The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion – John C. Tidball

This work is a newly reprinted collection gathered from a turn-of-the-20th century journal. Tidball was a veteran of the Civil War, serving with the horse artillery in the East.  He stayed with the army and became a teacher of artillery, writing the Army Manual on the subject.

The book is an overview of the organization of the artillery and its practice in battle during the war.  Tidball is very critical of the lack of organization – the scattering of batteries under infantry officers, the absence of staff and higher ranks to administer for the guns, and the lack of promotion for gun officers, and when they did get promoted they became infantry officers!

There is a partly funny anecdote showing some of the confusion – at one point the War Department was refusing to allow artillery generals, saying that batteries were companies and so few companies needed no general. and the Army was saying that the artllery needed no officers above Captain, since they were regiments and the only officers needed above the regimental level were Generals.

He traces in early battles how, ironically, artillery tended to do better when ccnfusion shook the guns out of the tight lockdown with small units and allowed them to act as a more independent arm. The Army of the Potomac was lucky in that they always had one unit, the Artillery Reserve, that acted in that fashion.  The Western armies had to ‘discover’ this in the confusion of each battle.

With time, the armies reorganized into a system where batteries were collected at the Corps level and some moderate command and staff were given to control the guns, taking the responsibility from the infantry commander.  While the ranks weren’t as high as they probably should have been — personally I think that a battery should be considered as a regiment, and so be led by majors and colonels.  This would let corps level officers be colonels and generals, and outrank battery commanders, and would let the chief of artillery for an army be equivalent to a corps commander in rank.

In any event, it is an interesting look at the arm, and of the battles viewed from the side of the gunners.  I’m especially interested because my ancestor served in an artillery battery in the war.


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