Tenth Battery GuidonThird Corps badge
Tenth Battery,

Massachusetts Light Artillery

presented by the
Tenth Massachusetts Battery Association

 Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Headquarters, Boston, Aug. 12, 1862
Special Order No. 614.

Henry H. Granger is hereby authorized to raise a battery of Light Artillery under U.S. Order No. 75, Battery to be full by 16th Inst. The Captain will be designated hereafter.

By command of His Excellency John A. Andrew, Governor and Commander-in-Chief.

(signed) Wm. Brown
Asst. Agjt. Gen'l.

Capt. Samuel A. McClellan, Capt.
J. Henry Sleeper, Capt. O'Neil W. Robinson
Brandy Station, Va.: Capt. Samuel A. McClellan, Capt. J. Henry Sleeper, Capt. O'Neil W. Robinson, all of the Artillery Brigade, 3d Corps, and Alfred R. Waud, artist correspondent
Gardner, James, b. 1832, photographer.1863 December


A History of the Battery

The Beginnings through Third Corps (1862 - 3/64)

H.H. Granger of Hardwick raised the Battery, starting his recruiting drive with about 30 men from Worcester County, then moving to Boston and getting about the same number from Charlestown and Marblehead; most of the rest were from eastern Massachusetts. On August 23rd, the recruits met at Eastern Railroad Station in Boston and were taken to Lynnfield, and within a few days moved to Camp Stanton, Boxford.

The Tenth Mass Battery was mustered into service by Lt M. Elder on Sept. 9, 1862 in Boxford, and Tobias Beck of Charlestown was married to Sally Kilgore of Hampden, Maine in camp that evening. On October 1st, the men met their first Captain, J. Henry Sleeper, 23, who had distinguished himself at Bull Run as a 1st Lieutenant with the Fifth Mass Infantry, then joined the First Mass Battery and gained respect for his bravery, coolness under fire and skill as an artillerist. Henry H. Granger was made Senior 1st Lieutenant. Originally mustered with 164 men, the Battery was reduced to the full compliment of 156 before the battery left for Washington on Oct. 14th. During the Battery's tenure 264 men served. Their first post was Camp Barry, near the Bladensburg pike.

For a look at Light Artillery Batterys in the Civil War, and what the men of the Tenth experienced, visit Field Artillery in the Civil War.

Outfitted in Washington with six new 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, they were assigned to the defences of Washington, with Jonathan E. Childs dying of disease on November 15th at Emory Hospital. They were moved, and spent the first winter at Camp Davis, in Poolsville, Maryland. On February 22, they fired a salute of 34 guns in honor of Washington in a driving snowstorm, worthy of a New England winter. There they spent the spring learning the craft of a light artillery battery.

On June 24,1863, at the outset of the Gettysburg Campaign, the Battery was assigned to General French, Twelfth Army Corps and moved to Maryland Heights, Harper's Ferry, arriving on the 26th. On June 30th, 16 men, of the 14th Mass and 151st New York Heavy Artillery, were killed in an accident while destroying ammunition stores. That night they left Maryland Heights without regret as it had rained every day they were there. They were disturbed during the night to learn that Gen Meade had replaced Gen Hooker. It seems Hooker had intended Twelfth Corps to join with the garison of Harper's Ferry and move against the Confederates rear at Chambersburg, but now the Battery was sent to Frederick, Maryland. On July 2nd, they were sent with the Tenth Vermont and a company of cavalry to guard the railroad junction and bridge over the Monocacy River. During the battle of Gettysburg, the Tenth could hear the sounds of battle (the Ninth Battery, MLA, another new unit and a member of the Artillery Reserve, was decimated plugging the hole left by the collapse of the Second Corps at the Peach Orchard and Trostle Farm). On the 5th, two sections were detailed to provost duty in Frederick, with orders to present the best image. However, veterans of Gettysburg passing through labeled the guards the "Bandbox Battery", and from that point on, scales (the brass shoulder devices designed to protect the wearer from sabre attack) vanished from the Battery.

In July, when General William French of the Twelfth Corps took over the Third Corps for wounded General Daniel Sickles, the Tenth went into the Third Artillery Brigade of the Third Corps. Leaving Frederick, Capt. Sleeper was put in charge of the entire supply train for the Corps. On July 11 they met the Ninth Battery for the first time since Camp Barry and learned of their experience at Gettysburg. Many times they were readied for battle but never were in contact with the Confederates, though there was some danger, as on July 20th, four men were captured by Confederates while on the way to Maryland to get mules.

Four men, Sgt. S. Augustus Alden, Lewis R. Allard, Alvin Abbott and Frank A. Chase, were detailed to go to Berlin, Md (from Virginia) to procure mules and harness. They spent the night of the 19th at Harper's Ferry, then proceeded to Berlin, arriving the next day. When they found they could get mules, but no harness, according to instructions they left empty handed. They crossed back into Virginia at Harper's Ferry, and had gone about 15 miles up Loudon Valley (which would put them about 5 miles from their destination) when they were suprised by a band of Mosby's Rangers. [NOTE - They were an independent command of the regular Confederate Army, known casually as "Mosby's Partisan Rangers" but officially as the "43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry" mustered in as such on June 10, 1863.] Mosbys men were lying in ambush behind stone walls on both sides of the road, so the Battery men were taken. Their horses were taken, along with valuables and what clothing the Confederates wished. They were then marched, with 20-30 others who had been captured, to the Blue Ridge, and slept that night with nothing to eat.

The following day (the 21st), they marched 20-25 miles and slept in an open field, again with no rations. The march the next day ended at Berryville, where they received a cup of flour, but no way to cook it. Winchester was the destination of the next day, and they received a ration of wormy hard tack, the first solid food in a couple of days. By now, some of the men on the march were sufferring diarrhea, which would cause the death of a number of them.

From Winchester they went to Staunton and stayed a few days, and received mouldy hard tack and a small piece of bacon, which the men regarded as a god-send though it was "crawling with animated nature". There they were put on a train with about 500 others and sent to Richmond, going to Libby Prison, but later were moved to Belle Isle. In the six weeks there, they received rations about overy other day; a pint of soup or a bit of boney boiled beef. Then they were picked to be exchanged, moving back to Libby for a day, then on a train with 300-400 others to Petersburg, then to City Point. The steamer City of New York took them to Annapolis, and on the ride they were fed a real meal of hard tack, bread, cheese and coffee, which caused problems for some due to their emancipated condition. The four men eventually all returned and mustered out with the Battery, though Alden remained on detached service at Camp Parole.

The Battery moved about with Third Corps taking a tour of Army of the Potomac sites; in July to Williamsport, Antietam Bridge, Loudoun Valley, Wapping Heights, Warrenton and then Sulphur Springs until September (it was here that the Battery adopted the Third Corps badge). On July 30th, First Sgt Otis N. Harrington died of disease at Mt Pleasant Hospital, Washington, DC. Then on Sept 17th moved to Culpeper until early October when they were then moved to Bristoe Station.

The Battery had it's first fight at Auburn, VA against Stuart's Cavalry on Oct.13, 1863, for which the unit was commended. (Artist Alfred R. Waud captured the scene in a drawing.) Years later, the men of the battery recalled that the long period of training forged a strong unit which represented itself well in the battles that followed, and had one of the best records for fewest deserters of Massachusetts units.

The account of that first fight at Warrenton Branch Railroad (Auburn, Virginia),
as told by John D. Billings:

We there heard that the Rebels had driven our cavalry out of Warrenton that forenoon. From this cause, or on account of other information in possession of the Corps Commander, line of battle was at once formed and skirmishers thrown out. Meanwhile the Battery had been placed on a very commanding hill: but after waiting fully half an hour, with no demonstrations from the enemy, we moved down into the road again and resumed our advance. Shortly after this Captain Sleeper was ordered to send a section of his Battery to the front. In obedience of this order, the right section moved to the head of the column at a trot. the order of the troops in march was now as follows: first, a small body of cavalry as adavance guard, followed at a few rods distance by General French and staff; then came a small regiment of infantry; and after it our right section, followed by the First Brigade of the First Division, Colonel Collis commanding; and this, in turn, succeeded in column by the rest of the Battery; then came the remainder of the First Division.

In this order the column had just crossed Turkey Run and was marching along less than a half a mile south of where the road, sloping gently down, debouches suddenly on Cedar Run and the little settlement of Auburn on its north bank. A continuous piece of woods stretches along on our right, but on the left was an opening, beyond which also extended another tract of woods. Scarcely had the right section reached the position in column assigned it, before Captain Clark, Assistant Chief of Artillery, came galloping back to say to Leiutenant Granger, "General French wants your guns immediately at the front." The caissons were at once halted, the order to "gallop" given, and on dashed the pieces, soon meeting "Old Winkey" (as the General was often called on account of the emphasis and frequency with which he shut his eyes) cantering to the rear, who at once ordered them to "go into battery and load with canister." But ere this the Rebels, who were posted for the most part in the woods beyond the opening, were sending their whizzing compliments at the column in unpleasant profusion. The road here was not wide and was somewhat sunken and to get the two pieces from column "In Battery" was a task which under less exciting circumstances might have been attended with some difficulty, and , possibly, confusion. It will be readily judged, then, that under fire, and that, too, for the first time. the difficulties would be greatly enhanced. Nevertheless, the guns were unlimbered and put into position with commendable promptness and coolness, with barely room enough left between them for the cannoneers to execute their duties, and a double discharge of canister at once sent hurtling down the road. "Sock it to them, boys!" said the General, who sat on his horse near by, winking with unusual vehemence, watching operations. But the "boys" needed no second bidding and vigorously plied the woods with their canister and case shot.

Meanwhile, where was the rest of the Battery? The first intimation they had of trouble ahead was the general skurry of staff officers to the rear, hurrying on the men and issuing orders to various commanding officers. Our caissons were immediately halted, cannoneers, as many as were at hand and alert enough, mounted the pieces, the infantry opened ranks before us, and away we went at a lively gallop towards the scene of the fray, making a break through the fence rail, which skirted the road, into the open field. Tokens of conflict had ere this become manifest to the ear in the familiar boom of our own guns, already mentioned, and the hostile hiss of musketballs about our heads, producing a new and decidely unpleasant sensation upon us. The centre section went into battery next to the road, and the left section still farther to the left, thus bringing all six guns into line; but no sooner did these latter sections enter the field than the fire of the enemy was concentrated upon them, having them within shorter range and plain view, especially the left section, which was less screened by the scattering undergrowth. Before its guns are fairly unlimbered, Sergeant Phillip T. Woodfin, chief of the left piece, falls from his horse severly wounded by a bullet which enters his upper jaw, knocking in two teeth and lodging in his neck. Private Joseph Hooper, Number Three man on the same piece, receives a shot through his arm shortly after, while another grazes him on the hip. Private Alexander Holbrook is struck on the breast by a bullet which has passed through the open lid of the limber of the fifth piece, doing him no serious injury. Two more spend themselves, one on the gun, the other on the limber chest of the fourth piece: and Leiutenant Adam's horse plunges wildly with a wound in the leg. But all this has happenned in less time than it has taken to write it. Our turn has come now. From the first moment we came under fire we were nearly consumed with the burning desire to get to doing something, for the numerous duckings of the head that we had executed out of respect to the "Minies" that met us with rebelious hisses, made us nervous to send back our compliments, and this we now do in good ernest. It is give as well as take, and every cannoneeer is thrilled to the very core at the first belch of his own ten-pounder. It is his first blow from the shoulder for self-defense and Union, and it braces him for the work before him. We send our shells crashing into the woods with great rapidity, and while thus engaged, Chief of Artillery Randolph rides up behind us as cool as on review, and in a clear voice, which by its deliberate accents inspires confidence, calls out, "Don't fire so fast men! Wait till you see a flash, then fire at it." but the flashes have grown less frequent.

Meanwhile Colonel Collis' First Brigade filed rapidly in and took position on our left and left front, protected in part by a rise in the ground. After the action had lasted about twenty minutes the firing of the enemy ceased, as did that of the Battery. Then the infantry rose, and pouring in a voley, charged with a ringing cheer into the woods: but the Rebels had retreated before them, and the fight was ended. Our foe was said to be a body of Stuart's Cavalry, variously estimated at from five hundred to two thousand in number. Now came another new chapter in our experience. Wounded men hobbled to the rear or were carried thither, and a few, half an hour since in the full enjoyment of a vigorous manhood, lay pale in death. Our two wounded were taken to the ambulance train to be cared for. Private Hooper underwent the amputation of his arm. Sergeant Woodfin never rejoined the Company. He gradually recovered from his wound, and March 10, 1864, was promoted to a second and after a first lieutenancy in the Sixteenth Massachusetts Battery.

For the commendable behaviour of the Battery on this occasion, mention was made of it in the following General Order of the Division Commander:

Headquarters, First Division, Third Corps
Fairfax Station, Virginia, October 18, 1863
General Order
Especial credit is due the First Brigade, Colonel Collis, and the Tenth Massachusetts Battery, Captain Sleeper, for their gallantry in repulsing the enemy's attack on the head of the column at Auburn, and to Colonel Collis for his skill and promptitute in making the dispositions ordered. By Command of Major General Birney
F. Birney
Major and Assistant Adjutant General

The course being once more clear, our march was resumed and continued with spirit a distance of fully six miles, which brought us, in the darkness, at 9 o'clock, to the little settlement of Greenwich, where we bivouacked for the night.

At Kelly's Ford on November 7th, the Battery shelled the enemy, and in response, were shelled by a Confederate Battery of 12-pounders. In the exchange, the Battery forced the enemy to withdraw. It was the first of many counter-battery fights they would experience, but the Tenth was proud to say that it's guns were never silenced or driven from position by Confederate artillery. A Confederate shell was found which had hit a bundle of clothes and ended up in a pair of boots after splitting a limber chest. Luckily that had spent its energy, so the chest did not explode, and the shell was carried off as a trophy.

Camp was established at Brandy Station, Va on Nov 10th, and they stayed there until Thursday, Nov. 26th. Instead of turkey dinner, a "mud march" awaited the Battery, across the Rapidan at Germania Ford to Robertson's Tavern, arriving on the morning of the 28th. On the 30th fired about 200 rounds at Mine Run, but then had the pleasure of another "mud march" back to Brandy Station, having the guns and caissons mired many times again, arriving on Dec 3rd; one mule dead and 10 horses unservicable.

Winter quarters were established and the men made themselves as comfortable as possible, putting tent roofs over log walls and building fireplaces. On Feb. 20th Albert N.A. Maxwell died at Carver General Hospital in Washington, DC, and on March 5th, George H. Pierce died at Artillery Brigade Hospital at Brandy Station, Va. In March, a few of the men had the chance to talk to John Minor Botts, who lived nearby, and was one of a few loyal Union men from Virginia. At the same time, Grant took over, and reorganized the Army, the Third Corps being dissolved. The Tenth transferred to the Second Corps (along with Battery K, 4th US) under General Winfield S. Hancock, but were allowed to keep their red and white diamond insignia. However, now the Battery had to move to Stevensburg on April 8, only about 5 miles, but it meant having to leave comfortble surroundings and then rebuild.

The History continues with joining the Second Corps

For more information on the Third Corps, a link to the Third Corps Association.

As mentioned above, the four men captured by Mosby's Rangers in spring 1863 spent a night in a warehouse in Winchester, Virginia. Wincester is the located at the top of the Shenandoah Valley, and changed hands many times during the war. Winchester is also the home of the North-South Skirmish Association. The Kernstown Battlefield Association is trying to preserve the battlefield where two major battles took place. Their page is at http://www.kernstownbattle.org.

The information herein was taken from the book Sleeper's Tenth Massachusetts Battery by John D. Billings, 1881 (who was a member of the 10th, also the author of Hard Tack and Coffee, a book of his experiences as a soldier in the Civil War); Mr. C. Peter Jorgenson, Civil War artillery authority, and former Commander of the 10th Mass Battery, N-SSA; Massachusetts in the Army and Navy, During the War of 1861-65, T.W.Higginson, 1896.

(photo from the Library of Congress Archives)

Sleeper's Battery | The History of the Tenth Btty  |  The Roster of the members of the Tenth Btty  |  Service Record of the Tenth Btty  |  Field Artillery in the Civil War  |  The Tenth Mass Battery Association today  |  10th Mass Btty, N-SSA (and other links)

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