The Story of a Cannoneer Under Stonewall Jackson

This is a book by Edward A. Moore, a veteran of the Rockbridge Artillery. You can download and read it for free here or here. Born in Lexington, Virginia, Moore was a junior at the Washington College when the war began. With his three older brothers in the army already, Moore’s father didn’t let him enlist until March of 1862. He published his reminiscences in 1907, with an introduction written by his good friend, R. E. Lee Jr.

While I didn’t find the book to be especially useful, it did have some interesting portions. For example, Moore tells us about something he noticed after battles: “And here our attention was again called to a singular and unaccountable fact, which was noticed and remarked repeatedly throughout the war. It was that in one battle the large majority of the less serious wounds received were in the same portion of the body. In this case, fully three-fourths of the men we met were wounded in the left hand; in another battle the same proportion were wounded in the right hand; while in another the head was the attractive mark for flying bullets, and so on. I venture the assertion that every old soldier whose attention is called to it will verify the statement.” [p. 111]

One anecdote he related I found very difficult to believe. He claims, “An hour later, while engaged in another artillery encounter, our detachment received a very peremptory and officious order from Major Shoemaker, commanding the artillery of the division. My friend and former messmate, W. G. Williamson, now a lieutenant of engineers, having no duty in that line to perform, had hunted us up, and, with his innate gallantry, was serving as a cannoneer at the gun. Offended at Shoemaker’s insolent and ostentatious manner, we answered him as he deserved. Furious at such impudence and insubordination, he was almost ready to lop our heads off with his drawn sword, when Williamson informed him that he was a commissioned officer and would see him at the devil before he would submit to such uncalled-for interference. ‘If you are a commissioned officer,’ Shoemaker replied, ‘why are you here, working at a gun?’ ‘Because I had not been assigned to other duty,’ was Williamson’s reply, ‘and I chose to come back, for the time being, with my old battery.’ ‘Then I order you under arrest for your disrespect to a superior officer!’ said Shoemaker. The case was promptly reported to General Jackson, and Williamson as promptly released. The bombastic major had little idea that among the men he was so uselessly reprimanding was a son of General Lee, as well as Lieutenant Williamson, who was a nephew of Gen. Dick Garnett, who was later killed in Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.” [pp. 112-113] I find it difficult to believe that Stonewall Jackson, a stickler for duty and discipline, would let someone guilty of insubordination off the hook. That claim is suspect, and it makes all his claims therefore suspect.

Nevertheless, suspect they may be, some of the anecdotes are worth retelling. For example, he writes this in writing about the Gettysburg Campaign: “Our march from Greencastle was through Chambersburg and Shippensburg, and when within eight or ten miles of Carlisle we passed through one or two hundred Pennsylvania militia in new Federal uniforms, who had just been captured and paroled. Before reaching Carlisle we very unexpectedly (to us) countermarched, and found the militiamen at the same place, but almost all of them barefooted, their shoes and stockings having been appropriated by needy rebels. As we first saw them they were greatly crestfallen, but after losing their footgear all spirit seemed to have gone out of them. They lingered, it may be, in anticipation of the greetings when met by wives and little ones at home, after having sallied forth so valiantly in their defense. How embarrassing bare feet would be instead of the expected trophies of war! Imagine a young fellow, too, meeting his sweetheart! That they kept each other company to the last moment, managed to reach home after night, and ate between meals for some days, we may be sure.” [p. 185] Moore also writes this account of Major Joseph Latimer’s mortal wounding on Benner’s Hill: “With the exception of the steady musketry firing by Johnson’s men on Culp ‘s Hill, the day passed quietly until nearly four o’clock. At this time Andrews’s battalion of artillery, led by Major Latimer, passed in front of us and went into position two hundred yards to our left, and nearer the enemy. The ground sloped so as to give us a perfect view of his four batteries. Promptly other batteries joined those confronting us on Cemetery Hill, and by the time Latimer’s guns were unlimbered the guns on both sides were thundering. In less than five minutes one of Latimer’s caissons was exploded, which called forth a lusty cheer from the enemy. In five minutes more a Federal caisson was blown up, which brought forth a louder cheer from us. In this action Latimer’s batteries suffered fearfully, the Alleghany [sic] Boughs alone losing twenty-seven men killed and wounded. Only one or two were wounded in our battery, the proximity of Latimer’s guns drawing the fire to them. Near the close of the engagement, Latimer, who was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, a mere youth in appearance, was killed.” [pp. 190-191]

Moore came from a slave-owning family, as we can see from his visit to his home in June of 1864 after being wounded: “I spent half of the night assisting my mother and the servants (our slaves) to conceal from the marauders what flour, bacon, etc., the family still had; and before sunrise the next morning set out, mounted on my father’s horse, for a safer place. By this time my wounds had become very painful, and my leg had turned a dark-blue color from the thigh to the knee.” [p. 225] Moore was only 18 years old at the time the war started. By 1864 he was only 21. He didn’t own the slaves of his family; his father did. Those who only look at the number of slave owners in the confederate army think slavery wasn’t a large factor for that army, yet as Moore shows, a good number of confederate soldiers came from slave-owning families and stood to inherit slaves from their parents, meaning slavery was much more of a factor to the soldiers in the confederate army than those who count only slave owners think.

Moore and his battery were in the trenches defending Richmond. He writes, “Desertions were of almost nightly occurrence, and occasionally a half-dozen or more of the infantry on the picket line would go over in a body to the enemy and give themselves up.” [p. 272]

Much of what Moore relates comes from other sources he consulted after the war rather than what he knew firsthand. While he does include some of his firsthand observations, the book isn’t useful for understanding the daily life of the common soldier. The most useful part of the book is the Appendix, which contains a roll of the Rockbridge Artillery and what happened to each soldier in the battery.

Still, the book is an entertaining read, and one can gain some nuggets of information from it.

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