Reunion of Hart's Battery (date unknown). Top row third from left: Capt. James Franklin Hart.
Bottom row fifth from left with both hands on the framed guidon: Louis Sherfesee colour bearer of Hart's Battery .
On June 10, 1861 the Washington Artillery, which was to become Hart's Battery, was presented with "a handsome guidon" which was transferred to Louis Sherfesee as its bearer (which he carried through 143 engagements during the war and concealled under his jacket to prevent its capture when the battery surrendered). Following the ceremony, the proud new company made their way to Columbia, S.C. On June 13, the Washington Artillery Volunteers of Hamptons Legion were officially mustered into the Confederate service with a roll of 120 men "rank and file."
Harts Battery at Brandy Station, VA, June 9th 1863.
At dawn on the 9th June the members of Harts battery were woken to the sound of rapid firing and the sight of Confederate cavalry pickets scurrying through their camp closely followed by a small number of Union cavalry. The members of the battery were able to drive back the Union cavalry with pistol fire. Capt. Hart at once deployed two guns on the road down which the Union cavalry has traveled and then withdrawn. The men were dressed as they were when the left the cover of their blankets quickly deployed the other batteries guns near St. James Church to protect the battery camp. The head of the Federal column appeared shortly after the guns were placed less than 200 yards away. The guns on the road at once opened fire and halted the advancing Federals causing them to dismount and deploy skirmishers. The 7th Virginia which was part of Jones Cavalry Brigade was camped less than ½ a mile away ,and quickly joined Harts battery and charged down the road towards the Federal line, but in less than two minutes they were scrambling back where they had come. The two guns deployed on the road retired to St. James Church firing as they withdrew. The delay to the Union cavalry caused by the rash charge of the 7th VA Cavalry and the steady firing by Harts battery had enabled all the guns and wagons of the horse artillery battalion to be safely withdrawn. As the day wore on the Federal cavalry applied mounting pressure along the whole line which was easily repulsed. At about 10am two regiments of Union cavalry appeared on the batteries left flank and deployed for a charge to capture the battery. Shell and shrapnel shot tore gaps in the advancing blue ranks but still they came on, switching to canister at two hundred yards Harts battery caused even more carnage but still they came on. The advancing Federals smashed through a small detachment of Virginian cavalry that had tried to halt the charge. Double canister tore into the unstoppable blue mass and some of the unfortunate retreating Virginians however the Federals swarmed past the guns and into the rear of the line. Each man from the battery stood to his post and quickly turned the guns on the backs of the Federals opening fire into the mass of blue as they swept past. The Union charge had defied the military convention of charging artillery and for a moment all looked lost. However through the timely arrival of Hampton’s and Jones’s cavalry brigades combined with the the discipline and steadfastness of Harts Battery, the Union cavalry were soon beaten back.
Disaster was however not averted as second Federal column was attacking at Fleetwood Hill less than a mile behind where the battery was deployed. General Stuart was advised that the 2nd SC Cavalry and 4th VA Cavalry regiments had been brushed aside by this second column. Jones and Hampton’s Cavalry Brigades accompanied by Harts battery were quickly wheeled to the rear to deploy against this new threat. The battery moved quickly reaching a position about three hundred yards in front of the enemy and opened a well directed fire of shell and shrapnel into the massed ranks of blue and over the heads of the charging cavalry of Hampton’s brigade. Every shell found its mark amongst the mass of blue causing it to break formation before the charging cavalry rammed home their charge, delivering death from sabers and revolvers. Moving again this time up Fleetwood hill to the crest it found Federals deployed on the reverse slope. However the thundering wheels, clattering hooves and the shouting voices of the cannoners and the chance arrival on the crest of the hill in a single solid line of battle combined with the timely arrival of a force of Georgia cavalry on the flank caused the Union Cavalry brigade to break and run without firing a shot and the men of the 6th New York Battery abandon their guns and fleeing the field in panic. However not wanting to let the Federals leave without their abandoned property the members of the battery retrieved two of the New York’s Battery’s brand new three inch rifled pieces, and generously spent the rest of the day returning the abandoned shells and cannister shot back to its former owners.
Hart’s Battery was not destined to rest on its hard one laurels for the Federals were not yet beaten. Scarcely had the front been cleared when a hidden Federal cavalry broke from some woods on the battery’s flank and prepared to charge. As luck would have it just before this newest Federal threat appeared, another horse artillery battery (McGregors) had reached the summit and had deployed near Hart’s. Unsupported these two batteries were to take the brunt of this new charge. Two of Hart’s guns quickly turned to face the threat and opened with cannister with devastating effect, causing part of the charging regiment to break off and move to the safety of a ravine. But the remainder of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry continued the charge and could not be stopped from charging through both batteries guns. The surrounded Confederate gunners using, sabers, revolvers, hand trail-spikes and whatever weapons came to hand, engaged in a vicious hand to hand melee which eventually succeeded in forcing the withdrawl of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry. Re-enforced by another battery later that day, all three batteries spent the remainder of the day punishing the Union cavalry until they withrdew a withdrawl which ended what was to become known as the largest cavalry battle of the war.
Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton, wrote to Captain Hart on the 10th of June:
I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing to you, and through you your gallant command, my high appreciation of their service in the engagement yesterday. To their steadiness and valor is due in great part the success of the day.I shall ever hold their action in grateful rememberence.
General J.E. B. Stuart wrote after that battle that “The horse artillery deserves the highest praise…. The officers and men behaved with greatest gallantry and the mangled bodies of the enemy show the effectiveness of their fire.“
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