It doesn’t always go right. Or “Oh, fudge!”

Looking back on the ease with which the Federals were repulsed, its still difficult to believe that men would risk their lives over something so trivial.

The same gunner had found on May 12th that sometimes you should keep your mouth shut:

  • “When we went down to the salient breast works after the firs(t) or second fire I was so satisfied that the breast works (our gun wheels being in the trench) were to(o) high & hence the gun could not as I thought be sufficiently depressed to sweep the field at close range that I reported it to the officer (I think it was Captain Lorance F. Joabs[?] (probably Capt. Lorraine Jones battery commander)and I suggested that that the top of the breast works be cut down. He said something – I cannot now recall – about not ordering a man to get upon the breastwork & shovel it off the top as it was so dangerous. Of course as I had suggested doing the work I expected to do it & at it I went [.} the gun holding fire until I had finished.

Sometimes odd things happen during a battle. In his book Robert Stiles mentioned a incident which he claimed happened on the morning of May 12th.

  • While scouting the area of the Salient prior to their guns from Cabells battalion arriving Stiles and his aide(?) spotted two abandoned Confederate guns between the lines. These were nice brass guns, and nobody from either side was apparently in possession or even around them.

Finding the rightful owner of the guns, Stiles offered to collect them if they could be exchanged for two iron guns which Cabell’s men did not like. However the rightful commander (2) refused saying that his men would recover the guns. However the Federals reached the guns first and brought up teams and hauled them away.

On the morning of May 12th when Page’s battalion of artillery were rushed back to the Salient the third battery in the column was the —– Artillery commanded by Captain Fry. This morning however only two 3 inch rifled guns of Fry’s battery were available. The other section under the command of Captain Fry had been detached to  escort a wagon train. This morning each of the remaining two 3 – inch rifles that returned were commanded by one of the section leaders Lieutenants Deas and Hawes. The previous day the battery had, like the rest of the batteries in the battalion, occupied positions in the main line of earthworks. But this morning neither one of these guns were placed into the works, but rather behind the line of Steuart’s Brigade about one hundred yards to the right of the East Angle.

To the Lieutenant’s surprise they were not placed in the position they had occupied only the afternoon before. Rather they were placed behind the works, in the open.

In his account the Lieutenant felt that the position chosen was a mistake. That if they had been put in the original position they could have made the Federals pause. Every moment that the Confederates could gain was important as it gave them more time to prepare.  Even so, after his gun was fired the other was unable to do so as it was “choked”. (3) Before he could fire again the Federals had overrun both guns.


(1) One of Cabell’s batteries, because the 2nd Corps had lost so many guns, was sent to the shoulder of the Salient to support the 2nd Corps around the Bloody Angle. This may have been one of those guns.

(2) If Stiles is correct, the rightful owners should have been either Cutshaw or Page. Cutshaw, referring to the incident to one of his battery commanders, James McDowell Carrington, in 1905 wrote that he was sure that Stiles was mistaken. Page never mentioned such an incident.

(3) Choked means that the tube is too small for the projectile. This can come from a metallurgical flaw the material at the end of the tube had flowed and made the end of the tube smaller for some reason. This was most likely after extended firing. Perhaps this time there was an oversize projectile. As the battery had not done extended firing yet during the  campaign it would appear  unlikely to be from overheating. Regardless they could not load the gun in time.


About Russ

Avid student of military history as well as amateur historian. Has a keen interest in archaeology. Founded his company in 2004.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Battle of the Muleshoe, Bloody Angle, Carrington's Battery, Cutshaw's Battalion, Doles Salient, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, Johnson's Division, Mule Shoe, Richmond Howitzers, Tanner's Battery, West Angle and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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