The Danville Artillery at Chancellorsville

Following Captain Wooding’s death from wounds received at the Battle of Fredericksburg, command of the battery had fallen to Captain Robert Rice, who had come to the battery when his old command, the Eight Star New Market Artillery, had been consolidated with the Danville Artillery.  Captain Rice was destined to be killed in the fighting around Petersburg in July 1864, but until then the men would be known as Rice’s Battery.

Rice’s Battery was inspected on February 15 and found to have 3 officers and 138 men present, one officer absent, four detached, eight AWOL and five absent sick.  The battery was equipped with two ten-pounder Parrotts, one three-inch rifle, and one Napoleon.   The battery’s ammunition and harnesses were good.  They had 61 horses in good condition and 20 in bad condition, two four-horse wagons and two two-horse wagons.

In March 1863, the battery became part of the artillery battalion commanded by Major David Gregg McIntosh, formerly captain of the South Carolina Pee Dee battery, assigned to the Second (Jackson’s) Corps.  Other batteries in the battalion were Hardaway’s Alabama battery, Lusk’s 2nd Rockbridge Artillery and Marmaduke Johnson’s Virginia Artillery.

On May 2, Rice’s Battery, with the rest of the battalion, moved in the rear of Stonewall Jackson’s famous flanking march column. Jackson launched his surprise attack late in the day, rolling up Howard’s Eleventh Corps.  Because the area was heavily wooded, and due to the lateness of the day, the battery saw no action that day.

The next morning, with General Stuart commanding the Corps in place of the wounded Jackson, the attack was renewed.  Early in the morning McIntosh’s battalion was held in reserve. Around 8 a.m. it advanced to the position Col. E. Porter Alexander was holding near Hazel Grove.

An ideal location for artillery, Hazel Grove had been occupied by Federal artillery the previous day. Fearing that the position had become too exposed, General Hooker ordered the guns to withdraw, handing the Confederate artillery perhaps the most favorable location it had during the entire war. “There has rarely been a more gratuitous gift of a battlefield,” Porter remarked.

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The view from Hazel Grove, with Fairview in the distance

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The view from Fairview, with Hazel Grove in the distance

The guns massed by Colonel Alexander at Hazel Grove (including Rice’s battery) fired with devastating effect not only on the Federal artillery now operating from Fairview, but also on the Federal infantry lines, and the forces concentrated at the Chancellor house. The shell that knocked General Hooker senseless as he was standing on the Chancellor porch (and in so doing possibly changed the outcome of the battle) was fired from Hazel Grove.

Within a couple of hours the Federal losses in men and horses had been so severe that they began to pull back from Fairview, further constricting their lines. Col. Alexander acted quickly, advancing guns to Fairview from where they could strike nearly every Federal position. From Fairview Rice’s Battery directed counter-battery fire at the federal guns around the Chancellor house. It was during this bombardment that the Chancellor house caught fire and burned to the ground.

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The view from the Chancellor House toward Fairview

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Attacked on all sides and being pounded by Confederate artillery, the Federals continued to pull back, abandoning the position around the Chancellor house and withdrawing to their last defensive line.  During the night of May 4 they retreated to the north side of the Rappahannock River, capping the Army of Northern Virginia’s greatest victory.

When Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, received a telegram detailing the events of the battle he is said to have exclaimed, “My God! It is horrible! Horrible! Think of it. 130,000 magnificent soldiers cut to pieces by less than 60,000 half-starved ragamuffins.”

There were only two casualties in the battery.  James Long, a 43-year-old farmer from Russell County was killed and Watson Anglea was again wounded (his third wound in less than nine months).  For his conspicuous gallantry in action, James W. Gosney, a 24-year-old carpenter, was promoted to corporal. He would end the war in a hospital and a Federal prison.

In a few weeks the batallion would be on its way to Pennsylvania.

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