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Battle of the Wilderness
Southern Historical Society Papers

Artillery Work At Wilderness.


From the Times-Dispatch, November 26, 1905.

Splendid Service of Big Guns Told As Related By Major Garber.

Note on the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Battles and the Artillery.

          The following note on the Wilderness and Spotsylvania battles, with reference to the position of the Staunton Artillery of Cutshaw's Battalion, is by its well-known and much honored captain, A. W. Garber, now of Richmond, a hero of many fights.

          I have visited the field with him, and he there located the position of one section on the road that intersected the entrenchments of Edward Johnson's division, as it runs from the Germania plank road to the Orange and Fredericksburg pike. The other section was on the right of this pike.

          The great battles of May 10th and 12th were memorable achievements of defense, and as such history contains no parallel. Lee, as a field officer, in dire emergencies of action, showed himself and made himself felt in a way never surpassed by the general of an army, and his troops alike were up to the highest standard.



          Although much has been written of these battles, no accurate and full account has ever appeared, and these field notes by participants of Captain Garber's reliability furnish material which will illumine the historic page that surely will be forthcoming.

          The Captain gives cumulative testimony to the facts, now well understood, that General Edward Johnson was not surprised, and that the removal of the guns during the night of the 11th was in the act of being remedied, though too late to assure the success that might have otherwise been expected. He also confirms the oft expressed opinion of Confederate officers that had the artillery not been displaced the assaults of the enemy would have been repulsed throughout.




          Owing to the nature of the country, artillery could not be used to any great advantage in the Wilderness fight; the thickets prevented. My artillery was with Ewell's corps, which was the left wing of the Confederate army, and near Johnson's division. One section of my battery was ordered in on the right of the Orange and Fredericksburg pike, in an open space near where Colonel J. Thompson Brown was killed. The other section was placed on a cross road, which passed through Johnson's entrenchments on the left of the turnpike. At one time during the battle I saw an officer being carried off the field, and was told it was Major Daniel, of Early's division.

Double quick and double canister on May 10, 1864, we marched from there to Spotsylvania. Arrived there, according to my recollection, the morning of the 10th of May. My battery belonged to Colonel Cutshaw, and was in the rear that day. The Colonel ordered me to remain where I was, as there was no room on the line for me, and stated that he would show me where my position was as soon as he could find a place for me. Late in the evening I was ordered up at double quick, to come into battery and double shot with canister to resist an advance of the enemy, who had broken through our lines.

          While standing in that position, with lanyards in hand, ready to pour it into them, several officers rode up and reported to General Lee (near whose headquarters we were) that the enemy had charged over the Third Richmond Howitzers and that the cannoneers were killed, scattered and captured; that the enemy had been driven back, but it was very important that the recaptured guns should be manned.


          General Lee rode up to me and ordered me in person to leave my guns in charge of my drivers and take my cannoneers and mann the recaptured guns. I immediately ordered my men forward and went down and commenced firing. Our whole line was soon re-established. I regret to say that my magnificent saddle horse was killed by a cannon ball on that occasion.

The next day, the 11th, the Third Howitzers' guns were taken out and my battery was placed in that position.



          The morning of the 12th of May the enemy broke through our line on my right, capturing General Edward Johnson and nearly all of his division. The artillery, consisting of Nelson's and Braxton's battalions, had been ordered off his line the night previous, but General Johnson, fearing that the enemy were massing in front, instead of leaving, ordered them back. As they were getting into position, the enemy broke through and captured them; also all of Cutshaw's battalion, except my battery, which was further to the left. I was ordered by General Rodes to move my guns by hand to rear to fire to the right. As Johnson's men were coming back, I was ordered to elevate my guns and fire over them, which I did.


          Later in the day a courier from General Long carne and informed me that he wanted some artillerists to go and mann some of our recaptured guns near the "Bloody Angle." As I did not happen to be engaged just then, I ordered my first lieutenant to take charge of my battery and I took my second lieutenant and about half of my men and fought those recaptured guns until late in the evening, when I returned to my battery and soon went into camp.




          The next engagement we had was on the 18th, when, with twenty-five or thirty guns in line, composed of Nelson's, Braxton's and Cutshaw's battalions, a short distance to the right of the "Bloody Angle," the enemy charged us with their lines of battle, but we poured into them such a destructive fire of shot and shell that they were forced to retire with heavy loss, and gave up the fight. This ended the fighting at Spotsylvania.

I have never heard of but one opinion expressed--that if our artillery had been in position on General Edward Johnson's line, the enemy would never have been able to break through, but would have been hurled back with heavy loss. It was a great mistake and misfortune that they did not get back in time.


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