History of Rowan Artillery

Captain James O'Reilly
Captain James O’Reilly

Organized May 18th, 1858 as the “Rowan Artillery,” this Battery of Light Artillery was called into active duty for twelve months service on May 3rd, 1861. Upon completing its organization at Salisbury, the Battery was ordered to Weldon where it enlisted for three years or the duration of the war. Here, also, Captain James Reilly was assigned to command the Battery which became known as “Reilly’s Battery.” Because of the lack of held pieces and artillery equipment the Battery was temporarily assigned as Infantry to the 4th Regiment N.C. State Troops.

Leaving for Richmond on July 20th, 1861, the battery arrived at Manassas Junction on July 27th. Here it received two 10-pounder Parrotts and two Dahlgren Howitzers, trophies of the Battle of Manassas, and was assigned to Brigadier General W.H.C. Whiting’s Brigade. The Battery remained on the Centreville line until it went into winter quarters at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Virginia, on November 19th. On March 8th, 1862, it joined the army in the move to Yorktown and was actively engaged in rear-guard fighting when the army retired from Yorktown and Williamsburg to Richmond in May. To bring the Battery up to full strength, two 3-inch Burton and Ascher Rifled guns were added on May 20th, 1862. Still assigned to Whiting’s Brigade, the Battery remained in that Brigade when Whiting became Divisional Commander and Col. E. M. Law assumed command of the Brigade. In June, Whiting’s Division was sent to join General T. J. Jackson’s army at Staunton and united with that army on its move to strike McClellan’s right flank in front of Richmond. In the series of battles known as the Seven Days’, the Battery was officially in Law’s Brigade, Whiting’s Division, Jackson’s Command. The Battery was engaged at Gaines’ Mill Hill, July 1st. After the battle at Gaines’ Mill the men abandoned one of their Burton and Ascher 3-inch Rifle Guns for a captured Federal 3-inch Rifle Gun.

General T.J. Jackson
General T.J. Jackson

The report of the organization of the Army of Northern Virginia, dated July 23rd, 1862, carries the Battery in Law’s Brigade, Whiting’s Division, General D. H. Hill’s Command. When Whiting was ordered to North Carolina, General John B. Hood was given Whiting’s old Division. Thus, after reorganization following the Seven Days Battle, the Battery was officially in Hood’s Division, where it served in Major B. W. Frobel’s Artillery Battalion. Now an integral part of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Battery took part in all major battles fought by that army. It was at Second Manassas on Aug. 29th – 30th, 1862; South Mountain Sept.14th, 1862; Sharpsburg Sept. 17th, 1862. After the last named battle it reported two 10-pounder Parrotts, two 3-inch Rifles, and two 24-pounder Dahlgren Howitzers. On Oct. 4th, 1862, Captain W. P. Lloyd’s Battery, 1st Company G, 40th Regiment N.C. Troops (3rd Regiment N. C. Artillery), was disbanded, and fifty-five men were assigned to this Battery. Continuing with the army, the Battery saw action at Fredericksburg on December 13th 1862. Here it remained with the army and went into winter quarters.

With the coming of spring, the Battery was ordered to North Carolina to participate in a projected attack on Washington. It left Fredericksburg on February 7th, 1863 and stopped at Richmond where the two Dahlgren Howitzers were exchanged for two Napoleons. Arriving at Tarboro on April 6th, the Battery took part in the attack on Washington on April 10th. After the engagement it returned to Tarboro on the 16th and was sent to join Longstreet’s Command, which was then moving on Suffolk, Virginia. It arrived near Suffolk on April 26th and took part in the siege operations until May 5th when it was ordered to return to the army. On June 4th it rejoined its old Division at Culpepper Court House.

During its absences in North Carolina the artillery of the army had been reorganized and “Reilly’s Battery” had been assigned to Major M. W. Henry’s Artillery Battalion, Hood’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps. This Battalion was later to become known as Major John C. Haskell’s Artillery Battalion after Major Henry transferred in June 1863. The Battery served in this battalion for the balance of the war.

Moving with the army, the Battery was engaged on July 2nd, 3rd, and 4th 1863 at Gettysburg with two Napoleons, two ten pounder Parrotts, and two 3″ Rifles. July 2nd took position at 4:00 pm and was actively engaged until night. One Rifle burst and a captured 10 pounder Parrott was substituted. July 3rd two of the Parrotts were moved farther to the right. The other guns engaged in firing upon the Union lines within range. About 5:00 pm aided in repelling cavalry under Brig. Gen. Farnsworth which had charged into the valley near Round top. July 4th Occupied another position nearby and west of it’s previous position until 6:00 pm then withdrew from the field.

After returning to Virginia, and when Longstreet’s Corps was sent to Tennessee, Haskell’s Artillery Battalion went into winter quarters near Beaver Dam Station on the Virginia Central Railroad on Sept.12th and was temporarily attached to General A. P. Hill’s Corps. With the promotion of Captain Reilly on Sept. 7th, 1863, 1st Lieutenant John A. Ramsay became Captain and the Battery was re-designated “Ramsay’s Battery.” With the exception of the Mine Run campaign in Dec.1863 the Battery remained in winter quarters until May 4th, 1864 when it was returned to Longstreet’s Corps and ordered to join the Army, then concentrating to meet General U. S. Grant’s expected advance. Just prior to this on Apr. 9th, 1864, the Battery was reported as equipped with one 3-inch rifle Gun, three 10 pounder Parrotts and two Napoleons.

The Battery remained with Lee’s Army from the Wilderness to Petersburg and saw action principally at Spotsylvania Court House on May 9th, and at Cold Harbor, June 1st – 3rd. From July 1864 through Feb. 1865 the Battery remained in the lines below Richmond. In the last report of equipment in Dec. 1864, the Battery possessed three 10-pounder Parrotts, one 12-pounder Whitworth, and two 8 pounder Armstrong guns. When Lee evacuated Petersburg on April 2nd, 1865, the Battery joined the retreating army to Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Lee surrendered his Army on April 9th, 1865.