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First Tennessee Artillery

ft donelson.jpg (56305 bytes)

Water Battery at Fort Donelson, 1862

CAPTAIN J.M SPARKMAN'S TENNESSEE LIGHT ARTILLERY COMPANY

Also called Captain Robert P. Griffith's Company-Captain R.R. Ross' Company - Maury Artillery - Maury Light Artillery. Company "C", Monsarrat's Battalion in November 1861

Although it was organized as light artillery, it spent its entire active service in manning batteries of heavy artillery, first at Fort Donelson and later at Port Hudson. The company was recruited in Maury County in September 1861 by Jesse M. Sparkman who discouraged any attempt to elect him captain because of his lack of military experience. It assembled at Santa Fe, Maury County and on October 3, 1861 left for Camp Weakly near Nashville. Here it was mustered into Confederate Service on October 26 by Captain Monsarrat.

On November 1, 1861, General Albert Sidney Johnson directed Brig Gen. Lloyd Tighman, commanding at Hopkinsville to draw back to Clarksville and advised him "a battery of Artillery (Maury's) has been ordered to Clarksville for you". From Clarksville, the battery moved to Hopkinsville, KY where it was armed with six light guns. Here Capt. Griffith resigned because of lack of experience and R.R. Ross who had been trained in the artillery at West Point, was elected captain in his place and took command January 7 1862. On January 31, 1862 the battery reported in Brig Gen. Charles Clark's Brigade, Brig Gen. John B. Floyd's Division of Major Gen. Hardee's Central Army of KY.

On February 8, following the Federal Capture of Fort Henry, the battery moved to Clarksville and from there by boat to Fort Donelson, arriving there February 9, 1862. Here Brig Gen. Gideon J. Pillow advised that he had no heavy artillerists, asked for volunteers to man the river batteries. Captain Ross immediately asked for the place for his battery and it was so assigned, even though it had no experience in handling heavy artillery. Its light battery was turned over to others without ever having been used in actual combat. Col. Milton A. Haynes, Chief of Tenn. Corps of Artillery, reported: "Capt. Ross and his company, just arrived from Hopkinsville, voluntarily gave up their light battery and took charge of the half moon battery, containing rifled guns and two carronades, furnishing a detachment under the charge of LT Stankiewitz to man the 8 inch howitzers and two nine pound non descripts. The columbiad were not remounted until the day before the battle began and the rifled gun was repaired just in time to place in working order."

The columbiad was a 120 pounder, 10 inch gun requiring 16 pounds of powder for a charge. The carriage had been injured in testing the gun a few days before and the new carriage had just been received the evening before Ross's Battery arrived. The rifled gun was a sixty-four pounder and the pintle plate for this gun had arrived only the evening before with no opportunity for testing. With guns which had never been tested and artillerists with no experience, Capt. Ross and his men turned in a remarkable performance against the ironclad gunboats which the experience at Forty Henry had given a reputation for invulnerability. Captain Ross took personal charge of the rifled gun and Lt. Bedford of the columbiad.

Capt. Ross' report said the battery arrived at Dover February 11 and volunteered to man the heavy guns. On the morning of the 12th, at long range, some two and one half miles, the rifled gun under Capt. Ross struck a federal gunboat down the river. On the 13th, it engaged in a one and a half-hour cannonade at long range in the morning and again in the evening. On the 14th, the heavy bombardment took place, with the result that Commodore Foote of the Federal Navy, declined any further cooperation with the infantry on the grounds that his fleet was completely disabled. Some of this engagement took place at almost point blank range, but not a single gunboat succeeded in running the gauntlet and passing upstream to cutoff communication, which was their aim.

On February 16, Fort Donelson was surrendered and the men from the Maury Artillery sent first to Camp Butler, Springfield, Illinois; later to Camp Buckner, Chicago, Illinois. They were exchanged at Vicksburg, Mississippi in September 1862 and went into camp at Jackson, Mississippi where they were reorganized with Sparkman as Captain.

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