The Richmond Howitzers

Organized by George Wyeth Randolph, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, at the time of John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, the Richmond Howitzers grew into a battalion of three companies by 1861. An elite unit, the Howitzers served with distinction from 1st Manassas to Appomattox.

The book: "Four Years Under Marse Robert," by Major Robert Stiles of Cabell's Batallion offers these observations of the Richmond Howitzers:

"The composition of the three companies was very similar; that is, all of them were made up largely of young business men and clerks of the highest grade and best character from the city of Richmond, but included also a number of country boys, for the most part of excellent families, with a very considerable infusion of college-bred men, for it was strikingly true that in 1861 the flower of our educated youth gravitated toward the artillery. The outcome was something quite unparalleled, so far as I know. It is safe to say that no less than one hundred men were commissioned from the corps during the war, and these of every rank from a Secretary of War down to a second lieutenant."

"Few things have ever impressed me as did the intellectual and moral character of the men who composed the circle I entered the day our guide led my brother and myself to the Howitzer Camp. I had lived for years at the North, had graduated recently at Yale, and had but just entered upon the study of law in the city of New York, when the war began... To my surprise and delight, around the camp fires of the First Company, Richmond Howitzers, I found throbbing an intellectual life as high and brilliant and intense as any I had ever known."

The First Company - a four gun battery - participated at First Manassas, the Peninsular Campaign, Seven Pines, the Seven Days' Battles, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the retreat from Richmond to Appomattox, among others.

At Gettysburg, on July 2, 1863, it two rifled guns expended 200 rounds of ammunition in less than two hours at Devil's Den, and the next day, one piece alone expended 300 rounds in support of Pickett's Charge. The battery saw its commander, Edward S. McCarthy, killed at Cold Harbor.

The First Company, Richmond Howitzers, which Jennings Cropper Wise, in "The Arm of Lee," wrote had a "splendid reputation" in the Army of Northern Virginia, served the Confederacy faithfully and well from the beginning to the bitter end. According to Robert Stiles, the First Company of the Howitzers marched to Appomattox and "... went down and passed into history, with the immortal Army of Northern Virginia, with all their men, save two, present for duty or honorably accounted for."