South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Monday, December 6, 2010

Artillery on the Mountain: Confederate

If any civil war enthusiast has ever visited the battlefields on South Mountain or just driving along one of the many country roads that lead over the mountain, can make the correct assumption that the terrain was not suitable for the use of artillery with the steep elevations, rock outcroppings, and heavily wooded areas. Despite these disadvantages, artillery played an important, bloody role in the fight for the mountain gaps.

Confederate Artillery Units:

Jeff Davis (AL) Artillery, Captain James Bondurant commanding: On the morning of September 14th, Bondurant's battery of Alabamian's was sent to Fox's Gap to support the infantry brigade of Brigadier General Samuel Garland in the defense of the gap. He was posted on the Confederate right flank, in a field just to the front of the position of the 12th North Carolina. Just before 9 AM, Bondurant reported seeing what appeared to be blue lines of advancing Union infantry to his immediate front. He requested that skirmishers be posted from the 12th North Carolina and 5th North Carolina to investigate and to protect his guns. The commander of the 5th, Colonel Duncan McRae, ordered about 50 men to advance as skirmishers. The would collide with the lead elements of the 23rd Ohio just to the front of Bondurant's unprotected battery. Bondurant's men came under fire and miraculously, only one man was wounded having the tip of his nose shot off. To pull out of this position, Bondurant ordered his guns to fire one by one with each successive gun covering the withdrawal of the previous gun. The movement went off without a hitch and Bondurant moved his battery to a position near the Daniel Wise cabin supporting the 13th North Carolina, on the Confederate left. After Garland's brigade collapsed and Union forces advanced on the gap itself, Bondurant again pulled his battery back taking up a new position in the Northwest corner of Wise's North Field (Present day 17th Michigan Field). From here Bondurant harassed Union forces coming up the mountainside and supported Brigadier General Thomas Drayton's Brigade as it fought for its life at the gap. Eventually running low on ammunition and facing pressure from the 17th Michigan, Bondurant pulled his battery out of the action and retreated back towards Turner's Gap and the safety of Boonsboro.

Cutt's Sumter (GA) Artillery Battalion, Lt. Colonel Allen S. Cutts commanding: This artillery battalion was posted a various points near Turner's Gap supporting Confederate defenders in the area. Captain Hugh M. Ross' Battery A, Sumter Artillery was position along present day Dalghren Road, opposing the advance of Hatch's Division of the First Corps. Captain George Patterson's Battery B, Sumter Artillery, was posted next to Ross' battery along the Dalghren Road also opposing Hatch's Division. Captain John Lane's Battery E, Sumter Artillery was posted in the fields opposite the Mountain House at Turner's Gap where the battery could fire upon any advance up the National Pike against Turner's and on Union forces at Fox's Gap. One gun was also posted on a mountain spur just to the north of Turner's where it could fire down upon Hooker's First Corps at Frostown Gap. This one gun, under a lieutenant, was sent to support Rodes' Brigade but the desired position for it was captured by Union forces early in the fighting.

Stuart's Horse Artillery, Captain John Pelham commanding: Stuart's Horse Artillery was posted at two of the three mountain gaps that were to be contested on September 14th. At Fox's Gap, John Pelham was in position with two guns supported the 5th Virginia Cavalry that covered the intersection where the Loop Road meet the Ridge Road on the Confederate right. When the battle commenced, Pelham fired a few rounds from each of his gun's then pulled back off the mountain in the direction of Rorhersville. To the south at Crampton's Gap, Captain Roger Chew's artillery battery was positioned near the gap supporting combined force of Confederate infantry and cavalry in position in the Mountain Church Road at the base of the mountain. Chew remained in position as long as he could. When the Confederate battle line broke, Chew was forced to retreat into Pleasant Valley where he would remain for the remainder of the battle.

Troup (GA) Artillery, Captain Henry Carleton commanding: Attached to Howell Cobb's brigade during the Battle of Crampton's Gap, the Troup Artillery was deployed two guns, the Jennie and Sallie Craig, at the intersection at Crampton's Gap. The Jenny was pointed down the Arnoldstown Road and the Sallie Craig was aimed down the Burkittsville Road. When Union infantry came within sight, the two guns unleashed 5 rounds a piece of double or triple canister at point-blank range. The blast were devasting to those Union infantry units that meet this wall of steel. Within minutes though, Union infantry put to much pressure on the section forcing it to retire. Unfortunately, the Jenny was lost to Union pursuers when the axle of the gun carriage split along a stress fracture from the repeated firing of large amounts of powder. The gunners managed to free their horses just as Union troops neared the gun. Like Cobb's Brigade, this section of artillery suffered tremendously in the fight.

Light Battery A, 1st North Carolina Artillery, Captain Basil Manly commanding: Attached to Brigadier General Paul Semmes' brigade, Manly's battery was in position at the Brownsville Pass about a mile south of Crampton's Gap. From his position, Manly fired upon the advance of the 6th Corps as it moved out of Burkittsville. The fire from Manly's guns may have influenced William Franklin's decision to attack Crampton's Gap, believing the the Brownsville Pass was heavily defended. When the Union attack column came out of Burkittsville and deployed, Manly again fired on the massed Union infantry causing chaos within the ranks. Despite his efforts, the Union attack was successful. Manly was in command of six guns.

Richmond (Fayette) Artillery, Captain Miles Macon commanding: Attached to Semmes' Brigade, a single gun of the battery under Lt. William Clopton, supported Confederate forces at Crampton's Gap by firing upon the Union attack column during the assault on Crampton's Gap. The remainder of the battery was on Bolivar Height's in preperation to bombard Harper's Ferry.

Magruder Light Artillery, Captain Thomas Page, Jr. commanding: Attached to Semmes' Brigade, one gun was in position at Brownsville Pass and bombarded that Union assault column as it advanced on Crampton's Gap.

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