Washington Artillery "No Finer Organization"
Composed of wealthy and prominent men of the city, the Washington Artillery of New Orleans was the most famous of the Confederate voluntary artillery organizations. According to Civil War author Jennings C. Wise, "At the outbreak of the Civil War, there was not a finer organization of citizen soldiery in America." Organized in 1838, it had fought in the Mexican War as Company A of Persifor Smith's regiment. The unit comprised five companies that were ready to fight when the firing began in 1861. Much of its equipment for the Civil War, including six six-pounder guns and ammunition, was obtained in the seizure of the Baton Rouge Arsenal on April 11, 1861.
Accepted into the Confederate Army in May 1861, the first four companies went to Virginia immediately and took part in the 1st Battle of Manassas (or Battle of 1st Bull Run, to the federals), under the command of Col. James B. Walton. From that time on, the Washington Artillery remained with the Army of Northern Virginia throughout all its major campaigns. The unit especially distinguished itself in the defense of Marye's Heights during the Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville campaigns.
The Washington Artillery was commanded successively by Walton, Benjamin F. Eshelman, and William Miller Owen. Owen later wrote about his experiences with the unit in "A Hot Day on Marye's Heights."
After the war, members of the the unit formed the "Washington Artillery Veterans Charitable & Benevolent Association, Inc." They held secret infantry drills, assembled weapons, and in 1870, as a protest against carpetbag rule, appeared with two miniature brass cannon to drive former Confederate Gen. James Longstreet's Metropolitan Police off the streets of New Orleans. Later, the Washington Artillery fought in the war with Spain in 1898, and in both World War I and World War II.
Fascinating Fact: When the unit fought in the Mexican War, it had been known as the "Native American Battery." It was when it was reorganized in 1852 that the unit became known as the Washington Artillery.
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