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Tenth Battery,

Massachusetts Light Artillery

presented by the
Tenth Massachusetts Battery Association

A History of the Battery

The Second Corps, including the Petersburg Campaign

The first order of business as members of the Second Corps was to make themselves comfortable in their new quarters. The first few days were rainy, and when better weather appeared the camp was turned into a vast clothes-yard. Then all their equipment was cleaned and polished. On April 22nd, they participated in a grand review for General Staff, getting their first view of General Grant himself. The reviewers included Grant, Meade, Hancock, Sedgewick, Warren and Sheridan. The Battery remained in camp until May, with drills taking up most of the time. During the time, a man from the Second Corps was hanged with the Corps being turned out to witness. Back in Massachusetts, it was under consideration that a regiment of light batteries be formed. It was expected that Captain Martin of the Third Battery would be made colonel, with Captain Sleeper lieutenant colonel. Sleeper received letters of recommendation from Brig. Gen. H.J. Hunt, Chief of Artillery, Major Gen. W.H. French, Major Gen. D.B. Birney, Capt G.E. Randolph of Artillery Corps, Third Corps and Capt E.K. Platt.

By May, while the units that had seen much action were happy to be idle, the Battery was anxious to prove their mettle, and purge any connection to the "Bandbox Battery". The following six months would make them regret what they wished for. The Second Corps moved first to Chancellorsville, where the battlefield was still strewn with all manner of remembrance of the conflict a year earlier; broken muskets, equipment, clothing and saddest of all, the remains of those slain who had been hastily buried in shallow graves. From there, it was engaged at the Wilderness, but because of the terrain, very few of the 300 or so guns saw any action. The Tenth fired about 70 rounds against a Confederate Battery. In the ensuing movement the Battery was to shell a Confederate wagon train, but it escaped. On May 9th, Gen Sedwick was killed by a sharpshooter.

Crossing the Po River near Graves Farm on May 10th, the Battery found itself under fire, but the Battery is ordered not to return fire. Emerson B. Mullett is killed, Augustus C. White and John T. Goodwin are both wounded (White ending up in the hospital).

During the Battle of Spotsylvania, the Battery is moved about, but not engaged, taking up positions around the Stevens House, and on the 12th, Edwin F. Damrell was slightly wounded by a spent ball from the infantry fight. On the 13th, drivers from the Battery were sent out to bring in guns abandoned by the Confederates, returning with one gun and 5 caissons, and stories of dead Union and Confederate piled around the earthworks, and trees cut down by musket bullets.

On May 17th, all the batteries of the Second Corps were ordered to turn in one Section (two guns) at Pratt's Landing. At the Mat River on the 22nd, they were posted on the river bank opposite the Confederate position. The enemy took umbrage to their position and opened with cannon and sharpshooter fire. The Tenth replied and exploded a limber chest, causing the opposing guns to be moved, while the enemy hit one of the Tenths sponge buckets. While infantry charged to capture the bridge, the Tenths guns shelled in support. Later, when it was the Batterys turn to cross the bridge, they had to endure being shelled by a battery 600 yards away. Battery men were impressed by the fire this enemy gun had to endure, but could not imagine they could not destroy the bridge, causing only two casualties all day. The Tenth was not engaged, but had to endure occasional shelling over the next few days, recrossing the river on the 26th to cover the movement to flank the Confederates.

The movement was toward the Pamunkey River, and on the 30th, near Tolopotomoy Creek on Jones Farm, the Battery was setting up when Hosea O. Barnes, number three man on the third piece was killed by a sharpshooter. William E. Endicott brought him into the protection of the breastworks, but it was too late. The next day was spent shelling the enemy lines on the other side of the creek, and enduring occasion shell and sharpshooter fire. On June 1st they silenced a Confederate battery, but the action ended without further loss.

Cold Harbor is a convergence of major roads in the vicinity of Richmond. As a result, on the night of the 1st, the Second Corps headed there. The battery got lost during the forced night march, having a hard time getting to their assigned position, only to have to wait in a cornfield during the morning. They then replaced Hexamer's New Jersey Battery under fire, but once set up and returning fire, the Confederate fire ceased. That evening General Gibbon gave Sleeper the order to move closer to the enemy. Sleeper did not like the position because it was in front of other Union batteries. The position was hastily constructed rifle-pits, which a detachment of heavy artillerymen strengthened. The Battery took it upon themselves to make further improvements, sinking the limbers and improving the placement of the guns.

At 4:30 in the morning, a staff officer rode up and commanded the right piece to fire, the signal for the start of what would be a terrible battle for Union forces. The Tenth traded fire with Confederate batteries, the Forth Detachment piece being struck twice, and the Number 7 man, John Bradley, having a close call with an incoming shell. The major battle lasted barely one-half hour, but the Second Corps lost 3000 seasoned men, five colonels and General Tyler. During the day, the Battery expends all its ammunition (usually 200 rounds per gun) and half the ammunition of another battery not engaged, the men lying low when possible under the heaviest fire they had seen.

During the night the Battery was subjected to the first night attack they had encountered. Awoken by the sounds of battle, they fired into the attacking Confederates, with Union shells outbound over their heads and the Confederate shells crashing around them. The attack was repulsed, but later a second had to be repulsed as well. However, the next day, June 4th, the Battery was ordered to the front on the far left, which would have seemed a better place for 12-pounders, to best utilize their forte, cannister. However, those were the orders, so the Battery set about improving the new position, as they were now the closest to the enemy (it is said close enough for conversation with the enemy). While there the men continually improved the position. The Battery only fired occasionally, to take the pressure off pickets under Confederate scrutiny, and deal with Confederate batteries which might open on Union lines, secure in the strength of their position.

You can imagine the shock the morning a mortar shell exploded over their position, which sent them to work to erect bomb-proofs to protect both men and ammunition. During the 12 days exposed at Cold Harbor and meeting any Confederate challenge, they became known as the "Saucy Battery", which suited the men much better than their former nickname.

On June 7th, a truce was allowed to tend the dead and wounded which littered the battlefield. During the three hours men from both sides conversed as they took care of the business at hand. But once the period ended, the Battery was again low behind the works. On the night of June 12th the army moved out in the dark. The Union loss at Cold Harbor was 13,153, though the Battery suffered no casualties even in their forward postion.

From Cold Harbor, the march went on without the Tenth having any idea as to the destination. On the night of the 13th, they arrived at Wilcox Landing on the James River. A pontoon bridge 2000 feet long was constructed, and while troops crossed it, the Battery was loaded on ferry boats and crossed the river. A couple of the boats used were familiar to the men as Boston - Chelsea boats, so they felt at home.

On the evening of the 15th, they had reached the Petersburg and City Point Railroad. There was a delay due to rations being missing, which allowed the Confederates under General Lee to get in front of the Union troops and protect Petersburg. On the 16th the Battery moved back into another position in view of the spires of the city (it would later be the site of Fort Stedman), and fired some of the first projectiles of many which would batter the city.

This was the beginning of the Petersburg Siege, which would last until April, 1865. With the loss of opportunity of capturing the city by suprise, Grant settled in to lay siege. Before the time the Confederate lines were broken, the lines would stretch almost 70 miles, from the east of the city in an arc to the southwest.

On the 18th, the Fortieth Massachusetts Infantry was put into the line alongside the Battery. The two units had been together at Boxford as new recruits, and they exchanged stories of their experiences. The Battery fired all day supporting an infantry assault, and the next day were ordered forward. Lt. Granger went to scout the new location, and upon returning was asked by the men what kind of place they were going to. Granger held up his sleeve showing a bullet hole.

The Battery thought that after that the army set into a siege they may get a rest since they had been in action for an extended period of time, but that did not come to pass. Early in the siege, an event happened which would forshadow events for the Battery. The Confederates broke the Union line, captured a battery (12th New York) and took many prisoners. The toll of The Wilderness was showing in the Second Corps as it had lost too many of its experienced soldiers.

The summer was very dry in Virginia, and the Battery dug wells at two of their camps for water, a fact which Battery members remembered as one of the fonder moments of the time. Though they expected it, they were not dispatched to either the Shenandoah Valley, or back to Washington to deal with Lees advance. Instead they moved back and forth along the line, to the left, then right, then back to the left again. On July 15, William H. Bickford died at Carver Hospital, Washington, DC, while on August 16 Alex W. Holbrook died at U.S. General Hospital, Brattleboro, Vt.

In August the Union working at destroying the Weldon Railroad to further cut off Petersburg. The Battery marched to Deep Bottom, but were not involved in that battle. On the 24th, they moved into positions to the west of the railroad to support the troops wrecking the tracks. Skirmishing went on in the distance, and at one point, Lt Granger was detached to deal with a Confederate Battery to the left rear. The Confederate attack forced the Union skirmishers back into the works, but they could not break the Union line.

However, while more Confederate troops came up, McGowans sharpshooters took up positions within 300 yards in a cornfield, behind the crest of the slope in front of the Union position. Since the ground also sloped upward behind them, the Battery was exposed to musket fire. The Battery shelled the cornfield, the woods behind them and the Heath farm, which hid sharpshooters, but could not put an end to their work. To make matters worse, Union cavalry was being fired on to the Battery rear, and shells were falling on the Tenths position from behind. It was dangerous enough behind the works, but became almost suicidal to bring ammunition up to the guns. During the day the left piece was disabled.

Captain Sleeper was wounded in the arm early in the action, Lt Granger taking over command of the Battery. John T. Goodwin, driver with the first piece, is shot through the shoulder, Charles A. Mason, driver with the forth piece was shot in the head, Samuel H. Foster, driver on the first piece is wounded in the head and William Rawson was shot in the foot.

It was the horses of the battery that took the most punishment. The enemy had a clear view of the horses from their postion, and when not targeting artillerymen, plied their work on the horses. When hit, the horse would go down, then regain it feet, only to be hit again. By late afternoon, of the 24 horses attached to the limbers, only two were left standing, and many of those farther to the rear with the caissons were also down. One caisson was exploded by incoming fire, one had its wheels shattered and another would lose all its horses. But at 5 p.m., it seemed the Union had held the day.

Their support, the Forth New York Heavy Artillery, was occasionally sticking a musket over the works and firing high over the enemy. Then a late Confederate attack by Cooks brigade struck the Union line far to the Batterys right, causing some of the support to flee. The Tenth turned their guns to face the attack, and with the Twelfth New York responded with cannister, which threw the attackers into confusion. MacRaes brigade was coming behind Cooks, and carried it back to the Union works and along the works toward the Tenths position. The cannoneers fired their last rounds of cannister as the wave of attackers swept over the works, then tried to escape as best they could as the Confederates took their guns. . Henry L. Ewell, George N. Devereux, George K. Putnam, Benjamin G. Hooper, William H. Starkweather, Cpl. Burnham C. Clark and George W. Stetson were also wounded.

Charles Mason died on the field; George Devereux died two days later in the field hospital; Henry Ewell died in Washington, DC on Nov. 2nd; George Putnam was captured after being wounded, exchanged but died at Annapolis on Nov. 21st; while James Kay never showed up on Confederate prison rolls and is assumed to have been killed on the field but his body was never recovered.

Confederate reports make mention of the way the supports surrendered, yet the cannoneers fought on, and had to be taken by force when the guns were finally overrun. The total captured was 19: Sgt Adolphus B. Parker, Cpl Francis M. Howes, Cpl George A. Smith, Bugler John E. Mugford, Lyman W. Adams, James S. Bailey, Jr, John Perry Brown, Thomas Cusick, William E. Endicott, Oscar F. Glidden, Charles W. Green, Richard Martin, Franklin L. Macomber, John Millett, William Rawson, Timothy G. Redfield, George W. Stetson, Alvin Thompson and Charles D. Thompson. Green, Macomber and Redfield would die in Confederate prison.

Lt Granger, now in command of the Battery, had the grip of his pistol shot away; Lt Adams had the visor of his cap shot away; Lt Smith had bullet pierce his stirrup and wound his horse; while Charles N. Packard, a Number one man, made his way back that evening with his sponge-rammer on his shoulder.

The Union loss was put at 12 stands of colors, 9 guns, 10 caissons, 22 officers and 87 men killed, 60 officers and 441 men wounded and 94 officers and 1658 men missing. It was said that though Gettysburg was the event which Hancock is identified with, the loss at Ream's Station would bother him forever. In his defense, it must be mentioned that the Second Corps was not up to strength due to the losses at Cold Harbor. The railroad was disrupted, and the battle did contribute to Grants plan to keep the Confederates busy along a large front.

On August 26th, A.B. Spooner died at general Hospital, Brattleboro, Vt, and on the 31st Judson Stevens died at East Boston while on furlough.

The Battery was rested and resupplied by September 11th, and on the 20th sent a detail to City Point and brought back four 10-pound Parrott rifles. They then moved to Battery XIV, where the works were much more formitable that then has seen in awhile. This fort was very close to Crater from the mine explosion on July 30th. They would stay here for the next month, and during the time, Lt Granger became a very proficient gunner. It bothered the Confederates so that one day, a sharpshooter waited for the Lt to check the effect of the shot, and put a bullet through the top of his hat.

In October, the Battery received two more Parrott rifles, and then on the 24th, left Battery XIV, once more on the march. The move would be to the Boydton Plank Road, where the Battery would first face 14 enemy guns. When the infantry moved to take the bridge over Hatcher's Run, the Battery moved to support them. Then they receive fire from the enemy at their left rear, which they change front and reply to. However, the infantry responds to the new threat and falls back through the guns. Now that the threat has been eased on the bridge, Confederate guns are turned again on the Battery.

The infantry, including the 11th Mass Infantry, heads for the rear under the added pressure. Daniel W. Atkinson, Number Two man of the Forth Detachment is killed. Lt. Granger rallied the men of the Battery, firing shell and then cannister until all the ammunition is expended. Lt Asa Smith took his section off when it ran out of ammunition, and after the guns were safe, was shot. He was removed from the field by Sgt Townsend, Cpl Clark, George Putnam and John D. Billings on a strecher "borrowed" from a wounded Confederate.

With fresh limbers from the caissons, the Battery was again placed to keep the Confederates from encircling the Union troops but were not ordered to fire. However, a Confederate battery firing at the Union troops, was raking the Battery. They could not see the Battery because of the woods and fog, but their shooting could not have been better, and the Battery had to remain silent and endure the punishment. John P. Apthorp had his canteen strap cut, a shell disabled the fifth piece, while others wounded Michael Farrell and Alfred C. Billings. Yet the largest blow was when Lt Granger was struck by shell fragments after dusk. While lying wounded, he bid his men good-bye and told them to look out for Lt Smith. Just before he had been wounded, he had seen his nephew, Capt D.A. Granger, commanding Company C of the Eleventh Mass Infantry, wounded. Lt E.L. Smith of the Forth US Artillery was detached to take command of the battery, with Lt Deane of the Sixth Maine Artillery to assist.

At 11 pm, the Battery was ordered to withdraw, and went into the same camp they occupied after the battle at Ream's Station. On the move, Cornelius McAuliffe was thrown from a caisson, breaking a leg. The wounded officers were taken to hospital at City Point, where Lt Smith died on the 28th and Lt Granger on the 30th.

In November Captain Sleeper returned from leave due to his injury at Ream's Station, and Lt Milbrey Green joined the Battery. The Battery was at Ft Stevenson, with a section at Ft Blaisdell. November 21st, Henry L. Ewell died at Lincoln General Hospital in Washington, DC. On the 29th, they relieved the Eleventh Mass Battery at Ft Welch. On the 5th of December, Lt Adams returned from detached service with the Twelfth New York, and Sgt George H. Day reported as a newly commisioned Lt. On Nov 26th Gen A.A. Humphries replaced Gen Hancock, to the dismay of the men.

The Battery was moved and faced the prospect of rebuilding shelter for themselves. With Capt Sleeper being on leave in February, and Lt Adams in charge of the Battery, Lt Day in charge of the Right Section, Lt Green in charge of the Left and Sgt Townsend in charge of the Center under the supervision of Lt Adams, the Battery was htoly engaged at Armstrongs Farm. The Confederates actually outnumbered the Union troops, and Mahones men had tried to breach a gap in the Union lines, but the Battery managed to rout the charge and was praised in reports afterward.

There had been one Section on each flank of General Smythes troops, and when the Confederates came out of the woods between this line and General McAllisters Brigade the Tenth was the only battery on the field. Lt Green and Lt Adams both changed fronts and checked the enemy advance. The Battery suffered no casualties at this action, sometimes referred to as Second Hatcher's Run.

Battery E was built for the Battery, which it took over on the 11th, so the men once more built quarters. On the 26th, Sleeper resigned, Adams was made Captain and George Tounsend was commissioned Lt. On March 28th, the Battery once again turned in one Section. On March 29th, they once again on the move to the left of the Union line, again to the Boydton Plank Road. They were not engaged until the morning of April 2nd, when they shelled a Confederate fort (97 rounds). The Confederate batteries replied until about 8:30 am, when they seemed to be evacuating. Indeed they had vacated their works. The next day, without stopping in the city of Petersburg itself, the Battery was in pursuit of the fleeing Southern army.

On the 5th, they were at Jetersville, and saw a captured battery of English Breechloading guns. Early on the 6th, they caught up with the Confederate train and shelled it, which would cause the Confederate troops to make a stand to allow the trains to get away. Now they passed all manner of abandoned equipment, from pots to artillery. At Sailor's Creek, the Second Corps captured 13 stands of colors, 3 guns several hundred prisoners and 200 wagons. Now the desperate Confederates were attempting to burn or destroy equipment so it would not fall into Union hands. Farther up the road, four gun carriages stood empty, but found buried in graves marked as Confederate soldiers were four Napoleons.

The Union caught the Confederates at High Bridge trying to burn the road and railroad bridge. The Battery moved to cover the assault, but 38 rounds of artillery fire was enough to drive off the enemy. On April 7th, at Farmville, the Union caught up with the Confederate forces, General Smythe was killed, but the fleeing troops were routed, the Battery firing 16 rounds.

North of Farmville, Confederates had a fortified position on a ridge. The Tenth erected breastworks for the work of driving off the defenders. Sharpshooters tried to interrupt the work with occasional bullets, while the Battery returned them with shelling. That evening, two guns sent captured Confederate shells back to their original owners. The next morning the Confederates were gone, and those were the last rounds fired by the Battery and the last of the Second Corps. On April 9th, on the move to cut off the retreat was stopped, as Lee had surrendered, the batteries went into camp. On April 26th, Elbridge D. Thresher died at Brigade Hospital, the last casualty of the Battery.

The Battery was disbanded in Boston on June 9, 1865. During the course of the conflict, the Battery had suffered two officers and eleven men killed in action or died of wounds, eleven died because of accidents or disease, three men (who were captured at Ream's Station) died in Confederate prisons.

Return to Part I of the Battery History

For more information on the Third Corps, a link to the Third Corps Association.

The Tenth spent much of their Second Corps career around Petersburg. For more information on the Petersburg Battlefield, see:


The information herein was taken from the book The History of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery by John D. Billings, 1881 (who was a member of the 10th, also the author of Hard Tack and Coffee, a book of his experiences as a soldier in the Civil War); Mr. C. Peter Jorgenson, Civil War artillery authority, and former Commander of the 10th Mass Battery, N-SSA; Massachusetts in the Army and Navy, During the War of 1861-65, T.W.Higginson, 1896.

(photo from the Library of Congress Archives)

Sleeper's Battery | The History of the Tenth Btty  |  The Roster of the members of the Tenth Btty  |  Service Record of the Tenth Btty  |  Field Artillery in the Civil War  |  The Tenth Mass Battery Association today  |  10th Mass Btty, N-SSA (and other links)

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