Battery M, 2nd U.S. Horse Artillery, 1862. Photo by James F. Gibson. Library of Congress
Battery M, 2nd US Artillery was located at Fort Brown, Texas under the command of Captain Henry J. Hunt when Texas seceded from the Union. As such, it was part of the forces that General Twiggs attempted to surrender to the state of Texas with all of their equipment. Captain Hunt was forced to abandon his horses, but successfully evacuated the battery with its guns via the Gulf of Mexico.
Captain Hunt was a Michigan native who graduated 19th in his class at West Point in 1839. He had spent his entire career to that point in the 2nd Artillery, both on the frontier and during the Mexican War. He was brevetted major for gallant and meritorious conduct at the battle of Chapultepec. By the end of the Civil War, he was a brevet major general of both volunteers and the regular army.
After leaving Texas, the battery served briefly in the defense of Fort Pickens, Florida from April until late June 1861. It had joined General McDowell’s army in Washington prior to the battle of Bull Run, where it functioned as light artillery battery with four 12-pounder Napoleons. It was still nominally under the command of Captain Hunt, but given his position of commander of the artillery for Tyler’s division on the left of the Union line, the battery was probably fought by one of his lieutenants. After the battle of Bull Run, he was promoted to Chief of Artillery in the defenses of Washington south of the Potomac, and left the battery. Captain Henry M. Benson of New Jersey took command of the battery.
Benson was no stranger to the 2nd Artillery. He enlisted as a private in the 2nd Artillery on June 6, 1845, and served with distinction in the Mexican War. By the end of the war he had progressed to battery first sergeant, and was promoted to second lieutenant on January 26, 1849. After the Mexican War, he served in South Carolina, Florida, Kansas and Fort McHenry, Maryland, where he was stationed at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was promoted to captain on May 14, 1861, and had also fought at the first battle of Bull Run. Benson was eminently qualified to command, having held every position in an artillery battery from private to captain.
During the winter of 1861-1862, the artillery of the Army of the Potomac was thoroughly organized by General William .F. Barry, and the armament of each battery was standardized. In November, Battery M was made a horse battery equipped with six 3-inch ordnance guns, and it accompanied the Army of the Potomac to the peninsula in March 1862 as part of the army’s Horse Artillery brigade.
During the campaign, First Lieutenant John W. Barlow of New York led the right or lead section, First Lieutenant Peter C. Hains of Pennsylvania led the left or rear section, and Second Lieutenant Robert H. Chapin of New York led the center section.
After the evacuation of Yorktown, the battery accompanied the army’s two cavalry brigades in pursuit. It fought at Grove Wharf on May 4th, Williamsburg on May 5th, and Hanover Court House on May 27th. It was also engaged at Malvern Hill on July 1 and August 5. Captain Benson was mortally wounded during the fighting on August 5th, and died at sea six days later while being evacuated to Washington for further treatment. Lieutenant Hains assumed command of the battery, as Lieutenant Barlow had transferred to the topographical engineers the previous month.
Lieutenant Peter Conover Hains graduated West Point on June 24, 1861, and was immediately promoted to first lieutenant. He earned the new rank less than a month later in the fighting at Bull Run. Hains accompanied the battery throughout the Peninsula campaign, and received a brevet promotion to captain for gallant and meritorious services at the battle of Hanover Court House. He commanded the battery until September 1862, when he too joined the topographical engineers.
Upon its return from the peninsula in September 1862, First Lieutenant Alexander Cummings McWhorter Pennington, Jr. assumed command. A native of New Jersey, he was the son of a Congressman and the Governor of New Jersey. He graduated 18th in his class at West Point in 1860 and was assigned to the 2nd Artillery. Pennington also was no stranger to the horse artillery, having spent the previous campaign in charge of the lead section of Captain John Tidball’s respected Battery A, 2nd US Artillery. Tidball’s Battery, as it was known, was the very first unit assigned and equipped as horse artillery, and had established a reputation for excellence during the campaign.
Lieutenant Pennington and his new battery were very active in the Maryland campaign. They rode in the advance with the cavalry and were engaged near South Mountain and at Antietam. It accompanied the cavalry in pursuit after the battle, fighting at Martinsburg, October 1, and at Nolan’s Ford, October 12. The battery fought at Nolan’s Ford after making a march of 80 miles in a little over 24 hours. Crossing the Potomac, it was engaged with the cavalry during November at Purcellville, Philomont, Upperville, Barbee’s Cross Roads, Amissville and Corbin’s Cross Roads. At Fredericksburg the battery was in reserve.
After a relatively quiet winter, the battery opened 1863 campaigning as part of Stoneman’s raid in May. It was engaged at Beverly Ford during the battle of Brandy station, where Lieutenant Pennington was brevetted captain for gallant and meritorious service. During the Gettysburg campaign the battery was engaged at Hunterstown and Hanover, and on the Union right at Gettysburg on July 3rd. Pennington was brevetted major for his service during the fighting on July 3rd. After the battle the battery once again accompanied the cavalry in the pursuit, fighting at Monterey Pass, Smithsburg, Williamsport, Boonsboro, Hagerstown, and Falling Waters, and at Battle Mountain, Va. It was engaged in skirmishes at James City, Brandy Station and Buckland Mills in October, and at Raccoon Ford and Morton’s Ford in November.
On March 30, 1864, Lieutenant Pennington was promoted to captain in the 2nd Artillery. During 1864 the battery was engaged at Craig’s Meeting House, May 5, and at Todd’s Tavern, and took part in Sheridan’s raids in May and June, being engaged at Meadow Bridge, Strawberry Hill and Trevillian Station. In June 1864, the army’s horse batteries were reduced to four cannons each, two Napoleons and two 3-inch ordnance guns. Battery M went to the Shenandoah valley in August, and was engaged at Summit Point, Kearneysville, the Opequon, and at Lacey’s Springs in December. The battery wintered at Pleasant Valley, Maryland.
In September 1864, Captain Pennington departed the battery, having received an appointment as the Colonel of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry. By October he was commanding a cavalry brigade. Lieutenant Carle A. Woodruff replaced him in command of the battery.
Carle Augustus Woodruff of New York was appointed a second lieutenant in the 2nd US Artillery from civilian life in the District of Columbia on October 22, 1861. He was initially assigned as the rear or left section chief of combined Battery B/L, 2nd US Artillery, where he served during the Peninsula campaign. He was promoted to first lieutenant on July 24, 1862. Woodruff had been brevetted captain for his services at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 and major for his efforts at Trevillian Station on June 11, 1864. He spent the entire war as a horse artillery officer.
When the spring campaign began in 1865, the Napoleon section stayed in pleasant valley. The rifle section under Lieutenant Woodruff left in February with Sheridan to join the Army of the Potomac, and was engaged at Waynesboro, Dinwiddie Court House, Five Forks, Namozine Church, Sailor’s Creek, and Appomattox. After the war, the entire 2nd US Artillery Regiment was consolidated at Fort McHenry, Maryland and sent California.