War of the Rebellion: Serial 031 Page 0207 Chapter XXXIII. BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA.

Search Civil War Official Records

No. 40. Report of Captain James E. Smith, Fourth New York Battery.


COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the participation of the Fourth New York Battery, under my command, in the late bombardment of Fredericksburg:

In obedience to orders from headquarters center grand division, dated December 10, I reported to you, and was by your ordered to take command of the Fourth New York Battery, which had been under the executive command of First Lieutenant Joseph E. Nairn since November 4, I at that time assuming command of the division artillery, in compliance with orders from headquarters Sickles' division, of that date. Position was assigned me by you on the north bank of the river, about 500 yards of the Lacy house, with instructions to obey all orders from General Hunt, Colonel Tompkins, and yourself. I placed my guns in battery about 8.30 o'clock on the evening of the 11th, and set my men at work throwing up small breastworks around each gun, as a protection against the enemy's sharpshooters.

About 3 a.m. on the morning of the 12th, General Hunt ordered me to fire upon the town, when the battery adjoining my left (K, First U. S. Artillery, Captain Graham) opened. In obedience to this order, I opened fire about 5 a.m. (or soon after the enemy's sharpshooters opened fire upon the engineers who were constructing pontoon bridges). I kept up a rapid fire during the forenoon, damaging the vents of five of my guns, which became enlarged.

On the 13th, the enemy's batteries opened on the town and our men. I undertook to draw their fire by replying from my battery, and several times during the day succeeded in checking the fire from some of their batteries on our right and in front of my position.

During the 14th and 15th, my orders were to fire upon the batteries in front whenever they opened upon our re-enforcements or the town, which order I obeyed, until ordered by General Hunt not to fire under any circumstances. Again, during the night of the 15th, I received orders from Colonel Tompkins to be on the alert to cover the retreat of our army; but as the enemy made no attempt to interfere, I had no occasion to fire.

The ammunition furnished me by Captain Young, ordnance officer of Sickles' division, was of an inferior quality. The concussion projectiles (Parrott) were used as solid shot; the case shot worked poorly. About one in twelve exploded, although care was taken to prepare and fit the fuses. The cartridges were composed of different kinds of powder or of various quantities, which made accuracy almost impossible.

During the five day's firing I expended, all told, about 1,600 rounds of case shot and shell.

I have no casualties to report.

The non-commissioned officers and privates of the battery conducted themselves admirably, obeying all orders with promptness.

Lieutenants Nairn, Scott, McLean, and Smith, by their attention to duty, contributed greatly to render the fire of the battery effective. Lieutenant Nairn made several splendid shots, sighting the pieces himself. The officers have my warmest thanks.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain Fourth New York Battery.

Lieutenant Colonel WILLIAM HAYS,

Commanding Reserve Artillery.