Third U.S. Artillery Regiment
History of the
Third U.S. Artillery Regiment
The American Civil War marked a turning point in the military history of the United States. The conflict, fought from 1861 to 1865, witnessed the deployment of various regiments and units that played crucial roles in shaping the outcome of the war. Among these units, the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment emerged as a key player, employing its formidable artillery power to influence battles and strategic maneuvers.
The 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment was established in 1812 as a regular artillery unit in the United States Army. At the onset of the Civil War, the regiment consisted of twelve batteries, each equipped with six cannon. The regiment was primarily stationed in the eastern theater of the war, operating in various campaigns and battles.
The 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment played a prominent role in several pivotal battles and campaigns throughout the American Civil War. One of its earliest engagements occurred during the First Battle of Bull Run (1861), where Battery E provided critical artillery support to Union forces. Despite facing intense Confederate resistance, the regiment displayed resilience and demonstrated the devastating effects of well-placed artillery fire.
The regiment's involvement extended to the Peninsular Campaign (1862), a major Union offensive aimed at capturing Richmond, the Confederate capital.
The 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment participated in various battles, including the Battle of Malvern Hill, where its cannon unleashed a torrent of devastating fire against Confederate infantry assaults. The regiment's performance solidified its reputation as a formidable artillery unit.
During the Battle of Antietam (1862), the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment showcased its expertise in delivering accurate and effective fire. Positioned along the Sunken Road, known as Bloody Lane, Battery D unleashed a withering barrage of artillery shells, helping repel Confederate advances. The regiment's contribution played a vital role in blunting the Confederate offensive and preventing a potential Union defeat.
The regiment's involvement in the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) marked a significant chapter in its history. Several batteries, including Battery C and Battery I, played crucial roles in repelling Pickett's Charge on July 3, delivering a devastating barrage that crippled Confederate forces and helped to secure a Union victory. The 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment's efforts at Gettysburg demonstrated its instrumental role in shaping the outcome of critical battles.
Of special note for this proposed reenacting unit are the five batteries of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment that were garrisoned at Fort Point in California during the course of the Civil War. These Batteries guarded the Golden Gate for the protection of San Francisco as well as the enormous amounts of gold that were coming out of California to help fund the war effort.
Fort Point was built on the site of the original Spanish Castillo de San Joaquin that was inherited by the Mexican government when Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. When the United States subsequently seized control of Alta California in 1846, it inherited the presidio (Spanish army base), including what remained of the old Castillo, including four, 17th century smooth-bore bronze guns.
The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 resulted in a Gold Rush in 1849, and the population of San Francisco grew from a few hundred to tens of thousands in a single year. This resulted in California coming into the Union as a free state in 1850.
To protect the people and gold of the new state, the U.S. Army Engineers built a “third system” fortification at Fort Point between 1853 and 1861. After Fort Sumter was attacked in Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, it was clear that the newly-completed fortress guarding the Golden Gate would come in handy for coastal defense of California.
The commander of the U.S. Army Department of the Pacific was Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston. A man of honor, he secured all weapons at the fort for the Union, and then resigned his commission, later serving as a general in the Confederate army and falling in battle at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.
Throughout the course of the Civil War, the U.S. Army garrisoned Fort Point with various batteries of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment of the Regular Army. Notable among these were Battery B, which served in garrison at Fort Point from March 1861 through September 1863. That battery was replaced by Battery H, which served in garrison at Fort Point from July 1863 through August 1865. Also garrisoned at Fort Point during various points during the war were batteries A, G, H, and I of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment.
Between 1861 and 1865, seven officers served as commander, including Fort Point’s first commanding officer, Captain John Hooks Lendrum of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment—who tragically died in a freak accident on October 25, 1861—and Captain William Austine of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment.
Captain Austine was a graduate of West Point’s class of 1838, after which he was appointed Second Lieutenant of the Second Dragoons. The following year he was promoted to First Lieutenant and assigned to the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment. He served until 1842 as Adjutant.
During the Mexican War, he took part in the siege of Vera Cruz and in the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras and Cherubusco, as well as in the skirmish of Amazoque and the capture of San Antonio. For gallantry in this campaign, he was promoted to Captain of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment on August 13, 1847, and a short time afterward was granted the rank of Brevet Major for his gallant and meritorious conduct. Following the Mexican War, he was in garrison at Fort Adams, Rhode Island for several years.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Captain Austine was garrisoned at Fort Point and was eventually promoted to Major of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment. After the Civil War, he was breveted Lieutenant Colonel and then Colonel for his long and faithful service.
The 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment's contributions during the Civil War left an indelible mark on military history. Its mastery of artillery tactics, coupled with disciplined execution, often turned the tide in favor of the Union. The regiment's effective use of cannon showcased the importance of artillery in modern warfare and influenced future military strategies.
Following the war, the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment continued to serve in various conflicts and operations, including the so-called “Indian Wars” and the Spanish-American War. In the twentieth century, the regiment evolved into the 3rd Field Artillery Battalion, serving in both World Wars and the Korean War.
Today, it remains an active unit as part of the U.S. Army.