Botetourt Artillery


The Botetourt Artillery was one of only a handful of Virginia units to serve in the Western Theater during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Organized in December 1861 from a company in the 28th Virginia Infantry Regiment, the unit experienced heavy combat and losses during the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring and summer of 1863. Following Vicksburg, the Botetourt Artillery returned to western Virginia, where it saw little action.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the local militia company from Botetourt County, dubbed the “Mountain Rifles,” mustered for service. As part of the 28th Virginia Infantry, the men took part in the First Battle of Manassas (1861). Under the terms of the Confederate Conscription Act, during the winter of 1861–1862, many of the soldiers opted to reenlist and transfer to the artillery, a branch often perceived as less demanding than the infantry. In a typical Confederate practice, the battery became known as Anderson’s Battery after the name of its captain, Joseph W. Anderson.

In April 1862, the battery was transferred to eastern Tennessee and subsequently issued six iron guns. The unit participated in the Battle of Tazewell and the investment of Cumberland Gap in August and September. Anderson’s Battery entered Kentucky as part of Confederate general Kirby Smith’s army in October, but saw no action. In December, the unit transferred to Mississippi and fought in the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou. In January 1863, Captain Anderson received a promotion and John W. Johnston assumed command. Henceforth, the battery was known as the Botetourt Artillery.

During Union general Ulysses S. Grant‘s final offensive to capture the strategically crucial Mississippi River town of Vicksburg, the battery took a conspicuous part in the Battle of Port Gibson. On May 1, 1863, Confederate forces blocked the Bruinsburg and Rodney roads that led inland from the Union landing on the Mississippi River. The artillery initially deployed twelve-pound Napoleons and Howitzers—two of each—on Bruinsburg Road, but the Howitzers later moved to Rodney Road. There, Union troops overran the Confederate position, capturing the guns. The cannoneers on Bruinsburg Road fared better and held Union forces at bay for several hours. Later, two additional six-pound cannon arrived, but on entering the field, the horses, guns, and carriages became entangled, preventing their deployment. The entire battery managed to escape with only a six-pound cannon and a Napoleon. Out of 116 men in the engagement, 37 were killed, wounded, or captured, along with 53 horses.

Confederate forces again blocked the Union advance at the Battle of Champion Hill on May 16, 1863. The remaining two guns of the battery were deployed in a defensive position on the crest of Champion Hill. A fierce Union attack eventually overran this position and these cannon were captured also. The Confederate army retreated to Vicksburg.

During the siege of Vicksburg (May 18–July 4, 1863), the Botetourt Artillery manned two six-pound guns on the siege line while the remaining battery members served as infantry. On July 4, 1863, the battery surrendered with the rest of the Confederate army defending Vicksburg.

Following Vicksburg, the battery was exchanged and returned to western Virginia for the duration of the war. The men did not see any more major action, although they assisted in defending Lynchburg from Union general David Hunter in 1864. The Botetourt Artillery disbanded on April 12, 1865, at Christiansburg, Virginia.

December 31, 1861
Company H of the 28th Virginia Infantry, composed of men from Botetourt County, is reorganized as an artillery battery. Captain Joseph W. Anderson takes command and the unit is known as Anderson's Battery.
April 3, 1862
Anderson's Battery, composed of Virginians from Botetourt County and commanded by Captain Joseph W. Anderson, is transferred to Knoxville, Tennessee, and attached to Seth Barton's brigade in Carter L. Stevenson's division.
August—September 1862
Anderson's Battery participates in the Battle of Tazewell and the investment of Cumberland Gap in Tennessee.
October 1862
Anderson's Battery enters Kentucky as part of Confederate general Kirby Smith's army.
December 29, 1862
Anderson's Battery arrives at Vicksburg, Mississippi, with Stevenson's division.
January 28, 1863
Captain Joseph W. Anderson, commander of Anderson's Battery, is promoted. John William Johnston assumes command of the battery, which is renamed Botetourt Artillery. Its men are largely from Botetourt County.
May 1, 1863
At the Battle of Port Gibson during the Vicksburg Campaign, the Botetourt Artillery suffers heavy casualties and the loss of four guns.
May 16, 1863
After losing four guns two weeks previously at the Battle of Port Gibson, the Botetourt Artillery loses its remaining two to Union forces at the Battle of Champion Hill during the Vicksburg Campaign.
May 18—July 4, 1863
During the siege of Vicksburg, the Botetourt Artillery serves both as artillerists and infantrymen. When Confederate forces surrender, the unit is paroled and later exchanged and it returns to Virginia.
November 1863—May 1864
The Botetourt Artillery is assigned to guard a bridge over the New River.
June 12—17, 1864
The Botetourt Artillery helps to defend Lynchburg from Union forces under David Hunter.
October—December 1864
The Botetourt Artillery is stationed at Staunton.
January—March 1865
The Botetourt Artillery is stationed at Wytheville.
April 12, 1865
The Botetourt Artillery disbands at Christiansburg, three days after Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House.
  • Johnson, J. L., Rev. “Maj. John William Johnston.” Confederate Veteran XIX (1911), 116–117.
  • Johnston, Mary. “Dedication of a Bronze Tablet in Honor of Botetourt Artillery in Vicksburg National Military Park, November 23, 1907.” Southern Historical Society Papers XXXV (1907), 29–49.
  • Markham, Jerald H. The Botetourt Artillery. The Virginia Regimental Histories Series. Lynchburg, Virginia: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1986.
  • Plecker, A. H. “Who Saved Lynchburg From Hunter’s Raid?” Confederate Veteran XXX (1922), 372–373.
APA Citation:
Encyclopedia Virginia staff. Botetourt Artillery. (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/botetourt-artillery.
MLA Citation:
Encyclopedia Virginia staff. "Botetourt Artillery" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 21 May. 2024
Last updated: 2024, January 23
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