History of Thompson’s
Sketched by Captain James Thompson
Given at the dedication of the Battery “C” Monument
Battery “C” Independent Pennsylvania Light Artillery (Thompson’s) was recruited principally at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania early in September, 1861 by Me, under authority granted Ward H. Lamon by President Lincoln to raise a brigade of infantry, cavalry and artillery. The Battery left Pittsburgh September 24th, and arrived at Camp Lamon, near Williamsport, Maryland on September 25th. There it was joined by twenty-three men, Marylanders. The Company was mustered into the United States Volunteer service November 6th, 1861 for three years. At Camp Lamon, engaged doing camp and picket duty, along the Potomac until February 3rd, 1862, When it was ordered to report to General Banks at Frederick City, Maryland. There it received horses and guns. With the general advance of the army, it moved with Bank’s Corps to Harper’s Ferry where it went into battery on Maryland Heights to protect the laying of pontoons and the crossing troops that moved into Winchester, Virginia. There it was attached to attached to Abercrombie’s Brigade. On March 21st, it was ordered to march, with brigade to Alexandria Virginia, to embark for the Peninsula. While on the march received orders to proceed to Warrenton Junction. April 18th, 1862 on a reconnaissance to the Rappahannock bridge, the battery fired it’s first shot and received it’s baptism of fire and then returned to camp.
About this time commenced the retreat back on Washington, then on receiving reinforcements advanced to Front Royal and back near the town of Warrenton, thence to Waterloo Bridge, where General John Pope took command of the Army of Virginia. (Headquarters in the saddle. Stuart’s Confederate calvary found it at Bristoe Station six weeks later.) We joined and moved with the First Corps and was engaged at the at the sanguinary battle of Cedar Mountain on the 9th of August, at Robertson’s river on the 12th, at Rappahannock bridge on the 21st and 22nd, at Thoroughfare Gap on the 28th: Loss three men; at Bull Run (second) August 30th: Loss ten men, three guns and twenty horses; Chantilly September 1st; at South Mountain September 14th; at Antientam September 17th: Loss in this engagement thirteen men, two of whom were detailed from the 150th New York Infantry, father and son, from the effects of their wounds they died in Smoketown Hospital, Maryland; eighteen of twenty-four horses under fire killed, the right gun disabled from musket balls, nine balls pass through the lid of the limber chest while up serving ammunition and the felloes of this gun were cut to pieces; the gun carriage and limber were condemned and we draw another in their place.
Another strange incident of this engagement was that Private Michael Sullivan while carrying a shell from the limber chest to the gun, a Confederate shell exploded near him, the flash of which ignites the fuses in the shell he was carrying, it exploded tearing all his clothes off and wounding him severely. he got well, though never able to return to the service.
At Fredericksburg, December 13th, engaged on the left below Fredericksburg; loss, two men wounded, two horses killed and one gun disabled: after the battle returned to the north side of the Rappahannock river and went into camp at Fletcher’s Chapel on the picket line supported by the 16th Maine Infantry. We took in the memorable mud march to United States Ford, and returned to camp at Fletcher’s Chapel where we lay until April 29th, 1863, when we moved with the First Corps to Purdy’s Dam below Fredericksburg, exchanged shot with the enemy at long range April 29th, May 1st and 2nd; then marched to Chancellorsville and arrived at the front at 3 o’clock a.m. May 3rd; we maneuvered to different positions under fire, but were not engaged. On the evening of the 4th, returned to the north side of the Rappahannock and placed in position at United States Ford to cover and protect the recrossing of the army, and we did it so well that General Hunt, Chief of artillery, thanked officers and men of battery; loss, one man killed, two wounded severely. May 7th, we marched to camp near Falmouth. At this camp Hampton’s Battery “F” was attached to Battery “C”, from this time until the summer of 1864, when they were separated, these two batteries to all intents and purposes were one; the history of the military service of one belongs to the other. We were now assigned to the Reserve Artillery, and the long weary march to Gettysburg commenced, where we arrived about noon July 2nd; about 3 o’clock p.m. we were placed in battery, overlooking the Baltimore Pike, in the rear of the Cemetery and Culp’s Hill; about 4:30 o’clock p.m. an aide to General Meade arrived with orders to limber up and proceed to the Peach Orchard at double quick, and relieve Ames’ New York Battery. On arriving there the left and center sections took positions occupied by Ames’, facing south, and the right section placed on gun between Sherfy’s stable and garden fence, the other gun on the Emmitsburg Road both facing west.
The guns were all in position about twenty minutes when the left and center sections, the being further advanced to the south, opened fire on the enemy’s infantry, which was advancing from the south, they not being in view of the right section consequently did not come into action for ten to fifteen minutes later and when they did they brought a reply from about twenty masked guns all within canister range. the first discharge swept the right section out of position like a whirlwind; the left and center sections not being so much exposed held their position until driven back by infantry charges in front and infilading fire from artillery on their right flank. Seeing it was impossible to serve artillery effectively we withdrew battery section and piece, as we could best get them off, and went into battery with the 6th Maine about five hundred yards in front of the north base of Little Round Top Mountain, where we had an infilading fire on the line of rebel infantry as they charged across the field in front of the Second Corps. Night closed the engagement and we drew back to the base of Little Round Top Mountain to repair the loses of the day and get ready for the final contest, next day.
July 3rd, at dawn, we were ordered into position on the left of the Second and the right of the Third Corps, about one hundred and fifty yards to the left of the spot where General Hancock was wounded, confronting Lee’s right center. During the forenoon we occasionally fired a shot at the enemy to get their range. We had orders from general hunt, chief of artillery, not to waste our ammunition by replying to the artillery; but reserved it, as we had plenty for defensive operations but none to throw away on the offensive. About 1 o’clock p.m., at the sound of the a signal gun, Lee’s whole line of rebel artillery opened fire, to which we did not reply until we received a written order from general Hancock to open fire, as it was demoralizing the whole line of battle. We were only too glad for the chance, for it is much easier to fight than lay idle under such a storm of shot, shell and missiles. The cannonade was kept up until the Confederate batteries ceased firing, when we saw Pickett’s Division, supported by others, emerge from Seminary heights; this was our opportunity to get revenge for our defeat of the first and second days. We fired case shot into their advancing lines until they got within canister range, then we gave them that in double charges; as we saw this charge we don’t believe there was a fighting rebel that penetrated out lines. Great masses of them lay down and threw up their hands in token of surrender, two hundred yards in front of where General Hancock was wounded. They were driven in such numbers by our infantry, that when they came through the line of artillery, the Excelsior Brigade supposed them charging our line and fired into them and killed some; this will account for dead rebels within our lines of battle. This ended this historic battle; our loss was six officers wounded, two of whom died from effect of wounds; twenty-two men killed. wounded and missing; total twenty-eight men, thirty-five horses. one gun spiked and left on field near Peach Orchard; it was recaptured and brought into our lines by Captain Dow of the 6th Maine, during the night of the 2nd. This loss exceeds any other Pennsylvania battery and is only surpassed by four others: Cushing’s “A”, Fourth United States, Stewart’s “B”, Fourth United States, Freeborn’s “E”, First Rhode Island and Arnold’s “A”, First Rhode Island.
We followed Lee’s army to the Rappahannock and then fell back near Centerville, Lee following. October 14th, General Warren, commanding the army in the absence of General Meade, established his headquarters in the view of Mitchell’s Ford, Bull Run; a rebel battery moved into position near the ford and opened on the headquarters. General Warren ordered me to take Battery “C” and two others of the Artillery Reserve and silence them. “C” went into position under heavy fire about twelve hundred yards from the enemy with men, horses, limbers and caissons well covered.
We opened fire and then the enemy concentrated their fire on us. Now we discovered we had to contend with the celebrated Whitworth Battery; the boys called it the “Swamp Angel” from it’s long range and peculiar long shaped octagon shell. The duel lasted about twenty minutes; on an expenditure of forty-four rounds of ammunition we silenced them, with a loss of one horse which was shot from under Lieutenant Paul.
The battery did it’s work so handsomely that General warren complimented it, and it was assigned to his corps, the second. The other two batteries returned to the Reserve Artillery without having to come into action. Then we moved with the Second Corps to Brandy Station. On the 27th of November we moved to Mine Run and were engaged at Robertson’s Cross Roads, supported by Hay’s Division, Second Corps. We returned to camp and were engaged at Morton’s Ford, February 6th, 1864.
During December, 1863 and January, 1864, most of the men re-enlisted as veteran volunteers, for three years or during the war.
On the reorganization of the army by General Grant, in the spring of 1864, the battery was sent to Washington city, where it remained in defense until the close of the war. It returned to Pittsburgh and was mustered out of service June 30th, 1865.