Mississippians in the Artillery

Postwar photograph of Major Charles Swett, commander of the Warren Light Artillery from Vicksburg, Mississippi - Photo courtesy of the Old Court House Museum, Vicksburg, Mississippi

An elite and highly skilled branch of service, the artillery was also the smallest; the men who served the guns made up only 18% of the Confederate army. Civil War artillery was broken down into two main classifications: heavy artillery and field or light artillery. It was in the light artillery that most Mississippians served, as these guns were mobile enough to keep up with the army when it marched.

There were two basic types of light artillery: mounted artillery in which the men marched beside their guns, and horse artillery, sometimes called flying artillery, in which every man in the unit rode a horse. Because of its mobility, horse artillery was often attached to the cavalry.

During the Civil War artillery was organized around a battery, which consisted of either four or six guns. A captain commanded a typical battery, and under him lieutenants commanded every two guns, known as a section. A sergeant, known as the chief of the piece, commanded an individual gun. Under him were two corporals, one known as the gunner who actually aimed the cannon, while the other was in charge of the caisson that carried the reserve ammunition for the gun.

At full strength each battery had 155 men including officers and non-commissioned officers. Of the privates, 70 worked the cannon, and another 52 were drivers for the 72 horses needed to pull the guns, caissons, forge, and battery wagon.

The Mississippians who served in the artillery tended to be a bit better educated that the average soldier because the highly complex artillery pieces needed intelligent, mechanically adept men to crew and service them.

The majority of Mississippi artillerymen served in the western theater of the war, which only made since given the long period of time needed to raise, equip, and train a battery of artillery. Because of this, most were unavailable when the first enthusiastic volunteers from Mississippi flocked to Richmond, Virginia, to help defend the Confederate capitol in 1861.

The largest concentration of Mississippi artillery units in any one place during the war was with the Army of Vicksburg in 1863. Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton had eleven batteries of Mississippi artillery under his command during the siege of Vicksburg.

The next largest concentration of Mississippi artillerymen was with the Army of Tennessee in 1864. A return covering the period from May 1 – September 8, 1864, showed seven batteries of Mississippi artillery with the army.

Although most Mississippi artillerymen served in the western theater, the state did have two batteries of light artillery serving in the Army of Northern Virginia.


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