The Rowan Artillery was called up 3 May 1861 for twelve months service. The men were organized in Salisbury, North Carolina before being sent to Weldon, North Carolina where the men would enter the Confederate service for 3 years or the duration of the war.
It was here that Captain James Reilly took command of the artillery unit. Reilly was an Irish Catholic Immigrant, who had been a member of the United States regular army. He had fought during the Mexican American War in artillery and at the start of the Civil War; Reilly was the Ordnance Sergeant at the United State post of Fort Johnston in Smithville, North Carolina. He was known in the service as “Old Tarantula”, and was described by a soldier of the 4th Texas as “rough, gruff, grizzly and brave. He loved his profession and knew his business.”
When the Rowan Artillery first organized, they didn't have any cannon, nor other related equipment. So the men were temporarily assigned to the 4th North Carolina State Infantry. Following the Union loss at the First Battle of Manassas, the unit was outfitted on 27 July 1861 with two 10 pound Parrotts and two Dahlgren Howitzers.
The Rowan Artillery served at the Battles of Williamsburg and Yorktown. They were with Confederate General Thomas J Jackson during his valley campaign and in the Seven Days Battles. During a reorganization of the Confederate Artillery in the spring of 1863, the Rowan Artillery; now called by many, the Reilly’s Battery, was placed in Confederate Major Mathis W Henry’s Battalion, a part of the Major General James Longstreet’s Corps.
Captain Reilly and his men arrived on the field at Gettysburg on 2 July 1863. Sometime before 4 pm Major Henry had the guns placed on the crest of Warfield Ridge, in front of Confederate John Bell Hood’s Division. This was the right wing of the Confederate line of battle that day. The ground was open and the sight lines to Devils Den and Little Round Top were good. Reilly’s men brought six pieces to the field, 2 Napoleons, 2 three inch rifles and 2 ten pound Parrotts.
During the long cannonade on 2 July, as the Confederate enescholon attack was being made, one of the Rowan’s rifled pieces burst. The gun was replaced that night by a captured Union 10 pounder, most likely from Smith’s 4th New York Independent Battery.