Members of the Richmond Howitzers
Members of the 1st Company of the Richmond Howitzers pose for a photograph in Charles Town, Virginia (later West Virginia), in 1859. Among those pictured in this hand-colored ambrotype is George Wythe Randolph, seated at right. The grandson of former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson and the son of Virginia governor Thomas Mann Randolph Jr., Randolph had largely shunned politics, but John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859 radicalized him. Randolph organized the Richmond Howitzers, a light-artillery unit armed with short-range howitzers converted from naval use, and marched it to Charles Town, where the unit contributed to prison security during Brown's trial and, in December, his execution.
Confederate private William Savage Moore poses in uniform in this hand-colored ambrotype made by the Richmond photographer Charles R. Rees between 1862 and 1865. A facing frame contains a lock of hair, probably from the soldier. Moore and his twin brother, John C. Moore, joined the Parker Light Artillery of the Confederate army on March 14, 1862, in Richmond. At sixteen years old, they required but did not have their mother’s consent to enlist. She took up a letter-writing campaign to have them released for being, in her words, "very sickly and delicately constituted," and the two were discharged due on October 8, 1862.
After turning eighteen, William Moore reenlisted on July 1, 1864, and joined the 1st Company, Richmond Howitzers Battalion, a light artillery unit. He was transferred to Company I of the 15th Virginia Infantry, promoted to second lieutenant on March 27, 1865, and then made a captain a few days later. During the siege of Petersburg, Moore was wounded in the left arm and taken prisoner. In early April 1865, he was transported to a hospital in Washington, D.C., where he signed an oath of allegiance to the United States and was released.
This image is part of the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs at the Library of Congress.
An unidentified member of 1st Company, Richmond Howitzer Battalion, drapes a cape or coat over his shoulder in this hand-colored ambrotype by the Richmond photographer Charles R. Rees. This image is part of the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs at the Library of Congress.
In 1860, the unit became Company H of the 1st Regiment of Volunteers and established an armory on the north side of Cary Street between Eleventh and Twelfth streets in. On April 21, 1861, four days after Colonel of , the state’s inspector general of volunteers, mustered the unit into state service. As enlistments increased, the company was separated from the 1st Regiment to join an artillery battalion commanded by Randolph, who on May 3 was promoted to major. The original Company H became 1st Company, Richmond Howitzer Battalion, commanded by Captain John C. Shields. On May 9, the 2nd Company was organized, with John Thompson Brown as captain. The following day, the 3rd Company was organized under the command of Captain Robert C. Stanard. Attempts to organize a fourth company during June 1861 failed.
The 1st Company left Richmond on May 24 to join the Confederate army near Manassas Junction and would never again serve with the other two companies. The men were present but not engaged at a skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford on July 17 and theon July 21. Meanwhile, late in May and early in June 1861, the 2nd and 3rd companies moved to the vicinity of Yorktown and joined John B. Magruder‘s Army of the Peninsula. The companies fought at Big Bethel on June 10, the first full-scale battle of the war in Virginia, suffering three men wounded. This was the only time that the Richmond Howitzers Battalion would fight as a unit during the war.
On September 13, 1861, the 2nd and 3rd companies joined the 2nd Virginia Artillery Regiment, later designated the 1st Virginia Artillery Regiment. (As a tactical organization, the Richmond Howitzers Battalion now ceased to exist.) The three companies had all moved to the Peninsula by the spring of 1862. The 1st Company fought in theon May 5. Both the 1st and 2nd companies participated in the , May 31–June 1. And the 1st and 3rd Companies were engaged several times during the , June 25–July 1.
All three companies continued to participate in the various campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. They fought at, Antietam, and in 1862; , , and in 1863; and the , , Cold Harbor, and in 1864. On June 1, near Cold Harbor, the three companies met for the only time during the war but quickly went their separate ways. The 2nd Company served in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 and lost all of its cannons at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19. When they returned to the entrenchments near Richmond, the men of the company received small arms for a brief period but primarily manned heavy artillery pieces at Fort Clifton, which was situated at the junction of the Appomattox River and Swift Creek.
The Army of Northern Virginia, including the Howitzers, evacuated its lines in front of Richmond and Petersburg on the night of April 2, 1865, and marched westward. The men of the 2nd Company resumed their duties as infantrymen and fought the enemy in several skirmishes. The 3rd Company saw only minor skirmishing near Deatonsville on April 6 during the. After participating in an engagement near Appomattox Court House on April 8, the men of the 1st Company separated from the army to march toward . They disbanded the following day near Red Oak Church and buried their cannons in a nearby ravine. The 2nd and 3rd companies, meanwhile, surrendered with Lee’s army at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
On April 10, 1871, the Richmond Howitzers was reorganized as a single company. Then, on November 8, 1877, the Virginia state artillery was reorganized as the 1st Battalion Volunteer Artillery, and the Howitzers became Battery A of the new battalion. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the Howitzers returned to federal service as part of the 1st Field Artillery Regiment of the Virginia National Guard. The regiment was designated as the 111th Field Artillery Regiment, and the Howitzers served as Company A. The unit left for France on June 29, 1918. Before the men could reach the frontlines, however, the Armistice had been signed, and the regiment returned to home in May 1919. The 111th Field Artillery was formally mustered out of service at, Virginia.
On February 3, 1941, the 111th Field Artillery again entered active federal service as a part of the 29th Infantry Division. When the division reorganized in March 1942, the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, became the 111th Field Artillery Battalion. The 29th Division traveled from the United States to England in September and October 1942.
The 111th Battalion participated in the Normandy invasion, fought around St. Lô in northwestern France, and captured the fortress at Brest in France. It then served in Holland and participated in the crossing of the Roer River in December. Early in April 1945, the division crossed the Rhine River and fought in Germany until the German surrender in May. The Howitzers and the rest of the battalion were deactivated on January 16, 1946.
In the years following World War II, the Richmond Howitzers were separated from the 29th Division and served under several different configurations. The unit again became Battery A, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, in 1972 and currently retains that designation in the Virginia National Guard.