|The Artillery That Failed
|One advantage enjoyed by the Confederates during the battle was the fact that they had four artillery pieces and the Union had none. Because of faulty ammunition, however, this advantage was not realized.
When he invaded Eastern Kentucky, Marshall proceeded on the assumption that his four artillery pieces would give him the edge over his Union adversary. This turned out to be a mistake. For one thing, the primitive condition of the roads, coupled with the heavy rainfall of January, 1862, made moving his cannons a very difficult proposition. Two whole days were used up moving his artillery from Hager's Hill to Middle Creek. In his official report of the battle, Marshall says:
"I found the roads nearly impassable. With great labor my battery was moved six miles, but some of my wagons could not move four miles. It was the second day before I passed from the State road leading from Salyersville to Prestonsburg."
Marshall's artillery pieces were smooth-bore, 1841-type six-pounders and twelve-pounders. They fired six-pound and twelve-pound hollow, spherical shells. The six-pounder guns weighed 884 pounds and had a range of 1,520 yards. The twelve-pounder guns weighed 1,227 pounds and had a range of 1,620 yards. They were operated by the Nottoway Artillery, a sixty-man company commanded by Captain William Calvin Jeffress of Nottoway County, Virginia.
Very likely, the shells which Jeffress carried in his ammunition wagons were old ones that had been stored in the Nottoway County arsenal for twenty years or more. As a result, the gunpowder inside them had probably become damp, rendering them useless except as metal projectiles.
The historian of the 42nd Ohio says that Marshall's cannons momentarily checked Garfield's skirmish line, but when they were directed against Garfield's main force, they were so badly aimed that the shells buried themselves harmlessly in the mud.
Shortly after the cavalry dash which began the battle, Garfield sent a company of scouts under Captain William W. Olds along the Graveyard Point ridge towards Marshall's position. Marshall detected the movements of this party and sent a shell hurling toward them. Garfield's description of this event reads as follows:
“Hardly a minute more had elapsed when boom went a cannon, followed by another, throwing a 12-pound shell which struck at H [a point along the ridge] within two feet of Adjutant William W. Olds, who was leading a company of scouts. The shell tore up the earth in the midst of the company, but did not explode. Had it done so, it would have almost annihilated the company.”
|This section of Marshall's map shows the location of Captain Jeffress's four artillery pieces. It also shows the location of Trigg's 54th Virginia, as well as cavalry companies commanded by Holliday, Shawhan, Cameron, and Stone.
|Four captured Confederate brass mountain howitzers guarded by a Union soldier. Courtesy of American Memory, the Library of Congress' National Diginal Library.
|Middle Creek Main Page
Why They Fought Here
The Opposing Commanders
The Confederate Waiting Game
The Union Command Post
The Confederate Command Post
The Union Assault
Monroe's Bayonet Charge
A Desperate Fight, But Few Casualties
The Mount Sterling-Pound Gap Road
The John M. Burns House
The Samuel May Farm
The Middle Creek Foundation
|Colonel George W. Monroe
Colonel Ezekiel F. Clay
Colonel Lionel A. Sheldon
Colonel Don A. Pardee
Colonel Hiram Hawkins
Colonel Alfred C. Moore
Colonel John S. Williams
Colonel George W. Gallup
Dr. Stephen M. Ferguson