Richmond Howitzers – Militia service


On November 9, 1859 the “Howitzer Battery” was partially organized at a meeting held in the office of the clerk of the Circuit Court, James D. Ellett, in the State Court House on Capitol Square. George Wythe Randolph, who conceived the idea of the company, was elected captain. Born in 1818 at Monticello, the home of his maternal grandfather Thomas Jefferson, Randolph was appointed a midshipman at the age of thirteen, and served in the navy for six years. Afterwards he studied law at the University of Virginia, and in 1850 moved to Richmond to practice his profession. In addition to the election of a captain, Gaston C. Otey was elected first sergeant.

On November 16 the company met at Military Hall, over the First Market, elected a secretary and treasurer, and held their first drill.

On November 19 the Howitzers, although without uniforms, were quickly armed by the State and sent to Charlestown with other Richmond companies. Rumors of plots to rescue John Brown and his raiders from the jail at Charlestown had prompted Governor Henry A. Wise to send more troops there. At Charlestown, where they were quartered in the basement of the Presbyterian Church, the organization of the Howitzers was completed with the election of lst Lieutenant John C. Shields and 2nd Lieutenant John Thompson Brown.

By July 4, 1860, when they paraded for the first time with the lst Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, the company had procured uniforms of gray frock coats and trousers, similar to those worn by the other companies in the regiment. Late in 1860 the Howitzers were designated in the 1st Regiment as Company H.

On May 25, 1860 six Dahlgren 12-pounder Boat Howitzers, one of which was rifled, were shipped to Captain Randolph from the Washington Arsenal. The guns, purchased by the State expressly for the Howitzers, were designed to be drawn by the cannoneers; however, new light field-carriages to be drawn by two horses to each piece were constructed at the State Armory.

On February 22, 1861 the Howitzers, numbering seventy-four men paraded with its battery of six pieces.

FROM: “The Richmond Howitzers” by Lee A. Wallace, Jr. (Virginia Regimental Histories Series)

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