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BGen Henry Hunt's Official Report

Report of February 6, 1863 on Artillery Operations of September 5-20

H. Hunt

[biography]

ARTILLERY HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., February 6, 1863.

Brigadier General R. B. Marcy,
(Late) Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report the general operations of the artillery of the Army of the Potomac, from the date of my appointment as chief of artillery, September 5, 1862, to the close of the Maryland campaign. The report, although it embraces the whole period of the campaign, must be necessarily brief, and, as regards battles, general, as the reports of action were made by battery commanders mostly to division and corps commanders.

On assuming the command, I found the artillery much disorganized. The batteries of the Army of the Potomac reached Aquia Creek from the Peninsula, drivers and horses in one class of transports, the batteries and cannoneers in another; consequently Major-General Porter, who directed that every energy should be employed in organizing the troops to move up the Rappahannock, ordered that as rapidly as batteries could be equipped they should be pushed forward, without regard to the troops with which they belonged. They were accordingly forwarded as fast as completed to Falmonth, where they were assigned to whatever divisions were ready to march. A number of the batteries of the Artillery Reserve then became separated from their command, and attached to troops not only of the Army of the Potomac, but to those of the Army of Virginia; and when I reached Falmonth from Aquia Creek, where I had been left in charge of the debarkation, I found that General Porter had gone forward, and I reported to General Burnside with the remainder.

When the army left Washington, I was compelled to obtain on the roads the names and condition of the batteries and the troops to which they were attached. Not only were the batteries of the Army of the Potomac dispersed as stated, and serving with other divisions than their own, but I had no knowledge of the artillery of the corps that had joined from the other armies other than what I could pick up on the road. Many had not been refitted since the August campaign; some had lost more or less guns; others were greatly deficient in men and horses, and a number were wholly unserviceable from all these causes combined.

The first measures were directed to procuring supplies of ammunition, and several hundred wagon-loads were, when we were at Rockville, ordered to be forwarded from the arsenal at Washington. Batteries were supplied from the Artillery Reserve to the corps and divisions deficient in guns. Horses were taken from the baggage train and men temporarily detailed from the infantry, and by the time the artillery reached the Antietam it was (considering the condition in which the disastrous campaign in August had left it) very respectably provided. Like the rest of the army, the artillery may be said to have been organized on the march and in the intervals of conflict.

The horse artillery, consisting of Gibson's, Tidball's, Robertson's, and Hains' (late Benson's) batteries to the cavalry, and, under the orders of Brigadier-General Pleasonton, were actively and efficiently employed throughout the entire campaign. On the 13th of September the enemy attempted to stop the march of our columns between Hamburg and Middletown. His guns were silenced and his force driven off by Gibson's and Hains' batteries, and followed up to a point a mile beyond Middletown, where he again attempted to make a stand, with the same results. The horse artillery was also partially engaged at South Mountain, on the roads to Boonsborough, Hagerstown, Sharpsburg and in various affairs in front and on the flanks od the army, and always discharged its duties in a manner worthy of the reputation in had acquired in similar service. Its duties were arduous, requiring constant watchfulness, enterprise, and labor on the part of officers and men, and the horses, often on scant forage, were in harness for a week or ten days, day and night. For special information on these parts of their service, I beg leave to refer to the reports of the commanders of cavalry under whom they served.

At the battle of South Mountain (September 14), Gibson's, Benjamin's, Stewart's, and McMullin's batteries were engaged and rendered excellent service. Stewart's battery being attached to Gibson's brigade in its attack on the enemy on the right of the National road, one of McMullin's sections was moved by hand to the top of South Mountain under a severe fire, and opened at close range on the enemy. In this affair Lieutenant Crome, commanding the section, was killed.

From the artillery of General Franklin's command in the battle at Crampton's Pass I have received no reports. They were made to division commanders.

On the evening of September 15, the enemy opened a heavy artillery fire on our advance near the Antietam, and were replied to by a portion of our own, particularly by Tidball's battery of horse artillery, which maintained a cannonade against a largely superior force of the enemy's guns from early in the afternoon until near dark.

At sunset I received orders from Major-General McClellan in person to select places for our guns of position. They were posted next morning, under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Hays, commanding the Artillery Reserve, on the positions indicated-the long ridge on the eastern branch of the Antietam, overlooking the field of battle of the next day. Taft's, Langner's, Von Kleiser's, and Wever's batteries were placed on the ridge between the turnpike bridge and the house occupied as general headquarters (Pry's). The enemy soon opened upon them. The fire was promptly returned, and the enemy ceased his fire and withdrew his guns. In this cannonade Major Albert Arndt, commanding the First (German) Battalion New York Artillery, an experienced and excellent officer, was mortally wounded while personally directing one of his guns, and died on the 18th.

During the afternoon Taft's and Von Kleiser's batteries were moved to the heights below the ridge. At daylight on the 17th, Hazlett's battery was placed in the position occupied on the day before by Taft's; Durell's and Weed's were stationed farther down on the crest; Kusserow's on the height overlooking the bridge and sweeping its approaches; Benjamin's still farther to the left and rear, overlooking Sharpsburg and the country below it, and near Benjamin's were planted a couple of rifle boat howitzers. These completed the line of guns of position. They overlooked the enemy, and swept most of the ground between them and our troops. They were well served, especially the guns of Benjamin's battery. Their field of fire was extensive, and they were usefully employed all day, and so constantly that the supply of ammunition for the 20-pounders ran short.

In the course of the afternoon a rifled battery of the Reserve Artillery was asked for by General Hancock, who succeeded General Richardson in the command of his division when the latter was wounded. There was none disposable; all were actively engaged or had been detached to other points, but Graham's light 12's were sent instead. This battery was placed in position under difficult circumstances, and beautifully handled by Captain Graham under a severe fire, in which he lost heavily in men and horses. Colonel Hays, under whose observation the service was rendered, has recommended Captain Graham and Lieutenant Elder, his first lieutenant, for a brevet, in which I concur.

The horse artillery accompanied the cavalry, and occupied the gap in the center of the line of battle, between Hancock's division and Burnside's corps, and became warmly engaged with the enemy.

On the 19th instant the horse artillery accompanied the cavalry in pursuit of the enemy. They were closely followed by the Reserve Artillery under Colonel Hays, a number of whose batteries took part in the artillery combat between the batteries on opposite sides of the Potomac. The enemy's gunners and their supports being driven off, a small body of our infantry crossed the river and secured six of the abandoned guns. As these operations took place under the immediate orders of General Porter, I respectfully refer you to his report for the particulars.

The artillery attached to the divisions performed their duties creditably and gallantly, and there were many instances of desperate fighting. The enemy repeatedly attempted to carry our batteries, but were in every instance driven back, a circumstances due in a great degree to the care taken in posting their supports.

I have to acknowledge the services in this campaign of Lieutenant E. R. Warner, Third Artillery, my assistant adjutant-general, and the only officer on my staff. He was zealous and indefatigable in his labors to ascertain and provide for the deficiencies of the batteries, and performed his duties gallantly on the field.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hays, commanding the Reserve Artillery and batteries of position, performed his duties with his usual skill, judgment, and effect. His reputation is too well established to require further commendation from me.

Lieutenant W. D. Fuller, Third Artillery, in charge of the reserve ammunition column, is entitled to special credit for his energy in organizing the train and bringing it forward from Washington. Upon his labors depended the supply of ammunition not only to the reserve, but to most of the division batteries on the field, and he did his work thoroughly and efficiently.

The conclusion of the battle left the artillery of the army scant of men, of horses, of ammunition, of supplies of every description. The greater portion of the batteries had, before entering on this campaign, neither the time nor the opportunity to repair the losses and damages or replace the expenditures of the previous one. An almost complete reorganization and reassignment was necessary. All efforts were immediately directed to placing them in condition again to take the field. Notwithstanding these efforts, they were not fully prepared when the army crossed the Potomac, and large portions of the supplies the required were not received until after they reached this place. To the constant employment of the battery officers, chiefs of artillery, and myself in the performance of these, the most important and necessary duties at the time, must be attributed my inability to prepare a more complete or satisfactory report of the artillery operations of the campaign.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY J. HUNT,
Brigadier General Vols., Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac.

Source: Official Records, Series 1, Volume 19, Part I (Antietam - Serial 27), Pages 205 - 207.

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