Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery — George Michael Neese.

Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery — George Michael Neese.

August 22, 2012

Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery — George Michael Neese.

August 22 — This morning we went to the Rappahannock and drove into a large hilly field that sloped to the river. When we arrived on a rather prominent knoll in the field there was a horseman there who said to Captain Chew: “Put some of your guns in position here and fire a few shell into that piece of woods you see yonder on the other side of the river. I think perhaps there is something in there.” The piece of woods referred to was not very large, and somewhat lower in altitude than the hill we occupied, and there was nothing visible around or about the woods that indicated in the least that there was any dangerous game lurking within its peaceful borders. I unlimbered the first gun and landed a shell near about the center of the woods, which waked up the lion sure enough. The shell we fired was a twelve-pounder percussioned, and it exploded near the enemy’s lair.

The Yankees had a battery of six or eight rifled guns in position in the innocent little piece of woods, and opened fire on us with all of them immediately after our shell exploded. When I saw six or eight little piles of white smoke rising from the brush and heard the thunder of the guns, and the terrible screaming of the shell overhead, I thought the infernal regions had suddenly opened just on the other side of the river. In the twinkling of an eye our other two rifled guns whirled in battery, and for two hours we fired as fast as we could, and so did the Yanks. Their fire was terrific, and would have been unendurable, but fortunately for us the Yankee gunners aimed their guns too high and cut their fuses too long to seriously injure us much or silence our guns. Some of their shell exploded in front of our guns and some over our heads, but the great majority of them passed harmlessly over us and, with a thud, buried themselves without exploding in a hill about a hundred yards in our rear.

During the time we were engaged the Yanks fired about one thousand shell at us. I fired about one hundred rounds with the first gun. We had one man killed and two wounded. We also had two horses killed. An unexploded shell or solid shot cut in two the pole to one of our caissons. We had an extra pole and repaired the damage before we left the field. When the fight was on well General Fitzhugh Lee came on the field and rode boldly up to the battery and fearlessly sat on his horse watching the progress of the duel amid the fierce howling of shell and shrilly pings of flying fragments.

When he observed that some of our cannoneers were becoming fatigued to the exhausting point, he dismounted his horse, threw off his coat, and acted number one at one of our guns, and he performed his part well, ramming the shell home with the promptness and dexterity of a born cannoneer. Captain Pelham, the gallant and courteous young Alabamian, commander of the old Stuart Horse Artillery, kindly took my place for a while and fired my gun.

After we had fought about two hours we received orders to withdraw our pieces and go with General Stuart on a raid in the direction of Warrenton. When we retired from our position the Yankee battery was still firing, but when we came away I saw another Confederate battery drive on the field and take the same position that we vacated and open fire on the Yanks before we got out of the field.

Soon after we received orders to go with General Stuart we were on the march up the river to Waterloo Bridge. There we crossed the Rappahannock into Fauquier County and marched to Warrenton, where we arrived a little before night. We had some heavy showers this afternoon, and when we got to Warrenton we were as wet as water could make us. Just about dusk we started for Catlett’s Station, which is the first station below Warrenton Junction on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Soon after nightfall it commenced raining again, and shower after shower of the heaviest sort from the blackest clouds I ever saw kept pouring down till nearly midnight, while blinding flashes of lightning leaped in quick succession from the inky-hued clouds overhead and shot their fiery streams like burning rivers through the thick gloomy darkness that draped the chamber of night. At one moment the lightning’s dazzling glare rent the curtain of night and flashed its brilliant glow over the landscape, making the woods, fields, and hills appear as though they were basking in the full glory of a midday sun; the next moment the black tide of night rushed over the scene and blotted everything into nothingness. On account of the darkness, rain and deep mud we made slow progress in marching for a raid. The cavalry were all way ahead of us. We did not see or hear a sign of them anywhere, consequently toward midnight we halted in the road where the water and mud was just half knee deep. I was wet all over, and through. Cold, chilly, hungry, and sleepy all at the same time, I put myself in as small a package as I could and sat on the limber chest for three long weary hours, with wakeful dreamy visions of a good, warm, dry bed chasing one another all over me.

We were then about three miles from Catlett Station, our objective point. About midnight, or a little after, General Stuart through rain, storm, and darkness charged into the enemy’s encampment at Catlett’s, surprised the Yanks and drove them from their tents scatteringly into the darkness, captured some prisoners and about one hundred horses, and destroyed eighty wagons.

General Pope has his headquarters at Catlett’s, and I heard that General Stuart captured his uniform coat and his code of signals to-night. If General Pope wants to save his shirt he better keep his headquarters in the saddle or else he will see something of the Rebels some of these fine nights besides their backs.

When the cavalry returned from the station we struck out for the Rappahannock. The ditches, runs, and ravines along the road were all overflowing from the heavy rain in the fore part of the night. When we forded Silver Run the water came within six inches of running in the limber chests. Our return march was wearisome and slow. Long before we reached Warrenton morn unbarred the gates of day.

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