History of the Third Light Artillery

Based on the accounts of John D. Reed and John W. Dennett.

The Battery arrived in Washington on October 11 and camped on Capitol Hill until the 16th, when it was sent to Hall's Hill, over the Potomac, where it remained until March 10, 1862. The Battery's uniforms were made to order by Macullar, Williams, & Parker, of Boston, with the difference in cost being met by friends of Capt. Follett.

Hall's house had been burnt before the arrival of the Battery and all that remained was the chimney stack. The Battery took advantage of this and used some of the men who were masons before the war, and some lime and sand which they had procured to build a large oven for their cooks. They also had two large sheet-iron kettles made, each holding a barrel. These were put to good use, one being used for meat and the other for tea and coffee. Every morning the Battery would empty one of the kettles of its coffee contents.

Thanksgiving of 1861 saw quite a feast for the Battery. The commissary had been setting aside choice roasting-pieces of beef. The officers had donated $25, which was used to purchase 75 pounds of fresh pork, a hundred pies, and sufficient butter, milk, and other articles for a first class dinner. Two hundred fifty pounds of beef and pork were roasted and a table, from boards procured from a near by farmhouse, was set with 150 plates. The plates were hired for the occasion at Washington. The dinner was a great success with more than enough to satisfy everyone.

On November 27, 1862, Captain Follett resigned. He was replaced by Lieut. Martin, who was promoted to Captain. A few days later, Captain Charles Griffin, then Chief of Artillery, afterwards promoted to Brigadier-General and Major-General, commanding the First Division in the corps, inspected the battery. His conclusion was that while the battery had a fine body of men and a well equipped battery, the officers, men, and horses, had much to learn. He offered to give instruction to the officers three evenings a week at his quarters. This offer was eagerly accepted. Three months later, after drilling under Captain Martin, Captain Griffin once again inspected the battery. They went through the full field and park movements under the watchful eye of the inspector. Upon completion, the Chief of Artillery rode to the front and, taking his hat off, said that he was surprised to see the proficiency attained since the first inspection. He stated that he had seen nearly every battery in the regular service drill but he had never witnessed a more perfect drill than the one he had just seen. It was great praise coming from the commanding officer of a regular battery. After that, Captain Griffin always had a good word for the Third Battery.

[NOTE: For the first part of the Seven Days' Battle, Reed, whose recollections were used for the history, was not with the Battery. He returned to the Battery at Gaines's Mill, where the history jumps to.] At the Battle of Gaines's Mill, the battery had the best position for inflicting damage upon the enemy. They were placed in position at the crest of a hill in front of the roads running through the woods, where the rebels had to pass within canister range. About 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the line battle was forced back. Captain Martin, seeing that he could not retain his position without losing his guns, ordered them to withdraw a few yards down the hill. He ordered them double charged with canister, knowing that it would be the last shot that they could give. The rebels were massed at the top of the hill not 50 yards away when the order to fire was given. When the smoke arose, not a man was left standing in front of the guns. The guns had been placed into position about five yards apart, A few of the enemy remained as they were between the range of the guns, the canister not spreading enough to hit them because they were so close. Two cases, or double-discharge, of canister contained a hundred and twenty musket-balls. They commence to spread as soon as they leave the mouth of the gun, and make awful havoc at short range. All the guns were taken from the field. It is safe to say that very few batteries in the service did more damage to the enemy in one battle than the Third did at Gaines's Mill.

In crossing a deep ditch, one of the guns had run off the end of the planks which were set up and turned over, gun down, and had to be abandoned. Three of the caissons had been sent to the left and rear; the enemy breaking through that part of the line, captured them. The Fifth Massachusetts Battery had lost all but one of their six guns on the field. They were consolidated with the Third and remained with them until Upton's Hill, when they went to Washington, and had a new battery, horses, and equipment issued to them.

On the afternoon of June 28, the Third Battery marched to White Oak Swamp, and from there went to Malvern Hill. At Malvern Hill, the Confederate Army was placed at a great disadvantage. The Union artillery broke up their formations and was instrumental in repulsing their charges with great slaughter. On the following day, the Third left for Harrison's Landing. [The battery history ends here, Reed being away from the battery until again meeting it at Upton's Hill.]

The battery left Upton's Hill on September 12 and arrived at Antietam on September 16. The Battle of Antietam was on September 17. The Third was ready to enter the fight on either flank as needed, but remained in reserve for the battle.

The Third left Antietam on the 18th and on the 20th went into battery on the banks of the Potomac. The first brigade of the first division, including the 22nd Mass. and the 118th Pennsylvania, were sent across the Potomac to reconnoiter. They were driven back by the Rebels with Considerable loss. The Third, Battery D from the regulars, as well as the First Rhode Island were involved in the fight. The 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers lost severely. The Third then went on picket in Sharpsburg until October 30, General Porter's division was reviewed by General McClellan and President Lincoln on the 3rd of October.

The battery went on the march on October 31. and finally stopped at Potomac Creek, where they spent the winter. The Third was to leave this camp, and return three times; The Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside's infamous Mud March, and After the Battle of Chancellorsville. On November 10, 1862, General McClellan was relieved of command of the army and was replaced by General Burnside. Two days later, General Hooker replaced General Porter as commander of the Corps.

The Battle of Fredericksburg began on December 13, with cannonading commencing at sunrise and continuing until noon, when the infantry advanced, providing continual fire of musketry for the next eight hours. The Union charged the rebel batteries a number of times but was repulsed every time. On the 14th, the Third was moved across the river on a pontoon bridge and went on picket about 600 yards from the enemy. They remained in Fredericksburg until the morning of the 16th, when they recrossed the river and headed back to their camp. On January 20, the "Mud March" began. The Third left camp about two in the afternoon. After they had gone about two miles, they set up camp. It rained hard all night. Tents were blown down and all ended up completely soaked. Starting once again at 7:30 AM on the 21st, they again went about two miles when they went into camp in the woods, where they stayed for two days and two nights. During this time, the infantry was hard at work cordorying the roads. Finally, on the 23, the Third was back where they had started from.

On April 27, the Third left camp, setting up on the banks of the Rappahannock for the Battle of Chancellorsville. On May 2, they fired at intervals all day and heavy firing all night. They remained in position for the duration of the battle, returning to their original camp on May 5. There they stayed, doing picket duty along the banks of the Rappahannock until June 13. They then left camp for the final time, heading for Manassas Junction and ultimately arriving at Gettysburg on July 2, at noon. During that time, on June 16, Captain Martin was promoted to Chief of Artillery of the Fifth Corps batteries and First Lieut. A. F. Walcott assumed command of the Third.

The battery was pressed into service on the wheatfield. After doing duty there, they were replaced and repositioned at the base of Little Round Top, where a battle for control of this strategic location was taking place.

The battery was supported by a regiment of regulars who were positioned along a stone wall to the front. After being there for about two hours, General Wofford's Confederate brigade leaped the wall and forced the infantry back. Lieut. Walcott, seeing no chance to save his guns, ordered them spiked. Only one had been spiked just as the rebels got to them, but their apparent victory was short lived. A Bucktail regiment of Pennsylvania reservists was returning from the rear after getting ammunition and charged the Confederate forces, driving them back over the wall.

The guns were drawn out of that position by prolonges and moved around to the left of Round Top, where they went into position. There they remained in support of the Vermont Brigade that was with the cavalry protecting the left flank of the army. On July 5, about four in the afternoon, the Third left the battlefield.

The remainder of 1863 was spent with both armies following each other around with only minor skirmishes. The Battle of Gettysburg had taken a heavy toll on both. The Third finally went into winter quarters along the railroad near Rappahannock Station. During that winter, Lieut.-Gen. Grant assumed command of the United States Army and joined the Army of the Potomac.

On the morning of May 4, the battery crossed the Rapidan and headed for the Wilderness. After going 25 miles, they set up about 10 rods to the left of the Mine Run pike at the right of the line. The next day, a section of the Third along with one of Battery D, First New York were moved on to the pike. The men worded diligently cutting roads and throwing up breastworks. On the morning of May 6, Longstreet and Hill massed their corps and attempted to capture the pike. The ensuing fight lasted all day and all night. In the end, the rebels were driven back into the woods.

On the evening of May 7, the Third was moved out of the Wilderness and proceeded to Laurel Hill. The morning of May 8, the Third went into action along with Battery L, First Ohio. The rebels had two batteries on a fortified hill, about 800 yards to the front. Before night, the rebels had been driven from their position but the fight had proven to be the most costly of the Third's three years of service. Casualties resulted not from the conflict with the rebel artillery but from sharpshooters. The rebel sharpshooters had taken position in trees near by and had made bad havoc, killing and wounding many of the men and horses.

The next morning, the Third was moved about a mile to the right and front, on a hill, and went into a mass position in the woods. The rebels had two batteries directly to the front. Orders were given to open fire at daylight on the 10th. Everyone expected a bloody battle but, surprisingly only one was hurt. The rebels sent their shots too high for execution but the Union's shots were right on target. The one casualty was when a man fell from a limb of a tree. The Third remained in this position until the 13th. On the 12th, the Third sent 600 rounds over the rebel lines - the most in any day of their service. By the end of that day, the Union had captured between eight to ten thousand prisoners and twelve artillery pieces. On the 13th, the Third were marched to the front but the rebels were already in retreat.