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SEAC: LT. STETSON REACHES HIS GUNS


LT. STETSON REACHES HIS GUNS

3-Inch Ordnance Rifle (Source: U.S. Army).In the confusion, First Lieutenant Ebenezer Stetson, U.S.A., commanding the artillery section, raced toward his guns. On reaching one of them, he unlimbered and loaded. Returning quickly to the rear of the piece, he planted a friction primer in the touch hole. A quick jerk to the rear and the piece jumped back from the explosion.

Soldiers fighting around the previously dormant artillery piece recoiled from the blast. In the side yard of the farmhouse, directly in front of the gun, a large opening appeared in the mass of Confederate men and horses. In the center of the opening, men were blown back as if struck by a tornadic wind, leaving many prone and motionless. On the fringe of the blasted opening, men dropped to their knees clutching themselves, while others sat down dazed, not knowing the extent of their injuries. Men dismounted quickly as their horses sank to the ground.

A second’s lull in the melee resulted, as the attention of both the Federals and Confederates was drawn to the guns in an attempt to determine responsibility for the blast. Visible at the rear of the piece was a lone Federal lieutenant, lanyard dangling at his side. Inspired, the dismounted Federals surged forward.

Major Cheek, 5th Kentucky (U.S.) Cavalry (OR 1885):

Lt. Stetson quickly fired a round of grape and canister into the rebel ranks, which greatly encouraged my men, and demoralized and discouraged the rebels to an equal extent.

A quick assessment was made by First Lieutenant Stetson of the effect, then he grabbed up another projectile and vaulted back to the front of the piece to reload and fire again.

Sergeant John Swartz, U.S.A., the artillery Chief of Section, immediately recognized the blast as the report of one of his 3-Inch Ordnance Rifles. Instantly he rushed toward them, followed by several other men. Arriving at the piece, the artillerymen went into action, joining First Lieutenant Stetson in serving the already operational gun and unlimbering to place the other into action (More Information).

The Confederates were completely surprised by the initial discharge of canister into their ranks. Fired from a distance of thirty paces, the shotgun-like blast had devastating effect. It was further disheartening to the Confederate men because just minutes before they had possessed the guns.

This new hazard had to be eliminated quickly or all was lost. Recovering from the initial shock, the Confederates reacted.

Elements of Humes’ Division, having recently completed their trip around the head of the swamp, moved forward, firing on the Wisconsin Section. Major General Butler’s men, along with men from Colonel Hagan’s Brigade of Wheeler’s Corps, attempted to rush the guns on foot. "Lieutenant {John} DeVaux, Captain Humphries and Glenn Davis, of Butler’s command, charged the piece and were shot down" (Howard 1901).

Orderly Sergeant N.A. Hood, C.S.A., 51st Alabama, Partisan Rangers (Hood 1906):

Orders came to cut down the artillery. I held the horse for my Lieutenant while he aided in cutting it down, which was under heavy fire. The 4th Tennessee was formed, mounted near the edge of the woods and near the camp, and I think the 4th did the most gallant fighting that I ever saw men do standing in line on horses.

The concentrated fire from Brigadier General Humes’ men had a telling effect on the exposed gunners, eliminating all but one serving the piece. Several Confederates charged forward, "while the Federal was attempting to reload he was killed by a pistol shot."

Confederates Counterattack

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