap and they were pursuing a prearranged plan in
springing it. As we reached the northwestern suburb of Corinth we swung
to the left and continued until we reached the right wing of the new
line, where we selected a fine position on rising ground with a clear
field of fire and a magnificent view.

The new defensive line of which we had just formed a part, presented a
concave front to Van Dorn's army. Our elevated position enabled the
batterymen to see both lines of battle. Being at the Federal right flank
we became one of the horns of the dilemma which confronted Van Dorn's
hosts the next day.

Van Dorn's magnificent series of assaults against our line began about
9:30 the next morning. The masses of the enemy first attacked our left
flank and were repulsed. Then they assailed our center, penetrated it,
but were at length driven back into the cross fire of our artillery.

By 2 P. M. the attacks against the left and center had exhausted
themselves and the peril of a broken center was narrowly averted. Then
the rebels, having concentrated for another supreme effort, bore down
upon Hamilton's division on the right. This was good tactics, because
our right had been weakened by sending troops to the imperilled center.

The now familiar sight of masses of rebels, screaming the familiar yell,
appeared in our front. As the mass approached I recognized them and
called to the men: "Boys, there are the same troops that fought us at
Iuka; are you going to let them touch our guns today?" The yell of rage
that went up was more ominous than a rebel yell ever tried to be.

At six hundred yards the Eleventh opened with shell. The men worked like
tigers in their desperate resolve that their beloved guns would never
again feel the insult of a rebel touch.

Three times they charged and three times they were repulsed. Each time
they came so close that we resorted to double charges of canister and
never a rebel reached the muzzles of our guns. By four o'clock the
Confederates were staggering back or surrendering in squads.

From some prisoners taken at Corinth it was learned that they were still
unnerved from the moral effect of their assaults at Iuka. Those
prisoners stated that, as they went into the assault, they recognized
the bark of the guns of the Eleventh Ohio. Before these guns they had
seen hundreds of their comrades fall like wheat before the harvester.
They felt that they could not again silence the guns of the Eleventh.
It had taken five assaults to do so when the odds were many to one.

At daylight of October 5th, after a night spent in convoying prisoners
and caring for the wounded, we started in pursuit of the remains of
Price's and Van Dorn's armies. During that day's march our army simply
gathered in throngs of rebels. The retreating force had been three days
without regular rations and were too weak to escape.

For two long days and nights we pressed our foes until our condition was
hardly better than theirs. At one A. M. on the second night's march, we
were stumbling along, almost dead with fatigue, when suddenly a band
struck up the familiar song--John Brown's Body. Other bands joined; we
all woke up and were soon swinging along without a thought of our
condition. I have often wondered what moral effect this musical
demonstration, at dead of night, had upon our quarry.

It took us three days to return to Corinth, horses stumbling with
weariness, men asleep in their saddles, tired but happy, a victory won
against odds.


The following appreciative remembrance of the action of the Eleventh
Ohio Battery at battles of Iuka, September 19, 1862, and Corinth,
October 4, 1862, appeared in the columns of the St. Paul (Minnesota)
Pioneer Press in 1884. Having been preserved by a Companion of the Ohio
Commandery, it was read by the Recorder, Major Thrall, at the Commandery
monthly meeting of October 6, 1909, as the Recorder's contribution to
the discussion of an account of the part of the Eleventh Ohio in those
battles, which had just been presented by Captain Neil, and by general
request is published by the Commandery, without the advice or consent of
Companion Neil.

  A. B. ISHAM,
  L. M. HOSEA,
  _Publication Committee_.


"No scenes of life are so deeply and indelibly impressed upon the memory
as those which occur in war and battle. All the mental faculties seem to
be melted into a fused condition by the excitement of the occasion, so
that a full and deep impression of all the principal events is made and
then to be suddenly turned to adamant so that the impression must remain
as long as the faculties endure. There is not a soldier of the late war,
who took part in any engagement, who does not have impressed upon his
mind some event or scene which then transpired that is just as vivid and
fresh today as on the day it was made. And when the memory is turned
toward it by the suggestion of any other faculty--by the sight of some
party connected therewith, or hearing kindred sounds, or by those more
hidden spiritual influences less understood that at times cause to form
in order and pass in review before the mind all the leading and exciting
incidents of past life, these events and scenes are again displayed with
all the vividness and strength of first impression. These thoughts were
suggested to the writer upon meeting Lieutenant H. M. Neil of the
Eleventh Ohio Battery at the meeting of the Society of the Army of the
Tennessee at St. Louis, in 1882. Twenty years had passed since I had
seen his face, and I had reckoned him among the brave spirits of the war
which had gone to rest. When I saw him last before this, he was
commanding his battery in the thickest of the fight at the battle of
Corinth about 11 o'clock in the forenoon of October 4, 1862. His rank
was that of Second Lieutenant. All officers of higher grade were absent
in hospital from wounds received fifteen days before at Iuka, in which
battle this battery of a few more than 100 men had eighteen killed and
fifty-two wounded, and out of 148 horses had but three left standing at
the close of the engagement. The battery was captured by the rebels and
recaptured by our troops. Lieutenant Neil was the only commissioned
officer on duty at the close of the engagement, and he had been wounded
twice with shell and twice with bullets--severe flesh wounds. He was
besmeared with blood. The Lieutenant was, notwithstanding full of pluck.
He said the next morning, "If I can have one hundred men detailed from
the infantry and horses furnished, I will have the battery in fighting
trim again in two weeks." Infantry soldiers readily volunteered upon
call to man the battery, and horses were furnished by the Quartermaster,
and on the afternoon of the 3d of October--fourteen days from the
annihilation of the battery the battle of Corinth was fought and the
Lieutenant having marched up from Iuka without escort, came upon the
field with his battery fully manned, equipped and drilled, amid the
hurrahs and tears of the infantry that had seen it destroyed under the
terrible fire of the 19th of September, and who now seemed to feel that
the battery men, horses and all, had come back from the regions of the
dead to aid in the terrible struggle now going on between the same

"The Lieutenant received the heartiest congratulations of all officers
who had been with him in the battle of Iuka. While receiving those of
the writer he said: "I want you to stay right by my battery with your
regiment when it goes into action here, and if you will no rebel
battalions can take it this time." There was a promise to comply with
his request. On the following morning when the irresistible assault of
the rebel army came, the Eleventh Ohio Battery was in position
commanding the whole rebel line and the Fourth Minnesota Infantry in
line flat upon the ground close in its rear. Lieutenant Neil was seated
on his thoroughbred from twenty to forty feet in front of the battery,
between the line of fire of the guns of the middle section. He requested
the Colonel of the infantry to keep his eye upon him and whenever he
beckoned with his saber, to have the infantry rise up and deliver their

"Now the assaulting lines of the rebel armies come on like a wave of the
sea, rolling along over breastworks and batteries. He orders the men to
open fire and, still in his advanced position, waves his hat constantly
to the advancing lines of rebels, and shouts, 'Come on! Come on! if you
think you can play Iuka over again.' A strange coincidence was that the
same rebel battalions came against this battery that had captured it on
the 19th of September. But they could not come on here. Three times the
Lieutenant signaled the infantry to rise and fire, and each time they
rose to hear him say, 'No, no, they have broke again.'

"For a half mile in front of this battery, after the battle, were large
areas covered with the dead and dying, which told with what terrible
effect it had been served during the assault.

"The sight of the Lieutenant, after twenty years, brought up these
occurrences--this whole scene, and made it as fresh as if it had
transpired yesterday, and made me resolve to commit it to writing
before I died, feeling that none of us had done him justice in our
reports of these battles.

"The scene at Corinth, if it could be placed on canvas, would be
thrilling even to strangers. An elegant thoroughbred Kentucky horse
fully caparisoned, on which the Lieutenant is sitting erectly, with his
hat in his hand, is standing out in front of the battery between the
lines of fire of the two center guns, seemingly conscious that if he
moved to the right or left he would be torn to atoms, and trusting
himself wholly to his rider, the Lieutenant is waving his hat in the
air, and bidding defiance to the foe; advancing in masses and lines upon
his positions, the artillerymen with superhuman power and skill, amid
the smoke that rolled incessantly from the muzzles of every gun, loading
and firing, is a picture before the mind at this distance plainer than
can be placed on canvas by the most skillful artist. It is such men and
such services that saved this nation in the war. They were not
conspicuous nor vain-glorious, perhaps not heard of before the war, nor
afterwards; but in the midst of it, meeting the full demands of the
great occasion and leaving the reward to posterity.

"What this officer did after this battle in the war, I know not. He
passed from my sight when we withdrew from that line of battle, and
twenty years passed before I saw his face again, and during all this
time never heard a word concerning him. When I met him it was my
privilege to name him as one of the vice presidents of our society,
showing that time had in no respect obliterated or dimmed the memory of
his services.

JOHN B. SANBORN, Commanding,

First Brigade, Seventh Division, Army of the Tennessee.

ST. PAUL, Jan. 14, 1884."

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

Additional spacing after some of the quotes is intentional to indicate
both the end of a quotation and the beginning of a new paragraph as
presented in the original text.

The following misprint has been corrected: "litterally" corrected to
"literally" (page 14).

Other than the correction listed above, printer's inconsistencies have
been retained.

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