Capturing the Lady Richardson at Corinth: Competing Accounts from the 35th Alabama and 22nd Mississippi

    The “Lady Richardson” was a 20-lb steel Parrott rifle that belonged to Battery D of the 1st Missouri Light Artillery under Captain Henry Richardson. The battery was assigned to the artillery battalion of General Thomas Davies’ Second Division of the Army of West Tennessee, and was a veteran unit, having fought previously at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and during the siege of Corinth. The gun, with its name emblazoned in white paint on the reinforcing band of the tube, was captured at Oliver’s Hill on October 3, 1862, during the Second Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, but multiple claims were made after the battle regarding who actually captured the cannon.

Tom Parson, a Park Ranger at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center explained that “Richardson’s Battery was in the thick of the fighting during the Battle of Corinth. Early in the morning of October 3rd the four guns, all 20 pounders, were unlimbered on Oliver’s Hill about 2 ½ miles from downtown [Corinth]. Eventually the outmanned Federals were forced to retreat. Richardson’s four guns were attached to their limbers and were being hauled off when disaster struck. “Owing to the cowardly conduct” of one of the gun crew, the cannon slammed into a tree and the limber pole was broken. The pole is what the four horses are attached to and without it the cannon could not be pulled to safety. In a matter of moments the rifle was overrun and became the property of the Confederate States of America,” he wrote.

“The capture of a cannon was a big thing. A trophy like that showed the whole army the regiment responsible for the capture was full of courageous men, brave enough to charge into the face of a firing battery. The only problem was there were a number of regiments claiming to have captured the cannon. Because of the heavy fighting the Confederate brigades and regiments were mixed together, and it was unclear who had actually won the honor. The first man to reach the cannon supposedly jumped aboard and straddled the barrel though he “immediately dismounted to cool off as it was a very hot gun.” Sergeant W. G. Whitfield of the 35th Alabama made persistent claims that he was the man who captured the piece, though men of the 9th Arkansas and 22nd Mississippi insisted it was they who captured the cannon. Brigadier Generals Albert Rust and John Bowen got into an argument over who had won the prize,” Parsons concluded.

Sergeant Whitfield later wrote in Confederate Veteran that “The Lady Richardson was named for the wife of Senator Richardson, of Illinois, and I understood that it was manned by a Chicago company. I can testify that they stood to their work bravely, for many of them never left their posts. I was the first man, or with the first, to pass by within a few feet of this gun. The 9th Arkansas and 35th Alabama were the two regiments who charged her from the west, passing on and reforming some 200 yards beyond, when some other troops came, apparently from the north side, wounded one of my regiment and placed their flag on the guns. Our first impression was that the Yanks were flanking us. I suppose we opened fire on the "Lady" at about 200 yards range and never ceased until we halted some 200-300 hundred yards beyond.” Eventually Wade’s Missouri Battery took possession of “Lady Richardson” and used the cannon during the Vicksburg campaign until it was lost with the entire battery at Big Black River on May 17, 1863.

          Today’s post features two competing accounts claiming the capture of the “Lady Richardson,” one from an author writing under the nom-de-plume of “Spectator” from the 22nd Mississippi and a second account from Corporal H.E. Kellogg of Co. D of the 35th Alabama (from the same company as Sergeant W.G. Whitfield). Interestingly, Kellogg’s account doesn’t claim that his regiment captured the “Lady Richardson,” but gives the credit to the 9th Arkansas Infantry who is also given honorable mention in Spectator’s version of the story. Both accounts saw publication shortly after the battle in the Memphis Daily Appeal which at that time was being published in Grenada, Mississippi.

 

The heavy reinforcing band of wrought iron around the breech marks this as a 20-lb Parrott rifle. The gun could fire either case shot, shell, or canister with a maximum range of 1,900 yards. The West Point Foundry produced roughly 300 of these 20-lb Parrotts during the war while the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond produced 45 more. The Lady Richardson had its name painted on the reinforcing band in white paint which made it easy to identify. Only 15 of these cannons still exist, a great many of them having been melted down during the scrap metal drives of WWII. 

Letter from “Spectator,” 22nd Mississippi Infantry, Third Brigade (John S. Bowen), First Division (Mansfield Lovell), District of Mississippi

Editors Appeal:

          It will be seen by referring to the above lists that the 22nd Mississippi regiment sustained by far the heaviest loss of any in Bowen’s brigade. It fell to the lot of this regiment in the beginning of the action on Friday morning to charge a battery strongly posted on a hill and supported by a brigade of infantry well protected by rifle pits which, by a strange coincidence, the 22nd Mississippi had but a few months before themselves constructed. It is due to this regiment, which had already covered itself with glory on the bloody fields of Shiloh and Baton Rouge to state that it sustained its reputation on this occasion so well that General Bowen himself characterized the charge as “the most gallant feat he had ever witnessed.”

Flag of the Liberty Guards which became Co. E of the 22nd Mississippi Infantry

          The 22nd was on the extreme right of the brigade as it advanced in line of battle and when the regiment emerged from the woods at the foot of the hill, it became necessary to charge the battery. The spectator might indeed have witnessed a “most gallant feat,” one worthy of the immortal 600 at Balaklava. Though as it seemed, “Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in the front of them, volleyed and thundered,” yet, at the word of command, they advanced up that fatal hill, not with an impetuous rush, not with a furious shout through fear lest their courage in view of the terrors before them should fail ere their end was accomplished. But coolly, steadily, like scarred veterans who had borne the brunt of a hundred battles, like invincible patriots, determined to do or die in their country’s cause and who, at this solemn hour, fully realized the beauty and force of the Horatian maxim “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” [Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country.]

General John S. Bowen

          They advanced, too, against a determined enemy. One man who said that “he had resolved that morning to stand by his gun” received a bayonet wound in the neck while maintaining his resolution- nearly all stood firm and unwavering until the 22nd advanced within 20 steps of them, but when a murderous fire was poured in upon them, the line still continuing to advance, they could no longer resist such cool, invincible valor but broke and fled in the greatest confusion, leaving the splendid Parrott rifled gun the “Lady Richardson” in the hands of the victorious 22nd Mississippi. Even the 14th Wisconsin which claimed :always to have seen the backs of the enemy” and whose banner they boasted at Belmont and Shiloh always led the way to victory, was on this occasion compelled to “flee away incontinently” and to admit that the 22nd had won the field by such daring as they themselves had never exhibited.

          The “Lady Richardson” was soon carried off the field and now forms a part of Watson’s Battery. I do not wish to draw invidious distinctions; I do not say that any other regiment in the brigade would not have done as well, but I do say that fortune (I know of no better word) afforded the 22nd an opportunity “to show the stuff that it was made of” and I am sure the whole brigade will cheerfully testify that it acquitted itself just as I have narrated. It was commanded on this occasion by Captain J.D. Lester, assisted by Captain H.J. Reid, acting as lieutenant colonel; both gallant men worthy to lead such spirits.

          I would wrong the sacred memory of the gallant dead were I to close this imperfect account without referring to the steady valor of the 9th Arkansas of Rust’s brigade which was posted on the right of the 22nd Mississippi and sustained, without flinching, a portion of the fire of the enemy’s battery which would otherwise have been directed against the 22nd. I should not omit to state, in view of lying Yankee accounts, that the wounded of Bowen’s brigade in charge of Surgeon G.C. Phillips of the 22nd Mississippi arrived here on the evening of the 8th. Villepigue’s wounded reached here yesterday morning and those of other brigades are constantly coming in.

 

Spectator

Captain Thaddeus W. Felton of the 35th Alabama was scarce 18 years when he was killed in action at Corinth. He was a graduate of the LaGrange Military Academy and is pictured here wearing the uniform from that school. (Photo courtesy of Stan Hutson)

 Letter from Corporal H.E. Kellogg, Co. D, 35th Alabama Infantry, First Brigade (Albert Rust), First Division (Mansfield Lovell), District of Mississippi

Camp on Cold Water, Mississippi

October 14, 1862

Editors Appeal,

I have looked in vain for some notice of the actions of the 35th Alabama regiment in the late battles before Corinth but have seen no mention made of this regiment. In justice to both the officers and soldiers connected with this command, I deem it my duty to present to the public some account of its conduct with a lost of the casualties so that the minds of the friends of the regiment may be relieved from suspense. The regiment was detached sometime since from General Preston’s brigade and placed, together with four other regiments, under the command of Brigadier General Albert Rust of Arkansas, in whom they have found a brave and generous commander.

General Albert Rust

On Friday morning the 3rd instant, preparations were made for attacking the enemy in his entrenchments at Corinth. Colonel Robertson, being too unwell to take command, in the absence of the lieutenant colonel and major, the command devolved upon Alva E. Ashford, Captain Thaddeus W. Felton being ordered to act as lieutenant colonel. The regiment first formed line of battle near the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Near this point our skirmishers were driven in, and the regiment was ordered to advance. Having advanced some 200 yards, it was halted and ordered to open fire on the enemy who was posted on the crest of a hill beyond the Memphis & Charleston Railroad; this order was obeyed with promptness and terrible effect. Soon the order came to charge, and with a wild cheer the boys rushed up the steep hillside to the enemy’s breastworks and then on in pursuit of the flying Federals until ordered to halt by General Rust. Here it was that a portion of Rust’s brigade, the 9th Arkansas Volunteers, captured the “Lady Richardson,” unjustly claimed by Bowen’s brigade.

In this charge, the 35th sustained the reputation for gallant conduct won upon the bloody field of Baton Rouge and added fresh evidence of the daring and bravery of her officers and men. We have to name the loss of the gallant Captain Felton who was killed early in the engagement while cheering and encouraging the men. He was shot through the head with a Minie ball, killing him instantly. He was brave, generous, and true, beloved by all who knew him, and his loss will be deeply felt. He was not yet 18 years of age and had held a captain’s commission for more than six months. No one was a better disciplinarian, he having graduated at the LaGrange Military Academy before he attained his 17th year.

Sergeant Matthew Z. Roberts, Co. D, 35th Alabama Infantry 
(Photo courtesy of Stan Hutson)

Great credit is due Captain Ashford for the coolness and bravery displayed by him through the entire engagement. The regiment left the field in good order and during the retreat preserved its entire organization. The men are in good spirits and eager for another chance to strike for their country and the cause of liberty. Although we sustained a reverse in the late engagements on account of the superior numbers of the enemy, we are nothing daunted, but firmly believe in the justness of our cause and that the God of battles will in the end crown our arms with success and vouchsafe unto us our liberties and rights.

I append a list of the killed, wounded, and missing, by publishing which you will confer a great favor upon the members of this regiment.

Yours respectfully,

H.E. Kellogg

 

Sources:

Letter from “Spectator,” 22nd Mississippi Infantry, Memphis Daily Appeal (Tennessee), October 11, 1862, pg. 2

Letter from Corporal H.E. Kellogg, Co. D, 35th Alabama Infantry, Memphis Daily Appeal (Tennessee), October 20, 1862, pg. 1


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