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J.A. Tompkins

J.A. Tompkins

Federal (USV)


John Almy Tompkins

(1837 - 1916)

Home State: Rhode Island

Command Billet: Battery Commander

Branch of Service: Artillery

Unit: 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, Battery A


see his Battle Report

Before Antietam

He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Battery A, First Rhode Island Light Artillery on 6 June 1861 and was appointed Captain of the Battery, probably at Darnestown, MD, on 16 September 1861. He was on sick leave in Washington, DC from November 1861 into January 1862, returning to duty on the 10th.

On the Campaign

He commanded his Battery on the Maryland Campaign and was heavily engaged at the center of the action at Antietam on 17 September 1862. The Battery historian later wrote:

When the enemy forced their way into the opening between the Second [Sedgwick's] and Third Divisions [French's], the Third Division was also broken, and the enemy came in column of divisions out of the corn directly in our front before we were aware of it. This was the time and place that tried men's nerves, but Battery A never flinched; if it had it would have been lost, and, in my opinion, our army would have been defeated. We had supporting our guns a new nine months' regiment the One Hundred and Thirty-second Pennsylvania Infantry. It was their first battle and some of them broke with the brigade on our right. But those that stayed were good men and fought like tigers. They had no regular line of battle but clustered around each gun to protect it. The Fifth Maryland, after losing its commander. Major Blumenberg, broke and carried along with it a portion of the Fourteenth Connecticut, which let the enemy come past our right flank, and they went for our guns like a pack of wolves. We were firing as fast as guns could be served double-shotted with canister, the guns in echelon and we cut them down in solid column ten paces from our guns ...

Colonel Oakford commanding the One Hundred and Thirty-second Pennsylvania (I am not sure, but think it was), told us we had better limber our guns and save them. If we had attempted it we would have lost them before they could have been limbered. Instead of that we stopped the charge and drove the rebels back in disorder. The Mumma house and barn in our rear was on fire and at one time looked as if it would ignite our caissons, and some of them on the left of the battery had to be moved. We were engaged about four hours and twenty minutes and expended over twelve hundred rounds of ammunition including every round of canister we had in our ammunition chests. The vent fields of our guns were so completely worn out they had to be condemned and we drew new guns by turning them over and taking a battery of guns from one of the batteries in the reserve artillery ...

The rest of the War

He was promoted to Major on 4 December 1862 and was appointed Chief of Artillery of the 6th Army Corps on 26 March 1863. By the Wilderness Campaign, May 1864, he was Major and in command of the Second Brigade, Army of the Potomac (reserve) Artillery. He was absent sick on several occasions in 1864 but was honored by brevet to Lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers on 1 August 1864 for actions around Richmond, VA. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 November 1864, but did not muster at that rank. He mustered out of service in 1865.

After the War

He was an auditor with the Public Service Commission of Maryland at the time of his death in September 1916, not quite 80 years old.

References & notes

Basic service information from the Adjutant General1. Details from Aldrich's History,2 source also of the quote above. His picture from a photograph which accompanies a display of his uniform frock coat and accouterments at the Antietam NB Museum, Sharpsburg. His gravesite is on Findagrave.




09/30/1916; burial in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA


1   Dyer, Elisha, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations for the Year 1865 (corrected), 2 Volumes, Providence: E.L. Freeman & Son, 1893, pp. 694-5, 698  [AotW citation 296]

2   Aldrich, Thomas M., The History of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, in the War to Preserve the Union, 1861-1865, Providence: Snow & Farnham, Printers, 1904, various pages  [AotW citation 21326]