Many times, people ask where I get ideas. And to be honest, many of my ideas are connected. That first book on the 37th North Carolina led to my books on the battle of Hanover Court House, Watauga County and the Civil War, Charlotte and the Civil War, the book on the Branch-Lane brigade, Feeding the Army of Northern Virginia, and in an indirect way, my history of the 58th North Carolina Troops.
But at other times, I come across little tidbits that make me just wonder what people or regiments or events get left out of the historical narrative. A few days ago, I acquired the two-volume Broadfoot reprint of Lindsley’s Military Annals of Tennessee. These two volumes provide brief glimpses of Confederate regiments from Tennessee. When finally tracking down McClung’s Battery, listed as Company A, First Tennessee Light Artillery, we simply get that Company A was under Capt. H. L. W. McClung. (870) A few pages over is a list of officers (877). But unlike other infantry and cavalry regiments and artillery batteries, there is no history of McClung’s command.
Crute, in his Units of the Confederate States Army, goes into a little more detail. The battery was organized in the fall of 1861 in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was involved in the battles of Fishing Creek and Shiloh, and then in the summer of 1862, was stationed at Vicksburg, then Port Hudson, then East Tennessee. In April 1864, it was sent with no guns to Saltville, Virginia (I’m not sure why they didn’t have guns). In August 1864, it was re-armed, only to lose its guns at the battle of Morristown, Tennessee, on October 28, 1864. The seventeen men who were left were transferred to Captain Lynch’s Battery and disbanded in April 1865. (317)
|McClung's Battery, Shiloh (NPS)|
By December 1862, the battery was in East Tennessee – David’s brigade, Heth’s Division. For the rest of the war, they bounced around between various posts – Loudon, Carter’s Depot, Zollicoffer. They were engaged at the battle of Carter’s Depot in September 1863, where they lost the carriages to their guns. In November, they were reported as having no cannons. They were sent to Saltville, Virginia, shortly thereafter. It does not appear that they were re-armed until August 1864, when it was reported they had four pieces of artillery. In an engagement at Morristown, Tennessee, in October 1864, most of the battery was captured. The seventeen who escaped were assigned to Lynch’s Battery. The battery was disbanded in April 1865 at Christiansburg, Virginia.
Several months ago, I was exploring Captain Hugh McClung’s service record. He was court martialed in 1863. Many courts martial records were lost at the end of the war, but parts of McClung’s survive. There were six charges against him – violating the 14th, 36th, 39th (twice), 45th articles of war, and “Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” Many of these charges concerned falsifying muster rolls, “misapplying an artillery horse,” drunkenness while on duty, and permitting his men to break into a train car. McClung pled not guilty. The court found him not guilt on most of the charges, but he was guilty of trading artillery horses at Corinth in May 1862; “Habitually failing to restrain his men from trespassing and depredating private property”; and, “Habitually drawing and appropriating to his own use, rations belonging to his men…” The court found him guilty. His punishment was to “forfeit all pay due him from the Confederate States, and that he be dismissed from the service.” However, when Major General Simon B. Buckner reviewed the case, he disagreed, finding that the charges were “utterly unfounded… the offences of the accused were rather those of omission than commission.” Buckner recommended mercy. The general added that during the attack on Knoxville, McClung, there under arrest, “offered to serve in any capacity.” Buckner believed that “Such conduct was worthy of a good soldier, and merits leniency.” Buckner remitted the findings of the court and ordered McClung to report to his battery. McClung would go on to be captured at the battle of Morristown and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner at Johnson’s Island.
Can I say that this will be my next regimental history? No, I can’t. But I find the story intriguing and the credible information in the greater realms of Confederate histography lacking. Now you know how projects come to me.