UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Civil war field artillery in the west, 1862-1863 Bishop, Charles Walter Fraser


Problem: The problem in this thesis was to determine the role of field artillery in the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesborough and Chickamauga in the western theatre of the American Civil War — between April 6, 1862, and September 21, 1863. Little has been written about the role of artillery in any theatre of the war, and nothing about its significance in the west. Method: To develop a basis of information, it was necessary to become acquainted with the literature used by Civil War artillerists. By studying the two artillery text-books in use during the period, a theoretical model of the role of the guns could be constructed. This basis was reinforced by the reading of secondary material on the employment of artillery in other areas of the war, as well as general studies of the four battles on which this thesis is based. Having become conversant with both artillery theory and the general background of the campaign, it was then possible to design the research methods necessary to deal with basic primary sources. The reports printed in the Official Record form the core of the research done for this thesis. They contain two types of information, reports and correspondence, and statistical data. The statistical data provided a method of analysis of the organization and equipment of the field artillery units. A separate data sheet was set up for each battery in each of the four battles, and all information about the battery which was suited to statistical analysis were entered. The content of the sheets varied because the same data were not available for all units. This created problems in collating the information. In the end, the material was reduced to statistics which included the numbers of men, numbers of horses, types of weapons, numbers of casualties, ammunition used, and the parent formation to which the battery had been assigned. The mass of statistical data was then checked against the written reports published in the Official Record and other sources. Much of the material relevant to the study of artillery is not available in the former, however, so certain assumptions made in the thesis may be wrongly weighted. Nonetheless, the role of the guns has been reconstructed with some success. Conclusions: The thesis concludes that artillery functioned primarily in support of infantry. In attacks, the guns rarely influenced the outcome of the battles studied. When used to support a defence, field artillery could often lend valuable assistance. In at least one case, the guns played an important part in stopping a major Confederate attack. Between April 6, 1862,and September 21, 1863, both the Union and Confederate armies increased the numbers of their field artillery, an indication that, although they were not decisive in the battles studied, the armies must have considered the guns to be of value.

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