Memphis Artillery Outfit Won
At Corinth and Vicksburg's Bloody Siege
Battled Yankees Under Colors Of The Memphis
Appeal In The Sixties
Traditions Live Today In Battery B, 115th F.A.
Such is "The Appeal Battery" of today- the modern successor to the famous old Civil War battery sponsored by the Memphis Appeal, now the Commercial Appeal, in the grim days of the 1860's and proud of its glorious tradition and heritage. Though formed in Memphis, the battery became a part of an Arkansas unit in the Confederate Army and fought under Arkansas colors.
But except for the crimson and yellow pennant on which is lettered "The Appeal Battery" and which whips the breeze from a color bearer's staff, this modern unit little resemblance to its celebrated predecessor which hurled its solid iron cannon balls, grape and canister, against the Yankees at Corinth, Vicksburg, and elsewhere.
But the tradition remains and the fame is cemented for history, because the War Department has officially recognized Battery B, 115th Field Artillery, today commanded by Capt. W. M. Whitelaw, as the successor to "The Appeal Battery" of the 1860's. As the result of this "adoption," Battery B is entitled to display the Appeal Battery's pennant and to claim military credit for its Civil War engagements.
That action was taken on Armistice Day, 1929, when Capt. Enoch Brown Jr., vice president and general manager of the Commercial Appeal, formally presented to Capt. William H. Bedford, then regimental operations officer and later captain of Battery B, the emblematic pennant that this battery so proudly flies today. The act was not without its sentimental significance because Captain Bedford is a grandson of Capt. W.C. Bryan, the first commander of the Appeal Battery in the Civil War days.
Thus, to its own glorious record that it made in France in the World War, Battery B is entitled to add the glorious traditions of its predecessor in the War Between the States. And what are these traditions?
Depart For Corinth As Crowds Cheer
On May 6th, Captain Bryan and his Appeal Battery were ready. That night, amid tremendous enthusiasm of Memphis citizens, the battery departed from the old Memphis & Charleston Railway depot for Corinth, Miss., to which point the Confederates had retreated after their defeat at Shiloh four weeks before.
A silken flag was presented to the departing battery by a hoop-skirted young woman whom The Appeal's reporter described as, "the lady of Dr. Keller." She made the presentation speech in the flowery language of her time.
"Captain Bryan," she said, "It is with no ordinary feelings and, I may add, on no ordinary occasion, that I present through you to the Appeal Battery this beautiful flag.
"The foe insults our native land and proudly apes the conqueror and you, with your gallant boys, go forth to defend her. I can proudly say, no company, no regiment, in the service has more gallant officers and no men will prove more daring.
"Confident that you will make The Appeal Battery the terror of the invading vandals, to your arms I bequeath this battle flag with these words;
"Oh, genius of this happy land,
Descend and bless this chosen band,
Give to them to meet their daring foe,
Then Liberty shall nerve their blow."
Captain Bryan bowed gallantly in his gray Confederate uniform, accepted the silken flag from the lady's hand and pressed it to his breast. Unfortunately, his speech of acceptance has been lost to history, but The Memphis Appeal's reporter assures us that "he responded in spirited and appropriate terms, and his men received the flag with three hearty cheers for the amiable donor."
Several of the men, so the story added, "made earnest appeals to Captain Bryan that to them might be committed the honor of carrying the flag in the fight."
The wood burning locomotive and the rattley little cars pulled away into the night, their gray-clad young passengers bound for Corinth and Civil War battlefields.
First View of War Not A Pleasant One
The first sight of war was not a pleasant one for members of the battery. Arriving at Corinth, the Memphis outfit found hotels and public buildings converted into hospitals and overflowing with maimed and wounded Confederates from the battlefield of Shiloh, and both armies still reeling from their staggering losses.
For a vivid picture of the horror that these Memphis boys saw in Corinth, take this chapter from the diary of Kate Cumming, a Confederate nurse who was among those attending the wounded that lay in the rooms, even the halls, of the old Tishomingo Hotel:
"May 6th, 1862-Mr. Jones died today; he was 18 years of age. He died the death of a Christian; he was a brave soldier; true to his God and his country. Miss H. sat up all night with him. She is endeavoring to procure a coffin for him. We have none now in which to bury the dead, as the Federals have destroyed the factory in which they were made. At one time, I thought it was dreadful to have the dead buried without them, but there is so much suffering among the living that I pay little attention to such things now. It matters little what becomes of the clay after the spirit has left it. Men who died as ours do, need no useless coffin to enshrine them."
Gradually, however, the Yankees recovered their strength and came on toward Corinth. Finally, General Beauregard withdrew from the town, permitting them to enter without opposition.
Battle Of Corinth
There was intermittent fighting thereabouts for several months and then, on Oct. 3rd, came General Van Dorn's swift attack on Corinth with almost incredible speed. Van Dorn hurled his gray-clad troops against the en-trenchment's of the Yankees for two bloody days before the arrival of Federal reinforcements compelled his retreat and in this desperate fighting the Appeal Battery received its first baptism of fire.
The records are missing, but one can see these young Confederate artillery-men now-lashing their horses to a foam, racing up from the rear, taking positions with their brass howitzers almost in the first trenches, firing point blank at the enemy by sighting down the barrel, swabbing the smoking gun's interior with a long staff, tipped with rags and dipped in a water bucket, to kill the lingering sparks and thus guard against premature explosion of the next charge of black powder that would be rammed down the barrel.
The Appeal Battery was in the thick of the fighting at Corinth. Before the battle occurred, however, Captain Bryan had fallen ill and had to return to Memphis, but his place was ably taken by Lieut. William N. Hogg.
Said Brig. Gen. W.L. Cabell in his report of the battle to the Confederate secretary of war:
"Lieutenant Hogg, commanding the Appeal Battery, with his officers and men, deserve especial notice for the skill and efficiency with which they handled the battery and poured the shell and grape into the enemy's ranks"
copyright Commercial Appeal January 1, 1940