Monday, October 6, 2008

Chicago Board of Trade Battery

Horse artillery batteries were a much rarer commodity in the western theater than they were in the east. During the Atlanta campaign, for example, there was only one battery assigned to each cavalry division, according to David Evans’ excellent book Sherman’s Horsemen.

The Chicago Board of Trade is one of the country's oldest currently operating futures and options exchanges. It was responsible for raising several units of Illinois volunteers during the course of the Civil War. President Lincoln sent out a call on July 6, 1862 for an additional 300,000 volunteers. On the evening of the 21st, the Board decided to raise a battery of artillery. By 4 pm on July 23rd, $15,000 had been raised and 180 men volunteered for the battery. 156 of these men were selected by the mustering officer, Captain J. Christopher, and mustered into federal service on August 1st as the Chicago Board of Trade battery, Illinois Volunteers.

Captain James H. Stokes was mustered in as captain of the battery. He graduated seventeenth in his class at West Point in 1835. A veteran artillerist, he had served five years as an artilleryman fighting Indians in Florida and three years as a quartermaster before resigning in 1843. He gained a great deal of notoriety by assisting Captain Nathaniel Lyon in securing and moving small arms from the St Louis Arsenal to Springfield, Illinois to equip Illinois volunteers in April 1861.

On August 2nd the battery marched in review past the Board of Trade offices despite a lack of uniforms and went into camp near 37th Street and Stanton Avenue. By the 4th, all officers and noncommissioned officers had been appointed and the command was organized. The battery received six James rifled six-pounder field artillery guns on August 11th, followed by its horses nine days later.

By September 10th, the battery was fully equipped and assigned to the command of General Don Buell. A week later the battery exchanged four of its rifled guns for smoothbore six-pounder guns. They moved with the army on October 1st, and their first engagement was at Lawrenceburg on October 11th.

On December 4th, muskets were issued to the cannoneers, enabling them to act as their own infantry escort for the battery. Ten days later the battery suffered its first casualties when a foraging party was attacked. The loss was one man wounded and six taken prisoner.

In late December 1862, the battery distinguished itself in its first major engagement as an entire battery at the battle of Stone’s River. Positioned by General Rosecrans himself in a gap in the Union line, the battery held its ground against cannon fire and repeated charges by Confederate infantry. Although one charge reached within 30 yards of the guns, the battery repulsed them with canister and held its ground. According to the battery’s historian, “By 11 o’clock the enemy had learned that neither bravery nor numbers could carry the battery in the front, and all was quiet. Three of our men lay dead by their disabled gun.” (Sketch, pg 22)

“After the battle of Stone River, General Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, issued a special order, giving the Battery the privilege of carrying the colors presented by the Chicago Board of Trade, this being the first time in the history of the army where a battery of artillery was allowed a stand of United States colors and a battery flag.” (Sketch, pg 31) By the end of the war, the names Stones River, Elk River, Chickamauga, Farmington, Dallas, Decatur, Atlanta, Lovejoy, Nashville and Selma had been inscribed on the flags. Tragically, the battery’s flags were returned to the Board of Trade after the war and destroyed by fire in 1871.

In March 1863, the battery was changed from field artillery to horse artillery. On May 16, 1863, the battery was attached to the Second Cavalry Division, Army of the Cumberland. They were then ordered to be equipped as horse artillery, the first battery in the western theater to do so, according to the unit historian (Sketch, pg 44-45). Interestingly, they kept their same cannons. The battery remained with this division until the end of the war.

The battery was split during the battle of Chickamauga. The second section of the battery, under Lieutenant Griffin, fought with Minty’s brigade on the Union left during the battle. The first and third sections fought under the battery commander on the Union right. The entire battery withdrew on September 22nd through Chattanooga to Washington, Tennessee, claiming to be the last battery to retire from the field (Sketch, pg 45).

In October 1863, the battery participated in the pursuit of General Wheeler’s command to Alabama, and was engaged in the battle of Farmington. On October 20th, Captain Stokes was relieved of command to assume duties as the Inspector of the Quartermaster, Military division of the Mississippi as a lieutenant colonel of volunteers. Captain George I. Robinson succeeded Stokes in command of the battery. There was no loss of the battery’s discipline or ability, as Robinson had been its senior lieutenant since it was mustered into service.

In February 1864, the battery turned in their brass guns and was issued six 10-pounder Parrot guns. The battery was engaged in numerous actions while advancing with General Sherman’s army on Atlanta, including Dallas, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Marietta, Vining Station, Noon Day Creek, Stone Mountain and Decatur.

The battery participated in General Kilpatrick’s raid around Atlanta from August 18-22, losing five men and two guns disabled. When Sherman split his army in November, the battery turned all of its good horses over to Kilpatrick’s command and moved north to Nashville under General Thomas. Upon their arrival, they were placed behind breastworks for the first and only time during the war.

They were assigned to General Wilson’s command during the battle of Nashville and the subsequent pursuit, arriving at Waterloo, Alabama just before the end of the year. The battery wintered near Waterloo.

When the spring campaign began in March 1865, they accompanied General James Wilson’s Second Cavalry Division on its raid through Alabama into Georgia. At the battle of Selma on April 2nd, they accompanied the charging advance after the outer works were seized. The battery continued to accompany the division until Macon, Georgia was reached on the 20th, and they learned that the war was over.

On May 23rd, the battery started home. In early June, they turned in their remaining four Parrot guns at Nashville, Tennessee. By June 27th, the battery arrived once again in Chicago. The men of the battery were mustered out a week later on July 3, 1865.

The battery suffered relatively light casualties during the war, with a total of only 19 fatalities. Ten enlisted men were killed in action or died of their wounds, while an additional nine died of disease, according to Dyer’s Compendium. A monument to the battery was erected in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, on May 30, 1901.


Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. 3 vols. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959.

Historical Sketch of the Chicago Board of Trade Battery. Chicago: Andrew Finney Co., 1902.

Robinson, George I. “With Kilpatrick Around Atlanta,” War Papers, Commandery of Wisconsin MOLLUS, Volume 1. (New York: Nostrand Van Allen, 1891) pages 201-227.


Anonymous said...

The CBOT Battery had one other unusual distinction, by the fall of 1863 they had seven guns, not six; they were allowed to keep an extra 3" rifle they captured that summer.

Dave Powell

Don said...


You're absolutely correct. Good catch, I had meant to include that in the original post. According to the unit history cited in the post, just after the battle of Stones River:

"January 2d: Volunteers from the battery brought in from between the Federal and Confederate lines a six-pounder gun to replace one of our guns that had become disabled.

"In recognition of this daring bravery, General Rosecrans issued an order making the Battery a seven-gun Battery and it so remained until after the Battle of Chickamauga." (Sketch, pg 44)

One gun was disabled at Farmington on October 10, 1863. During Kilpatrick's raid around Atlanta in August 1864, one gun exploded and another was buried after its carriage was damaged to prevent its capture. The other four were returned to the government as noted.

Definitely an interesting unit. The history also claimed that they fired the first and last cannon fire at Chickamauga, but I couldn't corroborate that. The section with Minty probably fired the first Union cannon fire, but I think the Confederate guns had already been firing at that point. The other two sections claimed they fired the last cannon shots at Crawfish Springs, on the Union right.

You're far more of a Chickamauga expert than I'm likely to be. What are your thoughts on this and the 4th Cavalry account I posted a couple of weeks ago?

billWalt said...

My great grandfather served in the Board of Trade Battery. I too have had trouble distinguishing the position of the battery (or sections of it) when they supposedly fired the last shots at Chickamagua.

One reason for the excellence of the battery, which is generally not recognized, is in the nature of the man first commanded the battery and was responsible for most of its training. James H. Stokes established his reputation was sent by steamer to St. Louis on the night of 25 April 1861 where he secured 20,000 muskets, which were believed to be threatened by Missouri confederates. The weapons were then shipped Springfield,Illinois. After Stokes was placed in charge of the battery he pressed for it to play a more active role. It was his lobbying that was largely responsible for the battery being in the forefront of the battle at Stone's River.


Anonymous said...


Sorry to reply so late, didn't notice that you responded until the discussion on one of the ACW lists cited this post.

Griffin's Section of the CBOT certainly fired the first artillery shots of the Battle, assuming we count Sept 18th as the start of the battle (and I do.) The 'final' shots are much harder to pin down, but almost certainly were not fired by the Cav at Crawfish Spring.

Mitchell withdrew the Cavalry from Crawfish at about 5 PM, after reconnaissance demonstrated that the Federal right was gone. At that time, there was still artillery in action on Horseshoe Ridge, at Kelly Field, and near Cloud Church.

The best claim for last shot from a Federal cannon belongs to either Battery A, 1st Ohio, posted as rear guard near McFarland's Gap, or Barnett's Battery I, 2nd Illinois light, posted near Cloud's. Both have monuments or markers denoting these final positions: The Ohio marker is buried in the woods west of the Visitor Center, while Barnett's Monument and Tablet are now at the entrance to the hospital in Fort Oglethorpe.

As for the 4th Regulars, Larson's account is fairly accurate. He's mistaken about being the first into the fight; he is describing Minty's second stand, east of the Creek at Reed's Bridge, and subsequent withdrawal to the west bank. Minty and several hundred men - including the CBOT were first engaged on Peavine Ridge, a couple of miles to the east.

Larson and Minty carried on a fued through the National Tribune for some time, when Minty responded to Larson's account of being left behind on picket when the brigade retreated on September 21st. Minty took offense, and they bickered in print for several issues.

Dave Powell

Don said...


You wouldn't by chance have a timeframe on those issues of the national tribune, would you? I have a friend researching the 4th who would be VERY interested in them.


John Nash Jr said...

Good morning
We portray the Chicago Board of Trade Battery at events in the Atlanta region and Southeast. Would like more information about the 3" Ordnance that they "captured". For that matter any information that will aid in our portrayal. We do events all around Marietta, Rosell, Sandy Springs (Oak Grove) and other metropolitan areas around Atlanta.