Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Richmond Fayette Artillery: Private George Patterson Vaden, my Great Great Grandfather

Crossed Cannon Artillery Symbol


The Richmond Fayette Artillery was originally organized as the Richmond Light Artillery.  The organization took place on May 3, 1821 at a meeting at the Rising Sun Tavern.  When the bells of secession rang in Richmond, this was one of the few regiments that was already prepared for the coming war. 

The Richmond Light Artillery changed their name to The Richmond Fayette Artillery in July of 1824 to honor a visit from the Marquis de Lafayette.  Lafayette was flattered by this honor and presented the Company with two brass six-pounder guns, which he originally brought to the country during the American Revolution. 

The citizen battery proved itself worthy of praise.  They had received several accolades in artillery firing contests and had been called on to fire their guns at July 4th celebrations and funerals for the Nation's elite.  President James Monroe and Speaker of the House Henry Clay are just two of the many men honored by this regiment. 

By 1861, the nation was facing turmoil.  It was an apparent need to keep these citizen-military organizations intact as tensions grew.  On January 2, 1861, the Richmond Fayette Artillery's new Captain, Henry Cabell called for all members of the company to assemble at their armory for company drill and a meeting.  He stressed "that every member should be present."  The stage was set for national conflict.  The Richmond Fayette Artillery needed to be prepared.  Cabell would later be promoted to the rank of Colonel for the regiment.

Within a week of Virginia's April 17, 1861 passage of the ordinance of secession, rumors began to swirl that the gunboat, USS Pawnee, was steaming up the James and heading for Richmond.  The Richmond Fayette Artillery and the Richmond Howitzers were called to defend against the threat on Sunday April 24, thereafter known as Pawnee Sunday.   The two artillery units were ordered to Wilton's Bluff, about 7 miles below Richmond.  By the following day, the scare had passed and the units were ordered back to Richmond.

On April 25, 1861, the Fayette Artillery was officially mustered into the service of the State of Virgina with four officers and 108 enlisted men.   My Great Great Grandfather, George Patterson Vaden, was one of these enlisted men. 

George Patterson Vaden was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia in about 1840.  He enlisted as a Private in the Richmond Fayette Artillery on April 25, 1861 at the age of 21.  The Fayette Artillery was originally attached to the 1st Virginia Artillery Battalion.  It would later be attached to the 38th Virginia Artillery Battalion.


George Patterson Vaden's 1st Muster Roll

The Richmond Fayette Artillery was part of Colonel Henry Cabell's Batallion, General George Pickett's Division.  George's immediate superior officer was Captain William Clopton.  Being attached to Pickett's Division, the Fayette Artillery would cover the now infamous Pickett/Pettigrew Charge at Gettysburg. 

In November of 1862, the Fayette Artillery,  the Lynchburg Artillery and the Fauquier Artillery were assigned to soon-to-be Major James G. Dearings Battalion.  This battalion was now attached to the Virginia 38th Infantry Regiment.  In Dearings Battalion, the unit participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Suffolk campaign before beginning their long summer tramp North. 

On July 1, 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg commenced with the 38th Battalion being some 25 miles away.  Dearing and his men wouldn't arrive on the battlefield until about noon on July 2nd.  Immediately Dearing sought out Colonel Alexander, who commanded General James Longstreet's Artillery Corps.  Alexander ordered Dearing to return fire to the enemy guns that had been harassing him all morning.  This was the extent of the battalions actions on the 2nd.

July 3, 1863 brought the final day of battle to Gettysburg.  At daybreak, the battalion "marched up to the field of battle, and was, later in the morning, put in position on the crest of the hill immediately in front of the enemy's position."   As soon as the guns went online, a Federal skirmish party started advancing towards the gun line.  Dearings men didn't include any infantry troops.  The artillery men turned the guns toward the advancing Federals and quickly popped off about a dozen rounds.   This caused delays in the Federal advance.  Although the Union force was eventually driven back, they were able to wound several of the gunners and the horses around the battery. 


Panel on General Picket's tombstone mentioning the 38th Battalion of Artillery


Following this brief skirmish, the battalion now prepared to participate in the cannonade to support Pickett's Charge. The Fayette Artillery's Captain William Clopton's words describe the mood perfectly.  "Here we lay until one o'clock, such terrible suspense I never endured."

At 1:00pm, the signal gun from the Washington Artillery was fired.  Dearings guns were moved to the crest of a slight ridge.   Here they were tasked with softening up the Federal lines via heavy cannon fire.  At first, the shots were slow and deliberate.  Dearing wrote:

"The firing on the part of my battery was very good, and most of the shell and shrapnel burst well.  My fire was directed at the batteries immediately in my front, and which occupied the heights....Three caissons were seen by myself to blow up, and I saw several batteries of the enemy leave the field.  At one time, just before General Pickett's division advanced, the batteries of the enemy in our front had nearly all ceased firing."

History would later reveal that the Union was expecting a daring offensive move from the Confederates.  The Confederates thought their artillery had softened the Union line and Pickett/Pettigrew's men were ordered to advance.   In reality, the Union guns had only ceased firing to show the appearance of being weakened.   


Major General George Pickett

By the time Pickett/Pettigrew's men swept across the field, the Union guns were back to firing with full force.  Five Union guns were ordered to open fire with double canister at the advancing Confederates.  Men in gray disappeared into oblivion.  It was a bloodbath.  By the end of the day, Pickett/Pettigrew's Division suffered 2,655 casualties of killed, wounded and missing in action.  Pickett's three brigade commanders and all thirteen of his regimental commanders were casualties. Kemper was wounded, and Garnett and Armistead did not survive. Trimble and Pettigrew were the most senior casualties, the former losing a leg and the latter wounded in the hand and later being mortally wounded during the retreat to Virginia.  Dearing's own losses included 7 killed in action, 16 wounded in action,  13 captured and 37 horses lost.  General James Johnston Pettigrew is my 2nd cousin 5x removed and will be the focus of a forthcoming entry.

General George Pickett's Grave in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA

General Pickett never forgave Lee for his offensive move at Gettysburg.  In a conversation with Colonel John Mosby after the war, it's reported that Picket said this about Lee, "That man destroyed my division."


Close up of inscription


On May 5, 1864, Union Major General Benjamin F. Butler and his Army of the James landed at Bermuda Hundred, a neck of land north of City Point at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers, only 15 miles south of Richmond. Marching overland, they advanced within three miles of Drewry's Bluff by May 9. While several Union regiments did manage to capture Fort Darling's outer defenses, delays by Union generals spoiled the success. Confederate infantry under General P.G.T. Beauregard seized the initiative and successfully counterattacked on May 16. The Union drive on Richmond had been defeated at Drewry's Bluff. 

10-inch Columbiad at Drewry's Bluff circa 1865
Modern view of 10-inch Columbiad

A postwar reference indicates that George Patterson Vaden was injured at the Confederate stronghold, Drewry's Bluff on May 16, 1864.  It sends chills down my spine to think I could have been standing in the proximity of my Great Great Grandfather's injury.   The Richmond Dispatch from Monday May 23, 1864 included a partial listing of casualties "on the Southside":  Richmond Fayette Artillery, Lt. Clotpton commanding--Wounded:  Private Geo. P Vaden, severely in arm. 

Manning the 10-inch Columbiad
View down the barrel of the Confederate Columbiad

Modern view of Drewry's Bluff

The Richmond Fayette Artillery participated in the bloody Battle of Cold Harbor from May 31 to June 12, 1864.  A four-gun battery, which was part of Major James P.W. Read's Battalion, held the below position during the battle, and participating in repulsing both the June 1 evening and June 3 main Union assaults.


Cannon placements at Cold Harbor marking approximate position of Richmond Fayette Artillery's four gun Battery

On Saturday September 29, 2012, I had the honor of standing in the exact placement of a battery of cannon in which the Richmond Fayette Artillery repulsed a Union counterattack.  I very well could have been standing where my Great Great Grandfather stood One Hundred and Forty Eight Years ago.  Muster rolls show George Patterson Vaden was present during the time of the Cold Harbor battle, indicating his injury from Drewry's Bluff had healed. 



Manning the cannon at Cold Harbor

The Fayette Artillery saw action during the Siege of Petersburg.   Following the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, the 38th Battalion moved west with the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 2, 1865.  On April 6th, portions of the Artillery participated in the rearguard action near the Lockett Farm on Saylor's Creek.  Half a dozen men from the Fayette were captured and taken prisoner.   The battery continued moving west towards Appomattox.  Along the route several of the guns were spiked, destroyed and left in the road.   Several men surrendered with the Army of Northern Virginia, others just made their way back home.  George Patterson Vaden seems to be one of these men who made their way back home as there is no record of parole or pardon in his service record.

Following the Civil War, George was a conductor on the railroad, just like his grandson Robert William Vaden/Lewis.  Due to his career on the railroad, he traveled around quite a bit.  The Richmond Dispatch from March 23, 1888 (page 1, column 4) states:  Captain George P. Vaden left yesterday to accept a position as a conductor on the Kanawha and Ohio railroad.   A column entitled "Manchester Matters:  Items of Interest from the Other Side of the Bridge from The Richmond Times dated July 19, 1891 states:  Mr. George P. Vaden and Mr. H.C. Whitlock returned yesterday from a pleasure trip to Niagara Falls.

George Patterson Vaden died from complications of paralysis on November 16, 1892.  He is buried in Maury Cemetery, Richmond Virginia.


The following information comes from a summary of George Patterson Vaden's Widow's Pension written by Laura Keyes Perry on November 18, 2002:

On 20 January 1927, Virginia Harris Vaden filled out an application for a pension as the widow of a Confederate veteran. She stated that she was 71 years old and had been born in New York City. She had lived in Virginia for 47 years, and in Richmond for 25 years. Her current address was 3602 Lawson Street, Richmond -- presumably south Richmond, as she states that she lives in Chesterfield County. She was living with her daughter. She had married George Patterson Vaden on 19 July 1882 in Manchester, with Rev. B. Y. Woodward officiating. George had died in Manchester in 1892 of "complications and paralysis." Virginia did remarry after George's death. She writes, "My husband Lorenzo Taylor obtained [a] divorce, because we could not live together. I did not fight the divorce. He is now dead.  She stated that she had no income and no real or personal property, and she had never before applied for a pension. The application states that George served in Fayette Artillery, Cabells Battalion, Picketts Division. His immediate superior officer was Captain William Clopton. Virginia did not know the names of any men who had served with him. The application is signed "Mrs. Virginia Harris Vaden." The Clerk of the Hustings Court of Richmond stated that she had sworn that the statements she made were true. His name was DuVal. R. A. Bowers and J. G. Gill signed as resident witnesses, saying that they had known the applicant for 40 years and knew her to be a resident of Richmond and "a woman of good reputation for truth and honesty." Geo. W. Huband and J. Lipscomb signed a statement that they had served with George Patterson Vaden, who had been a "true and loyal soldier," and that he had died of paralysis on or about 16 November 1892. The physician's statement says that both Vaden's doctors, Dr. E. T. R---- and Dr. F. P. Mathews, had died. A. W. Miller, Commander of the Jos. E. Johnson Camp of Confederate Veterans, signed his approval of Virginia's application. Commissioner of Revenue John E. Rose, Jr. stated that she had no taxable real or personal property. W. B. Lightfoot signed his approval as Chairman of the Richmond Pensions Board. Judge William A. Moncure signed a statement that the witnesses were "persons of well known reputation for truth, honesty and integrity." On 3 March 1927, the Pensions Department in Richmond sent a request for his records, listing him as George Patterson Vaden, formerly a soldier in Fayette's Artillery, Cabell's Battalion, Pickett's Division, Captain William Clopton. The War Office in Washington, DC, sent this reply: "The records show that George P. Vaden, also borne [in the rolls] as George P. Vadin and George P. Varden, pvt., Co. I, 1st Va. Art., C.S.A., (also known as Capt. Henry C. Cabell's Co. Light Art., Richmond Fayette Art.) enlisted Apr. 25, 1861, at Richmond, and on muster roll for May and June 1862, is shown present. The records show that the above named organization became Capt. Macons Co. Va. Art., about July 1862, and early in 1863, it was assigned to the 38th Batt'n. Va. Art. as Co. B. The name George P. Vaden appears as a pvt., of the last named organization and on muster roll for July and Aug. 1863, is shown present. On muster roll for Jan. and Feb. 1865,  he is shown present. No record of capture, parole or later service has been found." The outside of the application indicates that Virginia did receive a pension.

Here's my relation to George:

George Patterson Vaden (1840 - 1892)
is your 2nd great grandfather
William A. Vaden (1885 - 1916)
Son of George Patterson
Robert William Lewis (1913 - 1990)
Son of William A.
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Robert William
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce

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