Monuments on civil war battlefields come in all shapes and sizes, from grand equestrian statues to small, unobtrusive markers in out of the way places. All are intended to honor individuals officers, soldiers or regiments. Some of the most interesting monuments are those dedicated to artillery units which often include cannons of the same type used by a particular battery at a given battlefield. This is the case at Antietam National Battlefield where a pair of Model 1857 Light 12 Pounder Gun-Howitzers, more commonly referred to as “Napoleons” mark the position of Battery B, 4th US Artillery.
The 4th US Artillery dates from 1820/1821 if not before. The regiment saw action in the Black Hawk , Seminole and Mexican Wars. After the Mexican War Battery B, 4th US Artillery was in Texas for a while before being sent to Camp Floyd, Utah Territory. In July 1861, under the command of Captain John Gibbon, Battery B left Utah, arriving in Washington via Fort Bridger, Fort Laramie, Ft Leavenworth and St Joseph, Missouri, in October. The battery was assigned to the artillery reserve of McDowell’s Army and with a large number of new recruits selected from volunteer infantry regiments, spent most of the winter of 1861/1862 being whipped into shape by Gibbon. In June 1862 Battery B was assigned to the 4th Brigade, now commanded by John Gibbon, 1st Division, 3rd Corp, of Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia. When the Armies of the Potomac and of Virginia were combined under McClellan in September 1862, Battery B and Gibbon’s Infantry Brigade (aka the Iron Brigade) were assigned to the 1st Corp under Major General Joseph Hooker.
September 17, 1862 saw Battery B advancing and fighting with Gibbon’s Brigade astride the Hagerstown Pike in the early morning hours of the Battle of Antietam. Gibbon and Battery B advanced through the woods and to open ground south of the D. R. Miller house and barn and were soon heavily engaged against confederate infantry and artillery. Sections of the battery unlimbered in the pasture south of the barn and west of the Hagerstown Pike, which is where the cannons honoring their service at Antietam rest today. Casualties at Antietam included Captain Joseph B. Campbell who was 'stricken down by a ball through the shoulder", 39 enlisted men and 33 horses.
Two Light Twelve Pounders Representing Battery B's position at Antietam.
Battery B's Napoleon
The muzzle of 1 of the guns honoring Battery B. The markings show the cannon tube was cast by Revere Copper Company of Boston Mass., in 1862. The tube weighing 1224 lbs., bears Serial # 83. It was inspected, prior to being accepted by the US government by Thomas Jackson Rodman. All Napoleons manufactured for the US government during the civil war have these markings on the muzzle.
Reproduction Model 1857 Light Twelve Pounder, Antietam National Battlefield
Living historians, portraying Battery B, 4th US Artillery firing a reproduction Light 12 Pounder at Antietam National Battlefield, a fitting tribute to their predecessors.