Captain J. M. Sparkman’s Battery

Also called Captain Robert P. Griffith’s Company -Captain R. R. Ross’s Company-Maury Artillery -Maury Light Artillery

Company “C”, Monsarrat’s Battalion in November, 1861

Although this company 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 Sante Fe, Maury County, and on October 3, 1861 left for Camp Weakley, near Nashville. Here it was mustered into Confederate service on October 26 by Captain Monsarrat. Monsarrat’s Battalion was a sort of informal organization, which lasted only a short time. Robert P. Griffith became the first captain of the company with R. R. Ross as drillmaster.

On November 1, 1861 General Albert Sidney Johnston directed Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, 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, Kentucky, where it was armed with six light guns. Here Captain 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 was reported in Brigadier General Charles Clark’s Brigade, Brigadier General John B. Floyd’s Division of Major General Hardee’s Central Army of Kentucky.

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 Brigadier General Gideon I. Pillow advised that he had no heavy artillerists, and 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 had no experience in handling heavy artillery. Its light battery was turned over to others, without ever having been used in actual combat. Colonel Milton A. Haynes, Chief of Tennessee Corps of Artillery, reported: “Captain Ross, and his company, just arrived from Hopkinsville, voluntarily gave up their light battery, and took charge of the half moon battery, containing the rifled gun and two carronades, furnishing a detachment, under the charge of Lieutenant Stankiewitz, to man the 8-inch howitzers, and two nine pound nondescripts.

* * *The columbiad was 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’ Battery arrived. The rifled gun was a sixty-four pounder and the pintle and pintle plate for this gun too had arrived only the evening before, with no opportunity for testing. With guns which had never been tested, and artillerists with no experience, Captain Ross and his men turned in a remarkable performance against ironclad gunboats which the experience at Fort Henry had given a reputation for invulnerability. Captain Ross took personal charge of the rifled gun, and Lieutenant Bedford of the columbiad.

Captain Ross’s report said the battery arrived at Dover February to man the heavy guns. On the morning of the 12th, at long range, some two and one half miles, the rifled gun under Captain Ross struck a Federal gunboat down the river. On the 13th, it engaged in one and a half hour a cannonade at long range in the morning and once 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 co-operation 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 cut off 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. Although reorganized as light artillery they had neither cannon nor horses, and after remaining at Jackson for about two months, with no prospect of securing either, they were sent to Port Hudson, Louisiana, where they formed part of what was known as the First Tennessee Heavy Artillery Battalion. The other companies composing this organization were the Nelson Artillery (Captain Fisher), and the Rock City Artillery (Captain Weller). This organization was for a time commanded alternately by the three captains, but on February 6, 1563, Lieutenant Colonel P. F. DeGournay of the 12th Louisiana Heavy Artillery Battalion took command of the combined units and remained in command until the surrender on July 8, 1863. Captain Sparkman was mortally wounded on May 27, 1863 and died on June 4. On the last official report before the surrender, on June 30, 1863, there were only 77 men in the entire Tennessee Battalion reported present for duty, with an aggregate of 164 men.

The men were paroled at Port Hudson, and most of them, though enfeebled by fatigue, sickness, and low diet, set out to walk back to Tennessee. Ten men, too feeble to walk, were given transportation by the Federals via steamer to Memphis, but the authorities there refused to respect their paroles and sent them to prison in the North, where they remained until the end of the war. Many of the men who reached Maury County were arrested and sent to prison for refusing to take the oath of allegiance, despite the fact they had been paroled and were awaiting exchange.

The surrender at Port Hudson marked the end of the Maury Light Artillery as an organization, but after being declared exchanged, three of them were found on the muster roll of Captain Fisher’s Heavy Artillery Company in April, 1864, and 11 men on the roll of the 9th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion for December 31, 1864.

This unit history was extracted from Tennesseans in the Civil War, Vol 1. Copyrighted 1964 by the Civil War Centennial Commission of Tennessee and is published here with their permission. This history may not be republished for any reason without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Comments are closed.