Organization Of The Us Army Field Artillery

At the start of the war it was felt that the effort to put down the rebellion would be a short one, requiring only three months' worth of service. Since training skilled artillerymen would take longer than that, initially only Regular Army artillery was to be recruited.

"The artillery of iho U.S. Army is by far its worst or most slipshod organization of any branch of the service," wrote professional artilleryman Maj, Thomas Osborn in IN(>1. "This arm has in ihe regular army always been considered the aristocratic one and sought for assignments by the old officers, yet from the beginning of the war it has been permitted to remain without an organization of its own, except such as it has received its a result of incessant begging and intercession by its officers for a recognized position."

Organization in the Army of the Potomac

At first U.S. batteries were assigned one to each infantry brigade. But fairly quickly after hostilities started some far-sighted artillerymen saw that massed guns were important for battlefield success, and this required organization beyond a battery level. After Bull Run, William F. Barry, who started the war as a captain in the 2d U.S. Artillery Regiment

Once war became static in the trenches around Petersburg in 1664, even field artillery was heavily dug in. This weapon is being aimed by a gunner, while No. three stands ready at the trail to move it as indicated. Note the woven rope shietd hanging in front of the gun.

Pdr Parrott

A well used 20-pdr. Parrot! rifle, manned by the 1st New York Battery near Richmond in June, 1862. (Library of Congress)

and was one of the board of three who produced the standard manual for U.S. artillery during the war, suggested to George B. McClellan, die commander of the Army of the Potomac, that there were basic principles in successful artillery organization. Among these were:

"I. There should be at least two and one-half and preferably three pieces for every 1,000 men.

2. Materiel should be restricted to the system of the U.S. Ordnance Department [3-in. rifles], of Parrott's, and of smoothbores, the latter to be exclusively the 12-poitnder, model 1857, variously called the 'gun-howitzer,' the 'light 12-pouruler,' or the 'Napoleon.' A limited number of smoothbore howitzers would be authorized for special service.

3. Each field battery should, if practicable, be composed of six pins, never less than four, all to be of uniform caliber,

4. Field batteries would be assigned to divisions in lieu of brigades -four per division. One of the four batteries was to be a battery of Regulars, whose captain would also be lire division chief-of-artillery. If divisions were combined into corps, at least one-half the division artillery was to constitute the reserve artillery of the corps.

5. There would be an artillery reserve for the whole army of 100 guns. This reserve would contain light field batteries, all guns of position, and all horse artillery until such time as the cavalry units were organized into major-size units,

6. The amount of ammunition to accompany the field batteries would not be less than 400 rounds per gun."

McClellan adopted these ideas, organizing his artillery quite some time before the Confederates. Indeed, this organization served the Army of the Potomac until May 16, 18(>4, when the high command of tire army ordered that each six-gun battery was to be reduced to two sections of four guns, spare guns going hack to Washington, and the Artillery Reserve being officially disbanded. Its batteries were reassigned to the brigade of the three infantry corps then serving in the army.

This resulted in an artillery force of some 12 batteries of -18 guns with each brigade.

In March. 1865, the Army of the Potomac's artillery was again reorganized, with only six batteries being assigned to the II and VI Corps, and five batteries each to the V and IX Corps. All other batteries were reassigned to a renewed Artillery Reserve, grouped around the heavy siege guns and mortars that had joined the army for the siege of Petersburg,

A well used 20-pdr. Parrot! rifle, manned by the 1st New York Battery near Richmond in June, 1862. (Library of Congress)

The Siege Petersburg Guns

Organization of the Western Armies

The Army of the Cumberland arranged its artillery with three or four batteries being assigned to each division, under a chief of artillery who was usually a captain. The army itself was divided, ai the battle of Stone's River, into a right wing, center, and left wing, each with a chief of artillery who was a captain. One battery, the Chicago Board of Trade battery, was posted with the Pioneer Brigade, while another was assigned to the cavalry division.

In September, 1864, Maj. Thomas Osborn, newly assigned army chief of artillery of the Army of the Tennessee, found ibis type of arrangement, which was used in his new command, lacking: "Since 1 came to this army 1 have made a complete réévaluation in the artillery organization of ibis Army and Department," he wrote. "I found its organization bad, or more exactly I found it without organization. What ! have done has been against the wishes of the division and corps commanders. The several batteries were attached to the division, two or three to each division. A division chief of artillery was attached to die staff of the division commander. The returns and reports of the several batteries were generally made to the adjutant general of' the division and were returned to the corps and army headquarters as part of the division returns. The chief of artillery of the division seldom took further interest in the batteries than to keep a personal watch over them. lie maintained nb independent office. Naturally die division commanders desired to retain the command and control of these batteries and from long usage the corps commanders rather favored this plan. I determined to make the change and brigade the artillery of each corps of this army, as it was in the Army of the Potomac and as had been brought to the Army of the Cumberland by the XI and XII Corps and as now exists in the XX Corps composed of the consolidated XI and XII Corps." Osborn got his way.

The Army of the Ohio, too, used batteries assigned to brigades until Maj. Gen, George Thomas assumed command in October, 1863. Thomas assigned 18 batteries to the army's divisions, while another dozen batteries w:eni into a general army reserve. The six Regular Army batteries with that army were posted to the reserve.

Battery A, Ed U.S. Artillery, taken in 1662 near Fair Oaks, Virginia, was armed with 3-in. Ordnance Rifles. (Library of Congress)

Battery A, Ed U.S. Artillery, taken in 1662 near Fair Oaks, Virginia, was armed with 3-in. Ordnance Rifles. (Library of Congress)

Parrott Rifle Horse Drawn

Eye-witness Edwin Forbes drew this battery of 3-in. Ordnance

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