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Vermont Artillery

1st Vermont Battery, Light Artillery

by Edward E. Greenleaf, 1st Lieutenant

The First Vermont Battery of Light Artillery was recruited mainly by the exertions of George T. Hebard of Chelsea, who opened a recruiting station at Montpelier, in December, 1861, where he enlisted about one hundred men; a recruiting station was also opened at South Shaftsbury by George W. Duncan, where about fifty men were enlisted.

It formed part of the troops which were raised by the State of Vermont, as part of the New England Division being organized for service under Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, and was mustered into State service in January, 1862, George W. Duncan of South Shaftsbury being elected captain, George T. Hebard of Chelsea, senior 1st Lieutenant, and Edward Rice of Shaftsbury, junior 1st Lieutenant. Immediately after muster into State service the battery was, on January 21, 1862, ordered into camp at Camp Holbrook, Brattleboro, and attached to the Eighth Vermont regiment under command of Colonel Stephen Thomas. It was mustered into the Unites States service February 18, 1862, and the organization completed by the election of S. B. Hebard of Chelsea, senior 2nd Lieutenant, and Henry N. Colburn of Rutland, as junior 2nd Lieutenant, and by the appointment of non-commissioned officers.

Leaving Brattleboro early in March, the battery went with the Eighth regiment to New York, where, with the right wing of the regiment in command of Lieut.-Col. E. M. Brown, it embarked on the transport ship "Wallace, " en route for Ship Island, Mississippi, arriving at that place April 5, 1862. While at Ship Island the battery was detached from the Eighth regiment, and attached as an independent command to the brigade commanded by Gen.John W. Phelps.

Early in May, one section of the battery, in command of Capt. George W. Duncan, was detailed for garrison duty at Fort Pike, Louisiana, and soon after the other two sections, in command of Lieut. George T. Hebard, were ordered to accompany the Seventh Vermont regiment to New Orleans, going by way of the "Rigolets" and Lake Pontchartrain, to Lakeport, and from thence to Camp Parapet on the Mississippi River, some six miles above New Orleans, where they were soon after joined by the section from Fort Pike. While stationed at Camp Parapet, the battery was engaged in mounting heavy guns and in garrison duty principally, until Gen. N. P. Banks assumed command of the Department of the Gulf. Very soon after this the battery received its equipment of 6 three inch steel rifles, and was mad ready for active service in the field. It was assigned to First Division, and under command of Gen. T. W. Sherman, being stationed at Metaire Ridge race course, between New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

On the 21st of January, soon after the battery had received its equipment, Capt. G. W. Duncan resigned, and Lieut. George T. Hebard was promoted to the command of the battery, and under his able management, strict discipline and skillful instructions, it soon took high rank for drill, discipline and efficiency, wining much praise from Division and Department Commanders, and although it had been equipped for active service less than three months, at the organization of the Port Hudson campaign, it was given a prominent position and took an active part in the several skirmishes that preceded the unsuccessful assault made by Gen. W. T. Sherman in May, as well as during the assault, leading in the artillery firing during the night previous, and also during the actual assault, only retiring from the action after having expended all the ammunition except six rounds of canister per gun. After this unsuccessful assault the battery was stationed during the remainder of the siege at "Battery No. 4, " a small earthwork on the left of the centre, and within right range of the enemy's works. Several sttempts were made by the enemy's artillery and sharpshooters to drive the battery from its position, but by the accuracy of their fire, the battery gunners soon dismounted or disabled every gun within range, and inspired their opponents with a wholesome respect for "The Gray Horse Battery."

After the surrender of Port Hudson, the battery was stationed at various points along the Mississippi River, but principally at Baton Rouge. It participated in the unsuccessful Sabine Pass expedition, starting from Baton Rouge on the transport steamer "Exact." It took no part in the engagement at the mouth of the Sabine River, except to be in readiness to land, to take part in the assault upon the earth-works that commanded the landing at the mouth of the river, as soon as the gunboats, "Clifton" and "Arizona" had driven back a large "Cotton Clad" at the mouth of the river; but as the gunboats were repulsed and disabled, the landing was not attempted, and the expedition returned to New Orleans. During the winter and spring of 1864, the battery was stationed at Brashear City, Louisiana, on the east shore of Berwick Bay, doing garrison duty, and serving on detached duty on steamers for the Quartermasters' department, until the Red River campaign was organized.

In this campaign the battery took an active part, being engaged in nearly every skirmish, and in every engagement of any note, except the battle of Mansfield, April 8, 1864, in which it did not participate by reason of having led the column the day previous. It had gone to the rear of the division and given place to the "Chicago Mercantile Battery, " which led the column, and when the tidings of the battle were brought to the rear, the crowded and well-nigh impassible roads rendered it impossible for the battery to gt but a few miles, when it was met by Captain Neal, First Delaware Battery, with orders from Capt. H. W.Closson, chief of artillery for the First Division, Nineteenth Army Corps, to join General Cameron's Division, Thirteenth Army Corps, and proceed to Pleasant Hill, at which place the battery arrived April 9. At noon of that day, by order of General Richard Arnold, chief of Artillery, Department of the Gulf, Captain Hebard, with the right and left sections of the battery, under command of Lieutenants Rice and Greanleaf, took position on the right of the Third Brigade, First Division, Nineteenth Army Corps, near the Natchitoches road, Lieutenant Gould with the centre section being posted farther to the left.

At 3 p. m. fire was opened by the left section, under Lieutenant Greenleaf, on the enemy's artillery, and soon silenced it. At about 4 p. m. the enemy endeavored to drive the right and left sections from this position, by opening on it with musketry, followed by a charge, and such was its danger of capture that General Banks, who was near, ordered the guns to be spiked, and the men to retreat, but Captain Hebard's order "Spike your guns with canister and--quick, too, " being obeyed, several volleys of canister broke the advancing line, and ended the action. At Cane River Crossing, the left section, under Captain Hebard, was the first artillery to ford the river, after having successfully engaged and driven off the enemy's artillery which commanded the ford.

At Yellow Bayou, Bayou de Glaise, and at the crossing of the Atchafalaya river the battery took a prominent part, also at above Alexandria, where the gunboats under Admiral Porter were detained at the rapids by low water, the battery was continuously on duty as guard during the building of the dam devised by Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey, to deepen the water in the channel and enable the gunboats to pass down the river.

At Yellow Bayou, May 18, 1864, two sections of the battery under command of Lieutenants Rice and Greenleaf were detailed to serve with General Mower's commands of the Sixteenth Army Corps, and formed part of the read guard of the expedition, during the remainder of the campaign, until after crossing the Atchafalaya river at Simmesport. The left section of the battery, under command of Lieutenant Greenleaf being the last troops to cross the river, the bridge which had been made by interlacing the bows of river steamers pointing alternately up and down stream, being broken up by withdrawing a steamer as soon as the battery had passed over it. After crossing, the battery returned to the original command and was highly commended by General Mower for the efficient service rendered.

This closed the active service of the battery, which, early in June, 1864, was stationed at Morganzia Bend, Louisiana, being transferred early in July to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and stationed at Fort Williams, at which place, preparatory to being sent to Vermont to be mustered out, its equipment was turned over to the Thirteenth Wisconsin Battery, and on July 22, 1864, the men of the battery, whose term of service had expired, were, under command of Lieutenant Greenleaf, ordered to proceed via Cairo and Chicago to Brattleboro, Vermont, to be mustered out, by reason of expiration of term of service, and they were accordingly mustered out August 10, 1864.

The First Vermont Battery, though early separated from other Vermont organizations, and assigned to service with troops from other States and to duties that for a time kept it from active service, always upheld the honor of the Green Mountain state, and when at last placed in the field, by its drill and discipline, as well as by the prompt and efficient service it always rendered whenever called upon, it won the commendation of all with whom it had the honor to serve, and while its Guidons bear the honor-marks of but few battles as compared with the many of other Vermont organizations, it is not for want of bravery, but rather from the lack of opportunities to show it.

Mustered into the service of the United States February 18, 1862. Original members mustered out of service August 10, 1864. Recruits transferred to Second Vermont Light Artillery, August 10, 1864.

(Source: Revised Roster, pp 625-627)