Civil War Reenacting

Battery B, Fourth U. S. Artillery



Carlene M. Wojahn

This following paragraph describes more fully what Civil War Reenacting is all about.

"Creed of Living History"

"We are people to whom the past is forever speaking. We listen to it because we cannot help ourselves, for the past speaks to us with many voices. Far out of that dark nowhere which is the time before we were born, men who were flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone went through fire and storm to break a path to the future. We are part of the future they died for; they are part of the past that brought the future. What they did--the lives they lived, the sacrifices they made, the stories they told and the songs they sang and, finally, the deaths they died--make up a part of our own experience. We cannot cut ourselves off from it. It is as real to us as something that happened last week. It is a basic part of our heritage as Americans".

Bruce Catton

The best generals are those who have served in the artillery. -- Napoleon

The 4th U.S. Artillery, Battery B is attached to the Second Wisconsin. In this group one becomes a cannoneer to a a six pounder and a Napolean. This reenacting group is always improving their equipment and many of them have taken safety courses. This way they can safely educate the public through the living histories that they give across the state.

*Battery B's Gettysburg*

(source)Buell, "The Cannoneer"

The National Tribune, 1890

"I am sorry if you may be offended, but I cannot, I will not..rewrite history."

Carlene M. Wojahn

"We were turned out the next morning about day break (July 1, 1863), harnessed up, and, after crossing the creek, halted to let the infantry of Wadsworth division file by. There was no mistake now. While we stood there watching these splendid soldiers file by with their long swinging "route step," and their muskets glittering in the rays of the rising sun, there came out of the northwest a sullen "boom! boom! boom!" of three guns, followed almost im-mediately by a prolonged crackling sound, which at that distance reminded me very much of the snapping of a dry brush-heap when you first set it on fire. We soon reasoned out the state of affairs up in front.

Buford, we calculated, had engaged the leading infantry of Lee’s army, and was probably trying to hold them with his cavalry in heavy skirmish line, dis- mounted until our infantry could come up. They said that the enemy had not yet developed more than a skirmish line, because if he had shown a heavy formation Buford could be using his artillery, of which he had two or three batteries, whilst we had thus far heard only the three cannon shots mentioned. These apparently trifling incidents show how the men in our Army were in the behavior of observing things and how unerring their judgment was, as a rule, even in matters of military knowledge far beyond their sphere or control.

But my eyes were riveted on the infantry marching by. No one now living will ever again see those two brigades of Wadsworth’s division - Cutler’s and the Iron Brigade - file by as they did that morning. The column, as it came down one slope and up the other, had the effect of huge blue billows of men topped with a spray of shining steel, the whole spectacle was calculated to give nerve to a man who had none before. Partly because they had served together a long time, and no doubt, because so many of their men were in our ranks, there was a great affinity between the Battery and the Iron Brigade, which expressed itself in cheers and good-natured chaffing between us as they went by.

"Find a good place to camp; be sure and get near a good dry rail fence; tell the Johnnies we will be right along," were the salutations that passed on our part, while the infantry made such responses as "All right; better stay here till we send for you; the climate up there may be unhealthy just now for such delicate creatures as you," and all that sort of thing. It was probably 8 o’clock when the last brigade had passed, and then we got the order to march, moving with Doubleday’s division. As we moved up the road we could see the troops of the next division coming close behind. By this time the leading regiments of Wadsworth’s infantry had got on the ground, and the sounds of battle were increasing rapidly...

The sound of the cavalry fight had been distinct ever since we left Marsh Creek-a fitful crackle - but now we heard fierce, angry crash on crash, rapidly growing in volume and intensity, signifying that our leading infantry-Cutler’s and the Iron Brigade - had encountered the "doughboys" of Lee’s advance. It is well known that the men of the Iron Brigade always preferred slouch hats Western fashion), and seldom or never wore caps. At the time this heavy crashing began we were probably half way up from Marsh Creek, and as the Battery was marching at a walk, most of us were walking along with the guns instead of riding on the limbers. Among the Cannoneers was a man from the 2d Wisconsin (John Holland) who took great pride in the Iron Brigade. So, when that sudden crash! Crash! Crash! floated over the hills to our ears, John said, with visible enthusiasm, "Hear that my son! That’s the talk! The old slouch hats have got there you bet!"

Now the artillery began to play in earnest, and it was evident that the three batterys which had preceded us were closely engaged, while the musketry had grown from the crackling sound of the skirmishing we had heard early in the morning to almost incessant crash, which betokened the file firing of a main line of battle. Just before reaching the brow of the hill, south of the town, where we could get our first sight of the battle itself, there was a provoking halt of nearly half an hour. We could hear every sound even the yells of the troops fighting on the ridge beyond Gettysburg, and we could see the smoke mount up and float away lazily to north eastward; but we could not see the combatants, each regiment breaking into double quick as it reached the top of the hill.

The Eleventh Corps also began by this time to arrive from Emmittsburg. Finally, when the last of the Second Brigade of Doubleday’s (Stone’s) had passed, we got the order upon us like the lifting of the curtain in a grand play. The spectacle was simply stupendous. It is doubtful if there was a battle fought elsewhere of which such a complete view was possible from one point as we got of that battle when we reached the top of the crest of Round Top...

Our guns pointed about due west, taking the Cashtown Pike en echarpe. The right half-battery was in line with us on the north side of the cut. Its right gun rested on the edge of a little grove, which extended some distant farther to the right, and was full of infantry (the 11th Pennsylvania) supporting us. There was also infantry in our rear behind the crest and in the Railroad Cut (the 6th Wisconsin). One of our squad volunteered the facetious remark that these infantry "were put there to shoot the recruits if they flinched" for which he was rebuked by Corp’l Packard, who told him to "see that he himself behaved as well as the recruits."

As Stewart commanded the right half-battery in person, he did not have much to do with us directly, during the action that followed. At this time, which was probably about noon, all the infantry of the First Corps, except that massed immediately about our position, together with Hall’s, Reynold’s and one of the cavalry horse-batteries-Calef’s-had been struggling desperately in the fields in our front, and for a few moments we had nothing to do but witness the magnificent scene.

The enemy had some batteries firing down the pike,. but their shot-probably canister-did not reach us. In a few minutes they opened with shell from a battery on a high knoll to the north of us (Oak Hill), and, though at long range, directly enfilading our line. But they sent their shells at the troops...

In the meantime, our infantry out in the field toward the creek was being slowly but surely overpowered, and our lines were being forced in toward the Seminary. It was now considerably past noon. In addition to the struggle going on in our immediate front, the sounds of a heavy attack from the north side were heard, and away out beyond the creek, to the south, a strong force could be seen advancing and overlapping our left. The enemy was coming nearer both in front and on the north, and stray balls began to zip and whistle around our ears with unpleasant frequency. Then we saw the batteries that had been holding the position in advance of us limber up and fall back toward the Seminary, and the enemy simultaneously advance his batteries down the road. All our infantry out toward the creek on both sides of the pike began to fall back.

The enemy did not press them very closely, but halted for nearly an hour to reform his lines, which had been very much shattered by the battle of the forenoon. At last, having reformed his lines behind the low ridges in front he made his appearance in grand shape. His line stretched from the railroad grading across the Cashtown Pike and through the fields south of it half way to the Fairfield Road-nearly a mile in length.

First, we could see the tips of their color staffs coming up over the little ridge, then the points of their bayonets, and then the Johnnies themselves, coming on with a steady tramp, tramp, and with loud yells. It was now apparent that the old Battery’s turn had come again and the embattled boys who stood so grimly at their posts felt that another page must be added to the record of Buena Vista and Antietam.

The term "boys" is literally true, because of our gun detachment alone, consisting of a Sergeant, two Corporals, seven Cannoneers and six Drivers, only four had hair on their faces, while the other 12 were beardless boys whose ages would not average 19 years, and who at any other period of our history, would have been at school! The same was more or less true of all the other gun detach- ments. But if boys in years they were, with one or two exceptions not necessary to name, veterans in battle, and braver or steadier soldiers than they were never faced a foe!

A glance along our line at that moment would have been a rare study for an artist. As the day was very hot many of the boys had their jackets off, some with sleeves rolled up, and they exchanged little words of cheer with each other as the gray line came on. In quick sharp tones, like successive reports of a repeating rifle, came Davison’s orders: "Load - Canister - Double!" There was a hustling of Cannoneers, a few thumps of the rammer-heads, and then "Ready! - By piece! - At will! - Fire!!"...

Directly in our front-that is to say, on both sides of the pile-the Rebel infantry, whose left lapped the north side of the pike quite up to the line of north side of the pike quite up to the line of the railroad grading, had been forced to halt and lie down by the tornado of canister that we had given them from the moment they came in sight over the bank of the creek. But the regiments in the field to their right (southside) of the pile kept on, and kept swinging their right flanks forward as if to take us in reverse or cut us off from the rest of our troops near the Seminary.

At this moment Davison, bleeding from two desperate wounds and so weak that one of the men had to hold him up on his feet (one ankle being totally shattered by a bullet), ordered us to form the half- battery, action left, by wheeling on the left gun as a pivot, so as to bring their half-battery on a line with the cashtown Pike, muzzles facing south, his object being to rake the front of the four men left at our gun when this order was given two had bloody heads, but they were still "standing by" and Ord. Serg’t Mitchell jumped on our off wheels to help us. "This is tough work, boys" he shouted, as we wheeled the gun around, "but we are good for it."

And Pat Wallace, tugging at the near wheel, shouted back; "If we ain’t, where’ll you find them that is!"

Well, this change of front, gave us a clean rake along the Rebel line for a whole brigade length, but it exposed our right flank to the raking volleys of their infantry near the pike, who at that moment began to get up again and come on. Then for seven or eight minutes ensued probably the most desperate fight ever waged between artillery and infantry at close range without a particle of cover on either side. They gave us volley after volley in front and flank, and we gave them double canister as fast as we could load.

The 6th Wisconsin and 11th Pennsylvania men crawled up over the bank of the cut or behind the rail fence in rear of Stewart’s caissons and joined their musketry to canister, while from the north side of the cut flashed the chainlighting of the Old Man's half-battery in one solid streak! At this time our left half-battery, taking their first line en echarpe, swept it so clean with double canister that the Rebels sagged away from the road to get cover from the fences and trees that lined it. From our second round on a grey squirrel could not have crossed the road alive.

How those peerless Cannoneers sprang to their work! Twenty-six years have but softened in memory the picture of "Old Griff" (Wallace), his tough Irish face set in hard lines with the unflinching resolution that filled his soul, while he sponged and loaded under that murderous musketry with the precision of barrack drill; of the burly Corporal, bareheaded, precision of barrack drill; of the burly Corporal, bareheaded, his hair matted with blood from a scalp wound, and wiping the crimson fluid out of his eyes to sight the gun; of the steady Orderly Sergeant, John Mitchell, moving calmly from gun to gun, now and then changing men about as one after another was hit and fell, stooping over a wounded man to help him up, or aiding another to stagger to the rear; of the dauntless Davison on foot among the guns, cheering the men, praising this one and that one, and ever and anon profanely exhorting us to "feed it to ‘em, G-d-em; feed it to ‘em!"

The very guns became things of life-not implements, but comrades. Every man was dong the work of two or three. At our gun at the finish there were only the Corporal, No.1 and No. 3, with two drivers fetching ammunition. The water in Pat’s bucket was like ink. His face and hands were smeared all over with burnt powder and crimson streaks from his bloody head Packard looked like a demon from below!

Up and down the line men reeling and falling; splinters flying from wheels and axles where bullets hit; in rear, horses tearing and plunging, mad with wounds or terror; drivers yelling, shells bursting, shot shrieking overhead, howling about our ears or throwing up great clouds of dust where they struck; the musketry crashing on three sides of us; bullets hissing, humming and whistling everywhere; cannon roaring; all crash on crash and peal on peal, smoke, dust, splinters, blood, wreck and carnage indescribable; but the brass guns of Old B still bellowed and not a man or boy flinched or faltered!

Every man’s shirt soaked with sweat and many of them sopped with blood from wounds not severe enough to make such bulldogs "let go" - bareheaded, sleeves rolled up, faces blackened - oh! if such a picture could be spread on canvas to the life! Out in front of us in an undulating field, filled almost as far as the eye could see with long low gray line creeping toward us fairly fringed with flame!.

For a few minutes the whole Rebel line clear down to the Fairfield Road seemed to waver and we thought that maybe we could repulse them single-handed as we were. At any rate, about our fifth or sixth round after changing front made their first line south of the pike halt, and many of them sought cover behind trees in the field or ran back to the rail fence parallel to the pike at that point, from which they resumed their musketry. But their second line came steadily on, and as Davidson had now succumbed to his wounds Ord. Serg’s Mitchell took command and gave the order to limber to the rear, The 6th Wisconsin and the 11th Pennsylvania having begun to fall back down the railroad track toward the town, turning about and firing at will as they retreated.

This site is dedicated to Henry F. Pueschner (Sarge)


Copyright (c) 1997-2011

C. M. Wojahn


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