Independent BatteryC
Captain James Thompson's Battery
Pennsylvania Volunteers

Recruited at Pittsburg


The troops for this battery were recruited at Pittsburg, to serve for three years, and were organized on the 6th of November, 1861, with the following officers: 
  • James Thompson, Captain; 
  • John P. Barry, Lieutenant
  • James Stephenson, Lieutenant 

Soon after its organization it was ordered to the front, and during the fall and winter succeeding, was carefully drilled. It was assigned to the Second Division, commanded by General Ricketts, of the Third Corps, General M’Dowell, which subsequently became part of General Pope's army. When M'Clellan, with the major part of the Army of the Potomac moved to the Peninsula, in the spring of 1862, M'Dowell's Corps remained behind to cover Washington, and did not advance further south than the Rappahannock. When the safety ofWashington became endangered by the threatening attitude which the rebel army assumed after the seven days' battle beforeRichmond, M'Dowell's Corps was pushed out to meet and check the rebel advance. Banks met a powerful division of that army under Jackson and Ewell, at Cedar Mountain, towards the close of the day, on the 9th of August, and a most sanguinary battle ensued. M'Dowell's corps came quickly to the support of Banks, Thompson’sBattery arriving on the ground just at dark. As it was moving into position, the enemy opened upon it with canister. The infantry had formed between it and the enemy, preventing the use of canister, and Captain Thompson, accordingly replied with shells from his two twelve pound howitzers, which, in a short time silenced the rebel fire. With his Parrott guns, he directed a hot fire upon the woods where the enemy held his supports. The fire was kept up -until far into the night. On the following day, the enemy sent in a flag of truce, for permission to bury his dead, and afterwards retreated across the Rapidan. With Buford's Cavalry Brigade, the battery advanced to Robertson's River, on the 12th, and skirmished with the enemy, putting his cavalry to flight.

On the 21st, the battery was brought down to Rappahannock Bridge, and ordered to cross to the south bank, to the assistance of Captain Mathews, of the First Pennsylvania Artillery, who was being hard pressed by the enemy. As soon as Captain Thompson could get his guns into position, Mathews retired, and fire was opened, skirmishing being kept up during the entire day. On the following day there was occasional firing, but without loss. At daylight on the 22d, the battery was ordered to retire across the railroad bridge, fears being entertained for its safety, on account of a sudden rise of the water. The howitzers moved with Hurtsuff's Brigade, and effected a crossing; but as the Parrotts were about to follow, the enemy made his appearance, and opened  upon them. Captain Thompson replied, causing the enemy to frequently change his position. Soon two brigades of infantry made their appearance, and upon these Thompson turned a part of his guns, keeping up a fire also upon the enemy's artillery. At the moment when the ammunition was exhausted, an order was received to retire across the bridge, which order was successfully executed. The enemy came rapidly up, and soon made his appearance on the little eminence which had just been abandoned; but a few shells from the howitzers sent him back.

Jackson finally turned the right of Pope, and came in upon his rear. To check Longstreet, who was following hard upon the footsteps ofJackson, and if possible divide the rebel army, Ricketts was ordered to Thoroughfare Gap. On nearing the Gap, Captain Thompson found the road through the woods obstructed. By the aid of the pioneers of the NinthNew York, the obstructions were cleared away, Captain Mathews having taken position with his battery in advance. General Ricketts ordered Captain Thompson to cross the creek with two guns, if practicable, and take position on the opposite side. This was effected, and a fire opened upon the enemy at three hundred yards distance. The skirmishers, who were in advance, were soon after obliged to retire, leaving the guns exposed to a severe fire from the rebel sharp-shooters, posted in trees and behind rocks. Seeing this, an order was sent to Thompson to retire with his guns, which he succeeded in doing, with the loss of two men wounded, one missing, and one horse killed. The division retired at night towards New Market, the battery acting as rear guard upon the march.

During the fierce fighting at Bull Run on the 30th, the battery wasordered into position on the right of the line occupied by the corps, and atten A. MI., opened a sharp fire from the Parrott guns upon a rebel battery,posted in rear of woods opposite the centre, which was engaged in throwingshells with deadly effect. Captain Thompson had not been long in action, beforethe enemy brought a six gun battery to bear upon his right flank, subjectinghim to a severe cross-fire. Seeing that his position was untenable, and thatthe enemy's infantry was preparing to charge for the capture of his guns, hewithdrew and took position on the right of the line. At half-past three in theafternoon, the battery was again brought into action on the right of theartillery, on a line at right angles with Captain Mathews' Battery, with thedesign of delivering a cross-fire upon the rebel batteries, Soon the enemy'sinfantry was descried, advancing from the wood, and charging upon the guns onthe crest in front. Captain Thompson at once opened with grape and canisterupon these advancing lines, and twice their colors were shot down. But theUnion batteries were soon afterwards obliged to retire, their supports havingbeen driven away, and in passing through the woods in his rear, CaptainThompson was flanked by the enemy's infantry, who opened a galling fire uponhim, killing several of the draught horses, cutting down and capturing the drivers,and compelling him to abandon one Parrott and two howitzer guns, with limbersand horses. At the Stone Bridge across Bull Run, Captain Thompson took positionwith one of his guns, and in conjunction with guns of other batteries hurriedlycollected, covered the retreat, until all the Union forces had passed, when thebridge was destroyed by Colonel Kane, of the Bucktails. He then retired withthe three guns which he had saved, to Centreville. The loss was ten wounded, apart of whom fell into the enemy7s hands. Lieutenant Stephenson was among theseverely wounded. On the evening of September 1st, the battery was engaged inthe fierce fighting at Chantilly, where it wassupported by the Bucktails.

At the close of the campaign, the battery retired to Washington,and was immediately put upon the march through Maryland,to meet the enemy, who had crossed the Potomac, receiving four ten-pound rifledguns from the Second Maine, at Rockville, while on themarch. In the battle at South Mountain, on the 14th, itwas engaged, but sustained no loss. On the morning of the 17th of September,the battery was brought into position upon the field at Antietam,and went into action upon the right of the line, with Duryea's Brigade,replying to a rebel battery upon the right front. Finding that a battery uponthe left had gotten the exact range of his guns, Captain Thompson turned hisfire upon it.' Immediately afterwards," says Captain Thompson, in hisofficial report, " I was ordered to advance, when I selected a littleknoll in the centre of a corn-field, and coming into action, I observed theenemy's infantry advancing from the woods to our right. I at once directed myfire on them, using three, two, and one and a-half second fuse as theyadvanced, but was unable to use canister, as many of our men retiring, wounded,got in front of my guns. Finding at length, the remnants of the brigaderetiring their ammunition exhausted-and the enemy already in the corn-field,within seventy-five yards of the battery, I retired to the rising ground in thecentre of the grass-field, about two hundred yards in rear, and continued myfire. But finding that all of our division had gone, and that my men and horseswere falling fast, I limbered up and moved off, just as fresh troops coming up,obliqued across the front of the battery into position for our relief."One gun had to be abandoned for a few moments, on account of the loss ofhorses, until other horses could return for it, when guns and limbers werebrought off in safety. The loss was eleven men wounded, one mortally, andthirteen horses killed.

In the re-organization of the army which took place under GeneralBurnside, the battery was attached to the Second Division of the First Corps,with which it participated on the 13th of December, in the battle of Fredericksburg. At nineo'clock on the morning of that day, the corps having previously crossed theRappahannock at the lower bridge, the battery was ordered into position in acorn-field to the right of the division, and opened fire upon the enemy, in theedge of the wood to the right, thus preventing him from flanking the divisionas it went forward.

But a few rounds had been delivered, when the battery was ordered toadvance closer, and to the right. From the new position, a rapid fire wasdirected upon the enemy's infantry, though it was subjected to a gallingcross-fire from the enemy's guns. To these, Captain Thompson refused to reply,until the infantry of the division had been compelled to fall back, when heturned upon them and continued his fire until ordered back, succeeding in themeantime, in exploding one of the enemy's ammunition chests. The loss was twomen wounded, and two horses killed. One gun, and one gun carriage weredisabled. When General Hooker commenced his Chancellorsville campaign, towardsthe close of April, 1863, the First Corps was again sent to the lower crossingof the Rappahannock.. Captain Thompson tookposition with his battery at daylight on the 29th, near Purdy's Dam, to coverthe troops while laying the pontoons, and the march in crossing. The fog wasdense, but at seven A. M., twelve rounds were fired upon parties of the enemy,fourteen hundred yards away. The following day was rainy, and quiet prevailed,until a little past five P. M., when the enemy opened with a battery oftwenty-pounder Parrott guns upon the Union infantry, and Thompson promptlyreplied, and though subjected to a cross-fire, continued the contest untildark. The morning of the 2d of May, opened clear. and from eight, until half-pastnine A. M., Captain Thompson engaged the enemy’s batteries. At eleven, he movedwith the corps for the support of Hooker at Chancellorsville,arriving at the front, and taking position on the right of the army line at twoA. M.; but at eleven was relieved and ordered to join the reserve artillery. Onthe morning of the 5th, it recrossed the river, and took position to cover thepontoon bridge, which was threatened by the enemy, who had approached frombelow. At daylight of the 6th, the enemy was discovered throwing up earth-workson an opposite eminence. Fire was opened upon him, to which he answered withtwo twenty-four-pound howitzers, and several rifled guns posted to right andleft. With the aid of Knap's Battery, CaptainThompson succeeded in blowing up the rebel caissons, silencing their guns, andcompelling the gunners to run to cover of woods, leaving their pieces on thefield. When the army had recrossed the river, and the last of the pontoons hadbeen taken up, the battery retired and returned to camp. The loss was one mankilled, and three wounded. Three horses were also killed.In this battle, Captain Hampton, who commanded IndependentBattery F, was killed, and his batteryseriously disabled. So much reduced in number had both batteries become, thaton the 3d of June, a special order was issued consolidating the two undercommand of the senior officer, Captain Thompson. It was then directed to reportto General Tyler, in command of the artillery reserve of the Army of the Potomac, and was by him assigned to M'Gilvery's Brigade.At five o'clock on the afternoon of the 2d of July, the second day of thebattle of Gettysburg,the reserve artillery having come up in rear of the lines at Little Round Top,Colonel M'Gilvery ordered Captain Thompson to advance with his battery to thesupport of General Sickles, who was already engaged. It was accordingly broughtinto position at the angle of Sickles' line, in the Peach Orchard on theEmmettsburg Pike, two guns facing to the west, and four to the south, and forthe space of an hour was desperately engaged with the enemy's infantry andartillery. The enemy then made a determined advance, driving back the Unioninfantry, and leaving the battery without supports, at the same time capturingone of the guns facing to the west. The Union infantry, however, soon afterrallied, and the gun was saved. The battery was then withdrawn a shortdistance, and again brought into action; but the pressure became too great towithstand, the enemy gaining ground rapidly, and it again retired with the lossof one gun. The loss in this brief struggle was due killed, nine wounded, andfour missing. Captain Thompson had one horse killed under him, and eighteenhorses of the battery killed or wounded. During the night, horses were suppliedin place of those lost, and at five o'clock on the morning of the 3d, it wasagain brought into position, on the left centre of the general line of battle,with battery K, Fourth United States, on its right, and Fifteenth New York,(Hart's,) on its left. The ground at this point was low, and the enemy's gunson the commanding position in front and to the left, bore heavily upon it. Butthis was a vital part of the line and had to be defended. During the progressof the fierce artillery duel in the afternoon, the battery suffered severely,but held its ground, and defiantly answered shot for shot. The loss on this daywas fourteen wounded. Among these were Captains Thompson and Irish, andLieutenants Stephenson, Hazlett, and Miller, the latter mortally. Specialmention was made by Captain Thompson, in his official report, of the gallantconduct of Sergeant Thomas Brown. Of private Casper R. Carlisle, he says:"When the four lead horses of one of the guns were killed, one wheel horsebadly wounded, and drivers also wounded, he assisted me to disengage the tracesof the dead leaders, under a heavy fire of musketry, (in the action of the 2dinstant,) and mounting one of the wheel horses, took the gun off the field,thereby saving it. I recommends that a medal be granted him for his conduct onthis occasion, and subsequent good conduct on the 3d instant." ColonelM'Gilvery, says in his official report: " In conclusion, I feel it my dutyto state, that the officers and men of my own brigade, and other batteries thatserved under me, during the two days' battle, behaved in the most gallantmanner. * * * On the 2d of July, when the battle raged most furiously,Thompson's, C and F, Pennsylvania Battery, contested every inch of ground, andremained on the field to the very last."The battery wasafterwards engaged in the affairs at Mitchell's Ford, on the 15th of October,at Mine Run, on the 27th of November, and at Morton's Ford, on the Rapidan, onthe 6th of February, 1864, but sustained only trifling loss in either. 

Inthe spring of 1864, a sufficient number of recruits had been received, to renewthe organization of the two batteries, which was accordingly effected, and onthe 5th of April they were ordered from Camp Hancock, near Brandy Station,where the command had been stationed during the winter, to Camp Barry,Washington, to re-fit and equip for active duty. They were, however, retainedin the defenses north and south of Washington,and in the neighborhood of Harper's Ferry, until the 20th of June, 1865, whenbattery C was ordered to Pittsburg,where, on the 30th, it was mustered out of service.

Source:  Bates, Samuel P.History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.

Organized at Pittsburg November 6, 1861.
Moved to Washington, D.C., November, 1861.
Attached to Military District of Washington till May, 1862.
Ord's Division, Dept. of the Rappahannock, to June, 1862.
2nd Division, 3rd Army Corps, Army of Virginia, to September, 1862.
2nd Division, 1st Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, to June, 1863.
1st Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, to November, 1863.
Artillery Brigade, 2nd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, to March, 1864.
Camp Barry, Defences of Washington, 22nd Army Corps, to June, 1865.
Duty in the Defences of Washington, D. C., till May, 1862.
Duty at Front Royal, Catlett's Station, Warrenton and Waterloo, till August.
Battle of Cedar Mountain August 9.
Pope's Campaign in Northern Virginia August 10-September 2.
Crooked Run August 12.
Fords of the Rappahannock August 21-23.
Thoroughfare Gap August 28.
Bull Run August 29-30.
Chantilly September 1.
Maryland Campaign September 6-24.
Battle of Antietam, Md., September 16-17.
Duty at Sharpsburg, Md., till October 30.
Movement to Falmouth, Va., October 30-November 19.
Battle of Fredericksburg December 12-15.
"Mud March" January 20-24, 1863.
At Falmouth and Belle Plains till April.
Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6.
Operations at Pollock's Mill Creek April 29-May 2.
Fitzhugh's Crossing April 29-30.
Chancellorsville May 2-5.
Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 11-July 24.
Advance to line of the Rapidan September 13-17.
Bristoe Campaign October 9-22.
Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8.
Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2.
Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7, 1864.
Morton's Ford February 6-7.
Ordered to Defences of Washington and duty at Camp Barry
and in Defences south of the Potomac till June, 1865.
Mustered out June 30, 1865.
Battery lost during service:
1 Officer and 2 Enlisted men killed and 21 Enlisted men by disease.

Total 24.
Source:  Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of he Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources.Des Moines, Iowa:The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908







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