In April 1861 the Smithfield Light Arty Blues was formed under the command of Capt J F. Chalmer. Dr. Wm D. Southall of Smithfield was their physician. By June they were ordered to Old Town Point at Portsmouth, remaining there until the spring of 1862. On June 21, 1862 they became part of the 19th Bn, Va Hvy Arty under the command of Maj J. Wilder Atkinson & were stationed at the Richmond perimeter, part of the 19th Bn participating in the fighting at Savage Station. In Gen command of all Richmond Arty was Col Thomas Smith Rhett. .
In Aug 1862, the 10th & 19th Bns were assigned to Btry No 2, southeast of Richmond, & would remain sister Bns throughout the war, Maj William Allen of Surry 1st cdg 10th Bn. There they established a hospital. Soon after the 19th Bns was moved to Btry No 8, one mile north of Richmond, & built another hospital. In Nov 1862 the 19th Bn had 390 men almost half reporting sick. Work progressed on the Richmond fortifications with guns coming from the Tredegar Iron Works.
In early Jan 1863 the 19th Bn was reduced to four Co’s. The Btrys surrounding Richmond were divided into two sections, the 10th & 19th Bns manning the 1st section on the eastern side of the city. In May Maj Atkinson was promoted, & Dr. N R. Cary was elected to command the 19th Bn. Most of the summer was spent in the continuing construction of the Richmond’s defensive lines & providing guard details for prisons & Gov’t facilities. Col W. H. Stevens’ inspection reported that the work at Btrys 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, & 10 was in good progress. The 10th & 19th Bns remained near Richmond for the rest of the year, each manning 63 guns with seven men to a gun. “A week before Christmas, President Davis, Gen Lee, Gen Ewell, & Col James Chesnut inspected the Arty fortifications ringing the city. Mary Boykin Chesnut noted the event in her famous diary.”
The Hvy Arty would become very active in 1864. 1st, on 2/4/64 thirty men were reassigned from the 10th & 19th Bns to the Engineer Regt. On the 20th, Capt Chalmers of Smithfield was ordered to exchange his Springfield muskets for an equal number of Miss Rifles. On March 1, 1864, 19th Bn was ordered to proceed immediately to the intersection of the intermediate lines with the Brooke Turnpike with rations on hand & 30 rounds of ammunition in their cartridge boxes. The movement was in response to the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid on Richmond. Afterwards, Col Stevens reported that the Arty had been “handled exceedingly well”. In May 1864, the 10th & 19th Bns were shuffled around to meet the rumored advances of Gen Butler.
In late May 1864 Col Archer Anderson in his inspection of Richmond Arty defenses stated “As Infy, imperfect . . . : as Hvy Arty good.” However, more drills were ordered, & part of 19th Bn was ordered to the Mechanicsville Turnpike & the Intermediate Lines. Also, the Btry on the Williamsburg Road was transferred from the 19th Bn to the 10th Bn.
In June, with Grant beginning to lay siege to Petersburg, portions of the 10th & 19th Bns Hvy Arty were ordered to the Mill & Varina roads & to the exterior lines around the New Market road. On July 30, 1864, below Petersburg, was fought the Battle of the Crater, which caused much excitement among the Hvy Arty. The 19th Bn was issued two Coehorn mortars in Aug, which they placed between the Central RR & the Meadow Bridge Road. In Nov 1864, 19th Bn was at Btry # One, just southeast of Richmond.
On Jan 1, 1865 the Hvy Arty men were scattered & they were no longer acting as a unit. On Jan 9, 1865 the Hvy Arty & Reserves were organized into one Bgde under Lt Col Pemberton, who after exchange had resigned his commission, but, remarkably, in 1864 accepted the rank of Lt Col with command of the Arty defenses at Richmond. Pemberton’s four Hvy Arty Bns had strength of 1002 men.
Also, Col Stapleton Crutchfield assumed command of the Chaffin’s Bluff Arty Bgde, to which the 19th Bn would soon transfer. With Maj Cary on leave Capt Chalmers of Smithfield took temporary command of the 19th Bn.
On Jan 29, 1865 the 19th Bn was ordered to abandon the intermediate Lines & report the next day to Chaffin’s Farm, east of Drewry’s Bluff.
In the first two months of 1865 more than half of Pemberton’s cannoneers deserted, died, or had been reassigned. Such was the decline of the Confederacy. The 10th & 19th Bns remained at their positions in the Richmond defensive line & at Chaffin’s Bluff with little movement until Richmond was evacuated on April 2, 1865. Night blindness was becoming a problem due to the lack of nutrition.
On their retreat to Appomattox CH, Capt Ballard with the 10th & 19th Bns complimented their Federal captors at Sailor’s or Saylor’s Creek:
“. . . Their Infy then appeared in solid line. They moved steadily forward, reached the creek [Sailor’s Creek] which we had so recently crossed, waded through as we had done, dressed up their line, & continued their advance to within thirty or forty paces of our line, the order was given to charge. In a moment we were on our feet yelling like demons & rushing upon their line. It has always been a mystery to me why they did not then & there wipe our little band from the face of the earth. It may be that the very audacity of our charge bewildered & demoralized them. At any rate they broke & fled just before we reached them. . .
. . . Crutchfield was killed, & Adjt Wilson shot through the leg, which had to be amputated. I received a slight wound in the shoulder, which, however, did not incapacitate me. After the enemy had retreated across the creek, we gathered up our handful of men & fell back to our original positions. . . A young Cav officer riding in among us, begged us to surrender, telling us that we were entirely surrounded, & that further resistance was useless. It was so gallant an act no one attempted to molest him.
In the mean while the Infy, which had been driven across the creek, had reformed & were advancing in force. Our men then threw down their arms, & we were prisoners of war. I remember that in the hot blood of youth, I broke my sword over a sapling, rather than surrender it. When the Infy, which we had so recently repulsed, came up to us again, it was with smiling faces. They commenced opening their haversacks, offering to share their “hard tack” with us, which in our famished condition we most eagerly & gratefully accepted. They, moreover, complimented us on the gallant fight we had made. In this connection, I will add that we were always treated with every consideration by the veterans at the front. It was only when we fell into the hands of the provost guard that any harshness was shown. About dusk that evening we were taken back across Sailor’s Creek, & camped that night in an old field. . . “
The original Smithfield Light Arty Blues lost at least twelve soldiers, killed, wounded, & captured at Sailor’s Creek, including 2nd Lt’s William Folk & Francis Watson, both of Smithfield, & John Jordan, Deputy Marshall of Smithfield in 1860. The Army of Northern Va & a Blues’ remnant finally surrendered April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.
Benjamin Trask, 16th Va Regt, H. E. Howard, Inc., Lynchburg, Va, 1986
Benjamin Trask, 61st Va Regt, H. E. Howard, Inc, Lynchburg, Va. 1988
Jeffery Weaver, 10th & 19 Bns, Va Hvy Arty, H. E. Howard, Inc., Lynchburg, Va, 1996
Helen King, Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County, Va, Donning & Company, Va Beach, Va., 1993
Robert Stiles, Four Years under Marse Robert, Morningside House, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, 1988
The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War, Plate 77, Smithfield Library, Smithfield, Va
This ANV (Army of Northern Virginia) Seventh Bunting regulation battle flag issued in March 1865 is probably the only flag of its sort to have been carried by CS sailors & Marines during a Civil War engagement. The sailors of the gunboat CSS Nansemond, part of the James River Squadron under Admiral Raphael Semmes, were ordered to destroy their vessel on April 3rd, 1865 as were the crews of the rest of the squadron (three ironclads & nine gunboats in all). After doing so, they were to form with Semmes as Infy & head to Danville to man the defenses there, that town having become the new CS capitol with the fall of Richmond. Somehow, some & possibly all of the Nansemond’s crew ended up with Commodore John Tucker’s Naval Bgde (Bn) of sailors & CS Marines who had been manning the Hvy guns at Drewry’s Bluff south of Richmond. Tucker’s men had come to Richmond from Wilmington, & Charleston as those cities fell in Feb 1865.
While Semmes’ men took the last train from Richmond, Tucker’s marched on foot to join with the retreating Army of Northern Virginia-This command was dubbed the Naval Bgde even though it contained no more than 500 men. On the drizzly morning of April 6, 1865 these sailors & marines trudged their way along the muddy roads as part of the rapidly fading hopes of the Confederacy. At about 10:00 AM, the enemy being discovered in close proximity, the Bgde was formed in line of battle as part of the ad hoc Div of G W. Custis Lee. This Div, the rear guard of Ewell’s Corps, contained Richmond defense troops, Hvy Arty men turned Infy including from Col Crutchfield’s Bn & a few veteran units such as the 18th Ga Bn. During this last major engagement of the war in the east at the Hillsman House along Saylor’s Creek, a battle that was actually three separate fights, Lee’s Div held for a time with fighting becoming hand to hand. The stalwarts were Tucker’s men who only surrendered when that all other Confederate units nearby informed had already done so. Their stand earned the respect of their Union foes.
Of the 18,500 Confederates engaged, 7700 were killed, wounded or captured, including Crutchfield who was killed & Gen’ls Ewell, Kershaw, G W. Custis Lee, Seth M. Barton, James P. Simms, Dudley DuBose, Eppa Hutton & Montgomery Corse & Commodore Tucker, all captured. This flag was donated by descendant of this Bgde to the Mariner’s Museum in Wilmington, NC where it was later de-accessioned. The flag is shown in a 1938 Columbia, SC newspaper article telling of its history of being saved by B.C. Casey (misprint, it should have been D.C.) of Rolling Fork, MS. There is much conjecture over flag’s exact history as the last owners had all died prior to the 1938 article, but according to the research of various experts including letters by noted vexillologists Howard Madaus & Greg Biggs, the flag has a wonderful history. While claimed as a flag from the CSS Nansemond, it is possible that the flag actually represented Tucker’s entire Naval Bgde. There are over 100 pages of research & correspondence concerning this flag. Provenance is published online* & should be read by interested parties. This fabulous flag is unquestionably an original & fine condition Seventh Bunting issue ANV battle flag & is among the few surviving, especially privately owned. Beautiful example, few better. PROVENANCE: Ex-Maritime Museum, Southport, NC. Ex-Collection of Dr. Charles Peery CONDITION: Very good overall. Dark patination & color-Numerous small tears & holes as expected from battlefield use. 48942-1 JS (125,000-250,000
4/14/65 Basinger [18th Ga Bn]writes-we are on our way, a sad train of captives from Sailor’s Creek…My noble little band behaved wonderfully, but we lost 24K & 28 W of 85 total
Maj Stiles was under my immediate command & behaved heroically-18th Ga Bn
[Stiles, author of 4 Years under Marse Robert, had served with the 1st Corps in Cabell’s Arty Bn later Gibbs & was assimilated into G W C’s Div at Petersburg & Stiles wound up in the Chaffin’s Bluff H A Bn under Col Holloway, next under Gibbs with Stiles himself sometimes in command of the Bn]