When Captain Joseph B. Campbell was wounded three times in quick succession during the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, and had to relinquish command of Battery B 4th U. S. Artillery the command devolved on 2nd Lieutenant James Stewart. In his official report following the battle Stewart noted the battery suffered 1 captain wounded, 3 sergeants, 4 corporals, 32 privates killed and wounded and 26 horses killed and 7 wounded. He failed to include one wounded officer in his total however.
In a letter written to John M. Gould on January 16, 1893 when Stewart was retired and living in Carthage, Ohio he wrote: " About ten minutes after being placed in command (at Antietam) I was struck by a minie ball breaking my belt plate and knocking me down. On getting up I found my sword belt broken in two. The shock was terrible for some time, but I knew if I should allow it to be known that I was wounded that someone else would be sent to command the battery. I suffered a great deal and had to use a Catheter for many a year and sometimes especially when I would catch cold the old pains will come back. General Gibbon does not know to this day that I was wounded in that battle. To when the battle was over, in place of looking over the field and making notes I had to lie flat on my back and obtain all the relief I possibly could until the Surgeon came and helped me with the pain."
What else can we say about a man who would receive a painful, grievous, wound in combat that he would suffer with the remainder of his life but consciously elect to not report the incident to a superior officer because he does not want to relinquish command.
James Stewart was born in Leith, Scotland, May 18, 1826. His mother died in 1829 when he was three years old. His father who was a builder and contractor followed her to the grave in 1841, leaving James an orphan when he was 15 years old. Stewart attended school in Leith and was a typesetter in the Queens Printing Office before leaving Scotland and immigrating to the United States in 1846. He was employed as a printer in New York City prior to his enlistment in the United States Army on October 29, 1851 when he was 25 years old. At the date of his enlistment he stood about 5 feet six inches tall, had blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.
Stewart's 1st duty station after enlisting was at Fort Columbus, Governor's Island New York, headquarters of the 4th U. S. Artillery. In May 1852 acting 1st Sergeant Stewart, and 90 recruits made their way to Brownsville, Texas where Private Stewart was assigned to Battery B 4th U. S. Artillery beginning an association with the battery that would last for more than ten years and see Stewart rise in rank from private to 1st Lieutenant.
James Stewart would be appointed Corporal October 1, 1853, Sergeant on January 1, 1855 and 1st Sergeant on October 6, 1855. Sometime in 1856 Stewart would marry Sabine Haas a daughter of farmer John Haas of Baden, Germany. On August 29, 1856 he would reenlist for 2nd 5 year term with Battery B. In late November 1856 Battery B, which had been in Texas since the close of the Mexican War, would get orders to proceed to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
James Stewart, his wife and Battery B would spend the winter at Jefferson Barracks in St Louis, departing that city for Fort Leavenworth in March, 1857. On June 19 James Stewart, his growing family which now included a son also named James, and Battery B headed for Camp Floyd, Utah Territory, arriving there in the early summer of 1858.
When the Civil War started in 1861 James Stewart was still in Utah with Battery B which was now under the command of Captain John Gibbon. By this time Stewart's family had grown to include two daughters born in Utah, Margaret born in 1859 and Sabine born in 1861. On July 1, 1861 Stewart reenlisted for a 3rd 5 year term. Eighteen days later on July 19, Battery B departed Camp Crittenden for the east. By late October they were in Washington DC assigned to the Army of the Potomac.
On November 15, 1861 James Stewart was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant with Battery B 4th U. S. Artillery at the recommendation of Captain John Gibbon who referred to Stewart as being "intelligent, faithful and honest, and without exception the best non-commissioned officer I have ever seen in the army."
Stewart would serve conspicuously with Battery B as a 2nd Lieutenant in numerous engagements with the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Virginia until appointed a 1st Lieutenant on July 3, 1863. As previously noted he would assume command of Battery B at Antietam and command it throughout the vast majority of the remainder of the civil war.
At Gettysburg, where Stewart received his second war wound when he was struck in the thigh by a shell fragment, Battery B was engaged on both sides of the famous unfinished railroad cut in support of the 1st Corps on July 1 before retreating to East Cemetery Hill where they were engaged on July 2nd and 3rd. While the elements of the Union Army were retreating through town on July 1 and after getting his 3 guns out of harms way Stewart went back to look for his remaining three guns commanded by James Davidson. Stewart ran into the rebels instead who yelled at him to surrender. He noted "As I had not gone there for that purpose, I wheeled my horse and started off as fast as he could go."
Battery B was in the thick of the fighting at Gettysburg. They lost 40 men killed and wounded and 57 horses killed or disabled during 3 days of combat. Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin, who knew Stewart well and served alongside him at both Antietam and Gettysburg noted in "Service with the 6th Wisconsin that "Stewart was as brave and efficient a man as ever fought on a field of battle."
1st Lieutenant James Stewart commanded Battery B during the Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg in 1864 and 1865. He would be breveted Captain on August 1, 1864 for brave and meritorious conduct at Spotsylvania Courthouse and to Major on August 18 for action at Weldon Railroad. He would be wounded a third time late in 1864 before Petersburg when his horse was shot under him and fell on his leg permanently injuring his ankle.
At the close of the Civil War James Stewart would lead Battery B down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Grand Review May 23, 1865 before being transferred to Battery G 4th U. S. Artillery in September 1865 and being assigned to Fort Wayne, Detroit, Michigan. James Stewart would continue to serve in the United States Army until his retirement in 1879. To be continued...
Information in this article derived from sources including but not limited to: U. S. Army Register of Enlistments, 2 articles written by James Stewart for MOLLUS, letters written by James Stewart & John Gibbon, U. S. Census Records, History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio, The Cannoneer (photo).