Battery C 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery

Battery C was enlisted in Providence and went into camp at Camp Ames on the Warwick road beyond Pawtuxet, where it was joined by Captain William B. Weeden, promoted from First Lieutenant of Battery A. It remained there a short time exercising daily in drill, was mustered into the United States service August 25, 1861, and on the 31st of the same month took the cars at Providence for Washington. It remained at Camp Sprague engaged in daily drill until October, when it crossed the Potomac, and encamped near Fort Corcoran, giving to its encampment the name of “Camp Randolph.”

On the march from Camp Corcoran to Hall’s Hill the Battery lost the first man, Private McVeigh, who was killed by being run over by the caisson. It removed from Hall’s Hill to Minder’s Hill, where it was assigned to General Morell’s brigade and became identified with Porter’s division of the Army of the Potomac. Here it passed the winter, and on the 10th of March, 1862, moved with the grand army, first towards Manassas, and afterwards by transports from Alexandria to the Peninsula.

Landing at Fortress Monroe, March 24th the Battery took up its line of March for Yorktown by way of Hampton, Great Bethel, New Market Bridge and Harwood’s Mills. On the 5th of May it had its first fighting experience in front of Fort Magruder, one of the defences of Yorktown. In this battle, which lasted from 10 o’clock A.M. until late in the afternoon, its associate batteries, Griffin’s regular, and the third and fifth Massachusetts, were engaged.

Griffin’s battery sustained no loss. Battery C lost one man killed, and the third Massachusetts - two killed and five wounded. Thus Rhode Island and Massachusetts share the honor of shedding the first blood in this preliminary engagement. The men of Battery C stood up handsomely to the enemy’s fire, and their conduct drew from General Porter high praise.

After the abandonment of Yorktown by the rebels, the Battery proceeded to West Point by water, thence to White House, and thence to the Chickahominy river, where it was immediately occupied in picket duty. May 27th it was present in battle of Hanover Court House, but did not engage. At about 5 o’clock P.M. on that day, the column was reversed by the command of General Porter to meet the enemy who had appeared in the rear. It halted in the field on the right of White House, used as hospital headquarters, where it was held in reserve, and at 9 o’clock bivouacked. Next day it took position towards Hanover Court House to command the roads. On the 29th it made a reconnaissance towards Ashland, returned to camp at 5 o’clock P.M., and at 7.30, commenced a march of fifteen miles to Old Church, where it arrived a little past midnight. May 30th the Battery marched in a drenching rain to New Bridge, and the next day was stationed in position to command the passage.

June 15th, four pieces under Lieutenants Waterman and Clark stationed in entrenchments to the right of New Bridge, opened on a rebel battery entrenched to the left of Price’s house. Eight rounds of percussion shell and shrapnel were fired, several of which were seen to take effect. The advanced picket observed the same, and deserters reported that six rebels were killed and wounded. The rebels did not open fire again while our guns were in position. From this date until the 26th, it remained in camp on Gaines’ Farm, doing picket duty at the brigades once every three days.

On the 26th of June, the great seven days’ contest opened with the battle of Mechanicsville, where the Battery was under fire. On the 27th it fought at Gaines’ Farm with a vigor and bravery that commanded admiration. But courage and skill could not withstand the superior numbers hurled against the right wing of the Federal army, and after repelling repeated charges, the Battery was compelled to retire, losing severely in men and horses.

Lieutenant Buckley, whose section was in position at the edge of the woods on General Martindale’s right, had his horse shot. Three guns and three caissons were also lost: one being mired and abandoned and the others left on the field for want of horses to bring them off. During the battle, the colors of the rebel regiment were struck to the ground by a case shot from one of the guns of Lieutenant Buckley’s section, and were never raised again. After he retired, they were brought in by the second Maine regiment.

Leaving this field of honorable disaster, the Battery proceeded by Charles City Cross Roads to Turkey Bend on the James river, and July 1st engaged in the bloody battle of Malvern Hill. Captain Weeden having been appointed Chief of Artillery for the first division of Porter’s corps, the battery was fought under the immediate command of Lieutenant Richard Waterman, who had two horses shot out from under him. Sergeant Peter Hunt’s horse was also shot. In this battle four men were killed and eleven wounded. Ten horses and one caisson were also lost. The total losses at Gaines’ Farm and Malvern Hill were five men killed, twenty-one wounded, one who died while being removed, five missing, three 3-inch ordnance guns, carriages and limbers, two caissons, two caisson bodies and fifty horses with their equipments.

In this last battle, as in that of June 27th, the men and officers conducted themselves with great gallantry. July 21st Captain Weeden resigned, having acquired the reputation of a brave and able officer. On the 25th of the same month Lieutenant Waterman was promoted to be Captain of the Battery, and received his commission in the field.

When the Army of the Potomac withdrew from the Peninsula, the Battery, with its corps, joined General Pope and took part in the second battle of Bull Run. Six hundred rounds of shell and case shot were expended in the action. The casualties were one man wounded, six horses killed and two sets of horse equipments lost. Two caisson bodies were abandoned on the road, their axles having broken.

After General Pope’s defeat, General Morell ordered Captain Waterman to retire with the Battery towards Alexandria to procure forage for the horses, they being in a very exhausted state. For five days they had been destitute of grain, and on entering the encampment at Fairfax Court House, three dropped dead from exhaustion. Unable to procure rations or forage at Fairfax Station, the Battery moved to within five miles of Alexandria, where part of one day’s ration of grain was obtained. It then moved into the city and camped September 3rd, it marched to its old quarters on Miner’s Hill, and on the 6th returned to Alexandria. September 7th it moved into position near Fairfax Seminary, and on the 9th marched to Fort Corcoran and encamped. Here tow guns were exchanged, and twenty horses, worn out in severe service to the Peninsula, were turned over to the government.

On the 12th the Battery marched with the Army for the field of Antietam, and during the battle of the 17th was in the reserve. On the 20th it took position on the bluffs commanding the ford near Shepherdstown, and during the day fired about five hundred rounds of case shot and shell at the enemy across the river.

Moving again with the army October 30th, the Battery marched to the neighborhood of the Potomac Creek, Va., and took an honorable part in the attack upon Fredericksburg, December 11th, 12th and 13th. On the last day, one man and three horses were killed, and one horse wounded. One gun was disabled by the breaking of an axle tree. After the second attempt on Fredericksburg, December 30th, the Battery remained in winter quarters.

Nothing further of moment occurred until the last of April, 1863, when General Hooker put the Army of the Potomac in motion to meet and measure strength with the rebel army at Chancellorsville. Breaking camp April 27th, the Battery marched to near Stafford Court House, where it encamped until the next morning when it moved to Mount Holly Church., over heavy roads. April 29th it crossed the Rappahannock river, a short distance below Kelly’s Ford, on a pontoon bridge. April 30th it crossed the Rapidan river at Ely’s Ford, and reached Chancellorsville at noon of the same day.

The battle of May 2nd and 3rd was the fierce and bloody, and on both days the Battery moved in various directions over the field, at one time reconnoitering, and at another taking position commanding some important point. On the 2nd, Captain Waterman, with Lieutenants Fiske Lee, and four pieces, moved down the road to the left of the centre of the Federal lines and went into position, where they remained until the 5th. Lieutenant Sackett’s section took up position on the right of the road leading to Chancellorsville, near General French’s headquarters. Here, May 3rd, two men were killed and Lieutenant Sackett and two were wounded.

The confident expectations of success with which General Hooker commenced the battle were doomed to be disappointed. General Lee commanded the rebels in person, and concentrating his strength upon a single point, succeeded in piercing Hooker’s centre, and separating the right from the left wings of his army. No men ever fought more bravely. But the breaking of the German regiments in General Schurz’s division, the difficulty found in keeping open communication between the two positions of the Union army, the exhaustion of rations and forage, and the supposed danger of having connection with the base of supplies broken by the rebels together with other considerations, led General Hooker, after consultation with his principal officers, to order his army to fall back to its old position, which was accordingly done.

In accordance with order, Battery C re-crossed the Rappahannock at the United States Ford, and May 6th, at about 1 o’clock P.M., arrived at its old camp near Potomac Creek. While here, the Battery, together with the 5th Massachusetts and several other batteries, was formed into a “Volunteer Division of Artillery Reserve,” under the immediate charge of Major John A. Tompkins. May 15th, the Battery moved to a camp three miles nearer Falmouth, and on the 27th changed against to a more healthy locality four miles distant, in the direction of Belle lain. The reduction of infantry in the corps rendered a corresponding reduction of artillery necessary, and at the last encampment one section of guns with equipments was turned in, and the Battery was temporarily reduced to four guns. At this time Captain Waterman was in the command of the third brigade, Voluteer Division of Artillery Reserve, and the Lieutenant Royal Henry Lee was Acting Assistant Adjutant-General of the brigade.

From June 6th to the 14th, the Battery was on picket two miles below Fredericksburg, and during the time was temporarily attached to the Sixth Corps. This assignment was subsequently made permanent. June 15th it commenced a rapid march with the entire army to Gettysburg, Pa. where, under General Meade, (General Hooker having been relieved at Frederick, Md., June 28th), a triumphant victory was obtained over Lee, July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. In this battle, Colonel Charles H. Tompkins commanded the Artillery Brigade of the Six Corps, and met his responsibilities handsomely in the direction of forty-eight guns. Battery C was held in constant readiness for action, but was required only once to go to the front as a relief. It experienced no disaster.

The return march to the line of the Rappahannock, commenced July 5th, was very severe on men and horses. From the 5th to the 25th of July fifteen horses died from exhaustion. Subsequently to this last date, the Battery was assigned an important post near Cedar Mountain, and was active in all the movements successfully made by General Meade to frustrate Lee’s attempt to flank him and gain his rear. In the battle of Rappahannock Station, November 7th, the Battery fired one hundred and sixty rounds, and had two wounded. At Mine Run, November 27th, it expended one hundred and fifty rounds of percussion, fuse and shrapnel shell. The casualties were one man wounded and two horses killed. In the advance upon Mine Run, a section of the Battery under Lieutenant Andrew T. McMillan was detailed to bring up the rear with the Second Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps.

The winter of 1863 and ’64 was passed at Hazle Run with little incident to relieve the dullness of life in close quarters. On the morning of May 4th, 1864, the Battery broke camp and joined in the forward movement of the entire army towards Richmond. For the succeeding twenty-seven days it shared the fatigues and perils that beset the way to the Chickahominy.

May 31st it arrived within in five miles of Mechanicsville, and went into position in front. It fired ten rounds and had one man wounded by a rebel sharpshooter. June 3rd it reported to Major General Smith commanding the 18th army corps, at Cold Harbor, and took position in breastworks within three hundred yards range of the rebel works. Here one man was killed by a rebel sharpshooter, and one was wounded. The battery remained at Cold Harbor until June 12th, when it moved towards the James river, which it crossed at Brandon on a pontoon of one hundred and eight boats, and encamped near Petersburg on the 17th. On the 19th it took position towards the right, and opened upon a rebel battery about 3000 yards distant. June 29th it marched to Reams’ Station with the Sixth Corps to assist in tearing up the railroad, and the next day started back for camp, which it reached July 2nd.

In the beginning of July, General Early made a raid on Washington, and the Sixth Army Corps was withdrawn from before Petersburg for its protection. The Battery broke camp at midnight, July 9th, and on the 11th embarked at City Point on board the hospital steamer George Leary. It reached Washington about 11 o’clock on the night of the 12th, and went into camp at Fort Stevens. The prompt arrival of the Sixth Corps waved the Capital from the grasp of the rebel general, who, disappointed of his purpose, and conscious of the danger of his situation, made a hasty retreat. Pursuit, in which the Battery joined, was immediate. Passing through Tennallytown, the Battery marched to Poolesville, and thence to White’s Ford on the Potomac, where it arrived on the 16th. Here it went into position on a high bank, and fired a few rounds at rebel cavalry on the other side of the river, who speedily retired. It then crossed the river and march was continued through Snicker’s Gap to the Shenandoah, and there went into position.

On the other side of the river the rebels were drawn up in line of battle, which provoked an engagement. Two brigades of Union troops crossed over to assail them, but finding their strength inadequate to the task undertaken, they returned. In this affair the Battery expended seventy-eight rounds of ammunition. Returning from the expedition, it crossed the Potomac at Chain Bridge, July 23rd, and encamped at Fort Gaines. An early return to share in the work before Petersburg was now anticipated, but the operations of the rebels on the Upper Potomac rendered the recall of the Battery to that field necessary.

For several weeks the Battery was in incessant motion, now advancing and now retreating, as circumstances demanded. The heat was excessive, the dust thrown into clouds filled the atmosphere, and the marching was severe. These combined, greatly exhausted both men and horses.

In the battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, the Battery suffered in the loss of men. At Fisher’s Hill, one man detailed from the 11th Vermont was badly wounded, and at Winchester, two men from the same regiment were badly wounded.

In the double battle at Cedar Creek, October 19th, which for fierceness and brilliancy has few parallels in American military history, the Battery was hotly engaged, and suffered severely in men and horses. Lieutenant Reuben H. Rich, James A Mattisom and fourteen privates were wounded, and Sergeant George A. Perry and Daniel Ryan were mortally wounded.

Two guns were lost, but were subsequently recovered. In the battle of the morning, General Wright of the Sixth Corps commanded. The rebels fought with great impetuosity ad drove the Union troops back four miles in great confusion, with the loss of twenty-four pieces of artillery, and many killed, wounded and taken prisoners.

The day seemed lost, but General Sheridan, who had been absent at Winchester, arrived on the field about noon, re-formed his lines, and attacked the enemy with great vigor, recovering the artillery lost in the morning, and capturing an immense quantity of munitions of war. The Union loss was heavy, but the overwhelming victory of the afternoon compensated for the defeat of the morning and gave to the victors an imperishable renown. The total rebel loss in two battles, in killed, wounded and missing, was estimated at 10,000 men.

August 27th preceding the above named battle, forty-four men of the Battery, whose three years term of service had expired, were mustered out near Harper’s Ferry, and returned to Providence in charge of Lieutenant Rich.

First Lieutenant Jacob H. Lamb commanded the Battery from the muster out of Captain Waterman, September 2nd, until its consolidation with Battery G, December 23rd. From that date it lost its identity as a distinct military organization, and the veterans and recruits of which it was composed shared thenceforth the dangers and honors of the battlefield under another designation and under another commander.

Battery C fought in the hottest battles of the war in which the Army of the Potomac engaged. Its losses in men and horses were severe. Its varied record bears testimony to the courage and ability of its successive commanders, and to the bravery of its other officers and men. By order of General Meade, the names of the following battles in which Battery C had borne a meritorious part were directed to be inscribed upon its colors:

Yorktown, Hanover Court House, Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mills, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Opequan, Fisher’s Hill, Cedar Creek.


Battery C was enlisted into service on August 25, 1861.

The Battery's first fighting experience was at Yorktown on April 5th, 1862.

Following heavy losses at the Battle of Cedar Creek in 1864, the Battery was mustered out of service.



APRIL 5 - MAY 4, 1862

MAY 27, 1862
Hanover Court House

JUNE 26, 1862

JUNE 27, 1862
Gaines' Mills

JULY 1, 1862
Malvern Hill

AUGUST 28 - 30, 1862
Second Bull Run

SEPTEMBER 16 - 18, 1862

DECEMBER 11 - 15, 1862

APRIL 30 - MAY 6, 1863

JULY 1 - 3, 1863

NOVEMBER 7, 1863
Rappahannock Station

MAY 5 - 7, 1864
The Wilderness

MAY 8 - 21, 1864

MAY 31, 1864
Cold Harbor

JUNE 15 - 18, 1864

SEPTEMBER 19, 1864

SEPTEMBER 21 - 22, 1864
Fisher's Hill

OCTOBER 19, 1864
Cedar Creek