The Third Regiment U.S. Artillery
Before The Civil War

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    The total Regular Army in December 1860 consisted of 16,367 officers and men. There were 4 general officers, with an average age of 70. There were 19 regiments (4 Artillery, 10 Infantry, and 5 Cavalry) commanded by colonels with an average age of 63 and 2 at least 80. There were 1004 soldiers East of the Mississippi River. Of 197 companies, 179 were posted in the West or far West.
    By Charleston Harbor, Castle Pinkney had one ordnance sergeant and his family, Fort Moultrie had 63 men under one Major and one company of Marines were the only troops in Washington, D.C.
    George Washington established the Regiments of Artillery in 1775, with Henry Knox commanding. After 1787 artillerymen were used as foot troops, although seperate from the infantry.
    The first regiment of light artillery (where all men were horse mounted) was created in 1808.
    The four regiments of artillery in service at the start of the Civil War were organized in 1821, with one company from each regiment being equipped as light artillery in 1838 (Company C of the Third Regiment).
    In 1835 Company B lost one Captain, three Lieutenants, and thirty one enlisted men in Dade's Massacre at Bushnell, Florida. Then in 1837 the entire Third Regiment was mustered together at Fort Christmas, Florida on December 31.
    During the Mexican War, Company E was mounted as a horse battery serving under Braxton Bragg, George H. Thomas, and John F. Reynolds.
    Company E was dismounted in 1837, became second light company in 1849, dismounted in 1851 , and remounted in 1853.
    In December of 1853, six companies, complete with headquarters, staff, and sailed for California via Cape Horn. In the evening of December 23, a huge storm whipped up the seas so mountainous that much of the ship's upper deck was swept into the sea, along with 184 artillerymen and many civilians.
    In April, 1854, part of the Third sailed for California, arriving one month later. The rest of the Regiment marched overland by way of Salt Lake City, Utah.
    There followed five years of intensive Indian operations through 1859. Part of this time the second in command of the Regiment was Major John H. Winder of Civil War fame (or infamy) from Andersonville Prison.
    In 1860 the Regiment was spread wide with nine companies on the Pacific Coast and two at Fort Monroe, Virginia. The original Regimental Flag, with it's many battle inscriptions, hangs on the wall there. Headquarters of the Third were in the Presidio at San Francisco. Battery E was now the White Horse Battery under Thomas W. Sherman.
    Company E was at a real frontier post, Fort Ridgely, in 1856. This fort was on the Minnesota River where the winter temperature would drop to thirty-one below zero and the Sioux Indians were still savage at times.
    Some six companies of the Third were at Fort Vancouver, near Portland, Oregon, during 1857. This duty was so far from home that enlisted men received double pay and officers received two dollars per day extra. This became desirable duty, what with extra pay, healthy climate, easy post life, and several towns and villages close by with friendly ladies.
    The last of the Oregon posts was Fort Umpqua, with three officers and 56 men of the Third Artillery here in 1857.
    Company H of the Third, with two officers, 68 men, 52 civilians were on the island of Alcatraz in 1859 supervising construction of the prison on the site of an old Spanish fort.
    In 1860 the headquarters of the Third Artillery were at the historic old Presidio in the suberbs of San Francisco. It's garrison was made up of two officers and 88 men.
    In January, 1861, two companies of the Third were moved from Fort Vancouver to San Francisco and others would follow in May.

    Battery D was stationed at SAn Francisco during the entire war and the balance of the Regiment was moved to Washington, D.C. for their War assignments.

The Regular Army on the Eve of The Civil War

by George T. Ness, Jr.

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This page last updated: December 30, 2002