Charlotte Artillery

1st Regiment North Carolina Artillery

Company C, 10th NCT

Descendants Association

 

Tenth North Carolina State Troops

Company C – Light Battery by Captain A. B. Williams

(Also known as Brem’s Battery, Charlotte Artillery, Graham’s Battery, William’s Battery)

Histories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65 [v.1],

Walter Clark, ed., 1901, pages 488, 537 – 550.

 

Company C, Tenth North Carolina State Troops, was organized at Charlotte, North Carolina, April 16, 1861, with the following commissioned officers: Thomas H. Brem, Captain; S. J. Lowry and W. P. Lewis, First Lieutenants; Joseph Graham and A. B. Williams, Second Lieutenants. Captain Brem was one of the most patriotic men of the State. At the time of the organization of the battery the Confederate Government was short of funds for equipping troops, but this did not deter Captain Brem in the least. He advanced the money to fully equip the battery, besides uniforming and feeding the men and purchasing eighty head of horses. This outlay was afterwards refunded to him, but in a depreciated currency. The battery at its organization numbered about one hundred and ten men rank and file. The men were enlisted in the neighborhood of Charlotte and the upper portion of South Carolina. The material was excellent and the devotion of the men to the cause was fully sustained by their four years of hard service.

The battery was ordered to Raleigh in July 1861, remaining there a short time, and thence to New Bern, N. C. We only remained in New Bern a short time, being sent to Fort Lane, a few miles below the city. At this point we went into camp for two months, and were then ordered to Croatan Station, ten miles below New Bern, on the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad. At this station we remained until March 12, 1862, at which time the enemy made his appearance in the river. Our battery was soon in readiness to meet him, but the light field guns were too small to cope with heavy gun-boats, and finding discretion the better part of valor, we fell back to our line of defense about four miles south of New Bern and went into position. Four guns were under command of Captain Brem, and assigned to the center of the line, Lieutenant Williams with a section of the battery on the extreme right. On March 14th, the enemy advanced on the whole line and succeeded in capturing a large number of prisoners and all of the artillery with the exception of the section commanded by Lieutenant Williams, who managed to reach the county bridge before it was destroyed, and there joined Colonel Campbell, of the Seventh North Carolina Regiment. We took up our line of march in the direction of Kinston, N. C., reaching that point in two days, and went into camp to reorganize our scattered forces. Charlotte, N. C., hearing of the loss of four of our guns at New Bern, very generously contributed its church bells to replace the lost guns, Lieutenant Williams being ordered to proceed to Richmond, Va., to carry out the wishes of the city, and as soon as the guns were cast the battery was fully organized again at Petersburg, Va., and was assigned to Branch’s Brigade, which stopped over at Petersburg when General Branch was proceeding to Richmond to join the Army of Northern Virginia. The history of this brigade from this time on is too well known to be recounted here. The battery was fully equipped for the campaign around Richmond, and took part, in the battle of Malvern Hill, June 30th, 1862. A few days after the battle Captain Brem informed Lieutenant Williams that his resignation had been accepted, but that he would not take advantage of it until the campaign was over. The previous resignations of Lieutenants Lowry and Lewis left Joseph Graham the senior officer of the battery, who was appointed Captain. The battery, with other troops, was ordered to take position in rear of McClellan’s army, which was encamped about twenty miles below Richmond on the south side of the James River. We went into position at Old Fort Powhatan, about six miles south of McClellan’s head-quarters, on to opposite side of the river. The river at the time was full of gunboats, but our position was too elevated for them to do us any damage. The battery fired into a large side-wheel steamer, the “Daniel Webster”, which was making its way down the James River, not knowing whether it was armed or unarmed and hoping to make a capture. It turned out that Miss Dix, the noted philanthropist, and who was the moving spirit in getting the North Carolina Legislature to establish the asylum for the insane at Raleigh, was a passenger en route to her home in New York. I think she had been as far south this time as Raleigh, N. C., on a mission of peace and good-will, and was returning via City Point, below Richmond, Va., where she took passage on this boat. Be this as it may, she took great umbrage at our unintended insult and roasted us severely in a northern paper for our “cowardly and uncivilized conduct”, in attacking women and children. Two gun-boats, attracted by the reports of our guns, were soon on hand in defense of the “Daniel Webster”, and between them soon made it too warm for a battery of six-pound pieces.

We were often engaged in gun-boat attacks on the James River, the most important of which was a night attack made on McClellan’s headquarters on July 31, 1862, his army at this time being encamped on the north side of the James at Harrison’s Landing, about twenty miles below Richmond. The river at this time was perfectly alive with gunboats and transports to protect his retreat. We were ordered to place eighty pieces of artillery at Coggin’s Point, on the south side of the river. Our movements were undiscovered by the enemy, and the surprise was complete when we opened fire at 1 A. M. on August 1, 1862. The effect of our attack caused McClellan to continue his retreat farther down the river. This engagement ended the great “on to Richmond” spring campaign of 1862. Our battery returned to Petersburg and went into camp there for two or three months.

In the fall of 1862 we went winter-quarters at Drewry’s Bluff, Va., where we were assigned to General Daniel’s North Carolina Brigade. Nothing unusual occurred until February, 1863, when we were ordered to proceed to Goldsboro, N. C., to join General D.H. Hill in his campaign against Washington, N. C. General Hill’s troops were posted on the south side of the Tar River, our battery, together with three others, all under Captain Joseph Graham, who was placed in command by General D. H. Hill, were sent to occupy a position at Rodman’s Point, about a mile and a half southeast of the city. We did considerable damage to the enemy’s shipping, but did not succeed in capturing the town. General Palmer was in command in Washington. By an order from General D. H. Hill, all the artillery was trained by daylight on the blockhouses and Federal headquarters in the town and at midnight every gun was fired, creating some damage and great consternation. For some reason General Palmer went aboard a transport and slept, and just at dawn he ran the gauntlet down the river under our fire. The artillerymen being up-country men, knew little about where to shoot a boat to produce the greatest damage. Fortunately for General Palmer, he arose early from his berth, as one of the rifled cannon shots is said to have passed through his pillow soon after he had left it. This news we got from New Bern a few days later, where he had gone. Our troops retired to Greenville, N. C., remaining there a few days, and thence we went to Kinston, N. C., and further on in the direction of New Bern. At a point about eight miles above New Bern we had quite a little fight with the enemy, protected by block-houses, but soon routed him, and he retired to New Bern, N. C. A day or two after this engagement the writer, with Major Richard C. Badger and Lieutenant Henry W. Miller, met a party of New Bern refugees making their way under a flag of truce to Kinston. We took charge of the party, placing the ladies and children in army ambulances and escorted them to Kinston. The object of General Hill’s campaign was to keep General Foster from advancing into the interior of North Carolina. Our battery did not remain long in North Carolina, soon returning to winter-quarters again at Drewry’s Bluff, Va.

 

Early in May, 1863, we left our quarters, going to Manchester, where we remained about thirty days, and thence to the old Fair Grounds at Richmond, Va. From this point Captain Graham had orders to make hurried marches and overtake and report to General R. E. Lee, who had started his army for Maryland and Pennsylvania. We overtook them, and Captain Graham a few days after the battle reported to General Lee in person at his headquarters, two miles from Winchester, Va., and was ordered to report to Major W. T. Pogue, commanding a battalion of artillery, by Colonel Taylor, Adjutant-General, to whom he was referred by General R. E. Lee. At this time General Lee was thoroughly organizing his campaign for Maryland and Pennsylvania. The artillery was formed into battalions of four and five batteries each, our battery being assigned, as mentioned above, to W. T. Pogue’s Battalion, Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. Previous to this a battery had been attached to each brigade. When the army was complete in all of its departments we took up our line of march in the direction of the Potomac. When Front Royal, Va. was reached we there experienced what actual war meant, orders being issued to prohibit any further riding on the limber chests of the carriages and all baggage not carried by the man to be destroyed. The wisdom of this order was very apparent; to make forced marches it was necessary to be in light-marching trim. Nothing unusual occurred on our march, the army passing through Winchester, Berryville, Martinsburg and Shepherdstown, Virginia; Sharpsburg and Hagerstown, Maryland; Waynesburg, Chambersburg, Green Castle and Cashtown, Pennsylvania, arriving within six miles of Gettysburg on the night of June 30, 1863, and camping for the night. The next morning we began hearing the guns towards Gettysburg, but got no chance to get in until about 2 o’clock on the afternoon of July 1st, when Major Pogue, under instructions, ordered Captain Graham to take our battery to the extreme right of the line and look out at a creek ford to prevent the return of some Federal cavalry which had passed over that way during the forenoon. When we started the battle was on in earnest on our left and in front, and we experienced a warm time as we galloped through a long lane with rail fences on either side, en route to our destination. Shells were bursting in every direction, with an occasional fence rail flying through the air. We were soon out of the line of fire and had a quiet evening at the creek ford, as the cavalry did not attempt to return. Just after sunset General R. E. Lee accompanied by General Longstreet, with their attendants, rode up and halted. General Lee asked Captain Joseph Graham whose battery that was, and what he was doing there, and if he had any support, which, strange to say, had not been sent with the battery. As General Lee was speaking to Captain Graham, General Longstreet was busy with his field glass scanning the surrounding landscape. When General Lee finished questioning Captain Graham he also turned field glass in the direction of the heights, upon which could plainly be seen troops in motion. Lee remarked to General Longstreet, “What people are those over there?” General Longstreet turned his glass in the direction indicated and replied: “It is the enemy.” General Lee said “I guess not, let me have your glass.” Looking through Longstreet’s glass, he said, “Yes, that is true, and they must be gotten off there tonight or we shall have a hard time of it tomorrow.” He then said to Longstreet, I think it was; “Whose command is out there?” He did not know, and General Lee again addressed Captain Graham. “Captain, whose command is in front of you?” He told he did not know, as they had come in sight since his arrival at his post. Then turning quickly to one of his mounted attendants, he said; “Gallop forward and ascertain who is in front, and tell him to push the enemy over the heights and hold him without fail.” General Lee then turned to General Longstreet and asked him where his command was, and how soon he could bring it up. General Longstreet replied that his command was, I think, six miles away and the roads blocked, and that they could not be on the ground before 2 o’clock the next afternoon. This was the last Captain Graham saw of  them, as he received orders to rejoin his battalion, which he did. Up to this time the battery had only brass six-pounders. That night Major Pogue informed Captain Graham that a fine three-inch rifled cannon had been captured during the afternoon on the left, and that he might have it if he would take one of our inferior guns up and leave it in its place. After a difficult hunt in the extreme darkness, among the dead and the dying, the orderly succeeded in guiding us to it. We quickly unhitched from ours and were soon on the way back to bivouac with the new treasure, which did some good work during the next two days of battle. On the second day we were in line all day, but not actively engaged at any one time, most of the firing in our immediate vicinity appearing to be to our right. On July 3rd our position was in the center, Pickett’s Division on our immediate right, with Davis’ Mississippi, Lanes, and Pettigrew’s North Carolina Brigades on our left and rear. Most of the forenoon was spent awaiting orders, with rumors rife as to one plan of attack and then another. At one time it was said that the whole artillery force was to gallop forward to a certain line and engage the enemy while the infantry double quicked after us, and when they had reached our firing line we were to cease firing until they had passed far enough for us to safely fire over them, when we should engage the enemy’s artillery line again. Listening to one rumor and then another, we spent the morning hours until about 11 A.M., when General A. P. Hill passed along and asked Captain Graham “If he could reach the enemy from there,” and being answered in the affirmative, he ordered him to open fire, which was done with his six guns. In less time than it takes to tell it the fire of several of the enemy’s batteries was concentrated upon us. Major Pogue came galloping up and ordered us to cease firing.

A little after midday on the 3rd we opened with one hundred and fifty pieces of artillery or more on the enemy’s line, posted on a range of hills south of the city of Gettysburg, the enemy replying vigorously to our fire. This artillery duel was terrific, the report of the guns being heard fifty to seventy-five miles from the battlefield. Just as soon as the artillery ceased firing our infantry advanced on the enemy’s position, charging up to his line of battle, some of the men actually going beyond his line. The much-talked-of Pickett’s Division did nobly, and I have for them the very highest admiration, but Davis’ Mississippi, Lane’s and Pettigrew’s North Carolina Brigades went just as far to the front, and indeed a little farther. Our loss in the three day’s battle was exceeding heavy, not short of twenty-five thousand killed, wounded, and prisoners, Pettigrew’s Brigade alone sustaining a greater loss than Pickett did in his four brigades. One of Pettigrew’s companies, I recall, went into battle full of officers and men and came out with one sergeant and two privates. It was not in the power of our men to hold the line after reaching it, the enemy being so well fortified. This charge demonstrated the valor of the Confederate soldier; no country ever producing a better one. Our troops retired to our original line of battle. The artillery sustained quite a loss, but nothing compared to that of the infantry. The writer recollects that after this engagement the batteries had less than twelve rounds of ammunition to the gun, and twenty minutes more of firing would have completely exhausted our supply of ammunition, which being reported to Captain Graham, he ordered us to cease firing, as there was no more ammunition to be had nearer than Richmond. But luckily for us the engagement was not renewed, both armies remaining inactive during the night of the 3rd and all day of the 4th. On the night of the 4th our army retired in the direction of Hagerstown, Md., going into position a few miles south of the city of Funkstown. Our stay here was delayed on account of the damaged condition of the pontoon train, several boats having been destroyed, and the Potomac being too high at this time for fording, consequently we could do nothing but await the repair of our train, and when this was accomplished we crossed over to the Virginia side. Our stay in this section of Virginia was short, the army retiring to its old stamping ground around Culpepper and Orange Court House, Va., where we went into camp, doing picket duty occasionally, but resting most of the time.

Nothing unusual occurred until the Bristol campaign, October, 1863. On this march General Lee was trying to circumvent the Federal army and get between them and Washington City. Custom in the battalion made each battery lead the march on successive days, and this was our day at the head of the column. Captain Graham and Major Pogue were riding in front, when they were overtaken by General A. P. Hill, who told them that just beyond the woods the enemy was lying down in the creek bottoms taking his dinner, and to gallop out upon a certain hill and open fire upon him as quickly as possible. We hastened to obey the order and when we came in sight of the enemy, and before he had discovered our presence, the whole face of the earth in that vast plain seemed covered with Yankees. I never saw as many at one time during the war. This was on the 14th of October, 1863, and while the other batteries of the battalion were present, Graham’s Battery was the only one actively engaged, and it was a hot place, as shown by the casualties, amounting in killed and wounded to about one-half of the men engaged. The writer had the honor to open the engagement with his section of rifle-guns, but General Hill had, in his anxiety to attack before General Ewell (who came up another road) should get the credit, rushed us into a very unequal conflict, and in a short time we were in a dual with sixteen pieces of artillery, about one half belonging to the regular artillery. We drove one of those batteries out of position once, but they outnumbered so far that we were glad when night threw its protecting pall over our dead and wounded and put an end to the unequal contest. About two hundred yards to our right, beyond a clump of pines, McIntosh’s Battalion was captured by infantry. Our infantry was advanced to the front, in the direction of the railroad cut, with no thought of an enemy being in position until within two hundred yards of cut, when he rose up from behind the embankment and opened a murderous fire on our advancing column. The destruction of life was something awful to contemplate. I never saw men fall faster in any battle during the war. Our battery was in line just on the left of Cooke’s Brigade. General A. P. Hill was responsible for our defeat here. It is said that General Hill went up that night to General Lee’s headquarters and asked him for orders, and the magnanimous General Lee replied: “General, I cannot see anything for you to do except to bury your unfortunate dead.” Only a few regiments had been put into action by General Hill, though three full divisions of infantry and twelve batteries of artillery were near at hand and could have been used. We were outnumbered and badly outgeneraled in this engagement. The enemy retired in the direction of Manassas and our army returned to Orange Court House, where we again went into camp.

One night on the last of November, 1863, about 2 A. M., Captain Graham received orders to be ready to march immediately. Before daylight the battery was on the road from Orange Court House to Mine Run, where we went into position on the south side of the stream on the first of December, 1863. The weather about the rest of December was very severe, the ground being covered with sleet and snow, and our men without tents or shelter of any kind. We managed to be tolerably comfortable by building low rows of log fires about twenty feet apart and occupying the space between the fires as sleeping quarters. The enemy’s artillery were in line of battle about fifteen hundred yards from our front. The weather was so rough that neither side showed any disposition to open fire. We remained in line about two days, when both armies seemed willing to retire. Shortly after this the battery went into winter-quarters at Lindsay’s Turnout, not far from Charlottesville, Va., hoping we had found a place convenient to forage and provision for horses and men.

The winter of 1863-’64 was very severe indeed, the snow being on the ground for months at a time. Up to this time our horses had seldom suffered for food, but they could scarcely be kept in serviceable condition during this winter on the scant supplies they got. Captain Joseph Graham recalls that the horses ate all the bark from the large oak trees in camp as high as they could reach, and also says he remembers he sent an ever-watchful and indefatigable quartermaster sergeant, Perry Smith, with three wagons, on a foraging expedition, and he reported having been into another county, thirty-six miles distant, and could actually find nothing to buy, and that he hauled cornstalks thirty-six miles which had been in the fields since January. His wagon mules had consumed most of one load before his return to camp. We could do very little in the way of soldiering, keeping within our shanties most of the time, nor did we leave camp again until the Wilderness campaign opened in May, 1864.

In the latter part of February, 1864, Captain Joseph Graham, being a physician by profession, and seeing no hope of an early termination of the war, and having given to the Confederacy nearly three years of active service in the line, thought he would like to get the advantage of some of the great opportunities in surgery which the war afforded. He sent his resignation as Captain of Company C. His superior officers, without exception, all the way up to General Lee, did him the honor to disapprove his resignation, but he had already been commissioned surgeon, and being a friend of the Secretary of War, Seddon, who had previously promised to approve his resignation as captain, in case he succeeded in getting a surgeon’s commission, the resignation was accepted in the face of all disapprovals. Thus Captain Graham’s connection with the battery was severed at Lindsay’s Station, about March 1, 1864. The officers of the battery were now Captain A. B. Williams and Lieutenants Abdon Alexander, Thomas L. Seigle, and H. A. Albright.

On May 4th we proceeded in the direction of the Wilderness, going into line of battle on the morning of May 5th to the left of the old plank-road, just a little in rear of the edge of the Wilderness. The undergrowth was so dense that you could not distinguish a man fifty yards from the front. The divisions of General Heth and Wilcox were advanced about half a mile in our front and there went into line of battle. These troops were to have relieved by General Longstreet’s Corps on the night of the 5th, but the relief failed to show up, compelling them to remain all night in this dense wilderness. It seems that Heth and Wilcox were unprepared to meet the enemy’s advance, and withdrew to a point in rear of the Fifteenth North Carolina Regiment and the writer’s battery, thereby leaving our front unprotected. The enemy continued to advance until they reached our line at the plank-road, which position was defended by Colonel William McRae, commanding the Fifteenth North Carolina Regiment, and the writer’s battery. We succeeded in holding the enemy in check, the battery using double charges of canister, equal to twenty four pounds to the charge to a gun. Our position was a most critical one; so much so that General A. P. Hill took charge of one of my guns during the engagement. The battery did terrible execution, the enemy’s dead and wounded being found within fifty yards of our guns, their line of battle reaching the caissons of the battery. The long-deferred arrival of Longstreet’s Corps saved our army from defeat and possibly from annihilation, for if our center had been broken both flanks would have been exposed to the mercy of the enemy; but Longstreet, coming just as he did, saved us this mortification. Jenkin’s Division was formed in line of battle and immediately proceeded to the front. When within about fifty yards in front of the writer’s battery, General Lee was seen to be at the head of the old Texas Brigade. When this was noticed the men began to call on him to go to the rear. This not being heeded by General Lee, the old Texas fellows refused to advance until he retired, several soldiers actually taking hold of the bridle rein of his horse. Among those I noticed a young soldier from Fayetteville, N. C., S. W. Atkinson of the Thirty-third North Carolina Regiment. Mr. Atkinson was a good soldier, and continued with his regiment until the close of the war as its flag-bearer. General Jenkins succeeded in driving the enemy in his front, but he lost his life in this engagement. No attempt was made to advance by either side after this charge, both armies remaining inactive until May 7th, when both retreated in a southeasterly direction parallel to each other, until Spottsylvania Court House was reached, May 11th, where we found the enemy’s advanced columns in our front. On May 12th both armies were facing each other on the entire line, and soon became engaged in one of the most deadly battles of the war, the loss on the Confederate side reaching into the thousands, the enemy’s loss being greater than ours. My battery occupied a position near the “Horse-shoe” in the early part of the engagement, but changed front to the left when General Edward Johnson’s Division was repulsed, this change of position being to protect our rear. The battery lost several men in this engagement and the writer was wounded, which incapacitated him for active service until October, 1864. The battery continued to take part in all the engagements of the Army of Northern Virginia until the campaign ended at Petersburg, Va., the army occupying a line of defense from Dutch Gap on the James to a point twenty miles south of Petersburg. The battery was in command of Lieutenant Abdon Alexander until the battle of Cold Harbor, where he was wounded in the head, splitting the minie-ball in two, but not killing him. He moved to Texarkana, Arkansas, after the war, and died there. Lieutenant T. L. Seigle then took command of the battery until relieved by the writer, who took charge in October, 1864, in front of Dutch Gap, and remained with it until the surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House, 9 April, 1865.

Of all the soldiering experienced by the writer, that of firing on Dutch Gap was the most disagreeable, we being continually under fire both day and night for months from land batteries and gun-boats in the river. The low bottom-lands of the James produced chills and fevers and besides mosquitoes by the million to annoy us both night and day. Our sick list averaged fully 60 per cent. This style of soldiering continued until April 1, 1865, when we were ordered to proceed to Petersburg at once, as the enemy was advancing on our entire line. The battery went into position on the left of the Washington street road, about a mile and a half to the west of the city. We went into action, but could not hold our position long, falling back a few hundred yards and opening again, the enemy still continuing to advance. We succeeded in holding the enemy in check a short time, but were compelled to fall back to our inner line around Petersburg. General A. P. Hill was killed in front of my battery a few minutes before we retired to our last position. Our army remained in line of battle until about 9 o’clock at night on 2 April, and then retired in the direction of Lynchburg, Va.

On the opposite side of the river the writer got several sacks of corn meal, strapping the same on the limber-chests of the carriages. This proved to be a great blessing, as we failed to get rations at Amelia Court House, the point to which the supplies were to have been forwarded. We went into line of battle, but were not actively engaged. At this point we destroyed large quantities of army stores to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. Our army continued to retire. At Farmville, Va., we had two engagements with the enemy, but did not sustain any great loss. Sheridan captured one of my guns, but did not hold it long. Lewis’ (North Carolina) Brigade came to our rescue and we soon had possession of our gun again. We continued to move in the direction of Lynchburg, reaching Appomattox Court House some time before daylight on the 9th of April, 1865. It did not take a Solomon to tell that our army was in bad shape, both as to its organization and the position it occupied. The enemy had us almost completely hemmed in on all sides, our only chance being to cut our way through the left and make for Lynchburg. This, I believe, could have been done if an advance had been ordered at once. My battery happened to be with the advance line under command of Major-General Grimes, of North Carolina. We occupied a position about a mile southwest of the Court House. This portion of the army was hotly engaged, not knowing the army had capitulated. We did not cease firing until our officers had ordered us to do so. I do not know that we could have held out much longer, as the enemy was placing several batteries of artillery in our immediate front, the effects of which would have been disastrous to us. The writer’s battery fired one of the last shots, if not the last, fired by the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia.

After the surrender our commanders were ordered to furnish a full list of their commands as to the number of men and amount of army stores to be delivered to the officers designated to receive the same. All officers’ personal property and side arms were to be retained by them. After this was done the men composing the Army of Northern Virginia took foot passage to their respective homes, if not so fortunate as to possess a captured horse. After this time the Confederate soldier was a thing of the past. How he has acted the part of a citizen, our Southern history since 1865 will show.

Our loss in killed and wounded during the war was about seventy-five.

 

A.B. WILLIAMS

FAYETTEVILLE, N. C.

 

April 9, 1900

 

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