Technically, Squires Battery is the 1st Company of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans. Charles W. Squires began his career with the Washington Artillery at age 19 as the 1st Company’s First Lieutenant. Squires, along with three hundred other members of the battalion was sworn into service of the Confederate States “for the duration of the war” on May 26, 1861 in Lafayette square, New Orleans. The Washington Artillery quickly traveled by train to Richmond, Virginia arriving on June 4th to complete its organization and equipping itself for war.
The 1st Company participated in all civil war actions that involved the Washington Artillery beginning with first Battle of Manassas. Lieutenant Squires commanded seven guns of the Washington Artillery guns in action on July 18th at Blackburn’s Ford. He was promoted to Captain in September 1861 after the original commander of 1st Company resigned.
By the time of the first Battle of Fredericksburg, Squires battery was armed with two 3-inch Ordinance rifles and one 10-Pound Parrott rifle. It was the only rifled battery in the Washington Artillery battalion. All other companies or batteries of the Washington Artillery were armed with either 12-pound Napoleons or a combination of Napoleons and 12-pound Howitzers. Following the December battle, for an unspecified reason, the 1st Company lost its 10-pound Parrott rifle reducing it to the two 3-inch rifles with which they fought the second battle of Fredericksburg during the Chancellorsville Campaign. This reduction may have occurred during the second major reorganization of Confederate artillery, which happened by special order signed by General Lee on 16 April 1863.
William Miller Owen, in his piece on the Washington Artillery published in Century Magazine in 1884 and compiled in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, provides us with several items of information useful in positioning Squires Battery for both Fredericksburg battles.
“…[T]wo 3-inch rifle-guns of the 1st Company, under Captain Squires and Lieutenant Brown, on the left, next to a little brick-house and in front of the Welford [Willis] graveyard, and one 10-pounderParrott rifle under Lieutenant Galbraith, of the 1st Company next to the Plank road [old Orange Turnpike, now Hanover Street] leading into Fredericksburg.” In his book on the Washington Artillery published in 1885, Owen modified the placement of the guns stating that one of the 3-inch rifles was on the Plank road while the 10-pound Parrott rifle joined the other 3-inch rifle adjacent to the small brick house. For reasons of ammunition supply during an engagement, I favor keeping the two 3-inch rifles in the same location.
The second piece of information relates to the work the artillerists did upon reaching their assigned gun pits. “For the first time our army will fight behind dirt.”
“On “Marye’s” the engineers have laid out works for three of our batteries, en barbette, — that is, with the work only as high as a man’s breast, or as the muzzle of a cannon, — but we improve upon their work by raising the earth higher, and arranging embrasures to fire through. The engineers say we spoil their work, as we not they, have to stand here in case Burnside comes across, they will remain as we have altered them.”
“As the position is enfiladed by the enemy’s batteries at Falmouth, strong traverses are built to protect us from a flank fire”
I start with a familiar picture used in several previous blogs concerning Willis Hill and the Washington Artillery. First is the familiar AJ Russell shot from April 1863 of the Confederate soldiers standing across the Rappahannock River on the railroad bridge where I enlarge the background. This time we focus on the artillery emplacement to the right of the Mitchell Dependency in the photo. In the foreground you can see the railroad Freight Depot tower which stood in town.
On either side of that tower, we can make out the embrasure or firing ports of Squires battery. Note the somewhat crude construction, evidence of which is the vertical tree limbs spaced out along the length of the earthwork. My surmise is that these were added, per Owen above, by the artillerists as they raised the height of the earthwork initially provided by the engineers. Smaller diameter branches were likely woven horizontally between them to hold the dirt as they raised the height of the gun pit walls on the inside. On the outside of the gun pit, the excess earth would simply have rolled down making the gun pit walls thicker and therefore more secure for the occupants.
The Michler map of 1867 is useful in placing the guns described by Owen. The two 3-inch rifles were located near the Willis Hill cemetery and adjacent to the Mitchell Dependency (I added it and highlighted it in yellow on the map) I also show the Russell photo point of view (in red) as well as a James Gardner photo taken from the Marye mansion hill (in blue).
My second photo was taken in May 1864 during the Overland Campaign while the Federal army was fighting General Lee’s army in the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. The Union used Fredericksburg as a point of resupply and as an intermediate hospital location for their thousands of wounded. This was one of several photos were taken while the Union possessed the town at that time.
In this photo by James Gardner, taken from Marye’s hill looking south towards Willis Hill, you can see the Mitchel Dependency lurking in the background. It had been significantly damaged by Union artillery fire during the second battle of Fredericksburg in the previous year. On the skyline you can just make out some of the earthworks Owen described in his narrative. Originally shot as a stereograph taken of some of the out-buildings on the Marye estate.
Next, I use a page from the field survey notes drawn by Major Weyss and crew that are the basis of the Michler map of 1867 seen above. I oriented it so that you could read the notations of direction and distance.
I added the approximate location of the Mitchell Dependency in yellow for ease of placing Squires battery. Evidently, by the time the survey crew arrived on the scene, the building had been eliminated as a feature on the landscape. In working with the field drawing, I discovered it is thematically correct. Objects appear roughly where they were physically located. The surveyors depended upon further interpretation of the distances and azimuth directions for accurate orientation. It proved to be not to scale. That job was left to the map draftsman to make adjustments in constructing the final map. You can compare these field notes with the actual Michler map above. Note that the drawing is linear while the map takes into account the way the height bends west as it extends to the south.
This photo with the confederate earthworks and the destroyed Mitchell buildings in the right background shows one of the gun pits in the foreground. In studying this in more detail, I believe I can make out the embrasure or firing port that is seen in the Russell photo above to the left of the railroad Freight Depot tower. The earth on either side of the embrasure is higher. It is somewhat worn down due to weather in the intervening year and by curious Union soldiers walking along the top of the gun pit. You can see two such men sitting on one side of the embrasure looking off to Fredericksburg in the distance (out of view). I highlighted the peculiar damage to the building, sort of like a smile with a missing tooth.
Next, I return to the Gardner 1864 photo. When I enlarged it, I was able to clearly make out the damaged Mitchell Dependency. You can see the unique shape of the upper portion of the building.
Just below the Dependency and to its right, you can make out the vertical tree limbs seen in the April Russell photo shown at the beginning of this blog. You can see how far to the rear of the actual gun pit the traverses mentioned earlier by Owen extended. This extension seems to follow the upper elevation of the ravine that lies between Marye’s Hill and Willis Hill. During the second Battle of Fredericksburg, Union troops proceeded up this ravine to overpower Squires and capture Willis Hill from the rear and the remainder of Marye’s Heights, fanning out north and south as they advanced.
I return again to the Russell photo. You can see the embrasure or firing port for one of Squires 3-inch rifles. You will also notice a tree, possibly overlooked when first viewing the photo that stands to the right of the Dependency. I circled the tree. Note its girth and position adjacent to the Dependency.
Taking a close look at the Brady photo, I noticed a large tree stump located at the far edge of the gun pit. This tree was another victim of Union artillery fire during the second Battle of Fredericksburg on 3 May 1863. Similar to the Dependency, it was apparently knocked down enough that it was removed before this photo was taken, probably for fire wood. I believe it is the same tree seen in the Russell photo.
There were two field survey pages from the Michler team that cover Willis and Marye’s Hills. This one helps us find the gun pit occupied by Lieutenant Galbraith is aligned with what was then called the old Orange Turnpike now Hanover Street. This road is often mistaken with the Plank Road, that is the extension of William Street, by civil war participants and subsequent historians.
“The captain [Squires] moved Lieutenant John M. Galbraith’s 10-pounder Parrott to a point just north of Hanover Street in line with the [Marye’s] mansion”. This line found in Frank O’Reilly’s book on the December battle of Fredericksburg helps us tie down Galbraith’s gun. Looking at the alignment of the Marye mansion you can easily see that the author is talking about the alignment of the building itself.
There were no photographs of this important but inconspicuous gun pit. In their place, I use an enlarged section of the Alfred Waud panorama of the December 1862 battle.
You can make out the Marye mansion, Brompton. To its right is the tree lined extension of Hanover Street. To the right of Hanover is Galbraith’s gun.
When overlaid on the GIS topo of the same area, the gun pit appears to have stood on the site of the current Jepson Alumni Executive Center building of Mary Washington University. This position on the crest of the ridge allowed it to fire directly down Hanover Street where it crests the ridge in Fredericksburg. This gave Galbraith‘s gun a height advantage of 50 feet (15 meters). The gun stood on an elevation of 130 feet (40 meters) while the ridge on Hanover Street near “Federal Hill” had an elevation of 70 feet (21 meters). It proved so dangerous to Union troop movement that General Hancock directed his troops to move one street further north to George Street, so as to remain out of the line of fire of this gun. George Street joined Hanover Street at the bottom of the ridge close to the canal ditch. From this point they came under fire from Squires two other guns, as well as the guns of the Donaldsonville Artillery that were located further north on what today are the main grounds of Mary Washington University.
In the second Battle of Fredericksburg fought during the Chancellorsville Campaign, three companies (1st, 3rd, and 4th) of the Washington Artillery battalion were scattered all along Marye’s Heights from near Route One to Squires battery location near the Dependency. This line had been defended by four batteries during the first battle primarily armed with rifled guns; Squires, Maurin, Grundy, and Lewis. Most of the guns had been rifles instead of the Napoleons and Howitzers of the Washington Artillery. The accounts of this battle have long plagued historians and participants who attempted to render a coherent description. For the second battle, there were only four guns on Willis Hill. Two 10-pounder Parrott rifles manned by Parker’s Battery artillerists, under command of Lieutenant Brown, were located at the south end of Willis Hill in the gun pits that had been manned by four guns of Eshleman’s Battery in the December battle. The other guns were those of Squires; two 3-inch rifles in his original pits near the Dependency.
Owen tells us that “About 8 A.M. [May 3rd, 1863] the First company Washington Artillery, Capt. Squires, with two 3-inch rifles, was ordered to Marye’s Hill, on the right of the dwelling. When the second gun came into position the enemy opened fire on the battery. The first shell killed Sergt. West, passing through his arm and body.” This then placed Squires back precisely where his two guns fought in December.
Both Parker’s two 10-pound Parrott rifles and Squires two 3-inch rifles were captured when General John Sedgwick’s Sixth Corps captured Marye’s Heights and Willis Hill on 3 May 1863.
Owen, William Miller, In Camp and Battle with the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, Boston: Ticknor, 1885, reprinted by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1999. P175-6, 214-5.
O’Reilly, Francis Augustin, The Fredericksburg Campaign; Winter War on the Rappahannock, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA, p 106.
Owen, William Miller, in, A Hot Day on Marye’s Heights, Johnson, RU, Buel, CC, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 3, Castle, Syracuse NY, 1985, p97.
Michler-Weiss Survey Books, cupboard1, shelf 5, box 9, book 6, Record Group 77, National Archives, Washington DC. 1867.
Michler 1867 map of Fredericksburg https://www.loc.gov/item/99439215/
Charles W. Squires, http://www.washingtonartillery.com/
AJ Russell showing Confederates at the RR Bridge, Library of Congress 35084, http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.35084/
Brady photo of Confederate Works at Marye’s Heights, Fredericksburg VA, National Archives 111-B-509, https://research.archives.gov/id/524926
James Gardner photo titled: Fredericksburg, Virginia. House near Marye’s house on heights in the rear of Fredericksburg showing the effects of shot and shell. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003005984/PP/
Alfred Waud, Attack on the rebel works. Fredericksburg. Dec. 13th  LOC DRWG/US-Waud, no. 189, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004660277/