The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Key's Helena Artillery

Stewart Sifakis, in his Compendium of the Confederate Armies, Alabama, lists the Helena Arkansas Battery under Capt. Thomas J. Key as Company C, 20th Alabama Light Artillery Battalion. The Alabama volume of Confederate Military History confirms a Capt. T. J. Key as commanding Company C.

In the Arkansas volume, Sifakis states that the Helena Battery served at times as Company C, 20th Alabama Light Artillery Battalion and as Company H, 28th Georgia Heavy Artillery Battalion.

I have a problem with the Helena Battery being this unit.

The 20th Alabama Light Artillery Battalion was formed in October/November 1863 by dividing the remnants of Waddell’s Alabama Battery that had been surrendered at Vicksburg.

The 28th Georgia Heavy Artillery Battalion was organised in August 1863. By January 1864 two companies (one of which was Co. H) had been converted to infantry and sent to Virginia.

For the Helena Artillery to have served with both, this had to occur sometime between October 1863 and January 1864. However, Confederate returns in the OR list Key’s Helena Battery as being with the Army of Tennessee throughout this time period and as late as December 1864.

In addition, CSR lists Key’s officers in the Helena Battery as Lieuts. Fitzpatrick, Hopwood, Marshall, Auston and Bolling. Key’s officers in the 20th Alabama Battalion and the 28th Georgia Battalion were Lieuts. Black, McCoy and Farley.

I believe therefore that the Helena Artillery was not the battery that served with the other two battalions. I believe that there were two different batteries with captains named Thomas J. Key, one serving throughout with the Helena Artillery, the other serving with the two artillery battalions and ending up in Virginia.

As a final clincher, the OR (Vol.31, Part 2, p.662 footnote dated November 1863) lists a Capt. T. J. Key as commanding Company C of the 20th Alabama Light Artillery Battalion. The same return includes the Helena Artillery under Lieut. Key as part of Hotchkiss’ Artillery Battalion!