Byrne's Artillery Battery
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|Country||Confederate States of America|
|Allegiance||Confederate States Army|
|Edward P. Byrne|
Byrne's Battery was a light artillery battery in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. It fought exclusively in the Western Theater and suffered among the highest casualties of Confederate batteries at the Battle of Stones River.
The unit was formed by Edward P. Byrne, a native Kentuckian living in Washington County, Mississippi. After South Carolina's secession, Byrne was determined to raise a battery of artillery for service in the Confederate Army. With help from donations from the citizens of Washington County and his own substantial wealth, he raised his company and obtained many horses. He also ordered six guns from a firm in Memphis, Tennessee. He began recruiting in Mississippi and later in his native Kentucky. He went to Louisville, Kentucky, to recruit volunteers, which he helped to secretly move to Camp Boone, where several other pro-Confederacy Kentucky regiments were forming, despite the state's official policy of neutrality.
Bryne armed his men with the finest cannons available at the time. He acquired four six-pound field guns and two twelve-pound howitzers from the firm in Memphis. He also captured several more field pieces during the push into Bowling Green. He also mounted his men on the finest horses (horses were in such abundance that he gave 30 of them to unmounted men of now famous Captain (later General) John Hunt Morgan's cavalry squadron) and gave them fine well-crafted carriages, caissons, limbers and other accoutrements he had special-ordered from another firm in Memphis.
Byrne first offered his services to P.G.T. Beauregard in South Carolina, but upon learning that Fort Sumter had already fallen, he decided to attach his battery to the organization now forming at Camp Boone that would later become famous as the Orphan Brigade. The battery saw its first minor action on the advance into Kentucky led by General Simon B. Buckner. Byrne's Battery, along with the 2nd Kentucky Infantry, led the advance into Kentucky late in 1861 and captured guns and men along the way, along with many of the pro-Union Homeguard of Kentucky and some of regular and volunteer troops. This advance led to the capture of Bowling Green and the subsequent set-up of the later exiled Confederate Government of Kentucky.
After the withdrawal from Kentucky, they saw heavy action at the Battle of Shiloh, where the battery was completely overrun despite the men's best efforts to save the guns. Confederate infantry soon recovered the guns and the battery later supported Daniel Ruggles' assault on the "Hornet's Nest" as part of Ruggles' Grand Battery. Even after the bloody fight at Shiloh and the loss of many men, Byrne's Battery continued to serve heroically and effectively in the Orphan Brigade. They participated in every battle of the Orphan Brigade up to Stones River, where they gallantly and defiantly stood to their guns despite overwhelming enemy fire. One gunner lost his hand to an enemy round, but still stayed at his post. Because of its tremendous losses at Stones River, Byrne's Battery was forced to disband and disperse itself amongst the other Kentucky units and even units outside the Orhan Brigade, although though most were simply directly transferred to Lyon's (Cobb's) Battery.
After their disbandment, Edward Byrne was commissioned a colonel and placed in command of all Kentucky cavalry companies not already organized into regiments. Byrne was ordered to report to General Morgan after the organization of these companies. But, this did not satisfiy Byrne, and he requested permission to form another battery and be made Chief of Artillery of Morgan's cavalry. His request was granted, but his commission was amended by Confederate Congress to that of a Major. He began forming this new battery from elements of his old battery and from new recruits from Kentucky.
Byrne went on to serve with distinction under Morgan and commanded the artillery on several of his raids until he was court-martialed for his involvement in a bank robbery on one of those raids. The men not transferred back to his new unit continued to serve in various units, especially Cobb's Battery of the Orphan Brigade, until they were surrendered by Joseph E. Johnston on April 26, 1865, at Bennett Place. The remnants of Byrne's Battery were paroled on May 10.