Botetourt Light Artillery
THE BOTETOURT ARTILLERY
Since The Revolution, Virginia’s Constitution had required an active militia in
every county. This requirement was largely ignored until John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859 alarmed
the entire State. It was clear that each community had to protect themselves.
In that same month, Mr. William Watson Boyd, a leader in Buchanan, began to organize
a volunteer militia company to protect the local citizens and personal property. The company was fully organized in December
of 1859. Boyd was elected captain and Joseph W. Anderson. A local lawyer was elected 1st Lieutenant. The newly
formed militia adopted the name “Mountain Rifles”. Richmond was notified of the new formation and it was accepted
into the Virginia militia in early 1860.
Peace, harmony and prosperity was evident throughout the Valley throughout the next
year but a growing rift between North and South over State’s Rights, taxation, tariffs and slavery as the leading cause.
News came from Richmond that South Carolina had seceded from the Union in December 1860.
Other states followed suit in early 1861. A secession convention was held in Richmond for several weeks with the majority
of the delegates seeking compromise and negotiation. On April 12, 1861 the opening act of “The War for Southern Independence”
was initiated when cadets from The Citadel bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The call by President Abraham Lincoln
on April 15, 1861 for Virginia to furnish troops to crush the rebellion was the final straw. Governor Letcher issued orders
for all State Militia units to stand ready to receive marching orders at a moments notice. The Virginia Secession Commission
voted on April 17, 1861 to secede from the Union.
With the secession of the Old Dominion and the outbreak of war, The Mountain Rifles
was ready to serve their state. Captain Boyd was somewhat advanced in age and not in good health so he resigned his militia
post and Captain Joseph W. Anderson, the former 1st Lieutenant, was chosen as the new Captain. Other officers elected
by the Company were: Philip Peters (1st Lt.), John W. Johnston (Senior 2nd Lt.), Henry C. Douthat (Junior
2nd Lt.) and William H. Norgrove (Orderly Sergeant). Immediately 2nd Lt. Johnston of the Mountain Rifles
and Lt. Thomas Henry Johnson of the Blue Ridge Rifles, a neighboring militia unit from the Mill Creek area, were sent to Richmond
to request arms and marching orders.
The two units pitched into camp while they waited the return of the lieutenants from
Richmond. They camped the first two weeks at the Hobbs House across the river from Buchanan in Pattonsburg. They broke camp
and headed to Arch Mill to set up camp while awaiting further orders. While there the ladies of Buchanan presented the Company
with a Virginia flag, made from the wedding dress of Captain Anderson’s young bride.
The men of The Mountain Rifles did not have uniforms. They wore linsey shirts and big
black hats tucked up on one side with a rosette of green ribbons. Family, friends and towns people furnished other articles,
such as knapsacks, canteens, and even sewing kits.
In early May they received orders to report to Lynchburg. On the spring morning of May
15, 1861, The Mountain Rifles assembled in front of the Old Exchange Hotel on Main Street in Buchanan. After a short bidding
of goodbyes from family and friends the command was given “Fall in men”. As they marched down Main Street a local
band played “The Girls I Left Behind”. They were off to war.
They marched over the Blue Ridge to the settlement of Bufordville, now known as Montvale,
in Bedford County where they met up with the Blue Ridge Rifles. At 1pm on May 15, 1861, The Mountain Rifles –now totaling
76 men and two Negro servants, William Anderson and William Mayo, boarded a train at the Bufordville Depot and steamed toward
Lynchburg. The train stopped at Liberty –Bedford- to let a mail train pass and the officers gave the men permission
to go into town to pick up needed items, They not only got those needed items but also picked up several bottles of local
spirits which helped raise their spirits!
The arrived at Camp Davis in Lynchburg on Thursday May 16, 1861 and the following morning
Col. Jubal A. Early organized three infantry regimen its, one of which became the 28th Virginia. It was here that
the Mountain Rifles lost their independent identity. They were now Company “I” of the 28th.
On the 21st of June the 28th was brigaded with the 8th,
18th and 19th Virginia. These regiments formed the 5th Brigade, First Corps, and Army of
the Potomac, Confederate Sates of America, commanded by Col. Philip St. George Cocke.
By June 30, 1861 –after 45 days of service- disease and illness had started to
take its toll on Company I. Captain Anderson reported that only 56 of his 83 men were present and fit for duty.
On July 17, 1861 orders were received to head for Manassas Junction. On the 18th
they were positioned at Balls Ford on Bull Run Creek. By mid day the roar of cannon and musket fire could be heard four miles
down river near Mitchell’s Ford. It was their first sound of war as General James Longstreet and his men encountered
the Union Army at Blackburn’s Ford. The following afternoon the men of the 28th and her sister regiment the
19th Virginia crossed Bull Run and took up position on the opposite bank. They remained at their post until 2pm
on July 21st when the Mountain Rifles and the remainder of the 28th made their entrance into the battle
of First Manassas. Company I did not suffer any casualties during the action but did manage to assist in the capture of the
entire 1st Michigan Infantry Regiment and its Commander Col. Orlando B. Wilcox. They returned victorious to Fairfax
Court House, established camp and remained there until the early Fall of 1861.
In August the Regiment was reformed and Company I became Company H. A newly mustered
company from the Amsterdam Community in Botetourt County became Company K on August 20, 1861 under the commander of Capt.
Before the end of their first year of service, the Army again reorganized and offered
a 30-day furlough to those men who would reenlist for the remainder of the war and also gave them the opportunity for individuals
to change their branch of service. Captain Anderson’s company was among the first to volunteer. In late December 1861
Captain Anderson obtained an order from the War Department to change from Infantry to Light Artillery.
After its official designation as artillery, Anderson’s Battery was assigned to Brig. Gen. Edward
Johnson’s Brigade, Army of the Northwest. The battery is listed in the Order of Battle for Johnson’s Brigade in
the Bath-Romney Campaign of 1862.
After 8 months of service the men of the new Anderson’s Battery headed home for a 30-day furlough.
The remained in the Buchanan area from December 24,1861 until February 1, 1862.
Captain Anderson, with 80 men and officers, reported to Camp Lee near Richmond on Feb. 3,1862 to begin
instruction in artillery drill.
Because Capt. Anderson’s battery was the most advanced in training at the time, they were sent
to Knoxville, Tenn. on March 29, 1862 because of heavy Union activity in Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. One section was sent
to Chattanooga, Tenn. To pick up 4 new guns, two 6 pounders and two,12-pounders.
The battery was assigned to Brig. Gen. Seth M. Barton’s Brigade for service in Maj. Gen. Carter
L. Stevenson’s Division. Operating in this region the battery took part in numerous minor engagements with General Edmund
Kirby-Smith’s Army of East Tennessee.
On August 6, 1862 the battery engaged the enemy at Waldron’s Ridge, Tennessee.
In August, 1862 the Army of East Tennessee was renamed the Army of Kentucky. Stevenson’s Division
was the vanguard of Kirby-Smith’s army as it invaded Kentucky through the Cumberland Mountains in August. Kirby-Smith’s
Army of Kentucky was part of a two pronged attack on the Union forces in Kentucky. The other prong was Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg’s
Army of Mississippi. Bragg’s army would enter Kentucky from middle Tennessee.
It was very difficult hauling artillery through the mountain passes into Kentucky. Much of it had
to be done by hand.
Stevenson’s Division was given the task of taking the Cumberland Gap and holding it open. The
division did not rejoin Kirby-Smith’s main columns until the middle of September, 1862. During the month of September
, Kirby-Smith’s forces encountered the enemy at Harrodsburg and Lexington.
Joining Bragg’s army after the retreat from Perryville, Stevenson’s Division was part
of the force covering the army’s retreat back into Tennessee.
In November, 1862 , following the retreat back into Tennessee, the army was reorganized.
Stevenson’s Division was sent to Bragg’s newly named Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro.
In December, 1862, Stevenson’s Division was ordered to Mississippi where it was to bolster the
forces of Gen. John C. Pemberton in the defense Vicksburg.By this action the battery
, and Stevenson’s Division, missed the Battle of Murfreesboro( Stones’ River ) on December31st and
Fighting in Mississippi the battery was involved in numerous engagements including the Siege of Vicksburg.
On New Years Day 1863 Anderson’s Battery was entrenched in the cold winter Mississippi rain
and mud where they remained until January 15th when they received orders to move their camp about 2-miles south
The Botetourt Artillery now numbered 140 men. On the other side of the river Major General U.S. Grant’s
Army numbered 35,000. General Pemberton now had about 40,000 men in and around Vicksburg. Confederate troops moved to several
locations in April setting up their defenses. On orders The Botetourt Artillery marched 44 miles in 27 hours and set up their
weapons at Port Gibson.
On May 1, 1863 Stevenson’s Division engaged Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee at
Port Gibson (Bayou Pierre). The battery was heavily engaged and suffered heavy casualties, with a loss of 32 %. Captain Johnston’s
report states at the start of the fight he had 144 men and at the end, only 79.
The land battle for Vicksburg was under way.
Captain Anderson had been promoted on January 28th and was now Major Anderson on General
Stevenson’s staff and was also Chief of the Artillery for Stevenson’s Division. Lt. John William Johnston was
now commanding officer of The Botetourt Artillery.
The battery suffered heavy casualties at Port Gibson (Bayou Pierre). Capt. Johnston reported he had
144 men at the start of the battle and only 79 when the day ended.
The total loss of the Botetourt Artillery in this battle in killed, wounded, and captured was about sixty
five officers and men, fifty three horses, and four guns. Late in the day Captain Johnston was disabled.
Casualties at Port Gibson
Captain John W. Johnston --- Wounded
Lt. William H. Norgrove----KIA
Lt. Phillip Peters--------KIA
Lt. William P. Douthat------KIA
Orderly David Lieps-----KIA
Frederick C. Noel------KIA
2 Privates( names unknown)-----KIA
Total Casualties 65
The men continued their retreat toward Vicksburg making camp at Hawkins Ferry. On May 15th
they moved again taking up a position at Champions Hill ( Baker’s Creek )to get better position. Scattered fighting
became a full-scale battle by late morning. The Virginians asked for Infantry help but none came. The battle of Champion’s
Hill left 1,202 men dead. One of those men was Major Joseph W. Anderson.
This hit and run battle continued until tattered troops retreated into Vicksburg and set up the defense
of the City. The men of the Botetourt Artillery were
the only Virginia unit that would spend the next 47 terrible days at the siege of Vicksburg!
After two unsuccessful frontal assaults on May 19th and 22nd Grant settled in for an extended
siege of Vicksburg. Two more frontal assaults would take place later on June 25th and July 1st.
General Stevenson in his report of the Champion’s Hill ( Baker's Creek) battle mentions Maj.
J. W. Anderson as "Gallantly falling in full discharge of his duties" and Capt. J. W. Johnston as fighting his battery "to
the last extremity," and he mentions Captain Johnston in the siege of Vicksburg while inspector of light artillery "for valuable
The Botetourt Artillery had lost all their guns in the fighting at Champion’s Hill. Upon reaching the defenses
of Vicksburg they were given two 6 pounder guns as armament. Those men not assigned to serve these two guns were armed with
Enfield rifles and served as sharpshooters in support of these field pieces.
The battery had the misfortune of being posted in the swamps South
of Vicksburg where the conditions were horrible. The men made the best of a bad environment. There was a consolation in this
however. This area was the right flank of the Confederate line. It was an honor to be able to say that a unit was the “Right
Of The Line”. It denoted that a commander placed trust in a unit’s ability to keep an army’s flank from
caving in to enemy pressure.
During the siege of Vicksburg the Botetourt Artillery was attached to the renowned Waul’s Texas Legion, Col. Thomas N. Waul, commanding, which was assigned to Stevenson’s Division.
On June 2, 1863 Capt. Johnston was promoted to Inspector General of Artillery on General Stevenson’s
Staff. Lt. Francis Obenchain assumed command of the battery. (Obenchain's name appears on the Virginia
marker at Vicksburg National Military Park)
All through June at Vicksburg, the Union troops dug lines parallel to and approaching the rebel lines.
Soldiers could not poke their heads up above their works for fear of snipers. It was a sport for Union soldiers to poke a
hat above the works on a rod, betting on how many rebel bullets would pierce it in a given time.
Over a year before the much publicized Battle of “The Crater” at Petersburg, Virginia,
the troops under siege at Vicksburg dealt with a similar fight. Union engineers had tunneled under the Confederate defenses
and set off a mine under the 3rd Louisiana Infantry. The Federal troops who charged through the opening made by
the mine were repulsed with heavy losses. As with at Petersburg, the fighting was hand to hand.
Brig. Gen. Andrew V. Hickenlooper, Chief engineer of the XVII Army Corps of the Army of the Tennessee
eye was riveted upon that huge redoubt standing high above the adjoining works. At the appointed moment it appeared as though
the whole fort and connecting outworks commenced an upward movement, gradually breaking into fragments and growing less bulky
in appearance, until it looked like an immense fountain of finely pulverized earth, mingled with flashes of fire and clouds
of smoke, through which could occasionally be caught a glimpse of some dark objects,-men, gun-carriages, shelters, etc. Fire
along the entire line instantly opened with great fury, and amidst the din and roar of 150 cannon and the rattle of 50,000
muskets the charging column moved forward to the assault. But little difficulty was experienced in entering the crater, but
the moment the assaulting forces attempted to mount the artificial parapet, which had been formed by the falling debris about
midway across the fort, completely commanded by the Confederate artillery and infantry in the rear, they were met by a withering
fire so severe that to show a head above the crest was certain death. Two lines were formed on the slope of this parapet,
the front line raising their muskets over their heads and firing at random over the crest while the rear rank were engaged
in reloading. But soon the Confederates began throwing short-fused shells over the parapet, which, rolling down into the crater
crowded with the soldiers of the assaulting column, caused the most fearful destruction of life ever witnessed under like
circumstances. The groans of the dying and shrieks of the wounded became fearful, but bravely they stood to their work until
the engineers constructed a casemate out of the heavy timbers found in the crater, and upon which the earth was thrown until
it was of sufficient depth to resist the destructive effects of the exploding shells. As soon as this work was completed,
and a parapet was thrown up across the crater on a line with the face of the casemate, the troops were withdrawn to the new
line beyond the range of exploding shells.”
Suffering from heat, the sun, rain and long damp nights and the lack of food for the
better part of five weeks took a heavy toll on Confederate troops.
Finally on July 3, 1863, flags of truce were placed along the works. That night, the men of the Botetourt
Artillery cut up the wedding dress Virginia flag so it would not fall into enemy hands and each man was given a small piece.
On July 4, 1863 the City of Vicksburg was surrendered. With this event the Confederacy was literally cut in half. No longer
would the Armies west of the Mississippi have efficient contact with those east of the river. The waning days of the Confederacy
On July 7 and 8 Major Fry of the 20th Ohio paroled the majority of the Botetourt Artillery. A total
of 130 men of the Artillery were paroled; 21 of this number were paroled within one of the local hospitals on July 11, 1863.
Pemberton’s army was to be exchanged at Enterprise, Mississippi and the Virginians would have to march 154 miles east
to reach the site. It took them nine days to get there two men died during the journey. The death toll for the Botetourt Artillery
during this campaign was 41men dead.
Declared exchanged on September 12, 1863, the battery returned to Virginia , reorganized under the
command of Captain Henry Clay Douthat, and was assigned as Artillery in the Department of Western Virginia. The battery had
no cannon in October and November. In order for the battery to refit, rest, and recuperate from its Vicksburg ordeal, it was
assigned to defend the New River bridgehead on the vital Virginia-Tennessee Railroad near Pulaski, Virginia.
Compared to the rigorous service Douthat’s Battery had seen for the previous 2 years, this new
assignment was fairly easy. The Spring of 1864 however would bring more intense service. By this time the battery was fully
equipped. In March, 1864 Douthat’s battery had six guns.
In May, 1864 Federal forces made a move into the Shenandoah Valley. Major General John C. Breckinridge
gathered his forces and moved down the valley to counter the threat. Conflicting
information on the activities of the Botetourt Artillery exist for this period of time, but officially the following Order
of Battle exists for Breckinridge’s artillery.
****On May 1, 1864 the official return of Breckinridge s Division shows the following batteries :
Monroe Virginia Battery, Capt. George B. Chapman.
Lewisburg Battery, Capt. Thomas A. Bryan.
Roanoke Battery, Capt. Warren S. Lurty.
Botetourt Battery. Capt. Henry C. Douthat.
Rhett (Tenn.) Battery, Capt. William H. Burroughs.
Tennessee Battery, Capt. Hugh L. W. McClung.
Charlottesville Battery, Capt. Thomas E. Jackson.
**** From The Long Arm Of Lee, by Jennings Cropper Wise.
Desiring to keep pressure on Lee’s forces on all fronts, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered Maj.
Gen. George Crook to advance south along the Kanawha River and attack the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad and the Confederate
supply depot at Dublin, Virginia.
Brig. Gen. John McCausland, with his brigade, was enroute to Staunton to reinforce Breckinridge. Brig.
Gen. Albert G. Jenkins, Commander of the Dept. of Western Virginia, ordered McCausland to proceed to Cloyd’s Mountain
to intercept Crook. Several batteries of artillery were made available to him for this operation.
Botetourt Artillery---Capt. Henry C. Douthat
Ringold Artillery---Capt. Crispin Dickenson
Monroe Artillery-----Capt. Thomas Bryan
Being the senior artillery officer, Captain Thomas A. Bryan was in command of this provisional artillery
The Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain began with the Yankees assaulting the right of McCausland’s
line where the 45th Virginia Infantry was posted. Reinforcements from the 36th Virginia on the left
move to bolster the right. This weakened the left and the Federals took advantage of the move to pressure McCausland’s
left. The disparity in numbers was taking its toll on the Rebels. There was not much the Confederates could do to slow the
The Federal force had a 2 to 1 advantage over McCausland’s force. This began to tell on the
Rebels after a while. The Confederates began to take heavy casualties which they could ill afford. One infantry unit, the
45th Virginia, suffered its highest number of casualties at Cloyd’s Mountain.
Outnumbered, the Confederate force began to withdraw and cede the battle to the Federals.
The Botetourt Artillery , acting as a rear guard, covered the retreat. Below is Captain Douthat’s
official report of his battery’s part in the actions of May 9th and 10th .
Report of Captain Henry C. Douthat, Botetourt(Virginia) Artillery,
of skirmish at New River Bridge
Maj. CHARLES S. STRINGFELLOW,
Headquarters Botetourt Artillery,
Narrows May 21, 1864
Major: In reply to your communication of the 18th instant, directing me to submit at once a report of the part
taken by my battery in the affair of May 10 at the New River Bridge, the operations subsequent thereto, &c., I would state
that I remained with my battery, consisting of eight pieces (two 12-pounder guns, two 6-pounder smooth-bore, two 12-pounder
howitzers, and two 3-inch rifles), in position on the west bank of the river until Colonel McCausland had crossed with his
forces to the east side of the river. I then received orders to cross my pieces , except the two 12-pounder guns, which I
was ordered to destroy.
At 7 p.m. I commenced crossing, and only having one boat was occupied until 12 o’clock that night. We were ordered
into position with Bryan’s and Dickenson’s batteries the morning of the 10th , and awaited the approach
of the enemy, who made his appearance about 10 o’clock, when we were ordered to open upon him. Sometime after my ammunition
was expanded I was ordered off the field.
In this action I had 3 horses killed and 1 man injured by being thrown from his horse and the limber of the gun passing
over him. I fired in all 125 rounds, and brought off all my guns.
I am Major, very respectfully, and &c.,
Captain Botetourt Artillery.
McCausland retreated south and made a stand at New River Bridge on May 10. Douthat’s Battery fought from
the bluffs overlooking the bridge. The Confederate artillery, Douthat’s, Bryan’s,
and Dickenson’s Batteries , exhausted all its ammunition in a 4 hour artillery
duel with the Union artillery!
Brigadier General Albert Jenkins was mortally wounded at Cloyd’s Mountain.
One again McCausland had to retreat due to inadequate forces. Requests for reinforcements were ignored.
The Federals damaged the railroad and the bridge but the damage was easily repaired and it was business as usual for the Rebels.
The Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain was the largest battle fought in southwest Virginia up to this
point and has been largely forgotten due to the fact that it took place at the same time
as the Battle of the Wilderness which has overshadowed it in historical accounts.
After the fight at New River Bridge , McCausland’s force retreated toward Christiansburg.
The provisional artillery battalion of McCausland’s force was broken up at this time. Dickenson’s
Battery was ordered to Richmond. Bryan’s Battery moved on down the valley to join Breckinridge.
The Botetourt Artillery was ordered to Christiansburg where it remained until June 9.
Just 4 days prior, on June 5th , Brig. Gen. William E.
“Grumble” Jones’ force had been defeated at nearby Piedmont and forces had to be moved down the valley
to resist further movement toward the southwest by Federal troops. Jones was killed in the fighting.
At this time the battery was ordered to Staunton, Virginia which was a major supply depot and
rail hub. Because the situation was urgent the battery’s horses were to be left behind. Their flat cars were attached
to the mail train for movement.
Captain Douthat and his entire battery arrived in Lynchburg on the 10th of June. It was learned that
the previous day, Hunter’s Cavalry under the command of Brig.Gen. A.N. Duffie, had cut through White’s Gap at
Buena Vista and was heading for Amherst Court House to destroy a large portion of the railway system between there and Lynchburg.
Captain Douthat prevailed upon the conductor to take him and his men as far as he could toward Amherst Station. They could
see smoke coming from the direction of the Arrington depot and a decision was made to try and stop advancing forces at the
Tye River railroad bridge, which would be a vital loss if Union troops destroyed it.
“On arriving at Amherst Station, fourteen miles out, we were informed the enemy was in our front,
destroying the road. Captain Douthat prevailed on the conductor to take his company on to the next station, or as far as he
felt safe to go. Arriving at the next station, we could see smoke from the burning depot at Arrington, six miles off. Midway
between the two stations was a railroad bridge (a large wooden structure) over the Tye River. Now we knew if the enemy got
to that bridge the loss would be great.”
Corporal Adam Plecker, Botetourt Artillery
Without the aid of horses or a loading ramp the guns of the battery would be useless if they could
get them off. Enfield muskets and ammunition was aboard the train so Captain Douthat requisitioned weapons for his men and
double quick marched the last three miles to the bridge. They got there about dark and pickets were placed on the far side
of the bridge as lookouts. About midnight, the clop of Federal horses could be heard coming toward the bridge. Adam Plecker
reported that when troops got within shouting range they yelled out and asked who they were. The lookouts asked a second time
to identify themselves or they would open fire. At that point troops could be heard galloping off at a rapid rate. The men
fired after them anyway.
“In a few minutes every man had a gun, with ammunition in his pocket, and started at a double-quick
three miles to that bridge, got there at dark and placed pickets. Captain Douthat asked me to take two good men and take position
on a hill about five hundred yards beyond the bridge, in a road leading from the burned depot, and keep a good look out should
the enemy show up. 'And when you are sure of your game, fire on them and fall back to the bridge', he said.
The night was very dark, and with woods in front we could see nothing. About midnight we heard the
tramp of horses on the hard road. We halted them without proper distance, and asked who they were. They stopped but made no
reply. I asked again, 'and if you don't tell me we will fire upon you'. At that they turned tail and went back at a rapid
rate. We fired after them and still held our post."
CPL Adam Plecker
At daylight the threat was over. The men had opposed a Union Army detachment of about 10 men who had
ridden back telling the commanding officer that the bridge was heavily defended by a strong Confederate force and it would
be impossible to destroy the bridge.
Later that morning the men march 23-miles back to Lynchburg, arriving on Sunday June 12th
and much to their surprise were greeted as heroes. The local paper reported the Tye River incident as an “instance of
heroism that should not be left as unrecorded”. They had won the battle without even SEEING the enemy!
“An ammunition train that left the city via the Orange road, about two o'clock on Saturday,
and for the safety of which great fears were entertained, returned safely about eight o'clock in the evening. The conductor
saw smoke in the direction of Arrington Depot, from which he inferred that the building was being burned by the enemy. There
was on the train a gentleman named Dowdy (Douthat), who had had a hundred unarmed men with him, and he took responsibility
of seizing an equal number of muskets that were on a car, armed his men, and got off at Tye River bridge with the avowed purpose
of defending it to the last extremity. Such an instance of heroism should not be left unrecorded.”
The Lynchburg Virginian
Throughout the war Lynchburg, Virginia had been a major supply depot and location for Confederate
hospitals. It was also a major communications and transportation hub. To destroy Lynchburg would be a great asset to the Union
war effort. Therefore in June, 1864, Maj. Gen. David Hunter was given the task of eliminating the Confederate presence in
the upper Shenandoah Valley, including Lynchburg.
(Hunter was known as
“Black Dave” to southerners for his particularly ruthless way of dealing with civilians in his area of operations.
Hunter , like Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, believed in total war with no distinction between combatant and non-combatant.
Both men were ahead of their time in this regard. An avowed abolitionist, Hunter took it upon himself to emancipate slaves
in South Carolina earlier in the war. He went so far as to form a unit from freed slaves which he designated the 1st
South Carolina Infantry, U.S. Volunteers, in May, 1862. All without the consent of the government and his superiors, 9 months
before Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The unit was allowed to remain in existence but was redesignated the
33rd Regiment United States Colored Troops on March 26, 1864.)
Hunter’s methods had been harsh on the white inhabitatants of the South Carolina coast and Confederate
authorities did not want the same thing happening in the fertile Shenandoah Valley.
Hunter’s aim in this raid was to destroy railroads, Confederate supply depots and hospitals,
as well as as much personal property as possible.
Upon returning to Lynchburg after the Tye River incident, Captain Douthat procured horses for his
men and and moved his guns across the James River taking up a position on the north side in Amherst Heights. On June 17, 1864
the men moved and waited on Main Street in Lynchburg with their 6 guns and awaited orders. About 1pm General Jubal Early arrived
and began placing men in a defensive position for defense of the city.
Douthat’s initiative and audacity at the Tye River Bridge had held open the way for Early’s
forces to enter Lynchburg.
The Botetourt Artillery took up a position at College Hill near the City Cemetery. They spent the
rest of the day shelling enemy troops to keep them from burning the V&T railroad bridge. During the night of June 18th
and the morning of the 19th, General Hunter and his army retreated and headed toward Liberty. Captain Douthat along
with Early’s forces chased Hunter all the way back to Salem, with a minor engagement at Hanging Rock.
Hunter’s army retreated with no provisions for the trip. They had counted on supplying themselves
with stores they would capture at Lynchburg. It was a very hungry army by the time they got back into West Virginia.
After the Lynchburg Campaign, the battery remained at Lynchburg for a time to defend the city from
further Yankee incursions as Early took the rest of his army down the valley toward Washington and Maryland. Receiving further
orders the battery moved to Staunton where it remained until September 10th. At that time they were ordered to
join Major Austin Leyden’s 9th Georgia Artillery Battalion on Meechum’s River near Rockfish Gap. On
Septmber 29th they moved back to rockfish Gap and were involved in a skirmish at Waynesboro on September 30th.
The battery remained in Early’s command until the 1st of October when it was ordered
join Breckinridge at Wytheville where it became part of Major Richard C.M. Page’s Artillery Battalion.
Page had been sent from Lee’s headquarters to consolidate and organize the artillery in Breckinridge’s
Command into a more efficient fighting force.
Douthat’s Botetourt (Virginia) Artillery
Barr’s (Virginia Battery)
Burroughs’ (Tennessee) Battery
*Lynch’s (Tennessee) Battery
McClung’s (Tennessee) Battery
Kain’s (Tennessee) Battery
Byrne’s (Kentucky) Battery
*(Lynch’s Tennessee Battery had been at Vicksburg.)
The Botetourt Artillery had the strongest reputation, as a fighting force ,of any company in Page’s
Apparently Major Page succeeded in his task to make Breckinridge’s artillery efficient because
it was remarked by one of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s inspectors that it was “the best battalion of artillery ever seen
in that part of the world.”
On October 14, 1864 Major Page inspected the battery while it was at Wytheville, Virginia and found
it to be in good condition.
On October 22, 1864 the battery received orders to report to Col. Thomas H. Carter in the Shenandoah
Valley. Arriving in Staunton on the 24th it remained there until ordered to return to Wytheville in mid-December.
Upon its return to Page's Battalion, the battery was about to become embroiled in another crucial
Union Major General George Stoneman was making raid into Southwest Virginia to once again attempt
to destroy railroads, supplies, and the vital saltworks and lead mines the region held. Moving into the region Stoneman arrayed
his forces to accomplish his mission.
Stoneman had sent Brig. Gen. Gillem and his Tennessee regiments to Wytheville to destroy anything that looked valuable.
Stoneman also sent Colonel Harvey Buckley and two regiments of Kentucky cavalry to destroy the lead mines and smelting facilities
that were located about ten miles from Wytheville. On December 16th, these units encountered Confederate forces
on the Mount Airy ( now Rural Retreat ) Road, (The Botetourt Artillery and Captain William H. Burroughs’ Tennessee Battery,)
moving toward the nearby town of Marion. Skirmishing took place but the Federals moved on toward Wytheville as the Rebels
moved toward Marion to reinforce Gen. Breckinridge’s forces.
Arriving in Marion the artillery of Page’s Battalion set up in positions on the high ground.
What follows is an account of the Battle of Marion by David Chaltas and Richard Brown. Although a
small battle in the grand theater of the American Civil War, this crucial battle , fought in the dead of Winter, left the
combatants in a weary state.
The Battle of Marionby
December 17 and 18, 1864
David Chaltas and Richard Brown
“It was a peaceful town that had for the most part been spared the ravages of
the fighting upon its soil. But as in the case of all the south, Marion had suffered with the loss of her sons, had felt the
division of families as they sadly chose to follow their conscience. The city had also contributed to the cause. But the mountains
and geographic location had afforded them some protection for the ravages of war. That is, until the winter of 1864.
The town of Marion was located on the Middle Fork of the Holston River in Smyth County,
Virginia. It was approximately half way between the salt works of Saltville and the lead works near Wytheville. The town and
the outlying farms had escaped most of the destruction that so many areas in Virginia had suffered in the first three years
of the war. Their luck was about to run out though.
Major General George Stoneman, commander of the Union army in Kentucky and Tennessee,
was planning a raid into southwest Virginia. General Stoneman, like his superior officer General William Sherman, believed
in the concept of total warfare. Stoneman planned on destroying all facilities and supplies that would help support the war
effort. His belief was that civilian supplies and their possessions fell into this category and would be destroyed accordingly.
This destructive raid that would create hardships and bitter feelings in this area would forever after be called Stoneman's
The purported massacre of wounded Negro soldiers after the Battle of Saltville created
uproars by the Union press and a call for revenge was given. Even though these stories were unproven, Stoneman could care
less. His plan for a raid into southwest Virginia now began to gain support from his commanders, as they wanted to appease
the outspoken Union public. He suggested that the same troops that had been on the failed attempt to destroy the salt works
be assigned under his command for a return trip. These troops, commanded by General Stephen Burbridge, included the 5th and
the 6th U.S. Colored Cavalry. His plan was approved and he immediately contacted Burbridge and ordered him to bring his army
of approximately four thousand men through Cumberland Gap where they would meet in Tennessee. Stoneman left Knoxville on December
10th with General Alvan Gillem and his fifteen hundred Tennessee troops.
On the 13th of December, Stoneman's large army easily pushed aside General Basil Duke's
cavalry at Rogersville, Tennessee.
When Stoneman approached Kingsport, he began to implement his plan of total destruction.
All railroad and telegraph facilities were destroyed as were anything that he considered a benefit to the southern cause.
This included all supplies or food that civilians had in their possessions, regardless if they held an apparent military value.
On the 14th, the Union army began to push Duke's cavalry back toward Abingdon. The next day, Stoneman and his cavalry went
into camp at Glade Spring, which was about 13 miles west of Marion. On December 16th, Stoneman's cavalry rode toward Marion,
destroying everything in their path.
The job of stopping the destruction of southwest Virginia fell upon the shoulders of
Major General John C. Breckinridge, commander of the Army of the Department of Southwest Virginia. This army was for the most
part an army on paper only. His command consisted of approximately one thousand regular troops with another five hundred militia
reserves. Most of the army had been transferred to the Army of Northern Virginia to help in the defense of Richmond. General
Breckinridge was a Kentuckian as were most of his troops. His small army consisted of Colonel Henry Giltner's Brigade formed
from the 4th Kentucky Cavalry, 10th Kentucky Cavalry, the 10th Kentucky Mounted Rifles (later designated the 13th Kentucky
Cavalry) and the 64th Virginia Mounted Infantry. General Basil Duke's cavalry, General George Cosby's cavalry and Colonel
Vincent Witcher and his 34th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry completed the short list of available ragged soldiers in gray.
Though small in number, all of these men were seasoned veterans and formed a formidable army.
General Breckinridge had a decision to make, should he continue to guard Saltville or
attempt to stop the total destruction of southwest Virginia. On the night of December the 16th, he decided to move out of
Saltville in an effort to stop Stoneman. Taking the regular troops with him, he left Colonel Robert Preston in charge of the
five hundred militia men to defend the salt works. General Breckinridge sent Witcher and his men of the 34th on ahead of his
main force and ordered them to harass the Union army. At approximately 3:00 A.M., Breckinridge and his small army began to
travel across Walkers Mountain in the cold rain that had been falling for the last couple of days, making travel difficult
across the muddy roads. At 4:00 A.M., they reached the main road near Seven Mile Ford where Breckinridge decided to wait for
daylight before continuing. In an attempt to gain some sleep, most of the men tried to curl up along the fencerow to get out
of the cold, wet mud.
The First Day of Battle December 17, 1864 -- Around noon, Breckinridge's mud-caked men
mounted their horses and began the muddy ride toward Marion. Meanwhile, Stoneman had sent Gillem and his Tennessee regiments
to Wytheville to destroy anything that looked valuable. Stoneman also sent Colonel Harvey Buckley and two regiments of Kentucky
cavalry to destroy the lead mines and smelting facilities that were located about ten miles from Wytheville. Stoneman and
Burbridge continued on toward Marion where they encountered Witcher and his men. Burbridge's front regiment, the 11th Michigan
Cavalry, were armed with Spencer repeating rifles and easily began to push them back. Witcher's small brave band would stop
long enough to fire a volley into the horsemen in blue, then race on toward Marion. He sent a courier racing on ahead to inform
Breckinridge that they were coming on the double quick toward their comrades dressed in gray.
Breckinridge's front regiment was the 10th Kentucky Mounted Rifles, under the command
of Colonel Benjamin Caudill. The regiment rode under a blue flag with a white cross with the name 'Caudill's Army' stenciled
across it. As Caudill and his men neared the covered bridge that crossed the Middle Fork of the Holston River, they saw Witcher
and his men riding at a gallop toward them with the 11th Michigan hard on their heels. Caudill's men quickly dismounted and
fired a volley into the Union cavalry, emptying several saddles. This made the fourth time in less than six months that these
two regiments had faced off against each other. The 11th was caught unprepared for this new threat and immediately retreated.
As the rest of Breckinridge's troops began to arrive on the scene, Colonel Caudill noticed
that Stoneman's men had secured the high hill overlooking the river. Knowing that these hills were the best defensive positions
in the area, he immediately ordered the men of the 10th Kentucky Mounted Rifles to charge up the hill and dislodge the Yankee
soldiers. The rest of Giltner's Brigade realized what he was doing and joined in the charge, routing the surprised Yankees.
The high ground on the north side of the river now belonged to Breckinridge and his small army. With the best defensive position
now his, Breckinridge now faced another problem. The defense line needed to contain the Union army when it attacked was longer
than he had men to defend. To compensate, every sixth man became a horse holder, instead of every fourth one. This allowed
Breckinridge to line the hill with a very thin but formidable defense. The 4th Kentucky constructed their breast works in
front of the covered bridge with the 2nd Kentucky to their right and the 64th Virginia, the 10th Kentucky and Caudill's Army
to their left. Duke and Witcher's men made up the far right of Breckinridge's defensive line.
Burbridge began to form his men up in columns to attack the Rebel defenses, staggering
the 5th and 6th Colored Cavalry between the white units. As soon as the men were in position, he ordered all columns to charge
in unison. With bugles sounding, a blue wave of gallant men surged forward, knowing they faced the Enfield rifles favored
by the Rebels entrenched in front of them. Before the Union soldiers could fire their first shot, a volley from the entrenched
Confederates dropped many of them. The vastly outnumbered Rebels fired round after round into this sea of blue as Major Richard
Page and his small battery of four Parrott cannons opened up, hoping to stem the tide. The intensity of the firing stunned
the Yankees causing them to begin to fall back. At the sight of the backs of the boys in blue, the boys in gray gave a large
Rebel Yell. The yell was premature however, as the Union officers reorganized their men and with a yell of their own, charged
again. Like the previous one, this charge also was beaten back.
As the sun began to set, the union soldiers were asked to charge once again. Courageously
the men formed and prepared to face the withering fire that they knew would come from the breast works in their front. For
the final time that day, the blue line charged into the hailstorm of bullets with the same results as the previous charges.
The thin gray line had held on this first day of battle.
After darkness had set in, Breckinridge ordered his men to move forward and build new
breastworks. The new defensive positions placed the two armies less than one hundred fifty yards apart. Even though cold,
wet and muddy neither army would build fires that night, not wanting to give away their positions. The men would try their
best to get some sleep with little success. Sporadic gunfire that lasted all night kept both armies edgy and on their guard,
fearing a night attack. The wounded Union soldiers would have to spend the night on the cold wet battlefield. During the night,
one Union officer would make a decision that would adversely come back to haunt him the following day. Under the cover of
darkness, he and approximately seventy-five men would take up positions in and around the covered bridge. This would be the
only advance of the night by the Union army.
The Second Day December 18, 1864 -- The fall of rain met the two armies at daybreak
adding more misery to the ranks as each side looked across the battlefield at each other. The Union men that had taken up
positions at the covered bridge began to fire a few rounds just to harass the Confederates in their front. Later in the day
they would regret making the 4th Kentucky soldiers that were entrenched in front of the bridge mad. Burbridge waited for the
fog to lift and for the rain to stop before commencing his attack. To entertain themselves, soldiers from both armies began
to hurl insults across the fields between them. About midmorning Burbridge decided that the light rain probably would not
stop falling any time soon and had his officers prepare to commence the battle.
With bugles sounding and both armies raising their battle cries the second day of battle
began. Columns of men in blue again charged across the mucky fields into the same contemptuous fire they had received the
day before. Though their hands and fingers were cold and wet, the men of the thin gray line managed to load and fire their
muzzle loading Enfields rapidly. No doubt many a cartridge and percussion cap hit the ground in their haste to stem the tide.
Even if the men had known that later on these cartridge would be so valuable, they probably could not have prevented their
numb hands from dropping them.
A combination of the colored and the white troops managed to push the 4th Kentucky and
Cosby's men back. Cosby rallied his men and counter charged, retaking their breastworks. The men that had taken positions
at the covered bridge began to take considerable heat from the 4th Kentucky in their front. They realized their location was
not a healthy one and some began to try to run back to the Union lines. As these men would attempt to leave the bridge, the
Enfields of the 4th would bark and each time a soldier in blue would fall to the ground. This soon became a morbid amusement
for the men of the 4th as each one of them wanted to pick off one of the fleeing Yanks. The Yankees decided to wait out the
battle after at least fifteen of their brothers in blue had paid the price for attempting to leave the bridge. Major
Page tried to convince them to make a run for it by using his artillery to dislodge the trapped soldiers. The boys in blue
decided to take the chance of being blown up rather than to expose themselves to the rifles that to them seemed could not
miss. Later in the day Burgridge ordered one of his regiments to charge across the bridge on horseback to relieve the
pressure on the trapped men. All that was accomplished was the emptying of several saddles. The men at the bridge would have
to wait for dark to slip out of the trap of their own making.
On the far right General Duke was being pressed hard by the heavy columns of attacking
soldiers. Seeing this, Colonel Giltner sent the 2nd Kentucky to reinforce Duke. Before the 2nd arrived, Duke and his men countercharged
the Yankee line and routed it. Now that Duke had the 2nd Kentucky to take his old position, he and Witcher combined forces
and charged the Union's extreme left flank. The colored regiment that turned to meet these wild charging and screaming gray
clad soldiers was completely routed.
Seeing his flank being driven back shook Burbridge and his men, which resulted in a
disorderly retreat. A Rebel Yell echoed up and down the thin gray line at the sight of the Union soldiers retreating. Their
rail breastworks had held, turning the muddy fields in their front into murky crimson stained ones instead. But the holding
of the line had resulted in the use of a huge amount of ammunition. Each Rebel defender had shot at least seventy-five rounds
with some having fired as many as a hundred shots. The men holding the horses had sent up all of their ammunition as their
comrade's cartridge boxes became empty.
At approximately 4:00 P.M. the firing became sporadic as the Union stopped their charges
across the gruesome killing fields that they would have to cross to take the Rebel breastworks. At this time the celebrating
Confederates saw a long column of Union cavalry coming down the road to join their comrades in blue. This was General Gillem
and his Tennessee troops whom Stoneman had called back from his raid on Saltville. The unexpected fighting capabilities of
the small Confederate army had temporarily created a reprieve for the salt works.
As darkness began to engulf the battle scene, each army began to hunker down behind
their breast works on their respective sides of the battlefield. The men from both sides were weary, cold, muddy and hungry.
It must have seemed to these warriors that the cold Virginia rain would never cease. Someone had informed the citizens of
Marion that the Rebel soldiers had not eaten in two days causing the motherly instincts of the ladies in the surrounding area
to take over. Even with their own shortage of food the pioneering blood that ran through these southern ladies would not allow
these poor boys to go hungry. Using food that their own families desperately needed to last them through the winter, the ladies
cooked the first warm meal these boys in gray had tasted in days. Sharing what overcoats that were available, the men covered
themselves up best they could and devoured the best meal in the country. The boys in blue were not privileged to share such
a meal but did get a small army type meal. Both sides had to build fires as some of the men became numb and insensible.
Breckinridge ordered his field officers to make an inspection of the troops and to report
back with the condition of his small army. The news he received was not good. The number of men wounded and killed had depleted
his army to the point that he could no longer feel confident in holding back the enemy in his front. To make matters worse,
each man had no more than ten cartridges apiece. With their supplies destroyed by Stoneman's raiders at Wytheville and Abingdon,
there was no hope of being resupplied in time for the next day. At 11:00 P.M., Breckinridge reluctantly ordered his men to
withdraw from the battlefield. A small detail of pickets was ordered to remain until around 1:00 A.M., firing sporadic shots
to convince the Yankees that the Confederates were still in position. Though the men faced miserable conditions, they were
confident they could hold the field the next day. Angrily they obeyed orders and silently began to move out with Colonel Ben
Caudill and his Mounted Rifles leading the way.
An advance scout returned to report that Colonel Buckley and his Kentucky cavalry were
blocking the road that Breckinridge was retreating down. If the Rebels had remained on the battlefield, no doubt Buckley would
have struck their flank the next day. Breckinridge ordered the men to turn off the road and to begin the hard climb across
the mountain range to safety. The remainder of the night would be spent traversing the muddy horse trail.
The next day, December the 19th Stoneman's men woke to find themselves alone on the
battlefield. Though they were men of courage, they no doubt were glad to find the troublesome Confederates gone. At least
this day they would not have to face a scornful fire and cross a mud and blood soaked field. Stoneman continued on to his
objective and destroyed a portion of the salt works at Saltville. In his haste to avoid facing Breckinridge again, Stoneman
did not take the time to completely destroy the facilities of the salt works. Stoneman and Gillem fell back into Tennessee
while Burbridge went back to Kentucky through Pound Gap.
Though the battle at Marion was considered a Union victory, Breckinridge and his men
had accomplished several things. The respect for the Confederate fighting abilities had convinced Stoneman to suspend his
devastating raid and contributed to his inability to completely destroy the salt works. The vastly outnumbered Rebels had
also inflicted heavy causalities on the Union army. “
Infantry Regimental History; Weaver, Jeffery; H.E. Howard Publisher; copyright 1992
The Battles for Saltville; Marvel,
William; H.E. Howard Publisher; copyright 1992
Diary of a Bluegrass Confederate; Guerrant, Edward; Louisiana State University
Press; copyright 1999
Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie; Mosgrove, George; University of Nebraska Press; copyright 1999
The Botetourt Artillery played a signifigant role in delaying the Yankees at Marion.
In late December, 1864 the Virginia batteries in the battalion were ordered to Richmond. Barr’s
Battery departed to join Lee.
Douthat’s Battery would soon follow.
In February, 1865 changes were made in the Confederate high command to better deal with the steadily
declining military situation. At this time Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge was appointed Secretary of War. His division was
turned over to Brig. Gen. John Echols.
Also in February General Robert E. Lee was made General -in -Chief of all Confederate military
forces. This act made all CSA units, including the Army of Tennessee, accountable to Lee’s headquarters.
All CSA units in departments within Virginia had always been essentially part of the Army of Northern
Virginia. Now the commanders of these units became answerable directly to General Lee with no interference by the War Department.
In February, 1865 the battery, one of many to do so, was ordered to Richmond to join the rest of the
Army of Northern Virginia in the defense of Petersburg. It was assigned to Col. John Floyd King’s Artillery Battalion
in the 1st Corps.
During the time following its arrival in the line at
Petersburg/Richmond, the Botetourt Artillery served in the trenches.
(Here there is some question
as to the status of the Botetourt Artillery. Official records show the battery in Petersburg but written accounts show the
battery as having returned to Wytheville. This may be explained by the following order dated March 20, 1865)
Excerpt from the National Archives
SPECIAL ORDERS, HDQRS. ARTY., ARMY OF NORTHERN VA., Numbers 13. March 20, 1865.
It being found impracticable to equip for the approaching campaign all our batteries, the following
arrangements are ordered as most just and suitable in connection with the artillery service; they will be effected as speedily
as possible under the direction of the general and chief of artillery.
1. McLaughlin's battalion, now stationed for foraging purposes near Dublin Depot, Lynchburg and Tennessee
Railroad, will be assigned to service of the guns at Fort Clifton, Major McLaughlin commanding.
2. Chew's battery, McIntosh's battalion, Third Corps, will be consolidated with Griffin's battery,
Breathed's battalion horse artillery, according to provisions of law for such cases provided.
3. Chamberlayne's battery, Owen's battalion, now with Third Corps, will be detached from its present
connection and assigned in place of Chew's to McIntosh's battalion.
**4. Dickenson's and Walker's batteries, Owen's battalion, will also be detached from its present connection and
constituted with Douthat's, just arrived from Western Virginia, into another battalion to serve stationary guns below Richmond
and under command of Lieutenant-Colonel King.**
5. Lieutenant-Colonel Owen will be assigned as second field officer to McIntosh's battalion and the
staff officers of Owen's battalion will be assigned either to Lieutenant-Colonel King's battalion or to other service, as
may be found most just and expedient.
6. Nelson's, Braxton's, and Cutshaw's battalions, Second Corps, will be re-equipped for the field
under command of Colonel Thomas H. Carter as soon as possible.
W. N. PENDLETON,
Chief of Artillery.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS, March 20, 1865. [Received 6.30 p.m.]
Honorable J. C. BRECKINRIDGE,
Secretary of War:
The troops will be on the Williamsburg road ready for you at 2 p.m. to-morrow.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS, March 20, 1865.
General R. E. LEE,
GENERAL: I presume that the enemy's next move will be to raid against the Danville railroad, and think
that it would be well if we begin at once to make our arrangements to meet it. In order that we may get the troops that may
be necessary to meet such a move I would suggest that we collect all the dismounted men of Generals Fitz Lee, Rosser, and
Lomax and put them behind our strongest lines, and draw out a corps of infantry and hold it in readiness for the raid. General
W. H. F. Lee's dismounts might also be used behind our works to great advantage, with a cavalry force of 2,000 or 3,000 men
to hold the enemy in check. I think that our infantry may be able to overtake the raiding column. If we can get a large cavalry
force I think that we would surely be able to destroy the raiding force.
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
84 R R-VOL XLVI, PT III
Following is another excerpt from the Official Records. This could explain the confusion over where
the battery finally ended. The following order was issued on March 23, 1865 but there is no further reference to it.
ARMY CORPS, March 23, 1865.
Lieutenant General R. S. EWELL,
Commanding Department of Richmond:
General Lee directs that Douthat's artillery company be sent at once to General Echols, at Wytheville,
Va. Give the necessary orders.
**This order was dated March
23. However an order sending Douthat’s Battery to join Walker’s and Dickenson’s Batteries to the North side
of the James River was issued on March 25 so it is probable that the order of the 25th superceded the order of
Due to increasing pressure being brought to bear on Lee’s beleaguered forces there
is no evidence that this order was carried out or even sent to Douthat’s Battery. The troops were probably needed more
desperately in the defenses of Richmond.
At the same time McLaughlin’s Battalion of artillery was ordered from the Valley
to Richmond by the following,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
March 28, 1865.
Dispatch of 27th received. Enemy's strength cannot be as large as reported. I would repress extravagant
rumors. I regret paucity of your troops. Get them together and use them to best advantage. Great circumspection is necessary.
Martin is directed to co-operate with you. McLaughlin's
battalion will be ordered here. Sheridan has reached
Grant's left. He may attempt to go to Lynchburg from this side.
R. E. LEE.
This order was never carried out. Douthat’s Battery's order, to move to Echols, was
probably never carried out either. McLaughlin’s Battalion only moved from
The Narrows to Christiansburg.
National Archive records of units captured by Major General George A. Custer’s cavalry division on April
8, 1865 at Appomattox Station, lists Douthat’s Battery of Virginia Artillery among the prisoners
Michael Cavanaugh’s Volume of the Virginia Regimental History Series The
Otey, Ringold, and Davidson Virginia Artillery puts Douthat’s Battery with these
units in March and April.
Jennings Cropper Wise, from pages 920-928 in The Long Arm Of Lee says the following:
“Martin s and Dickenson s batteries
of Sturdivant s and Owen s battalions, respectively, were relieved of their guns and formed into a battalion with Douthat’s
Battery, which was brought from the southwest with McLaughlin s Battalion. This new
battalion under command of King was assigned to duty in the stationary batteries of Alexander s line. Walker s Battery of
Owen s Battalion was assigned to Sturdivant s Battalion, in place of Martin s, and Chamberlayne’s to McIntosh s Battalion
in place of Chew s, while Maj. Owen was assigned to duty under McIntosh. Thus was the 13th Virginia Battalion disbanded and
sufficient material from Martin s, Dickenson s, and Chew s batteries secured in addition to that of McLaughlin s Battalion
to fully rearm and equip Nelson s, Cutshaw s, and Braxton s veteran battalions.* These
changes were officially promulgated March 20, “
Wise also in his Long Arm Of Lee , which is the story
of the artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia, places the battery with Walker’s Artillery Column on April
8, 1865 as does the writings of Brig. Gen. E. Porter Alexander. WISE’S VOLUME
HAS NEVER BEEN SURPASSED AS AN AUTHORITATIVE STUDY OF CONFEDERATE ARTILLERY IN THE CIVIL WAR !
Based on these orders in the official records, and relevant narrative by Jennings Cropper Wise, the
history of the battery continues as follows.
On March 25, Douthat’s Battery was reunited with the Ringold Battery with whom they
had fought alongside at Cloyd’s Mountain and New River Bridge.
From March 29-April, 9, 1865 the battery took part in what would be the last campaign for
the Army of Northern Virginia, the Appomattox Campaign. There would be 15 engagements in this final struggle.
The Army of Northern Virginia abandoned the Petersburg and Richmond defenses on April 2,
1865 and began its march west toward Appomattox Courthouse. Only 2 battalions of artillery accompanied the army in its movement. The rest of the artillery train departed ahead of the army under the command of Brig. Gen. Reuben Lindsey Walker.
The Botetourt Artillery, along with Otey and Ringold batteries, assisted in the destruction
of Confederate stores the army was unable to carry with it and then joined Walker’s column as it moved away from the
Walker’s command had moved into the vanguard of Lee’s army, leading the way
so as not to impede the Army of Northern Virginia’s movement. The column consisted of the reserve artillery of the 3rd
Corps with 100 cannons, 200 baggage wagons, and the army hospital wagons.
As part of Walker’s artillery column the battery saw its final action at Appomattox
Station on April 8, 1865. This was an action which pitted artillery, without infantry support, against cavalry. A unique situation
to say the least.
The only other troops in the immediate area were Talcott’s Engineers, serving as
infantry, and Gen. Martin Gary’s Cavalry Brigade ( 24th Virginia, 7th Georgia, 2nd South Carolina(Hampton's
Legion)7th South Carolina ), plus 75 to 100 artillerymen armed as infantry. These artillerymen were the remnants
of Major William M. Owen’s 13th Virginia Light Artillery Battalion( The Otey and Ringold Batteries) and ,
although records are vague, Douthat’s Battery, all assigned to Lt. Col. John Floyd King’s Battalion.
The Federal assault began around 4 P.M. The terrain was unfriendly, consisting of thick
scrub brush and dense forest with some trails running through it. Not a very good place to fight.
The Confederates were at a disadvantage due to the terrain and the unexpectedness of the
attack. They also lacked a central command and confusion reigned.
Although Walker’s men battled tenaciously, without infantry support the situation
was hopeless. With his command formed in a semi-circle, Walker battled the numerically superior Federal force. The Rebel batteries,
using canister, fired with lethal effect on the Union troopers. As the Yankees began to overcome the resistance, those batteries
not engaged scattered and made their way as best they could , west, toward Lynchburg or north to Oakville.
The batteries which fought, allowing what few of their fellow artillerymen who could the
opportunity to escape, were soon overwhelmed and those not killed or wounded were taken prisoner. The Botetourt Artillery
was one of the batteries taken by the enemy.
Official records show that the Botetourt Artillery was captured with the majority of Walker’s
command. Very few escaped to surrender on April 9. There are however, records of some members of the battery being paroled
in Southwest Virginia. Apprently these were men who were not with the battery at the time of its demise.
Casualties in Walker’s command were very high with approximately 100 killed or wounded
and 1,000 captured. The Rebels inflicted severe casualties on the enemy as well. Union surgeons commented that they “had
never treated so many extreme cases in so short a fight. The wounds were chiefly made by artillery, and were serious; many
patients being badly mangled.”
A portion of the command made its way to Appomattox Court House.
Maj. Gen. George Custer’s cavalry captured 25 guns and dispersed the artillerymen.
He also captured and burned 3 trains loaded with supplies for Lee’s army. This was a major deciding factor in Lee’s
decision to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia on the 9th of April.
Now the army had no supplies waiting for them. No food, clothing or ammunition. And now,
with the Federal army in possession of the railroad and blocking all roads west, the Army of Northern Virginia was trapped.
With the only avenue to the west now in Yankee hands, Lee could go no further. Only two
choices remained to him. Attack or surrender.
On April 9 Lee launched one last attack against the Federals, believing only cavalry opposed
him. During the night OF April 8th however, 3 Federal Corps had moved into position and Lee was surrounded. There
was little else to do but agree to surrender what remained of his army to General Ulysses S. Grant.
The official stacking of arms and furling of colors took place on Wednesday, April 12.
Exactly 4 years to the day from the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter. On a dreary April morning, the once mighty Army of
Northern Virginia, now but a shell of its former self, laid down its arms and passed into history and legend.
During its 4 years of service the Botetourt Artillery saw action on the plains of Manassas,
in the mountains and rolling hills of Western Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, the bayous and swamps of Mississippi, and
the Shenandoah Valley before the final days in the trenches at Petersburg and Richmond. The battery rendered 4 years of faithful
service to the Confederacy. In the words of writer Mary Johnston, it “ fought all over “. Mary Johnston was the
daughter of Capt. John W. Johnston, and the niece of General Joseph E. johnston.
Between May 15, 1861 and April, 1865 at least 326 men between the ages of 17 and 51-years-old
had passed through the ranks of the Botetourt Artillery…. 62 of these men had died fighting for what they believed in.
41, of those 62 who died, lost their lives in a single campaign, the one at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
After the war the men of the Botetourt Artillery got together periodically for reunions
to remember, and talk about, the trying times they had endured in service to the Confederacy.
The last reunion of the Botetourt Artillery was held on June 14, 1900, near the very spot
where it had all begun so many years before.
***This account of the Botetourt Artillery has
been made with the assistance of Jerry Huff, Adjutant, Botetourt Artillery Camp #1701, Sons of Confederate Veterans***
And Mr. Jeffrey Weaver
Recapitulation of Personnel in the Botetourt Artillery
Killed In Action------------------------------------20
Wounded In Action-----------------------------24
Prisoners Of War----------------------------154
Total Due To Enemy Action------198
Died Of Disease---------------------------------------42
Percent Dead---------------------------------19 %